We can’t ignore the Islam in Islamism

Melanie Phillips

published in the Times 5/6/17

If jihadi terrorism is to be overcome, Muslims must take responsibility for the actions of all in their communities

The elephant is still in the room. Even now, with Theresa May saying “enough is enough” after the London Bridge atrocities, we are still refusing to identify correctly the threat that has already claimed so many lives.

These attackers are not “evil losers”. They are not “sick cowards”. They are not nihilists or psychiatric cases or lone wolves. They are devout and ecstatic Muslim fanatics who are waging a war of religion against us.

Mrs May correctly referred to “Islamist” terrorism. Yet she also said this was a “perversion of Islam”. How can it be a “perversion” when it is solidly rooted in religious texts and theological doctrine validated and endorsed by the world’s most powerful Islamic authorities?

In his article in The Times today, the communities secretary Sajid Javid tied himself up in knots. He rightly said it wasn’t enough for Muslims merely to condemn terror attacks; they must ask themselves “searching questions” and issue challenges.

Yet he also said the perpetrators were not “true Muslims” and it was right to say the attacks were “nothing to do with Islam”. Well if that’s so, why should Muslims need to do anything at all?

 

The West views Islam through its own cultural prism which equates religion with spirituality. The problem is that Islam is as much a political ideology as a source of spiritual guidance.

In 2010 a German study, which involved intensive questioning of 45,000 Muslim teenagers from 61 towns and regions across the country, found that the more religious they were the more likely they were to become violent.

In Australia a Shia cleric who campaigns against Sunni extremism, Sheikh Mohammad Tawhidi, has said: “The scriptures are exactly what is pushing these people to behead the infidel. Our books teach the beheading of people.”

Of course, millions of Muslims don’t subscribe to any of this. Some are merely cultural Muslims who observe no religious practices. Some, such as the Sufis or the Ahmadiyya sect, are pious Muslims who are truly peaceful (and are themselves victims of the Islamists).

But political, aggressive, jihadi Islam, constrained for so long by both the Ottoman empire and western colonialism, is now dominant once again in the Muslim world. Which is why in 2015 Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi remarkably told the imams of Al-Azhar university in Cairo – the epicentre of Islamic doctrinal edicts – that Islam’s corpus of sacred texts was “antagonising the entire world”, that it was “impossible” for 1.6 billion Muslims to “want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants” and so Islam had to have a “religious revolution”.

We should be promoting and defending such Muslim reformers in the desperate hope that they succeed. Instead we knock the ground from under their feet by saying Islamist attacks have nothing to do with Islam. Until and unless Islam is reformed, we need to treat its practices on a scale ranging from extreme caution to outlawing some of them altogether.

Mrs May said we need to make people understand that our “pluralistic British values” were “superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hatred”.

The problem is, though, that Islamists believe their values represent the literal word of God. So to them, no other values can possibly be superior. As a result, you can no more deradicalise them than you could have deradicalised the priests of the Inquisition.

We must require Muslims to take responsibility for the actions of all in their community. An ICM poll of British Muslims two years ago found that nearly a quarter wanted Sharia to replace British law in areas with large Muslim populations.

Four per cent – equivalent to more than 100,000 British Muslims — said they were sympathetic to suicide bombers fighting “injustice”.

In other words, we must see jihadi Islam as at the extreme end of a continuum of beliefs which are themselves incompatible with British society.

So we shouldn’t just be stopping people coming back to Britain from Syria or Libya, or detaining terrorist suspects through control orders. We should also be closing down radical mosques, deporting those born in other countries who are involved in extremism, stopping foreign funding for Muslim institutions and banning the Muslim Brotherhood.

We should also outlaw Sharia courts because, since Sharia does not accept the superior authority of secular legislation, it inescapably undermines the core British value of one law for all.

The message should be that British Muslims are welcome citizens but on the same basis as everyone else: that they subscribe to the binding nature of foundational British laws and values. If not, they will be treated as subversives.

The chances of any of these measures being taken, though, are slim. There will be inevitable claims that judge-made human rights law, which has often protected the “rights” of extremists rather than their victims, cannot be set aside without “destroying British values”.

Jihadi terrorists, however, are not trying to divide us, destroy our values or stop the general election. They are trying to kill us and conquer us.

If it is to defend itself, a liberal society may need to adopt illiberal measures. If we don’t do so now, we’ll be forced to eventually. The only question is how many will have to die before that happens.

Many Islams exist in the world — this death cult is one of them

Andrew Norfolk

published in Sunday Times 28/5/17

To say jihadist murders have nothing to do with their religion ignores a less comfortable truth

At first glance, it might seem difficult to imagine two groups of Muslims with so little in common.

Build a prison. In one wing, incarcerate those who serially abuse young girls in the back streets of English towns. In another, lock up the jihadist ideologues who plot mass slaughter in the name of God.

They all claim to be Muslim but while the adulterous, alcohol-swilling lowlifes of Rotherham and Rochdale betray multiple Islamic precepts on a daily basis, their fellow inmates view themselves as soldiers of the faith in its purest form.

Most Muslims would not rush to pay a prison visit. They routinely condemn both groups as despicable criminals whose conduct has nothing to do with Islam.

For Britons whose desire is for all who live on this island to somehow find a way to muddle along together, this is a reassuring thought, so comforting that it has almost become a commonplace. In recent years, no press conference after a sex-grooming trial has been complete without a police officer’s pronouncement that the perpetrators’ ethnicity and religion was utterly irrelevant to their crimes.

 

Islamist terror strikes are likewise met by politicians and community leaders with statements condemning the attack while stressing the falsity of perpetrators’ claim to have acted in the name of Allah. Monday’s Manchester atrocity was no exception.

Salman Abedi’s bomb brought carnage to a concert whose audience was predominantly young teenage girls. That anyone might view innocent children as legitimate targets intensified the need to distance the act from the teaching of one of the world’s great religions.

In the prison, different attitudes prevail. If they have nothing else in common, Pakistani child-sex groomers and Isis terrorists share at least one attribute. For them, no 13-year-old non-Muslim girl is innocent. Nor is she a child.

One group fails every test of what it means to be a good Muslim; the other finds such certainty in its literalist vision of the righteous path that it condemns most fellow Muslims as apostates. They unite in their contempt for white girls. One eyes an easy outlet for cheap lust. To jihadists, as a symbol of western decadence and immorality there could be no more suitable target than a venue packed with British girls worshipping a scantily clad young American singer.

 

Targeting children for sex or death is doubtless abhorrent to the vast majority of British Muslims, for whom a truer reflection of Islam was the kindness of fellow believers who came to the aid of the victims and who stood, in defiance of terrorism, in solidarity with fellow Mancunians.

Who, though, gets to define what is or is not Islam, who is or is not a Muslim? Who makes the rules?

How to pray, how to wash, what to wear; there seems barely any element of the faith that is not subject to furious debate long before bigger issues — such as the meaning of jihad and when it is permissible to wage war for the sake of Allah — are confronted.

Consider patriarchal attitudes towards women, however, within different Islamic sects and nations and in different centuries, and you will find a path well trodden. In all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, girls become women — and eligible for marriage — at puberty. Women are either modest, housebound wives and mothers or Jezebel temptresses, shameless objects of sexual desire, born to lure men astray.

One need not travel far from Manchester to understand why some men, schooled in medieval theology or the conservative culture of homelands in south Asia, the Middle East or north Africa, struggle to treat western women with respect.

Near Bury, Greater Manchester, is a former sanatorium that since 1975 has been home to Britain’s leading Islamic boys’ seminary. In 2014, Ofsted hailed its production of “exemplary British citizens”. Its 21st-century perspective is instructive.

A website promoting the seminary’s teaching states that Satan uses women “as his avenue to create evil in society”. She should always remain in the home. If she must venture out, her clothing should conceal her entire body. Unless hidden from view, she will inevitably “attract men like swamps of flies are attracted to uncovered sweets”.

Befriending a non-Muslim invites corruption. To marry a Christian or Jewish woman risks the filtering of “their repulsive qualities into Muslim homes”. Singing and dancing is banned. The music industry is a Jewish-influenced means of “spreading the Satanic web”. We allow such values to be taught in 21st-century Britain.

Girls. Music. Danger. Pollution. In the early 1950s, Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian writer who played a pivotal role in the birth of supremacist Islamist ideology, studied briefly at a college in Colorado. His verdict on western women spat contempt. “The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, in the expressive eyes and thirsty lips. [It] lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs — and she shows all this and does not hide it.”

American dance music was for Qutb, a hero of the Muslim Brotherhood, what “savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires”. He described his visit to a church dance: “They danced to the tunes of the gramophone and the dancefloor was replete with tapping feet, enticing legs, arms wrapped around waists, lips pressed to lips and chests pressed to chests. The atmosphere was full of desire.”

Sexuality and freedom, in women, are to be stamped upon. An errant daughter or sister shames her entire family. Cue acid attacks and honour killings.

These are not fringe opinions. In 2013, a study of 38,000 Muslims by the Pew Research Centre found that 46 per cent of Pakistanis and 59 per cent of Bangladeshis believed it was sometimes justified for family members to kill women as a punishment for pre-marital sex or adultery.

More than 80 per cent of Muslims in Jordan, Egypt, and Pakistan said that a wife must always obey her husband. In Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia it was more than 90 per cent.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban outlawed music and the education of girls. There, child marriage flourishes as in so many Muslim nations including Iran, where women are banned from dancing and performing music on stage.

Religious laws that dictate the treatment of women in many Islamic states reached new levels of barbarity in 2014 when Islamic State seized huge swathes of Iraq and Syria and declared its own caliphate.

Its interpretation of God’s rules led to mass public beheadings and to the enslavement of more than 3,000 Yazidi girls and young women.

Rules published by Isis in December 2014 codified lawful conduct with slaves. They included a declaration that “it is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty, if she is fit for intercourse”.

For millions of Muslims worldwide who believe they follow a religion of peace, such crazed bloodlust is a monstrous perversion of Islam.

As the historian Tom Holland has noted, the truth is less comfortable. Isis argues that its killings and use of concubines is “sanctioned by the Koran and by the sayings and example of Muhammad”.

“To dismiss them as psychopaths is to ignore what is most truly terrifying about them — that their thuggery and greed coexist with a profound strain of religiosity. [Isis] propagandists present it as charged by God with restoring to the world the pristine Islam that existed back in the days of Muhammad and his immediate successors.”

Dewsbury is far from Sinjar but it was no surprise when Baroness Warsi suggested that in her West Yorkshire home town, some Pakistani men “see woman as second-class citizens and white women as third-class citizens”.

They “believe white girls are fair game”, she said. Shabir Ahmed, leader of the Rochdale grooming gang, would have agreed. The 59-year-old kebab shop worker told a 15-year-old girl that it was not wrong of him to deliver her to numerous Pakistani men for sex because in his homeland “you’re allowed to have sex with girls from the age of 11”.

Ahmed enjoyed having sex with children but worried they would make him impure. He forced girls to wash before he abused them. Afterwards he would “go home, have a shower, say two units of prayer and ask Allah for forgiveness”.

Muslim girls are saints or sinners who must be punished. Western girls are corrupt sluts. This is not an uncommon perspective in the Islamic world.

Ariana Grande, a 23-year-old singer from Florida, is a former children’s TV star whose global Dangerous Woman tour reached Manchester, 12 miles from Rochdale, on Monday. A year ago, she told Twitter critics that “expressing sexuality in art” was no more an invitation for disrespect than “wearing a short skirt is asking for assault”.

Girls the same age as those serially abused by Ahmed and his friends went to the city in their thousands to watch a mini-skirted, cat-eared woman dance and sing on stage in black thigh boots.

When it gleefully claimed responsibility for the slaughter of 22 “crusaders” by its “soldier of the caliphate”, Isis condemned the Arena event as “shameless”. It said that the bomb plot succeeded “with Allah’s grace and support”. There are many Islams in this world. This death cult is one of them.

Many Muslims Want Help to Look Outwards – Maajid Nawaaz

Another great piece by one of our most insightful commentators on the challenges of Muslim integration in the West. (published in the Times on 25/7/16)

The case of the ‘Trojan horse’ school shows that Britain was wrong not to expect minorities to embrace liberal values

For years in Britain there has been a pernicious trend to shy away from making a case for our liberal values among minority communities. As these values continued their march unabated among the mainstream, certain multiculturalists assumed that to assert them among minorities would be deemed offensive, perhaps racist, and in the Muslim context even Islamophobic.

The successful turnaround of the “Trojan horse” school Park View — now Rockwood Academy — couldn’t have proved this view more wrong. Two years after the scandal, the school has surpassed expectations, with cadet recruitment, after-school drama classes, counterextremism workshops and trips to Wimbledon. Those who worried about a more active integration policy alienating the Birmingham school’s predominantly Muslim students really needn’t have. So why did they?

Our 1990s-era multiculturalism was intended to bring about diverse communities. Instead, it brought about monocultural ghettos that gave rise to state schools such as Park View broadcasting the Muslim call to prayer from their loudspeakers. Two complementary trends arose together that culturally disintegrated Britain. Within my own Muslim communities, Islamism, a theocratic ideology, which sought to impose a version of Islam over society, emerged practically unchallenged to insist that we were Muslims to the exclusion of every other identity. Meanwhile, among mainstream liberals, multiculturalism came to mean diversity between, rather than within, groups.

Due to these two trends, as a country we celebrated our cities as they self-segregated into isolated cultural ghettos. Division in areas such as Dewsbury and parts of Bradford was hailed as diversity. Self-segregation was supported as cultural tolerance. Disintegration was championed as integration. Those of my fellow liberals who promoted such policies believed they were doing so to help us Muslims. Yet this “help” couldn’t have been more disempowering.

Failing to advocate for liberal values within groups and not merely between groups led to a stifling of creativity and a lack of diversity among Muslims. Rebel voices who needed our support inside these communities suffered the most, and feel betrayed by liberals to this day. I call these the minority within the minority: feminist Muslims, gay Muslims, ex-Muslims, secular Muslims and anyone else deemed to be heretical or not Muslim enough.

 

With progressive Muslim voices being abandoned by wider society, while simultaneously being stifled within by the Muslim “community leaders”, it is no wonder that by 2015 a BBC survey of British Muslims found that 11 per cent expressed sympathy with fighting against the West. Twenty per cent said that a western liberal society could never be compatible with Islam, and a quarter sympathised with the Charlie Hebdo “blasphemy” attacks.

Self-segregation was championed as cultural tolerance

Meanwhile, Muslims in today’s Britain find it difficult to gain employment, are falling behind educationally, are disproportionately represented in prisons and among terrorist groups, while also remaining behind the rest of the country in our attitudes to civil liberties. Instead of integrating with wider society, many Muslims in Britain turned in on themselves, integrating more with their co-religionists globally while pulling away from the society into which they were born. British Muslim attitudes on key cultural milestones such as homosexuality, blasphemy and religion in politics now have more in common with global Muslim opinion than with liberal Britain.

As a country we ended up living together, apart. By allowing minorities to isolate themselves, the very people my fellow liberals wanted to help were suffering the most. It is no surprise then that such disintegration created a breeding ground for Isis recruiters. The liberal values that we came to expect from everyone else we shied away from advocating among Muslims. It is as if we Muslims were simply incapable of embracing secularism. And as we weren’t even expected to be liberal, or in many cases as our illiberalism was celebrated, we naturally grew further and further apart from wider society. I call this the bigotry of low expectations.

If mainstream society had woken up to this earlier, much more could have been done to prevent this polarised and incohesive state in our communities. And though I emphasise that it is not only Muslims who may be isolated in today’s Britain, and obviously not all British Muslims live like this, too many do. Culture is never homogenous, and has always been a hybrid. Any artificial desire to preserve the past was not only bound to fail but was destined to fail minorities primarily. Instead of defining communities primarily by their religious identity, we must support policies that encourage diversity not only between groups but within and among groups too.

The success at Rockwood Academy highlights that it never had to be this way. Identities are by definition multiple. So yes I am a Muslim, but I am also English, a secular liberal democrat of Pakistani descent, I was born in Essex and I am British.

When a chance was given instead of denied, when aspiration was encouraged instead of withheld, when integration was expected instead of disparaged, and when social mobility was promised instead of rubbished, the children and parents at Rockwood Academy rushed to it, and excelled. They embraced it all. Indeed, why wouldn’t they? There was finally an expectation that they could be just like anyone else.

Maajid Nawaz is an author and the founding chairman of Quilliam

Integral analysis of ISIS

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After introducing the concept of the development of worldviews in the last post (Socio-Cultural Evolution 2) I would like to illustrate how this evolutionary approach can contribute to untangling some real world issues.

The rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today. People are struggling to understand this toxic organisation; How it relates to mainstream Islam and how it can be understood from the perspective of historical Western foreign policy in the region are both complex and highly disputed areas of debate. The link below is to an article by a Muslim journalist and commentator who is deeply familiar with Ken Wilber’s work and the Integral approach in general. It is an excellent example of how these ideas can bring some added clarity to the analysis.

Integral Analysis of ISIS by Amir Ahmed Nasr