The Limits of British Values

The UK Government recently announced its Counter Extremism Strategy, a document which refers to ‘British values’ 54 times. Within this report, extremism is defined as ‘the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.’ These are certainly fine values — which British governments have consistently failed to support.

Britain has been responsible for the undermining of democracy, turning a blind eye to abuses by its allies, using extraordinary rendition to get around the rule of law, passing over the denial of individual liberties to dissidents, and the evasion of the dismal situation for religious minorities. Ironically, David Cameron’s first act after the unveiling of this act was setting trade deals with China, hardly notable for its democracy, rule of law, individual liberty or tolerance for different faiths. This was followed by a rock star reception for Indian PM Narendra Modi, whose rule has seen a shocking increase in Hindu supremacist ideology and attacks on minorities.

The paranoia around ‘entryism’, defined as ‘extremist individuals, groups and organisations consciously seeking to gain positions of influence to better enable them to promote their own extremist agendas’, has a particularly rich irony, when many extremist individuals have been invited to Number 10 for tea. For decades, extremists have had no need for deception. Britain has supported theocrats and dictators as long as it served British business interests, whether under Tory or Labour rule. This list includes Muhammad Zia ul-Haq and the Taliban, primary architects of the Islamisation of South Asia; Muammar Gaddafi, and so forth. Saudi Arabia’s repression of its people and its disrespect for human rights is almost identical to that of the Daesh Islamic State. It is also the major source of toxic Wahhabi-generated propaganda that has been so influential in fomenting extremism. Britain’s long trade relationship with this state is a flagrant exhibition of double standards.

VIDEO: Discussion between Islam4UK spokesman Anjem Choudary and Maajid Nawaz from counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation

Islam4UK spokesman Anjem Choudary and Maajid Nawaz, from the counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation, join Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman to debate the implications of a government ban on the radical Islamist group Islam4UK.

The views of the new German interior minister de Maizière on Islam in Germany

In an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the new German minister for the interior, Thomas de Maizière, speaks about his stance on Islam in Germany. He affirms the continuous education of imams and religious teachers at German universities. A second area of support will be gender equality and women’s rights. Finally, de Maizière will continue the efforts of the Islam Conference, founded by his predecessor Wolfgang Schäuble, to counter extremism. “We welcome Islam, but not Islamism”, says de Maizière.

British Islam on anti-extremism tour in Pakistan [3:13]

Maajid Nawaz, a British citizen and former member of the Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, is now being funded by the British government to promote ideas on Islam. During his membership to Hisb ut-Tahrir, he was imprisoned in Egypt for belonging to a banned political party. After Nawaz resigned from Islamism he became active in the Muslim anti-extremism think tank The Quilliam Foundation, of which he is the director today. After publicly renouncing the cause he served all his adult life, he is now in Pakistan sharing the idea that moderation and democracy go hand-in-hand with Islam.

New Islamic hotline launched in the UK

A telephone help-line offering advice about the true teaching of Islam is being launched in the UK today. Callers to the Islamic Hotline will get answers to their questions within 48 hours, from scholars trained at one of the world’s principal Islamic universities. The Islamic scholars behind the telephone helpline hope it will combat radicalism in Britain and help ordinary Muslims answer difficult questions about their faith.

The Islamic Hotline believes it has good news for British Muslims – keeping the laws of Islam is not as difficult as you thought. But it also sounds a warning – the UK has a large and growing population of young Muslims who are dangerously out of touch with the older generation, and often cut off from the real teaching of their religion. The hotline’s backers have singled out Britain as the country most urgently in need of the service.

El Hatef, as the hotline is known in Arabic, was set up in Egypt eight years ago to counter radicalism by bringing the minds of the nation’s best Islamic scholars to bear on people’s doubts and questions about their religion. Since then, two million questions from Egyptians have been answered, mostly from women, and many about sex.

British government to train moderate Muslims to appear higher on search engines

The British Ministry of Defence plans to train moderate Muslim groups on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) so that their websites appear higher in search results on the Internet. Government-approved groups will be taught techniques to improve their online profile. The aim is to “flood the internet” with “positive” interpretations of Islam and to make extremist sites less easily accessible.

The project, which is still in its early stages, is part of the Home Office’s anti-radicalisation strategy CONTEST 2. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced in December: “We will host a core network of people who will put forward positive messages from the British Muslim community on the internet, directly challenging the extremists that set out to groom vulnerable individuals.” Academics however doubt the effect of SEO, as it is more likely for young Muslims to encounter extremist material in web forums and offline associates than through search engines, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) has found.