Category Archives: Islamism

How not to deal with al-Muhajiroun

Muslim communities around the country have shunned al-Muhajiroun and its various entities for years and refused to give them a platform. Instead, they have to work through front organisations, hire private halls, set up high-street stalls or leaflet people with their poisonous little tracts. They are utterly marginal but are still able to generate huge coverage through provocation. Their recent barracking of British troops returning from Iraq and a counter mini-riot in Luton has poisoned relations in the town. The Muslim community of Luton, which had already chased them out of the mosques, has taken to chasing them off the streets too in a desperate bid to signal their utter disgust and consternation.

Anjem Choudary’s latest wheeze to incite the ire of the national press and to irritate the hell out of Britain’s Muslims as well as everyone else is to use a legal loophole to relaunch al-Muhajiroun this week, which had been disbanded in 2004. Only its successor groups, al-Ghurabaa and the Saviour Sect, were banned in 2006 under terrorism legislation. It seems fairly clear that Choudary expects, and indeed makes the calculation, that the reformed al-Muhajiroun will be banned pretty quickly to generate the notoriety and street-cred that he wants to sustain. As they play a propagandistic role, they will continue to find ways to dodge past legal restrictions by using coded language or forming new entities. The law is obviously a blunt and ineffectual tool.

Well Choudary got his headlines yet again last night when a debate with Douglas Murray of the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) on sharia law verses UK law never got started, ending in acrimony and thuggish behaviour after about half-an-hour. Al-Muhajiroun used their own goons to enforce strict gender segregation at the event, and roughed up at least one person who objected, and so the event was abandoned and the police were called in.

I called the CSC earlier this week as I had concerns that they were just being used to promote Choudary’s latest wheeze and that I had my suspicions that the so-called neutral event organiser, the mysterious Global Issues Society (GIS), was just another al-Muhajiroun front organisation, a suspicion that was proved spectacularly correct last night. The Centre had its concerns too but wanted definitive proof that GIS was a front if it was to pull out at such a late stage.

Prior to last night’s debate it was clear that GIS had:

1. Booked Conway Hall as a student society at Queen Mary’s under false pretences. No-one from the local student Islamic society had heard of them and the college authorities had no record of any student group registered under that name.

2. Had only organised a handful of “debates”, all of them involving al-Muhajiroun representatives.

3. The event was heavily promoted by al-Muhajiroun itself through its own website, and they provided a lurid poster and their own contact number for the event.

4. No-one knowledgeable about the Muslim activist scene in London had heard of them.

At the event itself:

5. The security “hired” by GIS turned out to be just more associates of al-Muhajiroun who enforced their gender segregation code.

6. The so-called neutral chair appeared to be associated with al-Muhajiroun.

Now the CSC says it acted in “good faith” in accepting this invitation, an assertion that can’t be left unchallenged. At the very least, CSC showed questionable judgement in giving the GIS the benefit of the doubt when there were so many legitimate suspicions about them. It seems probable that the CSC was more focused on highlighting their own campaign for a quick ban and burnishing their reputation as a scourge of radical Islam by playing up to al-Muhajiroun’s all-too-familiar tactics.

If instead we want to use debate to expose and de-legitimize al-Muhajiroun further, the only way to do it would be to organise a neutral platform with a proper invite list. Most importantly, a debating opponent is needed who could take on Choudary and win among the disaffected and radicalised segment of young Muslims that al-Muhajiroun hopes to recruit from. Douglas Murray better fits the role of an anti-Islam bogeyman, who memorably described Islam as “an opportunistic infection” at a memorial conference for Pim Fortuyn in February 2006, a statement he is yet to resile from. Murray’s mere presence was no doubt designed by Choudary to buttress further the siege mentality of anti-West radicalism and self-righteous victimhood that al-Muhajiroun promotes.

The lesson of this little fiasco is that the stoking of an Islam-West controversy has become predictable, exploitable and even somewhat of an industry. The question is: how to break the cycle and construct better alternatives? Frustration, despair and even ennui at the current standoff is just a cop-out and we need to do better: so, over to you, any suggestions?

This has been cross-posted from City Circle Blogs.

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Dirty Tricks? Hizb ut-Tahrir and its Critics

Since May 2007, Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain has come under increasing public criticism from former members and associates. The three most prominent critics have been Ed Husain, Shiraz Maher and Maajid Nawaz. Of the three, Husain has had the widest public impact with his book, The Islamist, whose main target was the Party, becoming a best seller (with apparently over 50,000 copies sold since its release). Perhaps the most authoritative criticism has come from the most senior figure out of the three, Nawaz, who had been promoted to the national executive committee prior to his departure in 2007.

Although all three have mounted strong criticisms of the Party’s political ideology, Nawaz has disagreed with the call made by Maher and Husain for the Party’s proscription under the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006. After two reviews since 2005, the government has decided that there is insufficient evidence to ban the group, although it apparently remains under review. There are some grounds for the suspicion that the unofficial policy is really to threaten the Party with a ban rather than actually impose one in order to moderate its behaviour. Any ban would certainly be tested through the courts and would potentially criminalise a lot of young Muslim Britons, drastically polarising the political climate. And it would be a post-war first — banning a non-violent group for subversion, something neither contemplated for Britain’s Communists during the Cold War nor for Sinn Fein during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Nawaz has decided to undertake a detailed rebuttal through his blog, Towards Political Engagement, of the Party’s ideological stance on the basis of Islamic theology. His approach seeks to persuade rather than to coerce and is largely directed at serving Party members, surely the best way forward in a period when Muslims face the stripping away of their legal rights, a process that, like the one the British Irish collectively experienced in earlier times, creates a “suspect community”. Nawaz has concentrated rather less on shifting the common public narrative on Islam than his fellow critics.

Hizb ut-Tahrir has taken measures to smear and tarnish the personal reputations of its critics that go far beyond the limits of free and fair rebuttal. One tactic has been to set up spoiler blogs designed to discredit its critics. The first is the faked blog of Rashad Zaman Ali, another former member from Sheffield, who in fact has never had a personal blog on the net. The forgers have put up fake blog entries in his name, written in a naive polemical tone, answered themselves through posting comments and put up links to organisations seen as highly dubious or suspect in Party eyes like the Sufi Muslim Council, British Muslims for Secular Democracy and the Center for Islamic Pluralism, whose Executive Director is the journalist Stephen Schwartz. The implication is that there is no internal community criticism of the Party that is not politically aligned with American neoconservatism or with a betrayal of Islamic rule, one of two “roles” assigned to these organisations by the Party. This is unsubtle stuff but it is nonetheless effective among the alienated young Muslims the Party targets. There is similarly a fake blog for Maajid Nawaz, Toppled Pyramid. Both fake blogs were set up in September to counteract Nawaz’s real blog, Towards Political Engagement, launched at the end of August. The perpetrators did not cover their electronic tracks sufficiently and the blogs have been traced back to known members of the Party.

More serious are the coded threats of violence which Ed Husain has received like the rap poem penned by a Milton Keynes [1] member of the Party, Showkat Ali, in June this year, written as a confessional by Ed in the first person:

No ifs no Butts [Hassan Butt]
Some people after me
To stab me in the heart
Like they did Hassan in Manchester

I dread the return of the Caliphate
Who will apply to extradite me
Put me on trial
And then execute me
As a traitor.

This is totally unacceptable behaviour and it should be exposed. It seeks to end all dissent through a culture of implied violence and must be resolutely opposed. Similarly Nawaz has received explicit and abusive emails and death threats over the telephone which he has reported to the police. There is no positive proof to link these abusive acts to Party members, but Nawaz has noted that the emails contain names and references that could only be known to Party insiders.

The wisdom of putting forward a clear Islam/Islamism distinction to the general public that can be politically exploited by anti-Muslim and authoritarian tendencies is unclear. This binary distinction presents a black-and-white version of a complicated picture of change and adaption among Britain’s Muslim groups and movements, and may serve to inhibit rather than open up debate by provoking a defensive reaction motivated by the spirit of exoneration as much as anything else. An overstated case loses its bite: the trick is how to trigger respectful, constructive but sometimes tough-minded engagement. It remains vitally important that detailed discussion of the essential ideological elements of political Islam and their rather tenuous relevance to life in modern-day Britain and the everyday aspirations of most British Muslims takes place. It also has to be a public debate in order to be taken seriously by those who are being criticised; otherwise, in the normal way of such things, experience teaches that it will be swept under the carpet.

Now it is a tall order of business to take these ideas on in public without playing into Islamophobic stereotypes but that is the challenge ahead that faces British Muslims. And, of the three public critics of the Party, it is Maajid Nawaz who seems to have struck the most considered tone. Yet none of them should face deceptive smear tactics, abuse, intimidation or threats of implied violence. Nawaz has said that, in his time on the national executive committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, the leadership endorsed the use of the internet to smear critics of the Party or to pose as non-Muslims on internet fora looking to discredit former members. So this is not a new tactic. No doubt in this case, a factor of plausible deniability may come into play, but it is up to the leadership to control its members and its youth (shabab) to conduct their rebuttals in the Islamic spirit of etiquette (adab) and good character (akhlaq). If they believe their ideas are worth defending then they would not feel the need to resort to these dirty tricks campaigns.

This blog has been republished courtesy of the new City Circle blog.

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Note

[1] Showkat Ali hails from Milton Keynes but was undergoing teaching training in Birmingham as reported in the New Statesman, 14 June 2007.

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Liberal Rule, or How to discipline Muslims

The Transatlantic Task Force on Immigration and Integration composed of senior or retired European and American politics has issued a report this month, “Integrating Islam: A New Chapter in ‘Church-State’ Relations”. Reports come and go and often get ignored but what caught my eye about this particular briefing was an unusual clarity of expression and bluntness.

There was only one British representative on the panel, Sir Trevor Phillips, the new Chair of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, but Britain’s approach to this issue is completely disregarded in this report, and is not even deemed worthy of hostile consideration. Perhaps the Londonistan stereotype has rendered the British contribution moot. Instead the report is much more interested in setting up official and legal frameworks for (i) the disciplining of Muslim representation and (ii) the regulation of the community’s chief religious institutions:

Religious discrimination should never be allowed to give succor to extremist recruitment strategies. Dialogue can help tamp down extremism through “trickle-down” effects. Recruiters’ causes rely on an adversarial relationship with the state…. … Religious integration, on the contrary, would lead to the “banalization” of religious practice. In other words, religious practice becomes everyday and routine; instead of forcing Islam out of the public sphere, this approach allows Muslim religious expression to the same degree that other faiths are tolerated and protected. The goal of these consultations, therefore, is not political integration through religion. Rather, the objective is to normalize religious practice in the Member State and European contexts such that everyday matters of faith can no longer be sensationalized as “evidence” of the incompatibility of Islam and Western democracy. [1]

The three approaches promoted here are the French, German and Italian models, all of which are very much works still in progress as the final form of settlement has yet to be achieved. All these three new Mosque-State concordats are post-9/11 initiatives. All this is given an added urgency in the report by invoking the Eurabian motif of the Muslim demographic threat by citing a 2005 report commissioned by the European Parliament: the Muslim population of Europe could grow from 3% in 2005 to 20% in 2050. [2]

The first strand, the regulation of Muslim representational politics, is to be done through the concordatory model, based on the historical settlements between the Churches and the State and modern European nation-states, on the formula of official recognition in exchange for the delimitation of the role of religion to civil society and its confinement to prescribed institutional pastoral roles, e.g. in prisons, hospital and interfaith.

There is an unspoken assumption here that interfaith be made the instrument for the redirection of Muslim politics and that the other Abrahamic faiths, already officially recognised, be the nursemaids. Any true political integration must come through party politics and not through religious lobbies. In this model the state explicitly sets out the nature and parameters of the dialogue in the pursuit of the delimitation of Islamism rather than seeking to mediate between interests (presumably the British mistake). Whom to talk to and why must be strictly regulated. A useful feature of the report is how it so usefully defines “dialogue” as not involving mutual interaction but asymmetric discipline through five features: (i) the state sets the terms of debate; (ii) official Islam platforms must be separated from the political process; (iii) the accommodation of religious practices must seek their banalization, or separation from identity politics; (iv) the selection of Muslim participants must fit in with the state’s agenda, remain “diverse” and, just to double check, be law-abiding; and (v) consider that while local dialogues may focus on institution building and inter-community arbitration, and national dialogues may focus on national regulation and values, the two should be linked together. [3] French Islamists, the report judges, have responded well to “dialogue as discipline”. One note of realism in the report is the admission that the over-represenation of secular or cultural Muslims may vitiate the state’s ability to deal with politicised or overly religious Muslims who are the main targets of this “dialogue as discipline”.

The second strand, the regulation of chief religious institutions, gains additional salience as the means by which to contain Muslim identity politics and redirect Islamism into pastoral provision, mosque management and interfaith dialogue. The provision of local imam training, attached to tertiary education, comes near the top of the agenda, and is linked explicitly with the goals of combating extremism and fostering cultural (note, not political) integration. It plays to the stereotype of the shepherd who directs his flock.

In terms of governmentality theory this is all rather redolent of nineteenth century techniques of disciplinary rule used to create the law-abiding citizen. [4] Throughout there is the assumption that Muslim interlocutors are prone to law-breaking and need to be reminded of the basics of modern society. At the least the British approach contains some strong elements of the regulation of desire (talk of shared national values rather than of rule of law) and the notions of liberal self-discipline (self-regulation of institutions not concordats). If these are the only two choices on the European table, it might be preferable to be charmed into compliance rather than disciplined into it. [5] This just goes to show how far “the Muslim problem” has become removed from the ordinary decencies of normal political processes when there is so little trust, respect or understanding. For the Muslim at least, Europe does feel more nineteenth century than twenty first, more a postcolony than a democratic federation.

Notes

[1] Jonathan Laurence, Integrating Islam: A New Chapter in “Church-State” Relations (Transatlantic Task Force on Immigration and Integration, October 2007), p. available at http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/LaurenceIslamicDialogue100407.pdf

[2] Cited on p. 2 of the report. The original reference is Karoly Lorant, “The demographic challenge in Europe”, Brussels: Euorpean Parliament, 2005), available at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/inddem/docs/papers/The%20demographic%20challenge%20in%20Europe.pdf.

[3] Jonathan Lawrence, ibid.

[4] Nikolas Rose, Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought (Cambridge: University Press, 1999), 23, 45-46. Foucault suggests a repetoire of governmentality or “the conduct of conduct” (techniques of governance that direct behaviour). These are developed in the nineteenth through to the twentieth centuries but remain in place as possibilities, should the need arise, as it has in this case. There are three possibilities of governmentality: (i) sovereignty: “a discontinuous exercise of power through display and spectacle, law as command, sanctions as negative and deductive”; (ii) discipline: “the continuous exercise of power through surveillance, individualisation and normalisation”; and (iii) governmentality: “maximizing the forces of the population collectively and individually”. These modes could either be applied to the individual body (“discipline”) or to the collectivity (“bio-politics”). In turn these show how the subject of these techniques is characterised: “the ‘thin’ moral subject of habits…, to the individuated normal subject of constitution, character and condition…to the collectively understood social subject of solidarity or of alienation and anomie…, through the citizen subject of rights and obligations in regimes of social welfare and social insurance to the autonomous ‘deep’ subject of choice and self-identity.”

[5] i.e. to be the subject at least of “governmentality” or “biopolitics” (Anglo-American deregulation) rather than of “discipline” (continental concordatory arrangements), which are more classically nineteenth-century. At least the former more associated with the post-1945 world, and might approximate to the treatment of citizens rather than of postcolonial subjects.

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The Islamist: A Review

Ed Husain, The Islamist: Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left. London: Penguin, 2007. Pp. 288. £8.99. Paperback.

As this book was published at the beginning of May 2007, five British-born Muslims were convicted of plotting to blow up targets like a shopping centre and a nightclub using 600 kilogrammes of ammonium nitrate. The persistent question remains: how did we get to a position where MI5 are monitoring 1,600 suspects in 160 cells? Who are these would-be terrorists? Even though Ruth Kelly and John Reid now belatedly acknowledge the aggravating effect of Iraq, foreign policy alone does not provide the whole answer. The impact of radical ideas have mattered too, which this book sets out to explore.

Leaving aside how much weight they would put on radicalisation alongside other causal explanations, British Muslims generally have two views on the role of ideas in the phenomenon. The first pins the blame squarely upon extreme Salafis who developed a doctrine of attacking the West in the wake of the Afghanistan-Soviet war in the 1980s. Some of their propagandists – Abu Qatada, Abu Hamza, Abdullah Faisal and Omar Bakri Mohammed (who became Salafi in his theological outlook sometime after 9/11) — were allowed to spread their ideas in Britain relatively unimpeded by the police and intelligence services throughout the Nineties, in fierce competition with other groups promoting political Islam. Most ordinary Salafis, commited to a puritanical apolitical form of Islam, either ignored this trend or argued against it. Some British Salafis who opposed this trend early on, with no public recognition whatsoever, had to face intimidation and even death threats.

The second position takes a wider view. British Islamists, those who emphasise faith-based political activism, helped to create a receptivity to more radical groups with whom they shared a similar vision of Islamic resurgence in the Muslim world. In this view, the elements of Islamism are likened to the spectrum of communism, i.e. between the Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks and the Trotskyists – more a difference over means than ends — ranging from gradual reform to national or even international revolution. Some Islamists are in favour of democracy and some aren’t. Some are happy to have peaceful co-existence with the “West” and some aren’t. All, to a greater or lesser extent, have been critical of the traditional Islam of the ulema, of what they saw as their intellectual lethargy and quiescence during the period of direct European colonial rule in the Muslim world. They were also critical of Sufism, either rejecting it or seeking to reform it.

Ed Husain, brought up in Tower Hamlets, takes the second view and describes in detail his time with various Islamist groups in London at colleges and university campuses between 1990-1996. Husain, in escalating youthful rebellion, defies his parents, then his traditional upbringing, his college authorities and later society at large. Having been an eyewitness to this scene myself, I can vouch that he accurately describes an historical period of intense competition and one-upmanship for the attention of young minds. However, the main reviews so far, in the Times, the Sunday Times, the Observer and the Guardian, have been quick to draw sweeping and general conclusions about today’s situation, even though the heart of this book is really about the early Nineties.

The most important insights arise from Husain’s period of involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir at a time when it was under the leadership of Omar Bakri Mohammed. Riding on the back of anti-Saudi sentiment during the first Gulf War in 1990, Hizb ut-Tahrir began to have a serious impact. Its confrontational tabloid style excited Muslim students looking for easy answers to Western double standards and the new Salafi missionaries from Saudi Arabia. The control of Islamic student societies would oscillate between Islamists and apolitical Salafis, leaving few alternatives to a crude, despiritualised, angry and self-righteous take on Islam. Husain’s judgement that Hizb ut-Tahrir, under Bakri’s inspiration (who was later to found the splinter al-Muhajiroun), did more to inculcate the spirit of jihad, anti-West sentiment, anti-democractic politics, and passionate support for the cause of the umma, the Muslim supernation, than anyone else is essentially correct.

While this personal memoir is a must-read, offering with authority and nuance an insider’s view of the context that shaped the period, it is not a definitive analysis. Husain doesn’t reflect enough on the serious debates on basic beliefs and practices that the Salafis provoked at the time and says little about the emergence of “the jihadi scene” in Britain during the late Nineties, during a time when the enemy (in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo) was politically halal. But then none of this is central to his personal journey.

Husain is unequivocal about calling for the banning of Hizb ut-Tahrir, yet I remain unconvinced. For while Hizb ut-Tahrir is subversive of democratic participation and integration, and should be challenged, they have not directly recruited for jihad abroad or terrorism at home. Undoubtedly, a few have left Hizb ut-Tahrir’s talk of jihad for the real thing, and the leadership has always denied the violence that hovers around some of the young men they have influenced. For instance, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s stoking of inter-communal tensions in Newham College in 1994 led indirectly to the murder of a Nigerian Christian by a Muslim, in which the leadership denied all involvement, a tragedy that leads to Husain’s pathway out of Islamism. Husain also reports of “off-duty” excursions to help out Muslim gangs in their turf wars with Sikh gangs in Slough and West London.

I also got first-hand reports of the disruption of Labour and Respect Party election campaigns as late as 2005 by Hizb ut-Tahrir activists in Tooting, Bethnal Green and Bow, and Sparkbrook and Smallheath, something that Husain reports, too. This is contested by Hizb ut-Tahrir’s leadership, who argue that they never endorsed any such activity, and other community activists have reported that al-Muhajiroun members were the real culprits in operating these spoiler campaigns. Given these conflicting reports, I do wonder if Husain has done enough to sift fact from allegation.

The government was far from agreed on the case for banning, first mooted by the Prime Minister in 2005. Charles Clarke, the former Home Secretary, Home Office lawyers, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the intelligence services and the Association of Chief Police Officers argued against the banning. Hizb ut-Tahrir have not been seen as part of the terrorist problem, even if they are seen as subversive of democratic politics. The point though is that postwar Britain didn’t seek to ban political subversion. For example, neither the Communist Party of Great Britain was banned, even though it was funded by the Soviets during the Cold War, nor was Sinn Fein, despite its being the political wing of the Irish Republican Army during the Troubles. The British Nationalist Party is not banned either. Other methods have been used to marginalise or moderate such movements in Britain.

This is unlike postwar Germany, where the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz), or FOPC, seeks to “safeguard the protection of the free and democratic fundamental order and the continued existence and security of the state”. This covers political subversion, originally designed to tackle any re-emergence of Nazi ideology in postwar (then West) Germany, as well as terrorism. The 2004 FOPC Report gives the following reasons for the German ban of Hizb ut-Tahrir:

The Federal Minister of the Interior banned Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami in Germany with effect from 15 January 2003, among other things because it opposed the principle of international understanding and because the organisation approved of violence as a means for achieving its political aims. (p. 204)

Is Britain moving towards the German view that subversion should be banned? Al-Muhajiroun and its successors could only be legally banned after extending the grounds for the proscription of terrorist groups in the Terrorism Act 2000, by passing an additional clause banning the glorification of terrorism in the Terrorism Act 2006. Section 21 of the Terrorism Act 2006 proscribes groups that promote or encourage “the unlawful glorification of the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future, or generally) of acts of terrorism”. Glorification is understood as encouraging the “emulation of terrorism”.

This is a delicate and difficult debate. Husain makes the case for banning Hizb ut-Tahrir on the basis of his personal journey rather than considering the political implications as carefully as he should have done. There is no doubt that Hizb ut-Tahrir should be pressurised in all sorts of ways short of banning, but let us not lose sight of the fact that criminalising its membership might end up alienating Muslim communities up and down the country and scotching any effective “hearts and minds” strategy. Academic estimates of the Party’s size in the UK, including members and sympathisers, hover at around 8,500. Given its size, the ripple effect would be immense, a consideration that no doubt bore upon the decision to not, as yet, ban the Party. The other effect would be the chilling of the dissident political voice of young Muslims, who would no doubt draw their own conclusions. Would this be preferable to taking ideas on while preserving the democratic right to speak out? One worries that the litmus test of being a good liberal, especially of the Muslim variety, might have come to rely on a preference for security over liberty on issues like this. A common argument one will hear is that Hizb ut-Tahrir has opened up somewhat since 2005, and Husain characterises this as a divergence between a comparatively more moderate leadership seeking political survival while trying to keep a more unreconstructed membership on board. This judgement is sound, and he is also right to remind us of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Leninist orientation. It has not given up on the idea of a totalitarian expansionist state or the coup d’etat as a means of establishing it.

The other serious point that Husain raises is about responsibility for rhetoric. To put it simply, the angry anti-West rhetoric of the period of colonial struggle (Mawdudi) or of postcolonial resistance (Qutb and Nabhani), without a controlling contextualisation, cannot be idly placed in the hands of young British Muslims. Years ago, back in the Eighties, some young members of the Islamic movement went to the elders to ask why the movement in the UK was not more radical. Why did they not adhere closely to the revolutionary ways of Mawdudi and Qutb? The elders replied that their ideas were for purposes of self-rectification only, and had no practical place in the work of the Islamic movement in Britain. Now this is genuinely mysterious. If the founding fathers of modern Islamism are basically irrelevant, which is what the first and second generation leaders tell me when I’ve pressed this point on them in private, then what’s the reason for not going out in public with a clear post-Islamist position? Tribalism? Loyalty to the movement? Inertia? Pride? Who knows?

Husain’s point here is that during the early Nineties, broad ideological affinity among Islamists meant that the moderates got involved in a game of one-upmanship with the radicals even as they competed fiercely for recruits. Husain gives an example that occurred at the East London Mosque when Hizbi activists attempted to take on the Islamic Forum Europe and the Young Muslims Organisation on their own turf. They were eventually forcibly removed, but not before an elder is seen to fail to respond to Hizbi polemics against democracy, and chooses to remain silent instead. The moderate Islamists could only argue within an overall framework that merely set their differences out in methodological terms (gradualism verses revolution), rather than on more substantive bases. Even now, some, especially those associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK, will mount a sophisticated apologetic on behalf of Qutb. People just keep misreading Milestones and his tafsir, they say, and have done so consistently since the 1970s. If only people had listened a bit more to Hassan al-Hudaybi, the second Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood between 1951-1976, then the violent splinter groups would not have emerged. This is rather wishful thinking that misconstrues the power of Qutb’s ideas. The argument about responsibility over rhetoric also has implications for whether a prominent institution like the East London Mosque should be happy to invite intolerant, communalist preachers (Delwar Hossain Sayeedi or Abdul Rahman al-Sudays), or to allow the stocking of Qutb’s Milestones in the bookshop that pays rent to the mosque and is incorporated as part of the building.

However, this tribal loyalty to the ideologues of Islamism is only part of the story. You would be hard pressed to find a more dynamic mosque than the East London Mosque. It houses a school, a major charity, countless educational and welfare projects and extensive sporting facilities. It employs non-Muslim staff. It has a high rate of active participation from young men and women. It has incorporated newer communities — Somalis and Maghribis — within the governance structure of the mosque, rather than remaining an ethnic redoubt. It has worked very closely with the local authority on some substantive issues. For instance, the mosque worked with the local council to bring down absentee rates among Bangladeshi pupils, with the imams directly challenging the cultural practice of pulling kids out of school during term-time for extended trips abroad. There was no doubt that many at the mosque put their weight behind the Respect Party protest vote in 2005 that saw George Galloway to victory at Bethnal Green and Bow. Husain mentions that the link between Respect and former YMO/IFE activists exists, but, arguably, their links with local Labour are much stronger. Privately, it was accepted that Galloway would not be a good constituency MP, and that this was effectively a short-term protest over Iraq. It was assumed that politics as usual would resume with Labour, which is likely to be the case with an excellent candidate in Rushanara Ali (ex-Home Office, Young Foundation and political aide to Oona King, the former MP). None of this gets consideration in Husain’s account of the ELM today.

Husain also provides a short pen-portrait of the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB) in 1996, a year before a faction split off to help form the Muslim Brotherhood’s main organisation in the UK, the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB). He captures the inside debate at the time between those who wanted a post-Islamist, integrationist British Islam, those who were responding to Hizbi criticisms, and those who took more seriously the Muslim Brotherhood’s rather unreconstructed tarbiya, laced with lashings of pro-Hamas rhetoric and anti-Semitic diatribes, according to Husain who attended some of these sessions. Husain, then still detoxing himself from the Hizb, doesn’t always distinguish more laughable elements from more serious ones. A two-hour ISB presentation Husain attended on an entryist methodology into key sectors of British society should rightly be laughed off as pie-in-the-sky thinking rather than some kind of insidious Islamist version of SPECTRE.

Husain’s intelligence and sensitivity eventually leads him to go full circle, back from Islamist alienation to his family and the tolerant mystical Islam – Sufism – that they espouse. He becomes part of the counter-extremist movement, led by Hamza Yusuf and Tariq Ramadan, that gained ground in Britain from the mid-Nineties onwards, defined by a convergence between a more relevant traditional Islam and post-Islamism, emphasising core Islamic values and active citizenship. Husain, scarred by the cultish manipulations of Islamist groups, particularly Hizb ut-Tahrir’s, underestimates the positive impact this has had on both British Islamists and Salafis, and, in my view, mistakenly judges this transition as more tactical than genuine. He is sometimes unwilling to see that just as he has been on a journey, others have been too. The contours of the middle ground have been drawn and partly defined by many of the moderate Islamist groups, of which he has remained suspicious. Muslim student politics, with all its passions and immaturities of the early Nineties, has improved and matured. The students I regularly meet nowadays are considerably more sophisticated than the Neanderthal variety that roved the campuses in the period of the early Nineties that Husain describes. They embody this new middle ground: a place for personal spiritual piety combined with a commitment to social and political activism within democratic norms, or somewhere in the ground chalked out by Hamza Yusuf and Tariq Ramadan ten years ago and elaborated since then. Even now, in a new publication, Turning the Tide, Qutb and Mawdudi are being improbably represented as part of the Sufi tradition. Sarah Joseph edits the most integrationist, aspirational glossy Muslim magazine, Emel, on the market. The centre ground has shifted. Formerly hardline Salafis are happy to go by the name of “Sidi” and to emphasise the traditionalist aspects of the Hanbali madhhab. Mawlid, dhikr, rihla, ijaza — all terms and practices with cache and endorsement; Sufism is no longer the despised, disreputable cult of uneducated parents, as it was once characterised not too long ago. And how many in traditionalist circles now follow the lead of the moderate Islamist movements into interfaith, civic participation, charitable, social and welfare projects? How many Muslims now seek to define Muslim public identity, even as “British Muslims for Secular Democracy”? How many raise the same arguments about foreign policy, whether as Sufis, Shias or Islamists, as British citizens making their concerns heard?

This shift towards a relevant British Islam, having acquired official encouragement since 7/7, has become politically contested among British Muslims. Naysayers may now play the “sell-out” card more assiduously, and government has been none-too-subtle at times in its public interventions, stoking fears of re-engineering a churchless religious tradition proud of its independence and diversity. Presently, at national level, Sufis are being pitted against Islamists in representational terms, while the government is endorsing a British Islam that is the product of both, i.e. the championing of both Tariq Ramadan and Hamza Yusuf, the two figureheads of the new convergence. No wonder many Muslims are disenchanted and confused by these mixed messages. The moderate Islamists have pioneered interfaith, democratic political engagement, women’s participation and serious youth work and they look increasingly likely to leave aside their ideological roots for civic participation and integration. The neo-traditionalists have restated core Islamic values and respect for learning in a manner relevant to diaspora life in twenty-first century Britain.

Husain, however, ends on a more ambiguous note: the future direction of British Islam remains, for him, uncertain. His own trajectory shows, however, that mainstream Islam can renew itself in the context of twenty-first century multicultural Britain, even with the challenge of an extremist fringe, which — while small in absolute terms — constitutes the largest political challenge for British Muslims and society at large. He has not recognised sufficiently that he didn’t travel alone in his voyage of maturation and self-discovery: many of his generation have travelled with him, and the younger generation has absorbed the lessons of the excesses of the early Nineties in order to avoid them.

A short version of this review will appear in the New Statesman.

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Filed under Ghuluw, Islamism, Religion, Terrorism, UK Muslim Politics, UK Politics

With Us or Against Us: The Rhetoric of the War on Terror

After 9/11, there has been a shift in the cultural representations of Muslims towards more direct political themes and the use of terrorist violence. In particular, there has been the emergence of a shared political rhetoric, particularly between Washington and London, that is central to the “war on terror”. Rhetoric, which is part and parcel of political speech-making, is still vulnerable to the ancient criticism of Plato that it is too concerned with the means of persuasion rather than the framing of good argument itself. One species of rhetoric identified by Aristotle, the enthymeme, commonly features an unstated premise, the veracity of which is a probable rather than an established truth. A comparison with actual policy would show that rhetoric can have a contested relationship with reality.

This essay offers an analysis of this rhetoric to see what it seeks to persuade Muslims to do, what its unspoken premises are and which categories it uses to mobilise Muslim sentiment. Five years on after 9/11, and with the descent of Iraq into bloody civil war, it is essential that Muslims develop a critical distance from this rhetoric, not only because it can be internalised and have negative consequences for Muslims and how they evaluate themselves and their faith, but also because the rhetoric does much to justify an aggressive militarism that feeds the very terrorism it purports to be ending.

The Crude Form of the “War on Terror” Rhetoric

There is a crude form of rhetoric in the “war on terror”, which is summarized as “Islam verses the West” or “the clash of civilisations”, which, because it generally serves to antagonise Muslims, is not commonly used. In fact the evidence is that, if used, this terminology is quickly modified or retracted. In its crude form, the “war on terror” rhetoric is explicitly tied to the dictates of nationalism and anti-terrorism. The most famous example is George W. Bush’s assertion that “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists”, of which we find a rare British echo in a comment from Dennis MacShane in 2003, then the British Minister for Europe: “It is time for the elected and community leaders of British Muslims to make a choice: it is the British way – based on political dialogue and non-violent protests – or it is the way of the terrorists, against which the whole democratic world is now uniting.” The reason why this crude form is not normally employed is that it does nothing to mobilise Muslim sentiment in favour of the “war on terror”. Another good example is Bush’s use of the word “crusade” to describe the war on terror a few days after 9/11, which was quickly retracted. It could also be argued that this crude form does not necessarily represent the most prevalent view among American and British political elites either.

The crude form has some historic pedigree. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new Muslim enemy comes to be constructed by right-wing academics, policy-makers and politicians associated with the neo-conservative wing of the Republican party. The story is too well-known to be rehashed here at any great length. But, briefly, the two key figures who give the idea proper substance are Bernard Lewis, the British-American Middle East studies specialist, who in a 1990 article introduces the term “the clash of civilisations” which is subsequently popularised by the political scientist Samuel Huntingdon, in which ideological clashes in global politics are replaced by civilisational ones. The chief antagonists for the West are now Islam — with its “bloody borders” — and Confucian China.

It is not Christianity as such that is opposed to Islam, for the “clash of civilisation” argument has its roots in a secularised form of American Protestantism. At the end of the Cold War, conflict would no longer be an ideological clash between communism and liberal capitalist democracy but based on civilisational conflict. It compares an idealised West – based on democracy, human rights, free enterprise and globalisation, with its opposite portrayed as “unsympathetic, adversarial and incapable of betterment”. [1] It is a correction of the post-war modernisation thesis that said that religion would simply fade away. Instead, after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, there was a revision so that religion could still play a part in political conflict, and this was seen in a negative and combative way. These are different civilisations and they are destined to clash on the basis of value-difference. The crude version relies on persistently asking the question: can Islam meet the test of civilisation for although it is a civilisation, it is an inferior one. It allows for purveyors on the “clash” thesis to be blind to the many occasions when they fall short of their own civilisational standards. Muslims are judged by the most extreme adherents of their faith, whereas Christian extremists are exceptional.

Huntingdon’s thesis is largely discredited, and is not taken seriously by many neo-conservatives, including, for example, Daniel Pipes, who criticised it in a recent debate in London with Mayor Ken Livingstone. The Muslim world and Europe have had a deeply enmeshed interaction, which certainly cannot be defined as characterised largely or solely by conflict. Fourteen of today’s 34 European countries were at one time wholly or partly ruled by Muslims for a century or more, and similarly, all Muslim societies except for three have experienced direct European rule in the last 200 years. Yet this deep interaction is written out of European history and self-definition. Instead, it is written only as a relationship of rivalry and conflict, but with no proper assessment of long periods of peaceable co-existence or of profound cultural interchange. In particular, there is the huge legacy of late medieval and philosophical Muslim thought later drawn on by European Jews and Christians to create the modern West. Richard Bulliet has even coined a new term, “Islamo-Christian civilisation”, to denote

a prolonged and faithful intertwining of sibling societies enjoying sovereignty in neighbouring geographical regions and following parallel historical trajectories. Neither the Muslim nor the Christian historical path can be fully understood without relation to the other. [2]

If we take these Muslim and Christian societies to denote one civilisation then conflicts between them take on an internecine character. After periods of conflict, the realisation of a common heritage would make eventual reconciliation easier, and would prevent the conception of conflict as the result of a “clash”. The terrible treatment of Jews in Europe did not prevent, after the Holocaust, the development of an idea of Judeo-Christian civilisation, emphasising what was held in common. There is no reason why commonalities between the Muslim world and the West should not be similarly achieved, despite the current round of conflict.

The Sophisticated Form of the “War on Terror” Rhetoric

The sophisticated form of the “war on terror” rhetoric has defeated many a critic, Muslim or otherwise; many end up inadvertently confirming some of its features. Sayres Rudy provides one of the best current analyss of this form, and his work has heavily informed much of this section. [3]

The sophisticated form argues that while suffering is found everywhere and is constant, only Muslims are highly likely to be involved in terrorism. The reason for this is that there are some aspects of Islam that turn normal grievances into exceptional, anti-human ideologies and actions like suicidal terrorism on the part of a delusional and inexcusable minority of Muslims. This minority is termed “Islamic fascists”. This sophisticated argument is evidence-based, rejects simple racism and crude essentialism, and replaces the crude form of “Islam verses the West” with the more sophisticated form “Islamism verses Americanism”.

In more detail, the argument goes something like this:

(1)Political, economic and cultural grievances are ubiquitous;
(2)Muslims are over-represented among terrorists [although terrorists are not necessarily over-represented among Muslims];
(3)Thus, some Islamic quality uniquely inspires terrorist overreaction to grievances;

1.Islamist terrorists do not share political or economic grievances;
2.Islamist terrorists do share cultural grievances;
3.Thus, Islamist terrorists overreact to cultural grievances.

(4)Islamist terrorists attack the US.

1.America boasts a liberal-democratic-secular culture;
2.Islamists oppose liberal-secular-democratic culture;

(5)Thus Islamist terrorism against the U.S. is an overreaction sparked by a unique Islamic quality to the minority Muslim grievance against America’s cultural valuation of liberal-secular-democratic culture;
(6)Culture valuation and value-conflict are immutable;
(7)Therefore, anti-American Islamist terrorism reflects an immutable conflict of cultural valuations between the U.S. and Islam(ism) [4]

The key concept at play here is “grievance”, usually popularly expressed as “Muslim anger”, which precludes any analysis of the normal causes of political conflict. Economic, political and social causes, or injustices, are reduced to a critique of Islamism, which is comes out of and is reinforced by Islam’s supposed anti-modernism. This is a subset of the general argument that the discontent caused by the disparities produced by globalisation (used interchangeably with modernisation here) creates religious fundamentalism. Thus not only does global modernisation cause local fundamentalism, but local modernisation creates global fundamentalism, and all of a sudden we have a single global fundamentalist movement, otherwise known as al-Qa’ida. But there is no reason to think that the various Islamist movements around the world are in fact “cohesive, connected, or even compatible”. [5]

The normal anti-racist arguments made by critics of the “war on terror” rhetoric — that Islam is complex and diverse, that Muslims should not be denied political agency, and that all cultures, including Islamic ones, are changeable — are accepted by proponents of the sophisticated form of the “war on terror” rhetoric. So not only is anti-essentialism shared by critics and proponents alike, but this argument is politically irrelevant too, for the proponents will say “We are talking about Islamism, not Islam, and a level of internal distinction, political agency and cultural dynamism within Islam is central to our argument”.

In the sophisticated form of the “war on terror” rhetoric, there is a distinction made between “good” and “bad” Muslims [6], a differentiation that is part of a post-colonial project of assimilation, replacing older, colonial discourses of blanket and distancing rejection, to which Huntingdon’s “clash” thesis is nearer in spirit. In other words, the attempt to provide a binary distinction is properly termed “Islamophobia”, and is understood to describe part of a condition internal to the post-colonial state, which has replaced Orientalism, a metaphor of spatial segregation in an earlier age of imperialism. This sort of bifurcation of complicated Muslim individuals into either moderates or extremists appears at present to have little end in sight. The open-endedness of the war on terrorism, with its policing, legal strictures, and military ventures abroad, offers up the prospect of social re-engineering on a grand scale. This sort of binary opposition between the Muslim pacifist and Islamic terrorist predates the “war on terror” and actually emerged over the last quarter century since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, chiefly through the mass media. Edward Said noted in the early 1980s that Islam had become a scapegoat, a catch-all explanation for various disliked social and political ills, even if in the overall schema, the Muslim world’s status as a potential bulwark of anti-communism was still useful back then. [7]

Of course the political goal now is to form a bulwark of moderate Muslims against extremist Muslims: in the sophisticated form of the “war on terror” rhetoric, there is not a clash between civilisations, but within Islamic civilisation, to which others are innocent bystanders and victims, or between the civilised West and moderate Muslims against the barbarian Islamists or bad Muslims. However, it is certainly arguable that even if Islamism is separated from Islam and is set up in opposition to a U.S.-Islam alliance, Islamism is still re-identified with Islam and is still seen as an enemy of the U.S. coming from within the House of Islam. Even if it is seen as the exception to the norm of Islam, violent Islamism is still seen as pervasive within the House of Islam. Islamism, in sophisticated “war on terror” rhetoric, is thus both inside and outside Islam.

To counter this, one needs to take apart — and not confirm — the assumption of a continuum that places all the various currents of Islam on a sliding scale to terrorism and violence, which contends that the causal explanations for why the various trends within Islam act the way that they do are merely reducible to a “grievance theology” alone, i.e., the idea that an increase in the grievance felt pushes all Muslims down that sliding scale towards violence. Of course, the occupation of Iraq has made that argument more difficult to sustain because it could in many ways be characterised as an insurgency with features in common with anti-imperialism anywhere. But the larger point is that this form of the “war on terror” rhetoric seeks to refute the position that the vast majority of Islamist militants or terrorists are fighting military or police repression within the Muslim world with an anti-Islam purpose that is either implicit or explicit.

The distinction made between good and bad Muslims often gets replicated and mapped onto ancient and modern sectarian divisions in the Muslim world. An overarching division, as mentioned, has been “Islamism verses Islam”. But there are other forms too. A strong element since 9/11 has been to exacerbate the differences between Wahhabis (or Salafis) and Sufis. Another is to support establishment ulema against anti-establishment Islamist movements in places like Egypt. The third element, noticeable in the build-up of an anti-Iran rhetoric, has been to pit a Sunni “arc of moderation” against a Shiite “extremist crescent”. None of these add up to a consistent view of the internal debates within Islam, and betray an inherent flexibility suited to changing political purpose, e.g. Wahhabism is decried as part of Bin Laden’s patrimony at one moment, and as a bulwark against Iran and the Shia the next.

These divisions are rhetorically invoked on the grounds that good Muslims are the ones that comply and the bad ones are the ones that don’t. Furthermore, the goodness of a Muslim relates to how closely that Muslim is like “us”. That “us”, as Rudy argues, is an idealised (not an actual) America imagined as always unified, stable, infused with integrity, and contrasted negatively with a disunited, unstable and volatile Islam. It is worth saying more about the “us”. Unlike Europe, which has historically defined itself in many periods against its Muslim neighbour, the United States has represented itself as a form of universalism, as a civilisation that is the right template for everyone. President Bush in a State of the Union address in 2004 reflects this sentiment:

The cause we serve is right, because it is the cause of all mankind. The momentum of freedom in our world is unmistakable – and it is not carried forward by our power alone. We can trust in that greater power who guides the unfolding of the years. And in all that is to come, we can know that his purposes are just and true. [9]

This outlook collapses the future into the present-day, and thus those who resist the aspiration of American hegemony do so because they are anti-Americans and not primarily because they have yet to experience freedom and security. And in their anti-Americanism, they are not true to the real teachings of Islam. So while essentially, Islam and America are not opposed to each other, Islam still produces enemies who oppose America’s universal morality. As American values are always held to be coherent, beneficent, exportable and humane, there is no legitimate resistance to them. [10] This shift, then, to a conflict over values has meant that Washington has twice redubbed the “war on terror”, which at the end of the day refers fundamentally to technique and not motivation or values. In July 2005, it became the “war on extremism” and in the summer of 2006, it was semi-officially renamed “the freedom agenda against Islamic fascism”, although the phrase “war on terror” seems to have stuck in the popular consciousness.

It is worth pointing out, as an aside, that the rhetoric about the exceptionalism of Islamism comes out of the rhetorical justification of American exceptionalism, and a view of its global role in the post-Cold War world. The locus classicus is the National Security Strategy of the United States 2002, which sets out something like a Bush foreign policy doctrine for the world. This extraordinary document, which may easily be accessed online, enunciates a “doctrine of pre-emption” that precludes any predisposition to international diplomacy alongside a commitment to a “millennial military state”, and promises a perpetual global role as the world’s policeman which should remain militarily pre-eminent. It recapitulates the idea of universalism as Americanism, centred around “a post-communist world of evangelical capitalism”, in which America’s economic power is assured through an advantageous penetration of global markets. It operates under the assumption that to oppose America is to oppose “the good”. Of course, such rhetoric is hardly self-sustaining in any self-critical analysis. [11]

The key issue with the good/bad Muslim distinction is that it conflates criminal and moral registers. The consequence of this is that the definition of who is a moderate and who is an extremist becomes ambiguous and unstable. It means that legal definitions of an extremist who takes innocent human life are inevitably mixed up with more general moral judgements made about Muslims, who, while they oppose terrorism, are seen to be illiberal. Thus counter-terrorism arguments get caught up with discussions about national identity and belonging, multiculturalism and integration. Thus the list of extremist attributes grow longer and longer, and therefore more Muslims become labelled as “extremist” in political rhetoric. Muslims who are moral conservatives come under as much scrutiny as those who actually endorse terrorist violence. For instance, the official Conservative Party report that came out in January 2007, “Uniting the Country”, lists several groups who have opposed al-Qa’ida as in fact being an integral part of the “Muslim problem” with regard to national security imperatives. [12] It is unsurprising therefore that as the “box” labelled “extremist” grows ever larger, polling finds that a majority of ordinary Muslims conceive the “war on terror” to be a war against Islam.

As Saba Mahmood comments, the rationale of defining moderates and extremists is not seeking to extirpate religion entirely from public life but to produce the kind of Muslim believer who is “compatible with the rationality and exercise of liberal political rule”. [13] America has undertaken an ambitious plan to reform and reshape Islam not only in the diaspora but in the Muslim world as well, largely under the aegis of programmes like Muslim World Outreach established in 2003 (with an inaugural annual budget of $1.3bn). This outreach finds important allies among Muslim reformers who agree that received authority (taqlid) is overemphasised and that more should be done to create the believer who apprehends religion as a series of personalised symbols that may be interpreted flexibly in consonance with the rationales of liberal secular rule. The relationship between text and context should be set by the individual, and not by scholarly consensus. It is of relatively little moment that these reformers may or may not endorse the anti-imperialist critique of the global Left when there is a far bigger debate about the constitution of religious authority within Islam at stake.

The problem with the good/bad Muslim distinction is that it robs Muslims of the power of self-definition, and it politicises the ordinary process of upholding ethical standards among Muslims. It is no longer a question of whether something is good or bad, but an additional consideration emerges: why and for what purpose is someone condemning or supporting something? It is vital here for Muslims to be alive to this pressure but not, at the same time, to let go of their own moral and legal definition of “moderation” and “extremism” (ghuluw), and to insist on it in the current context. After all, prophetic tradition warns Muslims to “beware of excessiveness in religion” (al-ghuluw fi’l-din). Moderation includes combining the interests of continuity and change, acknowledging both fundamental principles and that which is subject to change in religion, avoiding rigidity and elasticity at the same time, and having a holistic understanding of Islam. Fanaticism (ta`assub) includes bigotry and intolerance of other people who are different, excessiveness and exaggeration in religious observance, sternness of manner and outlook, a lack of patience, harshness towards others and an attitude of suspicion and distrust. [14] A similar sentiment — realising the need to maintain the power of self-definition — ought to inform debate, too, around the formation of religious authority among traditionalists and reformers within the House of Islam. This requires retaining the claims of tradition, reason and consensus in creative balance, even in this overly-politicised context, where intellectual debates retain their autonomy and integrity, and accusations of impolitic motivation should be set aside to this end.

In fairness, it should be added that the rhetorical response to 9/11 is partly due to the deregulation of large-scale capacity for violence and destruction — away from the hands of the nation-state — that the new al-Qa’ida global terror franchise represents. There is still serious puzzlement, and not just manipulative political rhetoric, about where to place the motives of this new terrorism within a traditional framework of nationalist self-determination. In fact, the new terrorism is part of generalised emergence of globalised political protest movements, like the anti-globalisation movement, two decades or so after the emergence of a global neo-liberal economic order. Al-Qa’ida is in many ways unthinkable without globalisation, without the internet. It is not jihad as we know it, but, appropriately, as Slavoj Zizek dubbed it, McJihad. As Bin Laden commented on the 9/11 attacks in one of his videotapes: “Those youths who conducted the operations did not accept any fiqh”. [15] Not only is al-Qa’ida unorthodox, but in many ways it refuses even to react against orthodoxy, and so sets out its own modus operandi. So for the Muslim world, a theological response is probably insufficient.

However, while it might be difficult to set a context for political resolution to this new and endless war on terror, the burden of my criticism is that seeking to leave the mode of war for politics is not even being imagined at present. And this failure of imagination therefore devolves into a generalised anxiety that opposes simultaneous loyalty to the nation and to the ummah (the Muslim supernation), which is a particularly pressing issue for Muslim minorities of the West, whose loyalties, presently, must first be ascertained before they may be trusted. The other feature that this failure of imagination provokes is a fear of unrestrained and apparently motiveless violence that is stripped of historical context and is reduced to ideology, which casts a pall of fanaticism over all Muslims. It is this presumption that prevents a conversation of humankind, a dialogue within and between civilisations, from eclipsing the partisans and the warmongers on all sides.

Notes

[1] Richard Bulliet, The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilisation (New York: Columbia University, 2004), 2.
[2] Ibid., 10.
[3] Sayres S. Rudy, “Pros and Cons: Americanism against Islamism in the ‘War on Terror’”, Muslim World, January 2007, 97(1), 33-78.
[4] Ibid., 43, the whole outline of the argument is taken verbatim from Rudy.
[5] Ibid., 42.
[6] Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim (New York: Pantheon, 2004).
[7] Edward Said, Covering Islam (New York: Vintage, 1997 [1981]).
[8] Rudy, 54.
[9] Cited in Rudy, 54.
[10] Ibid., 55.
[11] Stephen John Hartnett and Laura Ann Stengrim, “War Rhetorics: The National Security Strategy of the United States and President Bush’s Globalization-through-Benevolent-Empire”, The South Atlantic Quarterly, Winter 2006, 105(1), 175-205.
[12] National and International Security Policy Group, “Uniting the Country” [interim report on security issues, chaired by Dame Pauline Neville-Jones], 31 January 2007, available at http://www.conservatives.com/pdf/intersecurityissues.
[13] Saba Mahmood, “Secularism, Hermeneutics, and Empire: The Politics of Islamic Reformation”, Public Culture, 2006, 18(2), 323-347, quote at 344.
[14] M. Hashim Kamali, “Fanaticism and its Manifestations in Muslim Societies” in Aftab Ahmad Malik (ed.) The Empire and the Crescent: Global Implications for a New American Century (Bristol: Amal Press, 2003), 175-207.
[15] Faisal Devji, Landscapes of the Jihad (London: Hurst, 2005), 13.

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Filed under Ghuluw, Islamism, Racism and Islamophobia, Terrorism, war-on-terror

Notes on Islamophobia

Islamophobia is a new form of cultural racism, and not a mere persistence of Orientalist motifs. [1] This is not to say however, to take the British context, that Muslims haven’t experienced more familiar forms of racism like colour-racism and the application of older folk devils to them, the demons of the public imagination that threaten to overthrow the social order, like that of the “mugger” that was once applied more exclusively to African-Caribbeans. The point is to isolate what’s specifically new about Islamophobia.

Islamophobia is specifically the fear of the return of political Islam, commonly referred to as “Islamism”, perceived as not only intolerant of what Islamism sees as today’s post-modern permissiveness, tolerance and anti-essentialism, but of wishing to overturn it all in favour of a stern theocracy. It is a phobia inasmuch as it denotes an incapacity to deal with difference as well as similarity. Islamism is feared because it is imaginatively linked with Europe’s own pre-modern Christianity and its history of violent sectarianism, the Crusades and the Inquisition. Thus Islamism, viewed as a purely retrogressive and atavistic force, threatens to turn the clock back and reverse the triumphs of the Reformation and the Enlightenment. As Pnina Werbner colourfully puts it—the folk devil of Islamophobia is the “Grand Inquisitor” who is “upfront, morally superior, openly aggressive, denying the validity of other cultures” and thus threatens to reverse European modernity. [2]

The figure of the Imam, in one of the dream sequences of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, is reminiscent of this new folk devil of the Grand Inquisitor, and indeed of the Ayatollah Khomeini (d. 1989), who must surely have been the inspiration:

The Imam was a massive stillness, an immobility. He is living stone. His great gnarled hands, granite-gray, rest heavily on the wings of his high-backed chair. His head, looking too large for the body beneath, lolls ponderously on the surprisingly scrawny neck that can be glimpsed through the grey-black wisps of beard. The Imam’s eyes are clouded; his lips do not move. He is pure force, an elemental being; he moves without motion, acts without doing, speaks without uttering a sound. [3]

This elemental figure of the imam: immobile, stone-like, implacable, who sets his face against Western modernity itself, achieved by an idolatry of the sacred text that denies human reason and progress, and the role of historical context. Rushdie’s Imam argues that:

History is the blood-wine that must no longer be drunk. History the intoxicant, the creation and possession of the Devil, of the great Shaitan, the greatest of the lies – progress, science, rights – against which the Imam has set his face. History is a deviation from the Path, knowledge is a delusion, because the sum of knowledge was complete on the Day Al-Lah finished his revelation to Mahound. [4]

This fear of reversal is primarily endorsed by fearful elites in Western countries (and is not peculiar to Britain as such), whose strident anti-fundamentalism lends credence to the more lumpen forms of colour-racism, whose proponents may then add the usual insults used against all racialized minorities, that they are violent, licentious, dirty and so on. This defence of rational secular values against Islamism goes across the political spectrum from Polly Toynbee’s “In Defence of Islamophobia” to Charles Moore’s provocations against Islam in a defence of free speech. [5] Moore contended that any ban on hate-speech against Muslims qua Muslims in the government’s current incitement to religious hatred bill (a watered-down version is due to be enacted in 2007) would merely make people more amenable to the British National Party’s claim that in the hands of some Muslims, Islam is “less a religion and more a magnet for psychopaths and a machine for conquest”. [6] The fear underlying any such concession is precisely this dread of reversal, which Rushdie calls the “Untime of the Imam”, of the return of empowered fundamentalism – again a term originally coined to describe reactionary American Protestantism in the early twentieth-century and now used mostly as a synonym for Islamism.

This probably explains why the arguments made and mostly formulated in Britain in favour of Islamophobia since the turn of the 1990s have not really gained wide acceptance. Leaving aside the right who remain more sceptical, preferring the culturalist explanation that Islam itself is the problem, even the liberal-left remains conspicuously divided between anti-racist and multiculturalist positions. [7] These positions embody two types of egalitarianism: the first was the classic culture and colour-blind notion of civil rights in the 1960s, and the second which emerged in the same decade but has become increasingly important over time has been the notion of equality as the recognition of difference in the public sphere, spearheaded by the feminist movement, but taken up by other stigmatised social groups later on. It was this affirmation of difference in the public sphere that informs equality in the multiculturalist position.

The common finding in the sociology of religion is that religious identity usually functions as a collective, cultural identity that is not defined strictly speaking by piety alone but by certain religio-cultural markers (like eating halal meat or observing Eid) and, perhaps increasingly, by the logic of a generalised political sentiment, expressed mostly as a non-ideological attachment to Muslim believers around the world (but certainly not as an attachment to the political ideology of Islamism per se). Thus the fact that much of the belonging as a Muslim has something to do with the social membership of a community, and not just with conviction driven by personal faith, is deemed an inconvenient argument by both religiously-minded community leaders and by their secularist opponents. The argument that British Muslim belonging may have more to do with cultural filiation than religious affiliation is seen as just a clever ruse by opponents, and reflects also a suspicion of the anti-humanist tendencies found within some forms of post-structuralist sociology as well. [8]

However, the most important reason is that Muslims are judged to be insufficiently secular in their outlook to gain protection against forms of cultural racism, and so they must be sufficiently educated in liberal mores and properly integrated before they might receive the cultural and legal recognition afforded to another form of cultural racism – anti-Semitism. This helps to explain the lingering suspicion of British Muslim leaders that they are really seeking a new blasphemy law by the back door. [9] But it may also denote that Islamophobia relates to an ongoing process of redefinition in British Muslim communities that are gradually supplementing (and in some cases supplanting) traditional theological definitions of “Muslimness” for political and cultural ones, which would obviously have an impact upon the reception, and therefore the explication, of the prejudice experienced. The contestation over Islamophobia reflects this tension of emphasis from anti-Islam sentiment to anti-Muslim hatred, or from ideas to persons, or from blasphemy to cultural racism. In a striking parallel, it was Hannah Arendt who noted the precondition of secularity to explain the emergence of both anti-Semitism and Zionism.

A comparative look at the causes of modern European anti-Semitism, provides serious food for thought in pondering why Islamophobia came to be coined, at least in English, around 1991 (its usage in French is much earlier, dating back to the early twentieth century to the period of France’s late colonial rule). The explanation lies, Arendt suggests, somewhere between the scapegoat theory, which is a purely circumstantial and unserious response underlining the essential innocence of the victim, and the theory of eternal hostility in this case which relegates historical causes to mere happenstance. [10] Islamophobia emerges decisively as a concept, around 1991, at the point when Muslim minorities have become politically active in Western Europe, in the midst of religio-political revival in the Muslim world, and at the ending of the Cold War. [11] (It is interesting to note in passing the coining of anti-Semitism in Europe in 1879, after the legal emancipation of European Jewry and during their social assent at the height of European nationalism. [12]).

While it is certainly true that a global discourse against “Islamic fundamentalism” emerged after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, with continuous reference made to Islamic violence and terrorism, this commentary was not particularly focused on the Muslim Diaspora in Britain or against Western Muslims generally. They were politically invisible as Muslims until the late 1980s, but that changed, particularly with the Rushdie Affair of 1988-89. This meant that expressions of Islamophobia in Britain had a demonstrably cultural emphasis with some political undertones until 9/11 when thereafter it seems as though the political content of cultural Islamophobia in Britain has become much stronger.

The Rushdie Affair was a cultural imbroglio with has had long-lasting political outcomes that persist until today. It has had a decisive impact upon the cultural expression of Islamophobia in Britain. The key controversy, now being played out again in the debate of whether to legislate against incitement to religious hatred, was whether the novel’s offensiveness, directed towards what was seen as a racialized minority group, was an act of creative self-liberation from religious fundamentalism or a reckless literary lampoon (or deliberate blasphemy depending on one’s point of view) that came, for whatever reason, to serve the cause of vituperative cultural racism?

Even some years on, direct discussions seem to have reached an impasse, but one common thread is perceptible. Several commentators have remarked that the Rushdie Affair was beset as such by anxieties about postmodern relativism that were particularly prominent in that period in intellectual and literary circles. For liberal Muslim intellectuals, the nub of the argument has been that postmodern fiction like The Satanic Verses (1988) represents part of the end of a long process of colonization: “Postmodernism is about appropriating the history and identity of non-western cultures as an integral facet of itself, colonising their future and occupying their being.” [13] Ziauddin Sardar argues that postmodernism reduces the depth and meaning of non-Western cultures to mere speculative relativism, ridicule, irony, play and satire, while leaving intact global disparities of power. It is seductive, soft power, cultural power, which also commodifies cultural difference for the purposes of marketable diversity. For Sardar, Rushdie in his post-fatwa essays “Is Nothing Sacred” and “In Good Faith” ends up paradoxically sanctifying the omnipotence of secular values in the name of postmodern relativism. He sees The Satanic Verses as an anti-Qur’an with a mission to set up a new liberating, assertive and transgressive counter-narrative in which the stubborn particularities of Islamic Otherness are erased. [14]

The counter argument is that such a “confessional criticism” is only a “measured (yet problematic) inoculation of orthodox rationality from one’s irreversible dependence on the largely anti-foundationalist vocabulary of contemporary postcolonial criticism”. [15] While there is merit to this counter-criticism, it should be noted that any anxiety about the loss of truth was equally shared by Rushdie’s supporters, i.e. the frightening prospect that liberalism is also just another set of contingent, historical beliefs, and thus the anxiety that very little separates religious and secular fundamentalism, except crude disparities of power, and so the need for the mutual anathematisation and self-assertion that defined the Rushdie Affair. This anxiety was most marked amongst the modernist critics who seemed to spend as much time attacking the dangers of postmodern relativism as they did Islamic fundamentalism such as Ernst Gellner. [16]

One legacy of the cultural fallout from the Rushdie Affair (although this was also noticeable earlier after the Iranian Revolution too) has been that major literary travelogues and novels on Muslims or Islam appear to have concentrated on recreating in an Islamic milieu the struggle for freedom against religious orthodoxy, the metanarrative that defines the birth of European modernity, a motif that has carried much cultural caché as a result. Hanif Kureishi has explictly argued this point in his essays and novels since the Rushdie Affair. In his second novel, The Black Album, he plays out the standoff generated in the Rushdie Affair between Liberal and Islamic fundamentalism through a contest for the mind, heart and body of a young Muslim student, Shahid, caught between his seducing lecturer and a fundamentalist peer group. The novel starts off more subversively by highlighting some similarities of control and manipulation, but does not fulfil its promise. The Muslim characters never escape Western stereotypes of young Muslim fundamentalists: they are to a man dim-witted and looking to Islam as an escape into simplistic certainty from societal racism. But the relationship with the lecturer, Deedee, deepens and she becomes more humane and less manipulative, less of a Liberal Fundamentalist, just like the protagonist, Shahid. One critic acutely suggests that:

The Black Album suggests that Muslims cannot experience “innumerable ways of being in the world” within the framework of Islam. Instead, they are moulded into one large and lumpy, mentally challenged, cliché. The Hollywood style ending only offers one alternative to this unattractive representation of Muslimness: a romanticised and secular embrace of ‘undecidabilty’. [17]

In this sense therefore The Black Album reiterates most acutely the dilemmas of the Rushdie Affair in literary form. In some other recently lauded fiction on British Muslims, the predominant motif of escape from traditional Islamic society and family through personal liberation and freedom only to be truly experienced in wider society, e.g. in Monica Ali’s Brick Lane or Nadeem Aslam’s Maps for Lost Lovers, seems to have become the story to be told in contemporary fiction about British Muslims.

An interesting theme that runs through contemporary literary commentary on Muslims is that the fear and dislike of religious fanaticism and fundamentalism is felt as a sense of bodily revulsion that is often projected back into negative descriptions of the oft-described “claustrophobic” Islamic environment into which the intrepid explorer has ventured. V. S. Naipaul, Nobel Laureate for Literature (2001), in his travel narratives Among the Believers (1981) and Beyond Belief (1998), uses the literary techniques of nineteenth-century “gothic horror”, in which conflict is internalised bodily or projected onto the surrounding environment. Islamic literature, although he cannot read the Arabic letters, appears “oppressive”, an Islamic library seems full of choking “stale, enclosed air”; similarly the Muslim call to prayer (adhan) leaves him “choked” and gasping for air such is his horror of these things. Prayer in the mosque involves “hesitant scraping sounds” and “subhuman” chadored women are “muzzling themselves”.

Hanif Kureishi also experiences similar feelings when visiting the homes of “young ‘fundamentalists’”: “I found these session so intellectually stultifying and claustrophobic that at the end I’d rush into the nearest pub and drink rapidly, wanting to reassure myself that I was still in England.” [18] He also states something close to a theorization of this physical aversion to Islamic fanaticism as noted by Wendy O’Shea-Meddour. The artist must represent the forbidden, of “dark and dangerous things” in order to avoid “tyranny and madness” and thus “the dehumanisation of others”. Artistic self-censorship is not only to become complicit but is a denial of the words inside the body, which thus becomes the source of authentic, untrammelled free speech. [19] Thus free talk is also the liberation of the body, and as fundamentalist Islam denies the natural body and the free mind in this view, as expressed by Naipaul and Kureishi, the liberal body experiences its disquietude.

For Naipaul, Islam essentially mimics Western technology and achievements without understanding the conditions that have brought them about and as such are fundamentally parasitical. Such objective descriptions earned Naipaul the status of being an expert on Islam and have not impugned his literary stature in the slightest. His first Muslim travelogue in 1981, appearing so soon after the Iranian Revolution, had a great impact in the United States (he made the cover of Newsweek) and has been lauded ever since as a great authority on Islam. Naipaul’s second Muslim travelogue, betraying an even more sinister theme, shows clearly his debt to V. D. Savarkar, the founder-ideologue of Hindutva nationalism, who shares Naipaul’s concern with inauthentic turncoat “converts”: Islam does not convert but “possesses” the souls of people in lands of “cultural depression” in which, among non-Arab convert peoples, “history has become a kind of neurosis”. [20] A similar thesis about Islam as an alien convert religion staining the purity of ethno-national sentiment was similarly expressed by Ivo Andrić, the South Slav writer, another Nobel laureate, whose condemnations of Balkan Muslims as “traitorous seed” lent a distinct cultural impetus to the rise of Muslim ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe in the 1990s.

After 9/11, there has been a shift in the cultural representations of Muslims towards more direct political themes and about the use of terrorist violence. In particular, there has been the emergence of a shared political rhetoric, particularly between Washington and London, that is central to “war on terrorism”. Two new elements are noticeable. Firstly, there is an attempt to distinguish between “good” and “bad” Muslims, a differentiation that is part of a post-colonial project of assimilation, replacing older, colonial discourses of blanket and distancing rejection. Or in other words, Islamophobia should also be understood to describe part of a condition internal to the post-colonial state, which has replaced Orientalism, a metaphor of spatial segregation in an earlier age of imperialism. [21] In its crudest form, this goodness is tied explicitly to the dictates of nationalism and anti-terrorism. George W. Bush’s “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists” was echoed by Dennis MacShane, then the Minister for Europe: “It is time for the elected and community leaders of British Muslims to make a choice: it is the British way – based on political dialogue and non-violent protests – or it is the way of the terrorists against which the whole democratic world is now uniting.” [22]

If Naipaul and Kureishi feel enervated by Muslim persons and symbols, others have extra-sensory antennae specially developed for detecting fanaticism in recent times. In his travelogue-investigation into the reasons for the brutal murder of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street reporter, in 2002, Bernard-Henri Lévi claims to be able to sense disguised fanaticism in seemingly assimilated European Muslims, a useful skill in the post-9/11 age. Gilles Kepel sees the fanaticism behind Tariq Ramadan’s seductive and suave appearance: “a white shirt with a Mao-style collar, worn slightly open…a thin, piously trimmed beard that combines a reference to Islam with seductive elegance. His white shirt belongs at the intersection of several fields of meaning: the revolution (Iranian or Chinese) but also the media-savvy intellectual….” [23] This sort of bifurcation of complicated Muslim subjectivities into either moderates or extremists appears at present to have little end in sight. The open-endedness of the war on terrorism, with its policing, legal strictures, and military ventures abroad offers up the prospect of social re-engineering on a grand scale.

The scale of the response to 9/11 is largely due to the deregulation of large-scale capacity for violence and destruction out of the hands of the nation-state that the new al-Qaeda global terror franchise represents. And also the sheer inability to place the motives of this new terrorism with a traditional framework of nationalist self-determination, and is in fact part of generalised emergence of globalised political protest movements, like the anti-globalisation movement, two decades or so after the emergence of a global neo-liberal economic order. [24] This of course devolves into a generalized anxiety that opposes simultaneous loyalty to the nation and to the ummah (the Muslim supernation). The other feature is fear of unrestrained and apparently motiveless violence, which is stripped of historical context and is reduced to ideology, which casts a pall of fanaticism over all British Muslims.

This sort of binary opposition between the Muslim pacifist and Islamic terrorist has emerged over the last quarter century since the Iranian Revolution, chiefly through the mass media. Edward Said noted that Islam became a scapegoat, a catch-all explanation for various disliked social and political ills, even if in the overall schema the Muslim world’s status as a potential bulwark of anti-communism was still useful. [25] The most ironic moment was the greeting of the Afghani mujahidin as “freedom fighters” against the Soviets by Ronald Reagan in 1983; its pop cultural equivalent was Rambo III, when Sylvester Stallone sides with the mujahidin against the Soviets. With the falling of the Berlin Wall, however, a new Muslim enemy comes to be constructed by right wing academics, policymakers and politicians associated with the neo-conservative wing of the Republican party. The story is too well-known to be rehashed here.

But, briefly, the two key figures who give the idea proper substance are Bernard Lewis, the British-American Middle East studies specialist, who in a 1990 article coins the term “the clash of civilizations” which is subsequently popularised by the political scientist, Samuel Huntingdon, in which ideological clashes in global politics are replaced by civilizational ones. The chief antagonists for the West are now Islam with its “bloody borders” and Confucian China. After 9/11, not only has a distinction been made that is internal to the nation-state, but a sub-theme has been that there is not a clash between civilizations but within Muslim civilizations. This discourse is truly global in extent and has taken up with various nuances according to local contexts. In July 2005, Washington redubbed the “war on terrorism” as the “war on extremism”, indicating a greater ideological emphasis perhaps than the direct military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have hitherto suggested.

In sum then, Islamophobia is a new form of cultural racism whose novelty resides in its fear of a return of empowered religion that will take away cherished freedoms and reverse the European story of progress. It is also an anxiety about the weakening of integrative civic and national identities in an age of globalisation. It is the presumption of cultural and now political fanaticism that makes a racialised monolith of a set of very culturally diverse Muslim communities, most of whom do not adhere to some totalitarian or blood-thirsty vision of Islam but work with multiple sets of contextualised identities like the rest of us, and who are inconveniently prone to recall the calculated redesignations of Muslims as either allies or enemies.

Notes

[1] As Elizabeth Poole, Reporting Islam: Media Representations of British Muslims, London: I.B. Tauris, 2002, sometimes appears to argue, e.g. p. 251.
[2] Pnina Werbner, “Islamophobia: Incitement to religious hatred – legislating for a new fear?”, Anthropology Today, 21/1, February 2005, pp. 5-9.
[3] Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, London: Viking, 1988, p. 210.
[4] Ibid. Pnina Werbner also argues that the Imam stands for faith with compassion and religion with love, who despite his integrity can only respond to change with violence, see her meditation on The Satanic Verses in her Imagined Diasporas among Manchester Muslims (Oxford: James Curray, 2002).
[5] Polly Toynbee, “In Defence of Islamophobia”, Independent, 23rd October 1997; Charles Moore, “Is it only Mr Bean who resists this new religious intolerance?”, Daily Telegraph, 11th December 2004, in which he starts with the calculatedly provocative question: “Was the prophet Mohammed a paedophile?”.
[6] Charles Moore, ibid., citing the BNP website.
[7] See Madeleine Bunting (ed.) Islam, Race and Being British, London: Guardian Books, 2005, which captures the liberal-left debate around the recognition and accommodation of Muslim identity in the public sphere, particularly pp. 43-73.
[8] As made recently by Tariq Modood, Multicultural Politics: Racism, Ethnicity and Muslims in Britain, Edinburgh: University Press, 2005, pp. 16-17, and by the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, Islamophobia: issues, challenges and action, Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books, 2004, pp. 35-36.
[9] Polly Toynbee, “Last chance to speak out”, Guardian, 5th October 2001; Charles Moore, “It is Muslims who have the most to fear from Islamists”, Daily Telegraph, 18th December 2004.
[10] Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, San Diego: Harvest, 1968 (reprint), pp. 5-7. For a recent example of the scapegoat theory see Fred Halliday, Islam and the Myth of Confrontation, London, I.B. Tauris, 1995, and for a statement of the eternal anti-Muslim hostility thesis see Ziauddin Sardar & Merryl Wyn Davies, Distorted Imagination: Lessons from the Rushdie Affair, London: Grey Seal, 1990, pp. 34-75.
[11] The exact provenance of the term “Islamophobia” is still a matter for further research. The first English usage found so far was in the American journal, Insight, 4th February 1991, p. 37. The earliest example in a British publication (that I’ve found so far) is from a book review dated 16th December 1991 in the London Independent by Tariq Modood reproduced in his Not Easy Being British: colour, culture and citizenship, Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books, 1992, p. 76, and not June 1994 as stated by Malcolm D. Brown, “Conceptualizing Racism and Islamophobia” in Jessica Ter Wal and Maykel Verkuyten (eds.) Comparative Perspectives on Racism, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000, pp. 73-90.
[12] Briefly outlined in Esther Banbassa & Jean-Christophe Attias, The Jews and Their Future: a conversation on Judaism and Jewish identities, trans. by Patrick Camiller, London: Zed, 2004, pp. 62-73.
[13] Ziauddin Sardar, Postmodernism and the Other: The New Imperialism of Western Culture, London: Pluto, 1998, p.13.
[14] Sardar, Postmodernism, pp. 181-197.
[15] Youssef Yacoubi, “‘How much does it cost for reason to tell the truth?’: Salman Rushdie and his Confessional Critics”, Culture, Theory & Critique, 46/2, 2005, pp. 115–129.
[16] Ernst Gellner, Postmodernism, Reason and Religion, London: Routledge, 1992.
[17] Wendy O’Shea-Meddour, “Fundamentalism, Robots and Postmodern Epiphanies in Kureishi’ The Black Album” in Catherine Pesso-Miquel and Klaus Stierstorfer (eds.), Fundamentalisms and Literatures in English: An Assessment, London: Palgrave and MacMillan, forthcoming.
[18] Hanif Kureishi, The Word and the Bomb, London: Faber and Faber, 2005, p. 99.
[19] O’Shea-Meddour, “Fundamentalism”.
[20] Wendy O’Shea-Meddour, “Gothic Horror and Muslim Madness in V. S. Naipaul’s Beyond Belief: ‘Orientalist’ Excursions among the Converted People”, American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 21/1, pp. 57-72; Rob Nixon, “Among the Mimics and the Parasites: V. S. Naipaul’s Islam” in Emran Qureshi and Michael A. Sells (eds.) The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy, New York: Columbia University Press, 2003, pp. 152-169; Mujeeb R. Khan, “The Islamic and Western Worlds: ‘End of History’or ‘Clash of Civilisations’?” in Qureshi and Sells (eds.), pp. 170-201.
[21] Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, The Cold War, and the Roots of Terror, New York: Pantheon, 2004, pp. 15-16, 22-24, 260.
[22] Guardian, 28th November 2003.
[23] Bernard-Henri Lévy, Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, translated by James X. Mitchell, London: Duckworth, 2003, p. 91; Gilles Kepel, The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West, translated by Pascale Ghazaleh, Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2004, p. 279.
[24] Faisal Devji, Landscapes of the Jihad, London: Hurst, 2005, Chapter 1.
[25] Edward Said, Covering Islam, new edn, London: Vintage, 1997 [1981], p. lv.

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