With Conservative party leaders and those seeking to usurp the Labour leadership bolstered by the fear-based Brexit, the security state will continue to rise. But the struggle against it will go on.
By any measure Britain’s exit from the European Union is a historic moment with implications that will no doubt extend far into the future. To say it was unexpected, or that Britain was unprepared, is an understatement.
Many touted the move as a failure for human rights where the War on Terror is concerned. The EU, and specifically the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) provides some legal recourse and limited protections of civil liberties.
However, under the banner of the War on Terror – it has failed to put a leash on politicians and legislators openly advocating discriminatory immigration legislation which favours Christians over Muslims, or discriminatory surveillance practices that targets Muslims, or laws which flagrantly restrict Islamic and Jewish religious practices. The cases of Babar Ahmed, Talha Ahsan and the unprecedented liberty eroding legislations in the War on Terror – all of which have taken place under the ECHR watch – are testament to this.
But whatever one may think of the EU, there is no denying that the referendum campaign has been one of the most divisive and vile on record. The campaign manifested itself in its most crude form when UKIP unveiled its anti-immigration poster ‘Breaking Point’ which chillingly mirrored a similar propaganda campaign by Nazi Germany. This all came off the back of an equally vitriolic London mayoral campaign. In a last ditch attempt to convince voters to side with Goldsmith, the Conservative party candidate, the Daily Mail decided to highlight the ‘threat’ to London under Khan by invoking images of the 7/7 bombings.
With this type of publicity campaign, it is no wonder that the far-right is the most emboldened after the referendum. Racists see it as a national legitimisation of hate. With calls to avoid the advice of ‘experts’ being shared by Michael Gove, the political class have discounted reason for emotive bigotry in their pursuit of power.
But we must rise above the party politics and have a broader view of the current situation. Since the onset of the War on Terror Muslims have been framed as a suspect community. Successive governments have brought in and bolstered the divisive and racist PREVENT strategy in the name of social cohesion, when in fact it has brought about the opposite.
The securitisation of the state has been justified by the use of dangerous rhetoric against Muslims by politicians, who have repeatedly, both implicitly and explicitly asserted that Muslims harbour ‘extremists’ within their midsts. This has justified the passing of laws which have eroded the liberty of everyone in Britain and undermined due process. Complicit in this are the professionals who, without any protest, have legitimised this suspicion of Muslims by buying into the guise of preventing extremism.
CAGE has always said that such policies are unnecessary and overwhelmingly heavy handed, a standpoint that has been echoed by a large supporter base both in the Muslim and non-Muslim civil society and academic community. This time, thankfully, the repercussions of the referendum cannot be claimed to be a ‘Muslim’ problem despite politicians using Muslims as a glutton for Britain’s social problems, instead of turning a critical eye on their own failed policies.
The tendency to find ‘the other’ on which to heap their blame has continued in the campaign for Brexit. However,‘EU Migrants’ have now taken the place of ‘Muslim extremists’ as the object of anger. This is the same divisive tactic that has given rise to and justified the security state, and which will continue to bolster it.
Willfully blinded to its rise, the extreme far-right have capitalised on the government’s divisive fear-based politics and they now represent the most serious threat to social cohesion. The uncomfortable reality reflected by Brexit is that the neo-conservatives in power, who have skewed the focus of the government to disproportionately target the Muslim community, now more broadly target the ‘other’, while allowing for ‘white extremism’ to flourish.
What this referendum has proved beyond all doubt is that a majority in this country wish for the government to address the problems of the normal person. International adventurism has not bettered the quality of life for the ordinary Brit.
But by the same token, the government has successfully antagonised Muslims in the UK and abroad and in doing so generated an atmosphere of fear which has contributed to the rocketing of anti-Muslim hate crime. Equally, the indigenous population has only become more angry as they see no prospects, while the war and Islamophobia industry profits from their disillusionment. In all of this, the state washes its hands of any blame or responsibility, and its power is only re-enforced.
In the short term the focus may be on the immediate impact of the referendum, but as a Muslim community we must realise that this anger has been fostered by the small, elite political class.
With both those competing to lead the Conservative party and those attempting to usurp the current Labour leadership belonging to the political thinking which has brought the British people an erosion of civil liberties, costly wars, and resulting societal angst born from an ever growing social inequality gap, it is very likely that these exploitative policies will continue if not increase.
However, the struggle against oppressive policies must and will continue, for the very reason that the orchestrators of the War on Terror and ‘project hate’ are still in power and are yet to be held accountable.
(Image courtesy of Prachatai on flickr )
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)