Tag Archives: terrorism

I know how to stop radical extremists…

The current language and rhetoric around the ‘problem’ of ‘radical extremist Islamists’ is making me more and more annoyed. Today this new potential policy was revealed on the news and it has compelled me to write this.

The first thing to note with all of this is that this isn’t a problem of religion. It isn’t Muslims who are causing terror. It is terrorists who are doing it in the name of Islam. It might only seem like a minor distinction to many people – but it is a very important distinction. I’m certainly no religious scholar, but from all I’ve read and heard the Muslim faith is as peace-loving and tolerant as any other (including Christianity).

Of course there some passages of old religious texts that can be misrepresented, but that is true of any religion. (If you want an example of how the bible can be misrepresented that watch this amazing scene from The West Wing). But just because somebody quotes an old religious text to support their backwards views, it doesn’t mean they are religious.

But the main point I want to make is that the way to stop extremists is first to stop disaffection. It is a pyramid effect and extremism can only survive is there is a strong base of disaffection.

So, if we want to destroy / remove / halt extremism, then we should work on removing disaffection.

The next question is how do we do that?

Well, one of the first things we can do is stop the tone and language of many of the supposed policies – such as “The document reportedly proposes a number of new measures, including tightening the rules on citizenship to make sure new residents embrace “British values”.”

What does that mean exactly? Who defines “British values”? Why are we talking about “new residents” as if to assume that immigrants are all potential terrorists? If I was currently disaffected, then this kind of language and policy would be more likely to push me to extremism than pull me back into ‘mainstream views’.

Linked to this of course is the rise of UKIP and the increasingly loaded political debate around race, immigration and ‘otherness’ (and therefore the promotion of disaffection in the white, christian (with an intentional small ‘c’), working class population). By pandering to this the mainstream politicians are helping to fan the flames and ultimately increase disaffection in all quarters.

Why can’t they be strong enough to tell UKIP just how wrong they are? Why can’t they show the value of Europe and immigration to this country – economically, culturally and socially? Again if I was disaffected all of this rhetoric would be more likely to push me to extremism.

This is just a quick Sunday morning rant and I know I don’t have all the answers, but the current approach doesn’t seem to be working. Can someone not be brave enough, foresighted enough, compassionate enough to actually take the long view on this and to understand that aggressive responses only fuel further aggression? Please.

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Just because they’re “Muslim” doesn’t make them “terrorists”

The attacks last week in Woolwich were horrific and terrifying. Vicious and bloody they have rightly shocked us all. This post is inspired by the fallout of those attacks, but is NOT directly about those attacks. I don’t claim to be an expert on what happened in Woolwich, or what happened in the build up or what has happened in the aftermath.

I say that to provide an excuse for me if I get any facts wrong. This post is not about the attack itself, but it is about the use of the words “terrorism” and “terrorist” so quickly after it happened. Words are powerful – and for a nation they are more powerful than the actual attack, as shocking and horrible as this was for the individuals concerned. The word terrorism is especially powerful. By using the word it allows us to:

– Blame “others” – you know “them”, they’re not like us, they’ve been radicalised by more of the “others”. But it’s certain not our fault.
– Be afraid – terrorism is much more scary a word and a concept than murder. Terrorism has a mass effect and is unrelenting – after all we have to fight a “war” against it, while murder happens one at a time and is unlikely to actually affect us.
– Be racist – this links to the “others” comment above, but if some Muslims are terrorists then maybe we can blame all Muslims
– Ignore the individuals – by calling it terrorism we don’t ask the question about why and how someone can be radicalised – what was going on in their minds and lives to lead them to choose this path?

“Terrorist” is a get out clause to get us to ignore the smaller details, the real issues and the actual lives of those involved. I’m not even going to touch on the issues that the attackers shouted out to the media (about revenge for attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq), this isn’t a post about the global situation and the rights and wrongs of those “wars”. But instead we should consider how and why two individuals decided that this was the best course of action – radicalisation or not. Or perhaps, how these individuals could be radicalised.

Without knowing the facts I would suggest that there aren’t many affluent, successful, comfortable and confident individuals who choose this path. There aren’t many people, irrespective of religion or place of birth, who feel welcomed and happy in this country, who feel they have a future and the chance of a happy life that choose this path. So why don’t we look at the issue surrounding the estates that people live in, the job opportunities open to them, the institutionalised racism they suffer?

Then of course there is the other side to it all – why is a single murder by people claiming a “Muslim” agenda terrorism when similar attacks from so-called “Christians” not considered terror? If terrorism is from “others”, surely reinforcing the “otherness” will only increase these so-called terrorist attacks.

Terrorism is an incredibly emotive word and one which is designed to invoke an emotional response from people. In a situation like this that emotional response is not usually conducive to calming things down and working out ways to reduce further attacks.

We need to be careful how we label attacks such as the one in Woolwich – in my view two idiots with a knife and some “Muslim” slogans doesn’t equate to terrorism.

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