Earlier today, I sounded a note of scepticism below about the claim made on Panorama that British policy towards Islamic radicalisation was about to get a lot tougher, the government having apparently realised its catastrophic error in identifying extremism with violence and thus ignoring the conveyor-belt of extreme Islamist ideas which is radicalising ever rising numbers of young British Muslims and turning them against their home country of Britain. Today's Guardian ran with a similar story, claiming that the new strategy would classify Muslims as extremists if
• 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.
All these things sound pretty extreme to me (although some traditional Christians also believe homosexuality to be a sin, the crucial difference is that unlike the Islamists they believe in the separation of religion and state, and so do not repudiate the fact that homosexuality is legal). Indeed, as I have argued over and over again, it is astounding that until now such attitudes are not considered to be extreme, a blindness which largely accounts for the mess Britain is now in over home-grown Islamic radicalisation.
But what I have been picking up on the grapevine leads me to suspect that this new strategy is far from settled. As was noted on Panorama, there has long been a debate within the security world about whether it should be targeting extremist ideology as well as terrorist activity, or – as is currently the case – using ideological extremism as a supposed antidote to terrorism and thus attempting to draw ideological extremists in by 'engaging' with their agenda.
My understanding is that the global hysteria and incitement to Jew-hatred unleashed by the (mis)reporting of the Israeli action in Gaza, resulting in violent jihadi demonstrations on British streets with the police running away under a hail of insults and flying bollards, has made the security world even more anxious than ever before to appease Islamist rage and so even less likely to want to challenge such beliefs. I guess therefore that these stories that have appeared represent a desperate attempt by those in that world who do grasp that radicalisation will never be halted unless the state starts belatedly to hold the line for British and western values to bring the argument into the open and thus force Britain's jittery government into making such a strategic change.
But can anyone really imagine, for example, ministers who forbid even using the term 'Islamic terrorism' ceasing to throw money in the direction of Tariq Ramadan (pictured), the charismatic but slippery poster-boy for 'modernising Islam' whose real agenda is actually the Islamising of modernity -- and who is such a favourite within Britain's security establishment because of his Pied Piper appeal to young British Muslims? Are ministers really intending to treat the Muslim Brotherhood as beyond the pale -- where indeed they belong -- instead of as now seeking their help to counter the extremism they themselves exemplify? Just to pose such questions is to illustrate quite how seismic the proposed change from the current madness would be. As I said in the wee small hours, I'll believe it when I see it.