Extremism Bill is threat to all of us

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Barely a year after the passing of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act, the Tories are introducing a new “Counter Extremism Bill”.

It is landmark legislation and we will need a united opposition from the left, anti-racists, trade unions, student unions and the Muslim community to stop it.

With the planned introduction of the bill this autumn, state Islamophobia in Britain is being racked up to a new level.

David Cameron has outlined specific measures including “narrowly targeted powers” against (non-violent) “extremist” speakers and “hate preachers”, the power to close down mosques or centres deemed to promote “extremism”, the confiscation of passports, the monitoring of the internet, as well as increased powers for Ofcom, the TV watchdog cum censor.

These powers constitute an assault on civil liberties, regardless of whether any law has been broken, and are aimed at targeting the Muslim community, despite the ritual but empty condemnation of “far-right extremism”.

Cameron’s speech adopts a line of attack long advanced by the extreme Islamophobes and neoliberal think tanks. This latest round is aimed not only against Muslims but also the left, the anti-war and anti-racist movements.

The neoliberal racists have always contended that Islam itself was a problem and that it is an illusion to pretend that terrorists are simply distorting a “religion of peace”.

They reluctantly concede that “good” Muslims do exist but only in spite of their religion. Hence the constant demand that they prove their loyalty to the state. Simply denouncing acts of terror is not enough.

Inevitably, this extends to the left, anti-racists, anti-war and civil rights campaigners, as well as student organisations.

They are all cast as providing “cover” for the “extremists” and ultimately terrorism by daring to put the argument that the rise of terrorism and Islamic State (ISIS) is a direct consequence of the wars waged across Afghanistan and the Middle East and western support for Israel.

The new legislation specifically targets “non-violent extremists” who engage in what Cameron termed “grievance justification”. The threat posed was made explicit in Cameron’s attack on the National Union of Students (NUS) for its conference policy support for CAGE, the Muslim human rights organisation founded by former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg.

Cameron’s identifiers of “non-violent extremism” extend to support for the idea of a Caliphate; belief in the influence of a “Jewish lobby”; anti-Semitism (code for any opposition to Israel); and anti-LGBT prejudice.

This is an attempt to isolate the Muslim community from left and liberal support and to claim the liberal moral high ground.

Even forced marriage and female genital mutilation were thrown into the anti-terrorist mix. And, of course, voting for a Muslim mayor in east London.

This onslaught is not going unopposed, the resistance has begun. But the task has risen to a new level.

The proposed Counter Extremism Bill will aim to make political criticism of government and opposition to the state subject to legislation and enforcement.

This will particularly affect schools, colleges, universities and, of course, the Muslim community, where Cameron specifically targeted religious “supplementary” schools and classes.

We need to establish local and national networks now for a united campaign of Muslim and non-Muslim organisations, student unions, anti-racist and anti-war campaigns, civil rights campaigns and trade unions.

We should not forget the forces that arose the last time the European establishment identified a religion or race as the host of an enemy within.