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Kenan Malik: From Fatwa to Jihad

Kenan Malik has written this year’s “must read” book: From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy.

You should go directly to Amazon (or a bookseller of your choice) and buy it now.

Malik has produced an epic account of the growth of Islamism in this country. More or less, it is the story of how a sort of colonial style model of government-through-headman, utterly destructive of true multiculturalism, and every bit as reductionist as the worst of anti-Muslim bigotry, was imposed on British citizens of South Asian origin. From Fatwa to Jihad tells the tale of the State’s quest for ‘authentic Muslims’: a search which propelled marginal and often vicious minor politicians to national prominence.The book sparkles with sharp ideas, and bristles with terrible anecdotes, chronicling absurdities and injustices.

In retrospect, it is very clear how the wrong turn was taken. It is less obvious how we get back.

I disagree with Kenan Malik on virtually nothing in this book. I am more prepared to he to accept the appropriateness of punishing direct incitements to kill, delivered by those who have convinced their credulous followers that they are divine intermediaries who carry God’s orders. Malik also, at times, conflates ‘bien pensant’ liberal views – which can often be very illiberal indeed – with the purer liberal tradition. However, the central thesis of the book is that, only by holding firm to core liberal values, can we hope to win an essentially ideological battle with those who seek to destroy them. He’s right on that.

I hope that we’ll be able to discuss this book, once a few of you have read it. Go on. Buy it now. It is a real page turner. You’ll finish it in two evenings, guaranteed.

Here’s a review by Faisal (who is looking damn handsome!):

The great appeal of From Fatwa to Jihad is its pitiless observation and it is this which raises it above the easy standards of one-sided polemic. No one gets away – certainly not Islamic radicalism and multiculturalism and its penchant for ethnic and religious particularism, the monomaniacal Melanie Phillips and the chauvinism of Daniel Pipes and Mark Steyn are all roundly criticised. If Malik’s book advocates anything, it is a social order based on universalist Enlightenment values, the importance of free speech and for the elevation of secular and progressive ideas within minority, particularly Muslim, communities.

Here is Lisa Appignanesi:

Another of Malik’s monsters is multiculturalism, and he traces its rise in detailed case histories. In the wake of the Rushdie Affair, politicians at a loss were keen to find “leaders” who could both contain and speak for their supposed “communities”. Neither were, as yet, anything of the kind. But bolstered by grants and the ear of government, self-elected figures, often enough in the pay of foreign regimes, became the representatives of British Muslims. Tribalism was fostered and a conservative Islam came to the fore.

And, as a special treat, there’s a free chapter on Kenan Malik’s website.