Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A rough guide to 'extremism'.

On the day that we learn of Whitehall's complicity in the torture of 'terror suspects', it is reported that the same chaps who felt it proper to render Binyam Mohammed to have his genitals mutilated are now preparing a policy on extremism. I thought this would be the usual blah about caliphate this and sharia that, the standard strictures from the co-purveyors of airborne death and mayhem. It turns out that the government has a more expansive definition in mind. The government "would widen the definition of extremists to those who hold views that clash with what the government defines as shared British values". For example, their definition of an extremist would include those who "believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military." And those who "fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan." Not even 'support', but fail to condemn! This raises some interesting questions: how observant would you have to be with the condemnations? Would it be adequate to issue a single generic condemnation, or would it need to be a daily ritual? Perhaps it is an oath to take before meals - but then, how would you keep your food down?

You will have gathered from all this that 'extremism' in the government's proposed definition is another word for sedition. It is about disloyalty to the state and its interests. There is, otherwise, no good reason why any right-minded person in the UK would not support some armed resistance movement somewhere, even one where Britain is arming and supporting its killers. There are plenty of oppressed people in the world, and plenty who lack pacific means to address their grievance, and unless one is a rigid pacifist there are good reasons why someone with an internationalist conscience would support armed insurgency somewhere.

There is equally no good reason for anyone who doesn't feel like it to condemn the killing of occupying troops of whatever nationality in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't. Even if, for some incomprehensible reason, you supported the war, then you still don't need to 'condemn' anything. Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt doesn't. In fact, you would be pretty stupid and hypocritical to support a war but condemn the other side for fighting back. If you march into another country with guns and tanks and start blowing up buildings and taking over the government, then you had better be ready for some action. If you don't want some insurgent's IED to pound molten steel up your jacksie, then take your caper elsewhere. What the British government is demanding is conformity and patriotism of a kind that makes Norman Tebbit's 'cricket test' look relatively harmless. He just wanted people to support the English side in some strange recreational activity originating in the 16th Century. These bastards want everyone to support an imperialist army that shares responsibility for, among other things, over a million deaths in Iraq. The language is such that they appear to be targeting Muslims in particular, but this is ultimately about leveraging patriotism and anti-Muslim racism the better to conscript public opinion in support of the government's wars, and discipline antiwar opposition. This is what the fantasy of 'British values' is all about.