Promoting Values Does Not Solve Terrorism

In thinking through the processes of radicalisation in relation to Muslim minorities, what are the key issues that should be important to us? That is, what do we need to ask ourselves at the very beginning? The problem has been that right from the outset various so-called experts have been looking at the inspirations that come from outside of everyday British Islam. Namely, the radicalised political Islam that we find in the Middle East and in North Africa, which, in fact, has a very long history, some of which is to do with external interests in cajoling local agitations and creating resistance fighters out of them, basically. Lazy but influential thinkers assume that Islam is one global religion and that any nuances or layers in relation to how people perceive, enact or organise themselves around it are internal issues within the British Muslim community as symptoms of a wider global malaise. That is, they are only a short step away from being enabled into various forms of violent extremism.

Thinking further through integration would suggest that if there is a sense of belonging, an opportunity structure, a notion of a shared national identity that includes all, it provides a sense of being and becoming, allowing individuals to self-actualise and self-realise. Integration used to refer to equality of opportunity and equality of outcome (as a theoretical standpoint it must be said but there was also good will behind it at one point), where various antidiscrimination laws and procedures existed to support the less well off,  as well ensuring that we can at least try to all move forward together. Due to the neoliberal paradigm that was exaggerated during the second term of new Labour and onwards, however, questions of integration have completely disappeared, and more and more amorphous notions such as values have replaced ideas of collective identities. The idea of British values, however, is a complete nonsense. What are these values that are so unique and special to the British case? What makes British values such a powerful concept to limit the pathways towards violent extremism, even? The dominant neoliberal paradigms have done away with questions of integration and equality and moved forward to notions of values, which have no meaning in reality at all.

Terrorists have no interest in values, or ideals of Britishness, or anything else quite like that. They have entered into a very different space in relation to how they see the world and they place within it. They are lost to the rest of us, not because of any particular pull of ideology, but because we have failed them as a society. We get these terrorists because they emerge out of our society, which means that they are made in Britain. Moreover, there are about as British as you can possibly imagine them to be. Violence is born out of humiliation, oppression and dehumanisation, not a loss of ‘values’. When governments realise that there is a problem of terrorism, what do they do? They conflate social policy with counterterrorism, hence the problem with Prevent. This can lead to the securitisation of multiculturalism, where differences are seen as a problem, as a path to extremism, and therefore they need to be nullified or mollified in the light of some notion of what exactly? Nothing specific, just the ideas of values.

All of these issues become even more sensitive in the light of wider social fragmentation, including the potential breakup of the union as part of a wider separation from the EU. It is not going to bode well for community relations, as the only trading card that Britain has, and which is of value to others, ironically, is the idea of the once (in)glorious empire now back on the map again.