A Muslim man accused of being an "extremist preacher" by the British government only to get an offical apology six years later says the overused label of "extremism" is based on ignorance.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA) after the end of his six-year legal struggle, Salman Butt, chief editor of the 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.
Recalling the day when he first saw his name along with others labeled as extremists, Butt said he first thought that his picture had been used by mistake. "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 the label and false accusation, and a public law challenge.
He explained that launching the public law challenge was meant to determine why the government calls people extremists, what the definition is, exposing the process of secretive government departments, monitoring individuals and establishing definitions about who qualifies as "extremist."
More and more people are realizing 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, thoughts and beliefs as extremist since it's only a matter of time before that grows, and more and more people are included in it.
"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.
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 for which 'Muslim' is extreme and should not be allowed to speak on university campuses ... And that's why my name came out and the name of several others, just mainstream normal Muslim people were mentioned by the government."
He called on the British government to process information more carefully. Regardless, he stated that he accepted the apology, despite the fact that six years had passed.
"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 U.K. government, the Home Office agreed to delete his name from the press release and pay Butt compensation alongside legal costs.
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