The prime minster needs the support of Muslim communities in the struggle against ISIS.
The prime minster needs the support of Muslim communities in the struggle against ISIS
After the recent brutal murder of aid worker David Haines, the prime minister issued a statement that once again made clear the distinction between Islam as a peaceful religion followed by many productive and peaceful citizens in the UK and those extremists roaming in Syria and Iraq, chasing minorities and destroying the heritage of these groups.
The prime minister has repeatedly set out this position time and time again, not only because it is accurate and true, but also because a clear line has been to be drawn between those in ISIS and Muslim communities globally.
The dividing line between law abiding Muslims and those brutal murderers in ISIS is essential to keep cementing for two key reasons. The first is that it undermines the corrosive narratives of far-right and other anti-Muslim groups who try to amalgamate every Muslim into an amorphous mass of people who are collectively a threat to Europe and the West.
Whilst this narrative may seem devoid of reality, the sad truth is that it has resonated in some sections of communities, particularly with young disaffected white males, who in many instances, are socially excluded.
Secondly, by doing so, the prime minister has drawn a much needed line between the slick propaganda of ISIS and Muslim communities in our country so that the pull of these extremists is actively challenged.
Yet, there is something that is troubling and worrying. Whilst many Muslim civil society groups, mosques and Imams have roundly condemned the murder of David Haines, the troubling factor is that there will have been pressures on the prime minister to push harder for greater legal anti-terrorism measures. These no doubt, would have impacts on civil liberties and with a possible disproportionate impact on Muslim communities.
The realpolitik is that the prime minster is juggling between those who want him to get much tougher on domestic and international extremism and terrorism; yet what is clear is that the prime minister has not lost sight of one key factor. The way to challenge and address such extremism and rhetoric is through one key asset, in this case British Muslim communities.
This is the message the prime minister is repeatedly putting out time and time again and which should not be forgotten.
The prime minister’s position should be welcomed and shored up by Muslim communities, irrespective of their views on other political matters. On the issue of tackling extremism, his support for Muslim communities as an asset in the ideological battle means we have a prime minister who believes in a Britain where young Muslims have a future; his vision is of a pluralistic Britain where communities are free to live their lives from fear and where threats to our country must be mitigated against by a pro-active stance against groups like ISIS.
All of this is welcome, yet if this opportunity is not grasped by the leadership in Muslim communities the future looks bleak.
Yet all indicators are showing religious leaders, civil society activists and social change makers in British Muslim communities coming together to collectively reject the ideology of ISIS.
The reality is that in Europe today, the forces of far-right groups are growing. A recent poll in France indicated that the National Front’s Marine Le Pen would win the presidential race for France if a snap election were held now. The far-right Swedish Democrats have just polled double figures in the Swedish elections making them potential kingmakers in a future cabinet. Both groups have focused their target on Muslim communities and on immigration, making their politics toxic for future integration and for cohesion in these countries.
Britain still stands as a bastion for pluralism in a Europe where extreme parties couched in populist language elbow forward for seats of power. Our government and our prime minister still hold dear to the view that all communities have a future in Britain, unlike the National Front or Swedish Democrats who look on Muslim communities as being ‘problematic,’ a view that is soaked up by those in France and Sweden who cannot find employment and who look for easy answers and for someone to blame for their shortfalls.
A further lurch to the right in Britain, on the back of rhetoric suggesting that Muslim communities are unable to integrate and who are potential security threats, has the potential of a domino effect across the continent which will have resounding impacts on Europe and the countries of the Mediterranean with large Muslim populations.
Whilst a ‘clash of civilisations’ will not, thankfully, happen, a widening political divide between Europe and Mediterranean countries bodes ill for future trade, geo-political and military alliances.
European nations may think that they are countries of tolerance and understanding, but it is Britain that is an influencing factor in ensuring they maintain their stance. Our ideals and our values set a trail that many countries have tried to emulate with civil servant after civil servant from these countries coming to the UK to find out how we ‘do’ pluralism.
Which brings me back to the core point that the prime minster needs the support of Muslim communities in this struggle against ISIS and in dissuading young people to go to Syria or Iraq. It is a call that we must heed, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because a weakening of the prime minister’s position will have dire consequences for those who believe in a liberal and pluralist Europe.
Now is the time to tackle a group like ISIS – one of the greatest threats to Muslim and non-Muslim communities, as well as to the Middle East and Europe. Not since the end of the Cold War has such an issue arisen. Now is not the time to wobble and to back away from a prime minister who, on this issue, has done the right thing.
Fiyaz Mughal is the director of Faith Matters. He was appointed to be on the Working Group for Communities that was linked to the Extremism Task Force developed in 2005 after the 7/7 bombings. An elected member IDeA Peer Mentor for national work with local authorities on the Preventing Violent Extremism agenda, Fiyaz was also previously appointed by the secretary of state for the Department for Communities and Local Government (the Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP) to be a member of the Local Delivery Advisory Group on Preventing Violent Extremism.
He was also appointed as the advisor to the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg MP, on interfaith and preventing radicalisation and extremism between 2009 – 2010.
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