Earlier in the month, UK Prime Minister David Cameron reminded us all of what an illiberal place Britain had become, with the super-villain-esque statement that "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". And now its got worse, with a senior police officer demanding that the UK polices the "private space" - meaning thoughts and beliefs - of Muslims:
Islamist propaganda is so potent it is influencing children as young as five and should be countered with intensified monitoring to detect the earliest signs of anti-western sentiment, Britain’s most senior Muslim police chief has warned.
Scotland Yard commander Mak Chishty said children aged five had voiced opposition to marking Christmas, branding it as “haram” – forbidden by Islam. He also warned that there was no end in sight to the parade of British Muslims, some 700 so far, being lured from their bedrooms to Syria by Islamic State (Isis) propaganda.
In an interview with the Guardian, Chishty said there was now a need for “a move into the private space” of Muslims to spot views that could show the beginning of radicalisation far earlier. He said this could be shown by subtle changes in behaviour, such as shunning certain shops, citing the example of Marks & Spencer, which could be because the store is sometimes mistakenly perceived to be Jewish-owned.
Note that this isn't targeting extremist behaviour - its targeting extremist belief, victimising people not for their actions, but for their thoughts (unless they're white, of course, in which case these beliefs are considered harmless). And it pretty obviously violates the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion affirmed by the ECHR and in the UK Human Rights Act - not to mention the anti-discrimination clause (because only Muslims will be targeted for these beliefs). Bluntly, whether people celebrate christmas or approve of certain shops is no business of the state - and only a tyranny would believe otherwise.
But its also fruitless, because while the state can persecute and victimise and make people mouth the words and pretend conformity, it can't actually change what they believe. Meanwhile, that persecution and victimisation will further erode its legitimacy and make it clear that if people want the simple dignity of being left alone, they will have to overthrow the state. And to be honest, they'd be right to. A state which seeks to open windows into men's souls is a tyranny, and deserves to be overthrown.