Tuesday, April 16, 2024
HomeCulture WarWill Gove & Co condemn Christians as ‘violent religious extremists’?

Will Gove & Co condemn Christians as ‘violent religious extremists’?


IN THE hallowed corridors of Whitehall, Communities Minister Michael Gove is apparently struggling to find a suitable appointee to be the first ‘Extremism Czar’.

Fiyaz Mughal, OBE, founder of Muslims Against Anti-Semitism (a group calling itself ‘Tell MAMA’ whose mission is to record anti-Muslim hate incidents), was reportedly forced to withdraw his candidature due to a barrage of racist abuse and threats he suffered, many from Islamists who viewed Mughal as a traitor to their cause. In fact he has made quite a career out of Islamophobia. In 2013, he sued the Daily Telegraph for defamation over an opinion piece in the wake of the Lee Rigby murder which criticised his equating of far-right groups such as the EDL with Islamic extremists. As Charles Moore pointed out at the time, ‘the only serious violence was against a British soldier, who was dead’. The case was dismissed for failure to establish any defamatory statements. 

Mughal’s Tell Mama project which instructs people on reporting perceived anti-Muslim hate and attacks, was then receiving £214,000 a year from the Government, at a time when Andrew Gilligan noted in a Sunday Telegraph article that anti-Muslim incidents since Rigby’s murder were almost exclusively internet comment: ‘No one in Britain has been killed by the EDL; 53 people have been killed by Islamist terrorists. White racists, unlike their Islamist equivalents, do not control key religious institutions or have a significant presence in British universities.’

The question is whether there is any evidence that this is not still the case? Yet last week when Michael Gove detailed five groups he found to be extremist, two were ‘far-right’ groups which I suspect that few people, apart perhaps from Hope not Hate (the self-appointed anti-racist and anti-Islamophobia organisation) or the Guardian, had ever heard of. One of them, the British National Socialist Movement, is notable only for having opened a gym in Manchester last year and seeking to promote a ‘fitness network’.

Less than three weeks since Rishi Sunak’s Number Ten statement of dismay about democracy (hours after George Galloway’s Rochdale by-election win and following weeks of pro-Hamas anti-Israel demonstrations that turned London into a no-go area for Jews) we have a mythical ‘far right’ bogey treated as an extremist equivalent to foreign-funded, terrorist-connected Jihadi groups. If Mr Gove thinks this all-inclusive sop will appease Muslims, let alone Islamist apologists, it won’t – as Mr Mughal’s hasty exit should tell him. It may even come back to bite him. That is the risk of any definition of an ideology.

Extremism, Mr Gove has decided, ‘is the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance that aims to:

1.    negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others; or

2.    undermine, overturn or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights; or

3.    intentionally create a permissive environment for others to achieve the results in 1 or 2. ‘

The word ‘ideology’ is itself defined as ‘A set of social, political, or religious ideas, beliefs, and attitudes that contribute to a person’s worldview.’ But as Martin Luther King Jr said, ‘Morality cannot be legislated’. The law is not an appropriate tool to proscribe what beliefs a person may hold or express, or ‘intentionally’ push for ‘promotion or advancement’ of, within their community.

One of the dangers of the above-referenced wording is that it merely serves to define what will be deemed heretical as ‘outside the accepted norm of whichever group ascends to power’.

‘Intolerance’ within this definition involves ‘an actively repressive approach rather than simply a strong opposition or dislike’. What does ‘actively repressive’ mean? In this sense context is everything. If abortion is deemed a right, what happens where social or religious beliefs, such as are held by a fundamentalist Christian worldview state that abortion is wrong, or likewise that marriage should be exclusively between a biological male and female? Such beliefs (which may be shared by Muslims and Christians) espouse the repression of certain activities deemed sinful (abortion or gay marriage) and intentionally create a ‘permissive environment’ for their expression and promotion, for instance in a church, with the result that the threshold for extremism will be met. This bodes ill for anyone or any groups with orthodox beliefs. In a bizarre post-modern twist, such traditional values will have become, by legal definition, taboo.

Alarmingly, our government’s definition also advocates monitoring the expression or voicing of such beliefs to determine whether their frequency or intensity reach the requisite level: ‘We typically judge a pattern of behaviour to be the exhibiting of three or more instances of extreme behaviour that align to one or more extremist aims in the space of six months . . .’ Really? So are we to expect the authorities putting any church or publication that regularly opposes gay marriage (by definition homophobic) or abortion to term (anti-women’s rights) on the list of extremist organisations to be monitored?

Gove insists the new definition won’tcatch conservative Christians or anti-trans activists, yet this assurance doesn’t form part of the official definition and won’t be enshrined in any statute or carry legal effect. It takes little imagination to envisage a Labour (or other morally bankrupt) majority Parliament which denies biological sex or legislates for the sake of ‘democratic freedoms’ to enshrine the right to full term, up to birth, abortion. 

This flimflam definition could further be used on charities such as the LGB Alliance, previously called a ‘hate group’ for gender critical views. Any activist who agitates against allowing individuals to engage in behaviour they believe to be immoral or harmful to society (including to children), could be determined to have undermined whatever interpretation of ‘liberal democracy’ happens to be in vogue at the time. 

Where will it leave Christian Concern and its affiliate, the Christian Legal Centre, which supports court cases on behalf of Christians (one  of whom was reported to the counter-terrorism watchdog Prevent Strategy as a violent religious extremist for preaching a sermon to students that no one should be forced to accept LGBT ideology if it conflicts with their religion)? Or take another (five-year) case involving Kristie Higgs, a teacher who was sacked and called a neo-Nazi for speaking out against a book on gender identity being shown to children. According to the Christian Concern website: ‘Both cases involve issues of principle about the freedom for Christians to express their beliefs and opposition to harmful transgender ideology, sex education and extreme gender identity beliefs without fear of losing their jobs.’ 

Under the government’s new initiatives, will Christians now not only have to fear losing their jobs, but also being labelled ‘violent religious extremists’? Will Gove or the C of E ever deign to address the years of lawfare some Christians have been involved in to regain their reputations after being labelled ‘neo-Nazis’ or ‘hate preachers’? What will the new Extremism Czar do (if anything) about the marches by apologists for terror organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah that plague our urban streets every weekend or the rising anti-Semitism targeting Jews and synagogues across the nation?

The irony is that, while the new extremism definition is meant to protect us decent citizens, pro-Hamas, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic harassment, attacks and threats will continue unabated while the police refuse to use the law already at their disposal. What the definition does threaten to accomplish, however, is the repression of any voices and interests that don’t line up with the mainstream narratives, whether it be on covid, climate change or transgenderism. These are of course the new orthodoxies, which you ignore at your peril. One need only review such historical events as the Reign of Terror in revolutionary France (1793–1794) to understand what regimes are capable of and how far things can go in the name of protecting the people against enemies of the State. Maximilien Robespierre, who led the Committee of Public Safety, established a tribunal to try political offenders; like our civil service it grew into a bloated and powerful machine to be used for the persecution of anyone who did not conform.

In today’s Britain, instead of a Committee of Public Safety there is Ofcom, the Office of Communications. If Ofcom is tasked with monitoring extremism, as Michael Gove’s social cohesion adviser Sara Khan advocates, Big Brother will have come full circle. Mr Gove will be in opposition soon. He might consider the monster he has created when terms like ‘intolerant’ and ‘extremist’ can be used for virtually any unpopular point of view.

Let’s hope he and his cohorts, when that time comes, will be able to keep their wits (and heads) about them.

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Bridget Jones 2024
Bridget Jones 2024
Bridget Jones

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