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? … 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?
George Orwell saw this lot coming:
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. …
Pollsters … 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.
hat-tip Stephen Neil