Countering Islamism – OpEd


On October 19, the British government announced a raft of new security measures designed to counter the domestic Islamist threat. They were the outcome of an intensive exercise undertaken by the UK civil service over the summer, while parliament was in adjournment.

The new measures, among other things, enable parents of children under 16 to request the cancellation of their passports; there is to be a ban on radical preachers posting material online; new extremism disruption orders will prevent individuals from engaging in extremist behaviour; law enforcement and local authorities will be given powers to close down premises used to support extremism.

Together these and other steps add up to the UK’s Counter-Extremism Strategy, the first effort by a world power to tackle domestic Islamism head-on. There is to be no shilly-shallying around the nature of the danger facing Britain – and, by extension, the civilized world – nor the multi-faceted effort that needs to be taken to counter and conquer it.

The groundwork for this initiative was laid in a seminal speech delivered on July 20 by the UK prime minister, David Cameron. Uniquely among world leaders who have spoken on this issue, Cameron addressed his Muslim co-citizens candidly. Without beating about the bush, he asserted that condemning violence was not enough. Too many ordinary decent Muslim citizens, he maintained, while thoroughly disapproving of violence, allowed themselves to be seduced by Islamism to the extent of subscribing to intolerant ideas which actively promote discrimination, sectarianism and segregation, thus fostering the very climate in which extremists can flourish. It was clear from what he said that Cameron places high on his list of “intolerant ideas” the mindless anti-Semitism that is endemic to extremist Islamism.

Cameron also singled out ideas “based on conspiracy: that Jews exercise malevolent power; or that Western powers, in concert with Israel, are deliberately humiliating Muslims, because they aim to destroy Islam. In this warped worldview, such conclusions are reached – that 9/11 was actually inspired by Mossad to provoke the invasion of Afghanistan; that British security services knew about 7/7, but didn’t do anything about it because they wanted to provoke an anti-Muslim backlash.”

Cameron pointed out that the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences often reveal that they were first influenced by what some would call non-violent extremists.

“It may begin,” he said, “with hearing about the so-called Jewish conspiracy, and then develop into hostility to the West and fundamental liberal values, before finally becoming a cultish attachment to death. Put another way, the extremist world view is the gateway, and violence is the ultimate destination.”

The adherents of this ideology, he claimed, are overpowering other voices within the Muslim debate, especially those trying to challenge it.

To counter this threat, he asserted, Britain intends to confront, head on, the extreme ideology that underpins Islamism – the cultish worldview, the conspiracy theories, and its malevolent appeal to the young and impressionable. The new strategy will involve exposing Islamist extremism for what it is – a belief system that glorifies violence and subjugates its people, not least Muslim people – and will contrast the bigotry, aggression and theocracy of Islamism with the liberal, democratic values that underlie the Western way of life.

A key part of the action programme will be to tackle both the violent and the non-violent aspects of the creed. Cameron was clear that this would mean confronting groups and organisations that may not advocate violence, but which do promote other parts of the extremist narrative.

“We’ve got to show that if you say ‘violence in London isn’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter’, then you too are part of the problem. Unwittingly or not,” he said, “and in a lot of cases it’s not unwittingly, you are providing succour to those who want to commit, or get others to commit to, violence.”

He insisted that condemning a mass-murdering, child-raping organisation was not enough to prove that a person was challenging the extremists. The new strategy would demand that people also condemn the wild conspiracy theories, the anti-Semitism, and the sectarianism.

Acknowledging the religious aspect of Islamist extremism has proved a stumbling block for many previous attempts to combat the problem. Britain’s Counter-Extremism Strategy will face the issue fairly and squarely. As Cameron pointed out, simply denying any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists doesn’t work, because these extremists are self-identifying as Muslims.

“They all spout the same twisted narrative, one that claims to be based on a particular faith. It is an exercise in futility to deny that. And more than that, it can be dangerous.”

To deny that Islamism has anything to do with Islam, claimed Cameron, means that the critical reforming voices from within the faith are disempowered – religious heads who can challenge the scriptural basis on which extremists claim to be acting, and respected leaders who can provide an alternative worldview that could stop a teenager’s slide down the spectrum of extremism. The UK’s Counter-Extremism Strategy will empower, support and fund those individuals and organisations from within the Muslim community that are dedicated to countering extreme Islamism and its nihilistic philosophy.

Although an independent Counter-Extremist Project has been running in the US for the past year, and a European counterpart, CEP Europe, was launched in Brussels on June 29, the only government to have grasped the nettle is the UK’s. Britain alone seems to have taken on board the extent of the threat facing the civilized world, to have analysed the issues coolly and hard-headedly, and to be in the process of devising a comprehensive strategy for countering it. In short, the UK is seizing the initiative in the major struggle of our times – a war to the death between a liberal way of life, rooted in parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, and those intent on destroying those values and substituting their own narrow and extremist version of sharia, not shared by the majority of the world’s Muslims.

It is a war the world can, must, and surely will, win.

Neville Teller

Neville Teller's latest book is ""Trump and the Holy Land: 2016-2020". He has written about the Middle East for more than 30 years, has published five books on the subject, and blogs at "A Mid-East Journal". Born in London and a graduate of Oxford University, he is also a long-time dramatist, writer and abridger for BBC radio and for the UK audiobook industry. He was made an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours, 2006 "for services to broadcasting and to drama."

2 thoughts on “Countering Islamism – OpEd

  • October 31, 2015 at 1:25 am

    I have enjoyed reading this article. We need to know, however, that terrorism has no religion, and many terrorists have come from various religious groups. Muslims can become terrorists, and non Muslims can be terrorists as well. Terrorism is also global, covering many countries. In other words, terrorist activities can be anywhere. There is no need to make it long and my statement can be checked whether it is true or not. For me, for example, European historical evidence shows that there have been non Muslim terrorist organizations. Therefore, any law or rules of law, as the author of this article has stated, must be general. Laws must cover Muslim and non Muslim terrorists, and these laws must be applied globally. The law stated in this article seems to cover just Muslim extremists or terrorists. The law, it follows, creates apartheid as it goes after Muslim terrorists but it does not cover non Muslim terrorists. For example, if non Muslim person kills many English citizens, then the killer can be called a mentally disturbed person and need treatment. Similarly, if English man goes to Iraq as invader and got killed, then killers of the English man become terrorists. But if the English person kills Iraqi or Libyan, then he called national hero. So, the argument of the author reminds me with what happened in South Africa. My basic point is that any country, including the author’s country, should have a generalized law against terrorism. The implications of this article are very simple. If George Washington was a Muslim and fought the British occupiers of America, he would have been called an extremist or a terrorist according to this Article. But if George Washington was a non Muslim, then he would have been called a revolutionary many trying to liberate his country from foreign occupiers. Similarly, according to the law, if non Muslim English group demonstrates against the author’s government, then those demonstrators are practicing their democratic rights. But if a Muslim group demonstrates in the same country for the same reason, they will be called extremists or terrorists trying to destroy our way of life. If a group consists of Muslims and non Muslim demonstrators, then the Muslim demonstrators are called terrorists. Moreover, this law will create problems, because many non English people may be considered as Muslims and will be subject to terrorist attacks by other citizens. For example, one American man killed several peaceful Indian individuals, thinking they were Muslim. And these implications and examples I have arrived to by reading this article. Indeed, the law is very scary and most likely will exceed its limits. It will go after many people who do not like the government of Mr. Cameron. As we know from this law, the government will go after some groups because they resist the government policies which strengthen the domination of the wealthy at the expense of others. Mr. Cameron’s government is really corrupt and bankrupt and sells the English public sector assets to foreign capital who is making huge returns out of these assets. In facts, these public assets were profitable and yet were sold to foreign capital under the pretext of inefficiency. In addition, the government does not control dirty money, and many foreign criminals are taking their funds to London and buying properties there. Housing prices are going up to the roof. This corrupt government tries to cover its shortcomings by going after Muslim people whether they are terrorists or not. It wants to shift people’s attention from their misery. The law, as the author argues, even tries to hire Muslims as part of the implementing forces of this law, and I am sure if some Muslims reject the offer, they will be called terrorists or aiding the terrorists or supplying Invisible Hand to terrorists. It is true that when financiers, Pig Gate officials, and dictators try to control their governments and impose their will on others for their own private interests they bring these types of undemocratic laws under the pretext of national security. Finally, I did not like the statement the author uses when he brings Jews to his hate-loaded analysis. I take it as telling some readers if you disagree with this article, you are anti Jews and anti-Semitic persons, and this is very offensive. Hope democracy survives in England, and Daesh and other terrorist groups brought by Mr. Tony Blair and other policy makers can be eliminated by the non Muslim and Muslim people power in order to destroy Mr. Cameron’s hidden imperialist agenda in the Middle East.

    • November 1, 2015 at 10:20 am

      I read your comment with much interest, Adil Mouhammed, and agree with much of what you say. There is only one thing I would like to draw to your attention. The article is based very largely on a speech by Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron. None of the views expressed are mine, except for the last two paragraphs. So it is perhaps a little unfair to describe the article as my “hate-filled analysis”.
      My best wishes.
      Neville Teller


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