Tracing anti-Muslim Policies to a British Neoconservative Philosopher

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In a word we must segment Islam… weaken Islam, make it restless, numb it, and render it forever incapable of great awakenings. ~ French liberal colonialist Edmond Fazy[1]

I have often highlighted that neoconservative assumptions about Islam have driven much of the counter-extremism discourse.  The implementation of the doctrine of pre-emption by neocons means that orthodox Muslims are purged from public sector jobs, and Muslim children for instance, are now the subject of counter-extremism measures for requesting prayer space, or campaigning for Palestine.

Whilst outrageous to the reasonable mind, and condemned by hundreds of leading academics, the neocons have successfully engineered an atmosphere where Islam and Muslims have become despised, thus allowing for secular interference of private religion to produce a secularised, government-compliant Muslim whose connection to Islam is merely incidental and historic. Whilst Orthodox Jews are engaged with by the government freely and have yet to attract the label of extremism for their manners and mores which are at odds with the secular liberal status quo, Muslims have only government-produced, neocon-connected individuals as the “approved” representatives of Islam.  Gone are the days when MCB was consulted, or the Sufis were used and abused as tools to deal with “fundamentalist” Muslims.  Today the attack on Islam is wholesale and open thanks to the counter-extremism agenda, and neocon-co-opted, state-funded individuals and organisations, officially supported and promoted by the head of state. It seems the failure in instigating a deformation of Islam means that the weight of the state is now being used to force it.

Central to the counter-extremism thesis in the Muslim context is the belief that political violence is rooted in Islam, which is a threat to the West. Indeed, the beliefs and practices emanating from orthodox Islam are now categorised as “extremist” (see in the “prison Imams” context here). With this idea supported at the highest level of government, the foundations for discrimination and persecution are laid.

Roger Scruton on Islam

Beyond the state, the idea that Islam is a threat to the West is philosophically underpinned.

Roger Scruton, a noted inspiration for British neoconservatives, believes that society has “gone terribly wrong” because it has lost its Christian faith, and is unable to “confront Islam”.  The distinction between the smokescreen of “Islamism” and Islam does not exist.

In a discussion on Islam which is riddled with arrogant stereotypes of the variety invoked by colonialists of yore, Scruton traces the root of European secularisation to a particular verse in the Bible (“Render unto Caesar” – Matthew 22:21), and then goes onto state that,

“This particular principle that the rule of law is a secular institution and is in some sense indifferent to religious differences between people, that is a very important achievement and lies in, is the basis of the ethic of toleration, and I think it is does contrast radically with the vision that you get in the Qur’an in which the law is seen as entirely a God made thing, and the Shari’ah is an attempt to encapsulate in a set of rules all that has been revealed of God’s will that through the Qur’an and the Sunnah and those processes that are legitimised in the Qur’an.”

The Qur’an by implication, is thus intolerant.  For Scruton, the Qur’an (which he says lacks irony – an aspect which makes Christianity more tolerant) itself is an impediment for the Muslim world and culture, and specifically, the present day “retreat back to the Qur’an” by Muslims.  In short, there is an assumption that due to the variance between the conception of Islam, which Scruton effectively regards as intolerant, and “the highest level of Christianity”, i.e. secularism, Islam must be “confronted”.

Hypocrisy is a recurring trait of neoconservativism.

Whilst deeming the Qur’an and the reference to it for guidance as a cause of intolerance, he explains the make-up of nationalism being their “way of life” which the people need to “hang on to”. He later on also laments the “orthodoxy of nihilism”, which results in the mockery and societal marginalisation of people “who stand up for things, or who express loyalties, affections and commitments of an old-fashioned kind”. Such a sentiment however cannot be extended to Muslims. Indeed, they must distance themselves from the Qur’an.

It is no surprise then, that he regards reform and “secularisation of Islam”, which, given the above, means a disconnection with the Qur’an and the acceptance of the imposition of the Western values and construct of secularism upon the faith, as “entirely fruitful, and the more that it is done the better”.

Of course, such hubristically pompous, flawed, and “ironically” intolerant assumptions and claims cannot be accepted from the Islamic perspective.

Indeed, if Islam was so intolerant, the obligation to invite in the best of ways, with kindness, wisdom and good words, would not be mandatory.  The toleration and indeed engagement with alternate worldviews and ideas is central to the obligation of da’wah, however, this invitation should never be interpreted as destruction of Western civilisation. As I have stated before, it is illogical to seek the destruction of a society whilst simultaneously trying to convince a people to accept the faith as their own. Despite this, the neoconservative spin-machine is bent on convincing people in the West that a people whose land has been decimated by colonialism and suffering its consequences today, is still being invaded and bombed, are about to take over and destroy the West.

In a 2009 article aptly titled, “Islam and the West: Lines of Demarcation”, he posits Islam as a “new opponent” of the West, which is threatening their “way of life”. He then pinpoints seven areas of divergence in the world views of Islam and the “Judeo-Christian civilisation” as points of “possible conflict”. To say that his assumptions about Islam are caricatured orientalism is putting it lightly. Take, for instance, the notion of associating with others. Apparently the secret to living life where people freely associate and live peacefully is a pint. Islam forbids alcohol, ergo, it is not up to the Western standard of social interaction:

“What makes it possible to live in this way? There is a simple answer, and that is drink. What the Koran promises in paradise but forbids here below is the necessary lubricant of the Western dynamo.”

“Ironically”, in 2013/14, 53% of all violent crime in England and Wales took place under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol harm also costs society £21bn annually, making it quite the abrasive “lubricant”.

Through a combination of broad sweeping assumptions, misquoting of a Qur’anic verse and a general determination to excise Islam and Muslims from Europe, Scruton outlines a brief action plan that includes the use of deportation:

“In the public sphere, we can resolve to protect the good things that we have inherited. That means making no concessions to those who wish us to exchange citizenship for subjection, nationality for religious conformity, secular law for shari’ah, the Judeo-Christian inheritance for Islam, irony for solemnity, self-criticism for dogmatism, representation for submission, and cheerful drinking for censorious abstinence. We should treat with scorn all those who demand these changes and invite them to live where their preferred form of political order is already installed. And we must respond to their violence with whatever force is required to contain it.

In other words, those who believe in an alternative worldview (even if its articulation is distorted and misleading), and wish to “exchange” various facets of Western life with their own should be derided, and deported. So much for the secular “indifference to religion” and “tolerance”.  The likes of the EDL and Britain First can find solace that their tactics have some endorsement at the philosophic heights of neoconservatism. Placing aside the fact orthodox Jews can easily fall foul of his “exchange” list, and that human rights – which maintains a European epistemology – also includes freedom to hold religious beliefs free from discrimination, such undemocratic words, if taken as a prescription by neoconservative statesmen, is a recipe for intolerance and hatred.

Such intellectual discussion and exchange are not problematic (in my view), but for Scruton’s history and the fact that Islam-haters like Douglas Murray reference and praise him.

Scruton himself has been linked to anti-left intelligence information operations. According to Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, Scruton was a member of the neoconservative Hillgate Group, an organisation run by the anti-Muslim Caroline Cox dedicated to propagandising and inflating the Left-wing threat during the 1980s.

Aside from referencing Scruton in his book, Murray regards Scruton as a conservative philosopher whose writing “contains the best thinking being done on either side of the Atlantic”. Fittingly, Scruton is also listed as a Policy Council Member for Murray’s Henry Jackson Society – the notorious, hate-funded neoconservative think-tank that has influenced the British counter-extremism strategy, is now directing the designation of “extremists” by the government, and devising propaganda strategies to suppress dissent for the right-wing press. Scruton is also an author at the Gatestone Institute of hate and terrorism-inspiration.

His disturbing pseudo-philosophic analysis of Islam and its interplay with Europe translates into official policy via neoconservatives who have key influential positions in government, and are driving the counter-extremism strategy both domestically and internationally. Specifically in Britain, “extremism” is constituted of beliefs and ideas which fail to comply with a neoconservative interpretation of a secular liberal standard of “British values”. The PREVENT policy which enforces this standard, coerces compliance with the secular symbols of the national civic religion in order to be deemed not extremist. In other words, the state is coercing a deformation of Islam through the creation of a “reformed” and “moderate” Islam. Indeed, MPs in parliament have emphatically described the latest Counter-Extremism Strategy as a “Counter-Islam” strategy.

Concluding Remarks

Commenting on the “hardline Imams” in British prisons, who happen to be part of the mainstream Islamic understanding, noting the “resistance to assimilation”, and throwing in a tenuous link to radicalisation (exactly like David Cameron does), a recent Times of Israel op-ed proposes that Muslims take lesson from the Jewish model and take the footpath of the Jewish reform movement of the 18th Century. This assimilationist model seems to be the one favoured by neocons.

Except, Muslims have taken lessons from Jewish reform movement and have concluded that the neocon drive to deform Islam is counter-productive.

Reformation in Judaism in the 18th and 19th century did not stop the King David Hotel bombing, and neither has it stopped the theocratisation of the Israeli military and its penchant for disproportionate violence.  Neither did it prevent the Holocaust. Similarly, the reformation of Christianity did not inhibit the “enlightened” West from engaging in World War I and II, Dresden and Nagasaki, nor has it prevented the slow Muslim genocide, torture and arbitrary detentions resulting from neoconservative efforts to spread “peace and democracy” in the Middle East through the Global War on Terror.

Instead, such forced efforts will only confirm the fact that the faith of Muslims is under attack. An attack commissioned by those who base their weltanschauung on a warped clash of civilisations thesis advocated by the likes of Scruton.


Reference:

[1] “L’Avenir de l’Islam”, enquete par Edmond Fazy, Questions diplmatique et colonials 11, no. 102 (15 May 1901): p.588, Quoted in Massad, J.A, Islam in Liberalism, The University of Chicago Press: London, 2015, p.68

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One thought on “Tracing anti-Muslim Policies to a British Neoconservative Philosopher

  1. Brilliant, lucid explanation of the ill winds blowing the neo con rhetoric across the Muslim diaspora to its detriment.

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