This is a guest post by Mehrdad Amanpour
There were some great comments and questions following my previous piece The Quiet Death of Moderate Islam. I wanted to reply individually but as there were so many, I’ll try to respond to some of the main points that came up here.
1. Nice Islam versus Nasty Islam
I couldn’t help but notice how some people who are critical of and opposed to Islam have so much in common with Muslims who believe in interpretations of Islam that are extreme, illiberal and hateful.
The paradox is remarkable. Both sides agree on what Islam is. Neither side accepts that there may be other legitimate interpretations of Islam. Both sides state confidently what a ‘proper’ Muslim believes, or else ought to believe.
Such has been the triumph of the Wahhabis, the Deobandis, the various Muslim Brotherhood fronts and the Khomeinists.
Even the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gets in on the act:
So is Islam a religion of peace, love and tolerance as promoted by various Muslim organisations, the liberal establishment and the BBC? Or is it a violent and supremacist ideology that will ultimately plunge our world into a new Dark Age, a view promoted by Geert Wilders, the EDL and Robert Spencer of the so-called ‘counter-Jihad’ movement?
For all practical purposes, neither point of view is helpful. There is no single Islam and neither is there any single central authority on what Islam is. Ultimately Islam is what an individual Muslim believes it to be.
Indeed, the counter-Jihadists actually help rather than hinder the people that need to be taken to task by allowing them to hide among the liberal Muslims that they attack with their simplistic, catch-all arguments. Once hidden, the extremists are able to become embraced by gullible and well meaning establishment figures and the rather less principled anti-fascist movements, who are so stupid as to treat them as the ‘victims’ they are not.
I don’t wish to get into a complex theological debate here, but I have sat down and talked with Islamic scholars who have made convincing cases as to why killing, under any circumstances, is against Islam. That hadud punishments are wrong. I met one scholar who rejected most of the hadith, from where many of the more unpleasant interpretations of Islam originate. There are a great many scholars out there that oppose the idea of Islamic government and believe that the verses of the Quran need to be considered in their context, in the same way that most Jewish people and Christians regard their holy books.
I can understand Wahhabis, Khomeinists et al saying that the above aren’t ‘proper’ Muslims but it is rather dispiriting when I hear it from non-Muslims.
Yes, it is unfortunately true that the proponents of Nasty Islam are far more prominent and numerous than the proponents of Nice Islam.
After all, it is very difficult for Nice Islam to compete with Nasty Islam when in the last 20 years alone, the latter version has been propagated with $87 billion of Saudi petro-dollars plus many more billions of investment from countries such as Iran and UAE.
But Nice Islam does exist. It’s just being quietly strangled by Nasty Islam.
- Anjem Choudry and other non-entities
Cartoon villains like Choudry are a diversion. In my experience, they have very little support and credibility among most Muslims here and abroad.
The overwhelming majority of Muslims in Britain and elsewhere oppose acts of terrorism such as 9/11, 7/7 and the murder of Lee Rigby. They don’t support a violent Jihad against the West and they have no wish to impose Sharia law in Europe against the wishes of Europeans.
What’s more, people like Choudry aren’t (in any significant numbers) engaged with by the mainstream media and establishment. I’m not sure that even Unite Against Fascism would go quite so far as welcoming someone like Choudry into their organisation.
The Choudrys actually help legitimise what is the real danger – the outwardly respectable ‘moderate’ Muslims like Mo Ansar, Inayat Bunglawala, Abdul Qadeer Baksh and organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain / East London Mosque and the Islamic Human Rights Commission. I could mention many, many others.
By joining in the public condemnation of people like Choudry, these individuals and organisations assert their ‘moderate’ credentials. Of course, they are nothing of the sort. However, they do exert a great deal of influence, both on the Muslim communities as well as on the mainstream media, establishment and political class that foolishly engage with them.
We’ve seen repeatedly how easy it is to expose the shocking bigotry and extremism that these people hide so carefully, if only journalists have the guts, intelligence and integrity to scratch the surface or ask probing questions.
3. Is there anything that can be done?
Thanks to decades of moral relativism, Nasty Islam is now entrenched in the UK and considered legitimate by a significant proportion of the Muslim population.
What’s more, it is clear that the media, establishment and political class have long taken the cowardly and dishonourable approach of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ when dealing with the Muslim communities – such has been their overwhelming desire to avoid giving offence.
This must stop. Our only chance is to change our culture of moral relativism for a culture of moral consistency.
Surely it’s not that difficult to define what ‘Nasty’ is. Surely there’s no question that killing gays and apostates is nasty – whoever supports it and whatever their reasons for supporting it.
Therefore, before any member of the establishment or political class sponsors, advocates or allies itself with any Muslim individual or organisation, it must ‘Ask’ and compel the individual or organisation to ‘Tell’:
For example: “Do you condemn unequivocally, the killing of gays and apostates, here, elsewhere, today and as an ‘ideal’?”
A reasonable question.
And if the answer isn’t “Yes, I condemn it unequivocally” then it’s pretty certain that the individual’s or organisation’s sympathies lie with Nasty Islam.
Of course, in a liberal democracy, everyone is entitled to his or her point of view, however nasty. However, I don’t think that our public institutions and political class ought to be associating themselves with people who hold such nasty views and if they do, they should be exposed and shamed for it.
In the last few decades, and before the anti-fascist organisations lost their way, racism was fought by first exposing and then isolating racists. We didn’t operate ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policies out of fear of offending potential fascists. We had no qualms about making life uncomfortable for bigots. We went ahead and we ostracised them. We removed their platforms. It wasn’t always easy, but without a doubt it worked. No one can doubt that racism is far less prevalent and acceptable in the UK today then it was 30 years ago.
We must do the same with religious extremists.
I have no doubt that it’ll be a long and difficult journey, as these tweets in response to my original piece demonstrate:
@nartem123 just made me LOL. They really are looking for an Islam to please everyone. No, not happening :)
@CaringSoul786 they’re fighting and pushing and trying to force us to change . There is nothing wrong with Allahs laws. Islam was perfected