Earlier this week The Times revealed that counter-terrorism police officials are considering dropping the term ‘Islamist’ for religiously-motivated terrorist attacks carried out by Muslim fundamentalists, following calls by the National Association of Muslim Police (NAMP).
Instead, a number of supposedly more suitable descriptors have been proposed – including ‘faith-claimed terrorism’, ‘terrorists abusing religious motivations’, and ‘adherents of Osama Bin Laden’s ideology’.
In addition to this, University of Huddersfield academic Rizwan Mustafa has argued that ‘organisational figureheads’ should be used as points of association, as opposed to attacks being directly attributed to organisations who may claim responsibility for them – such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
Unfortunately, it is part of an ever-rising wave of censorious pressure to “police” language used in public policy areas of critical importance. In recent times, the UK has seen the development of a spectacularly flawed definition of “Islamophobia” which had the potential to undermine counter-terrorism policing efforts in the UK.
All too often, such ‘anti-discrimination’ initiatives are essentially thought-policing measures – designed to suppress perfectly legitimate concerns which offend the group-based sensitivities of those who belong to unrepresentative organisations. The NAMP’s calls for ‘Islamist’ to be dropped from counter-terrorism lexicon is a glaring example of this.
The insinuation that the term ‘Islamist’ is deeply upsetting for the majority of law-abiding British Muslims is unfounded. In reality, this episode only highlights the degree to which identitarian-leftist associations are looking to seize control of narratives surrounding counter-extremism. This is deeply unhelpful.
A reluctance to acknowledge the specific religious motivations behind both historical and more contemporary acts of terror makes it increasingly difficult to develop political strategies, social initiatives and security arrangements designed to contain their possible spread in the future.
Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), Dame Cressida Dick, has thankfully demonstrated some common sense over the matter. But there are too many people in counter-terrorism and policing who need reminding that their primary function is to prioritise public security and community safety.
Indulging in debates over what to label a terrorist attack, and speculating how using the term ‘Islamist’ is problematic for community relations, is a fundamental waste of time and energy. This kind of identity politics has no place in counter-terrorism.
And obscuring the realities of Islamist extremism, risks fuelling anti-authority sentiment in local communities which are increasingly of the view that woke orthodoxy has infected the form and function of public institutions.
The prevailing terror threat in the UK is in the form of Islamist extremism – and the deadly Reading terror attack served as an unfortunate reminder of this. As a patriotic British Muslim, I am firmly of the view that identitarian leftists who seek to police language surrounding Islamist extremism, should not be entertained in the counter-terrorism space.
There is simply no room for identity politics when it comes to matters of collective security.