Journalist Nishaat Ismail explains how the British Muslim community is increasingly coming under pressure to “condemn terrorism” since the Conservatives won the General Election in May.
It is indeed an outlandish phenomenon, when the UK government is unable to define British values and yet places disproportionate pressure on British Muslims to “reform” and commit themselves to a set of values clouded in ambiguity. Following the General Elections of May 7th, Home Secretary Theresa May was swift at defending the new government’s contentious plans to fast-track a clampdown on radicalization, however she seemed to struggle to demarcate what exactly those “values” are.
The predictable nouns; “democracy, tolerance, freedom, and the rule of law” were flung into the discussion, which only raises the question, why are our government hell bent on implementing policies which curtail civil liberties and contradict their own concept (albeit vague) of what constitutes “British-ness?”
Ever since the London 7/7 terrorist attacks, the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, the attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris early this year, and since the knife wielding ISIS militant was revealed to be British national Mohammad Emwazi, British Muslims have time and again come under scrutiny by mainstream media and politicians for supposedly not condemning terror and not trying hard enough to integrate and immerse themselves into British society, ignoring the fact that the greater echelons of power are incessantly thrusting the Muslim community to the margins of society by introducing and implementing Orwellian like policies.
Counter terror legislations already passed by the Conservative government have given rise to a belligerent debate of whether Islam clashes with British values.
When the Secretary of State for communities and local government Eric Pickles sent a letter to hundreds of imams earlier this year calling on them to do more to tackle violent extremism and demonstrate “how faith in Islam can be part of British identity” his action suggested, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society.
This rhetoric of Islam being flawed and the ambitions of the UK government to establish a “British” version of the Islamic faith has explicably created a somewhat fragmented society with anti-Muslim sentiment intensifying, which reaffirms the failures of government policies, namely foreign policy and the perpetual implementation of draconian anti-terror laws.
It is fitting to say that David Cameron is a disconnected and aloof leader without the slightest idea about the grievances of British Muslims and what they have to say about the menace that is the Islamic State (ISIS)
Instead he travels to a conference in Bratislava to publicly denigrate British Muslims to an international audience by claiming that Muslims in the UK are “quietly condoning” terrorists. One can’t help but wonder whether Cameron’s Ramadan greeting just two days earlier was sincere or disingenuous.
This recent avowal by Mr Cameron seems slightly duplicitous as particular parts of British history expose Britain as abetting violence and injustice.
Almost 100 years ago Lord Balfour, the then Foreign Secretary, informed Baron Rothschild that Britain would back a new Jewish state on Palestinian territory as demanded by Zionists.
Britain had no legal right to the land it flippantly handed over and has never till this day in the 67 years during which Palestinians have been raped of their homes and endured apartheid policies whilst being stripped of their dignity has Britain ever apologized for their calamitous decision.
Instead Cameron dishonorably said in an interview with the UK-based Jewish Chronicle on 30 April 2015 that Tel Aviv had a right to “defend” itself when it began its war on Gaza in July 2014, affirming his endorsement of the mass murder of innocent civilians.
What’s even more so perplexing is that Cameron and his neoconservative cronies describe one of the attributes of “non-violent extremism” as opposing democracy, so based on this premise I think it’d suffice to say David Cameron is a non-violent extremist as he and other western leaders supported the breakdown of an emergent democracy in Egypt by backing the then General Abdel Fatah El Sisi to overthrow the country’s first democratically elected leader. Human Rights Watch has stated that “Over the past year, al-Sisi and his cabinet, governing by decree in the absence of an elected parliament, have provided near total impunity for security force abuses.”
Let’s also not forget the biggest mass killing of civilians in modern Egyptian history at Rabaa al-Adawiyaa Square on 14th August 2013, when Egypt’s Central Security Forces, Special Forces and Egyptian armed forces collectively orchestrated the butchery at Rabaa.
Yet, Cameron deemed it appropriate to invite the blood stained Egyptian president to London a day after his administration condemned the ousted leader Mohammed Morsi to death.
With Cameron’s unequivocal support for mass killing in Palestine and Egypt, I think it is safe to say our PM is quite loudly and gallantly condoning terrorism abroad and has the audacity to label the Muslim community in Britain as intrinsically extreme.
Despite the fact that millions of Muslims take to social media and launch campaigns to condemn acts of terror committed on British soil or in another part of the world by an erroneous Muslim there remains an incorrect perception that Muslims are submissive when it comes to such issues which is being fuelled by obstructive statements made by the PM . This opinion can only be eliminated if the government and media stop disparaging the Muslim community and start treating them as members of British society and not pariahs. The government must engage with those who have integrity and support at a grassroots level and listen to what ordinary Muslims have to say and recognize the work being done in communities to combat extremism and educate the Muslim youth.
Sadly, those in positions of power seem all too comfortable with the status of quo of where Muslims find themselves stranded between abstruse debates of whether they agree with undefined British values and allegedly “quietly condoning terrorism”.
Nishaat Ismail has just completed a post-graduate degree from Birkbeck University in Middle East in Global Politics: Islam, Conflict and Development (MSc). She has a BA in history from SOAS and specialises in the history and politics of the near and Middle East. She is also a contributor for The Moroccan Times, The Guardian and Open Democracy.