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Think Again: David Cameron, Conveyer Belts and Non-Violent Extremism

This is a cross-post by Anonymous Mugwump

I’ve given myself an hour [edit: ended up being 3] and no more to write this so to cut to the chase: I wanted to respond, in detail, as to why there is no causality between Islamism and terrorism. Eustonites are very fond of the idea and they have been clamouring around a heavily illiberal speech given by David Cameron – so I wanted to respond. As usual, bibliography is at the bottom. Here is what the Prime Minister said:

…you don’t have to support violence to subscribe to certain intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish. Ideas which are hostile to basic liberal values such as democracy, freedom and sexual equality.

The root cause of the threat [of terrorism] we face is the extremist ideology itself… They [young people] are watching videos that eulogise ISIL as a pioneering state taking on the world, that makes celebrities of violent murderers… you don’t have to believe in barbaric violence to be drawn to the ideology. No-one becomes a terrorist from a standing start. It starts with a process of radicalisation. When you look in detail at the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were first influenced by what some would call non-violent extremists.

[We must confront] groups and organisations that may not advocate violence – but which do promote other parts of the extremist narrative… We must demand that people also condemn the wild conspiracy theories, the anti-Semitism, and the sectarianism too.

The basic idea is that non-violent Islamist ideology -> violent Islamist terrorism. It’s an idea referred to as the “conveyer-belt theory of terrorism” propounded by (mostly non-academic) bodies like the Quilliam Foundation. This isn’t an unreasonable view. Back in 2011, I wrote a post advocating this idea on the basis of purported evidence provided by the Prevent review. Whilst it is not an unreasonable view, it is, as I have learnt, wrong.

Before explaining why, let’s start with definitions: an Islamist believes in the political application of Islam. A violent Islamist believes in the violent application of Islam. This is the dividing line between non-violent and violent extremism. Both are problems that should be tackled but the Quilliam view treats them as part of the same problem. Both are ideologies – which is why the idea that this isn’t an “ideological” problem is wrong, what matters is which ideology we’re talking about.

Do read the rest of Mugwump’s post here

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