The deformation of Islam has not always had its roots in what are today clearly identifiable subversive “reform Muslims” and organisations. Traditional Ulama (Islamic scholars) have been politically exploited to provide the means by which neocons can push their agenda to deconstruct Islam. These “moderate” scholars would provide the legitimising face behind which lurked an insidious agenda to deform Islam into what Cheryl Bernard’s RAND corporation publication would call a “democratised Islam”; a postmodernist faith devoid of substance or meaning.
The push for the creation of a “British Islam” during the late 2000s was rooted in an underlying aim to create an “institutionally approved, ‘mainstream’, and ‘moderate’ expression of Islam”, which, through state-funded Muslim organisations (like Radical Middle Way and National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group), would “engineer if not exact power” in the Muslim community. Of course, scholars that had initially given backing to such organisations have now distanced themselves from the counter-extremism policies which these initial projects engendered.
The effort to abuse Sufi Islam into courting a political agenda has seen a resurgence domestically and internationally. These trends and movements are, tellingly, monitored and advocated by Israel due to the somewhat misplaced assumption that it provides for a pliant Islam which is amenable to Western military escapades in Muslim lands.
Recent reports and events demonstrate an evolution of this tired trickery.
Crosspost: Abdullah Al-Andalusi
The desire for the reformation of Islam tends to typically come as a demand made upon the Muslim world by external actors or influences.
Having been invited to speak in many debates and lectures about the question of whether there should be a reformation of Islam, I’ve observed that it is not a question that I or most Muslims raise, but one that is thrust upon us by others.
Generally, Muslims are well aware that there is no problem with Islam. Muslims understand that Islam defines human purpose in the cosmos, and offers a complete and consistent way of life that is designed to lead to human happiness and justice in this life and the hereafter. For Muslims, the author of the Quran, being also the author of mankind, knows humans better than anyone, and understands how humans should be organised and guided – therefore Islamic laws and solutions are perfectly balanced for implementation by mankind.
The desire for the reformation of Islam then, tends to typically come as a demand made upon the Muslim world by external actors or influences – typically by Westerners and those influenced by Western civilisation, i.e. “secular reformists”. Their demand for reform is based upon the false assumption that religion must be separate from state, and that Islam is comparable to Christianity’s problems with politics. However, there are a number of other fallacies and assumptions they make that quickly come undone under simple scrutiny.
Crosspost: Asim Qureshi
Terror, Ideology and Fear: A Very European Story
The latest terrorist attacks in Brussels, widely-believed to be the work of Islamic State, have reignited the debate about how Europe should deal with the threat of political violence domestically and internationally. Since the attacks of 11 September 2001, the prevailing narrative has been to place this struggle within the context of an ideological war – a war based on conflicting value systems. This notion was epitomised the morning after the Paris attacks by Jacques Reland, of the Global Policy Institute, who, commenting to the BBC, stated:
“I see it as a continuation of the war against the values of the West. I see it as an attack on French society, French way of life, French culture, on more than that, on European values, democracy and freedom.”
In a similar vein, Bruno Tertrais, of the French thinktank Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, was quick to reiterate the line that, “This is a war of ideas”, explaining how:
“…what was targeted on Friday night was, once again, about the very identity and soul of Paris, the ‘capital of abominations and perversions’, according to Islamic State. Most French people were surprised to see their uber-secular country described as the one that “carries the banner of the Cross” by Isis’s vengeful communiqué. The point here is that French policies in the Middle East are a secondary rationale for armed jihadists. President Hollande said as much in his short Saturday morning address: we are targeted for what we are.”
Such statements are not unique. Rather, these sentiments have formed as part of a consistent narrative that places such moments of brutality within a larger continuum, one that requires an ideological response to a supposed fundamental clash in values, rather than to politically-motivated violence anchored in real-world grievances.
“The colonialist administration invested great sums in this combat. After it had posited that the woman constituted the pivot of Algerian society, all efforts were made to obtain control over her.”
“This woman who sees without being seen frustrates the coloniser”
~ Frantz Fanon
“When you’re in a position of power for a long time you get used to using your yardstick, and you take it for granted that because you’ve forced your yardstick on others, that everyone is still using the same yardstick. So that your definition of extremism usually applies to everyone, but nowadays times are changing, and the center of power is changing. People in the past who weren’t in a position to have a yardstick or use a yardstick of their own are using their own yardstick now. You use one and they use another. In the past when the oppressor had one stick and the oppressed used that same stick, today the oppressed are sort of shaking the shackles and getting yardsticks of their own, so when they say extremism they don’t mean what you do, and when you say extremism you don’t mean what they do. There are entirely two different meanings.”
~ Malcolm X
Unable to tolerate cultural heterogeneity, the racist David Cameron followed up his Michael Gove-inspired Macaulayism with colonialist calumnies to yet again apply the full brachial force of “muscular liberalism” upon the Muslim woman, and more specifically, the even smaller minority in which resides the veiled Muslim woman. Bravo Mr Cameron! Your machismo impresses.
Cameron announced plans to allow public institutions to ban women from wearing veils in schools, courts and other British institutions. Whilst actually presenting nothing substantially new in terms of proposals, it did release a torrent of self-righteous fulminations and liberal rectitude, as a piece of fabric was attacked from the biodegradable “liberal” left to the nuke “Eye-ran” right in the comment sections of various spreads. Which is fantastic news for a minority that is already being physically and verbally attacked on the streets of Britain.
Following Cameron’s disgraceful demagoguery was Gove’s politically incestuous ideological mate Michael Wilshaw.
The neocon propaganda machine is at full tilt as the government reveals its ultimate legislative weapon to excise active Muslim political activists from civil society under the dissent-suppressing counter-extremism discourse. Andrew Gilligan has already taken a swipe at Muslim organisations through his trademark blend of Muslim “extremists”, spin and lies. Even Peter Oborne could not help but notice that his article contained “a number of unsubstantiated claims” and “a number of factual errors”.
Elsewhere, David Cameron apparently likes Muslims. Well *some* Muslims would be more accurate. In what must be the most sterile PR stunt ever, he has lent his approval to a head-scarf wearing Muslim contestant of the TV show, the Great British Bake Off. One can understand why:
- Is her politics reflective of a Muslim who needs to prove her “Britishness”? Check.
- Does the Muslim belong to a gender group which needs to be saved from Islam? Check.
- Does the show have the word “British” as part of its title? Check.
- Are the general public supporting her? Check.
It sure is a safe bet. Previously, in Eid messages, Cameron has spoken of the “good Muslims” who fought for “our freedoms” off the back of the brutal colonialism of the Muslim world. Later, in his Birmingham speech, he would go onto proclaim that he was going to “actively encourage the reforming and moderate Muslim voices.” These voices incidentally belong to “progressive Muslims” who also happen to be primed by key neoconservative officials and who support their key policies, from the discourse on Muslims and global democracy-spreading to Trident. Such promotion and support is key to maintaining the neoconservative assumptions around the Muslim context. The fundamental impediment is garnering legitimacy from the mainstream Muslim community.
And no, this is not an “Islamist lie” like Maajid Nawaz seems to have informed you. It is however, a neoconservative conspiracy, which spans the inception of the War on Terror.
David Cameron’s doublespeaking speech was incessant in its assertion that there is no conspiracy to “destroy Islam”.
Increasingly, it seems that practically any argument, however well referenced, even academically-backed, is to be rapidly brought into the sphere of “extremism” or “Islamism” and suppressed through State apparatus. They have become the terms through which the government is censoring counter-narratives.
For neocons, “active opposition” to their civic religion of secular liberalism and its symbols – “British values” of democracy, rule of law and human rights – is equivalent to “undermining” it. It is “an attack” no less. To protect it, the state has effectively deployed the counter-extremism and terrorism industry. However, the double-standards applied by neocons means that any effort to undermine Islam, as understood from the time of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and explained and refined through the past fourteen centuries by thousands of Ulama – scholars of impeccable learning and piety – cannot be seen as an “attack on Islam”. Nay, for David Cameron and his colonialist brown-sahibs, it is part of the “Islamist” narrative. Presumably the “extremism” policy, which imposes an extreme interpretation of secular liberalism on Muslims and an opposition to it seen as “undermining our values”, is also part of the “Islamist” narrative.
This is the second piece in the series exploring the neocon “mode of thinking” based upon Tony Blair’s essay which outlines dangerous policies and provides for a blueprint for perpetual war. The first part can be accessed here.
Deflecting Foreign Policy
For Blair, the elephant in the room, Western foreign policy, has little to do with the violence in Iraq. The previously peacefully coexisting Sunnis and Shia, are now, post-Iraq war, at each other’s throats. Perhaps the incident of 19th September 2005 can shed some light on this. On this day two undercover British SAS operatives, dressed in traditional Arab garb who were planning to set off bombs in the main square in Basra coinciding with a religious event, were caught in the act, imprisoned and then broken out of the police station by the British army.
The leading thinker and linguist, Noam Chomsky, writes,
“By now, Shiites and Sunnis are the bitterest enemies, thanks to the sledgehammer wielded by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney… and others like them who understand nothing beyond violence and terror and have helped to create conflicts that are now tearing the region to shreds.”