Friday, June 22, 2007

The Roots of Islamist Terrorism...

Tap a Brew, Provoke the Islamists
(Image from Wikipedia)

In a recent article for The Guardian, "Blair can no longer deny a link exists between terrorism and foreign policy" (June 4, 2007), Tariq Ramadan argues:
Tony Blair and his government have obliged civil servants to deny that a link exists between terrorism and British foreign policy. While the invasion of Iraq can never be claimed as ethical justification for terrorist attacks against innocent citizens in London, it would be absurd to deny the reality of the political connection between the two.
Former Ramadan supporter David Goodhart, who edits the liberal magazine Prospect and who has previously interviewed Ramadan for this same magazine, has written an "Open letter to Tariq Ramadan" (Prospect, June 2007) expressing his disappointment in Ramadan's article:
I was disappointed by your piece in the Guardian on Monday 4th June. For what it's worth, I have spent quite a lot of time in the past year or two defending you from the many people in the British political class who are influenced by the predominant French-American view that you are a dangerous extremist (recently rehearsed, as you will know, by Paul Berman in the New Republic). Having heard you speak several times, and interviewed you in depth for Prospect, I concluded that whatever your former beliefs, you now thought that Muslims should embrace and integrate into western societies....

Perhaps you have your "realpolitik" reasons too for repeating the grievance-seeking, responsibility-avoiding diatribe that I read in the Guardian -- all too familiar from far less accomplished Muslim thinkers than yourself -- claiming that all this Muslim extremism in Britain is someone else's fault, probably the British government's. But it is still nonsense. You come close to repeating the canard that Mohammad Sidique Khan was a well-integrated young British-Pakistani driven mad by Tony Blair's foreign policy. Well, I implore you to read the cover story in the latest issue of Prospect magazine by Shiv Malik. It describes how Khan, who had indeed been relatively well integrated as a youngster, became seduced by the temptation of extreme Muslim identity politics. There are two reasons why Muslim youth seem to be especially vulnerable. First, the acute generational conflict created by moving from traditional social and moral orders to a modern liberal society; second, the existence of various Islamist political-religious ideologies offering a total explanation of the world and the young Muslim's potentially heroic role in ushering in a new one. Khan had swapped his parents' traditionalist Islam for the "pure" Wahhabi faith in the mid-1990s, and by 1999 he was already seeking to perform violent jihad -- many years before 9/11 or the Iraq war. (Of course, the latter did enrage him too, and it made Britain his target instead of Kashmir or Israel.)

To blame it all on British foreign policy and racism will simply not do. British Muslims are among the politically freest and richest in the world, which is why so many more Muslims are desperate to come and live here....

And foreign policy? Britain in the post-cold war era, and especially under Tony Blair, has been running a more "interventionist" policy than was possible earlier. Some of those interventions -- such as that in Sierra Leone, 70 per cent Muslim -- have been relatively successful and popular. Others, especially that in Iraq, have been unsuccessful and much more controversial, splitting the country in two....

But in any case, the idea that British foreign policy has been run on an anti-Muslim agenda does not stand examination. In Bosnia and Kosovo (and Sierra Leone), Britain took military action on behalf of Muslims, in some cases against Christians. In Iraq, rightly or wrongly (and Prospect was opposed to Britain's role) we helped to remove a secular dictator, and we will leave behind a Muslim democracy of some kind.
Well, we can hope that this democracy stuff will take in Iraq, but things don't look too promising there.

Although Goodhart is correct to note the complexity of Britain's foreign policy and the fact that Britain has often intervened to help Muslims, the critic Ramadan is also correct to note that Britain's foreign policy provokes Islamist terrorists. So does America's foreign policy.

Many policies, of course, provoke Islamists:
Israel's policy toward the mostly Muslim Palestinians. Russia's policy in mostly Muslim Chechnya. India's policy in mostly Muslim Kashmir. Thailand's policy in its southern, largely Muslim provinces. The Philippines' policy toward Muslims in its southern island of Mindanao. The policy of the 15th-century Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabella toward the Muslim Moors. The policy of non-Muslims in southern Sudan in resisting Islamization. The policy of the Jyllands-Posten on free expression about Islamic topics. The policy of the British government in bestowing a knighthood on the ex-Muslim Salman Rushdie. The policy of the Christians holding church services in largely Muslim Indonesia. The policy of Christian workers meeting secretly for private Bible study in strictly Muslim Saudi Arabia. The policy of women anywhere going unveiled. The policy of non-Muslims remaining non-Muslim. The policy of Buddhist statues remaining Buddhist statues. The policy of somebody, somewhere in the universe, drinking a beer.
All of these things are very, very, very provocative to Islamists.

Will Hutton notes that "The West provokes Islam not by doing anything ... it provokes at least some strands of Islamic thought simply by being" (Why the West must stay true to itself," The Observer, June 17, 2007).

Indeed, not only the West, but also the rest of the non-Muslim world, for every non-Muslim place or non-Muslim person provokes the Islamists simply by being ... non-Muslim.

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At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Goodheart is applying the same sort of 'understanding' as T.R. We are the prey of historical forces, economic forces, ideological forces etc. The answer to that would be that many people are not, they act rather than react. Religion with its emphasis on personal responsibility, examination of conscience and the creation of a conscience with which to examine it ought to be a help in this. There is also grace and forgiveness of sins if you believe in that. Islam has all that but it is also stuck in the pre-modern phase of 'cuius regio, eius religio'. What took Christianity hundreds of years to work through is being required of ill-educated Muslims in a generation. Here I am now myself 'understanding' it.

Mind you not the only voice. On Islam Channel which I watch on my F.T.A. Sat. dish I hear a preacher who is saying quite clearly 'we are a minority, we must adapt to the host society and give over negativity, arrogance and resentment'. At the same time he would campaign about the hijab which is his right. The French would be right in my opinion in their ruling about the hijab in schools because they have a tradition of laicite in public situations but Britain would be wrong to do the same thing because they have an Established church and the Prime Minister cannot be a Catholic. Here in Ireland a Muslim school was closed down because it did not meet curriculum standards. We need simplicity, clarity and law. The vast majority of Muslim children go to the National schools because parents want their children to mix with the locals. Those non-fanatic people must be protected against the bully mullahs.

At 6:18 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Michael Reidy, for your insightful remarks.

I'll have to look more closely at Goodheart's analysis.

I certainly wouldn't want to reduce our behavior to "historical forces, economic forces, ideological forces," and the like. I prefer the personal responsibility inculcated by Christianity ... and some other religions. Does Islam do this? I know too little about moral training in Islam, thought it seems to be a religion more concerned with shame than guilt.

By the way, I think that I finally realized who you are. You're not the 'Michael' who posted a comment here about a week ago but the Michael who has at times posted on Bill Vallicella's blog, Maverick Philosopher, right?

That's neither here nor there, but maybe it's somewhere in the middle.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:55 PM, Blogger A.H. said...

A great piece. Nicely provocative. The art of provocation, as in Milton's day, when religions stood up for themselves, seems to have become simply: provocation. In the UK, being provocative has become a negative avoided. Provocation has led to a politics of infantile outbursts as in the Rushdie Affair, Part II.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Eshuneutics. I try to provoke thinking, including my own, with this blog -- even when I'm being ironic.

Make that especially when I'm being ironic.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What provocation is and the appropriate response to such is so relative. How to respond to someone who looks at you wrong? Kill them or blow it off? I can never decide.

I’m sure much of the Muslim world would miss the irony if a group of Western terrorists not affiliated with any government carried out attacks on Muslims in their countries and justified it by saying the foreign policy of whatever nation was the reason (i.e., I don’t like it that your country doesn’t allow X, so I do Y, suck it up cuz it’s your fault).

I guess this is what it’s all about, to “meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture and…kill them.”

At 3:52 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Richardson, I'm of the opinion that one should take such insults with humility ... until one gains enough power to do something about those who insult.

Such as, oh, say ... killing them.

If that succeeds, then one can intimidate people, gain even more power, and use that to kill even more of those who insult.

Repeat until all insulters are vanquished and the earth free of insults.

That'll show all those fornicating male offspring of a female Canis lupus familiaris who corrupt the earth with their insults!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks. The very same M.R. who occasionally posts on BV's blog. Students in Pakistan are keeping abreast of English literature. Poor old Salman. Raving reviews from those who hold that freedom of speech, is the freedom to preach, the topping of all offensive ferenghis.

At 8:19 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Ferenghis? What are ferenghis?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A 'feringhee'(S.O.D.) is a Frank or a foreigner as the French were the first that they met, by Crusade. That would make it derogatory. Kipling spells it 'ferenghi'. In Parsi, farangi. The word has got as far as Thailand (farang). In the 70's during my travels in the Islamic world I had no hassles and often great hospitality. I wouldn't hitch-hike in Afghanistan now.

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks. I had Googled but found only stuff about Star Trek.

Another gap in my education filled in...

Jeffery Hodges

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