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 violent extremists to germinate. The argument is lame and they know it. It is true that Western foreign policy is often driven by greed and ignorance and in most cases it results in death and destruction to countless innocent people, many of them in the Muslim world. But to conclude that foreign policy is wholly responsible for terrorism and suicide bombings is hogwash. The people who are advancing this argument are trying to save their own skin.
"Blaming Western foreign policy for fomenting extremism is precisely the argument that Ayman Al-Zawahiri and his new sidekick, American convert Adam Yahiye Gadahn a.k.a. ‘Azzam the American’ want us to advance to justify their vision of a ‘New Jihad World Order.’ When we buy in we end up advancing the goals of this fringe group of loud and obnoxious Muslim men and women who are hell-bent on heralding The End."
But you read that argument here first folks. And blaming "ideological liberals" is also a cop-out.
Unfortunately, it appears to have become a common theme amongst the popular media and politicians that 'Muslim leaders' are not doing enough to prevent extremism amongst Muslim youngsters. I say unfortunate, because it looks in the wrong places for solutions. This idea is borne of a lack of familiarity by outsiders with the inner social dynamics of the Muslim communities across Britain, and also the (unthinking) belief that Muslims are somehow insulated from broader social and cultural trends across post/modern Britain. However, contrary to assertions, we aren't superhumans who stand outside the contingencies of history and time.
In fact, it is highly unlikely that anything Muslim leaders say or do has any great influence on Muslim youths, much less what mosque members might be saying. More often than not, they're preaching to the converted. Remember that fatwa which condemned the London bombings, or the one which rebutted the claims of al-Muhajiroun? Both texts were produced by Muslim religious leaders whose words carry weight in religious circles (and squares, triangles and most other shapes). Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Atiki, who produced the rebuttal of Bakri et al., is an authoritative contemporary jurist. But how many youngsters know about these? How many even care? And if, as we're told, Muslims place great weight on pronouncements of religious authorities, how much weight can be put on the words of the head of the MCB, who, for all intents and purposes, is a 'secular' leader?
Traditionalist Muslims, like Timothy Winter, will see this as a sign of
the loss of respect for classical learning and authority in contemporary Islam (and I'd agree
to some degree) and tie it in with the general malaise in post/modern Britain. But this loss of respect for authorities is not unique to
Muslims. It is a general cultural trend in wider society and may be a symptom of mass consumerism and individualism in post/modern societies (note, I am trying to be descriptive and not moral in my tone here).
It is also equally likely all of these people, religious scholars and public leaders, are seen as establishment figures, detached from the everyday grind of Muslim life in Britain. So blaming them for extremism and terrorism becomes a pointless exercise. What they say and do is irrelevant to most young Muslims anyway. But, there is one point on which Muslim leaders like Dr. Abdul Bari fail, and fail miserabley like only a Muslim can. That is they, like their critics, 'Islamise' problems affecting Muslims beyond all proportion.
A point I touched on earlier was about how the lack of socioeconomic opportunities causing 'alienation' does not affect Muslims only. What prominent public Muslim spokesmen need to stress when they bring up a lack of housing, jobs and good schools in the context of Muslim integration and participation in society, is that these concerns are broader social problems affecting not just 'Muslims'. They should not reduce them to a 'Muslim' issue as it appears they do. They need to address the point that if you're poor in Britain, or stuck outside the 'mainstream', or on the lower rungs of society, life isn't too pleasant or easy and it doesn't particularly matter if you're Muslim or not. They need to stress their concern for wider issues affecting Britain (health, education and so on), rather than dabbling in stupid political point-scoring (like the MCB's refusal to attend the Holocaust Memorial Day). They should divorce themselves from the public rhetoric which presents them and their organisations as single-issue bodies representing Muslims only, and transform themselves into grassroots organisation which are interested in helping society at large. They should show that theirs is an activism for goodness, and it just so happens that they're Muslims. Whether one likes it or not, in a secular society people are not really interested in your theological viewpoints. Let people connect the two (faith and deeds), rather force-feeding it down their throats. "God guides whom He wills". (And note, this is not a call for people abandon da'wah.) When they decry human rights violations against Muslims, they should also stand up for human rights violations against others who are not Muslims, which are prepetrated by Muslims (it is very real point to note is that most human rights violations against Muslims are committed by other Muslims). Pious platitudes are not enough.
This way they can transform the image (and sadly reality) of Muslim public discourse which is one of rights and politics to one of cultural and social engagement. And yes, there are grassroots organisations run by Muslims which tackle issues like drugs; I'm familiar with one in Tower Hamlets. There was also a seminar a few months ago about sexual abuse and counselling in minority communities organised by a friend of mine at a large mosque (unfortunately I was unable to attend). So these projects do exist, albeit the lack of media coverage and networking with national institutions means they do not get enough exposure. But, my argument is that should a journalist looking for good copy phone up the likes of MCB, MAB, IHRC, MPAC, SMC (who have been silent in recent weeks...) and so on, offices whose phone numbers reside in the diaries of most journalists, then instead of vexing themselves over the latest 'Muslim outrage' story, they should show a bit of nouse and ask the journalist to help cover a project to tackle drugs or illiteracy which they may be involved in or know of. Inayat Bunglawala and Faisal Bodi, from their privileged positions as public Muslim commentators, should use their next few posts at Comment is free blogging only about such projects, tuning out from the media cycles. This way they can expose those people who do have a genuine animus towards Muslims, and make friends with other people regardless of their own personal beliefs.
There are prominent Muslims who have spoken about these sorts of issues, trying to reposition public Muslim discourse as one about broader social concerns. Tariq Ramadan comes to mind, as does Yahya Birt (who is certainly capable of it). But unfortunately they're marginalised (or smeared in the case of Ramadan) by both the popular media and even Muslims (like these comments on my blog which sees Ramadan in the same category as Irshad Manji). Bunglawala and Bodi, the MCB, MAB, SMC, MPAC and so on have access to the media, and are now see as 'Muslim spokesmen' for better or for worse. If, for some reason, they start talking about these broader topics and only these topics (that is they do not discuss 'Muslim issues') and, for some reason they drop out of the public spotlight, then at least our oft-cited complaint against a biased media that is always on the lookout for the next Professional Muslim Extremist, will be fully justified. In the meantime, we could have made some friends across a wider range of society.
Here's a point which needs to be made and understood: When commentators, Muslim 'leaders' and politicians talk about 'Muslim alienation', they need to show more appreciation that many of the reasons for 'alienation' are not 'Islamised' beyond all proportion. This is especially true of the spokesmen from the MCB et al.
Many issues that are involved in alienation of Muslims, which means mainly Pakistani/Kashmiri, Bangladeshi and Somali boys, are no different to the causes that alienate people who will be categorised as white and working-class. (Of course white working class people can also become Muslim -- I've known some that have -- but our categories cross over between race and religion political and social reasons.)
White working-class boys and girls also grow up on 'ghettoes', are maginalised, the subject of ridicule and mockery in popular (liberal) culture, are 'unassimilated' and not particularly 'integrated' into so-called 'mainstream British society'. They can also become the target of extremists who threaten the good aspects of Britain. They do not always, if at all, share in the history and vision of Britain imagined by either liberal intellgentsia (cosmpolitan, rootless, urban, multicultural) or right-wing nativists (rural, warm beer, cricket, cycling spinsters, the spires of Oxford). They are, more often than not and when it is politically convenient, disdained by both.
One of the main causes of alienation and marginalisation from the mainstream, for both "Muslim" and white youngsters, is most certainly socioeconomic. (I would argue, for better or for worse, it is also the outcome of a breakdown in social authorities; the Church and other religious authorities, politicians and ideologies and now even scientists, the high-priests of the modern age, have little respect, relevance or trust anymore.) Depending on where they live, both Muslim ethnic groups and whites will suffer from a lack of access to good schooling and healthcare; under-investment in their local area, leading to difficulty in finding work; and poor social mobility. This affects people across all racial, religious and ethnic boundaries. It is not a 'Muslim' problem, per se. More that these problems affect, amongst a whole swathe of people, those who also happen to be Muslims or of Muslim origin (since, unless you ask people, you must assume they are nominally Muslim first and foremost -- unless the data collected sets some level of being 'devout' or 'pious', we have no way of knowing). Conversely, there is a small, but significant, and largely well-integrated, Muslim middle-class which will include people whose parents forged successful business after their arrival to Britain in the 1970s and 1980s; who parents were relatively well-off on their arrival; or who are converts from the white middle-classes. I would surmise from anecdotal evidence and experiences, that they are more likely to set the 'Muslim agenda', whether it be conservative, integrationist, liberal, segregationist or extremist. And, interestingly, in my experiences anyway, the same Muslim middle-classes have little interest in associating themselves with the 'riff-raff' from the lower social groups who are also Muslims, or 'chavlims' if you will (consider, for example, ethnic, tribal and caste distinctions amongst Pakistanis). None of this means there isn't bigotry, racial or religious discrimination (including bile aimed specificially towards Muslims or Muslim peoples), or, as liberal Britain likes to delude itself into thinking, these are battles that have been won.
Yet few, if any, politicians and pundits look at these socioeconomic issues affecting white working-classes. Partly, it is to do with 'political correctness' and bad government policies. Faisal Bodi actually raised a good point in his criticism of multiculturalism about groups receiving funding without a care for what these groups should owe wider society and so foster cooperation. Peter Oborne
suggests that some in the Labour Party are now looking at these issues, but they have decided to play
politics with them to bolster their traditional vote, rather then address the
actual problems. But it is also politically convenient at the moment, as well as good copy for journalists, to concentrate on the 'Muslim problem', since, especially for dishonest politicians, it diverts attention from more pressing concerns: whether it be the claim that more children now live in poverty than before Labour came to power; the sale of everything in Britain without a second thought for the long-term consequences (the NHS, an institution even the Tories didn't dare dismantle, is clearly going down that path under neo-Labour); or the systematic de-education of our next generation (with half still failing to master basic English and mathematics), all of which have an impact on communities across Britain, white, Muslim, black, Pakistani, Bangladeshi etc. All that and more, together with the complicty of this government in a legally dubious invasion which has cost tens of thousands of lives, and over a hundred British soldiers (not forgetting people like Ken Bigley), in a country which never threatened Britain, makes for convenient positioning of the debate on multiculturalism as a 'Muslim problem' (which would be one worth having, were it not driven by odious tabloids and populist politicians).
There are a couple of book reviews (1, 2) at Deenport covering a similar topic.
"NEW DELHI: Amid reports of clashes
between rival factions of Naga rebels, the Government will hold talks with top
leadership of the NSCN (I-M) in Amsterdam for three days beginning on Tuesday
where the group may toughen its stand on unification of Naga-inhabited
"[Nagaland] has been ripped apart by
a guerrilla war fought to establish a free Christian nation. An
estimated 200,000 Nagas have died in the struggle for freedom from
Indian rule. Most were killed by Indian security forces from 1952 to
1963 [...] Both Christianity and guerrilla warfare took root in the 1950s. Now
some of the Baptists use their faith to explain their motivation to
make war[. Billy] Graham's broadcasts had not reached the distant village of
Ukhrul when Thuingaleng Muivah, Nagaland's future guerrilla leader, was
a boy in the 1940s. But even before he learned to read, Muivah stared
at a picture of Christ cradling a lamb in his father's Bible and later
saw in it a proverb for his people [...] "God has created all of creation. Nagaland is part of creation
- and God has a purpose for it. Surely God means for us to be free,"
says Muivah, now 68 and living in exile in the Netherlands [...] Each soldier is required to carry two items at all times - a packet
of salt to fight dehydration and a pocket-sized Gideons International
Bible [...] Capt. Edwin Shimray, a slight and extremely polite 28-year-old, holds his book gently, like a delicate mountain flower [...] "In the battlefield, even if we don't have time to read," he
says in English, "there is some inspiration in knowing I'm holding the
Bible. It's with me."
"America is funding Christian militants in India, like that they have
done for Taliban This is with the aim to create christian nations in
India by breaking it. American president Bush elected with the help of
the christian fanatics distribute funds from white house. Millions of
dollars flows to christian missionaries and Christian NGOs in India.
The seriousness of this situation can be gauged by the fact that
christians run most of the 4000 NGOs in India and most of them are
involved in misinformation and conversion activities."
"Veiled Muslim women are caricatured as oppressed victims who need
rescuing from their controlling men, while at the same time accused of
being threatening creatures who really should stop intimidating the
(overly tolerant) majority." [Salma Yaqoob, 13 October 2006]
Tony Blair spoke publically for the first time yesterday on the situation of Mirza Tahir Hussain, a British citizen who has spent have his life in on death row in Pakistan for a crime he didn't commit. His execution date will conicide with a visit to the country by Prince Charles. It is looking increasingly likely that Musharraf will use Hussain's life for his own political purposes; he doesn't want to be seen bowing to British pressure. He is all too keen to forget, for a moment, that this whole event is another sad and sick chapter in Pakistani "justice", and that even one of the judges on the panel that convicted Hussain said it was a sham prosecution case. No Orientalists to blame here...
Update:The Graun reports that Pakistan has been warned the royal visit will be scrapped if the execution goes ahead.
Update 2:BBC reports stay of execution of two months.
Neo-Labour's attempt to turn universities into an arm of the security services is both racist and an assault on the one place where you should be able to air views, no matter how controversial. They're asking lecturers to 'spy' on "Asian-looking" students (were Richard Reid or Jermaine Lindsay "Asian-looking"?) who might be involved in terrorist activities and keep a watch out for 'extremist' speakers. If you've been to university in Britain it is quite clear that there are some Muslims with, let's say, 'controversial' views beyond the usual limits of controversy. But this is university, and as a friend remarks after watching university students (of any stripe) marching, protesting and sloganeering: "At university, everyone is right." In other words, students are always convinced of the certainity of their beliefs, but eventually they grow up.
Rather than stamp out dissenting views, I would rather Muslims or others challenge them in a debate -- this is university we're talking about afterall. The funny thing is that all the Hizb al-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun members (the organisations were officialy banned) I came across at university were convinced of the correctness of their beliefs on 'intellectual' grounds. Few individuals ever challenged them on that basis, and banning them or stamping their views out merely convinced them they were right. Besides, the very idea of spying on certain people because of the way they look or what they might believe is counter-productive.
I wish I could share AC Grayling's optimism that all the government was doing was asking universities to report to the police any serious activities that may lead to harm.