Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hands off my Islam, Mr Blair!

Tony Blair rarely invites genuine debate about his policies. He is what is known in the business of State control as a ‘conviction’ politician. A typical postmodern political operator. Just like his corporate buddies, Blair is not so much in the business of selling you policies, as selling you to the brand – President Blair PLC. There may be ‘public consultation’ on some matters, but how often is this little more than a PR stunt, a feigned act of democracy, an invitation to tinker with administrative detail while the ideological core of the idea remains beyond critique? Not that Tony is simply a liar. Boss Blair is at his best as arch-manipulator, appealing to beliefs, ideas and attitudes at the point where self and culture are closely intertwined – national solidarity, pragmatic morality and even the affable managerialism which he so claims to be his style.

Blair’s conviction politics is clearly evident in his most recent assertion, to work with Muslim communities to uproot "perverted and poisonous misrepresentations" of Islam. Here Blair is appealing to the British cultural trope of compromise and moderation, made heady by nationalistic appeals to solidarity. After all, in this climate, who could disagree with the idea of fighting extremists who espouse violence? Yet seen from outside the illusions of Blairspeak and patriotic fervour, one cannot deny that Blair’s pronouncements deflect blame from his role in fermenting the cycle of terror and counter-terror. Here is a man whose hands drip with the blood of countless thousands of innocent Iraqis. The reality is Tony Blair is as much an violent extremist, as much an absolutist, as any global Jihadi.

Blair’s intention, along with his neoconservative friends in the White House, is to sell the world to corporate consumer greed. He sells our schools and hospitals to private contractors, or should I say he sells us privately financed public services to in the name of ‘consumer choice’. He wants to sell us GM crops, which benefit only bloated corporations, who care nothing for human health and the environment. In short, Blair champions the PLC, the institution that cares nothing for lives destroyed in the name of profit, even if it means having their friends in the Whitehouse (helped by its poodles) bomb the opposition into submission.

Like his corporate buddies, Blair’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. His government tightens laws on gun ownership in Britain, whilst the UK remains the second biggest manufacturer and exporter of arms in the world. And when his arguments don’t fit ‘the facts’, Blair simply changes the facts. We invaded Iraq because of the threat of weapons of mass destruction; sorry, I mean the threat of WMD programmes; no, I mean we went to war to depose that evil tyrant Saddam Hussein. The man has the gall of a Klingon!

His latest sales tool is nationalism, appealing to the deep sense of shock which all people living in Britain have experienced in the wake of the London bombings. Honing this latest weapon, Blair now calls on Muslims and non-Muslims alike, as “British people”, to condemn the London atrocities, whilst his minions deny any links between these terrible acts and British foreign policy. At the same time, he wants Imams working in the UK to speak English and understand civic life, as if somehow speaking Urdu or not knowing how to claim social security makes you a potential threat to national security.

In Blair’s new world, post 7/7, there can be no divided loyalties, as if our first loyalty should be to ‘nation’ rather than to justice, reason and even God. This is a debased nationalism. Like the colonial leaders and political absolutists of old, what Blair wants more than anything is docile subjects. And just like the crooks that once ravaged Muslim lands, Blair knows that the communities that call themselves ‘Muslim’, just like the ‘British’, are not real communities, based on daily social contact, but imagined communities where ideas play a crucial role in identity formation. King-of-spin Blair is on familiar ground, of course, and he sincerely and passionately believes he can influence Muslims in Britain and elsewhere to support his ideas on ‘moderation’.

The fact is, we’ve heard it all before. Over the pond in the USA, the report of the Rand Corporation extolled a similar vision of Muslim moderation, and no doubt for similar reasons. The “moderate” vision of Islam postulated in this ill-informed document is a political conformist, a perfect Western consumer and docile citizen. Muslims who want the US military out of the Middle East, at gun point if necessary, and Muslims who oppose globalising corporate capitalism and its cultural accoutrements as fundamentally immoral – they are the Islamic extremists. Anything that even smells of Rand will get short shrift from the overwhelming majority of British Muslims, have no doubt of that.

Muslims condemn violence against innocents, which is why so many of us feel as much anger towards Blair as we do towards the London bombers. Indeed, the trail of blood on both counts leads back to 10 Downing Street, second home to Britain’s corporate and largely Islamophobic media. After 9/11, the fishing expeditions and press-pack panics surrounding extremists didn’t so much marginalise lunatics like Abu Hamza – in fact, they probably gave him a degree of credibility that comes with notoriety. Instead, outside the media gaze, a tiny minority of passionate and newly politicised Muslim youth were censored. And when people can’t talk openly about ideas, particular when these people are young and impressionable, they fester in secret places. The truth is, you cannot sanction or marginalise people who are prepared to take their own lives at the same time as others. The best defence against the rubbish thinking of global jihadis is talk, and that's not some woolly liberal view, but an idea already put into practice by hard-headed Muslim scholars.

In Yemen, Muslims leaders directly challenged extremists and defeated their ideas using nothing more than reasoned debate. Instead of rooting out and clamping down, they took known extremists, sat them down and changed their minds in open discussion. "The pen and the tongue that God has granted you can achieve more than all the weapons in the world,” proclaimed Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar, a truth Blair routinely exploits to his political advantage. Yet no Yemeni scholar telephoned Tony Blair to buffer his arguments - a truly God-fearing Muslim does not tell lies. None took special courses in English before instigating the debate. And they didn’t pledge allegiance to anything or anyone in this world- only Almighty Allah.

The mistake now would be for British Muslim leaders to be seen walking hand in glove with Blair in the management of post-7/7 Muslim communities. The consequences could well prove to be extremely divisive, even disastrous. British Muslim youth, already politicised and made street-wise by events post-9/11, may well view such a compromise as a betrayal. It is enough that our leaders already sit up and beg as killer Blair showers them with Lordships and knighthoods – it is sad Iqbal Sacranie didn’t take a leaf out of Benjamin Zephaniah’s book, and send his knighthood back. This is a tough time for Muslims in Britain, but let not the fear of reprisals or a false sense of shame drive us into hasty and divisive alignments. Help the police catch criminals, by all and every means, but we alone can and should sort out our own religious affairs without having to drop a knee to Tony and his puppet masters in Washington and the Stock Exchange.

8 comment(s):

  • Salaam,

    Most of what you say is sound, and I agree with much of it. However, the idea that Muslims are able to sort out religious affairs by themselves is wishful thinking. Perhaps I'm seeing things much worse than they actually are, but these psychopaths (extremism and/or fundamentalist Muslims aren't useful terms for us) are a very real problem in the Muslim world, and we have not been able to deal with them effectively thus far.

    The example from Yemen notwithstanding, people in--or from--Muslim lands blowing up schools, buses, restaurants and airplanes, destroying buildings, killing children and other innocent civilians: none of these are sanctioned by Islam (as far as I'm aware) and are happening under our noses. I, for one, feel completely impotent by my failure to do anything to remedy the situation, and I think most Muslims feel the same.

    Yes, Blair is a sick manipulator of the worst order, and Iraq has suffered greatly under his murderous decisions. However, when 25 children are blown up--an entire area's generation--by a car bomb, we have to remember that this isn't just a problem for Blair: Muslims suffer everywhere as a consequence of actions by fascists of all sides.

    Muslim leaders have been unable, or unwilling, to solve this problem...maybe we need some assistance?

    Ma as-salaama.

    P.S. Please, please, please, don't take this as an attack. I'm just throwing this out there in an attempt to understand the situation.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/14/2005 04:49:00 AM  

  • Salaams

    I think you may be right - perhaps what the UK lacks (compared to the US) is a substantial critical voice from Muslim academics working within secular academia. Having said that, Yayha Birt has raised the issue of British-trained Imams in the Muslim press - despite training so many here, mosque committes still tend to employ more foreign-born Imams, I gather.

    Interestingly, Yvonne Ridley was on 'This Week' last night, cofirming what I said about censorship (Mosque committees post-9/11 have forbidden Khutbhas even about Palestine) and also stated many young Muslims were disgusted by Sacranie taking a knighthood (Knight=crusader).



    By Blogger Julaybib, at 7/14/2005 10:22:00 PM  

  • Salaam - i think it is absurd to suggest that Rand Report types or the Bush/Blair versions of Islam will hold even an ounce of any credibility amongst most Muslims. (yeah amongst the Uncle Toms sure...)

    I think what you are forgeting is that people have very real experiences - and when they see bombs, and invaded countries, depleted uranium killing hundreds of thousands (if not million or so) of Muslims - those are not just something abstract, as may appear to "westeren" US/UK based academics... those are very real stuff --- and no amount of "reform Islam" mantra is going to change what people experience.

    At this time - the academics are doing nothing more than attempting to make Islam into an Americanized Bush/Blair stamped and approved Islam. There is practically zero scholarship - that comes from a sense of being rooted in the Muslim communities that are experiencing the massive attacks of Bush/Blair empire.

    What is needed is a scholarship of resistence - how do we resist in a way that is different than this ludicrous nonsense of blowing up innocent people. What kind of strategies can we employ? The mantra from the so-called "critical academics" is largely about "oh this is all against Islam - and you must assimilate or else..." That does not mean much to someone being bombed.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/14/2005 11:33:00 PM  

  • Salaam,

    One thing that's not apparent to me is whether Bush/Blair etc. are actually trying to push a reformed version of Islam. Certainly, there are those who just want Muslims to assimilate and/or jettison their religion together. However, my experience here in the UK is that although most people couldn't care less about religion, they are reasonably accepting of other individual's beliefs and practices.

    Asking that immigrants should learn to speak English is, in my opinion, hardly an unreasonable request. Neither is suggesting that insular communities should know that they are in this country, respect the laws of the land, and carry a sense of civic duty.

    To expect this from immigrants (and, in this case, their children) is quite commonsensical. That's not to say that all the other people in Britain are wonderful upstanding citizens, speaking the Queen's English, picking up litter wherever they go. They too should smarten up; I'm suggesting that it's not so unintelligent to expect the above from citizens of a country.

    The current situation means that most people--and I include Muslims here--have a singular issue to deal with: self-proclaimed adherents and flag-bearers of Islam are flying into buildings, blowing up schools, children, Muslims, non-Muslims. It really doesn't matter what they blow up: as long as it bleeds. And preferably if they are innocents. The more horrific and unexplainable, the better.

    There is grave injustice in the Muslim world, and, as you mentioned, Muslims need to know how to resist in a truly Islamic manner. I don't believe blowing up Number 30 buses is resisting in an Islamic manner. There is nothing chivalrous about it, and I just cannot believe that our Prophet would sanction it in any way, shape, or form.

    If someone feels that killing innocents is against Islamic ethics, I would agree with them. If someone suggested that the Muslims need to pull up their collective socks and deal with the people who do this, I would say "good idea."

    Just because those people happen to be Blair/Bush (and, again, I don't think they're asking us to reform/scrap our religion) doesn't make the point any less true.

    Ma as-salaama.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/15/2005 03:54:00 AM  

  • Never trust a politician!

    By Blogger Julaybib, at 7/15/2005 07:32:00 AM  

  • i have to add (and modify my remarks above) that while blowing up innocents do happen, and if i were to assume that they are being done by Muslims, even then the numbers who are doing this are very small.

    And very disproportionate to the media light that is being shone on them... if similar moments of silences were held, and similar coverage were given to the deaths in Iraq, Palestine, AFghanistan and elsewhere... we would be observing moments of silent most of day every day.

    I still do think we need a theology of resistence - to educate especially young Muslims on taking concrete, and unapologetic steps to counter the attacks on Islam, and the Muslim communities. I think that rather than talking about "multi-cultural London etc." people like Tariq Ramadan should focus on such a task.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/15/2005 07:51:00 AM  

  • Wow! Excellent post. Well said.

    By Blogger Troy Worman, at 7/16/2005 12:30:00 AM  

  • As an independent non-Muslim eduxcated person,I must tell you what we think of modern day Islam.It is a cruel and barbaric religion. And people who commit the most murderous acts against innocent humanity are those who consult their God five times a day.I am not talking of Bush or Blair. I am referring to Saddam Hussain who killed more than 50,000 innocent Kurd Muslims in chemical and gas attacks.Have you ever seen a Muslim protesting against that??

    If you have travelled round the world like I have, you will realise that there are two kinds of Islam. Those who live in US,UK,Europe,India and other Muslim minority countries,Islam stands for brotherhood,peace,tolerance and every known virtue under the sun.
    On the other hand, in Muslim majority countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and most of Middle East, Islam means cruelty,beheading of innocents,intolerance (where even the Bible is banned)and death to all non-Muslims who are considered as infidels.
    Which is the true Islam?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/22/2005 10:28:00 PM  

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