Understanding IslamismA Policy Exchange Project
The evolving Austrian debate on Islamism – reflecting in turn a growing public understanding of the issues over the last decade – continues to be of great interest to anyone concerned with the future of a liberal democratic state system. In France, the Macron government has been spurred into action by acts of terror. In Italy successive governments have for years used their long experience with combating organised crime to remove Islamist hate-preachers and others who undermine social cohesion with admirable expedition. In Germany concern about Islamism is at last gaining traction beyond the intelligence agencies. But it is in Austria over the last three years that the public and now governmental focus on the subject has in some ways been most sustained and instructive.
What word should we use to describe those who resort to violence in the name of Islam? This question has recently been the cause of much angst and uncertainty in official circles – and nowhere more so than within the ranks of the British police. In July of this year, reports surfaced that through its Counter Terrorism Advisory Network, the Metropolitan Police had held a consultation on finding an alternative to the term ‘Islamist terrorism’—with Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the head of national counter terrorism policing, and Chief Superintendent Nik Adams, National Coordinator for Prevent policing, both attending the online meeting.
The German daily Die Welt has published an in-depth report alleging that Islamist associated individuals have been appointed to a new Berlin State Commission on Anti-Muslim Racism. Formed in February of this year, the six-person commission has been tasked with making “recommendations for a further development of prevention work on anti-Muslim racism”. However, Die Welt alleges that two of the members have Islamist connections, with the chairman—Mohamad Hajjaj—said to have been active in associations regarded as Islamist by Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
France’s Interministerial Committee for the Prevention of Crime and Radicalisation opposes the term Islamophobia
The French government’s Interministerial Committee for the Prevention of Crime and Radicalisation has released a statement through a series of posts on Twitter expressing opposition to the term “Islamophobia”. While the statement stresses that there are many acts of discrimination against Muslims, and that the French state seeks to fight these, it argues that the term “Islamophobia” is inappropriate on the grounds that it conflates bigotry with legitimate criticism of religion. Significantly, in one of the tweets, the interministerial committee also states that, “the term ‘#islamophobia’ was imposed by the Islamists with the aim of prohibiting any form of criticism of radical Islam”. Furthermore, the interministerial committee’s statement argues that the term is used to introduce a “crime of blasphemy”, suggesting that the term “puts a target on those who exercise their fundamental right” to free expression.
To some, the persecution of a schoolteacher who showed his pupils an offensive cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed may seem like a local quarrel. Does it really matter, many Britons will ask, that a few dozen men gathered at the gates of a school in West Yorkshire? Surely it will blow over before long, goes the thinking.