With radicalisation still on the rise the Prevent agenda is changing fast, the dilemma for Britain has been whether to work with the Radicals because they reject violence, or isolate them because of their anti-British views. Our sources suggest that policy hawks are winning their own ideological battle inside Whitehall and a new tougher approach is on its way to curb the home grown terrorist threat.
For instance, in seeking explanation for why acts of terror occur the government and certain right wing ideologues have sought to popularise the notion of Muslim separatism; this idea that Muslims have an ingrained antipathy toward Britain. This can be seen clearly a little short of 19 minutes into the Panorama investigation when Watson asks an Asian man talking about the criminalising of Muslims whether he is British, which it turns out he is, and if he is proud of Britain. Where else does such a question get asked? Which other “community” gets asked if they are proud of their country? And, what, for someone who has been investigating extremism for almost ten years and should therefore know better, does such a question actually mean? To require one to attest to being proud of Britain is a rhetorical gesture of alienation since it implies a momentary outsider/insider dialectic, where the inquirer is the insider and the one being asked has been pushed out and whose reintegration into the discussion (where he is in dialogue, and outside of which he is in isolation) is dependent on his giving the “right” answer. When this rhetorical gesture encompasses an entire community however, one isn’t simply dealing with a momentary outsider/insider dialectic as occurs in a conversation between two people, but a sustained outsider/insider dialectic, which, in today’s reality, impacts the Muslim population by forcing it to stand outside in the rain.
It is this psychical dissonance that is one of the key causes of some of the hostility amongst British Muslims toward the government and right wing ideologues. We as Muslims reject outright the targeting of innocent civilians and all acts of wanton terrorism, and we reject it based on the Qu’ran and the Sunnah, wherein we are taught that there are for Muslim states rules of engagement which are lofty in their desire to minimise as much careless slaughter as possible (recall the fact that one ought not to cut down trees, or poison water sources etc). We nonetheless remain committed to asking awkward questions of the government to keep them in check of their abuses of power – detention without trial, racial profiling, lack of strong pronouncements on Israel. But this is the point, the latest developments in Whitehall and in the debate on terrorism seeks to shift understandings of regulating violence to regulating religious beliefs. If this occurs, those hawkish individuals will find they demote the value of arguing one’s convictions and promote the physicalisation of individuals more. If this happens, radicals or no radicals – more people will be driven to approach Britain not with their minds but with their bodies and we should all, Muslim or non-Muslim, seek to avoid that.