Britain’s Anti-Terror Laws and the Politics of Fear
In July of this year, British Prime Minister David Cameron laid out his five-year strategy to deal with terrorism and extremism. His plan went beyond tackling violence, spelling out his desire to deal with non-violent ‘extremism’ and to tackle head on ‘ideology’. This came after a series of policy initiatives his government has revealed over the past year, including his desire to introduce ‘deradicalisation programmes’, that would deal with what he described as a growing number of radical youth in the Muslim community, the power to regulate madrassahs and their curriculum and close down Masajids that did not adhere to strict codes of conduct. Since 9/11 the British government, like many western governments, have rolled out a series of measures to clamp down on the Muslim community and deal with what some have described as a fifth column within western society.
A number of sincere Muslim voices within the community have, understandably, shown alarm. Calling for Muslim action and the formation of lobby groups that pressure the government and the mobilisation of the community to address the new terror laws. This is not new. Ever since the previous Labour government introduced draconian powers of detention without charge and control orders (house arrest), Muslim activists have focused on the presence of these laws and made them the subject of attention. It is not uncommon to find speakers across the country decrying these laws, showing how counterproductive they are. One such group courted controversy recently when they suggested the newspaper bogeyman, British born ‘Jihadi John’, had turned to violence after being subjected to anti-terror policing.
But are we missing something?
Ever since the west waged its War on Terror, a concerted effort has been made to challenge Islam and Islamic practice within the Muslim communities in Europe, North America and Australia. This campaign, fought on many fronts and including a raft of anti-terror laws have aimed to do two things. Firstly, to radicalise western populations against Islam and secondly to sow fear amongst Muslim communities, to keep them submissive and passive.
Radicalising western populations
When the Cold War ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, it marked a transition in international relations. The USA stood as the lone superpower without challenge. The USA sought to establish a world based upon what the US political theorist Ikenberry calls a ‘Liberal World Order’, that is a web of institutions, alliances and client states that reinforced this American world order. The remarkable thing about this period was how the US sought to establish total control. It was what some commentators called its ‘unipolar moment’. The US not only established military and economic dominance and developed the rules governing this order, it worked hard to prevent the rise of any alternatives. Publicly they hailed ‘the end of ideology’ but privately they worked to undermine any potential challenge. Initially these alternatives came in the form of a possible resurgent Russia and an economically strengthened China and a number of plans were developed to contain them and restrain their influence including the expansion of NATO to accommodate former Soviet satellite states like Poland.
However, both Russia and China although posing a challenge to the US order, are essentially nationalistic great powers, content with strengthening their influence. The US fears these states not as ideological competitors but great powers seeking to unseat its primary status. The only alternative America saw on the horizon was that of the Islamic Ummah and the rise of the Islamic Khilafah. The West knows only too well the potential of this Ummah if it were to bind its political affairs according to Islam and so they worked tirelessly to prevent its establishment. This is because only Islam, when correctly applied, can provide a coherent ideological challenge to the west.
The events of 9/11 gave America the pretext to engage militarily with the Muslim world, with the hope to control Islamic societies. The approach was to label all calls for liberation as calls for terrorism. They erected straw men. Sought to conflate Islam with terrorism. When that failed and the Arab revolutions began, which were revolutions ignited by the people; they observed with horror their Islamic nature. The Syrian revolution particularly perturbed them because of the strength of its Islamic character. So they created the conditions for Daesh to fill a vacuum that they created and declare what they claim to be a Khilafah. Through this they attempted to conflate the most powerful Islamic idea of its time, ‘Khilafah’, with barbarism, nihilism and violence.
How do the terror laws fit in? The interesting thing about these laws is that many of them confirm powers the government already has. Some of these policy announcements never see the light of day beyond a headline. The steady drip of proclamations serves only one purpose. To prepare western populations. To prepare them for what is now the inevitable rise of Islam and the Khilafah as an ideological challenge and an alternative world order. The West observes this rise with alarm. This is why it contained a few thousand fighters in Iraq and exaggerated their claims of an Islamic state, in order to bring to the fore the word Khilafah and associate it with all that is evil. Today non-Muslims fear ‘caliphate’ as a result of this repulsive campaign. Its establishment, in the public imagination, would create the conditions for blood-shed and slavery.
Building a fearful Muslim community
This narrative has an impact. It instills fear. Muslim communities in the West fear the future of their children and institutions. This generation of fear is intentional. It colours Muslim activism, reducing the da’wah to a call to be fearful. The more Muslim communities talk of these terror laws devoid of its correct political context the more the government plan is realised. We see today, with regret, talented members of our community distracted from the vital issue of this Ummah, the call for a return to Islamic political unity by establishing the Khilafah upon the method of the Prophethood and instead busying themselves lobbying government or addressing these laws, giving them credibility.
We are an Ummah with a destiny. It is an Ummah of Musab ibn Umayr (ra) who was not detracted from his da’wah by the hostility of the leaders of Madinah. It is an Ummah of the emigrants to Abyssinia, whose hearts were wedded to the belief that the Messenger ﷺ would build a state upon Islam not the narrow polity of the African kingdom. We are an Ummah of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, that worked tirelessly to create a state in Madinah that would be a springboard for the Islamicda’wah. Only when the Muslim communities in the West recalibrate their call to focus on the most important issue, the issue of Khilafah can we see Islam’s rightful position in world affairs. The return of Khilafah keeps American policy-makers awake at night, does its demands do the same for Muslims in the West?
“And remember how He gave you shelter when you were few in number and considered weak in the land, ever fearing that the people would snatch you away; but He gave you refuge and supported you with His victory and provided you with goodness, so that you might give thanks.”