The politics of extremism


Is anyone else getting bored with the government’s anti-extremism policies? As someone whose job involves routinely analysing and commenting on them I for one am running out of things to say.

It’s not just the frequency or rate at which the policies are being trotted out. My problem with the official anti-extremism narrative is that it has become so entrenched that is now frighteningly self-perpetuating.

Take David Cameron’s latest five-year plan to defeat extremism. Grounded firmly in the politically contrived fallacy that religious extremism is the primary cause of terrorism it just seems like a reincarnation of what has gone before – and failed.

What makes the ‘new’ strategy any different from CONTEST, the euphemistic acronym for Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy in place since 2003? Judge for yourself:

This is Gordon Brown, writing in the Guardian in 2009 about his government’s plans to revamp the strategy.

“Al-Qaida terrorists remain intent on inflicting mass casualties…. They are motivated by a violent extremist ideology based on a false reading of religion……The approach we are taking ….addresses the longer term causes – understanding what leads people to become radicalised, so we can stop the process.”

And this is PM David Cameron speaking in 2011:

“We have got to get to the root of the problem…. That is the existence of an ideology, Islamist extremism…… Islamist extremism is a political ideology supported by a minority. At the furthest end are those who back terrorism to promote their ultimate goal: an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of Sharia. Move along the spectrum, and you find people who may reject violence, but who accept various parts of the extremist worldview, including real hostility towards Western democracy and liberal values…”

The rest of the piece can be read by clicking here.