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  • Technorati: graph / links

    Tolerating Intolerance


    by Sid on 12th March, 2009 at 2:47 pm    

    The recent protests against the Anglian Regiment in Luton by a small group of extremists, linked to al-Muhajiroun, exposes the squalid nature of their intolerant, racist and braindead credo more perfectly than a thousand A5 leaflets handed outside Luton Mosque ever could.

    This was an obvious insult to the British Armed Forces. But for Iraqis who have embraced a pluralist democratic process and the British public who support their efforts to reconstruct a unified and prosperous nation, it is an obligation to stand up to this kind of grotesque exhibitionism.

    This Times editorial applies revulsion and common sense in equal measure and captures my sentiments perfectly:

    The Islamist demonstrators in Luton who this week barracked soldiers returning from Iraq have been widely described as anti-war protesters. That is a big assumption. Their banners carried slogans including “Muslims Rise Against British Oppressors” and “Anglian Soldiers Go To Hell”. A local MP has claimed that they were linked to al-Muhajiroun - a now defunct organisation that applauded the 9/11 attacks and sought the establishment of a theocratic Muslim state. The protest appears to have been organised by a splinter from that group called Ahle Sunnah al Jamah, which promises more such events.

    Whatever their formal affiliation, it is a reasonable inference that the protesters are not anti-war but pro-war. The war they favour is the one being prosecuted, in various parts of the world, by theocratic terrorism against open societies - and also closed ones that adhere to a different form of religious observance.

    While the virulence of the Islamists’ case consigns them far beyond the fringe of public debate, the notion that the Western democracies are at least dismissive of oppression against Muslims is surprisingly widespread. In the past 20 years, the United States and Great Britain have fought military campaigns to restore the sovereignty of Kuwait against Saddam Hussein’s imperialism; repel the genocidal aggression of Slobodan Milosevic against Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo; and overthrow the oppressors of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Islamist extremists thus talk not some errant and zealous form of liberation theology: they talk complete baloney.

    Moreover, the Islamist hostility towards the West is only incidentally about Western foreign policy, or Israel’s security policies in Gaza. It is at root an atavistic hostility to the principles of choice, pluralism, secularism and - consider the targets of the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005 - mere sensual pleasures such as social drinking. As Osama bin Laden disclosed in an interview in 1998: “Every Muslim, the minute he can start differentiating, carries hate toward Americans, Jews and Christians: this is part of our ideology.”

    The Muslim character of the world view of the Luton protesters is also selective. It demonstrably does not represent the mainstream opinion of British Muslims. And the protesters are far from being consistent in their supposed concern for their co-religionists’ welfare. The massacre by the Taleban of the Shia Hazaras in Afghanistan elicits no protest, because the victims were of a supposedly heretical branch of Islam.

    A liberal society by definition enshrines the right of dissent, and the freedom of speech and assembly. The response of politicians to the Luton protest has been, in the main, apt and lacking in platitude. The protest against the Anglian Regiment was grossly offensive to civilised opinion, but that is no reason for curtailing the right of protest. Freedom to offend is precious. Though the protesters may be uninterested in the point, the Armed Forces that they abuse defend the liberties that they exploit.

    But there is a question about how far a bigoted, xenophobic and insurrectionist minority can reasonably expect tolerance. Voltaire never said that he would defend to the death the right to utter an exceptionable opinion. And it is a mere truism that even in America’s libertarian political culture, speech may be abridged when there is “clear and present danger”.

    Al-Muhajiroun was banned because it glorified terrorism. While that legislation may appear expansive, it expresses a liberal impulse. The disaffection felt by groups that seek the overthrow of the State, and campaign for the defeat of Western forces in battle, is more than dissent. A liberal state cannot be a state unless it has the means to defend itself.



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    59 Comments below   |   Add your own

    1. West=great, Islam=bad — on 12th March, 2009 at 3:17 pm  

      “for Iraqis who have embraced a pluralist democratic process and the British public who support their efforts to reconstruct a unified and prosperous nation”

      What has this got to do with anything? Are you saying those who oppose the presence of British troops in Iraq and the various killings and beatings those troops have perpetrated whilst there, oppose the emergence of Iraqi democracy?

      “theocratic terrorism against open societies”
      “overthrow the oppressors of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq”

      That’s right Sid, all these wars are being fought between the heroic west and the evil religious Muslims, in order to save all the “good” Muslims in between. Yes. Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Muslims and Christians killed by occupation forces and the death squads they unleashed.

      Seriously Sid, those protestors were idiots but why then do you immediately jump into bed with the neocons at the Times and Harry’s Place?

    2. Sid — on 12th March, 2009 at 3:36 pm  

      wow that’s simplistic.

      Seriously, you read the Times article and equated it and my endorsement of it as an attack on Islam and the Iraqi people?

      Well, as the great Chuck D once said, “I can’t do nothin’ for you man.”

    3. Shamit — on 12th March, 2009 at 3:37 pm  

      The British troops have been in Iraq since 2005 due to a request by the legitimately elected Iraqi government where over 70% people voted. So those who oppose the British troops being there are actually against the will of the people of Iraq and therefore against the emerging democracy in Iraq.

      Secondly, death squads were unleashed by Al-Qaeda and sectarian groups and not the British/US forces. Yesterday, Chemical Ali and Tariq Aziz were convicted by an Iraqi Court for their part in killing of over 40,000 dissidents during 1995.

      Third, those british soldiers and their American counterparts who did torture and committed crimes against the Iraqi people were charged and prosecuted and many of them are serving jail sentences.

      So, mr. West = great, Islam = bad shut your stupid trap.

    4. Sunny — on 12th March, 2009 at 3:42 pm  

      the times article is good, though it is slightly too jingoistic about Iraq for my liking.

    5. West=great, Islam=bad — on 12th March, 2009 at 3:51 pm  

      Shut my trap? My, what passes for informed debate on HP, I mean PP, these days..

      The British troops have been in Iraq since 2005 due to a request by the legitimately elected Iraqi government where over 70% people voted. So those who oppose the British troops being there are actually against the will of the people of Iraq and therefore against the emerging democracy in Iraq.

      If you aren’t with us, you’re against us! Where have we heard that one before? The fallacy of your argument is amazing: it’s like saying the British people are behind the war in Iraq because they elected the government that went to war then re-elected it, so if anyone is against the war they are against the British people. Very convincing.

    6. Jai — on 12th March, 2009 at 4:01 pm  

      If you aren’t with us, you’re against us! Where have we heard that one before?

      Unfortuately, also from Ishtiaq Alamgir, one of the protestors in Luton, who is clearly a little too enthusiastic about taking after his historical namesake:

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1160958/HE-coward-mocking-victims-friendly-Families-dead-soldiers-react-fury-Muslim-hate-preacher.html

      ‘When I watched those planes go into the Twin Towers, I felt elated,’ he said.

      ‘That magnificent action split the world into two camps - you were either with Islam and Al Qaeda, or with the enemy.’

      (With apologies to everyone for linking to The Daily Mail).

    7. Shamit — on 12th March, 2009 at 4:09 pm  

      Opposing british troops politically and blowing innocent civilians to make that point are not the same thing. Everyone has a right to political protest but not use their opposition to foreign troops to blow up people.

    8. kobial — on 12th March, 2009 at 4:38 pm  

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/mar/12/antiwar-protest

    9. munir — on 12th March, 2009 at 4:53 pm  

      Sid slides further into self-parody with his latest screech. I wonder why he doesnt type in upper case since that is often the effect of reading his rants.

      “The recent protests against the Anglian Regiment in Luton by a small group of extremists, linked to al-Muhajiroun, exposes the squalid nature of their intolerant, racist and braindead credo more perfectly than a thousand A5 leaflets handed outside Luton Mosque ever could.”

      I dont agree with Al-muajiroun at all but how are they racist? Protesting against troops is racist exactly how?

      “This was an obvious insult to the British Armed Forces.”

      Yes it was. But the question should be: so what?
      Far more “sacred” things like the royal family, Jesus, etc are insulted every day in the UK. And you yourself have supporting the showing of films/cartoons deeply insulting to the Muslim faith.

      “But for Iraqis who have embraced a pluralist democratic process and the British public who support their efforts to reconstruct a unified and prosperous nation, it is an obligation to stand up to this kind of grotesque exhibitionism.”

      This is hilarious - its like its been copied from some propoganda sheet. The majority of the British public opposed the war. And if you believe the US/UK went to Iraq to build democracy I have a lovely bridge Id like to sell you. Ironically Iraqis have, given the choice, exchanged a secular regime for a far more Islamic one.

      “Well, as the great Chuck D once said, “I can’t do nothin’ for you man.””

      Actually I believe it was Flavor Flav.
      Cant get anything right can you Sid?

    10. munir — on 12th March, 2009 at 4:54 pm  

      Jai

      “Unfortuately, also from Ishtiaq Alamgir, one of the protestors in Luton, who is clearly a little too enthusiastic about taking after his historical namesake:”

      Hehe Jai’s Aurangzeb obsession just wont go away.
      Sikh help Jai.

    11. munir — on 12th March, 2009 at 4:58 pm  

      West=great, Islam=bad

      “Shut my trap? My, what passes for informed debate on HP, I mean PP, these days..”

      Quite. We have a blogger linking to a Murdoch rag and another regular to the Daily Mail!!!. Well at least they dont link to far right publications like the Brussels Journal.. oh wait …..

    12. Bo — on 12th March, 2009 at 5:00 pm  

      The tragedy is that the Islamist Luton protesters are the sharp end of a genuine counter-culture that regularly results in young Muslims getting banged up for attempted terrorism (an occurrence so common these days it is hardly worth remarking upon).

      They weren’t harmless or particularly unrepresentative in that there are thousands who feel and think the same - they are not a tiny cult. One only has to walk the streets to see. They were only extreme in that they were prepared to demonstrate - how many others supported them in thought if not deed?

      They’re a minority yes, but over the years their actions will in one way or another lead to the further dislocation of Muslims from the wider community. It is always the extremists - the men of violence, as NI has shown - who end up controlling the agenda. The trouble with the “peaceful majority” is that it is too bloody peaceful, and afraid.

      The government will give in - it will give them sharia. It will blight the lives of generations of British women and gays, switching to a kind of colonial rule in its own backyard - racist, of course, a real racism not phoney islamophobia, because the assumption will be these brown folk can’t handle the same rights and responsibilities as the rest of us. But the agitation will continue even then, even if the government grants them mini statelets, because that is the logic of Islamism - like Hamas it can only operate in a state of continued conflict.

      The only answer is a kind of secular Muslim radicalism that can take them on fist-for-fist. And that ain’t gonna happen this century.

    13. Shamit — on 12th March, 2009 at 5:03 pm  

      Munir

      I am more concerned about your obsession with Jai. Have you started fancying him?

      You are acting like a jilted lover — get some help dude.

      **********************************

      Bo

      excellent point

    14. Bishop Hill — on 12th March, 2009 at 5:04 pm  

      The protests in Luton were not an example of “clear and present danger”.

      (Nor in fact is “clear and present danger” the current legal standard for restricting speech in the USA.)

    15. Jai — on 12th March, 2009 at 5:05 pm  

      the evil religious Muslims

      ‘Religious’, eh ?

      With all due respect, I doubt that Al Qaeda, the Taliban and proponents of the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam actually have much to do with genuine spirituality. And it’s certainly not a good idea for anyone to claim that they’re good examples of ‘pious’ Muslims (there are far better genuinely-devout examples, both historically and in the present day).

      Spiritually, they’re about a hair’s breadth away from pushing virgins into volcanoes.

    16. Shamit — on 12th March, 2009 at 5:05 pm  

      No it is not clear and present danger — just annoying, hurtful and this lot proved themselves to be a bunch of wankers

    17. Sid — on 12th March, 2009 at 5:11 pm  

      Bo

      Comment of the day!

      The only answer is a kind of secular Muslim radicalism that can take them on fist-for-fist. And that ain’t gonna happen this century.

      munir
      I think you are the Flava Flav to my Chuck D. Oh yeah!

    18. West=great, Islam=bad — on 12th March, 2009 at 5:40 pm  

      The only answer is a kind of secular Muslim radicalism that can take them on fist-for-fist. And that ain’t gonna happen this century.

      So Muslims entirely divorced of any religious identity and also being radical… what exactly would band these White Knights together, once you remove their religious commonality, as Muslims come from all sorts of cultures and ethnic backgrounds? What common purpose would they fight under? And wtf is this bull about going “fist-to-fist”? So much for all you self-proclaimed secular peaceniks.

      too bloody peaceful

      Wtf? So now “Muslims” like Sid should go around beating up on other Muslims who wear beards and hijabs? Too peaceful, are they?

      It will blight the lives of generations of British women and gays, switching to a kind of colonial rule in its own backyard

      Ah, the old Muslimists-in-our-own-backyard-out-to-kill-women-and-gays meme. Best not let this Islam spread eh! Let’s stamp it out altogether, fist-to-fist. Jackboot-to-jackboot?

      phoney islamophobia

      The kind of islamophobia that sees bricks through the windows of Muslim households, women getting beaten up in the streets, and young men sent to Guantanamo without trial?

      I think it says a lot about you and your hatred of Islam, Sid, that you think that makes “comment of the day.” Just say openly, you hate Islam. At least then you don’t have to hide behind words like “progressive”. Tomorrow’s PP headline: Melanie Phillips is right

    19. Katy Newton — on 12th March, 2009 at 5:46 pm  

      I find this “self hating Muslim” shtick that Sid is subjected to every time he suggests that perhaps mainstream Islam and Muslims could do with not being dragged through the mud by a minority of violent racist extremists a bit depressing, you know.

    20. Sid — on 12th March, 2009 at 5:55 pm  

      The kind of islamophobia that sees bricks through the windows of Muslim households, women getting beaten up in the streets, and young men sent to Guantanamo without trial?

      Blow and puff and hard as you want. But trying to ascribe all Muslims with the mindset of these Al-Muhajiroun fuckwits isn’t going to be possible.

      Islamist and Neocons have been trying that tack since the 1960s but has got them nowhere. They are culpable for the death of hundreds of thousands of Muslims, however.

    21. Jai — on 12th March, 2009 at 5:59 pm  

      Just say openly, you hate Islam.

      I think that a more accurate interpretation of Sid’s stance would be the fact that he has a disdain for this version of Islam, as exhibited by Anjem Choudary, Al-Muhajiroun/Islam4UK/HuT etc, the Wahhabis, and so on. He is fully justified in his objections.

      There are, and have been for a long time (especially where the subcontinent and its inhabitants are concerned), other interpretations of Islam. Something which is being drowned out by an extremely aggressive, belligerent, and frequently unhinged (but, unfortunately, very high-profile) mob who are proclaiming their version of Islam to be the “real” one and themselves to be the most devout, most accurate representatives of the faith’s “true” adherents.

      That’s the point everyone is getting it. It’s certainly not about “hating” or objecting to Islam and Muslims per se, it’s about opposing the fascist interpretation of the religion and its proponents, typified by the various individuals and groups that have been mentioned on this thread.

    22. Bo — on 12th March, 2009 at 6:06 pm  

      Speaking of which, last week the kind of “proper” Muslims that “West=” and his ilk doubtless admire destroyed the tomb of Rahmam Baba.

      “Suspected Taleban militants in north-west Pakistan have blown up the shrine of a 17th Century Sufi poet of the Pashtun language, police say.

      “No casualties are reported but the poet Rahman Baba’s grave has been destroyed and the shrine building badly damaged.

      “Rahman Baba is considered the most widely read poet in Pashto speaking regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

      “The Taleban had warned they would blow up the shrine if women continued to visit it and pay their respects.”

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7925867.stm

      O brave new world!

    23. Jai — on 12th March, 2009 at 6:08 pm  

      Something else to bear in mind in relation to Al-Muhajiroun and people with a similar minset is the following:

      Regardless of whether or not their objections to the war in Iraq would be considered justified from an objective point of view, their motivations for doing so are not sincere and certainly not as “morally pure” as they may claim. They’re doing all this because of various aspects of their agenda, not because they necessarily think that there is anything wrong per se about launching an unprovoked attack on another country.

      If, for example, theoretically, the Taliban did end up taking over Pakistan and they launched a nuclear first strike on — let’s say — Mumbai, and India responded with either a counter-strike or an armed invasion, the people we’re discussing would loudly protest about the latter but not about the former (or if they did say anything about it, it would be accompanied with a whole range of caveats “justifying” the attack). I guarantee it.

      This is the kind of mentality and the kind of people we’re having to deal with.

      PS. Good posts Bo, and good call about the recent attack on that shrine too. I’d heard about that as well — terrible events, but once again it exposes these fanatics’ real attitudes.

    24. Sid — on 12th March, 2009 at 6:10 pm  

      Indeed. The silence of the protests by “proper” Muslims, who are so “near to the community”, in response to the destruction of the shrine of Rahman Baba is deafening.

    25. MaidMarian — on 12th March, 2009 at 6:22 pm  

      Bo (12) - Sorry if I am missing something here, but when you say, ‘They were only extreme in that they were prepared to demonstrate - how many others supported them in thought if not deed?’ that is apathy isn’t it?

      I have long believed that by treating muslim protest/violence/activism/[insert adjective] what is needed is a view akin to that taken in the early 1980s regarding what commonly became known as New Social Movements. Islam bears all the hallmarks of an NSM - a group willing to ‘live out the cause,’ a message that is reactive, an unwillingness to engage in conventional processes, an amorphous leadership and so on.

      That all this is inspired by a religion does not make them any the less like an NSM in qualitative terms.

      Where feminism, environmentalism and the peace movement all found a ‘political opportunity structure’ that allowed them to blow off steam (and live out the cause) they all ran into ultimate apathy. So too, I posit will political Islam.

      These people are the new social protesters, only they don’t have a Greenham Common, hence the need for stunts. Apathy afflicts them like everyone else. See how Respect came to an ignoble end.

      Like the NSMs before them, political Islam doesn’t have answers and I suspect most of those with the protesters in thought know this.

      There’s no need to reinvent the wheel for political Islam - it’s all in the university libraries from 25 odd years ago.

    26. Jai — on 12th March, 2009 at 6:49 pm  

      The following is a link mentioned on the BBC web-page Bo supplied:

      “Can Sufi Islam counter the Taleban ?”

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7896943.stm

      Good article, check it out. Obviously, some of the matters mentioned (particularly in relation to Punjab and Sindh in what is now Pakistan) follow on from what I’ve recently been saying on other PP threads about famous historical Sufi saints from South Asia and their corresponding interpretations of Islam and spirituality, along with my remarks in #21 above.

    27. qidniz — on 12th March, 2009 at 7:06 pm  

      Speaking of which, last week the kind of “proper” Muslims that “West=” and his ilk doubtless admire destroyed the tomb of Rahman Baba.

      Chosen, no doubt, for its location in Peshawar. Under the noses of the known-to-be-poweless authorities.

      Expect more of the same with other shrines in NWFP before the inevitable campaign in Punjab and Sindh, where shrines are more common, starts in earnest.

      A comment on this blog with a lot of information on Rahman Baba says it all, really:

      You have chosen Islam as a way of life and basis for your state. Now Islam is devouring you.

    28. dave bones — on 12th March, 2009 at 7:47 pm  

      the liberal State is entitled to defend itself? From 6 guys with placards? What the hell is going on? Am I missing something?

    29. qidniz — on 12th March, 2009 at 8:16 pm  

      “Can Sufi Islam counter the Taleban ?”

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7896943.stm

      Strangely similar to this article by Declan Walsh in the Economist.

      Good article, check it out. Obviously, some of the matters mentioned (particularly in relation to Punjab and Sindh in what is now Pakistan) follow on from what I’ve recently been saying on other PP threads about famous historical Sufi saints from South Asia and their corresponding interpretations of Islam and spirituality, along with my remarks in #21 above.

      You do realize that this form of “popular Islam” is doomed? It worked only so long as people didn’t bother to inquire into what Islam was or what Islam called for. Once the question of exactly how Islamic you were came up, it was all over. From the Economist article:

      Yet—despite what the hordes at Sehwan may believe—orthodox Sufis are also law-abiding Muslims. There should be no contradiction between these two positions. “Sufism is Islam and Islam is Sufism,” says Khwaja Hasan Thani Nizami, the hereditary keeper of the shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi. In orthodox Islam, for example, the limits of sainthood are strictly prescribed. Dead Muslim saints cannot intercede with God or perform miracles. If Muslims pray at their shrines, it can only be for the dead man’s salvation. They may not pray to him, which would be shirk, a form of idolatry. According to Ahmed Javed, a bearded Pakistani Sufi and scholar: “You can’t ask a dead saint to mediate, to solve a problem, to fulfil a wish, never, never, never. That is shirk in law and in Sufism.”

      So, all those pilgrims — oops can we even call them that?? — visit all those shrines only to pray for the saints’ souls?

      Anything else, please note, can’t be Islam. Which is why, Sufi Islam will not counter the Taliban. At crunch time, they will be on the same side.

    30. dave bones — on 12th March, 2009 at 8:44 pm  

      Those Sufis are amazing. I was dancing with them in Lahore. They are total head on it party people. A lot of westerners lost in rave drugs would do well to refocus their original intent with these guys. Why does the BBC thing say they are “Far more widespread”? There are areas where they are cool, areas they can get away with being Sufis and areas they definatley can’t do any of this.

      as for “Can Sufism counter the Taliban” this is typical of how far away some journalists are from bringing any understanding of this to the kaffirs. They are playing top trumps.

    31. Imran Khan — on 12th March, 2009 at 9:42 pm  

      Sid - Is this you:

      http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23661320-details/article.do?ito=newsnow&

      You may be famous!

    32. Imran Khan — on 12th March, 2009 at 9:49 pm  

      The Media and the Bakri-ites are bed fellows. Other parades haven’t been covered as much but they knew what was going to happen here.

      The Bakri-ites wanted coverage and the media wanted to give it to them

      Todays parade had no demos and not much coverage.

      That illustrates clearly the relationship. One side wants to make noise plus gain attention and the other to whip up hysteria.

      They feed off each other to the detriment of normal Muslims.

      Both should be ashamed for such hysteria.
      The media

    33. KB Player — on 12th March, 2009 at 9:53 pm  

      the liberal State is entitled to defend itself? From 6 guys with placards? What the hell is going on? Am I missing something?

      Yeah, I wondered about that. Those blokes are jerks and just what the BNP needs. But they aren’t dangerous unless they start making bombs or what have you. I’m assuming they are under surveillance.

      The disaffection felt by groups that seek the overthrow of the State, and campaign for the defeat of Western forces in battle, is more than dissent.

      I used to work in the civil service and one of my colleagues was a revolutionary communist who wanted to overthrow the state, and if a western force was fighting anywhere, would campaign for its defeat. I thought it showed great security and self-confidence in the British state that the authorities weren’t bothered. It is disaffection, it is dissent, but it’s not dangerous if it’s a handful of delusionists.

      A liberal state cannot be a state unless it has the means to defend itself.

      True, but it’s not going to be liberal if it starts locking up dissenters unless they’re plotting actual violence.

    34. Chris Baldwin — on 12th March, 2009 at 9:54 pm  

      “it is an obligation to stand up to this kind of grotesque exhibitionism.”

      No, it’s an obligation to ignore them. That’s what you do to grotesque exhibitionists, otherwise you’re playing their game.

    35. Kulvinder — on 12th March, 2009 at 9:56 pm  

      Personally i don’t see what the fuss is about, the protesters were vitriolic but as far as i could tell they weren’t advocating anything illegal.

      What exactly was the outrage about? There isn’t much hope for the british army if its soldiers can’t march past 20 men shouting abuse. In all honesty i’ve seen the police face worse at football matches.

      The war in Iraq is both controversial and unpopular. I see no harm in letting those who object to it criticise both it and the soldiers whilst simultaneously letting those who support it and the soldiers do the same.

      Those who are offended about something are often reacting - or reacting to a greater degree - to their own insecurities than what has been said. I’m curious - though uncertain - what the outrage was really about.

      For what its worth i remember reading about the anger an american gi returning from vietnam had to demonstrators. The issue that riled him; the insecurity that caused his offence was the niggling doubt that the justness of the cause he passionately supported was misplaced.

      Its unsettling to say the least to have your deeply held convictions rejected - especially if you believe you’re fighting the good fight.

      None of this should be taken as support or agreement with those who protested, but come on if the big burly men can’t take a few dozen hecklers there isn’t any point in having a celebration of their bravery.

      The seemingly deranged Myersons have had far worse abuse thrown at them this week.

    36. Rayyan — on 12th March, 2009 at 9:58 pm  

      LOL @ 31 !!

    37. Sid — on 12th March, 2009 at 10:18 pm  

      Anything else, please note, can’t be Islam. Which is why, Sufi Islam will not counter the Taliban. At crunch time, they will be on the same side.

      There’s more chance of the far-right and Christian evangelists will be on the same side. oops! they are already are!

    38. Sid — on 12th March, 2009 at 10:20 pm  

      Imran, yeah that’s the Sid you know and love.

    39. septicisle — on 12th March, 2009 at 10:20 pm  

      oops double post.

    40. septicisle — on 12th March, 2009 at 10:20 pm  

      This site seems to sink ever further into the hysterical mire atypical of Harry’s Place and the pro-war left. The way to deal with this protest was to ignore it and not give those on it the media attention which they so crave; instead they’ve been treated to two days of front page coverage for shouting idiotic slogans which did not even begin to breach the law, nor should they. Those most likely to suffer from this are the visibly observant Muslims who were in fact also represented in the crowds of those applauding the troops, which again is also probably what they want. The real threat is overreacting, which is always what the Harry’s Place crowd do, as is the nonsensical idea that we’re suddenly going to introduce Sharia law.

    41. Imran Khan — on 12th March, 2009 at 10:31 pm  

      Sid - well done. What these people don’t understand is that such acts can never be justified.

    42. Rayyan — on 12th March, 2009 at 10:47 pm  

      Well said Septicisle - and well done for your work on The Sun Lies. We would do well to follow your example and focus on exposing tabloid hatred rather than feeding it…

      On an unrelated matter, it would be interesting to see some coverage of this protest in Pakistan:

      http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2009/03/20093128321230446.html

      Sadly there were no Islamist slogans or anyone calling for Shariah law to be introduced in Western countries, so I doubt anyone will pay any attention to it. Then again, I guess someone will say “See how much more civilised we are, we allow dissent!” - except for the bit where such dissent is blown out of all proportion and then exploited to generate hatred.

    43. Chris E — on 12th March, 2009 at 10:49 pm  

      The problem with positing the Sufis as a panacea is that a fair amount of the ‘traditionally islamic’ communities in this country have Sufi roots. You know - those traditional groups ruled over by ‘leaders of the community’ which produce those disaffected youth to start with.

      In fact, don’t Ed Husain’s family have Sufi roots?

    44. qidniz — on 13th March, 2009 at 3:17 am  

      Expect more of the same with other shrines in NWFP before the inevitable campaign in Punjab and Sindh, where shrines are more common, starts in earnest.

      They’ve already struck again. The Bahadar Baba shrine in Nowshera.

    45. Bo — on 13th March, 2009 at 8:22 am  

      Calm down qidniz, remember: “the real threat is overreacting”.

    46. Porritt — on 13th March, 2009 at 11:02 am  

      “I find this “self hating Muslim” shtick that Sid is subjected to every time he suggests that perhaps mainstream Islam and Muslims could do with not being dragged through the mud by a minority of violent racist extremists a bit depressing”

      It’s a bit like the “self-hating Jew” schtick you and your pro-Israel friends over at HP pull out each time some anti-Zionist or pro-peace Jews suggest that mainstream Judaism and Jews could do with not being dragged through the mud by a loud and violent pro-Israeli bunch of racist extremists, Katy Newton.

    47. Jai — on 13th March, 2009 at 11:41 am  

      Chris E,

      The problem with positing the Sufis as a panacea is that a fair amount of the ‘traditionally islamic’ communities in this country have Sufi roots…..In fact, don’t Ed Husain’s family have Sufi roots?

      The problem is that they’re diverging significantly from those roots, defined by a specifically South Asian version of Sufi Islam, and have been excessively influenced by a highly puritanical interpretation of Islam a la Wahhabism etc which mainly has its roots in the Middle East rather than the subcontinent.

      **************************

      Qidniz,

      You do realize that this form of “popular Islam” is doomed?…..Sufi Islam will not counter the Taliban. At crunch time, they will be on the same side.

      Mate I think you might be too pessimistic. Life can be very unpredictable, and situations such as the recent attacks on the cricketers in Lahore won’t exactly endear ordinary Pakistanis to the Taliban either. The fanatics will only “win” if the rest of the Muslim poplulation is either too frightened or too apathetic to fight back. And like I’ve said previously, there have been numerous historical precedents for high-profile Sufi groups and figures in the subcontinent to take a stand against the Taliban’s ideological predecessors, at a time when the latter’s power, influence and tyranny in the region was a hell of a lot stronger than it is now.

      Time will tell, I guess.

      ****************************

      There’s more chance of the far-right and Christian evangelists will be on the same side. oops! they are already are!

      Heh. Perhaps a more accurate analogy for the subcontinental situation would be the notion of the ‘Christian’ KKK being on the same side as African-American Christian communities associated with ‘gospel choir’ churches.

    48. Jai — on 13th March, 2009 at 11:45 am  

      By the way, did anyone see Syeeda Warsi forcefully taking a stand against all this on ‘Question Time’ last night ? She was great. Made some superb points about the erroneous logic of engaging with self-appointed ‘community leaders’ too.

    49. Katy Newton — on 13th March, 2009 at 12:48 pm  

      It’s a bit like the “self-hating Jew” schtick you and your pro-Israel friends over at HP pull out each time some anti-Zionist or pro-peace Jews suggest that mainstream Judaism and Jews could do with not being dragged through the mud by a loud and violent pro-Israeli bunch of racist extremists, Katy Newton.

      Bzzz! Straw man alert. I’m not sure what parts of HP you’ve been reading, Porritt, but I’ve never said anything like that at HP, where I comment very rarely, or for that manner anywhere else. I have, however, commented and intermittently written for PP since 2006. Nice try, though.

    50. Katy Newton — on 13th March, 2009 at 12:55 pm  

      Incidentally, should we take that as meaning that on Planet Porritt it’s fine to call people who criticise Muslims self-hating Muslims, but not all right to call people who criticise Jews self-hating Jews?

    51. munir — on 13th March, 2009 at 1:05 pm  

      Katy Newton

      “Incidentally, should we take that as meaning that on Planet Porritt it’s fine to call people who criticise Muslims self-hating Muslims, but not all right to call people who criticise Jews self-hating Jews?”

      There is no problem calling Jews who hate other Jews “self-hating Jews” - that is after all what they are.

      The problem is calling Jews who criticise the State of Israel “self -hating Jews” (as if Israel was synonmous with Jews)

    52. Bo — on 13th March, 2009 at 5:20 pm  

      “I’m not sure what parts of HP you’ve been reading, Porritt, but I’ve never said anything like that at HP…”

      Come off it Katy. It’s clear you’re part of an international conspiracy… ;-)

    53. Arif — on 14th March, 2009 at 1:44 pm  

      It sounds to me like Sid doesn’t oppose what the protestors said or did, but what he believes their motives to be. Is that right?

      I don’t believe he thinks it is wrong to oppose the war.
      I don’t suppose he is so angry about people who interpret the war as wrong for moral reasons.
      I don’t suppose he thinks people should not be able to express their opposition through demonstrations.

      On the other hand there sounds like there is a kind of mystique being applied to the British army, which I am struggling to understand.

      Is it that being a member of the British army means they abrogate any moral responsibility for their own actions?
      Is it that being a member of an army means you should be cheered whatever you do?
      Or is it that everyone in Britain should cheer the British army whatever it does, for some other reason?

      I don’t think I can reconcile such ideas with my morality.

      It seems like there is an etiquette of some kind which makes it glorious to kill lots of people far away as long as you are in an official army, and outrageous to to insult those who do so. But I don’t think this is a matter of principle, it is more a matter of how you interpret people’s motives.

      If you think that the war was a war for imperial motives and you are anti-imperialist, then the glory of being involved in an army which wages it isn’t obvious. If you think it was for a noble cause then the glory may be more obvious.

      And in the case of Muhajiroun, if they interpret the war as a war against Islam it makes sense for them to glorify one side and not the other. They are the mirror image of the Times’ worldview.

      For me it seems just as obviously false to interpret this as a war on Islam as interpreting it as a war against terror, for liberation or against WMDs - and for the same reason: that those prosecuting the war are being so obviously inconsistent with their principles when they select their targets.

      So I can’t pat people on the back when they choose to join any such gang, nor do I think it is worth condemning them like the Times article or the protestor placards condemn their adversaries. Both sides will claim to be fighting for my defence, and will probably be outraged that I don’t buy into their self-image.

    54. qidniz — on 14th March, 2009 at 6:31 pm  

      Mate I think you might be too pessimistic.

      No, it’s just that I don’t indulge in wishful thinking.

      The fanatics will only “win” if the rest of the Muslim poplulation is either too frightened or too apathetic to fight back.

      Fight back, for what? In the context of Islam, there is no place for them. They have nothing to “fight back” with, because Pakistan is not secular, and never will be. The orthodoxy is 100% correct in characterizing their shrine-based practices of worship and pilgrimage as “un-Islamic”. The masses could apostatize, but that is not going to be formally recognized either.

      And like I’ve said previously, there have been numerous historical precedents for high-profile Sufi groups and figures in the subcontinent to take a stand against the Taliban’s ideological predecessors, at a time when the latter’s power, influence and tyranny in the region was a hell of a lot stronger than it is now.

      This is hardly a “Sufi vesus Taliban” conflict. And the Sufis are not going to defend unIslamic practices. They never have, in fact.

    55. Jai — on 15th March, 2009 at 12:37 pm  

      Qidniz,

      No, it’s just that I don’t indulge in wishful thinking.

      It’s less about wishful thinking and more about ensuring one doesn’t excessively second-guess other parties.

      Also, bear in mind the tendency of Al Qaeda and the Taliban to overplay their hand.

      Fight back, for what?

      For their own interpretation of Islam and the associated traditions & practices which have (had ?) been popular amongst many of “the masses” for centuries, irrespective of “the orthodoxy’s” opinions on the matter.

      The orthodoxy is 100% correct in characterizing their shrine-based practices of worship and pilgrimage as “un-Islamic”.

      As we both know, Sufism (apart from the Sirhindi variety) is about a lot more than “praying to saints” and so on, particularly the more humane aspects involving attitudes towards members of other religions and towards human beings in general. I think it’s those things everyone should be focusing on. More to the point…..

      And the Sufis are not going to defend unIslamic practices.

      …..what many well-known Sufi figures regarded & preached as “Islamic” hasn’t necessarily been the same as “the orthodoxy’s” opinions on the matter. Statements such as “Islam is Sufism and Sufism is Islam” are amongst numerous examples, because by “Islam”, they don’t necessarily mean the Shariah-driven edifice that’s built up based considerably the interpretation of alleged “scholars”, the ulema etc; in fact, incidents of Sufi saints disregarding the dictates of Shariah and falling out with the ulema (or simply staying the hell away from them) go back centuries. Following on from this…..

      They never have, in fact.

      If by “unIslamic” you mean the definition according to “the orthodoxy”, there are multiple examples of this assertion being historically inaccurate. I’ve already listed a few of them on other recent threads.

      This is hardly a “Sufi vesus Taliban” conflict.

      If the Taliban have begun attacking and destroying Sufi shrines then they are very much precipitating a conflict with the latter in all but name; this also applies if attempts to impose extreme, orthodox versions of Shariah are involved. For example, Sufis affiliated to shrines/orders in the Sindh province of Pakistan are already on record as forcefully objecting to “the clergy”/”the orthodoxy’s” hardline interpretation of Islam and their actions in recent years as a result, as described in the article AsifB linked to in the original discussion thread last week. I very much doubt that those on the receiving end of the Taliban’s most recent shrine-destroying activities are going to be particularly well-disposed towards the Taliban either. Ditto for the recent efforts of thugs to “Talibanise” various Pakistani universities and crush local cultural norms based on more liberal traditional interpretations of Islam.

      Anyway, I obviously have no beef with you personally at all and we both have a common adversary, so to speak, so perhaps we should just amicably agree to disagree.

      Like I said, let’s see what happens. We all have a vested interest in this to a lesser or greater extent, after all.

    56. Jai — on 16th March, 2009 at 6:22 pm  

      Just re-posting my comment from earlier today (re: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/3737#comment-154357 ) as this may be a more appropriate place for it, since it involves some of the issues Qidniz and I have been discussing on this thread, along with Bo’s comment #22 about the destruction of Rahman Baba’s shrine:

      “Wahhabi radicals are determined to destroy a gentler, kinder Islam”

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/08/islam-pakistan-rahman-baba

      I recommend that people read the whole article by the historian William Dalrymple, especially as it relates to several topics which many people (myself included) have recently been discussing on PP, but here’s one pertinent extract:

      Rahman Baba, “the Nightingale of Peshawar,” was an 18th-century poet and mystic, a sort of North West Frontier version of Julian of Norwich.

      He withdrew from the world and promised his followers that if they also loosened their ties with the world, they could purge their souls of worries and move towards direct experience of God. Rituals and fasting were for the pious, said the saint. What was important was to understand that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart - that we all have paradise within us, if we know where to look.

      For centuries, Rahman Baba’s shrine at the foot of the Khyber Pass has been a place where musicians and poets have gathered, and his Sufi verses in the Pukhtun language made him the national poet of the Pathans. As a young journalist covering the Soviet-mujahideen conflict I used to visit the shrine to watch Afghan refugee musicians sing their songs to their saint by the light of the moon.

      Then, about 10 years ago, a Saudi-funded Wahhabi madrasa was built at the end of the track leading to the shrine. Soon its students took it on themselves to halt what they saw as unIslamic practices. On my last visit, I talked about the situation with the shrine keeper, Tila Mohammed. He described how young Islamists now came and complained that his shrine was a centre of idolatry and superstition: “My family have been singing here for generations,” said Tila. “But now these Arab madrasa students come here and create trouble.

      “They tell us that what we do is wrong. They ask people who are singing to stop. Sometimes arguments break out - even fist fights. This used to be a place where people came to get peace of mind. Now when they come here they just encounter more problems, so gradually have stopped coming.”

      “Before the Afghan war, there was nothing like this. But then the Saudis came, with their propaganda, to stop us visiting the saints, and to stop us preaching ‘ishq [love]. Now this trouble happens more and more frequently.”

      Behind the violence lies a long theological conflict that has divided the Islamic world for centuries. Rahman Baba believed passionately in the importance of music, poetry and dancing as a path for reaching God, as a way of opening the gates of Paradise. But this use of poetry and music in ritual is one of the many aspects of Sufi practice that has attracted the wrath of modern Islamists. For although there is nothing in the Qur’an that bans music, Islamic tradition has always associated music with dancing girls and immorality, and there is a long tradition of clerical opposition.

      At Attock, not far from the shrine of Rahman Baba, stands the Haqqania, one of the most radical madrasas in South Asia. Much of the Taliban leadership, including its leader, Mullah Omar, were trained here, so I asked the madrasa’s director, Maulana Sami ul-Haq, about what I had heard at Rahman Baba’s tomb. The matter was quite simple.” Music is against Islam,” he said. “Musical instruments lead men astray and are sinful. They are forbidden, and these musicians are wrongdoers.”

      Along with this:

      …..I thought of this conversation, when I heard that the shrine of Rahman Baba had finally been blown up on Thursday, a few hours after the Sri Lankan cricketers were ambushed in Lahore. The rise of Islamic radicalism is often presented in starkly political terms, but what happened in Peshawar this week is a reminder that, at the heart of the current conflict, lie two very different understandings of Islam. Wahhabi fundamentalism has advanced so quickly in Pakistan partly because the Saudis have financed the building of so many madrasas, which have filled the vacuum left by the collapse of state education. These have taught an entire generation to abhor the gentle, syncretic Sufi Islam that has dominated south Asia for centuries, and to embrace instead an imported form of Saudi Wahhabism.

      Sufism is an entirely indigenous Islamic resistance movement to fundamentalism, with its deep roots in South Asian soil. The Pakistani government could finance schools that taught Pakistanis to respect their own religious traditions, rather than buying fleets of American F-16 fighters and handing over education to the Saudis. Instead, every day, it increasingly resembles a tragic clone of Taliban Afghanistan.

    57. blah — on 16th March, 2009 at 6:41 pm  

      qidniz

      ” The orthodoxy is 100% correct in characterizing their shrine-based practices of worship and pilgrimage as “un-Islamic”. ”

      LOL- are you a Muslim scholar? Who did you study with?
      Visiting graves is a recommended practice in Islam.
      There is nothing wrong with doing worship there.

      Worshipping anything other than God such as the people in the graves is idolatry which makes a person a non-Muslim. But the Orthodox Sufis who go there do no such thing despite the ignorance of the Wahabbis. Accusing a Muslim of idoltary without absolute proof is also a major major sin and Islamic orthodoxy makes calling another Muslim non-Muslim a huge matter.

      The majority opinion is that even prostrating to a grave (the worst act done at shrines) while being a truly heinous sin redolent of idolatry is not actual idolatry unless its done out of worshipping and a person cannot be considered an idolater unless they explicitly state that they did it because they worship the saint (as oppose say out of respect).

    58. Jai — on 17th March, 2009 at 1:55 pm  

      Last night’s Dispatches on Channel 4 — about “Pakistan’s Taliban Generation” (including the Swat valley) — was both informative and very disturbing.

      Some associated articles and links can be found here: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/articles/pakistans-taliban-generation

      …..and here: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/articles/pakistans-taliban-generation-read-more

      ***********************************

      On an unrelated note, but one connected to this thread’s title, apparently there’s been a major arson attack on a large gurdwara in Bow, East London. About 75% of the building has been damaged, including the destruction of all but one of the Sikh temple’s copies of holy books.

      http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23663013-details/‘Arsonist’+attacks+Sikh+temple/article.do

    59. Jai — on 17th March, 2009 at 2:05 pm  

      Apologies, the URL link for the arson story didn’t come out correctly. Here it is again:

      http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23663013-details/‘Arsonist’+attacks+Sikh+temple/article.do

      ********************************

      Some extracts from the aforementioned Dispatches articles:

      At a nearby refugee camp, Sharmeen interviews two teenage boys whose local madrassa was hit by bombardments from the Pakistani army and American hellfire missiles while children were studying inside. In the aftermath of the attack, a local militant arrived to preach to a large crowd of local youngsters.

      One of the boys Sharmeen meets was in that crowd and now wants to join the Taliban. The other boy, his best friend, blames al-Qaeda for the attack and wants to join the army. Driven into enemy camps, both boys pledge to kill the other if they come face to face on the battlefield.

      …..Next, Sharmeen visits Swat, a valley in the north west that was, until recently a peaceful tourist attraction. Among the ruins of one of 200 schools destroyed by the Taliban she meets two former pupils; young girls who are angry that they are now forbidden to have an education and resentful that they will soon have to wear burqas.

      Just after Sharmeen leaves Swat, the local government announces it is to officially adopt Sharia law, in a total capitulation to the demands of the Taliban.

      …..During Sharmeen’s time in Peshawar, the Taliban announce plans to hold a press conference in the heart of the tribal areas. A local cameraman gathers footage that shows the first images of the new deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud. During the press conference, Mehsud warns that unless the Pakistani army stops aligning itself with the Americans and fighting the Taliban, they will take over the major cities of Pakistan.



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