Saturday 16 March 2024

Failure to control our borders is the cause of extremism

In response to the regular demonstrations in the streets in London and elsewhere the government has come up with a definition of extremism that applies to everyone. I fully understand that this definition is only intended to prevent government agencies working with certain Islamic fundamentalist groups. In which case why not just stop them doing so. The government is under no obligation to work with or fund any group. Still there is a danger that the government is beginning to police beliefs and to condemn viewpoints that are normal and not extreme.

The definition is as follows

Extremism is the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance, that aims to:

1.       negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others; or

2.       undermine, overturn or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights; or

3.       intentionally create a permissive environment for others to achieve the results in (1) or (2).

UK democracy is realistically most threatened by the SNP, Sinn Féin and the Irish government. The United Kingdom came into existence when the Kingdom of Great Britain United with the Kingdom of Ireland in 1800. Prior to that there was the Kingdom of Great Britain. The loss of Northern Ireland therefore would lead to the loss of the United Kingdom and UK democracy.

So too the UK democracy could not survive the loss of Scotland. The Kingdom of Great Britain would cease to exist if Scotland ceased to be a part of it. Therefore, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would cease to exist.

There is nothing more extreme that could happen to the UK than to lose either  Northern Ireland or Scotland, yet Tony Blair negotiated a treaty with Ireland to allow the former to happen and David Cameron allowed a referendum to allow the latter to happen. Are we to conclude therefore that the SNP, Sinn Féin, the Irish government, Tony Blair and David Cameron are extremists?

The next most likely threat to UK democracy is that it is taken over by the far left. While democratic socialism and social democracy is perfectly compatible with UK democracy, we know Marxist forms of socialism have frequently led to non-democratic forms of government.

But arguably the Labour party in 2019 was led by a far left Jeremy Corbyn and if it had won the election would have had a far left Diane Abbott as Home Secretary. Corbyn sympathises with the Gaza demonstrators and both he and Abbott have been suspended by the Labour party for their views. But if the governments definition of extremism covers people like Corbyn and Abbott, then it must also cover those like Keir Starmer who wanted them to become Prime Minister and Home Secretary and the millions of people who voted for Labour at the last election.

But it clearly would have been extremist to ban the Labour Party in 2019 because this would have itself destroyed UK democracy.

The threat from the far right in the UK by contrast is trivial. There is no equivalent here of Alternative für Deutschland or Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National. Some might argue that Giorgia Meloni is a far right extremist, but Rishi Sunak was happy to meet her.

The far right in the UK will win no seats at the next election and typically far right views are not widely shared in the UK. I have never met someone who admires Adolf Hitler. I have never read in a mainstream publication anyone ever advocating that we imitate the polices of Nazi Germany in the UK. But I have met lots of people who admire Lenin and Mao and who think Marxism is a sensible way to run the economy. The British far right is made up of a tiny fringe movement of racists and apart from a few lunatics plotting in their bedrooms is no threat to anyone.

But neither for that matter is Islamic fundamentalism a threat to UK democracy. Even if every British Muslim were to vote for an Islamic fundamentalist political party it would hardly win any seats and few Muslims would wish to do so. The problem is not the threat to democracy. The problem is the threat to our safety. To pretend otherwise is ridiculous.

The mistake that the British government is making is to try to police beliefs. I can think of nothing more British than Johnny Rotten singing

And I am an anarchist
Don't know what I want
But I know how to get it
I wanna destroy the passerby

I don’t know if Johnny seriously believed what he was singing in 1976, but by the British government’s definition he had an ideology based on violence that wanted to overthrow UK democracy. The Sex Pistols are the reductio ad absurdum of that definition.

Being British is about being tolerant of all sorts of weird and wonderful beliefs. I might be in favour of the restoration of the Stuarts and the divine right of kings, I might campaign for gynarchy [rule by women] or rule by Philosopher kings.

So too I might be a Christian fundamentalist who believes that homosexuality is sinful, homosexual marriage an abomination and that money lenders tables should be violently overthrown.

I might wish to bring back the Inquisition and the auto-da-fé. I might wish to use ducking stools to discover witches.

But it doesn’t matter what I believe, nor indeed what I write so long as I don’t break the law. We must defend the freedom of thought and freedom of speech of people we disagree with even if what they believe is stupid and bizarre.

But this equally applies to Muslims. It is not for the British government to police what Muslims believe. A Muslim is perfectly at liberty to believe in restoring the Caliphate. He can believe in theocracy, and he can hope that one day the whole world will be Muslim. He can hope that Muslim rules about the Quran and the Prophet apply to everyone, and that Sharia law replaces British law and democracy. If it is legitimate for someone in Saudi Arabia with whom the British government has friendly relations to believe these things, then it certainly legitimate for a British Muslim to believe them too.

The British government continually misses the point. It pretends that there is a threat from the far right, when there isn’t, it comes up with an absurd definition of extremism which would undermine British values of freedom of thought and even our democracy all because it wants to appease Islamic fundamentalists while doing nothing to deal with the problem.

The demonstrators who march through London are not extremists, their views are shared almost universally in the Muslim world. Most Muslim societies are theocracies which make following Muslim rules a matter of law. This is not a fault of Islam. It is a feature. Islam is a religion of the law. It is not a religion of liberal democracy. To pretend that it is misses the point.

If you continue to import theocrats you will eventually undermine liberal democracy unless you can quickly enough turn them away from theocracy to liberal democracy. How does that appear to be working in the UK?

It is the British government that is promoting extremism by its failure to control our borders.

Muslims like the rest of us should be able to believe what they want, say what they want and demonstrate about what they want. Beliefs are not extreme. Actions are extreme. If demonstrators say or do things that break the law, they should just like the rest of us be arrested. But it is just this that won’t happen. If there were mass arrests of demonstrators shouting antisemitic slogans there would be violent disorder not merely in London and possibly acts of terrorism.

It is the successive governments who allowed this situation to happen who are the extremists. It is they who are undermining British democracy.

If you want to solve a problem, you have to clear about what it is rather than pretend it is something else otherwise it is as if during the Second World War the government kept telling us about the threat from extremist earthquakes and volcanoes because don't let's be beastly to the Germans.

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