The war on terror has produced strange animals. One category is the ‘House Muslim’ who is expected to bark at fellow Muslims critical of western policies but never at the governments killing innocent Muslims.
For her “Independent Voices” column on February 25, award-winning journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown chose to use her space to decry the apparent disorientation of the Muslim Ummah in an article entitled “How did modern Islam become so intolerant?”
To the untrained eye it wasn’t a horrifically bad piece, and although it did not contain the clichéd but-obviously-I-don’t-mean-everyone and there-are-still-lots-of-unheralded-success-stories, it did acknowledge the so-called grievances provoking the Muslim community; those essentially being deep-rooted ‘Islamophobia’, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
She claims to have sympathy with these hard feelings, she attests to have “written with deep conviction on these thorny issues” and she is even reading a book about it. This is all well and good and it sure was brave and chivalrous of her to assure readers that “internal dialogue” and “self-critiquing” is taking place, except… it is not actually what the issue is here.
Celebrity Muslim intellectuals are always happy to elaborate upon the abstract ideological factors driving “Islamic” fundamentalism and terrorism, yet the tangible factors surrounding them are strangely never discussed. Disillusionment, disenfranchisement and the willingness to commit terrorist acts are not sentiments that appear from nowhere. They must be planted, fed and watered attentively by people who will ultimately earn from the pickings.
Most right-minded people (or would that make them “left”-minded) recognize that talking about Israel’s violations in Palestine would become moot without mentioning the support it gets from the United States and Britain. Similarly, but less prominent in the general public’s conscience, talk of “Islamic” terrorism without referencing its source is just as asinine. It is disingenuous and fallacious to perpetuate the idea that the “radical Islamic fundamentalism” we speak of exists in a vacuum and was borne and sustained exogenously from the mechanisms of Western imperialism.
For all of that, there is truth hiding deep below the surface in Mrs. Alibhai-Brown’s thesis. There is something deeply wrong with the Muslim Ummah, but you would not know it from the “safe,” infantile commentary provided by establishment Muslims.
Sectarianism may be nothing new in the Muslim world, but in recent years it has taken on a new face for which there are arguably several contributing factors. The rise of the Salafis, resentment at the unprecedented successes of Hizbullah and the distorted representation of the Syrian conflict have all played their part in “energizing” Sunnis into harboring ruinous levels of enmity toward their minority Shi‘i contemporaries. Thanks also to the development of mass communication and information-sharing, platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have meant more mines have been laid for unknowledgeable and impressionable Muslims. With sectarian trolls, imposter scholars and questionable political reporters so easily accessible, myths regarding non-Sunnis long propagated in the likes of Saudi Arabia have vitiated much of the Muslim population in the UK, especially in light of the Syrian conflict.
There is little to no argument that the gangsters swarming throughout Afgha-nistan, Pakistan, Libya and Syria are funded by the regimes in Arabia. It may, however, be an inconvenient truth for anti-imperialists, but many of the radical characters and groups are outside the direct influence of the House of Saud — indeed most, if not all, believe the regimes are corrupt and irreligious and they intend to overthrow them one day (when the bursaries dry up, one would suppose). Nevertheless, since the extremists are busy fighting exclusively against the countries that are not inside the Sunni, ultra-capitalist spheres, Saudis or Qataris have no reason to inhibit them.
But what does this have to do with the Muslims in Britain? Assuming for argument’s sake that the “homegrown radicals” invoked by many a politician, “terrorism expert” or House Muslim have had no interaction with the government or police, their inspiration can only come from the rebel “Jihadis” and preachers who have sprouted from decades of uncompromising Saudi takfirism. That is not to say that the Saudis have to be directly grooming such unfortunate characters; for they too have been burnt by insurgents. Juhayman al-Otaybi and Osama bin Laden were the products of an establishment-encouraged countrywide environment of religious conservatism, which — like all forms of conservatism — only serves to empower oligarchs and men. Saudi Arabia has always had unwavering support, money and munitions from Britain and the United States, and for all the pledges to not tolerate authoritarianism or “Islamism,” this should seem wildly inconsistent.
Counter-terrorism has become a huge industry in the UK, with over £2 billion pledged by the government each year to combat and pre-emptively prevent terrorist crimes. Much of this budget is invested in a spying campaign that targets the Muslim community across the country, with blackmail, intimidation and — perhaps most sinister of all — entrapment being key weapons in the state arsenal.
We know that scare-mongering fills column inches and swells 24-hour-news-channel viewership, but the heightened fear instilled in people only manifests itself in prejudice against the targeted demographic. The acceptable form of Muslim political expression is “I condemn terrorism” coupled with silence or paying lip service to the terrorist atrocities committed by our state and its militants against Muslims in the East.
Prejudice comes from miseducation, and miseducation comes from the acceptable discourse purveyed by lobbyists and insincerely corroborated by “House Muslims” for careerist purposes. Combining the active role played by the state in “terrorist activities” here (and in non-submissive foreign states) with the tight relationship with Saudi Arabia renders it unthinkable that some people think such issues concerning the Muslim community are endogenous.
It seems as though courage for people of Mrs. Alibhai-Brown’s ilk is thought of as speaking out against Muslims rather than pointing out the egregious bias leveled against “her people.” It is difficult to understand what she thinks will be achieved by Muslims “speaking out” against “silent Muslim organizations,” but this is what Western Muslims are made to believe is the “right” way to be political. Obsequiousness has brought no halt to the piles of corpses in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the unjustified incarceration and extradition of British Muslim men or the Western-backed consolidation of the undemocratic “Islamist” Gulf sphere. The intelligibility of such tactics are like planting bombs in populated areas and then telling the people off for dying. It is time to turn the page on this script.
New writers needed, please.
Saadaab Janab is a commentator on Muslim and political issues. His works can be read at http://weareindignant.tumblr.com/