Security must always be intelligence led and not led by assumptions based on personal beliefs. This is the basis of policy making around community safety, yet with the heightened atmosphere around extremism, it is sadly the case that some people automatically link orthodoxy in Islam with extremism, as though the former must lead to the latter.
Throughout our work, we regularly come across British Muslims who can be regarded as being orthodox or conservative in their faith. Many of them live lives which add value to families, communities and to the State. Driven by strong parameters of how to live their lives and with a strong sense of God-consciousness, they quietly and diligently get on with their lives and do not ask anything of the State. Yet, many also feel that their religiosity is seen negatively and through the prism of extremism, which has had a depressingly chilling effect on what they say and to whom they are open and honest to, about their feelings. This, some have said, has become the norm for them and they genuinely believe that they are at risk of confirming the world view of someone who thinks that orthodoxy equates to susceptibility towards extremism, if they have a conversation on a range of issues from foreign policy through to religiosity within their lives.
Government and police forces have sought to re-assure Muslim communities that religiosity does not equate to being seen as suspect in nature, despite what some civil society groups may say. On the other hand, some of the language and statements made by leading politicians have given the impression that orthodox religiousity and extremism go hand in hand.
Some of these very civil society groups groups think that whatever the Government does will automatically be problematic for Muslim communities and the actions of these groups simply fuels mistrust and insecurity through conjecture and the manufacturing of a long term victim mentality. Yet these feelings of religious orthodoxy being seen through the prism of extremism are present within Muslim communities and especially those from orthodox Muslim communities. Many truly believe this.
If we, collectively, are to bring in communities from the margin to the mainstream, such perceptions about orthodox Muslim communities need to be broken down and reframed so they are seen to be active and equal citizens. No less and no more. A good starting point to reach this noble goal is in challenging those who believe the world view that there is a strong link between orthodoxy and extremism. This can be challenged by simply looking at those who have been involved in terrorist plots with a large number of them knowing little about Islam.
Let us also not forget – ‘Jihad for Dummies‘, and the case of the two ‘wanna-be’ Jihadis who purchased the book as though it was the guide that was going to get them on their way. Such cases illustrate the religious illiteracy of some of these extremists and runs contrarty to those who believe that orthodoxy means more succeptibility to extremism. If anything, there is no clear answer and uniform fit around who may turn to extremism and this simply underscores how complex human nature and the mind truly is.