Blogland,  Islamism

Pickled Politics: Tory Muslim Forum Objects To Term “Islamist”

Pickled Politics is a website that used to be Left -aligned and anti-sectarian in its outlook. Today, however, it has become a staunch defender of communal politics, and has veered between support for all three major parties. Now it appears to be giving a soapbox to Tories.

Today, Pickled Politics has published a particularly idiotic article by Mohammad Amin, of the Conservative Muslim Forum, who I believe is also a contender for the leadership of the Muslim Council of Britain.

The Conservative Muslim Forum is an odd organisation. They got themselves into a bit of trouble a few years back by publishing a paper that argued that “Iran appears to have legitimate reasons for seeking nuclear weapons for defensive purposes”, while defending the hate preacher Yusuf Al Qardawi as a respected Islamic scholar. Leading Conservatives were unimpressed and Conservative Home wrote to the Party Chairman to ask her to take steps to ensure that the body could not be “infiltrated“.

The article by Amin is a very odd one. First of all, it appears to be a reaction to Shiraz Maher’s Policy Exchange paper, Choosing Our Friends Wisely, that came out last year. It is a rather late response.

Amin’s central thesis – as far as I can make it out – is that we should not oppose Islamist groups which seek to acquire power through democratic, rather than violent means.

However, upon a closer reading it becomes clear that the authors have conflated two very distinct agendas: One is the desire to overthrow governments by force and impose a particular vision of society. The other is the desire from an Islamic perspective to peacefully remake Muslim communities from within by encouraging Muslims to be more devout and by encouraging non-Muslims to learn about Islam.

Despite the authors’ word games on page 17 attempting to blur the distinction, the above two perspectives remain fundamentally different. From time to time every religion experiences revival movements, and there is no fundamental illegitimacy in the desire to remake society peacefully. Conversely imposing one’ religious view on others by force is almost universally considered to be wrong.

If this is the position of the Conservative Muslim Forum, then it is very worrying. It throws light on their earlier defence of Qaradawi. Of course we should oppose violent Islamist movements. But we should equally oppose any movement – violent or not – which seeks to establish a theocratic Islamist politics, which would discriminate against religious dissenters, women and homosexuals. That would be the effect, for example, of Jamaat-e-Islami or the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power. To characterise the politics of these sorts of parties as an unproblematic peaceful “religious revival” is very irresponsible.

But what really stands out about this piece is its title: “Why we need to stop using the word “Islamism”“. The argument, in a nutshell, is that:

Most UK Muslims simply regard the use of the word “Islamism” as a politically correct substitute for attacking Islam.

Now, that is an interesting assertion. I would have thought that the only people who would regard an attack on specific identified Islamist political parties as an attack on “Islam” are those who regard the religion (Islam) and the political movement (Islamism) as one and the same. Only Islamists and Islamophobes share that perspective.

However, the reason that people call Islamists Islamists, is that Islamists call themselves Islamists. Here are a few examples.

First of all, here is an article from earlier this week, on the Muslim Brotherhood website, by the Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood, in which he complains that:

Islamist youths are unjustly detained without reason

Here is another example. This is a journal about Islamism, published by Kemal El Helbawy, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in the United Kingdom. The name of the journal? “Islamism Digest“.

Let’s have one final example. How about Azzam “Kaboom” Tamimi’s book on the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood supremo, Rachad Ghannouchi, entitled, “A Democrat Within Islamism“.

It is very clear that “Islamism” is a term that is used extensively by Islamists to describe themselves. It would be very odd were we to stop using that term, while the Islamists continued to do so.

The problem with Islamism isn’t the nature of the word. It is the nature of the ideology. I am not sure whether Mohammed Amin “gets” that.

PS: If you’re looking for a useful primer on the meaning of the term Islamism, try here.