Radicalisation and what causes it is the big question of our age apparently and many people have the answer. That answer, we are told, has nothing to do with Islam, and all to do with Western foreign policy.
They don’t want to talk about an Islamic link.
That sounds familiar….after nearly two decades of denial we are starting to get the truth as to why so many girls were abused and nobody in authority did anything.
The reason was because they didn’t want to talk about the race or religion of the offenders.
But now the denials and cover ups are being dragged into the light and we now know that great harm was done by allowing the abuse to continue because people were afraid to challenge the behaviour of racial or religious minorities.
In 10 years time will we be having the same conversations about how Islam and radicalisation was reported and the failure, due to fears of racism or ‘islamophobia’, to get to the real root of what causes radicalisation?
We exacerbate the problem on all sides when we refuse to tackle or even address the problematic things in the Muslim faith in the same way that we would with any other faith. We assist the claims of the extremists by failing to provide any counter-narrative (ranging from the possibility that what Muhammad did then is not permissible now, all the way through to ‘this didn’t really happen – it is a kind of metaphor’). And we simultaneously heighten the suspicion from many non-Muslims who can see that there is a problem and become increasingly frustrated at the interminable effort to shut discussion down.
All very strange.
All I would add is that I suspect that in the years ahead the line ‘Another beheading: nothing to see here’ is going to become increasingly difficult to hold.
In a later post we will look at the BBC’s, and other’s, approach to reporting claims that foreign policy radicalises Muslims but first some more examples of the ‘Establishment’ attempts to downplay the Islamic connection to what is happening in the Middle East and around the world.
In Mehdi’s Muddle we started to look at the various attempts to put a gulf of separation between Islam and the so-called extremists or radicals.
In this post I illustrate that with some more blatant examples where the violent and cruel ISIS Caliphate isn’t compared by commentators to the original birth of Islam which swept violently across the Middle East 1400 years ago and is a pretty near perfect replay of that, but who, once again, deny any such connection to Islam, instead preferring to compare it with European society….trying no doubt to say…look ‘we’ were just as bad once…so don’t judge Muslims.
Janet Daley compares ISIS not to Muhammed’s brutal conquests and colonisation but to European Anarchism:
Isil: the world must tackle this mass psychosis
Take away its success and the glamour will go, leaving only a rump of fanatics
We are not engaged in a religious war. This is not a confrontation between Islam and the West….the activities of these terrorist criminals hacking their way through northern Iraq have nothing to do with the Islamic faith.
It is more important than ever to say that this is not a struggle between “our values” and those of medieval fundamentalism, or Islamist extremism.
The contest is not modern liberal democracy versus the Dark Ages. This is to impose meaning on what is, in truth, meaningless. There is nothing coherent or comprehensible at the heart of the homicidal Isil frenzy. It is just what it looks like: psychopathic nihilism.
There is not even anything particularly Middle Eastern in the Isil mode of operation. In fact, the gratuitous violence and promiscuous mayhem of its onslaught resembles nothing so much as 19th-century European anarchism, whose objective was simply to create the maximum amount of indiscriminate chaos with the vague intention of undermining the existing order.
The infamous taunt of al-Qaeda, which it boasted would always guarantee its victory – “You love life, we love death” – was a widely held sentiment in the anarchist movement.
A Point of View: Isis and what it means to be modern
Although it claims to be reviving a traditional Islamic system of government, the jihadist group Isis is a very modern proposition, writes John Gray.
Although it claims to be reviving a traditional Islamic system of government, the jihadist group Isis is a very modern proposition, writes John Gray……claims that it wants to restore an early type of Islam, leads many of us to see it as trying to bring about a reversion to mediaeval values.
To my mind, this gives too much credence to the way Isis views itself. There’s actually little in common between the horribly repressive regime it has established in parts of Iraq and Syria and the subtle Islamic states of mediaeval times, which in Spain, for example, exercised a degree of tolerance at a time when the rest of Europe was wracked by persecution.
Isis shares more with this modern revolutionary tradition than any ancient form of Islamic rule. Though they’d hate to hear it, these violent jihadists owe the way they organise themselves and their utopian goals to the modern West.
Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian does the same, denying an Islamic link to the urge to build a Caliphate and instead suggesting a comparison with European Barons:
It isn’t religious zeal but the collapse of state power that makes the clash in Iraq feel like a return to the dark ages.
It is tempting to believe this is indeed the curious fate of our supposedly modern era – that we are being drawn back to a medieval or pre-medieval world of holy war and wholesale slaughter in the name of religion.
Yet neat though it is to see return to holy war as the motif of our age, it might be wrong. The rolling advances of IS – brutal and laden with treasure, conquering one city or stronghold after another – may indeed resemble the world of several centuries ago but not in the way we’ve imagined. It is instead a story that is both ancient and very modern.
According to Toby Dodge, the scholar of Iraq at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), what’s driving IS, or at least making its phenomenal success possible, is not pre-modern religious zeal so much as a pre-modern absence of state power. The state structures of both Iraq and Syria have all but collapsed. The result is a power vacuum of a kind that would have been recognised in the lawless Europe of seven or eight centuries ago – and which IS has exploited with the ruthless discipline of those long ago baronial warlords who turned themselves into European princes.
Islamic State may wrap itself in the flag of jihad, but its success owes more to medieval lawlessness than medieval religious enmity – helped by the very 21st-century decline of the global behemoth. Our world is being shaken, but the persistence of religion is more a symptom than a cause.
Curiously in 2005 Freedland was emphatic that there was a link to Islam and the terrorist’s ideology…in fact it was the only thing that made sense of their actions:
The animating ideology of the caliphate helps explain al-Qaida actions that otherwise make no sense
For those who opposed the 2003 conflict, it is tempting to cast Iraq and the whole panoply of US-UK actions after 9/11 as the decisive factor in the bombings. There is certainly no shortage of evidence.
Peter Taylor, the veteran documentary film-maker who spent decades studying Northern Irish terrorism, has just completed a BBC series, The New Al-Qaida, which starts next Monday. After a year spent talking to Muslims in Spain, Morocco, Pakistan, the US and the UK, he says: “The one word that comes out loud and clear is Iraq. There is no question that Iraq is the prime motivating factor.”
So Iraq is central. But it is not the whole story.
For, as Taylor explains, al-Qaida is not like Eta or the IRA
Its aims are rather different. Central to its ideology is the reintroduction of the caliphate, an Islamic state governed by sharia law that would stretch across all formerly Muslim lands, taking in Spain, Morocco, north Africa, Albania, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, as well as Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines. Plenty on the left tend to skim over this stuff, dismissing it as weird, obscurantist nonsense – and imagining it as somehow secondary to al-Qaida’s anti-imperialist mission.
That’s a big mistake. For it is this animating idea which helps to explain al-Qaida actions that otherwise make no sense.
In other words, al-Qaida has a programme that predates and goes beyond Iraq. It seeks to end all western presence in those lands it deems Islamic.
This is the ideology that defines al-Qaida and which explains why it was in business from 1993 and not just 2001 and after. Tellingly, those who monitor Islamism in Britain say the big surge in growth of extremist groups came not after 9/11 or Iraq but in the mid-1990s – with Bosnia serving as the recruiting sergeant. In the same period Chechnya, Kosovo and Israel-Palestine all came into play – again predating Iraq.
But that message is not only about Iraq, Afghanistan or even the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza – and we delude ourselves if we think it is.
The next post will examine the issues around foreign policy and try to untangle the rights and wrongs of the justifications for Muslims attacking the West…..the BBC’s failure to challenge such a narrative, indeed it being the cheerleader for that narrative being so opposed to the Iraq war and Guantanamo, means that it is important to ask questions about Muslims justifications based on foreign policy and ask whether the BBC’s approach has led to more radicalisation and terrorism.