I DON'T KNOW what effect some of the Muslim "moderates" have on the Islamist "radicals" — but, as the Duke of Wellington might have said, by G-d they frighten me. The unerring instinct of the Government in picking many of the wrong partners within the Muslim community finds its apotheosis in the recent report of the Home Office task force, Preventing Extremism Together, which was assembled after the July bombings in London.
As might have been expected from a panel on which the most reactionary strains of Islam, such as Wahhabism and Salafism, were highly over-represented — as well as one member who believes that there is a plot between Freemasons and Jews to run the world — the bulk of the panel came up with, well, some pretty reactionary conclusions. Meanwhile, the concerns of the majority of British Muslims, including theological moderates such as the main Sufi orders, were underplayed.
So what, then, does the Home Office mean by the much hallowed-word "moderate"? It is now apparent that "moderate" does not necessarily mean liberal or progressive. In this context, a moderate is opposed to the use of violence in the United Kingdom — although there was no unanimity on the panel about its employment abroad where Muslims are "oppressed". In other words, such "moderation" is often methodological, rather than ideological.
The tone of the report has much in common with that of dark "Green" constitutional Irish nationalists during the IRA's campaign: help us or those nasty Provisionals will take over. But the relationship between moderates and extremists can be symbiotic as well as competitive.
Islamist violence has thus provided a wonderful, unexpected opportunity for these moderates to demand more power and money from the State. This will leave them and their favoured co-religionists as the main intermediaries between the state and the Muslim community.
The mood music of the document is one of breathtaking arrogance. The panel makes it quite clear that it is not for Islamists alone to make adjustments after 7/7: rather, it is a two-way process in which the needs of two million-plus Muslims weigh equally in the balance with those of all 60 million non-Muslims. British identity will have to evolve into a much looser concept to accommodate them.
The events of 7/7 appear, in their view, to be as much the fault of the Government as the bombers themselves: there is a strong flavour of "it woz Iraq and deprivation and unemployment and Islamophobia wot made 'em do it, guv". To prevent a repeat, they seem to imply, there should effectively be a Muslim veto over counter-terrorist legislation and foreign policy.
Their long-term solution for the ills of society? More of their kind of political Islam. More Islam in the national curriculum, including GCSEs in Islamic studies; more Islamist rapid rebuttal units — that is, propaganda. And what are two of the most important ways of empowering Muslim women? Give them more Islamic education and Arabic lessons. Since a large majority of them are South Asian, the only reason they would need Arabic is for more Koranic instruction. As such, the report endorses a key aim of some radical elements — the "Arabisation" of British Muslims.
The effect of all of this will be to create a parallel society. The natural tendency of most minority groups is to assimilate into the majority culture after several generations. The recommendations in this report would arrest that evolution by pumping taxpayers' money into a British Leyland-style rescue package, circa 1975, for reactionary Islamist institutions. Thus, one of the key proposals that the Government views favourably is the idea of "co-locating" community centres in mosques — thus forcing secular Britons of Muslim origin into the hands of the clerics if they are to obtain civic amenities.
All this is pretty tough on those non-fundamentalist Muslims who will be left behind in these Islamised cantons. The post-modern British State is so lacking in self-confidence and knowledge that it feels that it cannot manage things except by proxy through these new Islamist chieftains. As such, the most self-consciously trendy of governments is prepared to pursue a traditional communalist policy redolent of the colonies.
As in Northern Ireland, the ambitions of that post-modern British State are minimalistic. Its core message is as follows: please refrain from physical force and then everything else will be up for negotiation. If the "extremes" of the DUP and Sinn Fein have the credibility to deliver the "hardliners" in Ulster's "end game" so only those with hardline theological credentials can "de-fang" the violent radicals.
One panellist, Tariq Ramadan, is a case in point. This grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood once had his visa revoked in America and was once kept out of France — but is most welcome here. Based at Oxford, he has become the pin-up boy for elements of the Met's Specialist Operations department. He opposes violence yet he intervened on the task force to ensure that Salafist ideology was not condemned.
The price that many task force members seem to be demanding for helping to foster stability post-7/7 is, quite literally, that of men's souls. As Charles Clarke ponders the remit and composition of his forthcoming commission on integration, he should ask himself whether this "sophisticated" strategy will defeat extremism, or create more of it. By hopping on to the Islamist bandwagon, the Government has effectively jumped on a tiger and shouted "gotcha"!
Dean Godson is Research Director of Policy Exchange