On Michael Gove

Some thoughts from Twitter posted on 2nd March 2024 regarding an opinion piece in The Guardian on Michael Gove.  This article argued that despite appearance of courteousness and clam, Michael Gove was in fact someone who had ‘toxified’ the political culture of the Tories.

The tweet threat is unrolled  below, but as an addition it’s worth noting that the government definition of extremism – drafted by Michael Gove – is being released this week.  Much of Muslim and other strands of civil society are likely to fall under it and be at the very least silenced as a result.  The opinion piece was both cogent and sensible AND unbelievable.  How?  The article speaks to the dominant group.  Those of us who, as I outline in the thread, have seen this about Gove, his political partners and the wider culture for nigh on 20 years, are a muted group.  We won’t be able to get beyond the damage being wreaked in our society unless the dominant makes a decision to listen to and learn from the muted.

Thread unrolled after image.

This article in today’s Guardian is an interesting read. I don’t know the author and this is not a critique of him or the piece per se. I just want to know this, how is it that this is not already known about #MichaelGove? Or that the toxification is not just of the Tories?

Did the Guardian reading public think until this moment or have they been under any sort of illusion that Gove is moderate or mild? If that is the case then it shows the level of Islamophobia that has been internalised by the supposedly liberal minded, and it also shows a complicity in shrinking political space. Was Gove’s ‘courteousness’ really enough to obscure his thinking and policies that have targeted in particular, Muslims? Had any Muslim in civil society, education or charity been asked they could have explained.

In his book Celsius 7/7 he speaks of the Islamist threat,” before detailing his belief that “a sizeable minority” of Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims hold “rejectionist Islamist views” which he compares to the threat posed by Nazism and Communism.

Then there was Trojan Horse / Hoax, where failing schools with Muslim majorities were turned around by parents, teachers & governors (mostly Muslim) who were then demonised as ‘Islamist plotters’. See here from IHRCIf you have time there is NYT’s podcast series on the scandalSummary and commentary from me ( especially on how Muslim voices are excluded from framing media narratives) here. Please note, it’s not just Tories being toxified…

Then the blacklist of Muslim organisations mooted three years back. Many feel it is already in unofficial operation. Also the very recent withdrawal of funding to the Interfaith-Network, for having a trustee from the Muslim Council of Britain, resulting in IFN’s closure.

Then there is the scuppering of the attempt to officially define Islamophobia. Gove stated: “I think there are dangers if a university or another org which should be the home of free debate uses a definition like that to police what people can say in order to penalise them for it.”

Given Rishi Sunak’s proclamations on ‘extremism’ just yesterday, and the weeks long discussion in the UK and Europe on curtailing pro-Palestine speech, this is not simply ironic but Orwellian doublespeak at its worst.  This coming week will see, it seems, the announcement of Gove’s definition of extremism. I wrote earlier this year about the possibilities of (further) exclusion and criminalisation that such a definition could entail.  

All of the above, is not even an exhaustive list of the tribulations brought down onto Muslims by Gove specifically, never mind the network of politicians, journalists and think tanks he is part of.  You just had to ask a Muslim. They can well explain that the process of toxification of politics and society has been running apace for decades. Yes, Gove has been central to that, but this has been happening in plain sight. If some are only seeing it now, one can guess why.

Arzu Merali is a writer based in London, UK.  Find and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other platforms.  Join her mailing list or contact her via this site.