“To all those who were sympathetic to the protests in Turkey, it can sometimes feel like you’re living in a different world from your opponents. After all, the media portrays you as artistic freedom loving environmentalist freedom fighters. They tell you time and time again that this is the Turkish spring and that you are the voice of the new young and free Turks leading your country back from the abyss of an autocratic and out of touch dictator. So why don’t the others see this? How could they possibly support Erdogan? Well, here are a few reasons (in no particular order) that I hope might help you understand why the majority of the Muslim world support Erdogan and not your protests”
Does the Bible say that blood sacrifice is necessary for atonement? Join our very own Mr Paul Bilal Williams as he outlines numerous other ways for atonement, outside of sacrifice. For instance, ceasing bad behaviour, acting justly and doing acts of loving kindness etc at speakers corner June 2013.
Cameraman: Aimal Khan
Nazam and Aimal Khan Zamankhail
This blond lady has come all the way from Texas, USA, to convert the Muslims
Christians at Speaker’s Corner come in all types – here is a more colourful example I filmed today.
Today after Speaker’s Corner Adnan Rashid and I made public peace with each other and exchanged Salams. Clearly he and I have differing perspectives on a number of issues but it is important that a line is drawn under the past and we move forward to a new peaceable future. In the light of this I have taken down posts that have mentioned Adnan and apologise for any mistakes I may have made.
Allah, exalted is He, says that whose meaning is:
Who could say anything better
than someone who summons to Allah
and acts rightly
and says, "I am one of the Muslims"?
“The Idea of Muhammad was to convert millions of the human race to high form of culture and civilization. There would be no nihilists or socialist in Europe if Western society was constituted on the basis of Islam. Muhammad raised the status of a woman from being a property to that of a proprietor.” Gottlieb William Leitner, 1889
(from my knowledge he was not directly involved with the heretical Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement)
Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi’s tells how former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, the primary architect of the Iraq war in a desperate attempt, tried to use an Iranian ally to pump up support for the war.
Reported by Anas (RA):
A man asked The Prophet (peace be upon him) about the Hour (i.e. Day of Judgment) saying, “When will the Hour be?” The Prophet said, “What have you prepared for it?” The man said, “Nothing, except that I love Allah and His Apostle.” The Prophet said, “You will be with those whom you love.”
We had never been so glad as we were on hearing that saying of The Prophet (i.e., “You will be with those whom you love”).
Therefore, I love the Prophet (peace be upon him), Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, and I hope that I will be with them because of my love for them, though my deeds are not similar to theirs.
reblogged from the excellent Islamwich
This is some amazing advice I wish I would have had when I first converted. Worth a read especially for converts, but even for born Muslims and non-Muslims to understand what a convert goes through.
1. It Gets Easier
The beginning is always the hardest. You’ve found the truth, fulfillment, and a sense of peace you never imagined possible. A handful of people can’t wait to share Islam with their families, but for most of us, breaking the news to parents, grandparents, relatives, and sometimes kids, brings a sense of dread.
This sense of dread has been even more heightened since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Many people perceive being a Muslim as the antithesis of being an American, even though Islam teaches us to uphold religious freedom. To most people Islamic practice embodies the opposite of American values and lifestyles. Family members may be shocked or even mildly okay at first, but after it has sunk in, they may be angry, devastated, or cut themselves off from you. You may never again experience the kind of emotional hurts that you will when you first tell your family that you’ve accepted Islam. The reality is they are hurting too, and their hurts are justified in their minds, even if they aren’t in yours.
In the beginning many family members will act their worst, making threats and saying hurtful things, but the more you stay calm and continue to be yourself despite your new faith, the more they will cool down and eventually realize they overreacted. Some people may continue to cut you off, but even those hurts will heal as so many more people continue to love and accept you. Hang in there, it does get better.
2. No matter how much you explain, they still may not get it
Sometimes we think that if we just explained to our family members what Islam is and why its right or why it doesn’t oppress women and why it isn’t about terrorism, our family members will suddenly have a light bulb moment and say “You know what, that does make perfect sense! I’m not upset anymore!” Don’t be surprised if it seems to go through one ear and out the other. The truth is they are hearing what you’re saying and cataloging it, but they are too emotional to focus on it right now. [Many people don't think with logic but emotions when it comes to family]
Over time you will begin to have thoughtful, rational conversations with family and friends, but it’s not something that’s going to happen right away in many cases. Even if your family doesn’t have a problem with Islam, or Muslims, they have a problem with you becoming one. You were as American as apple pie; they watched you unwrap Christmas presents under the tree every year, and dreamed of your white wedding. There is a sense of loss that they are trying to cope with.
Don’t expect to rationalize with them much at first (unless they ask questions—and even then, don’t expect too much) and don’t be disheartened.
3. Goodness isn’t just about religion
You will find that some of the best people you know are still people of other faiths, and by “best people” I mean people who are ethical, caring, and altruistic; people who are civil and well-mannered. You will find that some Muslims act as third-world and corrupt as the dictators that preside over their homelands.
Do not assume that all Muslims will be exemplary human beings (and the organizations that many of them run are even worse). Expect to be gravely disappointed in the way many mosques are run and how unkempt they are, in how rude and ill-mannered some of your brothers and sisters in faith are, and at how dysfunctional Islamic schools and their students seem to be.
Be ready to feel a pang of disappointment when you find Thanksgiving with your family was more pleasant than iftar at the masjid with your brothers and sisters in faith. Don’t, however, let this disenchant you from the dīn [path of faith] or become harsh with them. As an American you have been privileged to grow up in a First World country and raised on its high standards. No one chooses the family and country into which they were born. Hone in on your strengths as an American and what positive things you can bring to the community, rather than letting it make you arrogant.
4. Be merciful
Converts are surrounded on all sides by frustrating experiences. They have to deal with ignorance and intolerance from other faith based family and friends, and often have to deal with the same thing from the Muslim community. Add a few bad relationships or failed love stories in and you have a recipe for some serious bitterness.
In extremely rare cases, you have American converts who are willing to kill other Americans in terrorist acts (wrongfully under the banner of the religion they claim to represent), as if they weren’t previously of another faith themselves (and a potential victim for such crimes) not too long ago. Many times we get blind-sided by our negative emotions: fear, disappointment, anger, resentment, etc. We become intolerant of the shortcomings we see in others that we don’t find in ourselves. As converts we are in a unique position of having a blended identity that gives us different perspectives, but whatever shortcomings we see in others we should remember that we have our own as well.
The Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam truly had no shortcomings, and his trademark in dealing with ignorance was mercy. Instead of looking at others with distaste and judging them, we should feel sorry for them if they really have a problem and resolve to be good friends and a positive influences. At no point should any person look at us, Muslim or not, and get the impression that we have our noses in the air. We should focus on keeping a soft heart towards everyone, because the real enemies of Islam are few and far between (though they may get the most traction) and we should always maintain a soft heart towards our Muslim brothers and sisters.
5. Being a Muslim is awesome, becoming a minority is difficult
Welcome to a world you may have never experienced before, the world of “the other.” This is the place of those who don’t hold an “entitlement” card by virtue of their birth, a world of strange looks and racial slurs. This can be hard to grapple with initially since some of us were never raised to deal with it. When you wear hijab you may notice that people aren’t as friendly to you as they once were; you see the change in demeanor that is provoked by your religious identity. It isn’t fair, and being raised on American values that preach fairness and equality but never having really experienced racism yourself, you are in for a frustrating experience.
You will see the latent hypocrisy that exists in many aspects of our society, you will have a perfect image of our great nation shattered, you will experience double standards and security checks and anti-Muslim bigotry, but take heart in the fact that you will also experience the greatness of the human spirit and the American people. You will see that for every negative experience you have, you will have many more positive ones. You will meet people who go out of their way to compliment you on your hijab, people will politely ask you questions and make it a point to tell you how much they respect what you’re doing. You will find that most people strive toward fairness, justice, and morality. The bumps in the road are just going to make the smoother patches seem all the more smooth. Don’t focus on the negative or take it personally, just enjoy the positive.
6. Don’t be a groupie
Never subscribe to any single imām, scholar, or organization as the ultimate authority and source of knowledge, and stay away from people who tell you to do so. There are kooks and cults within the Muslim community, and your innocent, convert face makes you a perfect follower. This isn’t to say that most people are going to ask you to drink poisoned Kool-Aid at the next halaqah [class] or join a terrorist cell at the mosque, but every Muslim follows some sort of “flavor” of Islam that they believe is right, and most haven’t been exposed academically to other ideas and materials.
Even within conservative Islam, there are varying opinions on many subjects, and the best scholars and imams are those who acknowledge those differences respectfully.
Be wary of imams and scholars who are quick to put down others, who insult, and who promote their teachings and opinions as “correct” with a disdain for those who are “incorrect.”
What most people don’t realize is that these types of people are everywhere, not just in the Salafi community. They are Ṣūfis, Ḥanafis, and Progressives too. Every sect within Islam has its extremists. Stay away from all of them.
Also, keep in mind that if you have a question you want answered, talk to a shaykh or imām who understands your particular scenario, preferably one who has a great deal of experience with American issues and converts. Avoid “Shaykh Google” if you can. A good rule of thumb is to seek religious advice or rulings only from someone who is very familiar with your society and circumstances.
7. You are the trophy Muslim (I know, it’s annoying)
“How long have you been Muslim? How did you convert?” These are two questions you are going to hear for the rest of your life, so have the edited monologue ready. Every time people ask you these questions, their eyes light up. They want you to move them and give them their daily īmān-boost with your magical story, and suddenly you feel some pressure to perform. You don’t have to.
While I encourage you to be polite, understand that you aren’t putting on a show to make others feel good about themselves or Islam. Keep it short and simple. Other people will patronize you in the beginning when they hear you’ve been Muslim for a few years, and may ask you basic questions, assuming you know nothing. They are well intentioned, but have a response ready, that is polite but also ends the conversation. You don’t have to stand there and smile and endure this time and again. Be nice but brief, and know that you don’t have to share any details of your life or conversion that you don’t want to.
8. Be careful of whom you marry
There are plenty of examples of successful interracial and intercultural marriages, and most converts will marry someone who is not of the same ethnic background. However, I will say this: you are more American than you probably realize, and even if a man or woman has been living in this country for decades, if they grew up in a Muslim country, you are going to have some major differences in terms of expectations, mannerisms, and how you think and process things.
While racism is completely prohibited in Islam, a person who marries a Muslim from another country will face challenges directly related race and/or culture.
If you’re a woman, you may be especially vulnerable to being put in a position where you are expected to sacrifice aspects of your identity [Don't do this. There is always a way to be you and be in a relationship], especially because you are the one coming from a non-Muslim background [But remember, so did the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions]. This is not to say that this is always the case, but it is a common problem that converts face when marrying, so it’s something to keep in mind.
9. You’re still American, and that’s who you’ll always be
American policies are at a low when it comes to how this country treats Muslims both at home and abroad, and unfortunately anti-Muslim bigotry is shockingly rampant. Many Muslims around the world view America as an enemy, and if we’re honest with ourselves, they have valid reasons to do so. President Obama’s drone strikes in Pakistan, our country’s blind support of Israel, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan haven’t done the American image any favors. All of this anti-American sentiment can make an American Muslim feel guilty for being an American, but don’t let it.
You are an American. You are not a drone program or a war or a policy. You are not anti-Muslim bigotry or Guantanamo Bay. You are a person who was born in a country that has so much more positivity going for it than it does negativity, a country that has provided you with an experience that has made you into the person you are today: the person who chose Islam as their faith. You may be outspoken, educated, independent, proactive, charismatic, caring, brave, and filled with dreams that you are determined to make come true for the better of the Muslim community and the world. You didn’t become all that the day you became a Muslim, you became all that the years you were raised as a can-do American.
Don’t let anyone else tell you what it means to be a true American, or a real patriot. Don’t let anyone make you feel that as a Muslim you are less entitled to being the person you have been your entire life. You have the unique opportunity to redefine American, so get out there and do it.
Always being told that ‘You have to get you Aqeeda right brother/sister’?
Well here is a brilliant and wonderfully accessible explanation of Islamic Aqeeda which is, for once, picture of clarity. The speaker, Ustad Sulaiman, is an instructor at the ‘Avicenna Academy’ in England:
Avicenna Academy is an organisation founded under the guidance of Shaykh Atabek to spread the teachings of Islam through initiatives located in the North of England. Insha’Allah with the medium of the internet Avicenna Academy has a Global reach.
The vision and goals of the Academy’s members is to seek the pleasure of Allah. We hope to do this by providing Islamic educational initiatives in in the North of England. This will be achieved by addressing two areas of educational need for the Muslim community:-
- Providing members of the Academy and community with opportunities to pursue a comprehensive and structured curriculum for Islamic learning.
- Provide a platform for educational talks and seminars to address specific areas of learning for the wider community.
An awesome rant by Asharis: Assemble
At a recent debate in the hallowed halls of the Oxford Union on the motion ’This House Believes That Islam Is A Religion Of Peace’, Muslim journalist and commentator Mehdi Hassan had his turn to speak after two of his opponents had presented the case that Islam was responsible for: war in general, the marriage of children, the murder of children, murder in general, the stoning of adulterers, the mis-education of women, the killing of all dissenters from within and without, the economic backwardness of much of the Earth’s territory, the killing of homosexuals, the government and laws of The Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia, the Government of Pakistan, the government of all Muslim countries including the secular ones but especially Iran, anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jews and a threat to the existence of the Oxford Union itself.
‘I’m sorry’ replied Mehdi Hassan (I’m paraphrasing), ‘I’m sorry for…Saudi Arabia, I’m sorry for 9-11, I’m sorry for 7/7 I’m sorry for…’ The audience laughed.
But they didn’t really get the joke.
How funny they thought, here is this brown man in a suit, a spokesman for his faith and community, look how eloquently he exposes his opponents! They blame him for what people who look and think like him have done! How absurd! His facetious apology exposes their attempt to hold all Muslims to account for the transgressions of some Muslims! Here Here!
But like I said, that’s not what he was really saying. Or rather, it was not all he was saying. He went on ‘I find it strange that I am to be taken to task for the treatment of Jews by self-appointed representatives of Judeo – Christian Europe. The Holocaust…’ before he could finish, the murmur of unease and criticism went up in the hall, a replica of Parliament. A young man stood up and objected: ‘But you’re doing exactly what they did to you! Tarnishing a whole civilization by the crime of some!’
When they understood where he was going with this line of logic, they did not like it. How could he bring up the Holocaust and use that to critique European post – Enlightenment civilization? We thought he was making a sarcastic apology for the alleged crimes of Muslims. But now it appears what he really wants to say is:
‘If I and my people are to be accounted for the transgressions of our culture and religion, be it in Saudi Arabia or Iran, now or a thousand years ago, how about we ALL play that game?’
And why not? What’s wrong with that? Why can he not attack his intellectual opponents in the broad, sweeping, civilisational, atemporal strokes that they do? Because not only they, but even the rest of the audience would not like the outcome.
How about if every nominal Christian, or European nationalist or secularist or Frenchman or, in short, anyone who ‘looked like’ a member of European ’civilization’ had to explain and apologise for:
- The forced conversion of pagans to Christianity (King Cnut etc.)
- The Northern Crusades against Pagans
- The Northern Crusades against other Christians
- Crusades against the Muslims and Jews and Christians of The Middle East
- The Christian European princes’ incitement of The Mongols to massacre Muslims
- The repeated expulsions of Jews from Europe and the repeated pogroms against them
- The forced conversions of Jews in nearly every Christian territory in Europe. Repeatedly
- The expulsion and murder of Jews from the Iberian peninsula
- The expulsion and murder of Jews from nearly every European state
- The expulsion and killing of the Muslims of the Iberian peninsula
- The expulsion and killing of the inhabitants of the New World by the same Spanish who evicted the Jews…
- And by all the other European colonial powers that made it to the New World (Portuguese, British, French, Dutch…)
- And the Pacific Islands
- And Australia
- The small matter of The Transatlantic Slave Trade and it’s role in permitting the Industrial Revolution
- The slave trade within the European powers (including Britain)
- The persecution of Protestant Churches and by the Catholic powers after the Edict of Worms proscribing religious freedom
- The subsequent persecution of Catholic minorities by Protestant lands/principalities
- All the wars fought over Christian sectarianism, too numerous to list
- All the bans on the expression of various Christian ‘heresies’, too numerous to list
- The ban on practising any religion other than Christianity in the UK until the mid nineteenth century…and all similar bans
- The Spanish inquisition and the thousands of dead Muslims, Jews (and Christians) over nearly 400 years of it’s existence
- The Inquisition in the New World
- The Inquisition in the Philippines and the forced conversion of SE Asian principalities and Sultanates to Christianity
- The Salem Witch Trials
- All the random people that died in ‘The Terror’ of the French Revolution
- The Great Famine in Ireland
- The Opium Wars and The Unequal Treaties
- The ban on religions freedom by Peter the Great in Russia.
- The annexation of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand into the Russian empire
- British Imperialism in general
- French Imperialism in general
- Spanish Imperialism in general
- The Mexican Cession of 1848 to the United States
- To save time, ‘Imperialism’
- To save a LOT of time, lets fast forward to…
- WWI (in which 1.2 million Indian troops alone served in a war which had nothing to do with them…and then leaving them out of all of the crappy ‘men in a trench’ movies)
- WWII, which also had hardly anything to do with the colonised nations but in which millions of North African (Muslim), Sub Saharan African, Indian etc troops of all religions served…and then also got left out of all those crappy WWII movies
- The Holocaust. Yes. It wasn’t Muslims ‘what done it’
- All those people Stalin killed in collectivisation etc
- Inventing and using Nuclear Weapons
- Testing nuclear weapons in colonies and in areas like Kazakhstan (i.e. not on their own populations)
- We will forget that Communism is a product of Western Civilization. ‘Cos then we would have to talk about Mao, Pol-Pot…
- Jim Crow
- Supporting apartheid in South Africa and resisting sanctions against them (UK, US…)
- Killing at least four million people in the Vietnam War. And making crappy movies trying to show they were the bad guys
- US Interventions in…
Korea and China 1950-53
Lebanon 1983, 1984 (both Lebanese and Syrian targets)
- Uh, lets skip a few to save time…
- Supporting the Shah of Iran and Savak.
- Installing and supporting the same Saudi Arabian regime on account of which Muslims are labelled ‘barbarous’ with billions in military sales and tens of thousands of stationed troops (first British, now American)
- Supporting Israel unequivocally. No matter what they do.
- Supporting assorted Middle Eastern dictators and murderers (i.e Mubarak, Ben Ali)
- Supporting General Pinochet…and countless South American dictators and coups such as
El Salvador 1980s
- To save even more time, we’ll only mention the above US interventions and not those of others…
- Killing in the region of a million Iraqis in the Iraq War. Having already killed half a million or more through sanctions
- Actually admitting that but then saying it was ‘worth it’
- Killing at least half a million Afghanis in the Afghan War
- Killing over a million Afghans in the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
- Not giving women the vote until the 20th century (when Muhammad (PBUH) gave it to them 1400 years ago)
- Locking up homosexual people until the mid to late 20th Century when the ‘Shariah law barbarians’ of the Ottoman Empire decriminalised it in the mid 19th century (though not declaring it moral)
- Forcing women to dress how YOU want in France, Spain, Germany, Singapore, Turkey…
- Denying women the ‘right to education’ if they dress how THEY want to in France, Spain, Singapore, Turkey…
- Innumerable racist murders. Ongoing
- Innumerable murders and violent crimes within their own borders
- All rape by ‘Westerners’
- All domestic violence by ‘Westerners’
- All ‘Crimes of Passion’ or ‘honour killings’ of women (as I prefer to call them) by ‘westerners’
- All sex trafficking by ‘Westerners’
- All sex tourism and paedophilia in SE Asia (and anywhere else) by Western ‘sexpatriates’.
You get the idea.
What if I as a Muslim was to or expect require all people who look, act or think like ‘Westerners’ to ‘feel bad’ about all of this stuff (and the literally hundreds of other embarrassing ’civilizational gaffes’ not included in this list) every single time they talk about their society and their history?
Further, what if I insist that I would like each community and religious leader, like the Pope and the President of the US, the head of the EU to apologise for all of this stuff explicitly every time he or she talks about ‘their’ way of life, religion, democracy, capitalism or any other idea held by ‘Westerners’?
What if I further reserve the right to blame all of these acts not on the individuals which are responsible, but on the civilization that produced those individuals and on the ideas and beliefs it holds dear, including Liberalism, Christianity, Atheism, secularism, capitalism or whatever else I feel like that day. And if I also demanded that this be entertained under the heading of ‘freedom of speech’, critique or at worst ‘mockery’ and comedy?
Do you get it?
Cool new video from The University of Lincoln Islamic Society featuring, amongst other things, some footage of me (1:40) making a comment about Jesus’ surname and Hamza Tzortzis speaking of his atheist friend…
The University of Lincoln Islamic Society have recently submitted a video to the Royal Bank of Scotland Enterprising Students’ Societies Accreditation competition which recognises the contributions student societies make in promoting cohesion between different clubs, groups and societies at the university and it’s local community.
In order to qualify as finalists we need to accumulate views. We need your help!
Could you please promote the following link between staff and students at your Society using: Facebook; Twitter, Text or Email – anything you guys can think of – we’d really appreciate it.
It would be great to have the Muslim effort at the University of Lincoln recognised, and would help encourage certain sections of the wider community of Lincoln dispel any hostility towards local Muslims – and their plan to erect a purpose built mosque in the near future.
EVERY VIEW COUNTS!
Encourage others to view the video by sharing it as much as you can.
University of Lincoln Islamic Society
“… any Preacher of any religious persuasion who might desire to say something to the People of Philadelphia, the Design [purpose] in building not being to accommodate any particular Sect, but the Inhabitants in general, so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a Missionary to preach Mahometanism [Islam] to us, he would find a Pulpit at his Service”.
-Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, circa 1791
by Dr Reza Pankhurst
June 13, 2013
The ‘Blair narrative’ is not new but dates back to the beginning of the so-called “war of terror.” It effectively shifts the blame off Western foreign policy—something for which the former British Prime Minister became detested in many quarters—and onto a foreign perverted “ideology.” After the killing of an off-duty officer in Woolwich London, Blair lay the blame firmly upon this “ideology,” making the claim that “there is a problem within Islam” though not “a problem with Islam.” Blair characterized this as the “Islamist” ideology, a “strain within Islam” (as opposed to “Saudi” Islam, among other “strains,” that he has been quite happy to endorse or remain silent about). In a nutshell, these claims form the basis of the false narrative that highly respected lawyer Gareth Pierce identified as now dominating political discourse in the West in her book Dispatches from the Dark Side, a discourse continued by current British Prime Minister David Cameron when he announced in parliament soon after Blair’s article when ordering a “crackdown” on the “conveyor belt of hate” he claimed existed in some schools and universities.This Blair narrative is the political face of a much more explicit view that the United States (and by extension, the “West”) is engaged in a war with Islam, which according to Jeremy Scahill’s “Dirty Wars” was commonly held among senior figures appointed in the Rumsfield-Cheney era – such as Donald Rumsfield’s intelligence director General Boykin and the head of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) General Stanley McChrystal among others. One American officer once described Boykin’s and McChrystal’s opinion that there was a “great crusade against Islam,” justifying attacks on Muslims “because you were fighting against the Caliphate.”However far reaching or deeply held this opinion may be (or not), such an idea of a “War on Islam” could never be explicitly endorsed due to the obvious public relations ramifications. But, by publicly claiming that Islam is a religion of peace while simultaneously asserting that “Islamism” is the problem, it is possible to avoid a conflict with “Islam” yet wage a “war of terror” against “terrorists” which has been extended to encompass the ideology of “Islamist extremism” behind the “terrorism.”This “Islamist extremism” is nothing to do with attacking civilians, but rather as Blair put it in his recent intervention it is “a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.”
Or in other words, the political aspects of Islam that run contrary to Western liberal values and views of how a state should be organized.
The “Conveyor Belt to Terrorism”
The Blair narrative contends that it is these aspects of Islam that are the threat to international peace today (as opposed to engaging in wars in the Middle East on spurious grounds, or the support for dictators against their own people, or the continued abuses and atrocities committed in the name of “defending freedom.”) It states that political aspirations widely shared by Muslims such as belief in a caliphate, or the even more commonly held foreign policy grievances, are precursors to engaging in “terrorism” and that there should be no space permitted to allow any discussion with or even among Muslims of such political aspirations or grievances as legitimate through the use of exclusionary discourse. All the while, foreign policy is excused or ignored as the primary causal factor of blowback.
The narrative had become so dominant in Britain that by 2009 the British government considered plans to formalize key identifiers for “extremists” including a belief in the applicability of Sharia law in contemporary times, the concept of belonging to a single Muslim community internationally (the umma), the legitimacy in resisting armed attack and occupation through the use of force (Jihad), and the aspiration of living under an Islamic caliphate.
Following the attack on May 22 in Woolwich, the same false narrative was again thrust into the forefront of the media, with a BBC article written by one self-proclaimed “ex-extremist” stating that the four major components of “Islamism” that needed to be tackled were: the idea of caliphate, the umma, Sharia, and Jihad—all part of the same Blair narrative. The same four were then subsequently mentioned by Boris Johnson in a Telegraph article entitled “By standing united, we can isolate the virus of Islamism” where he stated that “we need to make a hard and sharp distinction between that religion [Islam] – and the virus of ‘Islamism’” before going on to talk about the four points in negative terms. Blair’s own intervention made the more general point that there remained a problem within a “strain” of Islam.
In truth, many aspects of what are labeled elements of “Islamist extremism” form part of normative, traditional Islamic views rather than being perverted anomalies. When declaring an ongoing struggle between the “West” with “Islamist extremism,” what is meant is the conflict between Western values and views of state and those found in traditional Islamic scholarship. And in continuing to label normative Islamic viewpoints in pejorative terms while framing them as security problems and causal factors for attacks on civilians in the West, it is not surprising that more hatred and misunderstanding is created both domestically against Muslim communities settled in the west and internationally against Muslim-majority countries.
“Islamism,” Normative Islam and the Discourse of Exclusion
Each of the four points mentioned as the key identifiers of “Islamism” and “extremism” are part of centuries of normative orthodox Islamic scholarship, recognized as such in Western academia (as can be confirmed through a perusal of the 13 volume Encyclopedia of Islam published by Brill). Indeed, it is an ironic fact that according to traditional Islamic scholarship, denying the obligation of a caliphate (one of the identifiers of “extremist” thought) would be considered as the perverted, heretical view, a point I have discussed from an academic perspective in a separate short article recently.
It follows therefore that it should not be surprising that as a result of increased religiosity these ideas are widely supported by Muslims internationally. For example, the results of research carried out by University of Maryland in 2007 found that an average of 71 per cent of those interviewed across four Muslim countries (Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia and Pakistan) agreed with the goal of requiring “strict application of Sharia law in every Islamic country,” while also finding that sixty-five per cent agreed with the goal of unifying “all Islamic countries into a single state or caliphate.” Therefore, the labeling of these aspirations as “Islamist” and “extremist” also labels swaths of Muslims globally who are inspired by normative Islamic values (as well as those who carry such beliefs in the west) as “Islamist extremists.”
Since these identifiers of “Islamism” are in fact agreed upon parts of normative Islamic scholarship and widely supported by Muslims, it may be surmised that the use of the term “Islamism” is simply to identify those parts of normative Islam that are unpalatable to western liberal values or inconvenient for foreign policy. The contemporary usage of “Islamism” and “extremism” are both generally intended as pejorative terms, part of the deployment of a discourse that among other things serves to demonize opponents and intends to exclude opinions that run contrary to the interests of the political elite.
The continued use of the term “Islamist” along with “extremism” is the kind of language that the American Muslim advocacy group CAIR complained about recently, with their communications director Ibrahim Hooper writing an op-ed in January 2013 which stated that “Unfortunately, the term “Islamist” has become shorthand for “Muslims we don’t like.” It is currently used in an almost exclusively pejorative context and is often coupled with the term “extremist,” giving it an even more negative slant.”
This is a tactic which is not limited to Muslims. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has been variously referred to as a party of fruitcakes, loonies, and extremists all within the last year, before reluctantly being accepted by the liberal mainstream as “mainstream” as a result of their electoral success. Either their policies are “extremist,” in which case the British establishment is now pandering to extremism by accepting UKIP as mainstream, or they are not, which means that the label of “extremism” was simply used to try to exclude them from the political discourse, until they received such popular support that it was impossible to ignore them.
The Fallacy of the “Conveyor Belt” Theory
Internal government reports leaked to the Sunday Telegraph in 2010concluded that they “do not believe that it is accurate to regard radicalization in this country as a linear ‘conveyor belt’ moving from grievance, through radicalization, to violence”. They went on that the “thesis seems to both misread the radicalization process and to give undue weight to ideological factors.” So according to the British government’s own officials and experts, suggesting that “Islamist extremist” aspirations (which are a part of normative Islam) are a gateway to terrorism is incorrect. Hence any subsequent claims to that effect can reasonably be construed as politically disingenuous.
While the conveyor-belt theory may offer a simplistic narrative fit for popular consumption, the issues involved in such cases seldom are.
Each case has several idiosyncratic elements involved that also need to be considered. In the specific instance of Woolwich, though many details are still yet to emerge, there are claims that one of the alleged perpetrators Michael Adebolajo was tortured in Kenya in 2010 and was subsequently approached numerous times by British intelligence, while Michael Adebowale saw a friend “literally sliced to pieces” in front of him (while being stabbed himself) in 2008. This means that the role of torture, security service harassment and other traumatic experiences along with other socio-economic factors would also have to be analyzed to understand the specific mindsets and motivations of these two men. Even then, none of this proves any causality.
There are other slightly more detailed phase models that attempt to explain and help identify radicalization currently used by western police and intelligence services, such as those developed by the NYPD and Danish Security and Intelligence Services. However, other academic research, such asa report by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, argues that these models have major substantive shortcomings, are based upon post hoc studies and make the simple methodological error of “selection on the dependent variable”, among others, which invalidates their conclusions. As the report mentions, just as it is impossible to explain why books become bestsellers by examining only bestsellers, it is impossible to explain radicalization only by cases of radicalization.
There are obvious problems with these simplistic models, which are multiplied when considering the crude contention that “non-violent extremism” leads to “violent extremism.” Drawing conclusions based on theories that suffer from this type of selection bias is extremely risky and may inadvertently substantiate statements such as “not every Islamist extremist is a terrorist, but all Islamist extremist terrorists are Islamist extremists,” which could be considered a politically correct way of suggesting “not every Muslim is a terrorist, but all Muslim terrorists are Muslim,” particularly when it has already been shown that the identifiers of “Islamist extremism” are actually unequivocally aspects of normative Islam.
Consequences to the Blair Narrative
While both the Blair narrative and the convenient “conveyor-belt” theory may assuage the public’s need for an explanation of what lies behind such attacks—which politicians are loath to admit is linked to Western foreign policy—they only further alienate and frustrate those Muslims who have legitimate foreign policy grievances and believe in normative Islamic ideals.
Additionally, they serve to sow distrust and suspicion against Muslims among the rest of the population, exemplified by the former head of MI5 Stella Stella Rimington, who recently implied people should be spying on their neighbors in order to inform the police for any signs of “extremism.” A further example would be Cameron’s intervention in parliament on June 3, warning against extremism in mosques and Islamic seminaries (despite the fact that neither had anything to do with the Woolwich attack). The same week then witnessed more arson attacks, this time on an Islamic studies boarding school and an Islamic community center both in London—highlighting how the political discourse feeds into anti-Muslim sentiments on the ground and can lead to such results. A simple inversion of the conveyor belt theory would therefore pose many more questions of Cameron et al who hold official positions of power and influence over millions, as opposed to the accused “extremists.”
There was a reported 15-fold increase in reported attacks upon Muslims and mosques in the days after the Woolwich attack, not unsurprising given the circumstances but fed by the restatement of the same narrative—that Islam is not the “problem” but an “Islamist extremism,” which is then defined in terms of normative Islamic views and holding grievances against foreign policy. It is unlikely many people will see the proclaimed difference, and they are certainly unable to see any difference between Cameron’s “good” and “bad” Islamic seminaries and mosques.
In any case, Blair’s recent intervention indicates that he is slowly giving up the pretense that any such difference between “Islam” and “Islamism” exists stating “the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit.” By making such comments, the mask of the “Islamist extremist” narrative momentarily slipped to reveal the true meanings behind the discourse: Islam and Muslims are to blame for the blowback of a globalized war of which he was a major protagonist.
The same war without limits is today led by President Obama, who only recently was compelled to outline policy regarding drone strikes and Guantanamo bay detention center, two of the most frequently discussed grievances regarding America’s foreign policy of the moment (part of a long list including but not limited to illegal renditions, torture, indiscriminate killing and the continuing effects of the use of depleted uranium shells). Such policies are what lead commentators such as Glenn Greenwald to continuously point out that “the proximate cause of these attacks are plainly political grievances: namely, the belief that engaging in violence against aggressive western nations is the only way to deter and/or avenge western violence that kills Muslim civilians.”
As highlighted in numerous polls and obvious to any observer, grievances regarding western foreign policy in the Middle East and other Muslim countries are widespread. The recent uprisings in the region have all been against former allies in America’s “war on terror,”: Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia, Gaddafi in Libya, Saleh in Yemen and now al-Assad in Syria, all of whom were formerly collaborating with America in intelligence-sharing, renditions, and torture. Belief in an idealized global Islamic brotherhood is still cherished by Muslims despite their internal differences while aspirations for Islamic governance under Sharia law and the unification of Muslim countries are also popular and mainstream in several parts of the Muslim world.
Demonizing such grievances and aspirations may be understandable in the context of secular, liberal western democracies, especially when governments are participating as part of a seemingly never ending, expanding and self-perpetuating “war of terror.” However, such demonization is hardly conducive to community cohesion whether in a national or international context.
An alternative prudent and principled approach would be to instead start making truly concerted efforts to understand what such grievances and aspirations really mean to their advocates, rather than simply inaccurately labeling them as international security concerns while continuing to prosecute aggression seemingly without limits or oversight against others abroad in what arguably looks very much like a thinly disguised war on Islam.
Source: Foreign Policy Journal
REZA PANKHURST is a political scientist and historian, specialising in the Middle East and Islamic movements. He has a doctorate from the London School of Economics, where he previously completed his Masters degree in the History of International Relations.
His latest book, The Inevitable Caliphate? A History of the Struggle for Global Islamic Union, 1924 to the Present, is published by Hurst and available now.
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