Words hurt – Words radicalise – Words heal

I have previously written about being more careful in what we say and how we say it and of course using that within the right context. The government’s chief adviser on extremism has urged politicians from across the divide to be careful of their language, pointing out that they risk provoking violence, it was reported on the 16 September that Sara Khan, who leads the Commission for Countering Extremism, told the Guardian that inflammatory language was undermining the fight against hateful narratives. On prime minister Boris Johnson likening Muslim women wearing burqas to “bank robbers” and letterboxes,” Khan said: “Politicians from across the divide need to be very careful of their language. I find that language, personally, demeaning [and] dehumanising, I don’t think we need to use that type of language." On the 9 September, Johnson faced humiliation during prime minister’s questions when Tan Singh Dhesi, the Commons’ first turbaned Sikh MP, rebuked him for the letterboxes comment. A recent report from monitoring organisation Tell Mama revealed that the number of anti-Muslim incidents increased by 375 per cent in the week after Johnson’s letterboxes comment. The group recorded 38 anti-Muslim hate incidents in the week following the publication of the article. Of the 38 incidents, 22 were directed at Muslim women who wore the face veil. Last year hate crimes against the Jewish community as reported to the Community Security Trust (CST) rose by 16% (BBC News 7/2/19).

All this points to a rising tide of radicalisation amongst the extreme right that ought to be worrying all our politicians. This is at a time of rising intolerance of those whose views we don’t share. Boris calls Johnson a ‘chlorine washed chicken’ or the French as ‘Turds’. Remainers call Leavers as uneducated and Levers call Remainers as anti-democratic Remoaners. No wonder the Labour party is simply stuck in the middle not knowing which binary direction to adopt – in or out. Those in the middle – I like to think of the middle being the majority – we so want to establish some degree of consensus – a subject I have talked about previously.

In many ways respect and tolerance are in short supply. Finding words that encourage respect and tolerance is difficult for our politicians as they seek to gat public attention by demonisinmg whoever they are talking about; so our PM feels he has to demonise the EU and most Remainers in order to attract Brexiteers who think leaving the EU should have been done yonks ago and should be done anyway – deal or no deal. Look at Netanyahu in Israel – as I write the election result isn’t clear – but in order to get a right wing coalition he has to make outragious pronouncments about annexing great chunks of the West Bank; Trump does the same to retain the rustbelt votes that got him in in 2016 – but whjen he Tweets he shoots first and asks what he should have said afterwards. So its not only what we say but how we pass on the message that corrupts the way we encourage respect and tolerance. We are approaching a very dangerous tipping point where those in authority sleepwalk towards consequences that they don’t appreciate. The world is undoubtedly a more dangerous place.

On a more optimistic note, my work with ex prisoners who were radicalised by extreme views on world domination, that work continues and I see where prison can change hearts and minds, and re-integrate some of those people back into society. I will write about prisons at a later date, but simply witnessing people refinding their faith in humanity, and in a society that has enormous potential for gerarating respect and tolerance for all – that my friend is a real silver lining to my story.

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