Friday, May 7, 2010

V-E day, May 7, 1945

Follow up to earlier post: Maajid Nawaz debates Anjem Choudary

This post by "Londonstani" at Abumuqawama asks a very good question that has come to the fore with the life story of the Time Square Bomber. To whit:

How best can we counter the very well entrenched Islamist anti-Western anti-American attitudes perpetuated in places like Pakistan, ideology cynically perpetuated so as to deflect blame and anger away from domestic corruption and incompetence in governance, and toward the universal everything explainer (OK at least one U.E.X.) i.e., the evil U.S. or British imperialist machine. Key question occurs here:

During three months with radicals in London and six months in Pakistan as well as various trips to Palestinian refugee camps, I have marvelled at the genius of a simple and powerful message that needs only the most minimal promotion - taking full advantage of the modern world, it's viral and encourages recruits to "self start". "Dr. Anwar said he had asked the classmate whether this change had come through association with a group, and the friend said it seemed to be "on his own that he was learning all these things."

There's no one thing that results in someone trying to kill civilians in the name of Islam. Among the clever al-Qaeda messaging, the personal turmoil, individual personality and a host of other elements, there's the unavoidable connection to Pakistan.

Another family friend in Pakistan, Kifayat Ali, called Mr. Shahzad "emotional" and said that he used to carry a dagger around with him as a boy. He speculated that Mr. Shahzad had become enraged by the United States' military actions, fuelled by the Pakistani press blaring conspiracy theories and anti-American vitriol.

Pakistan is a country of 170 million people that used to value it's status as a US ally. Although, the government is still technically a key ally and relations between Islamabad and Washington seem to have improved, Pakistanis live amid violence and economic catastrophe much of which they blame - directly or indirectly - on US intentions towards their country. I work on a project that aims to remove the plank of religious legitimacy from the call of extremists in Pakistan. And in the past six months I have seen that we have our work cut out for us as that call finds followers and sympathisers in upper income urban areas as well as impoverished villages.

Preventing more Shahzads, underwear bombers, Ft Hood Shooters and Jihad Janes will involve challenging the wrong and simplistic view of the West as the ultimate source of all problems and of Islamist extremism as the only force capable of challenging it.

That question is excellent, and I think the answer is that vigorous challenge of the peddlers of the ideology must be undertaken by those that are in a position to expose them for what they are, people that want to take upon themselves the mantle of deity (what else could they be doing if they claim, as they often do, to know positively, what God requires?) The attacks on these self-appointed deities must be relentless and allow no quarter. Most importantly, they must be taken up by those that have the credibility to question the interpretations of Islam that the fanatics peddle. That can only be done my Muslims.

We met one such person in this post. Maajid Nawaz is good. Very good. People like him must provide the main thrust of attack. But, that does not mean that non-Muslims cannot score in some skirmishes. In the second exchange below, ex Muslims, and non-Muslims score some body blows. But be that as it may,the sort of intense critique offered here has to be offered from within Islam, as not only appropriate, but something that is a non-negotiable. Like the Christian reformation, such argument can only be carried out from the inside, even if the majority of such spokesmen will come, as I suspect they will, from the West. It is quite telling that Choudary will not answer a straightforward question about apostasy or women's rights. Even he recognizes the strength of such "western" claims. Note too, that the "western" Muslims applaud the take-down. Choudary and his ilk must be confronted like this at every opportunity, and primarily by Muslims. To his credit Nawaz does just this, often at considerable personal risk, as was detailed in the 60 minutes piece. We need more people like him, men and women of moral courage. (I say this even though I disagree with the amorphous and negative view of "neo-cons" Nawaz seems to share with the last interlocutor, and in fact count myself as one of those dread individuals. The term has come to be a pejorative which, in its present use, has almost become devoid of useful and specific content. But, setting that quibble aside, he is quite effective.)

From the 'I really didn't have to know this' department

Thanks a lot Conservative Wahoo.