I started analysing Cameron’s speech on multiculturalism yesterday. I’m looking at the speech in more detail today.
DC: But the biggest threat that we face comes from terrorist attacks, some of which are, sadly, carried out by our own citizens. It is important to stress that terrorism is not linked exclusively to any one religion or ethnic group. My country, the United Kingdom , still faces threats from dissident republicans in Northern Ireland . Anarchist attacks have occurred recently in Greece and in Italy , and of course, yourselves in Germany were long scarred by terrorism from the Red Army Faction. Nevertheless, we should acknowledge that this threat comes in Europe overwhelmingly from young men who follow a completely perverse, warped interpretation of Islam, and who are prepared to blow themselves up and kill their fellow citizens. Last week at Davos I rang the alarm bell for the urgent need for Europe to recover its economic dynamism, and today, though the subject is complex, my message on security is equally stark. We will not defeat terrorism simply by the action we take outside our borders. Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries. Of course, that means strengthening, as Angela has said, the security aspects of our response, on tracing plots, on stopping them, on counter-surveillance and intelligence gathering.
The threat from terrorism is hugely exaggerated. “some of which are … carried out by our own citizens”. Unfortunately we are subjects rather than citizens in UK. While I accept that USUK often kill their own people, it is wrong to attribute it to ordinary citizens or subjects.
I do not accept that “… we should acknowledge that this threat comes in Europe overwhelmingly from young men who follow a completely perverse, warped interpretation of Islam …”.
DC: But this is just part of the answer. We have got to get to the root of the problem, and we need to be absolutely clear on where the origins of where these terrorist attacks lie. That is the existence of an ideology, Islamist extremism. We should be equally clear what we mean by this term, and we must distinguish it from Islam. Islam is a religion observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a political ideology supported by a minority. At the furthest end are those who back terrorism to promote their ultimate goal: an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of Sharia. Move along the spectrum, and you find people who may reject violence, but who accept various parts of the extremist worldview, including real hostility towards Western democracy and liberal values. It is vital that we make this distinction between religion on the one hand, and political ideology on the other. Time and again, people equate the two. They think whether someone is an extremist is dependent on how much they observe their religion. So, they talk about moderate Muslims as if all devout Muslims must be extremist. This is profoundly wrong. Someone can be a devout Muslim and not be an extremist. We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing.
I do not accept that the root of the problem is the existence of an ideology, Islamist extremism. There is actually very little evidence that there are terrorists inspired by Islamist extremism. Granted you have a few individuals but there is very little support for the proposition that Islamist extremists are responsible for major terrorist incidents. For example, the Bush administration has obstructed investigations into 911, many of the alleged suicide bombers were found to be alive, there is strong evidence that the buildings were demolished and many more problems with the official fantasy. Similarly with the 7 July 2005 London explosions there are huge problems with the contention that Islamist terrorists were responsible e.g. the nature of the explosives and the fact that the train that the official narrative originally claimed that the alleged terrorists had caught did not exist. Then there is the anthrax post-911 and the ricin plot without ricin and without a plot in UK pre invasion of Iraq. What about the “plain-clothes soldiers” found in Basra with bomb equipment? Terrorism has been used by USUK to increase support for their extremis agendas.
It is quite possible to have extreme hostility to so-called Western democracy and liberal values without resorting to terrorism. So-called Western democracy is about Western politicians pursuing extremist foreign policies that are intended to simultaneously satisfy powerful interest groups and increase their own personal wealth.
This implied distinction between Islamic extremism and Islam being distinct is interesting. Surely an Islamic extremist is a devout Islamist. I think that this is a false distinction and Cameron is attempting to cause splits within Islamism. This would mirror the propaganda we saw in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq playing on assumed differences.
DC: This highlights, I think, a significant problem when discussing the terrorist threat that we face. There is so much muddled thinking about this whole issue. On the one hand, those on the hard right ignore this distinction between Islam and Islamist extremism, and just say that Islam and the West are irreconcilable – that there is a clash of civilizations. So, it follows: we should cut ourselves off from this religion, whether that is through forced repatriation, favoured by some fascists, or the banning of new mosques, as is suggested in some parts of Europe . These people fuel Islamophobia, and I completely reject their argument. If they want an example of how Western values and Islam can be entirely compatible, they should look at what’s happened in the past few weeks on the streets of Tunis and Cairo : hundreds of thousands of people demanding the universal right to free elections and democracy.
“If they want an example of how Western values and Islam can be entirely compatible, they should look at what’s happened in the past few weeks on the streets of Tunis and Cairo : hundreds of thousands of people demanding the universal right to free elections and democracy.” Tunisia and Egypt have Western values? I wondered yesterday what Western values were and arrived at the conclusion that the West is dominated by Capitalism. Dick Cheney, Berlusconi and Tony Blair have supported Mubarak. If Cameron’s argument that there are unified “Western values” is accepted, then these influential Western voices must represent it.
DC: The point is this: the ideology of extremism is the problem; Islam emphatically is not. Picking a fight with the latter will do nothing to help us to confront the former. On the other hand, there are those on the soft left who also ignore this distinction. They lump all Muslims together, compiling a list of grievances, and argue that if only governments addressed these grievances, the terrorism would stop. So, they point to the poverty that so many Muslims live in and say, “Get rid of this injustice and the terrorism will end.” But this ignores the fact that many of those found guilty of terrorist offences in the UK and elsewhere have been graduates and often middle class. They point to grievances about Western foreign policy and say, “Stop riding roughshod over Muslim countries and the terrorism will end.” But there are many people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who are angry about Western foreign policy, but who don’t resort to acts of terrorism. They also point to the profusion of unelected leaders across the Middle East and say, “Stop propping these people up and you will stop creating the conditions for extremism to flourish.” But this raises the question: if it’s the lack of democracy that is the problem, why are there so many extremists in free and open societies?
Cameron is copying Blair’s July 2005 speech here with the use of straw men arguments. Blair –
If it is the plight of the Palestinians that drives them, why, every time it looks as if Israel and Palestine are making progress, does the same ideology perpetrate an outrage that turns hope back into despair?
If it is Afghanistan that motivates them, why blow up innocent Afghans on their way to their first ever election? If it is Iraq that motivates them, why is the same ideology killing Iraqis by terror in defiance of an elected Iraqi government?
What was September 11, 2001 the reprisal for? Why even after the first Madrid bomb (in March 2004) and the election of a new Spanish government, were they planning another atrocity when caught?
Why if it is the cause of Muslims that concerns them, do they kill so many with such callous indifference?
The straw man argument proposes a similar but incorrect position in order to demolish that position. The problem is that this is far to simplistic, suggests and has the flavour of propaganda. There are too many different actors with different motivations for such a simplistic analysis. However, I can play that game too.
If it is the plight of the Afghans that motivates them, why did they first try to reach agreement to lay the proposed pipelines and only later invade along the route of the proposed oil pipeline?
If it is the plight of Iraqis that concerns them, why did they invade using the strategy of Shock & Awe and manage to kill and traumatise so many Iraqis? Why did they engage in such degrading torture at Abu Ghraib?
If it is the plight of Iraqis that concerns them, why did they have to poison the environment for years to come using Depleted Uranium?
If it is concern for democracy and human rights that concerns them, why have they got Guantanamo Bay engaging in such horrific torture?
If they are on the side of truth and justice, why do they have to torture people to get the false confessions of terrorism that they need?