Yet more plans announced by the government to tackle so-called extremism underline how anti-terror laws are being used as an instrument of oppression against the Muslim community.
Under the strategy unveiled today the government will intensify the campaign against extremism by creating a raft of laws aimed at stemming at source what ministers believe is a terrorism conveyor belt that starts with the radicalisation of individuals.
New policies include creating blacklists of ‘radicals’ and ‘extremist’ groups subject to banning orders. Public sector organisations will be forced to blacklist those on the list.
The plans also include new powers to close mosques and bolster powers available to Ofcom, the media regulator, to sanction channels that broadcast so-called extremist content or give a platform to ‘hate preachers’.
David Cameron has made it clear the new strategy will target ‘extremists’ even if they do not specifically advocate violence as well as racists, anti-semites and those who spread conspiracy theories.
IHRC has viewed with alarm the ever-loudening drumbeat from Whitehall over extremism. We believe that the threat of extremism is being deliberately exaggerated to justify the introduction of discriminatory policies targeting the Muslim community.
In recent years the definition of extremism has become so expansive that it now covers activities such as expressing conservative religious views or criticising government policy, actions that are not considered problematic if carried out by members of other communities.
IHRC views current anti-terrorism policy as Islamophobic since it rests on the assumption that by dint of their faith all Muslims are potential terrorists who must be steered off that course by the state.
We also believe that far from being driven by a desire to fight terrorism, anti-terrorism policy is the leading edge of a government strategy to control and shape Islam and Muslims in Britain. It is part of a social engineering exercise that has at its heart suveilling Muslims from cradle to grave and legislating what they can and can’t believe or say.
The repeated emphasis in the new strategy on the need to conform to British values is another cynical attempt to juxtapose them against Islamic values. It is a deliberate and disgraceful ploy to mark the Muslim community as an ‘outgroup’ and justify further official discrimination against its members.
This anti-Muslim discourse is not only socially divisive but is also increasingly encouraging hate crimes against Muslims such as physical and verbal attacks and discrimination in the workplace.
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “The extent to which anti-terror laws have become a pretext for removing fundamental rights from Muslims and discriminating against them can only suggest that the present government is engaged in a war against Muslims rather than against terrorism. If there is any extremism that needs to be eradicated it should start with a government that is hellbent on continuing to demonise and criminalise Muslims. We call on all fair minded people to oppose these latest plans which undermine the hard won liberties and rights of everyone.”
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IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Islamic Human Rights Commission
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Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222