Are they really ‘Preventing Extremism’?

Salma addressing rally“The recent convictions of three young Muslim men on charges of conspiracy to cause explosions highlight the ongoing and real threat of terrorism. In video messages explaining their motivations the culprits make a clear and explicit linkage between their intentions and the impact of Western foreign policy in Muslim lands.

“Yet despite it coming from their own mouths that it is anger over foreign policy driving their hate, the government continues to deny it as the primary factor. Instead it blames a ‘dangerous Islamist ideology’ for creating ‘a hatred of the Western way of life’ as if such ideology is free-standing and exists in some kind of vacuum.

“In this discourse all Islamic political or social activists who are critical of the government, from whatever political hue, get lumped together with the sinister description of ‘Islamists’….

“By denying the legitimacy of democratic opposition to government foreign policy from Muslims, and by promoting and recognising only those Muslims who toe the line, government policy is serving to strengthen the hands of the genuine extremists; those who say that our engagement in the democratic process is pointless or wrong….

“The government now increasingly tars all Islamic organisations and individuals that openly oppose Western oppressive polices in the Middle East with the ‘extremist’ brush. Hence their recent attacks on the mainstream Islam Expo event in London….

“The danger of this approach is that it serves to squeeze the democratic space for dissent within the Muslim community. If Muslims organisations are reluctant to provide the space for sensitive discussions for fear of extremist’s accusations, where are these young people to go? Where will their views and concerns get an airing? The answer is obvious. They will be expressed in private and secret, with the genuine extremists keen to be provide listening ears and simplistic solutions.”

Salma Yaqoob in The Respect Paper, September 2008