Last week the Euston Manifesto group held a debate titled ‘Terror and Liberalism’ at the Houses of Parliament. Among those participating where Reem Maghribi of Sharq Magazineand Imran Ahmad, author of ‘Unimagined: a Muslim boy meets the West’ and board member of British Muslims for Secular Democracy.
In the subsequent debate on Harry’s Place, some commenters accused Imran Ahmad of being an ‘Uncle Tom’. Yes, it’s getting quite typical for some on the left who can’t stand it when a brown person does not fall for their agenda.
Anyway, Imran wrote a forceful reply in the comments [hat tip: Sid] and we publish that here with his consent. It’s worth reading.
When I agreed to participate in the Euston Manifesto discussion, and subsequently posted on this board, I had no idea what I was getting into. Let me set the record straight on some things.
There is no way that I could ever be construed as pro-Zionist.
I have great anger towards the state of Israel for the many atrocities it has committed, including last summerâ€™s hideous one-sided destruction of Lebanon and the endless and on-going dehumanisation and oppression of the Palestinians â€“ which, of course, creates the very suicide bombers that Israel protests about and uses as justification for its actions.
On the other hand â€¦ if I was to be accused of a crime of which I was actually innocent, and had to undergo the necessary justice process (investigation and possible trial) leading to the establishment of my innocence, and this event had to take place in any Middle Eastern country â€“ where would I choose it to be? I would choose Israel, because that is the only country in the whole extended region (Africa to China) where there is any concept of due process and human rights/dignity and â€˜innocent until proven guiltyâ€™ and any chance of a remotely fair trial for anyone who is not a member of the social elite.
So I donâ€™t have a simple black-and-white view on Israel.
If I could undo history and shape it so that Israel was never created in the callous and inhuman way that it was, involving the dispossession of the Palestinian people, I would do so. I would also undo the Partition of India, and the horse-trading of Arabia to the Al-Saud tribe, and the colonisation and fragmentation of Ireland â€¦
We do not have the luxury of un-doing history, so we have to move forward. In principle, everyone wants peace, but too many people want revenge first, and then peace. You donâ€™ t have to be a genius to understand that this is a closed loop.
The Palestinians will never get their old lands back by a military defeat of Israel â€“ that will never happen. Israel has a nuclear arsenal capable of obliterating the entire region and would doubtless do so if faced with an actual (implausible) military defeat.
I am a pragmatist. We all need to be pragmatists and move on. I would like to see a world in which the future of todayâ€™s young Palestinians and young Israelis is not skewered by the crimes of the past. That means two neighbouring states living in peace, security and prosperity, with open trade and free movement of people and no requirement for terrorism or military action by either side. This isnâ€™t going to happen at all unless the dehumanisation stops and is replaced by mutual respect.
Now you will call me a naÃ¯ve idealist and that is fine, but there will be no break in the existing cycle â€“ of terrorism and military action and more terrorism â€“ unless this kind of change takes place. And that means people of good intent being wiling to sit together and behave with mutual respect. Hence I am happy to work with the Euston Manifesto, because I see nothing in their aims with which I violently disagree.
I think Iâ€™ve established that Iâ€™m not a Zionist, but I see nothing constructive in the blanket demonisation of Israel. I also recognise that Israel is not a singular unified entity â€“ it is almost schizophrenic in its struggle to define its own identity.
On the issue of â€˜Islamist terrorismâ€™, there are people today who are naÃ¯ve enough to see the world in a simple polarised way (â€˜the West against Islamâ€™) and from this perspective it makes sense to them to blow-up civilians in London, â€˜because of Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Bosnia etcâ€™. I make no apology for stating that we have to deal with this crass simplification at a long term strategic level, and in the meantime have to deal with the terrorist threat at a heavy-handed tactical level, with no patience for those who propagate or sympathise with this nonsense.
I can understand why some people in the Islamic world might think this way â€“ because they donâ€™t know the West and they donâ€™t understand its complexity and broad spectrum of attitudes. They are shown the Abu Ghraib pictures and the â€˜British abuseâ€™ photos (no-one told tells them they are fake) and they hear about American soldiers indiscriminately shooting any nearby Iraqis (because their best buddy just got blown into pieces by a soul-dead suicide bomber) and they hear about Bosnia and Chechnya and it becomes compellingly obvious to them that â€˜the Westâ€™ is engaged in a â€˜war against Islamâ€™.
But those brought up in the UK have no excuse for such simplistic thinking. They should understand that the situation is not so simple (fortunately) â€“ the West is largely secular and driven by economic, security and even humanitarian concerns, but not by theological ones. We have to re-educate these people in the long term, but in the short term we need to be quite abrupt with them.
If some Muslims are inconvenienced in the early hours because of intelligence received about them, I regret that, but our top priority must be to prevent another terrorist outrage. That would be the worst thing that could happen for every community in Britain, but most especially the Muslim communities. The security service and police have no choice but to act when intelligence is received â€“ they cannot err on the side of not hurting Muslim feelings. The fact that some suspects are released without charge is our reassurance that the system is working (in â€˜Islamicâ€™ countries, they would just fabricate or extract-by-torture the necessary evidence).
Too many Muslims are making the mistake of identifying themselves tribally with terrorist suspects, because of common religion and/or ethnicity, rather than with the mainstream population. This is the tribal trap, a common human instinct.
Those Muslims who believe that the police and security service would invest huge amounts of resources, money and time to harass a few Muslims purely out of simple racism, should relocate themselves to any of the â€˜Muslimâ€™ countries, where they can enjoy the very fine policing and justice processes available there.
My hatred for Omar Bakri, for example, could not be greater and I would gladly pummel him to death myself, but this would take some doing, as he is very obese (fed by my own taxes). This deeply emotional position of mine is not determined by any mindless, mendacious Islamophobic tabloid newspaper, but what I witnessed with my own eyes and ears. I saw a television interview of him in Beirut (conducted in English, so no western conspiracy there).
He described the 7/7 bombers as â€˜martyrsâ€™, (Iâ€™m still calm), but when he was asked, â€˜What about that devout Muslim girl who was killed in the bombingsâ€™, he replied dismissively, â€˜Oh, her family should receive blood money [to make up for it]â€™. At this point, he blew my fuse with his callous, bigoted and mediaeval attitude to the murder of someoneâ€™s daughter, someoneâ€™s sister. If the British Government would kindly grant me a temporary permit (Ã la 00), I will gladly kill him on our behalf.
On America, I have great feelings of affection and warmth for that country and those of its people that I have encountered, in general. I lived there for five years and really enjoyed and appreciated it. However, in my book I mention both my awe of America and my extreme disquiet about some of its foreign policy choices in the past.
I abhor the actions and attitudes of the Cheney Administration, which has destroyed the standing of that great nation in the eyes of all reasonable people the world over. (I anxiously await the new Administration and pray that the Cheney regime does not further brutally destabilise the world with its self-righteous, callous and utterly incompetent sledgehammer strategies).
On the issue of my book, my publisher would be pretty useless if s/he did not write nice blurb on the jacket, but s/he has actually understated how funny and insightful it really is. But you can get some more opinions here: www.unimagined.co.uk
So, what am I then? An anti-Semitic racist? A Zionist puppet? A neo-con Uncle Tom? A terrorist apologist? An Islamic fascist?
Or someone trying to cut through the emotion and hysteria and try to make some progress in an extremely complex world.
Anyway, a thousand years from now, everything will look completely different and nothing like any of us expect.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Middle East