You are here:   Features > Enough is enough of terror — but also of our self-doubt
Or were there? The mob only moved on after the police capitulated by agreeing to release those arrested. A newly-elected Labour MP, Keith Vaz, demanded Rushdie and his publisher, Viking Penguin, withdraw The Satanic Verses from circulation in Britain. Nearly 30 years later, we remain, says the Prime Minister, “far too tolerant” of those versions of Islam which are incompatible with a liberal 21st-century democracy.

Since then, the Muslim population has more than quadrupled, to over 3 million, so it is even more important that we understand this ideology for what it is. The security services are currently wrestling with 500 investigations into 3,000 individuals. A further 20,000 are said to have been “subjects of interest”. “It is time to say enough is enough,” Mrs May said in response to the London Bridge attacks, the third act of mass murder here by Islamist terrorists in as many months. What exactly did she mean? “We’re tired of the hand-wringing,” a prime ministerial aide explained to me, tired of agonising over whether plain speaking about the causes and solutions to Islamist terrorism will cause cultural and religious offence.

After all that has happened, there remains both a naivety and queasiness about speaking frankly in this country. Why, when violent Islamist extremism has so much in common with the knuckle-brained far-right ideology of the traditional shaven-haired sort — intolerance, racism, boot boy violence? Sara Khan, the courageous British Muslim director of the counter-extremism organisation Inspire, explains why. “We have lacked the confidence to challenge” the Salafi-Islamist organisations promoting these extremist ideas, she says, even though we have never lacked the confidence to tackle the traditional far-Right. What accounts for this double standard seems pretty clear: anxiety about being accused of Islamophobia — of being branded a “bad” person even though, if you are gay or Jewish or a woman, fear of much of Islamist ideology is entirely rational. As a result, the Islamic far-Right has thrived.

That’s why Mrs May said that “stamping out” extremism would “require some difficult and often embarrassing conversations”. We need to become “far more robust in identifying it . . . across the public sector and across society,” especially NGOs, churches, sections of the media and politicians.

One of those difficult conversations is reaching agreement on what exactly extremism is. The government defines it as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. Extremism also includes calls for the death of members of the armed forces.”

Opponents of the government’s counter-extremism strategy seem to relish pointing out that those values are not unique to Britain and also to keep tagging them as “British” is “hierarchal”. Typical is the comment from the Franco-British academic and journalist Myriam François-Cerrah: the term “British values”, she says, smacks of a “very privileged white male in Whitehall dictating to brown people in Birmingham what it means to be British and that is bound up in power”. Jeremy Corbyn has also challenged “the notion that human rights is somehow or other something based on Romano-Christian law based on Europe rather than the rest of the world.”

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Harry H
September 25th, 2017
4:09 PM
No Muslims in the West, no Muslim terrorism. Pretty simple, even a liberal can understand, right?

July 30th, 2017
4:07 PM
Islam is a bent version of the Bible. The Koran promotes a bent version of Christ. And yet no Christians challenge and correct the bent Islamic picture of Christ. Tories and Labourites can`t `speak truth to power` on this. Richard Dawkins is right but not so precise. It couldn`t be easier for all muslims,christians and atheists to watch artist Akiane Kramarik`s short filn ` Painting the Impossible ` (YouTube). It`s a work of art in itself not only about one. You want an alternative narrative and interfaith dialogue ? Well let`s see this film in churches ,mosques, synagogues,temples and Tate Mpderns. The BBC is just too thick to show and discuss it. Nor would it show artist Stella Vine`s `Evangeline` pictures. The cultural provincialism of our religious,political and cultural leaders is not shared by the people. Which is one reason 17 million voted for Brexit.Freedom Day.

July 15th, 2017
5:07 PM
British Values ? £10 per hour minimum wage? Grants not loans for students? All those others listed in the Labour Manifesto ? Tory values are symbolised by the atrocity exhibition that is now Grenfell Towers.

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