The existing strategy, “Preventing Violent Extremism”, has made it easy for non-violent extremists. It has meant that supporting Islamism, condemning parliamentary democracy, advocating the destruction of Israel and calling for jihad against British troops in Afghanistan or elsewhere has been tolerated because it is not directly violent. Contest 2 must explicitly break with this approach.
Will it deliver? Tony Blair understood the Islamist ideology behind terrorism. Gordon Brown has not given any indication that he does. My interaction with Whitehall mandarins leaves me even more worried.
Cynics, and Whitehall is awash with them, might wonder why we are making a fuss. They have a colonialist mentality which holds that the first priority is keeping the natives quiet. If the price of maintaining order is tolerating ultra-reactionary views, then so be it.
In his Policy Exchange report, Shiraz Mahar asks a question which has often popped up in my mind. Would they treat whites in the same way?
Within the British state a significant body of opinion holds that non-violent political Islamists can be a useful – and sometimes
necessary – bulwark against terrorism. The idea is that only they have the ‘street cred’ needed to prevent young men from
embracing violence. Some even go as far as to suggest that radical politics might actually be desirable, acting as a kind of safety valve, dissipating otherwise violent energies.
To understand the fallacy of this view and its potentially devastating consequences, it is worth considering the following
analogy. Imagine if members of the violent neo-Nazi group Combat 18 were to begin a terrorist campaign against the state and
Britain’s ethnic minorities. How would the British state respond? By
arresting and imprisoning members of Combat 18, refusing to tolerate the burning of mosques, synagogues and other institutions.
The state would also rebut Combat 18’s most purist conceptions — including the idea that Britain could ever revert to
being a ‘pristine white homeland’. But imagine if, in order to bring this campaign of white neo-Nazi violence to an end, the state decided to co-opt an element of the white nationalist movement, precisely
because its ‘grievance’ narratives were widely believed amongst the white population.
Broad swathes of Whitehall, not least the Security Service and police, would argue that ‘alienated’ and ‘excluded’ white youth
must be persuaded that they, too, can enjoy a stake in the political system. Imagine further that in order to rebut Combat 18’s narrative – that participation in the political process is pointless because mass immigration and multiculturalism will continue whichever major political
party is in office – the state turned to nonviolent ‘political’ fascists for help, including the most prominent of these, the British National Party and its leader, Nick Griffin.
Officials might be impressed by Griffin’s growing ‘maturity’. He does not advocate violence on these shores, instead encouraging his angry young white supporters to participate in the political
process in order to stop mass immigration. Precisely because of his previous racist pronouncements, officials might reckon that he possesses the ‘street cred’ needed to appeal to those drawn to terrorism.
But what price might Griffin demand in order to charm angry young recruits away from Combat 18? What ‘narrative’ would the British state encourage him to peddle in order to achieve success? Would the Department for Communities and Local Government begin funding Griffin and assorted white ‘community’ groups to bolster their nonviolent message?Would they start ‘capacity building’ initiatives in white neighbourhoods? Griffin might demand substantial policy changes such as more ‘white history’ being taught at schools and universities by ‘suitably qualified’ white teachers. He would obviously insist on dramatic reductions in immigration and an end to
multiculturalism, the ‘root causes’ of white ‘alienation’. Griffin could also stipulate that the government must not show ‘double standards’ in its foreign policy by overthrowing regimes in Afghanistan and
Iraq while ignoring the plight of white farmers in Zimbabwe. Perhaps at Griffin’s behest, the Foreign Office could start a series of ‘roadshows’ led by foreign ‘scholars’ such as David Duke. This might be supported by a new inter-departmental government body, the Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU), which addresses grievances and rebuts Combat 18’s conspiracy theories, but often in white nationalist terms.
Almost always, Islamists project their view of Islam as the ‘true Islam’ and pass off disputed theology as uncontested truth.
They presume to constitute the whole of the faith, rather than just a faction within it.
Yet, it is of paramount importance to distinguish between the two – Islam and Islamism – particularly when far-right political parties such as the BNP seek to deny this distinction and conflate all Muslims with Islamists, stoking the fears of an apprehensive population.
There are two reasons to avoid engaging with clerical fascists.
Maher hints at the first in his last paragraph. To assume that all British Muslims are supporters of radical reaction is like assuming that all British whites are supporters of neo-fascism. Not only is the designation untrue and insulting, it also traps free people in their ethnicity or religion and allows sectarians to pose as their leaders.
The second reason is simply this: constitutional politicians, particularly politicians of the centre-left, cannot appease the far-right because to do so makes a nonsense of every belief they purport to hold.