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Blinkered Theresa May and Blinkered Western Extremist Islamists: Enough is Enough

[Posted by Lara Keller 6/6/17]

On the 4th June the UK Prime Minister Theresa May made a statement given outside 10 Downing Street following the brutal terrorist attack in London the previous day. No reasonable person could not support her initial comments praising the response and courage of the police and emergency services. She then stated befittingly “…. And our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and with their friends, families and loved ones”. This was the third terrorist attack in the UK in the last three months (the worst one in Manchester on the 22nd May targeted a concert attended by teenagers and children with a large shrapnel suicide bomb). Five other terrorist plots had been averted over the same time.

She stated: “They [these attacks] are bound together by the single, evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division, and promotes sectarianism. It is an ideology that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam. It is an ideology that is a perversion of Islam and a perversion of the truth.”

This ideology could not be defeated by military intervention or counter-terrorism alone. She stated: “It will only be defeated when we turn people’s minds away from this violence – and make them understand that our values – pluralistic, British values – are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.”

She claimed this could be done by online censorship, by becoming “far more robust in identifying it [Extremist Islamism] and stamping it out” in UK society and increasing the length of prison sentences for all offenses related to terrorism.

She concludes: “Since the emergence of the threat from Islamist-inspired terrorism, our country has made significant progress in disrupting plots and protecting the public. But it is time to say enough is enough…………..” [see full text ].

This will require in Theresa May’s own words “some difficult and often embarrassing conversations”. This goes both ways, and there are some very strong and distressing criticisms of mainstream politicians that must also be made, that go far beyond arguments about police cuts.

Theresa May said “It will only be defeated when we turn people’s minds away from this violence – and make them [UK Extremist Islamists] understand that our values – pluralistic, British values – are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.” This statement shows a miserable poverty of understanding of the problem of Western Extremist Islamist violence.

Extremist Islamist movements come from social conditions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region). She is right that this has nothing to do with Islam as such. A small minority of Young Muslims in the West are brain washed into believing they can be important supporters of these movements. The root of the problem is in the MENA region.

Imagine having this conversation about the superiority of “pluralistic British values” with the average citizen of an average MENA country. It is a grim reality that this country’s government will be authoritarian, where dissent is not tolerated, and elections if they exist are rigged. The economy will be under pressure, with high unemployment and widespread corruption. This imagined citizen may well agree with you about “pluralistic British values”, but respond “this is great in theory but there is nothing we can do about it.”

The main reason for the failure of the Arab Democratic Movement (“Arab Spring”) from 2011 onwards, is the failure of the West to competently or vigorously support rebellions against a network of powerful MENA authoritarian regimes. The blame has been directed at the rebels and their organisations, when in reality Western governments have deliberately avoided empowering these organisations. This has resulted in a fragmented Libya, and a slow death in Syria. It has given opportunities to a strong counter revolution fueled by the Gulf States (in particular Saudi Arabia) and Iran. In Tunisia the West has done little to encourage post Revolution economic revival. In Egypt the economic control wielded by the (Western leaning) military establishment defeated the Muslim Brotherhood’s brief government, while the West did nothing to assist them.

These “superior pluralistic values” stop at the borders of the West. What escapes these borders is nationalistic self-interest and empty words. The West has given the world military technological innovations that enable stronger modern forms of authoritarianism to flourish beyond its borders. This expensive technology gives a smaller elite the power to dominate a whole population. Historical western revolutions (and threats of effective revolutions) against tyrannies were successful because in relative terms, numbers of people were more important when compared to technology. Under the state of military technology today, these revolutions would have been crushed.

We need humility. To effectively engage with Young Muslims in the West about the superiority of “pluralistic British (ie Western) values”, also requires an acknowledgement that they have a right to be concerned about social conditions in the MENA that is the core of the Islamic world, and most importantly acknowledge that people in the MENA region need solidarity that Western governments have not been giving them. The alternative to this is hypocrisy.

I believe in democracy that balances liberty with social welfare, and this is why I also believe in solidarity that does not stop at any border. I have to support those at home and abroad who believe in this. It is Theresa May who needs to get serious about taking off her blinkers, if her government is to do anything effective about the blinkers of Extremist Islamists.




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