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Blogs Coffee House

Violence, threats and blackmail ought to have no place in politics

6 August 2014

3:41 PM

6 August 2014

3:41 PM

I have never issued a call for violence before, and I’m certainly not going to start now. But I wonder if people might consider the following, purely hypothetical situation.

In her resignation letter over the UK government not being anti-Israel enough for her, Sayeeda Warsi backed up her ‘case’ by writing:

Early evidence from the Home Office and others shows that the fallout of the current conflict and the potential for the crisis in Gaza and our response to it becoming a basis for radicalisation could have consequences for us for years to come.’

Let us ignore for now the fact that the Home Office is today denying that any such evidence exists. It could be true. I do not think anybody is in any doubt that there are young Muslims in this country who feel very angry over the Israeli government defending its citizens from Hamas rocket fire.

Plenty of evidence certainly does exist suggesting that the war in Syria will have security consequences for years to come. As, indeed, does any intervention or non-intervention anywhere in the world where there are Muslims. We had a wave of radicalisation among British Muslims thanks to not intervening in the Balkans in the 1990s. And then we had fresh troubles when we did intervene. We found the same problem in Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and more.

In fact, it appears that there are a lot of things which can serve as ‘a basis for radicalisation for years to come.’ Nobody doubts that a lot of young British Muslims are available to be whipped up on a whole range of subjects. The question is: what are you going to do about it? Are you going to give into the grievance? Or will you explain that in a law-based democracy the only response to threats and those who issue them is the full force of the law and the wholesale opprobrium of civil society?

Sayeeda Warsi squandered an unbelievable opportunity — as the first female Muslim in the British cabinet — to explain this latter point and correct popular misconceptions among some British Muslims. Instead, she pandered to a raucous and reactionary crowd. Even now she is warning everyone else that there could be ‘consequences for years to come’.

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People who haven’t thought about where this will all lead really ought to start doing so. Because the list of things over which there can be ‘consequences for years to come’ is becoming astoundingly long. The threat can now be issued whenever Britain, Israel, America or any other Western country defends itself. But it can also come when a British author writes a novel, or a Dane or Swede draws a cartoon. There can be ‘consequences’ for the leader of the worldwide Catholic church making a historical reference in a scholarly speech. Or for a film made by a left-wing Dutchman. There can be ‘consequences’ for the naming of a teddy bear or for writing ‘Mohammed’ on a piece of pineapple fruit. There are always ‘consequences’ when Jews try to live at peace in their historic homeland. As there are for Christians hoping not to be beheaded in places they have lived for half a millennium before Islam came along.

As I say, a lot of things can have ‘consequences for years to come’. The only question in a society which obeys the rule of law is what you are going to do about such threats, and whether a democratic government should ever deign to acknowledge such mob politicking.

Sayeeda Warsi has found a gaggle of discreditable appeasers to support her line. Last night on the BBC’s Newsnight I found myself opposite that pompous old windbag Menzies Campbell, who was doing what appeared to be the BBC version of a filibuster. ‘Ming’ certainly took Sayeeda’s line, while I kept trying to interject that the conjuring up the image of mobs if people not do as you wish is what we usually call ‘blackmail’. However, on watching the footage back (see above) I see that my microphone seems to have been turned off during this part of the exchange. By way of Dane-geld down-payment, Ming kept stressing just how much he, Paddy Ashdown and various other ‘Lib Dems’ have been beating up on Israel in recent weeks. ‘The Hague’, ‘War Crimes’, ‘Disproportionate’ — the whole lot was thrown in. I am sure the Islamists will remember Ming and Paddy’s service if the time comes.

But in the meantime I have a question for readers. If this is the way in which politics is to be done in Britain, perhaps we should follow suit. Surely there must be something we’d like to change about this country or its activities in the world?

If so you will find that it will really help your cause if someone who shares some of your views is willing to threaten acts of violence. It is possible that at some point they might actually have to carry out the threat, but a few bombs in carefully chosen places will work wonders. And if they do choose the bomb option (thus letting the authorities know that they mean it), why not act as the good cop to the bombers’ bad cop, and stress that, although you deplore such acts of violence, you can’t promise that they won’t happen again unless everyone agrees with you and does what you want.

Doesn’t it make you want to arrange a mob on your side for once? It seems an excellent, nay unparalleled, way to make, or reinforce, your particular sectarian, racial or religious point. That being the case, perhaps I can suggest some hypothetical opportunities for such organised violence.

The British government seems utterly unwilling to act to halt the persecution of Christians across Africa, the Middle East and Asia. So why don’t some enterprising Christian readers stop turning the other cheek and consider some cheeky little acts of violence instead? Why not let off a couple of bombs to let everyone know that, instead of being a pack of sad losers, the British wing of the worldwide Christian communion is willing to take matters into its own hands, highlight the plight of their co-religionists and thus pressurise the British government? It’ll probably only need to be done once or twice. Then everyone else can say how much they regret it happening again, but that they can’t promise it won’t happen again unless there’s a change of policy etc. etc.

Other possibilities leap to mind. The continuing persecution of the Dalai Lama and his supporters strongly suggests to me that rather than traipsing around looking like damp tents, the Buddhists of Britain would do well to change the British government’s shameful policy of placation towards the Communist Party of China vis-à-vis never again meeting the Dalai Lama. Why not take up the tactic of the moment — the threat of violence? If you Buddhists are unsure of success, why not put a couple of explosive devices in a popular restaurant in, for instance, London’s Chinatown? Perhaps make it more general: blame society as a whole and blow up a bus or two? Sure, some people might grouse for a bit, but victory in altering British government policy would surely follow.

And then there are Jews. There might well be British Jews who feel aggrieved that so many members of the British establishment delight in using the rhetoric of the Nazis and Holocaust against them, and for selling the Jewish state down the river. So why not carry out some random act of violence? Get a mob together — or at least threaten one. Then you can sit back — without any of that boring talking, arguing, debating or reasoning — and reap the political rewards.

Unimaginable? Of course it is. Outrageous and unacceptable? Of course it would be. But it makes one wonder. Do Sayeeda, Ming et al know the doors that they are opening? Surely not? In our society, politics should be debated on the terrain of what is right and wrong, not on who might raise a mob. For anyone who thinks otherwise, they really ought to reflect that if this kind of blackmail is deemed acceptable today, then we will have nothing to say when every other variety of blackmail follows in its wake. As it will.

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