How to really prevent violent extremism

George and Salma“The government is always looking for some Islamic organisation to proscribe or some Muslim cleric – preferably with a steel claw – to ban. All in the name of community cohesion and preventing violent extremism.

“But how many Muslims does the government think have been radicalised by the horrific scenes coming out of Gaza and the complacent hypocrisy of the British foreign office?

“The appeal for a policy that breaks with slavish support for Israel’s actions operates on a number of different levels. I’ve long since stopped addressing the great lacuna which passes for an ethical sense at King Charles Street. An argument based on naked self-interest stands a better chance. And from that point of view the efforts by various branches of government not only to justify the unjustifiable in Palestine, but to delegitimise protests over it are extremely difficult to fathom….

“In Tower Hamlets young people organised a 100-strong car cavalcade in protest at the massacres in Gaza and advertising a national demonstration in central London. The following day the police were handing out fliers at Brick Lane mosque telling people that such activities were illegal. Of all the problems we face in Tower Hamlets – including illegal activities – not one of them is young men cooperating with one another and using their cars to form peaceful convoys with a socially engaged message. I’m sure the same is true elsewhere in the capital.

“If the authorities in London and across Britain thought this through they would welcome this efflorescence of political protests over Gaza. How better to marginalise the violent extremists than by creating the space for radical but democratic political engagement?”

George Galloway at Comment is Free, 23 January 2009