Posts Tagged ‘Islamists’

Gilligan on the state and Islamism

August 8, 2010

It may be an article in the Telegraph written by Andrew Gilligan, but I have no qualms in saying that this is a good article.

It’s hardly groundbreaking but it’s a neat summary of the current situation and the direction of travel we should move in.

I would only question a few points. Gilligan insists that there is a clear distinction between ‘Islamist’ and ‘Islamic’ thinking. This is debatable – it could be more useful to consider them as different points on the same ideological spectrum.

It’s also a tad simplistic to declare that Maududi was the “founder” of Islamism. That’s like positing that there was a single thinker responsible for coming up with socialism. Other notable Islamists gave the creed their own flavours, such as Qutb and al-Banna (who of course gave it al-Bannana flavour. *Boom boom*).

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It’s 2010, so can we please move out of the dark ages now?

January 2, 2010

As one axe-wielding religious maniac tries to kill a blasphemous cartoonist, atheists in Ireland are organising a campaign against the new blasphemy law over there.

In Ireland, where the government presumably considers itself fairly enlightened and rational, those convicted of the crime of blasphemy face a possible fine of €25,000. I suppose taking money off blasphemers is indeed more liberal than the punishment preferred by Islamists – i.e. taking the disbelievers’ heads off with an axe! – but the entire concept of a blasphemy law is a humiliation for humanity and has no place in the 21st century.

All sensible religious folk appreciate that the doctrines they follow originated as heresy. Every religion was once as wacky as Scientology. Of course, the instinct to protect our deeply held beliefs from vilification is something we all possess, but it is ridiculous and dangerous to try to use the law to silence critics.

Anyway, people ‘of faith’ should have more, well, faith in the righteousness of their individual religious views. Relying on the state’s authority for shielding your beliefs from the sacrilegious is surely a sign of weakness. Plus, we all have an interest in maintaining freedom of speech. Blasphemy laws should be opposed by anyone who values an open, tolerant society where differing views are welcomed.

This issue is far from abstract. As well as the potential for criminal prosecution in Ireland, various regimes around the world (usually Islamist inclined) are attempting to curtail free speech through imposing special protections for religion. Pakistan seems to have been inspired by the wording of the Irish blasphemy law when it suggested something similar at the United Nations.

Blasphemy laws encourage reactionary governments to place even greater controls over what their citizens think. They also give succour to the religious fundamentalists who won’t be satisfied until we all believe whatever nonsense it is that they believe and who think they are justified in trying to murder a cartoonist who pokes fun at one aspect of their belief system.

Shame on the Irish government (currently composed of the right-wing Fianna Fail Party and the Greens) for having this law on the books. It would be nice if the Irish Labour Party did the right thing and voiced more opposition to this.

The campaign group Atheist Ireland has published some classic blasphemous quotes to draw attention to the silliness of the law. As a simple act of solidarity, and because copying and pasting is very easy to do, here are some of the best:

Jesus Christ, when asked if he was the son of God, in Matthew 26:64: “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” According to the Christian Bible, the Jewish chief priests and elders and council deemed this statement by Jesus to be blasphemous, and they sentenced Jesus to death for saying it.

Frank Zappa, 1989: “If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine – but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good – and cares about any of it – to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.”

Salman Rushdie, 1990: “The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas – uncertainty, progress, change – into crimes.” In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because of blasphemous passages in Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.

Christopher Hitchens in God is not Great, 2007: “There is some question as to whether Islam is a separate religion at all… Islam when examined is not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require… It makes immense claims for itself, invokes prostrate submission or ‘surrender’ as a maxim to its adherents, and demands deference and respect from nonbelievers into the bargain. There is nothing-absolutely nothing-in its teachings that can even begin to justify such arrogance and presumption.”

Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”

The Pantybomber and the middle-class nature of terrorism.

December 28, 2009

The case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (nicknamed ‘The Pantybomber’ by wags) has been analysed in various ways.

Some focus on what the development of exploding underwear means for airport security and the travel industry. Others look at the significance of what appears to be Al Qaeda’s ongoing desire to blow things up in American skies. I’m sure there’s a terrorism expert getting excited about this wannabe-suicide bomber coming from Nigeria.

What I find interesting is that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his alleged crime present further evidence that terrorism is an essentially middle-class endeavour. Perhaps even upper-middle-class, if we are going to get specific about it.

Abdulmutallab is an extreme example in that his background is especially wealthy and privileged. Not quite at the same level of spoilt bratness as Osama bin Laden, but getting there. However, research suggests that most recruits to terrorism come from relatively well-off families and are educated to at least degree level, which makes them decisively middle-class.

Of course, it depends on how you define terrorism and class exactly. Definitions need to be taken into account, but let’s not get bogged down in this for now. Trust me – there is a lot of interesting stuff that has been written about the relationship between individual terrorists and social class. 

Victoroff’s review article ‘The Mind of the Terrorist’ has a handy table on page 8 showing the reported demographics of terrorists from the mid 20th to early 21st centuries. Terrorism expert Martha Crenshaw came up with the memorable phrase: “Terrorism is the resort of an elite when conditions are not revolutionary”. Scott Atran looked at the data about suicide bombers in the Middle East and came to the conclusion that, despite the stereotypes made by terrorists’ supporters and opponents, “sucide terrorists are neither poor nor ignorant”.

In conclusion: academics writing about how terrorists tend to be poshos will now be able to use Abdulmutallab as another example supporting their hypothesis.

Ken Livingstone up to his old tricks.

December 23, 2009

As I’ve said before, I like many things about Ken Livingstone and his politics, but I am also very annoyed by his cosying up to Islamist organisations.

I received an email today from Progressive London (basically Ken’s re-election campaign group). They are holding a conference at the end of January. A variety of ‘progressive’ speakers will be there. Obviously I’m not going to approve of all of them – after all Ken wants to establish a broad-based coalition of support.

However, I’m uber-peeved that Ken has invited Abdul Bari of the Muslim Council of Britain and Anas Altikriti of the British Muslim Initiative. Ken’s close cooperation with these so-called representatives of Muslim opinion reeks of communalist politics – i.e. get someone from an organisation with the word ‘Muslim’ in its title and we can then rely on them to deliver us the Muslim votes.

It is sickening to have these organisations represented at a left-wing conference when many aspects of their politics are so far from ‘progressive’ (at least as far as I understand what the term is supposed to mean). The Muslim Council of Britain spent many years boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day. The British Muslim Initiative is led by a man linked by the BBC to Hamas and who was apparently caught on camera ranting about the “evil Jew”.

Ken’s connections to these reactionary weirdos makes me far less enthusiastic about supporting him again as Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London.

Thuggish behaviour rewarded with air time?

December 2, 2009

I nearly choked on my Weetabix when I heard a spokesman from ‘Islam 4 UK’ being interviewed on the Today programme this morning.

Islam 4 UK, otherwise known as Al Muhajiroun, are a bunch of extreme Isla-mentalists who recently pelted Baroness Warsi, the Tory peer, with eggs because they consider her to be a bad Muslim  (I suspect any woman who gets involved in politics is a bad Muslim in the eyes of these nuts).

What kind of message does this send out? That fringe groups engaging in anti-democratic antics will be rewarded with an opportunity to explain themselves on Radio 4’s most popular programme to its millions of listeners?

Ridiculous journalism. I have complained to the BBC.

Hizb ut High School Musical and the continuing confusion caused by faith schools.

November 28, 2009

The ‘Hizb ut Tahrir running faith schools’ scandal got big this week.

The Tories made a mess of things by getting the details wrong and embarrassing themselves in Parliament. More fool them. It is not quite a simple case of anti-extremism funds being given to a bunch of extremists.

However, it is still apparent that the state is willing to hand over money to religious organisations and entrust them with educating children even if officials have little idea what these groups’ religious beliefs are exactly or what political organisations (such as Hizb ut Tahrir) they share members with.

For instance, Newsnight dug up an article written by the headmistress of one of the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation schools (the ‘charity’ given funds to run faith schools) in which she churns out the usual Isla-mentalist nonsense about the importance of hating democracy and refusing to integrate with Western culture.

How exactly does the screening process work when the Department for Children, Schools and Families is deciding which religious organisations should be allowed to set-up faith schools? How much effort are they putting into examining that fine line – that oh-so-delicate balance – between people who are very very sincerely religious and those who are ideological nuts?

The goal of the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation is to develop the “Islamic personality” of young British Muslims. Hizb ut Tahrir also likes to bang on about the “Islamic personality” and this shared outlook is being used as evidence that the schools are promoting dangerous Islamism.

But ultimately all faith schools seek to develop children with religious personalities – whether they are producing good little Christians, Jews, Muslims or whatever.  If we’re not comfortable with public funds going towards an organisation that sees education as a tool for creating Islamic personalities then why are we cool with other religious groups doing the same?

In my opinion the government’s support for faith schools is well-intentioned but misguided. It is hard to make judgements about religious groups and how appropriate it is for them to be involved in running state-funded schools. Much simpler and much fairer to have a system where all schools are run along secular lines.

Sadly, getting to such a situation from where we are at the moment would not be easy and I don’t think anyone has the political imagination or courage to call for the leap.

On a more positive note, it’s nice to see the media starting to get quotes from the excellent new group British Muslims for Secular Democracy when covering a story about Islam in Britain. For too long lazy journalists have just asked the Muslim Council of Britain for their views. Considering how many Islamists there are in the MCB it has been a mistake to present them as  representing British Muslims. Recognising that British Muslims do not form a homogenous block of opinion is progress.

Quilliam foundation to sue Craig Murray.

November 12, 2009

Having just finished reading Ed Husain’s ‘The Islamist’, I hear that Husain’s counterextremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation is taking libel action against blogger and anti-war activist Craig Murray.

Craig Murray was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan until a big hooha about torture allegations a few years ago. Murray seemed to be a whistleblower standing up for human rights.

His behaviour since then has been fairly odd. He comes across as a conspiraloon who sees the dark forces of the neo-con agenda everywhere. He has stood as a “pretty rubbish” (his own words) independent candidate in a parliamentary by-election. Oh, and he’s “hypersexual” (again, his own words).

Murray bangs on about the Quilliam Foundation being a tool of New Labour and has described redeemed Islamist Ed Husain as someone who decided he could “make more money and career progress by turning traitor” on his former mad beliefs and mad Islamist colleagues. Some of us call it ‘seeing the light’; Murray considers it ‘treachery’.

Murray has also suggested public money handed over to the Quilliam Foundation has gone AWOL (in a blog post that has landed him in trouble with the Quilliam lawyers). 

Understandably Ed Husain and the Quilliam Foundation are pretty peeved at these allegations. Murray will now have to produce from underneath his tin foil hat lots of evidence to support his claims.

My instinct is to oppose well-funded organisations using libel law to shut up their badly funded opponents. However, considering the sensitive job they’re trying to do in winning the support of British Muslims and undermining the influence of Islamists, it’s clearly very important for Quilliam to safeguard its reputation. Therefore, I’m not sure what I feel about this case, but I will follow it with interest…

All or nothing in Afghanistan.

November 4, 2009

The situation:

The primary objective of the UK presence in Afghanistan is apparently to prevent the country from being used as a massive training camp for Islamist terrorists. We are informed that the majority of terrorist plots against the UK have some connection with Afghanistan or the semi-anarchic tribal area of bordering Pakistan – either being planned there or terrorists travelling there for preparation. I have no reason to think this isn’t true.

Adopting that fairly realist outlook on the overriding justification for the Afghan war, it seems to me that we either need to give the conflict ‘all’ or ‘nothing’. 

All:

If we accept that the military campaign in Afghanistan is necessary for ensuring Britain’s security then the government should have no hesitation in ratcheting up the campaign.

The generals have repeatedly stated that their job would be easier with greater resources. Therefore: send more troops, spend more money on equipment, make the defeat of the Taliban the top government priority.

A war that is so clearly needed will be supported by the public. After all, surely the government could easily make the case for prolonging a just and necessary war and for concentrating resources upon securing victory.

229 British troops have died in Afghanistan thus far. Sad and regrettable, but a miniscule number when compared to previous conflicts fought to keep the country safe. If the war is so necessary then the government and the public would be prepared for a much, much higher casualty rate. 

Nothing:

A cost-benefit analysis could lead to a different conclusion. 229 dead servicemen and women outnumber the combined British civilians killed in the 7/7 terrorist attacks (52 ), the 9/11 attacks (67), and the Bali bombings (24). Maintaining the British presence in Afghanistan is clearly going to result in more British deaths – even if a total defeat of the Taliban can be secured (there’s little confidence that this could happen soon).

At what point do we decide that the Afghan mission is costing more British lives than it is saving? Taking into additional account the resources required for fighting the war that could be invested in domestic public services with tangible social benefits, we may conclude that Britain’s national interests could be best served by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and redistributing funds away from the defence budget.

Yes, Afghanistan would probably have to endure another bloody civil war and the reinstatement of a Taliban regime. Islamist terrorists may find it easier to plan attacks upon the West, or perhaps will lend greater support to the insurgents in Pakistan.

But if our decision-making is primarily guided by British interests then there is still a case to be made for ending the British military presence and abandoning Afghanistan to its fate. Painful as it is to say it, we could even calculate that putting up with a repeat of 7/7 (or several) works out cheaper in terms of lives and resources than maintaining the war.

Conclusion:

As the conflict continues the hopes for the Western mission in Afghanistan have become increasingly subdued. The idea of spreading freedom and democracy has been practically abandoned. Even the more modest aim of simply establishing a secure and effective anti-Taliban government (however corrupt and undemocratic it is) is proving difficult.

If we are serious about preventing another Taliban takeover because we genuinely feel this is necessary for protecting British national security then surely we have to give the Afghan campaign everything we’ve got. If, however, we are unwilling to make such sacrifices then there is no point in maintaining the mission upon its present course and instead the government should immediately organise a timetable for withdrawal.

Standing up for Secular Democracy.

October 31, 2009

I turned up to join in this protest today. Islamist loons were supposed to be there demanding the establishment of Sharia Law in Britain. They didn’t bother to turn up. David T of Harry’s Place said that the Islamists were claiming to have received death threats but they probably knew that they were going to be outnumbered by the counter-demonstrators. Disappointing – I was looking forward to observing the crazed antics of Islam4UK!

As well as the nice multiracial secular democrats there was also a contingent of ‘English Defence League’-types. They were wearing lots of St.George’s flags, had a banner that said ‘March for England’, and most were skinheads. Standing next to them waiting to see if the Islamists were going to appear was a bit awkward.

The most exciting moment was when the police suddenly stopped the traffic in the streets and cleared the roads. Were the Islam4UK nutters about to arrive after all? The tension mounted. A large mass seemed to be approaching with a police escort in front. We could then make out that the police were escorting a group of about 100 motorbikes. Had the jihadis launched a motorised division? Frankly, I was terrified.

However, it turned out that it was a totally unrelated protest making its way through London. Motorcyclists demanding to pay less tax or something. It wasn’t very clear what exactly they were for or against. I guess it would have been difficult to distribute leaflets from the bikes. They soon passed.

Also spotted at the demonstration for secular democracy: Nick Cohen (who smokes in an odd way and has hairy ears), Peter Tatchell and Douglas Murray.

One of the worst possible ways to spend public money.

October 26, 2009

I am currently reading ‘The Islamist’ by Ed Husain. It is the story of one British Muslim’s journey through various Islamist organisations in the 1990s when he was a rebellious young man trying to find his political place in the world.

In the end he comes to his senses and realises that groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, in which he was active for a while, are dangerous nutters who need to be opposed just as vigorously as extremists such as the fascist BNP.

On my lunch break at work today I was going to continue reading ‘The Islamist’ but I instead picked up a copy of the Evening Standard and had a look at that.

Imagine my shock to learn that £113,411 in government school grants has apparently been given to the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation – an ‘educational charity’ where three of the four trustees are members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. The Foundation is running three schools in Tottenham and Slough.

Unsurprisingly, this is also covered at Harry’s Place (which has a brilliant new blog banner – go check it out).

Hizb ut-Tahrir opposes the basic values that underpin British society. Their views are also considered extremist by most moderate Muslims in Britain. To have Hizb activists involved in running schools is deeply concerning.

How did this situation come about? Hopefully more details will soon emerge and policies will be changed.

Although this is an unusual example, I still feel it is indicative of the dangers of both promoting faith schools and handing over public money to independent organisations who are eager to run their own educational institutions.

Any political party promising to make things easier for religious and other groups wanting to set-up state-funded schools needs to explain how it will ensure that the National Curriculum is adhered to and how ideological lunacy is to be kept out of the classrooms.