2016 Reflections: Deformation of Islam and the Neoconservative Threat to Society

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It is that time of the year: a hectic month as the British people recover from their frenzied Christmas shopping, briefly punctuated with the peace of the annual family get together, only to be followed by scrambling over various items thanks to the hype produced by corporations eager to increase the debt through boxing day “sales”. As the recovery from these activities begins and the damage to the bank accounts dawn, we take advantage of this lull for some customary reflection.

This year has been a particularly unsettling one; the sordidly racist campaign which ultimately culminated in Brexit; the far-right terrorist attack claiming the life of Jo Cox – the first killing of an MP in 26 years; the B-movie being played in the US starring Donald Trump, the West-wide rise of the far-right and unleashing of political and social xenophobia, security globalisation via totalitarian measures like the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) agenda; Britain passing one of the world’s widest and intrusive surveillance laws; the list goes on.  Sadly, it is the Muslim minority, either through scapegoating or being subjected to the fruits of this dangerous concoction of nationalism, disenfranchisement through the global neoliberal order, and neoconservative domestic and foreign policies, which has by and large, bore the brunt.

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Justin Welby’s Neocon Proclamations and the Civilizational Clash with Islam

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The former oil executive and Etonian Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recently stated that there was a need to move away from the notion that ISIS has “nothing to with Islam”:

“If we treat religiously-motivated violence solely as a security issue, or a political issue, then it will be incredibly difficult – probably impossible – to overcome it… A theological voice needs to be part of the response, and we should not be bashful in offering that… This requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that Isis is ‘nothing to do with Islam’, or that Christian militia in the Central African Republic are nothing to do with Christianity, or Hindu nationalist persecution of Christians in South India is nothing to do with Hinduism.. Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.

The argument seems ostensibly balanced. After all, the theological element is mentioned as a factor (albeit a defining one) and Welby highlights the Christian militia in CAR, as well as the Hindu nationalist persecution, though, limiting it to Christian persecution whilst ignoring the rape and killing of Kashmiri Muslims by an army overseen by the fascist PM of India, Narendra Modi. However, the reporting, language and timing of his statements, upon closer inspection, reveal a smokescreen for a continued agenda to target Islam.

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“English Islam” and the “Wahaabi” Scapegoat

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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.

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Recent reports and events demonstrate an evolution of this tired trickery.

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Caroline Cox and Michael Nazir-Ali: Assad’s British Supporters and the War on Islam

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The neoconservative effort to deform Islam, neuter Muslim thinking and create a repulsion of Islam in general has its basis in the clash of civilisations thesis.  Premising this thesis is the assumption of one particular side – the Western side – being civilised.  The permeation of this assumption has led to a “civilising” mission utilising the War on Terror paradigm and all its political and military machinery; globalised drone warfare programmes, extraordinary rendition, torture, perpetual wars, and collective punishment through targeting of Muslim minorities using policies which erode the liberties of all. Through political exploitation of fears about ISIS which exponentially increased no sooner did Britain, for instance decide to join the foray in Iraq and Syria, the impact on civil liberties in Western societies has continuously progressed.

To the neutral observer, the above can hardly be described as “civilised”.

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Mentally ill but still a ‘Terrorist’

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CROSSPOST: CAGE

The case of Muhyiddin Mire, the mentally ill knife attacker who tried to kill Lyle Zimmerman at Leytonstone tube station in December last year has been treated in a manner that would suggest Mire was a committed and hardened ‘extremist’. This demonstrates a worrying trend where the media all to readily classify acts of violence committed by Muslims as ‘Islamic extremism’. Not only does this add to the fear-charged climate of Islamophobia, but it also acts to further existing cycles of violence.

It has been well established that Mire had suffered from paranoid delusions and had missed an appointment with a community mental health team four days before the incident. Nonetheless, the Daily Mail recently led with the headline “Jihadi Attacker” and infused the headline with numerous Islamic references. Other papers lead with “ISIS attacker” and references to his apparent religiosity were made.

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The Muslim Aid Workers in Syria no Longer Welcomed Home

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CROSSPOST: CJ Werleman

Aleppo is now ground zero in the fight between Syria’s Russian-backed Assad regime and the kaleidoscope of factions that comprise the rebel insurgency in the country.

At the time of writing, pro-Syrian forces have surrounded the eastern side of the city, where at least 300,000 inhabitants remain, almost certain to face a similar fate to the tens of thousands who were starved, bombed and exhausted to death in Homs a year or two earlier.

Doctors besieged in the city describe “horrifying conditions”. According to some accounts, less than 30 doctors and medical staff remain in a city that requires hundreds more. Other reports describe doctors working around the clock, surviving on one to two hours of sleep and only a handful of dried dates.

Since the civil war began five years ago, more than 700 medical personnel have been killed, while Russian-Assad air strikes were carried out against five hospitals in the last week of July alone.

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British drone strike policy: ‘Confused and confusing’

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CROSSPOST: Khalil Dewan

Drone strikes have become the weapon of choice for Western governments over the past decade, but let’s face it – there are problems that occur when a lethal war-like force isn’t governed by law.

Drone strikes are a cheap and less risky option for governing bodies hesitant to deploy troops. A drone pilot can wake up in the morning, have breakfast and even be dropped off to work by his wife, and still participate in targeted killings across the globe sitting only a few miles away from his family home. But as the UK drone debate pendulum is in full-swing, many of those involved in this issue are asking: is any or all of this legal?

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