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.

What’s bad for white women is bad for all women

Louise Casey

I have spent the past year touring the country conducting a review into integration and opportunity in our most isolated communities. I have heard numerous personal accounts that have brought home to me the disadvantage still being suffered by some people, including those in white working-class communities.

But the inequality suffered by so many black and minority ethnic women has really stood out for me and this has been particularly apparent in some Muslim communities. I think it is time we talked about this in a more open and honest way.

From the outset I want to say that no culture or religion can ever excuse violence and oppression against women, but my review has caused me to reflect on whether we – myself included – have been as active in promoting opportunity and as vigilant and robust in calling out sexism, taking on patriarchy and standing up to misogyny in some minority communities, as we would have been for white women or girls.

Not because we thought that white women were more worthy of help, but because we thought we were less qualified to comment on cultures we didn’t understand. To be blunt, I wonder if our abhorrence of racism and fear of being called racist, along with our desire not to cause offence, has sometimes got in the way of our feminism.

Analysis of 2011 census data produced for my report shows that 44 per cent and 36 per cent of women born in Bangladesh and Pakistan but living in the UK were unable to speak English well or at all, compared to 20 per cent and 13 per cent of Bangladesh and Pakistan-born men.

And while 20 per cent of all British Pakistani and Bangladeshi men were economically inactive in 2015, the rate for British Pakistani and Bangladeshi women was nearly three times higher, at 57 per cent.

Not only are all those figures too high, they are shockingly gender unequal. Not enough of us have spoken out against this unfairness and/or supported those Muslim women, many who have been courageously fighting these battles and whose voices have not always been heard.

We should not think that this is a problem that affects only older women who arrived in Britain 30 or 40 years ago, as 44 per cent of non-UK born Pakistani and Bangladeshi women aged 16 to 24 are currently unemployed or inactive and not in full time education.

Some ongoing patterns of inter-cousin marriage and a custom of bringing in brides from “back home” have meant young women are continually arriving into patriarchal Muslim communities with a lack of English, a lack of education and a reliance on their husband for their income and immigration status.

This first generation in every generation can have knock-on effects in their ability to understand even basic legal rights, to access health or domestic abuse services freely, as well as for their children who may not speak English in the home and are less well prepared for school as a result.

I fear that we have been too afraid to talk about a lot of this, along with other issues of violence and abuse including female genital mutilation, forced marriage and so-called honour-based crimes, or the worrying prevalence of male-dominated Biraderi (meaning brotherhood) politics that has taken a hold in some councils and parts of our political parties and system.

We worry about lacking the understanding and confidence to confront such problems, unless laws are clearly contravened. It is more difficult to challenge or act on behaviours that fall into grey areas along this spectrum – where one person’s arranged marriage is another’s forced marriage; or where one person’s religious conservatism is another’s homophobia.

Those of us who regard ourselves as progressives rightly don’t want to be racist and hold back from calling out wrongdoing for what it is.

But the best case explanation for what happened in Rotherham is a lesson here too.

By failing to confront known child sexual exploitation because the majority of perpetrators were Pakistani-heritage men, for fear of upsetting race relations in the town, the council and police only made things worse: for the young women and girls who suffered the most appalling abuse and for race relations as well.

So I hope more resources can now go back into English language and domestic abuse services.

But we also have to be honest about abuse, discrimination and disadvantage wherever it occurs. If we wouldn’t stand for it with white women, we shouldn’t stand for it with any women.

I want to stress that feminists and those who have campaigned for women’s equality and against racism and discrimination down the years are not the enemy here.

They are, in so many ways, heroes who deserve our gratitude and respect. But I hope that the next wave of our fight for women’s equality is one that reaches far into all communities and not just those that we are most comfortable criticising.

By uniting around our common values in a way that allows for and celebrates our differences but also guarantees our fundamental rights, we can start to provide a route map through the difficulties as well as the opportunities of our increasingly diverse nation.

And, by unlocking the potential of all women, we can tackle both the gender and race inequalities that still persist in this country and that all progressives, of whatever political persuasion, should want to end.

This article is based on a chapter Dame Louise Casey wrote for the report A Sense of Belonging: Building a More Socially Integrated Society, published by the Fabian Society and Bright Blue, in partnership with The Challenge.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali – A Voice That Should Be Heard

ayaan-hirsi-ali-005

I have been following the work of Ayaan Hirsi Ali for over a decade. She has been writing about Islam and the rise of Islamic Extremism extremely eloquently and forcefully since 9/11. The excellent collection of essays ‘The Caged Virgin – An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam’ 2006 and her autobiography ‘Infidel – My Life’ 2007 has recently been joined by her searing analysis of Islam, extremism and the western misunderstanding of it: ‘Heretic – Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now’ 2015.

She is one of a growing number of modern, rational commentators on these issues that, crucially, have a muslim background and heritage and as such have immensely more traction in the muslim world than the numerous analysts from the West. It is crucial that she, and others such as  Maajid Nawaz here in the UK, are given support and visibility from the media and political class to increase the profile of the modern muslim worldview. It is wonderful that she has an occasional column in the Sunday Times and her latest article is reproduced below. She has thrown her weight behind David Cameron’s unfolding rhetoric on the issue but, like many of us, is awaiting with bated breath to see whether the follow through on policy has any real substance and is able to stand up to what will be a withering campaign of moral outrage from the postmodern/left wing intelligentsia.

(Note: For a complimentary analysis from another modern muslim it is recommended that the article below should be read in conjunction with the analysis of ISIS posted here)

A few more ingredients and the PM’s recipe for beating Islamism is ready

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Published: 11 October 2015

TWO wonderful things happened last week to advance the cause to which I have dedicated the past 14 years of my life. First, I heard a British Muslim woman — Nadiya Hussain — say these words after winning The Great British Bake Off: “I am never going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I am never going to say, ‘I don’t think I can.’ I can. And I will.”

Then I heard David Cameron say in his party conference speech that he would “confront — and I mean really confront — extremism . . . [a] diseased view of the world [which] has become an epidemic — infecting minds from the mosques of Mogadishu to the bedrooms of Birmingham”.

Two breaths of fresh air. For, make no mistake, if the extremists had their way, a Muslim woman such as Hussain would never be allowed to appear on television and to express herself in the terms she used. Her face would be covered. She would be behind closed doors. She certainly wouldn’t be hugging her fellow competitors and crying for joy. For such behaviour is seen by extremists as bringing dishonour on her family and her faith.

Since 2001 I have followed the spread of this kind of extremism in Europe. I have followed with almost as much concern the lacklustre response of governments to this lethal threat.

Although things seem calm on the surface, when one walks through the streets of big cities such as London, Berlin and Paris one can sense that something is terribly off. There’s a palpable tension. The growth of Muslim populations has been gradual, as has their penetration by extremist organisations. The difficulties of integrating immigrants into European economies and societies have only slowly become apparent. But this year Europe’s political elites feel suddenly overwhelmed by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants — most of them young Muslim men — when they were already struggling to keep a lid on the rise of extreme right-wing political movements and parties.

Many European voters, and not only on the right of the political spectrum, feel let down by their leaders. This despondency is largely due to the reluctance — in some cases adamant refusal — of leaders to address honestly the challenges of Muslim immigration and integration into the host societies. Platitudes on the benefits of multiculturalism and accusations of xenophobia have done nothing to mitigate what has now become one of the burning issues of our time.

It will probably take some time before we witness a reversal in the spread of Islamic extremism. Yet there is at last a sign of hope that things may change for the better. This sign of hope comes from Britain. Not only do we have a new national heroine in a Muslim woman who refuses to be constrained by antiquated rules designed to make women subservient; we also have, in David Cameron, the first western leader willing to take the risk of tackling Islamic extremism head-on.

Shortly before the election, Cameron called Islamic extremism “a poisonous ideology” that justified “the most sickening barbarism and brutality”, and pledged to come down hard on organisations that “stay just within the law but still spread poisonous hatred”. By contrast Ed Miliband promised to make “Islamophobia” an “aggravated crime” — as if that were the more serious problem.

The fact that Cameron won the general election, even if the issue was not a dominant one in the campaign, suggests that when an establishment leader addresses Islamic extremism with courage and clarity, voters respond favourably.

Five months after his election victory, Cameron and his cabinet appear close to delivering. In his speech to the Tory party conference last week he promised to “tear up the narrative that says Muslims are persecuted and the West deserves what it gets”; to take on extremism “in all its forms, the violent and non-violent”; to tackle segregation; to zoom in on schools that incubate extremism, even shutting them down; and to clamp down on the terrible practices of forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), promising to prosecute those who perpetrate them.

This is the right way to go and I applaud it. But let me now add the principles that Cameron should put at the heart of his strategy.

First, it’s important to give the problem its real name. Islamic extremism concerns specific beliefs, attitudes and behaviours embedded in the political system of Islam. In his speech Cameron did not refer to Islamic extremism as such, even though he discussed extremist madrasahs, the terrorist group Isis and jihad. Yet leading political figures in the United Arab Emirates now publicly refer to “Islamic extremism” as “the most destabilising and dangerous global force since fascism”.

Second, by focusing on the problematic aspects of Islam, one can learn to distinguish between those aspects of Islam that are compatible with a liberal society and those that are not. It is then possible to form genuine partnerships with Muslims who as individuals and as groups have values that are aligned with British values, British laws and British norms.

Third, if the links between Islam and extremism are made clear, one can develop tools to help identify, predict and prevent extremism. Take a Muslim-majority neighbourhood where men and women mix freely and where they have friendly relations with people of other religions or no religion. If one were suddenly to see women veiled from head to toe and men wearing long beards, demanding that the genders be segregated and pushing for a ban on alcohol, one could readily infer that extremist elements were at work there.

Fourth, good civic values need to be inculcated at school. If combating Islamic extremism is our goal, then Muslim children will have to be taught that armed jihad is bad, and why; that sharia as it exists in Saudi Arabia and used to in Afghanistan is unjust; that obeying one book and one man without question is unwise; that the principles of tolerance, freedom, democracy and equality before the law are sacrosanct; and that it is perfectly legitimate for people to have faiths other than Islam or no faith at all.

When Cameron stated in his speech that we should not just be saying what is wrong with forced marriage or FGM, but should also be emphasising what is right about Britain, I took it to mean that he is prepared to have these values inculcated into every single Briton, including Muslims.

The prime minister spoke boldly last week, and we should all welcome his words — especially British Muslims such as Nadiya Hussain who sincerely want to be both Muslim and British.

What is needed now is appropriate follow-through. To tackle this challenge effectively, many years of strong public policy measures will be necessary. Islamic extremism will not disappear spontaneously.