Does Cameron Really Understand British Muslims?

The Birmingham Post (England), July 2, 2015 | Go to article overview

Does Cameron Really Understand British Muslims?


Byline: JONATHAN WALKER

DAV A ID Cameron believes British Muslims have an extremism problem. And he believes it goes beyond a tiny minority.

His views may be based at least in part on his experiences during a visit to Birmingham in 2007.

But they have already led to a clash in the House of Commons with one practising Muslim, Birmingham MP Shabana Mahmood, who argued that constant demands that British Muslims stand up to extremism is placing an unfair and unrealistic burden on them.

The question of how the UK and the world combats extremist views is in the spotlight right now.

Student Seifeddine Rezgui murdered 38 people at the beach resort of Sousse in Tunisia last week. At least 27 British people are known to have died and the Government has said it believes the final number of British dead will be 30.

But the Government was already introducing new measures to fight extremism.

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 came into force on July 1. It places a public duty on public bodies such as schools, local authorities, prisons, police and health bodies to have "due regard to preventing people from being drawn into terrorism".

This seems to have been inspired partly by the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham, where a Governmentcommissioned inquiry found there had been a "co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained" campaign to introduce "an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools" (although there was no suggestion of any attempt to promote or condone violence).

Secondly, the Queen's Speech in May included plans for a new Extremism Bill which will introduce "banning orders", allowing the Home Secretary to ban "extremist groups".

Crucially, this will go beyond banning groups which advocate violence, and include organisations which promote certain beliefs about British society and politics which the Government believes can help to justify violence in the minds of people that hear them.

The Prime Minister spelled this out in the House of Commons on July 1, when he said there was a problem with groups and people in the UK "who are very clever at endorsing extremism but stopping one step short of actually condoning terrorism".

In a speech to the Global Security Forum in Bratislava, Slovaia, on June 19, Mr Cameron said British young people who became terrorists may have been influenced by "people who hold some of these views who don't go as far as advocating violence, but who do buy into some of these prejudices giving the extreme Islamist narrative weight".

That included "firebrand preachers" who broadcast sermons in online videos, he said - but he added that these ideas were sometimes "quietly condoned ... perhaps even in parts of your local community".

And in the House of Commons on June 29, he explained exactly what types of ideas he had in mind.

Mr Cameron said: "Some people and some organisations - frankly, we know which organisations - go along with some of the narrative, think that a caliphate might not be such a bad idea, that Christians and Muslims cannot really live together and that democracy is inferior to another sort of system, and do not believe in equality. …

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