This is exactly the distinction I have been making here for several years now!
It’s easy to slam all the nonsense about Islamic extremism as willful denial and the notion that Islamism is something separate from Islam, rather than the political implementation of Islam through Islamization, as delusional.
But this is potentially a quite important step. For the first time, a major Western country is moving to criminalize a variant of Islam. And that’s an interesting precedent.
The UK is separating a part of Islam (based on specific characteristics, e.g. a worldwide Islamic state, approval of violence) that the religion shares as a whole. And it’s doing this by classifying it as a political ideology… rather than a religion.
That’s a good thing. Yes, this isn’t an actual ban. But it is a declaration that it is unwelcome and is to be treated the way that “right-wing extremists” like the EDL are. That is going to have plenty of invisible consequences especially on the policing level. Assuming that it’s truly implemented.
The UK isn’t going to suddenly go full Angola. Even Angola isn’t going full Angola. But these represent three important steps
1. Classifying a form of Islam as an ideology rather than a religion
2. Taking legal steps to move it out of the public square
3. Making that classification based on characteristics that Islam overall shares
That’s a base for something much bigger.
It would be premature to make too much of this right now. Cameron is worried about his political prospects and European leaders have a tendency to talk big going into elections before scampering away… but this does look like it was workshopped through the bureaucracy. That means it may actually turn into policy.
The British government said Wednesday it needs new powers to help combat the spread of violent extremist Islam, including administrative authority to ban groups and restrict the movement and behavior of alleged recruiters.
A special task force of senior ministers set up by Prime Minister David Cameron reported Wednesday, recommending new quasi-judicial authorities and defining Islamic extremism as “a distinct ideology that should not be confused with traditional [Muslim] religious practice,” according to a statement from Mr. Cameron’s office.
The report also recommends the government work with Internet providers in Britain to get them to block access to sites based abroad that carry material “illegal under U.K. law.”
The new powers recommended for use against extremist recruiters would be similar to the controversial “anti-social behavior orders” introduced in 1998. Such orders are imposed by local magistrates on hooligans and other reckless youths — banning them from being in places like malls or parks, associating with certain people and exhibiting behaviors like swearing or playing loud music.
Anti-social behavior orders can be imposed “on the balance of the evidence.” By contrast, criminal sanctions can be imposed only after conviction “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
That last part is rather important. It makes it possible for the authorities to begin harassing people because everyone knows what they’re up to.
The move is part of a sweeping package of measures drawn up by an anti-extremism task force set up by David Cameron after the death of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich.
In its initial report to be detailed to Parliament today, the task force will also propose new internet filters to block extremist websites and extended powers for watchdogs to shut down charities suspected of being fronts for extremist groups.
‘I want to see an end to hate preaching in Britain,’ the Prime Minister said.
As well as new civil orders against extremists – dubbed ‘Tebos’, or terror and extremism behaviour orders – the Government is to consider the case for another new type of order to ban groups which ‘seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech, when necessary to protect the public or prevent crime and disorder’.
Both types of order are to be based on a new definition of extremism which specifically includes a ‘distorted interpretation of Islam’.
It identifies Islamist extremism as a distinct ideology which should not be confused with traditional religious practice. This ‘distorted’ view argues for a global Islamic state and against ‘liberal values such as democracy, the rule of law and equality’, and tells people they cannot be both Muslim and British.
This “distorted view” just happens to be Islam. And if the UK government just blindly classified Islam as a political ideology to be repressed… that puts him on the same line as Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Cameron made the announcement in China, which like Russia, has government clergy and clergy not sanctioned by the government who are subject to all sorts of government sanctions. Europe is slowly drifting toward that solution. It’s not a real solution since it does not address the demographic issues, something China can afford to ignore, but it’s a potentially important step.
The task force includes Home Secretary Theresa May, Deputy Premier Nick Clegg, Minister for Faith Baroness Warsi, and has taken advice from police and intelligence chiefs.
Clegg is well on the left and Warsi is a Muslim and has some suspicious ties. So I would like to see how this is actually implemented, but there is potential here.