In recent days, images of a ‘counter extremism’ test set specifically for Muslim school children by UK schools have been shared widely across social media. The case highlights a deepening prejudice towards the Muslim community across the Western world which echoes the hysteria of McCarthy era America.
At the height of the “Red Scare“, an anti-Communist mania in the United States, people were propagandised into a pathological hatred/fear of Russia, Russians and ‘Sympathisers’. Images like those below were commonplace. A mass hysteria was whipped up that there was a ‘Red’ under every bed, behind every tree, and lurking around every corner, just waiting to destroy America.
The terror led to some of the most repressive laws ever to pass through the United States legislative systems.
Prime among them was The Internal Security Act of 1950 (often referred to as the McCarran Act or the anticommunist law). President Truman immediately vetoed the bill, calling it:
“the greatest danger to freedom of speech, press, and assembly since the Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798,” and stating that it “would make a mockery of our Bill of Rights [and] would actually weaken our internal security measures.”
Nevertheless, the bill was passed by a crushing 89% majority vote and became law. The central provision of the Act included:
- The fingerprinting and registration of all “subversives” at large in the United States.
- Americans could have their citizenship revoked for five years.
- The construction and operation of concentration camps “for emergency situations”
- Set up the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security which proceeded to hold trials for 27 years
- Authorized the President to “apprehend” and “detain” each person as to whom there’s “reasonable ground to believe” that he or she “probably will engage in, or probably will conspire with others to engage in, acts of espionage or of sabotage.”
It facilitated the rise of tinpot totalitarian Senator Joseph McCarthy, who became chair of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security and led the infamous McCarthy trials against liberal America.
To most who look back at that period now, outside of the trappings of propaganda-induced paranoia, it looks as absurd as the Salem Witch Trials of the late 17th century. But today we are witnessing the resurgence of that mentality, with a new target. We have moved from the “Red Scare” to the so-called “Islamist Threat”.
Again, there is a widespread, cultivated belief in a global network of ‘evil doers’ – simultaneously presented as savage barbarians and evil geniuses, bent on the destruction of life as we know it. They are everywhere. In a recent Gallup poll, 89% of Americans believed ISIS was the greatest threat to the United States. A militia group operating on another continent, without an airforce, a navy, a network of allies or guaranteed supply lines. But then, more than half of Republicans in the U.S. (and a quarter of the general population) believe weapons of mass distraction were found in Iraq, despite there never having been a single such weapon unearthed. Such is the level of disinformation and cultivated paranoia.
In the time of the ‘Islamist Threat’, every Muslim is a latent terrorist, prone to ‘radicalization’ at any moment. And if you think I’m laying it on a bit thick, just look at the comments in this recent comments by Britain’s most senior Muslim police commander Mak Chishty.
In a recent interview with the Guardian, Chishty said there was now a need for “a move into the private space” of Muslims to spot views that could show the beginning of radicalisation from the age of five-years-old. Asked to define what sort of behavior would be worthy of suspicion, Chishty responded with a list of activities which included:
- Not drinking alcohol
- Dressing in non-western clothes
- Not shopping in Marks and Spencers
- Voicing criticism of politics or foreign policy
Chishty would not doubt fall into the ‘House Negro’ category expertly outlined by Malcolm X in this 1963 speech at Michigan State University.
Certainly, Chishty is enforcing the will of his political masters, and this goes right to the top.
Speaking to the National Security Council earlier this month about the introduction of his new Counter Extremism Bill, British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke perhaps the most anti-democratic words uttered by a British Prime Minister in history, saying:
“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”
“This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach.”
Within this mindset, the core principles of democracy are forgotten. Worse, actively twisted into authoritarianism. Dissent becomes treason. Protest becomes extremism. And at the centre, every Muslim becomes suspect – right down to school children. In this paranoid context, the interrogation of children with this ‘counter extremism test’ is accepted as prudent and appropriate. People don’t ask questions about the racism, the invasion of privacy, or indeed the long term impacts. As CageUK rightly asks of the ‘surveys’:
‘what happens to names and information held about individuals. Are they removed from any Police and intelligence lists if there is no threat, or are all those referred destined to be on security lists forever, considered a potential radical and threat to national security?‘ – The Prevent Strategy: A Cradle to Grave Police-State
It is simply unacceptable for anyone who claims a shred of fidelity to the principles of democracy to back these measures. How many times must we go through this process before we become immune to the efforts of political and media propagandists bent on dividing us into opposing camps? One need only pick up a history book to find several examples from living memory – Japanese Americans during World War II, the Red Scare, the Nazi holocaust, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine…I could go on. All done in the name of protecting and expanding freedom and democracy, all of which merely trashed the principles of both. The price of democracy is sharing space with people who look, sound and believe different things to you. In democracy, we win the battle of ideas through inspiring greater numbers of people to follow our way than the others on offer.
There is a certain irony at play here, because Democracy is absolutely at threat today. But the threat does not come from Islamic Extremists with Kalashnikovs and Korans. It comes from politicians with censorship and propaganda.
Featured Image via Media Diversified