Friday, October 2, 2009

ISLAMIC EXTREMISM


While the existence of militant strands of Islam is not controversial the causes of this militancy is. The debate cleaves into two camps The first views Islamic extremism as it views all forms of religious extremism, entirely divorced from the hijacked tradition. The second school of thought takes the opposite view, conflating Islam and extremism. In this view, summarized by far right Dutch MP Geert Wilders, "there is no such thing as a moderate Islam," and the only recourse is for the west to "[b]an this wretched book [the Quran] like Mein Kampf is banned," and enact policies to make "no more Muslim immigrants allowed [and]. . .no more mosques,"

The ideology championed by Wilders and his far right cohorts is comforting for many, and perhaps that can explain its popularity. Eschewing nuanced understandings in favor of a dogmatic Us vs. Them approach, it shields westerners form introspection and appeals to powerful ethnocentric impulses. We are inherently good, so therefore, anyone with a conflict with us must be inherently evil, we can do no wrong and they can do right. It is easy to see how this belief fits within the context of a worldview where there are no distinctions between us and them, good and evil, where nothing distinguishes Barak Obama, Hugo Chavez, and Adolf Hitler from one another, and it is equally easy to see how detrimental this worldview is to attempts at fostering tolerance, interfaith dialog, and liberal Islam.

Islam is no more at fault for the conflict between East and West than Arab nationalism or Communism were a few decades ago, indeed Islam plays a similar role, as an ideology of resistance, though like then this is not widely understood. Western policy makers have again confused a historical movement, the backlash against colonialism and neo-imperialism, with the ideology encapsulating it. Like Communist and Arab nationalist movements within the Middle East during the 1970s and 1980s the popularity of militant Islam is rooted in societal factors only superficially related to the religion. Grievances are always expressed within an ideological framework, and so long as the grievances persist so will an ideology to encapsulate them.

When that ideology was Communism and nationalism western policy makers mistook these beliefs for the cause of anti-western sentiments and sought to replace them by encouraging a third ideology; militant Islam. The most violent fundamentalist movements within the Middle East, Hamas, the Taliban, Wahibism all enjoyed the backing of the West, which hoped Islam would pacify the Middle East by weakening the other two movements. It accomplished that much, it did weaken Communism and nationalism, but from a historical perspective it only replaced them, changing nothing.

Those who ascribe anti-western violence to Islam ignore history. Militant Islam is made potent by the same factors that gave rise to ideologically opposed, but equally violent movements. Displacement and occupation in Palestine led to the rise of Hamas, an organization generally cited as an example of the violence inherent in Islam. The most violent and rejectionist Palestinian group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was born out of the same conditions as it Hamas, and it is much extremist than the Islamic Resistance, but it is not an Islamic organization. It embraces nationalism and Marxism, and though it is secular, it was founded and led by a Christian, Dr. George Habash, not a Muslim. Oppression, and not Islam, or Communism, or nationalism, is the root of the backlash against the West.

Sometimes it is articulated in Islamic rhetoric, elsewhere in terms of nationalism, paganism, Marxism, liberation theology, or hero worship, but no matter what ideology gives it voice there will be a backlash wherever people are subjugated. Oftentimes this backlash is so strong it transcends belief, in Latin American Osama bin Laden is a popular figure among Catholics with virulently anti-western views, and American atheists of the left are popular among many Muslims, not because of any ideological or religious qualification, but because of the perception of resistance.

In the case of Islam it is important to distinguish the religion from what is done in its name. It does not matter how popular extremism is Islam and its moderate followers are entitled to the respect due one of the world's great religions. Just as it would be unfair to condemn Christianity for the Inquisition and the Crusades or Judaism for the role of groups such as the JDL and Kach, condemnations of Islam on the basis of 9/11 or 7/7 is bigoted and intolerant.

Those who attempt to conflate Islam with its radical elements champion a transparently bigoted agenda that has done nothing but further alienate Muslims and worsen extremism. Al-Qadea is not the only organization to fantasize about a non-existent clash of civilizations. Western extremists often demand to see the evidence of Muslims protesting violence done in the name of Islam, though they don't hesitate demonize those in their own society making "not in my name" demonstrations against western atrocities. By asking where is the face of moderate Islam, but never seeking an answer they beg the question.

They always talk of the Salman Rushdie fatwa, though they appear to be unaware that the faculty of the oldest and most respected Islamic school, Al-Ajhar University in Cairo declared the ruling un-Islamic, or that the fatwa was condemned a month after being issued by 48 of the 49 member states of the Islamic Conference. They never tire of prattling on about how the Mumbai attacks demonstrate the barbaric nature of Islam, though they never mention the bodies of the ten attackers were refused an Islamic burial by officials at local Muslim cemeteries who were outraged at the attack.

Sadly, among the leaders of the anti-Islamic bigots, these omissions are not due to ignorance. An illustrious example is the reaction to the 9/11 attacks. The attacks were condemned by a flurry of fatwas representing almost the entire range of Islamic, even militant Islamic thought, they were condemned in spontaneous mass demonstrations across Iran and Pakistan, they were condemned by Muslims worldwide.

One such Muslim is Debbie Almontaser. Speaking of the attacks Almontaser commented “I don’t recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims. … Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my religion." Later when Almontaser became the founding principal of New York City's first Arabic-English public school, one of 67 such dual language schools, a xenophobic hate group calling itself "Stop the Madrassa" initiated a campaign against the school, attacking Almontaser personally. The group had trouble proving she was a "soft Jihadist", a radical, but law-abiding Muslim, seeking to establish a caliphate from within. But they had experienced help. At the helm of the effort was veteran racist activist Daniel Pipes.

Pipes took Almontaser's statement condemning 9/11, removed the last sentence so the quote read “I don’t recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims," and branded her a "9/11 denier", a petty conspiracy theorist. The original quote did not conform to his ideological preconceptions so he distorted it to validate his bigotries.

The bigots are so caught up in their ethnocentric fantasies they are unable to appreciate elementary distinctions. One of the most popular scaremongering phrases among European Islamaphobes is Bat Ye'or's term Eurabia, in this simplistic worldview there is no difference between Muslim and Arab.

Sadly, this phenomenon is not confined to the traditional nativist xenophobes of the far right. Harvard law Professor Alan Dershowitz, O.J's leading defense attorney, is both an ardent Democrat and one of the most active anti-Islamic hate mongers in the U.S. For years he has championed a plainly bigoted agenda, his fanaticism is so overpowering not even basic facts stand in his way. Seeking expert commentary on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination by Christian Sirhan Sirhan a Boston Globe columnist consulted Derschowitz. "It [the assassination] was in some ways," Dershowitz informed him, "the beginning of Islamic terrorism in America. It was the first shot. A lot of us didn't recognize it at the time."

R regardless of how bigots exploit the issue for their own purposes there are legitimate concerns about Islamic extremism. For leftists, many of them atheists and agnostics, any form of religious extremism is abhorrent. In the west they are often the only voice of protest against supporting repressive Islamic forces such as in Saudi Arabia, East Timor, and Bosnia. In the Middle East they are typically the greatest rival of Islamic extremists. Yet it is evident the sole issue for leftists is human rights, and so, even when they issue scathing denunciations of militant Islam, they are never condemned as anti-Muslim.


Still, they are the greatest challenge to Islamic extremism. Islamic extremism is dependent on the alienation of Muslims by bigots such as Pipes, Derschowitz, and Wilders and the oppression of Muslims in the third world. Leftists work to integrate Islam and Muslims, they oppose all forms of oppression, and they condemn violence irrespective of the ideology whose name it is perpetrated in. If they did not view these activities as such a threat, radical Islamists would have never felt compelled to kidnap British MP George Galloway, or engage in armed clashes with leftists in the Middle East. Leftists, who are castigated as radical appeasers of Islamofascism by those on the radical right, pose a genuine threat to militant Islam whereas the self-appointed guardians of the fatherland only encourage it.

25 comments:

Paul said...

Care to comment on the Muhammad cartoon fiasco or its implications for western freedom of speech and democracy?

Young Activist said...

I think the issue has already been adequately addressed in my post without me going through every specific example of Islamic extremism.

If you want to address the political aspects of it I think the cartoons were only an outlet for pent up anger, and while the publisher had every legal right to publish them, it was in very poor taste to do so. As for its implication for western democracy I do not accept that a portion of a population that is in any case a tiny minority can overthrow the government. This is just stupid. In the U.S at least Christian fundamentalists pose a much greater threat to liberal democracy than do Muslims, and that threat is negligible, though they do champion secessionist movements, preach white-supremacist ideas, call for the murder of elected officials, have commited terrorist attacks (Oklahoma City bombing, Olympic bombing, abortion clinic bombings, etc.) and seek to impose theocratic totalitarian government. If extremism and threats to democracy where the only issue, as I have said elsewhere, these issues would receive receive much greater attention than Islamic extremism, as they pose a much greater threat, but they are ignored and sometimes championed by the same people who speak so often about the threat of Islam.

Paul said...

'If extremism and threats to democracy where the only issue, as I have said elsewhere, these issues would receive much greater attention than Islamic extremism, as they pose a much greater threat, but they are ignored and sometimes championed by the same people who speak so often about the threat of Islam.'

Just wondering how many Americans have been killed by these Christian dingbats since 9/11? Would you seriously suggest therefore the focus of the DHS and FBI is wrong in concentrating in the main against Jihadism? Is the threat posed by them a trans national phenomenon? I mean you have me worried, I might have to keep a closer eye on the vicar down the road in case he straps on a suicide vest.

Paul said...

All right sarcasm aside you make a point about the Christian right that merits a response. But I did respond to that in an earlier post of yours. In a nutshell I'll rehash. Christian nutters certainly exist (Phelps, KKK etc) however they are condemned as heretics by all mainstream Churches. Furthermore their arguments are easy to refute by reference to 'Love thy neighbour'. I once had such a discussion on you tube with such an individual from the Phelps crowd on you tube they are completely nuts, an example perhaps of congenital madness.

In Islam however the situation is vastly different due to the Jihad doctrine. Both Shia and Sunni Islam teach that Islam must be expanded by force until Islam (or more correctly Islamic law) dominates. The exact Sura is 9:29. Such a doctrine is not always interpreted as meaning violent Jihad. The Jihad can be political as well but the intention is the same. A Caliphate implementing Islamic law. There is no such parallel in Christianity. A few rednecks in the south are hardly the arbitrators of a global movement.

I still maintain my original point that Muslims have yet to demonstrate against Jihadism with the same vigour as they did over the harmless Mohammad cartoons. The Mohammad cartoon scenario led to hundreds of death. You know what they were just cartoons and there was nothing offensive at all about them in my opinion. Even if they were isn't it telling that when Christians feel offended over say 'Gerry Springer the Opera' we don't get rampaging hordes killing hundreds of people?

Young Activist said...

And Osama bin Laden is condemned by all mainstream Muslims, and his actions are easy to condemn with passages from the Quaran. What is your point? Of course the radical Christians could also point out the truly barbaric passages from the Bible also. Have you ever read the Old Testament, its likely the most genocidal book ever written.

Ah yes, Daniel Pipes has been screaming about that Surra for years, although it appears to be more in the context of conventional warfare. But while I am continuing to learn more I am not knowledgable on religioun. If you want to have a theological discussion I am not the person to talk to, perhaps you should ask a Muslim (such as Nindee), or read a serious religous scholar, such as Karen Armstrong. However, as you have conceeded violent Muslims constitute a tiny minority, so either you are mor perceptive reader of the Quran than a billion Muslims, or most people identifying as Muslims are not true Muslims, in either case your argument here is mute point.

And the FBI is very much interested in the activities of radical Christians, as they pose a far greater threat to the U.S's government than some radical Muslims somewhere in a cave in Pakistan, have you heard of the milita movement, the calls to kill the President, the armed protestors attending health care fourms? If it did not encourage it or make it appear mainstream I am sure the FBI would be more public (i.e newspaper articles, etc.) about these issues.

I find the cartoons highly offensive, that was their entire point (and Christians in the American south at least have been known to issue death threats because Wal-Mart choses to print "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas" on their advertisements, and I don't recall seeing you protesting, say, civilian deaths in NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan with the same, or any, of the ferocity you have devoted to denouncing Islam), but I think I have already adequatly adressed the topic of Islamic extremism adequatly, so unless you have any comments concerning my post I see no need to discuss this any further.

Paul said...

'And Osama bin Laden is condemned by all mainstream Muslims, and his actions are easy to condemn with passages from the Quran. What is your point? Of course the radical Christians could also point out the truly barbaric passages from the Bible also. Have you ever read the Old Testament, it’s likely the most genocidal book ever written.'

That is not true. Sura 29 is regarded as outlining an obligation to Jihad by all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Furthermore with regards to Christianity there is a New Testament that abrogates the Old. There is no New Qur'an, just as there is no scriptural basis in Islam to reject the idea of a Jihad against the west. Have you read what Ed Hussein said? Have you read Irshad Manji? Also what was so offensive about the Muhammad cartoons? You've become very defensive all of a sudden on the subject of debate which you initiated. There was nothing even remotely offensive about the Mohammad cartoons. Nor do Christians in the west react violently to being mocked or criticised. I may not get a frank answer from you YA, but do you believe as a majority (according to a Guardian poll I quoted earlier) of Muslims in the west do, that religious figures should not be mocked or criticised in publications? What according to you would be the law?

Oh and about Sura 29 being about conventional warfare? Perhaps it is, it was written at a time when Muhammad led wars of aggression to spread Islam. But can you please make that point to the radical Muslims themselves who justify their actions under it and other Quranic verses? Perhaps you could tell them of the ‘peaceful’ Suras which they seem to ignore? Or will you reserve your criticism for westerners who believe that freedom of speech and democracy is preferable to theocracy? I mean come on now, you saw as well as I the protests by westerners against some of the wars. But did you see the Muhammad cartoon protests? They killed hundreds across the globe. There is no comparison between them and actions by radical Christians. Even if there was I would gladly condemn such cranky behaviour. All religions should be subject to critical inquiry as well as mockery in the west. That may hurt some people’s feelings I accept but that is the price of a free west. Its far preferable to a theocracy where unelected clerics decide what happens and you can be executed for criticising religious figures.

Young Activist said...

You say the New Testament abrogates the old, though fundamentalist Christians seem to have no qualms with summoning the Old Testament when it suits their needs, as in the case of homosexuality, and what about Jews? What abrogates the Old Testament for them?

The use of certain passages of the Quran by extremists to justify their actions is no different from fundamentalist Christians or Jews who do the same thing, and as you have conceded there are fundamentalist Christians who do do this, but this is better served by a psychological explanation than a theological one. As I have said, while I am far more knowledgeable in areas of religion than the average American I am no expert, and a Muslim or a religious scholar would be a better source of information, however, do you even know what the word jihad means in Arabic?

Do I think religious icons should be mocked with incendiary cartoons that carry no intellectual meaning? No, of course not. Now this is a separate question from should it be legal to do so. I adhere to no religion, but nor am I militant atheist. I recognize how central religion is to many people, and that it deserves to be treated with respect. I further recognize that religion is a forum people project their innate beliefs onto, and generally not a motivating ideology. That is why it makes little sense to attack the idea of religion or a specific religion, there are both great humanitarians and horrible monsters in every religion who act in the name of God, but these people are generally more influenced by societal than theological factors, unless of course you would care to revisit the Middle Ages of Christianity. Is that proof that Christianity is a barbaric, fascist ideology whose holy book should be banned and whose adherents should be derided. I don't think so, though that would be the conclusion one would draw from the logic you apply to Islam.

Young Activist said...

Condemning a cartoon which had no point other than to be incendiary and offensive is not "one step away from a theocracy", in fact it is something I believe you would likely do if the target was another group. Why are you so obsessed with Islam? It really doesn't seem healthy, this jihad against Muslims by people on the right. They always need someone to hate I suppose. Sixty years ago it was the Jews who were the embodiment of evil for rightists, with their conspiracies to take over the world, and their satanic religious books, today it is the Muslims, perhaps in another few decades it will be Hindus or Sikhs, or someone else who is the new threat to civilization, in the meantime leftist will continue to come to the defense of those who are under siege by nativist bigots, and in doing so we will do far more to combat extremism than those on the right ever will.

Speaking of leftists, you bring up the issue of introspection and self-criticism, something you (falsely) claim is lacking among Muslims, as oppose to the West. But Paul, who in the West is introspective and self-critical? Is it those who are always looking for fault in others (the right), or is those who are interested in changing their own society (the left)? What is the basis for this point when you consistently apoligise for any abuse by the west, in fact, I believe you have said national economic interests should always trump human rights in determining policy, hardly a morally defensible proposition. Which is interesting, those on the right are so eager to denounce Islam, but they are conspicuously silent where the perceived national interest entails support for radical Islamists, whereas the left is extremely vocal, as in Saudi Arabia today, or the Taliban in the 1980s, the left is the only voice of dissent. They are the ones, to borrow the expression of British MP, protesting outside the Saudi embassy whilst American and British officials, the heroes of the right, the defenders of freedom, are going in to do business. And yet no one has ever accused leftist of being Islamophobic for their often vehement denunciations of Islamic extremism. Why? Because it is obvious, at least to Muslims, that what is being criticized is not Islam or Muslims, but abuses of human rights. That is the appropriate way to criticize totalitarian religious ideologies.

Now, as I find myself simply repeating what I have already said, I see little purpose in continuing this discussion unless you would take issue with specific points I have made in my post, in which case I would gladly continue to debate you.

Don Emmerich Jr. said...

"Just wondering how many Americans have been killed by these Christian dingbats since 9/11?"

Hmm, let's see, the United States, led by Christian presidents, starved to death hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children from 1991-2003. And hundreds of thousands of more Muslims were killed as a result of the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars, let's remember, were started by a Born-Again President, and let's remember that the US military primarily consists of Christian men and women.

Paul said...

‘The use of certain passages of the Quran by extremists to justify their actions is no different from fundamentalist Christians or Jews who do the same thing, and as you have conceded there are fundamentalist Christians who do do this,’

That may well be the case with regards to some of these snake venom scoffing types. But to say that they represent a constitutional threat on a par with radical Islam is incorrect. A few rednecks and violent anti-abortionists is hardly on the same scale as Al Qaeda. Let us not forget that it was not the Michigan militia who killed 3000 people in one go on 9/11. Nor are they part of a trans-national movement. There is no possibility or indeed no attempt being made thereof to implement a Christian theocracy in Europe or the Middle East. The Islamist threat is indeed global and Islamist movements; particularly political and subversive organisations such as Hizb Ut Tahir are well organised and funded. But rest assured YA I will gladly condemn any attempts by radical Christians to subvert democracy. You can post news of any such attempts here or inform me on my blog. I will not hesitate to condemn such action.

‘Do I think religious icons should be mocked with incendiary cartoons that carry no intellectual meaning? No, of course not. Now this is a separate question from should it be legal to do so. I adhere to no religion, but nor am I militant atheist. I recognize how central religion is to many people, and that it deserves to be treated with respect. I further recognize that religion is a forum people project their innate beliefs onto, and generally not a motivating ideology. That is why it makes little sense to attack the idea of religion or a specific religion,’

That point of course makes sense up to a point. However I believe the Muhammad cartoons did contain an intellectual meaning. Ample evidence exists that Islamic suicide bombers detonate themselves in the belief however bizarre it may seem, that they will enjoy sex with 72 virgins in a hedonistic paradise. Suicide bombings, which have killed a large number of innocent people in the west. So why not mock such a bizarre belief? Surely we should be able to do so and western Muslims may not like it but I would have hoped that they would have disliked the radical ideology more. Not least as Muslims all too frequently have fallen victim to such suicide bombings. The cartoon I am referring to is the one where Muhammad was seen at the entrance to Heaven warning arriving ‘martyrs’ he had run out of virgins.

Paul said...

‘Condemning a cartoon which had no point other than to be incendiary and offensive is not "one step away from a theocracy", in fact it is something I believe you would likely do if the target was another group. Why are you so obsessed with Islam? I’

Nonsense YA. Please in arguments look at what is actually said rather than attributing an attitude to an individual with whom you disagree. An attitude they have never taken in this regard. I am fully in favour of subjecting religon to mockery maintaining a vigorous standard of freedom of speech. After all wasn’t the Monty Python film ‘The life of Brian’, ‘incendiary and offensive’ or ‘Gerry Springer the Opera’? In fact Monty Python’s brilliant work featured a crucified and dying Christ singing ‘always look on the bright side of life’. Doubtless you have seen it and yet in spite of it aggravating many evangelical Christians and being banned in the Republic of Ireland. It didn’t lead to riots and hundreds of deaths. Furthermore on a more serious note, if religon was not questioned would we get to hear off matters such as the abuse of children by rogue Priests? Yes people will be offended YA I accept that.

However I do not care, the west benefits more from freedom of speech than it would if it became authoritarian and intellectually bankrupt. Those radical Muslims who protested against cartoons should have had this explained to them, basically ‘it’s a democracy mate and you have more rights and prosperity here than in a theocracy, if you don’t like it there’s the airport’. Problem was it was the radicals, the Islamists that were driving the protests. Even now western academics in the main accept this, although not without controversy. Why am I obsessed with Islam? I don’t think I am but the only attempt in Western Europe where I live; to advance a theocracy and subvert secular democracy is made solely by radical Muslims.

http://www.yaledailynews.com/crosscampus/2009/10/01/alums-ask-yale-reverse-mistake-they-made-withholdi/

‘Speaking of leftists, you bring up the issue of introspection and self-criticism, something you (falsely) claim is lacking among Muslims, as oppose to the West. But Paul, who in the West is introspective and self-critical?’

Well firstly I don’t believe I did say Muslims were lacking introspection and self criticism. I don’t see how I could as on this topic and others concerning radical Islam I’ve mentioned as sources Irshad Manji and Ed Hussein the British Muslim and former Islamist. My point was about Islam itself and in particular radical Islam. Who in the west is introspective and self critical? We are for just one example YA, you and I. Even if you dismiss as reactionary anyone who disagrees with you the fact remains that we are two people from the west with radically diverging views. Indeed this spirit of critical inquiry in the west is what has explained the west’s innovative spirit in recent history. To a large but perhaps lesser extent such a spirit is also present is many Asian cultures (Japan, China and India). However sadly we have not seen similar progress being made anywhere in the Islamic world. The Gulf States with massive oil revenues still require western technological support at every level. Indeed this autarchy goes some way to explaining the rise of radical Islam. Yet sadly see below for how the Gulf States and others are attempting to utilise the UN to maintain a strangle hold on free thought.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/UN_Again_Moving_to_Restrict_Freedom_of_Speech_in_the_Name_of_Religion.html#

Paul said...

‘believe you have said national economic interests should always trump human rights in determining policy, hardly a morally defensible proposition.’

No not once have I said that. Please look at the debate again and reassess that position. But again regrettably you choose to believe what your instincts predispose you to rather than what is actually the stated position of your opponent in debate.

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=5791461091801719877&postID=4005940865352353295

Interestingly in that discussion you make the point that it seems wrong to prosecute Javed Iqbal for running a pro Hezbollah satellite channel. Yet you also had difficulty allowing Wilders freedom of expression and here again you seek to suppress freedom of speech when it aggravates radical Muslims with harmless cartoons?

For what it’s worth further evidence of Islamist encroachment into the US:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/chi-0409190261sep19,0,3008717.story?page=3

It need not matter that you and I differ, what matters YA to me is freedom of Speech and that has to come above religious sensibilities.

Paul said...

‘Just wondering how many Americans have been killed by these Christian dingbats since 9/11?"

Hmm, let's see, the United States, led by Christian presidents, starved to death hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children from 1991-2003. And hundreds of thousands of more Muslims were killed as a result of the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.’

It is self evident from my statement that I’m referring to terrorism against America. In this case as well as 9/11 itself, which killed thousands and Bali, Madrid, London etc all of which were done by Jihadists against the west. What have Christian radicals gone and done? Perhaps they blown up an abortion clinic somewhere in Mid Western USA. But whilst we’re on the subject which American sanctions? You mean the UN sanctions right? In Afghanistan the west had to react as it was directly attacked and in Iraq the US was not the big killer. That dubious honour went to the Jihadists.

Paul said...

I will update my blog soon with all this if like me you want to call it a night.

Young Activist said...

Re: Your first point:
9/11 was a terrible tragedy, but it was not as you say a threat to the Constitutional order, nor do a few hundred fighters holed up in caves in Pakistan pose a threat to western democracy in the U.S, irrespective of how demented their ideology is. Right wing Christians do however pose a genuine threat, albeit a negligible one, to the Constitutional order of the U.S. The KKK has more armed nuts than al-Qaeda, many of them within the military, and unlike al-Qaeda they are already in this country, and right wing-fundamentalist Christians have made their way into the political establishment. Radical elements kill government officials and seek to secede and establish a white supremacist theocracy, more moderate, and that is a relative term, seek to shift the government's agenda through participation in the political system. Al-Qaeda does not seek to establish a theocracy in the U.S, nor the means of accomplishing that, and it does not have the sympathetic ear of any government officials.

Now of course there is not going to be active attempts to establish a Christian theocracy in the Middle East, although I believe it has been proposed in parts of Lebanon, when there are very few Christians. Religious extremism in the Middle East is naturally confined to the two faiths whose adherents form national majorities; Islam and Judaism, and extremist Judaism does not differ all that much from the most extremist elements of Islam. Look up Israel Hess or the Hebron settlement leaders. Certainly Hizb Ut Tahir is moderate by comparison.
In the more secular western Europe right wing extremism is largely confined to ultra-nationalist and racist groups, but these do have some following. I recall it being a particular problem in the former East Germany where neo-Nazi parties routinely poll 10% or better, France where the fascist candidate placed second in the 2002 Presidential election, and Italy where far right parties enjoy great influence and several electoral mandates, though Dutch fascist parties also seem to be fairly active and the BNP has recently scored two seats in the European Parliament.
I would challange you to find any Quranic base for the claim about 72 virgins. There is none, and Muhammad is viewed by Muslims as a messenger, and nothing more. Surely the publishers knew this and they knew that depictions of Muhammad, even favorable ones, are highly offensive to Muslims. Criticizing such views is not uncontroversial, in fact it is the dominant view among Muslims, that is not what is at issue here. There is no intellectual message here, the only purpose was to be incendiary, and that much was accomplished. Now the cartoon protests were really only superficially related to the cartoons, but to a certain extent it reminds me of a car trip I was recently on with two young children. The entire trip one child poked the other, for hours, until finally the second child punched the first in the face, at which point the first child assumed the role of the innocent victim, when in fact they shared the guilt for this incident.

Young Activist said...

Re: your second point
I can only assume what drives you by looking for a pattern in what you talk about. Your posts about far right extremism focus exclusively on Islam. You never talk about ultra-nationalists, white supremacists, Christian fundamentalists, or Jewish fundamentalists, even though such groups do pose a significant threat to western democracy. It would therefore appear that as you criticize Islamic extremism while never talking about comparable threats posed by other forms of extremism it is not extremism that you have a problem with, but Islam. If a radical, fundamentalist Muslims came on my blog to take my side in a debate about, say Palestine, I would not tell him he made good points and refrain from criticizing him as you have done with our mutual acquaintance Bar Kochba. I am not opposed to questioning religion at all, my questioning of religion, to the point that I no longer belong to a religion, has led me to some very interesting conversations. However, issues need to be separated.

Issues also need to be seperated in discussing the cartoons. Yes, the newspaper should have a legal right to publish them, but that does not change the fact that it was disrespectful, counterproductive, incendiary, and recklessly irresponsible to do so. And ultra-nationalists, as I have said, are active in western Europe and also interested in subverting democracy. When was the last time you had a post about the BNP?
You demanded that Muslims offer principled criticism of the actions of their own society against outsiders, something which I don't recall you yourself having done. In the west, as anywhere else, leftists (in the modern colluqial sense of the word, not in the economic sense, many leftists, such as Don, would be regarded as right-wingers in the conventional sense of the term) are the only source of this criticism.
Do you mean to suggest no one in the Middle East has radically divergent views they discuss openly? Israel would be an example, so would Palestine, Iran, Lebanon, and the whole of the Middle Eastern blogosphere. But, that's a mute point, the state of social development in a nation has little to do with its religion. Africa has just as many backwards Christian and animist nations, that doesn't mean there is a problem with Christianity or animism.

The second link you provided appears dead. On the first, its important to make the distinction between government and institutional censorship. Institutional censorship is not a freedom of speech issue. Of course on the decision not to print the cartoons I can understand its reasoning, though I do not think their reproduction would be inappropriate within the context of an intellectual account of their political repercussions.

Don Emmerich Jr. said...

“It is self evident from my statement that I’m referring to terrorism against America. In this case as well as 9/11 itself, which killed thousands and Bali, Madrid, London etc all of which were done by Jihadists against the west. What have Christian radicals gone and done? Perhaps they blown up an abortion clinic somewhere in Mid Western USA. But whilst we’re on the subject which American sanctions? You mean the UN sanctions right? In Afghanistan the west had to react as it was directly attacked and in Iraq the US was not the big killer. That dubious honour went to the Jihadists.”

Okay, well how do you define “terrorism”?

The dictionary defines terrorism as the use of violence against a civilian population in order to achieve political ends. By that definition, Christians--who primarily lead this country, who primarily serve in the military--are far more guilty of terrorism than Muslims. Sanctions, of course, are a perfect example of this.

And regarding the sanctions against Iraq, who do you think led them? Who do you think voted for them? It wasn’t the UN General Assembly but the UN Security Council. Which, of course, doesn’t just consist of the United States. So if you want to blame the other Security Council members, then of course I’m all for that. But the US is undoubtedly the most powerful and influential Security Council member. And no nation did more to keep the sanctions going -- even after it became clear that they were killing literally hundreds of thousands of civilians -- than the US.

Regarding the Afghanistan War, yes, the West had an obligation to go after the individuals who perpetrated 9/11. But the Taliban, I hope you realize, had nothing to do with 9/11. The Taliban, you might remember, even agreed to hand over Osama bin Laden. They simply asked that the US provide some evidence that he was actually behind the attacks, something the US refused to do. So the US went in and starting bombing the hell out of the country. Soon thereafter, a number of human rights organizations began pleading that we stop, warning that our bombs were preventing them from providing the civilian population with food. A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned, “We are facing a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions in Afghanistan with 7.5million short of food and at risk of starvation.” Yet the bombs continued to fall. And they continue to this day, killing some militants but also many, many civilians.

I agree Muslims do a lot of killing throughout the world. We’ve certainly seen a lot of this in Iraq since 2003. But I hope you’ll agree that a great deal of this killing is enabled by the good old USA. We helped Saddam Hussein murder Iranians in the 1980s. We continue helping the Israelis brutalize the Palestinians and Egyptians and Saudis and Jordanians, etc., brutalize their populations.

Terrorism is terrorism, no matter who's doing it.

Young Activist said...

Re: your third point
You said the west should "put our security paramount of all other interests" in the case of Somalia. What are our security interests in Somalia? They are entirely economic, insuring our vessels and fishing boats can continue to operate unmolested.
I think we agree on the freedom of speech issue, I don't see what that adds to the discussion.

Young Activist said...

Re: your fourth point:
Believe it or not some radical extremists place an equal weight on the lives of people who are not from their own country. Don raises a good point, western actions have killed many scores as many people as Islamic extremism. In the case of the Iraqi sanctions they were done under U.N auspices, but in actuality they were U.S and perhaps U.K in origin, this much is not controversial, even among those who implemented the sanctions regime. In Afghanistan the Taliban did make serious and credible offers to hand over the perpetrators of 9/11 for trial, though the U.S was uninterested. More interestingly, plans to invade Afghanistan were in the works long before 9/11. Ironically enough I believe the decision was finalized on September 10, 2001. I'll let you speculate as to what the motivations were, though they were obviously not the ones you ascribe to it. In Iraq the U.S unleashed that violence, it invaded Iraq in the expectation it would be unleashed, it therefore bears a considerable degree of responsibility for it.

Paul said...

'I can only assume what drives you by looking for a pattern in what you talk about. Your posts about far right extremism focus exclusively on Islam. You never talk about ultra-nationalists, white supremacists, Christian fundamentalists, or Jewish fundamentalists,'

Simple enough to answer this. There are no Jewish or Christian supremacist groups in the UK. Even if some oddball grouping does not exist somewhere in the back of beyond they are nowhere near as ubiquitous as Islamist groupings in the UK. Furthermore yes the BNP are an unpleasant group of people, but it was not they who killed 52 people in London on 7/7. They sadly have gained a negligible foothold amongst some white working class communities in northern England. I have not condemned them in any article on my blog I concede that. However I unreservedly have condemned them in comments on UK blogs. This is my fault however, I spend most of my time in the blogosphere commenting and discussing on other peoples blogs (you're probably thinking 'no sh*t! right now. I should put more effort into a divergence of my own articles. But it does not matter as the main threat to secular democracy in Western Europe remains Islamism.

Much of the 'far right' populism that has been seen in places like France. Has been a direct and unfortunate response to huge uncontrolled levels of immigration. This together with the actions of some governments and local authorities has aggravated the issue.

'In Afghanistan the Taliban did make serious and credible offers to hand over the perpetrators of 9/11 for trial, though the U.S was uninterested.'

Both you and Don have commented in this vein so it merits a response. The Taliban's 'offer' post 9/11 was to try Bin Laden in accordance with Sharia law. The problem with that? Well firstly any testimony by a Muslim woman or Jew or Christian is merited as worth half that of a Muslim man. It would have been somewhat problematical for the US once their own evidence was dismissed as coming from infidels. Furthermore it is plain silly to think for one second that the US could or should have facilitated such a 'trial'. It would only have legitimised the Taliban. I'm amazed that people still give the Taliban offer credence.

'Ironically enough I believe the decision was finalized on September 10, 2001. I'll let you speculate as to what the motivations were, though they were obviously not the ones you ascribe to it. In Iraq the U.S unleashed that violence, it invaded Iraq in the expectation it would be unleashed,'

The first part of the statement brings us a bit closer to Michael Moore's arguments. I would be surprised however if during 2001 the US was not considering some form of action against the Taliban. It makes sense to make contingency plans for actions against stated enemies. The Taliban controlled Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan were an obvious cause for concern. As we now know Al Qaeda got the first shot in.

Iraq is of course a different matter. The US and others went after a potential rather than an actual threat. Although that threat would have seemed real enough to a Kurd or Kuwaiti. The US failed to predict what the consequences of an insecure Iraq would be I accept that. I do agree perhaps surprisingly with much of what you say Re Iraq. However after strenuous efforts by the US the situation is changing for the better. No more so than in Southern Iraq and the north at least. Baghdad is more stable but it will take a long time before it becomes economically viable. What that means is that Bush whilst he acted in haste in 2003. At least listened to his military and from 2006 onwards made strenuous efforts to undo some of the damage that had been caused. Ironically a similar discussion is taking place right now Re Afghanistan.

Young Activist said...

Islam is a bigger threat to democracy in western Europe than neo-fascist parties? How man votes did Islamist parties receive in the last French Presidential election? Radical Islam is a serious nuisance in Europe, but from the perspective of a maintenance of the democratic government it is nothing more than a nuisance, albeit a very concerning one, for the simple reason that there are not enough radical Muslims in western Europe to overthrow existing governments or administer new ones. What's the Muslim population in the U.K? It's less than 5%, and of that population how many are violent extremists? If the problem was as bad as you make it out to be there would be pitched battles constantly being fought in every European capital between police and soldiers of the caliphate, that is simply not the case.

The Taliban offered to try bin Laden by Sharia law OR to hand him over for trial to a European country. The Taliban are not a pleasant group of people, but they are capable of acting in their own interests when the occasion requires it.

That the Bush administration finalised plans to invade Afghanistan before 9/11 is neither a conspiracy theory nor was it a contigency plan.

From the Guardian:
"The day before the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration agreed on a plan to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan by force if it refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, according to a report by a bipartisan commission of inquiry."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/mar/24/september11.usa2


I've already addressed the issue of Iraq at length, so I'll only make a brief comment about that. Do you really think the U.S was at all concerned about the fate of Kuwaitis or Kurds. The first President Bush conceded the first Gulf War was motivated by a desire to protect Kuwaiti oil even before the invasion began, and the same neocons who engineered the war were instrumental in perpetuating the suffering of the Kurds when Saddam Hussien was of use to their strategic interests in the 1980's. Your great hero, Kissinger, while not a neocon, helped enable massacres of the Kurds in the 70's when he duped them into rising up under assurances of U.S aid and then backed down when they did, after they had played their role of providing leverage for the U.S and Iran in negotiations with Saddam Hussein, who promptly crushed the rebels and killed many other Kurds.

Paul said...

'Islam is a bigger threat to democracy in western Europe than neo-fascist parties? How man votes did Islamist parties receive in the last French Presidential election?'

They don't operate that way. Their methods are more sophisticated than that. The places where you will see Islamist political parties operate are nominally democratic states with Muslim majorities such as Turkey.

In the west organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb Ut Tahir and Islam4UK intend to subvert and destroy the democracy from within. They know that currently at least they will get nowhere by openly campaigning. As such they operate for now under the radar. Look here though for evidence of such intentions by former Islamist Ed Hussein:

http://www.epicindia.com/magazine/Books/book-review-the-islamist-why-i-joined-radical-islam-in-britain-what-i-saw-inside-and-why-i-left-by-ed-husain

Or direct from Islam4UK:

‘Subsequently, living in Britain we target to convince the British public about the superiority of Islam and expose the fallacies of man-made law, thereby changing public opinion in favour of Islam in order to transfer the authority and power (from those with authority and power) to the Muslims in order to implement the Sharee’ah (here in Britain).’
http://www.islam4uk.com/about-us

Also both Robert Spencer and Melanie Phillips have undertaken much work looking at this stealth Jihad:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stealth-Jihad-Radical-Subverting-America/dp/1596985569

More on stealth Jihad:
http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/435091/sleepwalking-into-enslavement.thtml

In both cases of course you will find no shortage of outraged leftists decrying these individuals as Islamaphobic or even racist. Such individuals of course rarely are able to take issue with what is actually said. They just do not like them saying it (something which sounds familiar to me).

Another very well organised aspect of the stealth Jihad by Islamist groupings is to utilise the courts whenever they face obstacles. BY this way they can assure that when secular stands in their way a court injunction can be reached. Sounds far fetched? Only in several cases it has begun to work. Examples include that of Shebina Begum who took her school to court over disallowing her to wear 'Islamic dress'. Her case was supported by Hizb Ut Tahir of which her brother was a member.

Shebina Begum pen picture

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/article696181.ece?token=null&offset=0&page=1

The Case itself:
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article744100.ece#

Other examples include a Muslim seeking a court injunction over the 'distress' Church bells cause him:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1218990/Worshippers-abandon-church-slapped-council-noise-ban.html

In Islam (meaning of course Sharia) the Dhimmi are not allowed to worship or operate openly. Shafi manual of Islamic law:

*They are forbidden to openly display wine or pork (A: to ring church bells or display crosses) recite the torah or evangel aloud, or make public display of their funerals and feastdays; (Reliance of the Traveller; Shafi law 11.5 (6) p 608)

What strikes me as bizarre about that case is that a Magistrates court has basically upheld Sharia law. I wonder if a complaint about the 'call to prayer' in a British inner city would be upheld?

Paul said...

I assume by mentioning the French Election earlier you were eluding to the National Front? An unpleasant bunch no doubt with more than a whiff of racism. However I would not class them as being intent on undoing democracy, merely populist reactionaries.

You asked me about whether the Qur'an sanctioned suicide bombers? Really you should ask Hamas, but I'll point you in the direction of what the Islamists themselves say. To understand this however you need to understand how Islam was borne out of conflict and utilised warfare to spread itself. This is why the Qur'an promises paradise for those who slay and are slain for Islam (Sura 9:111). However the bit about virgins is alluded to indirectly in the Qur'an and directly with graphic sexual promise in Hadith. Two sources which provide a good basis for discussion:

http://www.meforum.org/1003/the-religious-foundations-of-suicide-bombings

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2002/jan/12/books.guardianreview5

The Guardian article is well worth a read, it seems the Hadith may have been lost in translation.

‘If the problem was as bad as you make it out to be there would be pitched battles constantly being fought in every European capital between police and soldiers of the caliphate, that is simply not the case.’

How I wish you were right on that one. However look here:

Sweden
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXzqVK6uY8I&feature=player_embedded

Berlin:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RJElADFXyQ&feature=player_embedded
Watch from 6.0 mins onwards.

Paris Riots
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/6005852/Police-battle-rioters-in-Paris-suburb.html

What is disturbing about these incidents is not only the ongoing and permanent nature of these ghetto uprisings. But if it is all about urban decay how come the Poles, Chinese’s and other immigrant communities aren’t rioting. Listen to what the Muslim youths from Sweden say. This has happened in the UK as well. The media reported it as ‘Asians’ rioting. I think that is a bit unfair on the UK’s well integrated and hard working Sikh and Hindu communities.



Oh thanks for the further revelation Re ‘my hero’ Kissinger. Do you have any photos of that period? I could put them on my wall along with all the others I have of him. I must go now as it is late and I still have even more work to do. I'll get back to you on Iraq or the Afghan bit. Not for the first time however you are quoting a source that seems to bear out my argument and not you own! In this case R

Paul said...

One very brief and final note. A further obstacle amongst Muslim communities to their successful integration and their hostility to the non-Muslim society into which they (or their parents) have immigrated is Saudi Salafism. Salafism is the austere and extreme Wahabi version of Islam. It is a very strict form of fundamentalism. Ed Hussein again on the importation of Salafism:

http://www.epicindia.com/magazine/Books/book-review-the-islamist-why-i-joined-radical-islam-in-britain-what-i-saw-inside-and-why-i-left-by-ed-husain

Another good reference is Channel four’s dispatches programme ‘Under cover Mosque’, which was aired in January 07. Here reporters went into Saudi funded Mosques and found being preached amongst other gems of wisdom:

1. ‘Everyone hates the Kuffar’.
2. ‘Take that gay man and throw him off the mountain’.
3. ‘Osama Bin Laden is better than Tony Blair because he is a Muslim’
4. ‘If she refuses to wear Hijab then hit her’.
5. Praising the Taleban for beheading a British Muslim soldier.

Transcript here:

http://www.mpacuk.org/content/view/3266/34/

Alas a year later undercover reporters returned to other Mosques to see if the situation has changed. I’ll let you judge the result:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Undercover_Mosque:_The_Return

Also on the subject of hostile preaching in UK Mosques from the normally cosy multi-cultural BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/panorama/4171950.stm

Sadly when all of this came to light, the response from organisations such as the MCB and MPACUK was to cry ‘Islamaphobia’. They did not address the issue of what was being preached and as was seen 12 months later the situation was no better. Thus, many Muslims in the west will be encouraged to adopt a hostile attitude to the’Kuffar’ society by their own Imams. That perhaps goes some way to explain the hostility towards authority, described in the you tube clips about Berlin and Sweden. My other clip was cut short above as I was in a hurry. I meant to say your quote from the Guardian supported what I said, when I explained I expected the US to be plotting action against the Taleban before 9/11.

Young Activist said...

Paul,
I've never argued extremism was not a problem within Islam. My argument is that alienating Muslims is not an appropriate way of dealing with it, it cannot be focused on obsessively at the expense of other issues, much criticism of Islam consists of bigoted attacks launched under the aegis of concern over extremism, though blind to or encouraging of every other form of intolerance, and that westerners need to apply the same standards to themselves, if not more rigorous ones, as they do to others.

The treatment of Muslims fits into a pattern that has repeated itself, often tragically, many times in European history, though with different victims. I would encourage you to read the anti-Semitic propaganda of sixty years ago, I think you will find a number of startling similarities.