The Egyptian-born Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi was once invited to speak in this country — and the row which developed as a consequence was both entertaining and instructive. Many people said he shouldn’t be given a visa because of his ‘extremism’. Others, such as the mainstream UK Muslim organisations, insisted that this was a libellous description and that Qaradawi was a moderate who had always favoured dialogue with people of other faiths; Ken Livingstone went further and described him as being a ‘leading progressive voice’ within Islam.
So who was right? On the one hand it is true that the Qatar-based Qaradawi has been opposed to jihadi terrorist attacks — unless they take place against Jews and then it’s not, according to him, terrorism. He does not have much time for Jews, once refusing to attend a meeting with them because: ‘Their hands are soiled with blood. They have murderous, violent and oppressive hands. I cannot soil my hands by shaking theirs.’ He has also quoted approvingly from the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He believes apostates in some circumstances should be put to death, and homosexuals subjected to the lash, that women who have been raped must ‘prove their virtue’ in order to escape punishment, and that uppity women can be beaten by their husbands, but only as a last resort. The answer, then, would seem to be that both sides were right. Within the world of Islam, Qaradawi is indeed a moderate and relatively pacific voice. And yet his views, seen from over here, would appear to be those of a bigoted, foaming maniac.
There are two points to draw from this. First, that many people in this country delude themselves about the Islamic world and its fervent hatred for Jewish people, its subjugation of women and gays, its viciousness in dealing with those who renounce the faith etc. And second, that the term ‘extremist’ is not only stupid and virtually meaningless, but endlessly contingent. Who has the right to decide what is an extreme view and what isn’t? Nick Clegg or Yusuf al-Qaradawi?
I have mentioned Qaradawi’s visit before because it was a beautiful example of liberal delusion being smacked in the face by the real world. I mention it again now because the government is setting up something called an ‘extremism commission’, which it intends will root out ‘extremism’ and, in the hideous vernacular of our time, ‘build partnerships with those opposed to extremism’.
My suspicion is that this is every bit as Orwellian as it sounds. Do not for a nanosecond swallow the notion that this commission of well-brought-up liberal grandees will confine themselves to rooting out people (imported into this country or born here from people imported into this country) who wish to kill us all. A slightly warped sense of ‘fair play’ and the mental shriekings of the left will ensure they broaden their scope. No, they will tell us, with great pride, we are not merely picking on Muslims. We are on the warpath against all extremism and, since you asked, we will decide what extremism is.
Already a little worried by the whole business, the Evangelical Alliance commissioned an opinion poll from ComRes about this strange and ephemeral thing, extremism. The first thing they found was that a very clear majority of the British people thought pretty much as I suggested above — that labelling something or someone extremist was stupid and, when it comes to framing debates, ‘not helpful’. But the pollsters also asked people a whole bunch of political questions and asked them to adjudicate on whether they were ‘extremist’ or not. So, for example, 36 per cent said that wishing to leave the European Union was ‘extremist’. On what we might call the other side of the coin, some 40 per cent reckoned it was ‘extremist’ to believe in the idea of man-made climate change.
In other words, both halves of the country believe that the other half is ‘extremist’. And yet of course the word is simply an insult to be flung at someone whose views we hate or despise. We live in a narcissistic society, and for the narcissist, any form of criticism of their political position is ‘hate speak’ and ‘extremism’. But they are neither of those things; they are simply opposing views.
I will bet that quite a few things in which I believe — and probably what the Evangelical Alliance believes too — would be deemed ‘extremist’ by this extremism commission. For example, I think it is best that children are brought up by a mother and a father, both of whom subscribe to the undoubtedly fascistic genetic derogation they were assigned at birth. I also believe that men who transition into being women are — in almost all cases — not authentic women. That, I suspect, would be considered ‘extremist’, despite the fact that I have science on my side. Just as do those who believe in man-made climate change, I would contend. I have no problem with civil partnerships but I do not think that my church should sanction gay marriage — again, extremist. And so on.
The reason for this poll is the Evangelical Alliance is worried Christians will start getting hammered again. They believe the liberals will use this ominous commission to outlaw a fairly large proportion of what they believe in (and indeed, what the Bible tells them to believe in). That the strangle-hold which the middle-class liberal elite have over our culture and society — without having anything close to hegemony — will be tightened still further, and their views marginalised or even criminalised. And the excuse given will be they are trying to stop us being blown up, or stabbed to death on London Bridge. That’s my worry too — that in order to placate the sensitivities of the adherents of a recently imported culture, the beliefs of indigenous people will be proscribed. When there is not the remotest comparison between them.