The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

On the causes of Western Islamism

The War on Terror is portrayed by our leaders as the great clash of civilisations, between good and evil. It is a convenient narrative for both Islamic extremists bent on world domination and neo-conservative ideologues bent on, um… world domination.

The recent bungled bombings in the UK by middle class university trained young professional Muslims brings a new insight into the causes of Western Islamist terror networks. Conventional wisdom attributes the rise of Islamism to impoverished and disaffected youth angered by US foreign policy and the festering political sores of oppressed Muslim communities in Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya.

Ed Husain provides a insider’s perspective of home grown Islamism in UK Muslim communities. Husain was raised in a traditional Muslim home in London in the 1980s. By the time he was 16, he was active in three fundamentalist organisations, including Hizb ut-Tahrir, an extremist group which advocates jihad in the name of Islam.

He wrote a book about his experiences, The Islamist: Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside, and why I left, wherein he tells of the ease with which young, impressionable members, under intense pressure of family expectation to be educated as a professional and marry a bride chosen by the family, are drawn to the rising tide of radical Islam in the West as a way for breaking free from family bondage with the thrill and importance of a personal liberation theology to revolutionise the world.

Arabian and Pakistani immigrants to the UK (and other Western secular democracies) have struggled and worked hard to create a better life for their families. There is tremendous pressure on their children to do better than their parents – go to university, become a doctor, lawyer or engineer and marry a good Muslim girl through family-arranged marriage. A familiar experience for the children of all immigrant communities. Torn between parental expectations of the old culture and the allure of the secular freedom of the new culture, the second generation find themselves caught between the traditional and contemporary and often alienated from both.

Like teenagers everywhere they seek individuation from the family, and like teenagers everywhere, find solace, purpose, meaning and identity through their peers, often by way of gangs and tribes. In Western Muslim communities many will be drawn to radical Islamism as a bridge between the past and the future and find an exciting sense of revolutionary purpose, to recreate the world, a path to personal liberation.

To tackle this trend in Western Muslim communities requires a range of strategies. Foremost is the recognition of the process. Muslim leaders must work to debunk Islamism within their communities, governments must look for ways to foster dialog and to provide opportunities for Muslim communities to interface with the broader secular society. In countries such as France, it would be wise to rectify the exploitation of two generations of cheap immigrant labour by providing pathways to citizenship and access to all the rights, responsibilities and privilege it provides.

Continued demonisation of Islam and Muslim communities will do nothing to improve the situation. It is clear that it will only exacerbate the problem. The War on Terror, especially the invasion of Iraq, has done as much for the cause of radical Islamism as any number of delusional preachers exploiting vulnerable young men in search of identity. Whatever the question, war is not going to be the answer, unless it’s how to enhance the profits of private military corporations at the expense of untold human suffering courtesy of $trillions of taxpayers’ money.

From the Lateline transcript:

The vast majority of Islamist organisations right across the world from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Jamaat Islami in the Indian subcontinent have their rank and file filled with people who are highly educated in medicine and engineering facilities from some of the finest universities in the world.

But that education is flawed in that that education is all about understanding the secular world and, therefore, they have a mindset that that enables them now to understand scripture. That’s where the flaw lies. People like Bin Laden and al Zawahiri are not authorised scholars who have an understanding of Islam that goes back from generation to generation, right back to the prophet Muhammad.

There’s a flaw in their understanding that just because they’re educated as doctors and engineers they’re now qualified to go to the Koran as some sort of medical manual or engineering book of do’s and don’ts, rights and wrong, and black and white without understanding nuance, context, tradition, scholarship and history. It’s that warped literalist reading of scripture and text that contributes to the mindset that allows for the killing of the innocent.

It’s that mindset of looking at scripture as a manual. It’s also a DIY attitude that we can do it ourselves. DIY reading without scholarly backing or spiritual inclinations. It’s that sort of text Islam of the mindset of a modern secular mind going to scripture without the assistance of legitimate, centuries-old scholarship.

Many of these people are what we would call born again Muslims, like born again Christians, who don’t really have a legitimate traditional experience of what it means to be Muslim other than an Islamist experience.

And here, if I may say so, I’d like to make that distinction between Islam the faith and Islamism, the political ideology set up in its name. Just as we don’t blame the Catholic Church for the IRA or ETA violence in Spain we don’t blame Islam the religion with a 1,400-year track record of creating civilisations from Spain to China to the Middle East for what is going on now.
What we blame is the marrying of an Islamist ideology set up in the 1950s in Egypt and later in Pakistan with what your piece correctly identified as Wahhabism.

On how young middle-class educated men are drawn to Islamism.

This goes back to an issue that we’ve got here in Britain. In the name of multiculturalism we’ve set up mono-cultural ghettos in that it’s quite legitimate for a young Muslim or a young Asian or a young black person – but the first two categories are more libel to this – to grow up in communities predominantly Asian or Muslim with limited contact with the outside world.

Well, you see their identities are very complex. Being a doctor is a means to an end. Many of these people were asked to become doctors simply because that’s what their parents wanted them to be. Many of these young Asian people born and raised for the first time here in Britain and their parents have a strong influence. Among Arabs and Asians there’s a preference for doctors, lawyers and engineers.

They’re being doctors is default. It’s not a career choice for them that they’ve deliberately made out. It just so happens that while they’re at university, while they are isolated from mainstream communities and while they have this identity crisis, they’re recruited into extremist organisations at a very young age.

Joining the cell structure gave one a sense of belonging, gave one a sense of purpose, gave one a sense of connection, not just to a structure here in Britain, a secretive structure with a strict hierarchy but also a cause globally. So week in, week out, we were studying texts and it’s important to point out that these were texts written in the 1950s Middle East in an environment of confrontation overthrow, military coup d’etats, the setting up of Israel.

So it was in that environment of anger and change this material was drawn up. We were studying in secret the agenda of bringing about an Islamist State in the Middle East which has jihad as a foreign policy which had overthrown Arab governments and which would kill and annihilate most Israelis and which would then turn its gun on the West. That’s the rhetoric of that organisation, and that’s no secret. It’s there in the literature.

I defy anyone to prove me wrong on the fact that almost every single jihadist who’s taken up arms against governments – be it in Saudi Arabia, be it in Egypt, be it in Afghanistan, be it here in the West or be it in America, any part of the world – their trajectory has always been that they’re Islamists or extremists as I was in my younger days. That Islamism, that ideology becomes a frustration you can’t deliver. The State isn’t coming about and, therefore, we will take up arms. So there’s always that trajectory from extremism to more extremism and then to terrorism. Therefore the way to respond to terrorism is to go back to identify Islamism as the conveyor belt to terrorism.

Anyone in doubt should read Article 184, I believe, of their constitution, and keep going further down and you see that’s their rhetoric. Their role here in the West is to make sure that Western Muslims are on board when this radical State comes about. So being part of that cell structure was my way of not only belonging to this organisation, but also to bring others on board and to make sure we had as many cells as possible here in the West, so when the States did eventually come about we knew that we had sufficient support to mobilise the Muslim masses here to ensure that the British Government didn’t take a negative stance between the State.

Now that’s the foreign policy of the Islamist State, and I say Islamist and not Islamic. There’s a huge difference here. Islamist State that they’re planning. There’s also an issue worth bearing in mind. What we call jihadists, the like of Bin Laden and al Zawahiri and the bombers that have been thankfully picked up in recent days, the difference between these jihadists and those who are claiming for an Islamic State, is just a question of time.

Those from Hizb ut-Tahrir and others who want the States to declare a jihad are waiting for that leadership to bring about a huge army that would declare a jihad and those who are doing what we now call vigilante actions, individual actions is as a result of that frustration.

I grew up in that world here in London, and at the age of 17, 18, I was exposed from, you know at 16 I joined a less extreme organisation and at 18 became more exposed to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

But wherever Hizb ut-Tahrir functions it has the cell structure. It’s the only way it’s worked for the last 50 to 60 years. It not just, Hizb ut-Tahrir – it is one manifestation of that Islamist ideology based on a warped reading of text and under heavy Marxist influences – cell structures talking of a van guard party, talking about bringing about mass awareness and bringing about a State. There’s real emphasis based on communist/Marxist influences that you find on Islamism and academics such as London School of Economics’ John Grey have borne out that fact.

That organisation functions in Australia and its leadership takes its call and its literature [from] the London based Hizb ut-Tahrir. So that’s a threat in the making that I think your policy-makers and people in the media need to identify and educate the wider Australian population about and on a final thought, that even here the leadership of Hizb Ut Tahrir as well as the leadership of Wahhabist organisations are filled with engineers and doctors.

On Ed’s turning away from Islamism.

In my case I wasn’t such a violent person, my predisposition wasn’t that way but we certainly admired people who became suicide bombers and we never condemned them. They were seen as martyrs. It was only after 9/11 we were woken up to the power of that sort of symbolism, to see them as martyrs and what that creates. I think in the last five or six years many of us have woken up to the deadly ideology we’re advocating.

Today we’re categorically stating that they’re not martyrs, that they’re murders and if there are martyrs involved in any of this, it’s the sad loss of the innocent lives that get caught up in any of this.

TONY JONES: A final question, we’re nearly out of time, I’m sorry to say, but a final question, how did you pull back from the brink?

That’s a good question. I was fortunate in that I was raised as an orthodox Muslim so, I knew there was an alternative way of being Muslim without being an Islamist, and that distinction needs to be clear. My parents were telling me, “We raised you as a decent human being, as an orthodox Muslim, as someone should contribute, what’s with this ideology you’re advocating?” I went through a hard time at home. That was backed by the fact that I saw a murder took place on my campus directly as a result of extremist ideas that we were advocating.

For me it wasn’t just murder out there somewhere in the Middle East but seeing it on my doorstep which made me stand up and think, “Where am I heading in life?” But the last point was making more and more friends from wider society, getting to know Britain as it really is and realising that these ideas of extremism aren’t sustainable.

But backed up with all of this was exposure to genuine religion, that we may call orthodox Islam, where there is a tradition of plurality, a tradition of acceptance of the other. There is a tradition of spirituality, of honouring fellow human beings – ennobling, and being merciful and compassionate. So that exposure clearly demarks it from the moderate mainstream. My belief is that that’s the sort of exposure we should be giving to genuine authentic religiosity, and thereby chasing after and flushing extremists who operate in our name.

Filed under: Big Picture, Ideology, Politics, Religion

2 Responses

  1. Link says:

    Oh that such information were in the mainstream. Its still an interesting phenomena that erstwhile intelligent people fall for the fundamentalist claptrap of any religion.

    Perhaps humour coupled with some common sense about the idiocy of taking the many layered meanings in sacred texts on the one level as some sort of cold fact, might take the fire out of their bellies. Its really very child-like. It would be good if our ‘leaders’ were able to do a bit more pisstaking and began to treat the great unwashed as though we had some intelligence. I think religious leaders have much to answer for not making it far more widely known that there are many levels of interpretation sacred texts can be read on. But having said that, chances are they themselves don’t recognise as much.

    Interesting too that much of the Islamists texts were written in the fifties.

    Thanks Slim, good post, almost makes me wish I had a telly. Thanks also for blog rolling BB.

  2. slim says:

    Cheers, Link! I always appreciate your posts and your feedback.

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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The Dog's Bollocks: "Bollocks" is one of my favourite words, and this is now one of my favourite blogs and I've only been reading it for five minutes. – John Surname

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