Western governments try to justify their failure to secure the Middle East militarily by blaming the Muslim community as a whole
David Cameron seems to like travelling to Europe to make speeches attacking Muslims. He did it when the racist EDL held a major anti-Muslim demo in Luton back in 2011.
Then he was in Bavaria, a deeply Catholic and conservative state in Germany, calling for Muslims to embrace British values.
Now he's done it again. On the first full day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Cameron has used a speech at a security conference in Slovakia today to berate any Muslims who buy in to a critique of the west.
According to him, this stokes the violent extremism which has seen the rise of ISIS, the flurry of individuals leaving Britain and other countries to join them, and the growth of terrorism worldwide.
Cameron says that blame for these actions needs to be laid at the door of the individual carrying them out. This is of course true in the final instance; people react differently to the same circumstances and most people who, for example, oppose foreign wars, do not end up directly going to fight in those wars or becoming terrorists. But it is highly disingenuous in two respects.
The first is that Cameron makes the link yet again between what he deems non violent extremists and violent extremists. In fact this is the whole thrust of government policy on the question. Violent extremism only happens because non violent extremists pave the way for their more violent counterparts. He talks of British Muslims 'buying into' or 'quietly condoning'
No doubt most in the Muslim community in Britain will find ISIS and its tactics abhorrent. But no doubt too that many Muslims - as well as those non-Muslims in Britain who have long opposed government policy - will reject the idea that they have to give up their beliefs in the spurious hope that this might defeat terrorism.
We should remember that opposition to wars, Islamophobia, attacks on civil liberties and Israeli policy over Palestine, has not been from terrorist groups but from a wide range of organisations which have campaigned over these issues. They have included Muslims and non-Muslims.
It is the failure of successive governments to recognise the widespread opposition to its policies and the disastrous consequences of them that has created the situation we now have.
That Cameron blames groups and individuals within the Muslim community for his government's failings is neither surprising nor new. Since Tony Blair helped launch the war on terror in 2001 terrorism has grown on a massive scale. While western governments lack a strategy for securing the Middle East militarily, they try to justify their errors by blaming the Muslim community as a whole - and by implication the non-Muslims who have worked with them in organisations such as Stop the War.
Yet it was the former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham Buller, who admitted that she had told government ministers that war in Iraq would increase terrorism.
The vicious circle we now find of wars, Islamophobia and attacks on civil liberties is not preventing terrorism but exacerbating it.
The government's extensive plans for spying on and scapegoating the Muslim community will do little to alter this, but will increase racism and develop an Orwellian thought crime.
At times of crisis and austerity, scapegoating of minorities is a means of creating new fears about real or imagined threats which can divert from the common threats our government is at present issuing towards working class people.
Cameron's speech is of course aimed at doing this, not looking for real solutions to real problems.
Those of us marching tomorrow for an alternative to austerity and war will also be speaking out against this scapegoating. The different issues are increasingly linked and need a united response.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
More articles from this author
- Tories: the Covid mask slips – weekly briefing
- The trouble with terrorism – weekly briefing
- No Platform: Free speech for all?
- Now it’s neither heat nor eat – weekly briefing
- Sexual violence, economic violence: why women still need our rights – weekly briefing
- Discontents for all seasons – weekly briefing
- The Pandora’s Box of 9/11 – weekly briefing