Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation in his “Defense of David Cameron’s Speech on Multiculturalism” asks his Muslim readership if they’ve bothered to take the time to read the speech David Cameron gave at the Munich Security Conference this past Saturday 5th of February. Now my question is, did Nawaz actually take the time to read through Cameron’s speech thoroughly?
Sure, Nawaz talks about the embarrassing victimhood mentality many British Muslims developed in response to such a speech by Cameron. But did Nawaz bother to take a moment to look at the reaction of the British far right? Cameron’s speech was applauded by the leaders of both the BNP and the EDL. Abroad, the leader of France’s extreme right party, the National Front, Marine Le Pen, lauded Cameron for Saturday’s speech saying that his speech marked a shift in European politics and is the type of statement that would bring about an “evolution at the European level, even in classic governments. I can only congratulate him.” Yikes. Even the worst political analyst and academic needn’t say more.
Nawaz is indeed critical of Cameron’s speech, acknowledging its unbalanced nature, and of the conservative government, adding his rather soured footnote that the Quilliam Foundation too has suffered on account of budget cuts, while simultaneously asking organisations, such as Quilliam, to do more to combat extremism. But to suggest that British Muslims should feel grateful upon hearing conservative Cameron’s speech merely because he has acknowledged basic nuances such as the fact that Islam and Islamism are different, and the fact that right wing anti-Muslim groups, such as the EDL, are fascist groups needing to be curtailed while drawing the parallel between them and extreme Muslim groups, is shocking, contemptible, and loathsome.
First of all, I’m hardly grateful at Cameron’s seeming ability to call a spade a spade. Why should Britons be grateful for something so basic? I shant think there is any other way for our leaders to be. Have our standards for our leaders fallen so low that we, in turn begin to “clutch at straws”? Secondly, for Nawaz to critique an ideologue for holding high ideals and standards for their national leaders is plain sad. Lastly, for him to display such keenness over something as basic and as obvious as this, exposes a level apathy and complacency I’m not comfortable with.
This is hardly the revolutionary “shifting ground” as Nawaz likes to think it is. This whole “Islam is a religion of peace and is not the same as Islamism” has been overdone by Cameron’s Labour predecessors – not to mention stated verbatim on multiple occasions by the architects of the War on Terror, George W. Bush et al. It’s the same old rhetoric, different decade, and frankly, British Muslims are bored with it. Let us not forget those who identified the Cameron speech, not as revolutionary, but as “evolutionary” shifting ground. The shift appears to be in a direction that leaves many feeling shaky. Even if the Cameron administration is doing their best to distance themselves from Le Pen, the connection has been made.
Cameron’s speech is nothing but a schizophrenic nightmare. While starting out Saturdays speech saying terrorism and extremism is not linked to any one particular group, he then begins the crux of his message four lines later saying that we should “acknowledge that this threat comes overwhelmingly from young men who follow a completely perverse interpretation of Islam and are prepared to blow themselves up and kill their fellow citizens,” which then remains the theme of the entirety of his speech right up to the end. It’s called “doublespeak.” Not only does he call on all British Muslims to take heed in preventing the growth of extremism asking if Muslim institutions genuinely adhere to the values of universal human rights, democratic systems, free speech, equality before the law, and so on, he then dangerously categorises Muslim immigrants as potential extremists in the making so long as they don’t learn English and subscribe to British values, because, according to the Cameron logic, adherence to British values will naturally decrease the threat of extremist thinking.
Thus, the onus has been squarely placed on British Muslims to stop extremism in Britain, when in reality, the average British Muslim goes to work, pays their taxes, loves the NHS, supports English football leagues, and lives in peace. And believe it or not, the average Muslim does not subscribe to the rants of Anjem Choudary – typically, they run far and fast from it. To liken Muslim institutions as potential Islam4UK’s in the making because Anjem Choudary sits in the fringes of 1.6 million British Muslims is as absurd as saying that all British institutions are potential EDL sympathizers because of the recent growth of BNP popularity – incidentally, making them the fourth largest party in the UK and now substantially closer to actually having a seat in the Houses of Parliament.
Extremist thinking is a problem for all of Britain. The onus should be on all British citizens equally to combat it. While David Cameron makes acknowledgement too of far right nationalist extremism in Britain, it is all too brief. Cameron has pointed one unmistakably clear finger on one single community to combat extremism in Britain – British Muslims – which, antithetically, will only continue to isolate British Muslims further.
Sadly, this finger pointing is precisely what Cameron warned Britain against in his glowing piece in The Guardian from 2007 after staying with a Muslim family in Birmingham saying it was the wrong approach. “Asian families and communities are incredibly strong and cohesive, and have a sense of civic responsibility which puts the rest of us to shame. Not for the first time, I found myself thinking that it is mainstream Britain which needs to integrate more with the British Asian way of life, not the other way around.” I wonder if Nawaz has read this? All he has to do is search the web for it. I’ll even provide the link for him.
This article originally published here