Extremism definition laying cover for Tory aiding of Israel’s genocide

  • Post last modified:March 15, 2024
  • Reading time:9 mins read

As Michael Gove launched his preposterous and dangerous new extremism definition, some of the groups he targeted have hit back – calling it a “deep dive into authoritarianism” and laying cover for the government “aiding and abetting” Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

Extremism definition: you what?

As BBC News reported, Gove told parliament that:

groups like British National Socialist Movement and Patriotic Alternative will be assessed “against the new definition”. He also says the Muslim Association of Britain, Cage, and other groups will be “held to account to assess if they meet our definition of extremism”. “Islamism should not be confused with Islam,” Gove told MPs. “Islam is a great faith… Islamism is a totalitarian ideology”.

Earlier he told the BBC the new definition would help the government “choose its friends wisely”. The definition will be used by government officials to cut ties or funding to groups deemed to have crossed a line. But civil liberties groups, community groups and some MPs have criticised the move – saying it could risk free speech, or lead to unfair treatment

Of course, we all know what the Tories’ extremism definition is really about.

Far-right Tories propping up white supremacy

The two, token far-right fascist groups are there for window dressing, presumably – given that former Tory MP and deputy chairman Lee Anderson is mates with a ‘former’ BNP member; a fact known while he sat in both roles.

So, what this is really about is – much like the US state attempting to shut down TikTok – setting fire to people’s rights to free speech, assembly, and protest. Oh, and with a healthy dose of Islamophobia as well – unless we missed Just Stop Oil, perhaps the most prosecuted group of recent times, being mentioned?

Gove’s extremism definition comes off the back of previous government moves to silence dissent against the state and further erode our rights.

For example, the Public Order Act coupled with the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts (PCSC) Act have effectively allowed police to stop all sorts of protest actions:

The new Public Order Act powers include penalties of a year in custody for blocking roads, railways and airports. In addition, protesters who use the tactic of locking-on could face up to six months in prison.

At the same time, the racist Nationality and Borders Act and the 2023 Illegal Migration Bill entrenched the Tories’ hostile environment for Black, brown, and foreign-born people.

Laying cover for Israel’s genocide

Moreover, we’re currently seeing one of the largest public backlashes in recent years against much of the Global North and Western powers – specifically over Israel’s ongoing apartheid and genocide in Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Much of the public can see what’s going on: that most of the Global North is propping up a racist, colonialist endeavour in the Middle East (Israel) to further Western imperialism’s own interests in the region.

Meanwhile, settler-colonialist Israel has killed over 31,000 people in Gaza, including over 13,000 children – and is currently starving the population.

So, in response to Gove’s extremism definition and his naming of CAGE, the Muslim Association of Britain, and Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) in particular, several organisations have hit back.

The Canary stands in solidarity with all these groups – republishing their responses in full. We’re sure Gove and others will brand us ‘extremists’ too.

‘A deep dive into authoritarianism’

The below is an open letter from the following organisations:

  • CAGE International.
  • Palestine Action.
  • Black Lives Matter UK.
  • Sisters Uncut.
  • Copwatch Network.
  • London Student Action for Palestine.
  • Netpol.
  • Workers for a Free Palestine.
  • No More Exclusions.
  • Palestine Youth Movement:

“Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, announced a new and expanded definition of extremism and named some of our groups. His announcement is a continuation of the decades-long strategy aimed at inciting and exploiting fears against Muslims to build an authoritarian and repressive infrastructure that suppresses any dissent that is not licensed by Whitehall.

“We the undersigned:

  • Reject the rationale of counter-extremism policy in Britain that serves only to strengthen the state’s coercive powers without any pretense of due process or judicial oversight.
  • We will continue to engage in political activity, protest, and direct action for the public good, outside of the narrow constraints of ‘licensed dissenters’ which this new definition will seek to impose.
  • We note that defining extremism has been a failed endeavor, despite multiple prime ministers and seven years of the CCE and nearly two decades since PREVENT was brought in.

“We demand the following:

  • The Government be held to account for aiding and abetting the Genocide in Gaza and weaponising ‘extremism’ to shield itself.
  • The abolition of the authoritarian and repressive infrastructure of laws built on the back of counter-terror and counter-extremism powers.
  • For civil liberties’ NGOs and communities to express solidarity with each other in unified rejection of these proposals.

“Collectively we will explore all avenues, including legal, to challenge the Government’s deep dive into authoritarianism”.

Extremism definition: a ‘blatant attack on civil liberties and free speech’

MEND issued the following statement:

“The new definition is a blatant attack on civil liberties and free speech. It is a highly politicised and undemocratic polemic aimed at trying to exclude and ostracise peaceful and law-abiding Muslim organisations that have been critical of the government from having a voice. Labelling groups that are critical of Government policy as ‘extremist’ is a lazy and convenient way of avoiding dialogue. It is a tactic more suited to stifling dissent in authoritarian repressive regimes than used to silence those exposing UK Government complicity in the Gaza genocide. Extremism policies undermine basic freedoms and lend the state arbitrary power to sanction any dissenting citizen.

“Gove stated in the commons that:

Islamism is a totalitarian ideology which seeks to divide, calls for the establishment of an Islamic state governed by sharia law and seeks the overthrow of liberal democratic principles… Organisations such as the Muslim Association of Britain, which is the British affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups such as CAGE and MEND, give rise to concern for their Islamist orientation and views.

“MEND CEO Azhar Qayum said:

We challenge Michael Gove to repeat his claims outside of parliament and without the protection of parliamentary privilege if he believes he can provide the evidence to back up his view that MEND has called for the establishment of an ‘Islamic state governed by sharia law’.

“Gove himself has a long track record of Islamophobic views and associations. He is a founding member of the Henry Jackson Society which promoted an anti-Muslim agenda over many years and led the government’s role in ‘The Trojan Horse’ affair. This falsely accused a number of schools in Birmingham of an ‘Islamist takeover’ on the back of a fake letter. Subsequent inquiries found no evidence of radicalisation in these schools. Given his own ‘extremist’ credentials, for him to be lecturing others as to who is or is not an extremist is an example of rank hypocrisy, and there would appear to be a persuasive argument that he is also an extremist on his own definition!

“In a General Election year, it is clear that Gove and the Conservative party are pursuing culture wars, politicising extremism for electoral gain to pander to a far right electorate. Defining extremism requires a calm, measured and cross-party approach and should not be used as a political football to target marginalised groups”.

The ‘politicising of anti-extremism’

The Muslim Association of Britain issued a statement on social media:

Featured image via UK Parliament/Maria Unger

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