A Muslim man accused by the British government as an “extremist preacher” in 2015 and apologized six years later said that the word extremism is problematic.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the occasion of his legal struggle last six years, Salman Butt, chief editor of Islam21c website, said that labeling something as extremist is a philosophy of ignorance and tribalism.
“The problem with the word extremism is that it has no objectivity. And it’s just a meaningless term now, and this is what we’ve learned over the last six years,” Butt noted.
Mentioning the day when he first saw that his name, along with some other people labeled as extremists, Butt stated that he first thought that his picture was falsely used.
“I just noticed that they were using my picture there first; I thought maybe it’s somebody else with the same name. And it just used my picture. But then, as I read more into it, it was actually referring to me, and that was surprising,” he added.
After that, he said he launched two legal challenges, a defamation case for this label, a false accusation and a public law challenge.
He explained that launching public law challenge was aimed to show why the government is calling people extremists and what their definition is, the process of secretive government departments, monitoring individuals and making determinations about who they are and where they can speak.
Word of extremism doesn’t really mean anything
More and more people realize that the word extremism doesn’t actually mean anything, he said, adding that the term is “very subjective.”
“… This is part of the reason why the government was trying to defend it, in my opinion, and then they just gave up and had to apologize, because it doesn’t have a strong, robust operational definition,” underlined Butt.
He said that it is very dangerous for governments to start labeling these types of ideas and thoughts and beliefs as an extremist since it’s only a matter of time before that grows, and more and more people are included in that.
“So this is the main kind of lesson for me in that this word extremism, it doesn’t really mean anything, and it shouldn’t be used in everyday speech,” he added.
Islamophobic organizations’ effects
Butt noted that Islamophobic organizations are among the source of information for the government in this regard.
“It transpired that they were actually taking information from proudly Islamophobic organizations on which Muslim is extreme and should not be allowed to speak on university campuses … And that’s why out my name and the name of several other, just mainstream normal Muslim people were mentioned by the government.”
He called on the British government to be more careful in receiving information.
Regardless, he stated that he accepted the apology, even though it had been six years past.
“I accept the apology … as for clearing my own name, personally, I take that as a welcome apology, even though it’s six years late,” Butt added.
He noted that the Muslim community should decide what normal and extreme Islamic opinions are, not anyone else.
On Monday, the British government apologized to Butt, who was falsely described as an extremist hate preacher in 2015.
“The government accepts that it was wholly false to allege that Butt is an extremist hate preacher who legitimizes terrorism and therefore someone from whose influence students should be protected,” Aidan Eardley, legal counsel for Home Secretary Priti Patel, said in a court.
“It is sorry for the harm caused to him and in particular for the fact that the allegation was made and maintained for so long,” he added, reading a statement.
Upon Butt’s legal challenge to the false accusation by the UK government, the Home Office agreed to delete his name from the press release and pay Butt compensation alongside legal costs.