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September 03, 2006

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» Foreign Policy, Muslim leaders and that letter from Mustafa Arif
A few weeks ago there was a bit of a brouhaha over prominent Muslim politician’s letter to the Prime Minister (rightly) bemoaning British foreign policy and clumsily linking it to the treat of terrorism against the UK today. The political and media r... [Read More]

» Q-News: Blaming foreign policy is a cop-out from under|progress
From the latest edition of Q-News (scroll down a little): There are some ideological liberals in our community who take to the pulpit to argue that American, British and Canadian foreign policy is responsible for creating the fertile grounds for [Read More]

Comments

Sunny

Wow, a great essay.

One point though, I think the link between poverty and extremism needs to be explored a bit more. I did think it was a contributory factor but I see your point too. Most Hizb ut Tahrir kids are middle-class too.

But when why would middle-class Muslim boys be more likely to indulge in such activites than those from deprived backgrounds? There plenty of examples of boys falling into a life of crime and then finding religion and then becoming all angry with foreign policy. What would stop them getting into blowing themselves up over a middle-class boy?

Hmmm...

JordanR

Ok, you identified the problem. (nice balanced analysis by the way)

Any ideas on how to fix it?

Yakoub

When I was at Uni and converted, I was slurped into the UIS which was dominated by a bunch of Wahhabi loonies! Oddly enough, what kept me from being totally subsumed into their mind(less)set was that I could question their ideas, coming as I did from a liberal arts background. Its hard to interpret the 'word of God' as literal, for example, if you actually know anything about the nature and history of languages. However, NONE of the Wahhabis I met had any background in the humanities - they were ALL doing medicine, science and engineering degrees! And the last statistics I perused indicated that Asians were seriously underrepresented in the humanities at undergraduate level in the UK.

Surely this is an argument in favour of getting rid of 'A' levels and introducing the Baccalureate - one of my private dreams! Can you imagine all British six formers having to study philsophy of education! Oh Yes!! YES!!! YEEEES!!!!!!!!!

Wasalaam

TMA

MuslimApple

Most of the arguments offered by the media are simplistic and do not take into account the myriad of reasons that may propel a person to undertake such destructive activities.

The first step is to look inward at our own issues within the Muslim community and seek to rectify the problems. The tendency to look outward at what others and doing and blame them is not helpful.

We have to be willingly to admit that there are Muslims as you say that harbor ill-intent towards others and can influence susceptible listeners.

unaha-closp

We need to acknowledge that there are people amongst Muslims who do harbour ill-intent, not just towards non-Muslims in the first instance, but to humanity in general.

These "people" are the regimes of the old style Islamic states. Each of the regimes is at heart a tribal based dictatorship that maintains power through a national solidarity with the people and a secret police force. This is the same policy that has served dictatorial regimes very well for many years and is seen working in each of those other examples of violence you give from Sudanese in Darfur to Chinese in Xingjiang.

The problem* lies in some of these dictatorships using their state Islamic religious doctrine as the state nationalism, because the religion proselytises across the whole of Sunni or Shia Islam that religious followers are of the "nation". Reinforcement of nationality is made in the detonation of each suicide bomber, an "us versus them" mentality forms.

This mentality is well assisted by any aggressive foreign policy of the non-Muslim governments. However even if the non-Muslim state does nothing there needs to be conflict between Muslim and non-Muslims wherever the two co-exist. Without the conflict the regime cannot show a "them" to heap blame upon and without "them" criticism is more common against the regime.

And the only people who can defeat the ideas are Muslims.

It is not solely a Muslim problem, but the Muslim side has the biggest problem. To find peace our leaders must be changed to those able to make peace. In the democracies happens easily, but in the Islamic world with much difficulty. It is very important to start right now, because whilst Muslims attempt this the West will cycle through possible peaceable solutions to the problem (appeasement, concillatory withdrawl, proselytising Western values) which will all fail without a Muslim partner. And if peace fails...


* the terrorism problem for citizens of the West both native & immigrant - as opposed to a Fur peasent starving to death or whatever.

Anas

I feel that your arguments don't really address the core of the argument which you wish to disprove, namely that the perception among Muslims that the West is directly responsible for actions that result in the death, persecution, torture, and humiliation of hundreds of thousands of their fellow Muslims throughout the world is primarily to blame for the radicalisation of British Muslims. Rather, what you end up arguing is that British Muslims shouldn't (taking that word in its normative sense) use British foreign policy as an excuse for conducting acts of violent "jihad"; without showing that it isn't the key factor in radicalising those who do turn towards terrorism. The validity of the terrorists’ arguments isn't at issue here; their arguments are obviously completely unacceptable from the point of view of mainstream Islamic shari’a law, as your scholarly references show.

The fact that a majority of Muslims (though perhaps not the overwhelming majority; surveys have shown that a substantial number of Muslims at least sympathise with the justifications given by the 7/7 bombers) aren’t persuaded by these arguments doesn't mean that foreign policy doesn't play a critical role in radicalising those who are.

Britain’s collusion with the US in a fundamentally immoral foreign policy, of which Muslims are perceived to be the primary victims, is enough to undermine the moral authority of the state in the eyes of many British Muslims and this feeds the anger and mistrust towards the West that is pervasive in British Muslim communities. Nothing else has the potential to create such a massive wedge between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities in the UK or to make many Muslims question their loyalties: towards the British state or towards fellow Muslims. Remember the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are being carried out under the banner of democratic legitimacy and in the name of the British (and American) people.

Now these trends are extremely problematic for an embattled community which has already been criticised for its unwillingness to fully integrate into the mainstream culture and whose loyalties have already been repeatedly questioned. But, even worse than this, the frustration and resentment that has been building up amongst young Muslims -- and which has found little expression amongst mainstream British Imams and scholars who above all seem content to preserve the status quo -- leaves them especially vulnerable to the perverted ideologies of the extremists.

The example I would give to illustrate my point is my own reaction to reports of the growing popularity of the BNP among the dispossessed white working class population of England. I would watch news reports where they'd have interviews with first time BNP voters and they'd talk about how they felt that none of the mainstream political parties were listening to them. A lot of them would add by way of vindication that although they weren't really racists they'd felt compelled to vote for BNP because in many instances it’d been the only party willing to maintain a presence in their communities. Then the report would cut to some academic or pundit who would comment that the main parties had indeed been neglecting certain constituencies in favour of key marginals; adding that if this trend continued the BNP would make even more gains. I just wanted to shout at the screen, "Hello? I don't care how dispossessed these people are, how voiceless they felt themselves to be, it doesn't make it any voting for an avowedly racist party any less repugnant or more justifiable." But I had to admit that yes, under the cold light of analysis, the less well served by mainstream politics white working class voters felt themselves to be, the greater the support the BNP would achieve. There was a causal link, even though I found the rationale given by BNP supporters unreasonable.

I would argue that although the consequences are far direr, there is a similarity here with the link between British foreign policy and the alienation and subsequent radicalisation of Muslim youth: regardless of how unacceptable I find the arguments of the extremists I recognise that British and American foreign policy is without a doubt the greatest recruiting tool the extremists have.

I agree, that our focus as a community does seem to be on certain flashpoints to the exclusion of others, somewhat negating the pious justification given for our concern. So Palestine commands the lionshare of attention while the genocide in the Sudan is largely ignored, we talk about our brothers and sisters in Iraq but pay little attention to those on our doorstep. But, you should never underestimate the symbolic role that places like Iraq or Palestine play across the Muslim world, and thus you shouldn't be surprised about our obsession with them. Also, do not underestimate the role that the West plays, and has played, in propping up, arming, and legitimising repressive regimes across the Islamic world, from Uzbekistan, to Saudi Arabia, from Egypt to the Shah of Iran, from Saddam to Suharto; or the extremists’ appreciation of this fact.

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