The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wrote in his column for the Telegraph that he thinks children of 'radical Islamic extremists' should be taken away and put into the care system. Right Mr. Mayor what a lovely idea, but what in your mind constitutes a radical extremist?
The problem is that what Mr. Johnson thinks is extreme will differ from what I think is extreme and it will differ from what Joe Bloggs thinks is extreme. The word 'extreme' is so ambiguous that it makes Boris' column a complete nonsense. What does 'radical' mean? The Oxford Dictionary states that 'radical' means: "A person who advocates thorough or complete political or social reform; a member of a political party or part of a party pursuing such aims." In the context of Islam this could include a wide range of people. I agree with the mayor about members of Al-Muhajiroun being crazy but should we take their children away? Using that logic, should we take away the children of members of other extremist groups like the English Defence League who spew racism and hate in every rally that they organise? Of course not. Should we take away children from parents who use the P-word when referring to Asians or those who call black people the N-word? Because chances are if you hear a child use a racist word in the playground, it would have come from home.
Many people would call a woman wearing the face veil (niqab) extreme. For some non-Muslims memorising whole verses in Arabic from the Quran may seem strange and learning the whole Quran as some children do, could be deemed extreme. These are both completely normal things Muslims in the UK and the rest of the world do as part of their Islamic education. If my son was in secondary school and asked for a prayer room, would this be extreme? If my son wanted to travel to Syria to help with the humanitarian effort, he would be detained on his return on fear that he may have been radicalised. If he wanted to fight the oppressive Syrian regime would he be classed a radical extremist? Our Prime Minister wanted to do this but couldn't convince his cabinet to agree. Of course if we had intervened we would have done a noble thing to oust the tyrant that is Bashir Al-Assad, but if a Muslim does it then he is obviously a 'jihadi' or a 'radical extremist'. What about Hizb-ul Tehrir who are branded as an 'extremist' organisation simply because their main objective is to create an Islamic state in an existing Muslim country -- not in the UK. Would their members fall under this category of being radical? I would certainly hope not.
Lets look at the two major terrorist attacks that have taken place in the UK. First there was 7/7 bombings, which were carried out by four men born and brought up in England. Their parents would have been immigrants and certainly would not have taught them hate and how to carry out suicide bombings. These men were radicalised by other sources like the Internet and meeting extremists abroad. Their parents would have had no role in their radicalisation. Their generation came to this country to work, and have a fondness for their country that their children may not even share. The other attack was the Woolwich incident where Fusilier Lee Rigby was murdered by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. These two men were raised in Christian families and converted to Islam in their adulthood. One of the men even used to go to church regularly. Boris Johnson has used the sentencing of Lee Rigby's killers to start this dialogue about children being radicalised, again a big nonsense given that they weren't even raised by Muslims let alone Muslim extremists.
Boris mentions political correctness and classes female genital mutilation (FGM), paedophilia and Islamic extremist in the same category, which is another nonsensical argument. He claims that these issues in the past have been glossed over because we don't want to interfere in other peoples cultures. In the case of paedophilia, in the seventies some people thought paedophiles were a victim of their own urges and hence treated them as another minority group. These issues are all different. FGM is a cultural practice where Boris may have a point. Paedophilia is a perversion, a sickness that some people have but Islamic extremism is political. You cannot compare them with each other.
Apart from defining what an extreme Muslim is I would not trust social services in taking away the right children. Boris says "The law should treat radicalism as child abuse". Social services couldn't stop Baby P from being murdered, nor Hamzah Khan nor Mikael Kular, the list goes on. Do we really want our already stretched social services spending their time looking for dodgy looking Muslims who's children may or may not be exposed to extreme thinking? And really that is what it will become, rather than based on intelligence, it will be based on suspicions and assumptions. The example of Muazzam Begg whom many believe was arrested and charged on terror charges because he has publicly written about the UK being complicit in torture rather than actually commit any offences scares the hell out of me.
I'm also really tired of hearing about a new Muslim issue every week, it's tiresome, demoralising and makes me feel like I have to prove my self worth as a Brit. Just last week Richard Littlejohn published his 'satirical' (which is a pseudonym for stupendously offensive) column. Whilst The Daily Mail may call it satire, because of it the whole fun day booked for 9th March was cancelled by Legoland because of threats of violence and protest by far-right extremist groups. It stated:
Sadly it is our belief that deliberate misinformation fuelled by a small group with a clear agenda was designed expressly to achieve this outcome. We are appalled at what has occurred, and at the fact that the real losers in this are the many families and children who were looking forward to an enjoyable day out at Legoland.
The event was simply a family day out where anybody could buy tickets Muslims and non-Muslims, the only difference being that halal food and prayer areas would be available. So much for satire.
It's also very easy for people to throw around the term 'Islamist', which to me means someone who practices Islam (as feminist is to feminism and optimist is to optimism) but somehow has turned into shorthand for 'Muslim terrorist.' I fear the term Islamist will turn into anyone who practices Islam, it may be semantics for now but it's labelling like this that can create fear and suspicion in communities.
Whilst Boris may have appeased some of the electorate by attacking members of the Muslim community, he's definitely lost me as a voter and possibly thousands of others. Social services have enough on their plate without making them work out which brown person is a religious Muslim parent and which is a radicalised Muslim parent.