Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How to define an extremist

British government cudgels its brains on how to define extremism in order the better to fight terrorism. Here are a few possible indications:

• They advocate a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries.

• They promote Sharia law.

• They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.

• They argue that Islam bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah.

• They fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan

Those considered extreme would not be targeted by the criminal law, but would be sidelined and denied public funds.

According to these criteria, the Guardian claims that: "Some say the plans would see views held by most Muslims in Britain being classed by the government as extreme"

Now there's a comforting thought.

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Update: Norm addresses the last of the guidelines, here:

On the basis of that one, they're going to find a lot of extremists among the readers of the major liberal newspapers in this country: people who don't condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, but set themselves to 'understanding' it, and/or mumbling, and/or uttering, with darkened brow, the names of Tony Blair and George W. Bush. But in fact, judged by reference to what is standard, socially 'normal', dinner-party conventional, such people
can't be extremists; they're right over here, in the middle of things, where 'our' sort of people are. In any case, what is wrong with their failure-to-condemn alignment would not follow from its being extreme. Extreme can sometimes be good - when the truth is, as it were, out on a limb and the reigning consensus morally cowardly or misguided. No, what's wrong with the alignment is that it's politically blind, complaisant towards forces fighting for the triumph of political tyranny and social reaction.

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