Skip to Content


The fight against extremism and authoritarianism

9 June 2011

10:50 AM

9 June 2011

10:50 AM

It is now nearly five years since I wrote When Progressives Treat with Reactionaries for the think tank Policy Exchange.

It was a plea for sanity in the debate on radical Islam, which had become poisoned by the belief in parts of government that Islamists of the Muslim Council of Britain were the genuine
representative voice of British Muslims.

At the time, few people had heard of the Muslim Brotherhood and still fewer knew that its South Asian offshoot Jamaat-i-Islami had a stranglehold on the MCB and other self-appointed
“representative” bodies.

At the time it was depressing how eager the Labour Party had been to rush into the arms of religious reactionaries (a problem that Tony Blair, Gordon Brown both failed to full address and Ed
Miliband appears not to have even thought about). I wrote:

“There are signs that the reformist Cameron wing of the Conservative Party is beginning to grasp the urgency of the issue. On the opposition benches Michael Gove, the Conservative MP
for Surrey Heath, has made it his business to harry the government over its relationship with radical Islamism.”

This week’s new Prevent counter-terrorism strategy marks a victory for the Gove tendency in government. Despite
resistance from civil servants and elements within the Liberal Democrats, the new strategy recognises that the totalitarian ideology of the radicals is a danger in itself. It is not enough simply
to target violent extremism.

It is astonishing that it has taken so long, but I salute the government for finally publishing this strategy.

But there remains a problem. Thanks to the patronage of the Labour government, institutions inspired by the austere authoritarianism of Brotherhood/Jamaat ideology are still the most well-developed
Muslim political institutions in the UK. The Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Association of Britain, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, East London Mosque and Islamic Forum Europe
are better-funded and better-organised than any equivalent moderate institution.

It is good news that these supporters of totalitarianism will no longer be the first port of call for ministers, but they will need to develop new mechanisms of dialogue with Muslim communities.
Five years ago I would have proposed an old-fashioned democratic solution and suggested ministers begin by speaking to MPs and councillors in the key constituencies. The trouble is that the
Islamists have now made serious inroads into those democratic institutions too. 

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments


The Spectator Comment Policy

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.