Michael Gove: Let's stop pandering to extremism, whether it's Irish or Islamic

To them, Britain will be a land of barbarism until it accepts sharia

WHEN you see a guy reach for stars in the sky, Damon Runyon tells us, you can bet that he's doing it for some doll. Men will do the silliest things when in the grip of the delusion we call love. When searching for the motivation behind otherwise inexplicable acts then the conventional wisdom is cherchez la femme, find the woman who has captured a man's heart and you find the key to his actions.

But these days the search for an explanation of the apparently inexplicable takes us in a very different direction. Away from the wild giddy madness of love and instead down into the dark derangement provoked by hate. The two most apparently inexplicable acts of the last seven days, to my eyes, have been the dissident republican murders in Northern Ireland and the extreme Islamist protest during a homecoming parade for British soldiers in Luton.

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How can anyone in Northern Ireland justify a recourse to murderous violence for political ends when the political process is so determinedly inclusive and every tradition is carefully respected? And how can any British citizen, however opposed to any Government policy, ever think it right to slander, barrack and abuse young men who have risked everything in the service of this country?

The simple answer is hate. Only hate can motivate individuals who enjoy all the freedoms our democracy provides to turn on those who guarantee our freedoms with their lives. But while hate lies behind these acts, if we are to understand where that hate comes from, we need to dig deeper.

The hatred that drives the Real IRA is a product not of blind killing rage but the bitter fruit of ideological commitment. The ideology of Irish republicanism, which celebrates blood and martyrdom and holds that the sacrifice of innocents is a price worth paying that Ireland may be free of perfidious Albion, has the murderers of Massereene barracks in its grip. What drove them to kill was a belief their acts were sanctified by a belief system which gave them warrant to operate outside the ordinary rules of law and morality.

In the same way the protestors who hurled the foulest abuse at the Royal Anglians as they celebrated their homecoming in Luton felt no shame because they believed their outrage was justified by the ideology they serve. For the extreme Islamists, Britain is a land of barbarism, and will remain so until it accepts sharia, acknowledges that Muslim lands should be fused into a new caliphate and the black flag of Islam flies over 10 Downing Street.

When faced with affronts to decency such as these it's a natural human reaction simply to turn away in disgust, to believe the people capable of these activities are beyond the reach of reason. But our society will only be safe from future outrages, if we make the effort to understand just where this ideology comes from, and where it can, all too tragically, lead.

In the case of the protestors on Luton's streets, they are self-declared Islamists. Islamism is to Islam what fascism was to nationalism, Stalinism to socialism. It is the twisting into totalitarian form of a noble belief system, the debased perversion of a great ideal. Islamism, like fascism and Stalinism, is a 20th century creation. It originated in the thinking of the Egyptian radical Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas's parent organisation, and has subsequently been re-interpreted by various figures, including the Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden.

For Islamists the world can be divided into two, the house of Islam and the infidel house of war. The current backwardness of Islam lands is a result of apostasy and the abandonment of strict sharia law, and the duty of Muslims is to bring the whole world into submission to Allah so the austere dictates of a fundamentalist faith regulate all men.

For some Islamists the way to prosecute this goal is through violence, and in their ideology-drenched vision any means justify their ends. For others the path to the caliphate lies through preaching and teaching, politics and positioning, but while the tactics are moderate the end goal is anything but.

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In order to counter the challenge which Islamism poses the single most important lesson is the importance of ideology. It is the belief system behind Islamism which provides a justification for everything from political agitation against Israel to street protests against our troops.

And if we are to counter that ideology we need to be aware that, like Marxists in the past, Islamist groups today can take many forms and cloak very radical ambitions in conservative pinstripes. That is why the work published this week by the think tank Policy Exchange is so vital. A brilliant new pamphlet, Choosing Our Friends Wisely, provides a guide, from a former Islamist extremist, on how easily public money has been granted to Islamist groups.

For years now, governments have been funding Islamist organisations whose ideology is in the direct tradition of Hassan al Banna, under the impression that these groups can help moderate angry voices. But these organisations are woven into the tapestry of Islamist agitation, which wants not moderation but the Islamisation of Britain. How can it be right to believe our democracy prospers when we subsidise groups which are part of the same family of ideas as Hamas? It is time we stopped being so starry-eyed about those who claim to love this country but whose agenda is to transform it out of all recognition.

Michael Gove is Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families