I was discussing the Contest 2 report with someone somewhat close to the MCB and he said of the MCB / Daud Abdullah business: “…these guys should adopt Britney Spears as their mascot…’Oops, we did it again…‘ ” — I think that’s exactly right. The MCB looks to be more obsessed with worldwide Muslim politics, and ensuring its standing amongst the Muslim Brotherhood network of organisations than actually producing strategies and ideas and engagement for Muslims in the UK. It staggers from one gaffe to another.
Anyway, here’s five thoughts on recent events.
1) I think the Hazel Blears / MCB spat is a silly sideshow that gets the right crowd excited because they think the government is taking a hardline against fanatics. But the government isn’t funding the MCB now is it? So that point of the grandstanding is moot. If Blears says she won’t even talk to the MCB because of this — well that’s a pretty stupid position because a government should talk to a wide range of opinion whether it likes that opinion or not.
From the MCB’s point of view, I suspect the controversy works in their favour because they’ve long been accused of being New Labour stooges. Everyone’s happy.
2) I think septicisle is right – at early glance the new policy looks much more temperate and intelligent than past pronouncements. The govt has quietly taken some responsibility that its own foreign policy has exacerbated terrorism, and accepts the threat of terrorism has diminished.
Which is why I think the spat with the MCB is a bit of meat thrown to people who hang out at Harry’s Place – makes the right noises without actually having any consequences. I mean, they actually have a post by some anonymous ‘Lucy Lips’ saying Daud Abdullah’s lucky “he isnâ€™t being prosecuted for treason”. I have this overwhelming urge to address this in the manner of gangsta films I’ve been watching recently: Shut the fuck up and sit the fuck down fool, this ain’t no McCarthy’s America and your punk-ass sure as hell ain’t a powerful Senator — ’nuff said.
3) It’s worth nothing that even in the recent Policy Exchange briefing written by Shiraz Maher, the foreword by Ruth Kelly MP explicitly states: “…there needed to be a clearer conceptual distinction between policies designed to prevent extremism and those to build community cohesion âˆ’ even if some of the vehicles and levers for change might overlap.” — which is exactly what I’ve argued. I hope the government’s policy remains the same because counter-terrorism and social cohesion are two different objectives and issues. The intelligence services are interested in the former while more civil society organisations tackle the latter. Any government minister that tried to mash the two would be quite naive.
4) There has been quite an unnecessarily negative reaction to the document over at the Guardian, prompted, most likely, by the MCB episode. I think the Guardian, along with the people its railing against, have fallen for Hazel Blears trap and I expect she’s delighted to see Seamus Milne annoyed. I want to see a more nuanced discussion of this report dammit.
5) Contest 2 states:
We will also continue to challenge views which fall short of supporting violence and are within the law, but which reject and undermine our shared values and jeopardise community cohesion. Some of these views can create a climate in which people may be drawn into violent activity. We have no intention of outlawing these views or criminalising those who hold them.
Here’s the problem — the government isn’t a credible actor among radical Muslims so this will have little impact. It would be more effective if the government were to covertly work with Muslim organisations and strengthen them so they can challenge extremists. That would have far more impact. This is why it’s worth separating social cohesion from counter-terrorism.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Islamists,Muslim,Organisations,Terrorism