foreign policy, but ideology too

Inayat Bunglawala’s recent article is summarised like this: “Blaming terrorism on some unspecified evil within the Muslim community may please warmongers, but it won’t help us defeat the violent extremists.”

Some of the problems with analyses like this include the following.

  • The ‘evil within the Muslim community’ isn’t at all unspecified: it consists of the belief that violent jihad is justifiable, and the putting of that belief into practice in undertaking acts which are intended to harm and destroy other human beings.
  • The so-called Muslim community consists in fact of several Muslim communities. Only some of them are so radically politicised as to justify mass murder and violence. And the more that non-Muslims allow themselves to treat the various strands of Islam as if they were all of a piece (and the more that Muslims themselves allow the idea of this fictional unitary ‘community’ to be entrenched), the more it legitimises the radical elements in their imposition of their own brand of extreme Islam or Islamism on all the other groups and traditions within Islam.
  • It’s a mistake to think that everyone who blames Islamist ideology rather than US and British foreign policy for acts of terrorism is a warmongerer. It’s perfectly possible to believe that British foreign policy is often wrong and sometimes illegal and in many cases adds to whatever sense of grievance people may feel, and to believe that that is no justification for resorting to violence. It’s an ideology, after all, that legitimises the violence as a response to the perceived oppression of American and British foreign policy.

You might not wish to go any further into Bunglawala’s article than the tagline I’ve quoted above. But there are no less than three recent articles by writers who take the opposing view: Ed Husain in the Times and Asim Siddiqui and Hassan Butt in the Guardian, and this time the link isn’t just there for sourcing purposes – they are worth the read.

‘The tone of British Muslim communal discourse in relation to national security and terrorism is worrying. Among young Muslims, there is a widespread Islamism-influenced belief in a bipolar world: a lethal them-and-us mentality. The police and intelligence services belong firmly to the “them” side of the divide. As do clubbers, Jews, gay people, Christians, atheists and even moderate Muslims who reject the extremists’ war call.’ (Husain)

‘No, it’s not foreign policy that’s the main driver in combating the terrorists; it is their mindset. The radical Islamist ideology needs to be exposed to young Muslims for what it really is. A tool for the introduction of a medieval form of governance that describes itself as an “Islamic state” that is violent, retrogressive, discriminatory, a perversion of the sacred texts and a totalitarian dictatorship.’ (Siddiqui)

‘If our country is going to take on radicals and violent extremists, Muslim scholars must go back to the books and come forward with a refashioned set of rules and a revised understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Muslims whose homes and souls are firmly planted in what I’d like to term the Land of Co-existence. And when this new theological territory is opened up, Western Muslims will be able to liberate themselves from defunct models of the world, rewrite the rules of interaction and perhaps we will discover that the concept of killing in the name of Islam is no more than an anachronism.’ (Butt)


5 thoughts on “foreign policy, but ideology too

  1. Yes – i read it at the time actually – remember the amazing controversy that one stirred up. Well, not that amazing really I suppose – the old “watch and be very scared as we use violence to prove to you how non-violent our religion is” line trotted out again, complete with the burning of effigies for added convincingness.


  2. I wonder what would be sufficient to convince Muslims of the violent-jihadi persuasion that they would be better Muslims if they were of the non-violent persuasion? I mean, what kinds of arguments made by whom?

    (Ah, the luxury of idle wonderings in cyberspace, with no intention of doing the hard slog to find out the answers…)

    Interesting pieces in the Guardian. I find the ‘there’s no Caliph so you shouldn’t be doing his job’ argument more convincing than the ‘the middle ages are over, deal with it’ argument – but I have no idea how they sound to Muslim ears.


  3. Yes – an ideological position isn’t necessarily defunct *just* because it belonged to the middle ages – and not everyone in the middle ages used slaughter as a means of argument either. The appeal to muslim scholars to develop the non-aggressive aspects of their sacred texts seems to be the best way to go – not that a scholar-devised religion will save anyone’s souls, obviously, but it would be a lot less harmful for the rest of us. (I assume you and me can agree up to this point – just look away a wee minute while i recite tulip and the five solas – okay, safe now :) )

    Re your first point, would it be enough just to see full sharia law being imposed and enforced all over the world ?


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