Conservatives and the ‘clash of civilisations’….
Conservative Home has this story attacking Labour and John Denham for ‘restoring links with the Muslim Council of Britain’. Meanwhile, elsewhere it has a piece on the ‘gathering storm of militant Islam‘; before this we have seen David Cameron play the ‘extremist appeasement’ card at Prime Ministers Questions.
I would not be surprised to see this become a familiar ‘Conservative refrain in the upcoming election campaign. The Conservative Home piece on the ‘gathering storm’ condemns Britain as being ‘sleepy’ and likens militant Islamism to Nazism;
Efforts by groups such as The Centre for Social Cohesion, Policy Exchange and the Quilliam Foundation, and by individuals such as Michael Gove and Baroness Cox, to draw our attention to the threat of rising radical Islamism reminds me of Winston Churchill’s warnings about Nazi Germany, as documented in The Gathering Storm.
The reason for the historical comparison is obvious but it is completely historically illiterate. For one thing Nazism had the support of the organised power of a state; the same cannot be said of Al-Quaeda or their ilk. It had a standing army; infrastructure etc, etc where as a terrorist group is as much a body of ideas and an ideology as a formally organised presence (hence its adherents can and do act autonomously). Nazism is an ideology too but it was much more closely tied to the state-form than the ideology of Al-Quaeda. This is why things like the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq were fundamentally flawed in their premise; while it may have damaged some structure (in the former, not the latter) the actual results have been a net gain for the *ideology* espoused by Al-Quaeda.
When you read the pieces on Conservative Home and thoughts of the likes of Michael Gove you realise that the Conservative Party implictly supports the theory of a ‘clash of civilisations’ espoused by the likes of Samuel Huntington. Western civilisation is fundamentally threatened by the Islamic one even potentially in its ‘moderatre’ form (hence the overwhelming support of Conservative members for ethnic screening). Liberals and left-wingers are potentially traitors and appeasers who, implicitly, could also be the legitimate target of state action.
It would be wrong of Labour to ‘hang-tough’ and try to sound tougher than the Conservatives. Instead we should argue that the Conservatives world-view is totally flawed and potentially dangerous in its conclusions (the conclusions are not more civil liberties but radically less). Also, it is my belief that we should argue that the ‘war on terror’ be ended (the Conservatives only take this ‘war’ to its logical conclusion): the vast majority of anti-terror legislation should be repealed and withdrawal from Afghanistan undertaken. Radical? Yes. Popular? Probably not. The right thing to do? Unquestionably yes.