Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Opposing Extremism Extremely

Another blog post, another link to another BBC story, this time about the idea of locking up ‘extremists’ in separate sections.  Never mind the quote from the article, “Extremist prisoners who "seek to poison the minds of others" will be put in special units”, which sounds like something that should be coming from China or North Korea, that’s not the issue I wish to address today, significant and terrifying though it is.

In their infinite wisdom, the BBC opened the story up for comment, and you can imagine some of the gems that came up.  However, beyond the usual daft ‘ban religion’ posts were some rather more disturbing ones: “People who still believe in gods in the 21st century just need culling”, “All religious people believe in an afterlife, so why don’t we just kill them?”, “Just cut (Anjem Choudary’s) tongue out.”  Now, my understanding of the law is that these are actually incitement to violence and therefore illegal, and I know that the first one at least was removed by the BBC moderators.

Now, as a ‘religious person’, it may not surprise you to learn that I am not wholly in favour of these as long-term plans.  I feel in myself that being culled would not align with my interests, and although I do indeed believe in an afterlife, albeit only with the very vaguest ideas of what precise form it might take, I don’t feel that I should be prematurely ushered into it, even by the most well-intentioned of violent extremist maniacs.

More specifically, there was plenty of ranting against Islam extremism, or indeed just Islam itself.  Plenty of calls to deport them (regardless of the fact that many, including Anjem Choudary, the focus of the article, were born in the UK) and quite a few to just shoot them.  To be fair, these latter were mostly directed towards extremists preaching violence, not Muslims generally.  Mostly.  There were however plenty of calls for such people to be forcibly silenced, and prevented from preaching at all.

Many of the posters claimed that they wanted to protect the UK from Islamisation, and that these extremists want to turn Britain into another “backwards, medieval hellhole”.  In short, to prevent Britain from becoming like Saudi Arabia or Yemen, they want to reinstitute the death penalty, mutilation and corporal punishment, crack down on free speech and quash freedom of religion and freedom of assembly.  Wait a second…

Extremism takes a great many forms, nebulous and easily-abused concept that it is, but if nothing else the saddening and baffling comments quoted above demonstrate that it is by no means the sole domain of religion.  We should also bear in mind of course that the vast, vast majority of moderate, reasonable rational atheists decry and condemn the calls to violence, intolerance and oppression made by their sadly loud but nonetheless tiny extremist fringes.  It can be easy to forget this when they are so very visible, but the aim of such people is to polarise us, enforce the ‘us vs them’ mentality, whether ‘Us’ is British people, atheists, right-wingers or whomever, and the ‘Them’ Muslim extremists, Muslims in general, ‘religious people’, left-wingers etc etc etc.

I reject them and their vile and poorly-thought out antagonism.  We are better than the people who seek to oppress or destroy us, and we should be proud of that fact, not racing people like Choudary to the bottom.  Fighting fire with fire is an excellent way of burning down the entire world, and we need to preach this until everyone gets the idea.

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