Monday, July 16, 2012

Some links on Islam, Islamism, Islamophobia

On Tony Blair's bad faith secularism: Paul Stott with a bingo moment from Terry Sanderson.
"What is really unhelpful is the inherent contradiction in Blair's approach, shown up in his opinion piece and your interview, by which he recommends stronger secular democracy in countries riven with religious conflict at the same time as greater reverance for religion in the secular West. This is no way to win support from doubters from either culture"
Two great pieces by Nick Cohen: on Assange followers' paranoid style and on the truly radical Muslims. The latter, entitled "Tales of Hope", refers to Maajid Nawaz and Alom Shaha. Nawaz returns in a Shiraz Socialist post, relaying a New Statesman debate between him and the awful Mehdi Hasan. One thing too trivial for Nawaz to call Hasan on is the following claim:
Forget Milne. Consider instead the verdict of Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden tracking unit and the author of three acclaimed books on al-Qaeda.
I posted this when Hasan first quoted Scheuer:
He quotes as an authority one Michael Scheuer, Ron Paul's foreign policy adviser, who recently called for Osama bin Laden to nuke America ("The only chance we have as a country right now"). Here, Scheuer is returning a favour; Bin Laden once said ""If you want to understand what's going on and if you would like to get to know some of the reasons for your losing the war against us, then read the book of Michael Scheuer in this regard." Scheuer is also, unsurprisingly, part of the Walt and Mearsheimer "Israel Lobby" conspiracy theory fantast world:

GARY ROSEN: If you could just elaborate a little bit on the clandestine ways in which Israel and presumably Jews have managed to so control debate over this fundamental foreign policy question.
SCHEUER: Well, the clandestine aspect is that, clearly, the ability to influence the Congress—that’s a clandestine activity, a covert activity. You know to some extent, the idea that the Holocaust Museum here in our country is another great ability to somehow make people feel guilty about being the people who did the most to try to end the Holocaust. I find—I just find the whole debate in the United States unbearably restricted with the inability to factually discuss what goes on between our two countries.[source]
Read Adam Holland if you want to know why I call Scheuer a crypto-fascist.

However, here's one thing I strongly agree with Hasan about:
Multiculturalism has little, if anything, to do with the rise of Islamist-inspired terrorism. Otherwise, how would you explain the presence of extremist groups inside monocultural societies such as Saudi Arabia or the Gaza Strip? 
Remember: the 7 July bombers were, by any conventional definition, integrated into wider British society. None of the four spoke English as a second language; one of them was a convert to Islam. The ringleader, Mohammad Sidique Khan, once nicknamed “Sid”, was a teaching assistant who had refused to have an arranged marriage. Shazad Tanweer, the Aldgate bomber, was an avid cricketer who worked part-time in his father’s fish-and-chip shop. Their actions were horrific and unforgivable but their grievances were political, not cultural.
I said something similar here.

From Islamism to "Islamophobia". Did I ever link to James Bloodworth's excellent attack on that word? Here it is. On the other hand, let's not forget that Daily Telegraph columnists are not an oppressed minority.


Sarah AB said...

I do think Mehdi Hasan made a fair point about possible double standards applied to Muslims and others when he invoked homophobic Christian spokespeople. It is quite probably true that some people might start waving the term 'Islamist' around in response to conservative statements (I don't mean the worst statements of hate preachers of course) by Imams WRT this issue whereas they wouldn't of course use a special word in relation to Christians.

Also - I liked James Bloodworth's article and I think the word Islamophobia is problematic, but I can live with it (and even use it) as long as it's simply being used where anti-Muslim bigotry would work just as well. This is interesting.

Waterloo Sunset said...

I don't really see the massive hysteria round Mehdi Hasan. What he said struck me as obnoxious, but a pretty standard religious attitude. I'm not sure it was any worse than the idea that all non believers will go to hell.

On Islamaphobia, it's massively overused, but I wouldn't reject it entirely. If it's either a case of a) different standards being applied when critiquing the Qur'an then are being applied with similar passages in other holy texts or b) misinterpration of specific Islamic teachings (the claim that "taqiyya" means that all Muslims are lying about what they believe is a standard one), I think you're dealing with something a bit different than anti Muslim bigotry per se.

On a different subject, new anarchist pamphlet on antisemitism has been released-

James Bloodworth said...

Your point, Waterloo, seems to be that we should cut Mehdi Hasan some slack simply because he's religious. I'm afraid I don't see how that is an excuse.

Waterloo Sunset said...

It's not that I think we should cut him some slack as such. It's more that it comes under the heading of "dumb shit religious people believe that has no effect on my life" for me. There's a lot of that around.

It's why I used the "going to hell" analogy. Unless you believe that, it's not really something that matters. I don't actually care what Mehdi Hasan thinks of me, unless he's trying to legislate accordingly. And I see no evidence of that or even that it affects his day to day life.

The only question I do have is why Mehdi seems to raise so much more ire/attention than so many other religious people that believe similar things.

In a time when we have a Tory party in full class war mode, worrying about religious beliefs strikes me as a bit of a pointless distraction, tbh. Although I guess we all need a hobby.

Sarah AB said...

Waterloo Sunset - I think these are perhaps some of the main factors behind this response to MH.

1)There is a feeling that if he had articulated similar views within a Christian framework that might not have been seem as a problem WRT his New Statesman job.

2) There is irritation at the way he has been defended by some (including himself) who insist that his words have been twisted or taken out of context.

3) There was further irritation when he mixed entirely valid and horrible examples of online abuse with what I saw as quite fair discussion of his own rather bigoted comments.

modernity's ghost said...


I think more broadly we need to acknowledge that the racism which many Asians faced in Britain during the Sixties and Seventies didn't vanish.

It simply took on new forms and nowadays it still hangs around in the form of bigotry towards Muslims, call it is Islamophobia if you want, but it's still there.

One minor indicator of this is the level of racism within the Police.

As WS ably puts it, faced with the Tory government would a clear ideological approach, then the focus on religious beliefs seems a questionable tactic at best.

Flesh said...

Always persuaded by James Bloodworth but somewhat more so by Indigo Jones - "we can stop talking about Islamophobia when others stop practising it"

David Hirsh has also made roughly this point about semantics in conversation with Harry's Place's David T.

Sarah AB said...

Sorry about earlier typos - I meant of course to say 'might have been seen' rather than 'might not have been seem'!

Flesh - I wouldn't want to quibble about semantics either - certainly not to deflect an otherwise fair point - but I don't care for that article you link to - I'd have to reread it but it seems to occlude a lot of middle ground, including (I think) not acknowledging that most people who don't care for 'Islamophobia' are quite happy with 'anti-Muslim bigotry'. I can see why, perhaps, Islamophobia actually seems like the better word of the two for some instances of bigotry, eg to describe those who think that 'moderate' Muslims aren't really Muslims at all (confusingly that is also a view associated with more rigid Muslims of course.)