"Naming the Problem" | Megan Hughes

In the aftermath of the Manchester atrocity, Quilliam CEO Haras Rafiq said, “Calls for unity and calm are needed, but we must also call at this time for things not to return to normal. If normal means regular unpredictable attacks by suspected jihadist terrorists against our children and youth at the dawn of their lives”.

Sara Khan of Inspire, an independent British NGO dedicated to counter extremism and gender inequality, wrote “public debate about Islamist extremism has become toxic and polarised”. On the one hand “there are those who try to imply that all Muslims are de facto Islamists”. Others go into “denial mode” and “criticise those who dare raise the existence of Islamist extremism as Islamophobia”.

Clearly, we need to be more bold and fearless. We begin by naming the problem, and it’s a problem that is going to be very difficult to uproot.

Islam in the UK is hugely diverse but, during the last 30 years or so, mainstream Muslim communities have been increasingly affected by re-energised movements of revivalist Islam - schools of thought that claim to be returning Muslims to their pure roots, rejecting more than a thousand years of developments in theology. As the late, great Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawn observed, this turn of events could be regarded as bizarre given that "their educated grandfathers would have described (it) as superstition and barbarism".

Muslims broadly divide into two groups - the Sunni (in the majority) and the Shi'ites (a small minority but split into many sects). Both have given birth to revivalists. The Iranian Revolution was one of two critical developments in prompting revivalist Islam. It was Shi’ite. The second was Saudi Arabia's sponsorship of Wahhabism, a particularly reactionary and sectarian strand of Hanbalite (one of the four schools of law for Sunnis) thought. "The mistake of the West was to put the Sauds on the throne of Saudi Arabia and give them control of the world's oil fortune, which they then used to propagate Wahhabi Islam" (Salman Rushdie).

Recent influential, revivalist movements in Islam usually manifest in the growth of various form of Islamism (Revivalist and literalist; Totalising and theocratic).

Islamism is a self-consciously theocratic ideology that seeks to create a caliphate that can facilitate the Islamization - reordering government, the economy, society and individual lives according to Muslim precepts. Islam is regarded as a total system that applies to all aspects of life - no distinction is made between secular and sacred place, or between private and public life. The law is determined by a literal and dogmatic application of the Sharia, and there is general prohibition on exegetical interpretation of the Qur'an. As the novelist Martin Amis wrote, "like fundamentalist Judaism and medieval Christianity, Islam is totalist. That is to say, it makes a total claim on the individual". This is especially true of revivalist Islam, its bastard offspring Islamism and jihadism, its worst manifestation, ideologies that some pathetic, insecure, weak minded and immature second or third generation immigrants are attracted to like a fly to sh*t.

The attraction of Islamic revivalism and Islamism is mystifying unless it is placed in its proper context.

Fuller (2003) recognises the different Islamisms as regional variants of a global phenomenon that grew up in the 1970s - religiously-orientated identity politics, such as "resurgent Hinduism in India, Religious Zionism in Israel, militant Buddhism in Sri Lanka, resurgent Sikh nationalism in the Punjab...". Fuller argued that Islamism amounted to "support for [Muslim] identity, authenticity, broader regionalism, revivalism, [and] revitalization of the community".

Fuller echoed the earlier views of the late, great Eric Hobsbawm. He insisted that "the emergence of identity politics is a consequence of the extraordinarily rapid and profound upheavals and transformations of human society in the third quarter of this century". He observed "we have been living—we are living—through a gigantic ‘cultural revolution’, an extraordinary dissolution of traditional social norms, textures and values, which left so many inhabitants of the developed world orphaned and bereft". The result? "Men and women look for groups to which they can belong, certainly and forever, in a world in which all else is moving and shifting, in which nothing else is certain. And they find it in an identity group". Islamic revivalism, Islamism and jihadism are merely barbaric representations of this general trend.

You see, the Pandora's Box of modern identity politics, and its cousin the Culture Wars, are the life-blood of Islamism and Jihadism.

Islamism forbids any major importation of decedent western culture into their pure sphere. Thus, for Islamists, "the primary threat of the West is cultural rather than political or economic" (Yvonne Haddad & John Esposito, 1997). They seek "cultural differentiation from the West and reconnection with the pre-colonial symbolic universe" (Francois Burgat, 1997).

In this way, commonplace, non-criminal, revivalist Islam becomes the swamp in which the murderous jihadist is nurtured, and inadequate, alienated second / third generation misfits then chose to murder the infidel indiscriminately as the ultimate narcissistic demonstration of their separate cultural identity.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somali-born feminist and a prominent campaigner against female genital mutilation, insists the majority of Muslims - even if they don't actively support or participate in acts of terror - aren't 'moderates'; their "vision is a caliphate – a society ruled by Sharia law – in which women who have sex before marriage are stoned to death, homosexuals are beaten, and apostates like me are killed. Sharia law is as inimical to liberal democracy as Nazism".

Ali argues that "Islam is not a race...Islam is simply a set of beliefs, and it is not 'Islamophobic' to say Islam is incompatible with liberal democracy". Latterly, she became more optimistic that reforming, humane voices could emerge from Islam, but she remains scathing about western liberals' reticence to challenge the beliefs of revivalist Muslims.

Ali Sina, an Iranian-born activist, observes that Islamism “takes advantage of two structural flaws that exist in the Western society. One is political correctness and other is the decline of morality".

By Megan Hughes

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"Naming the Problem" | Megan Hughes "Naming the Problem" | Megan Hughes Reviewed by Student Voices on 17:33 Rating: 5

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