Security: At What Price?

In its rush to tackle extremism, the government must not adopt extremist policies which threaten the very liberty the terrorists are trying to destroy.


Constant talk of “One Nation” is nauseating and just another method of ramping up rhetoric. (Photo: The Independent)

Constant talk of “One Nation” is nauseating and just another method of ramping up rhetoric. (Photo: The Independent)

On Monday 20 July, I learnt something about myself. Well, maybe not about myself as such, but more what someone thinks of me. It was something that I’d never thought about myself, and I would really hope that no-one else around me would either. What was even more shocking was that this came from someone in high authority, the highest authority in this country, in fact. Ladies and gentleman, the Prime Minister seems to think that I’m a terrorist.

In a speech in Birmingham, whilst unveiling the government’s five-year strategy for tackling extremist ideology, David Cameron spoke about what he sees as the four main reasons people become radicalised:

  1. Extremism can seem exciting.
  2. Non-violent extremism easily becomes violent extremism.
  3. Extremists overpowering other voices.
  4. Failures of integration.

He followed this up by saying, “We have to answer each one of these four points. Do that, and the right approach for defeating this extremism follows. For all our successes as a multi-racial, multi-faith democracy, we have to confront a tragic truth that there are people born and raised in this country who don’t really identify with Britain.”

I speak as someone who is uncomfortable with the idea of patriotism, and who finds constant reference to “respecting British values” as nauseating at best, and completely blind of our flaws at worst. I don’t really identify with Britain. Sure, I was born here, but that’s about it. We are told that we should be proud of our country, but what is there to be proud of? The actions of the people within it are exactly that – those of the people, and give no reason why we should be proud of a state. Yes, we are fortunate enough to live in a society that provides free healthcare, but this is run and maintained by its staff, whilst the country that we “should be proud of” (in the form of the government), is constantly chipping away at it. For me, an essential value to respect would be that anyone, the world over, who is in need of medical assistance should be able to rely on our health service, however, this is not the case and charges are gradually being introduced.

David Cameron’s rhetoric on British Muslims has been getting worse as time goes on. In a speech back in June, he spoke about Muslim communities needing to stop giving any credence to Islamic extremist ideology, and said “there are Muslims who buy into aspects of the critique of the west but who don’t go so far as to advocate violence,” the implication being that the west has created the best societies, and that any criticism of this is invalid, and simply creates an environment of extremism. This attitude not only prevents any progress, by assuming that we’re already the best we can be, but it creates further divides in society by refusing to learn from other cultures. This led to Baroness Warsi, once co-chair of the Conservative Party, to state that Cameron was simply at risk of further isolating Muslim communities.

As problematic as this all is, it doesn’t stop there. We have seen increased rhetoric and inflammatory comments from not just the Prime Minister, but the government in general, all in the name of “tackling extremism”. Perhaps the most sinister, and indeed frightening, comment I have seen so far was in a speech in May, not long after the election:

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”

The implications here are absolutely horrendous. I have been critical of people in the past who have made comparisons to George Orwell’s 1984, claiming that we live in a surveillance state under the watchful eye of “Big Brother”. In the above quote however, we have seen evidence that Cameron no longer believes that obeying the law is enough for you to be left alone.

The real extremists are the ones who are trying to remove our ability to be free. (Source: Another Angry Voice)

The real extremists are the ones who are trying to remove our ability to be free.
(Source: Another Angry Voice)

David Cameron has been talking this year about banning encryption in the UK and this hit the headlines when it was realised that this could affect popular apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat. Banning encryption would have massive effects as it would prevent not just these communication methods, but other online services such as online banking, and this is where the problems continue. David Cameron isn’t stupid, and he knows that banning encryption is not possible, but this is not ultimately what he wants.

This slippery slope has already started, with Cameron asking in a speech, “In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?” The answer to this, of course, is yes. The government should have no right to listen to any conversation it sees fit, whether that be electronic communication or any other method, however, this is the ultimate aim when talking about banning encryption. The implications of the state being able to listen to any conversation are scary enough, as well as incredibly creepy. They also fly completely in the face of the right to privacy given to all people under the Human Rights Act (although the government has already shown its complete disregard for rights such as these with its wish to scrap the Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, which could have no promise of that same right to privacy).

I have joked recently about using carrier pigeons and smoke signals, yet we risk having to resort to such methods to keep our private communications private, as ridiculous as it may sound. We must continue to raise awareness of and fight issues such as these as they threaten to erode all of our freedoms, piece by piece, until the state is able to know anything about anyone. The thought of such a future is as horrifying as it is scary, and we must halt it before it’s too late.

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