Why we need to stop using the word “Islamism”


by guest
28th May, 2010 at 3:06 pm    

A guest post by Mohammed Amin, vice-chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum

Words matter. A simple example is George W. Bush’s use of the “C word” shortly after 9/11, a word which he used only once and was careful never to repeat. To Britons and Americans raised on tales of Richard the Lionheart, a crusade is a noble activity.

To Muslims the first crusade was a barbarous assault by European invaders culminating in the slaughter of all of the Muslims and Jews living in Jerusalem. Given the need for cooperation with Muslim majority countries, even George Bush realised that repeated use of the word “crusade” would not be helpful.

Our politicians would do well to learn the same lesson in vocabulary selection that George W. Bush did. My proposition is a very simple one: British politicians need to excise the word “Islamism” and its variants such as “Islamist” from their vocabularies.

There are two reasons for doing so. The first is that, like many words, Islamism has suffered from “scope creep.” On 8 March 2009, Policy Exchange published a report “Choosing our friends wisely: Criteria for engagement with Muslim groups”. The document contains a reasonably concise explanation of the report’s authors’ understanding of Islamism.

However, upon a closer reading it becomes clear that the authors have conflated two very distinct agendas: One is the desire to overthrow governments by force and impose a particular vision of society. The other is the desire from an Islamic perspective to peacefully remake Muslim communities from within by encouraging Muslims to be more devout and by encouraging non-Muslims to learn about Islam.

Despite the authors’ word games on page 17 attempting to blur the distinction, the above two perspectives remain fundamentally different. From time to time every religion experiences revival movements, and there is no fundamental illegitimacy in the desire to remake society peacefully. Conversely imposing one’ religious view on others by force is almost universally considered to be wrong.

The scope creep can be seen from the fact that the same word “Islamist” gets applied to bloodthirsty murderers such as Osama bin Ladin or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (of Al Qaeda in Iraq), to organisations that mix politics and military violence such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and to entirely peaceful democratic organisations such as the AKP in Turkey.

Indeed if Muslims living in Germany organised a political party that was the exact Islamic analogue of the German Christian Democratic Union, it would be labelled as “Islamist” by the standards set out in the Policy Exchange report.

Once the same word can be applied to all of the people and organisations listed above, disparate as they are in aims and methodologies, it has essentially become devoid of meaning.

Most UK Muslims simply regard the use of the word “Islamism” as a politically correct substitute for attacking Islam. They have some justification since the English Defence League, which is a clearly Islamophobic organisation, cloaks itself in the fig leaf of attacking Islamism while denying that it is against Islam.

It is quite possible that from the perspective of a political science academic, the word “Islamism” might still retain some valid semantic content. However, what academics say to each other in ivory tower university campuses is irrelevant in this context. What matters is politicians using language which multiplies our enemies and which increases the real dangers and threats which we face as a nation.

So what should we be against?

Muslims and non-Muslims can unite around the fact that we are against religious extremism that involves coercing people on religious issues. Virtually all Muslims know the phrase “there is no compulsion in religion” from the Quran, verse 2.256. This leads naturally to a rejection of terrorism or any other form of political violence. While this entails using more words than the single word “Islamism”, it avoids alienating people every time you open your mouth.

The choice for politicians is a practical one: use one more word and create enemies or use a few more words and create allies?


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  1. James Graham

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: Why we need to stop using the word "Islamism" http://bit.ly/bWGA1n


  2. Nadine Dorries

    Pickled Politics » Why we need to stop using the word ?Islamism? http://bit.ly/ahyVEm #NadineDorries


  3. Dawn

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  4. Dilwar Hussain

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  5. UnitasCommunications

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: Why we need to stop using the word "Islamism" http://bit.ly/bWGA1n


  6. Bob Connors

    #homeland Why we need to stop using the word "Islamism": … phrase "there is no compulsion in religion" from the… http://bit.ly/9CUX7U


  7. Khalid Anis

    RT @BritIslam: RT @DilwarH: Blog post:: Why we need to stop using the word "Islamism" http://bit.ly/bWGA1n


  8. sunny hundal

    Blog post:: Why we need to stop using the word "Islamism" http://bit.ly/bWGA1n


  9. Ian Smith

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: Why we need to stop using the word "Islamism" http://bit.ly/bWGA1n


  10. James Meadway

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: Why we need to stop using the word "Islamism" http://bit.ly/bWGA1n


  11. Islamic Soc Britain

    RT @DilwarH: Blog post:: Why we need to stop using the word "Islamism" http://bit.ly/bWGA1n


  12. Mohammed Amin

    I believe strongly that politicians should stop talking about "Islamism" and have just written for Pickled Politics at http://lnkd.in/_YGgW2


  13. Sophia R. Matheson

    Pickled Politics » Why we need to stop using the word “Islamism”: Now about muslims in Germany, one of the leaders… http://bit.ly/ahyVEm


  14. Sufisticat

    Why we need to stop using the word “Islamism” http://tinyurl.com/2fqwfzc


  15. MCB

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: Why we need to stop using the word "Islamism" http://bit.ly/bWGA1n


  16. ibnsuleiman

    Mohammed Amin on rejecting use of the word 'Islamism' RT @sunny_hundal http://bit.ly/9LVj0U




  1. Noor — on 28th May, 2010 at 3:10 pm  

    An excellent comment. “Islamism` is used by those hostile to Islam and Muslims to deliberately conjure up images and associations with Communism and Fascism.

    You wont find the word used by Muslims to traditionally define themselves. When a word is used by outsiders for a people which that groups themselves dont use or reject, thats usually a bad sign.

  2. Noor — on 28th May, 2010 at 3:15 pm  

    And incidentally just as the word crusade is used to mean a noble endeavour in British society and not just military attacks against Muslims the word “Jihad“ had a similiar positive connotations and non-military meanings in many Muslim and particularly Arab Muslim societies. So for example you could have a Jihad against illiteracy.

  3. Joe Otten — on 28th May, 2010 at 3:16 pm  

    A lot of the alternative words that are used instead of Islamist are similarly wrong.

    Fundamentalist doesn’t have the meaning we are looking for. Nor does Wahabi, or Jihadi (which means basically the same as Crusader – complete with inner-spiritual-struggle-sense).

    They are all a bit like referring to Baader-Meinhof as “socialists”.

    And there’s the clue: proper nouns. Can I suggest “affiliated to the Al Qaeda concept” as a suitable form of words?

  4. Yakoub — on 28th May, 2010 at 3:19 pm  

    Assuming “Islamism” is what “Islamists” do, the Oxford Dictionary of Islam, edited by John L Esposito (2003 edition) defines the term “Islamist” as an “Islamic political or social activist”, and links to the Arabic term al-Islamiyyun. The problem is, it is now often used by the media as a synonym for “Muslim bogeyman”. Finding another translation of al-Islamiyyun may well do no more than create another word meaning “Muslim bogeyman”, as well as making another bogeyman called “PC gone mad Muslim”.

    A well intended suggestion, but I’ll abstain for the duration.

  5. Sarah AB — on 28th May, 2010 at 3:28 pm  

    I found this very interesting – I’ve got two separate responses, one of which is probably more in tune with your ideas, Mohammed, than the other.

    I have heard a Muslim friend say how much she disliked the term Islamism and I could quite understand that. I have noticed that some – not all – who use the term Islamism eventually end up using it interchangeably with ‘Islam’ or ‘Muslims’ and are clearly anti-Muslim bigots.

    There are interesting parallels with the term ‘Zionism’ which, when used by anti-zionists, slips around, even changing meaning within a single sentence, to include Jews, those who are vaguely supportive of Israel, Israelis, Likud supporters, settlers …

    So yes – criticising Islamism can be a cover for Islamophobia.

    But sometimes it can work the other way. If Islamism is defined quite narrowly – ‘the desire to overthrow governments by force’ then you can be ‘not an Islamist’ and yet still have views which many, including Muslims, might find uncomfortable.

    So when I read your account of the different, non-violent, agenda, I feel it might – though might not – take in things I’d find very problematic.

    “The other is the desire from an Islamic perspective to peacefully remake Muslim communities from within by encouraging Muslims to be more devout and by encouraging non-Muslims to learn about Islam.”

    I value the freedoms we enjoy in the West and if remaking Muslim communities from within involves putting pressure on those living in the UK not to take advantage of those freedoms then that would make me feel uncomfortable.

  6. grifone — on 28th May, 2010 at 3:47 pm  

    Jamaat-e-Islam and Ikhwan al Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood). Two radical political Islamic groups, both incorporating “Islam” and “Muslim” in their names.

    How successful do you think Mohammed Amin, vice-chair of the Conservative Muslim Council would be if he tried to lobby these two groups to drop the words “Islam” and “Muslim” from their names?

    Not a snowball’s chance.

  7. Paul — on 28th May, 2010 at 4:03 pm  

    I think the word islamophobia is the one that we should encourage people to stop using. It’s meaningless and used by islamists to stiffle legitimate criticism of Islam and Islamic practices.

  8. HNIT — on 28th May, 2010 at 5:46 pm  

    As for the authro’s version of the crusades, he totally wrong. Christian pilfrims were being ceaselssly attacked, robbed enslaved and murdered. The crusades were wars of defense pushing back Muslim aggression. Afterall, Christianity is native to Israel, whereas Islam is not. Most of the Islamic world consists of stolen real-estate, lands that were once enlightened and prosperous, but lands which have now become, thanks to Islam’s ‘progressivism’ are now worthless intellectual, scientific, technological and academic backwaters.

    Most majority Muslim countries are a study in utter human stupidity…much like this posting.

  9. ~AB — on 28th May, 2010 at 6:48 pm  

    Omri has it right, of course.

  10. ~AB — on 28th May, 2010 at 6:59 pm  

    “To Muslims the first crusade was a barbarous assault by European invaders culminating in the slaughter of all of the Muslims and Jews living in Jerusalem.”

    Oh, do give over – to most Muslims who lived absolutely nowhere near Jerusalem it meant absolutely nothing whatsoever- in particular to those Muslims who associated with the First Crusaders on their way to Jerusalem.

    Get over yourself. It happened nearly 900 years ago.

    And since when where Islamists moved by the extermination of Jews?

  11. ~AF — on 28th May, 2010 at 7:46 pm  

    I mean, if we are going to make such expansive claims over historical events, I do find it odd that Muslims do not get their collective knickers in a twist about the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols. The entire city was destroyed, every living soul (of any faith and none) was killed, the centre of the Caliphate was erased from the map… and it happened two hundred years after the First Crusades sacked Jerusalem.

  12. Niels Christensen — on 28th May, 2010 at 8:32 pm  

    “Indeed if Muslims living in Germany organised a political party that was the exact Islamic analogue of the German Christian Democratic Union, it would be labelled as “Islamist” by the standards set out in the Policy Exchange”.
    Now about muslims in Germany, one of the leaders of the green party, is a muslim, A CDU minister is a muslim, many SPD is muslims.
    Muslim isn’t a very good category. Erdogan once said that AGP, that if it was a german party it would look like CSU/CDU. Could be, time will tell.
    But CSU/CDU is a strong defender of freedom of expression, of individualism and the german constitution. The same cannot be said of some of the ‘conservative’ muslim organizations in Germany.
    But if islamist isn’t a good definition, how about ‘muslims’ who don’t understand islam.

  13. The Common Humanist — on 28th May, 2010 at 8:50 pm  

    “”To Muslims the first crusade was a barbarous assault by European invaders culminating in the slaughter of all of the Muslims and Jews living in Jerusalem”"

    Yes, because two thirds of the Eastern Roman Empire just overnight decided to become Muslims….

    The Roman Emperor asked the Pope for help from the Muslims attacking, laying waste and conquering Christian lands. The response was not quite the army of Knights he expected and was rather more but still to suggest this ‘oh, just happened and ohhhh those evil christians just attacked us for no reason guv’.

    And also, Islamic forces had destroyed trade in the Med in the period 800 – 900 AD and raided extensively (AKA destroyed the economices) of the South of France, conquered much of Spain and Southern Italy….

    ‘Ahhh but those Christians just attacked us for no reason’

    And given that the Seljuk Turkish invasions of the early 1000s and the Mongol destruction of Old Bagdhad were actually far more destructive to Arab civilisation perhaps getting over the c word would be a good thing – perspective at all??????

    I mean, for heavens sake, if you want to talk history perhaps it is better to have actually, well, read some????

  14. Fred — on 28th May, 2010 at 9:04 pm  

    If you want to know what “Islamist” indicates, tendentious readings of history which posit Muslims as eternal innocent victims of the West would definitely qualify.

  15. Mohammed Amin — on 28th May, 2010 at 10:07 pm  

    @Sarah AB

    Your comment:

    But sometimes it can work the other way. If Islamism is defined quite narrowly – ‘the desire to overthrow governments by force’ then you can be ‘not an Islamist’ and yet still have views which many, including Muslims, might find uncomfortable.

    I agree with you that there are views which some people (Muslims and non-Muslims) put forward which I find not just uncomfortable but deplorable. Those views, whatever they may be, need to be contested and debated.

    However, my proposition is simply that attaching a convenient label, in particular “Islamism” is counterproductive. I do not say that all views put forward peacefully and lawfully are views that I find desirable.

  16. Mohammed Amin — on 28th May, 2010 at 10:11 pm  

    @griphone

    Jamaat-e-Islam and Ikhwan al Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood). Two radical political Islamic groups, both incorporating “Islam” and “Muslim” in their names.

    Neither I nor you can control what other people choose to call their groups. However, we can control the language that we choose to use.

  17. Kulvinder — on 28th May, 2010 at 10:16 pm  

    I’m confused about the argument you’re making as you apparently base it on the Policy Exchange report; which i suppose is interesting within the context of internal tory party dialogue but im not sure what relevance if any it has to wider debate.

    I use the term islamist frequently, but without surreptitiously attacking islam – i also voice critcism about zionism without using it as a cloak to hide antisemitism (as sarah has already mentioned)

    I have to say im not particularly sympathetic to such arguments, its as idiotic as those on the right who attack the word islamaphobia as focusing on something that doesn’t exist (when quite clearly it does)

    For what its worth i use the term broadly on those who use coercion and threats to force others to obey their particular view of islam, not muslims who happen to be involved in politics or who advocate the ‘islamic equivalant of CDU’

  18. Mohammed Amin — on 28th May, 2010 at 10:19 pm  

    @Paul

    I think the word islamophobia is the one that we should encourage people to stop using. It’s meaningless and used by islamists to stiffle legitimate criticism of Islam and Islamic practices.

    I agree.

    One of the real threats to our society’s cohesion is anti-Muslim violence and anti-Muslim hatred. Using “Islamophobia” as a short label for this is undesirable, as it allows anti-Muslim bigots to shelter behind the claim that they are only exercising the right of free speech.

    As far as I am concerned, anyone is free to state that they believe that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a fake and that the Quran is not true. What they are not free to do is spit at Muslims or desecrate Muslim graves.

    We need to unite to condemn such acts of hatred, and not be sidetracked be debating the meaning of “Islamophobia”; it is simpler to avoid the word.

  19. Kulvinder — on 28th May, 2010 at 10:26 pm  

    What they are not free to do is spit at Muslims or desecrate Muslim graves.

    So how, exactly, would you refer to the motives of those who spit at muslims and desecrate muslim graves?

    If a black man is attacked because he is black its quite clearly racism, if a gay man is attacked because he is gay its quite clearly homophobia, and if a muslim is attacked because he is a muslim its quite clearly islamophobia; it isn’t simpler to avoid the word.

    The concept exists in society, we name it to discuss and deal with it.

  20. Mohammed Amin — on 28th May, 2010 at 10:29 pm  

    @HNIT

    Belief systems such as Islam and Christianity are a matter of faith and opinion. However, much of history consists of facts which are not disputed except by the ignorant, i.e. those who lack knowledge.

    As you are likely to discount any history that is written by a Muslim, I suggest you read “Islam – Past, Present and Future” by Hans Kung. As you may know, he is a world famous, abeit controversial, Roman Catholic theologian.

    I would like to know if you retain your current views after you have read that book.

  21. Mohammed Amin — on 28th May, 2010 at 10:44 pm  

    @Niels Christensen

    But if islamist isn’t a good definition, how about ‘muslims’ who don’t understand islam.

    Personally, if you are classifying Al Qaeda as “Muslims who don’t understand Islam” then I agree with you. However, as a phrase for real politicians to use, it is also counterproductive.

    The UK Prime Minister is never going to get anywhere trying to convince Muslims that he can classify them between “good Muslims” and “Muslims who don’t understand Islam.” It would be an even bigger turn off for Muslim citizens than saying that you are against Islamism.

    The key goal is to be against something in a manner that unites the largest possible number of citizens around you. That is why I am against anyone (irrespective of religion) who wants to impose their religious views on others by force.

  22. Mohammed Amin — on 28th May, 2010 at 10:52 pm  

    @Kulvinder

    For what its worth i use the term broadly on those who use coercion and threats to force others to obey their particular view of islam, not muslims who happen to be involved in politics or who advocate the ‘islamic equivalant of CDU’

    The key point is not how the word “Islamism” is understood by intellectuals, although even amongst intellectuals it has been stretched over such a broad spectrum of views that I contend it has become meaningless.

    The issue is that the random British Muslim citizen is not an expert in political ideologies. As far as he is concerned, when you attack Islamism, you are attacking Islam.

    You can argue that he is failing to understand the distinction and you would be right. However, in this case being right is irrelevant.

    Politicians need to see with the world as it is, if they are to have any chance of changing it.

  23. ~AF — on 28th May, 2010 at 10:57 pm  

    Intriguing that so many Islamists describe themselves as… cough… Islamists.

  24. Kulvinder — on 28th May, 2010 at 11:08 pm  

    As far as he is concerned, when you attack Islamism, you are attacking Islam.

    How do you know?

  25. The Common Humanist — on 28th May, 2010 at 11:53 pm  

    Mohammed

    “The issue is that the random British Muslim citizen is not an expert in political ideologies. As far as he is concerned, when you attack Islamism, you are attacking Islam”

    Why do you feel the need to label the majority of British Muslims as ignorant and stupid?????

    How are the history lessons going BTW????

  26. ~AF — on 29th May, 2010 at 12:21 am  

    The results in the constituencies of Tower Hamlets would tend to suggest that the average British Muslim can very easily distinguish between the religion of Islam and the perverted clerical fascist ideology known as Islamism. The average Muslim in Britain rejects Islamism. Incidentally, as do the vast majority of Muslims globally.

  27. Sunny — on 29th May, 2010 at 1:02 am  

    Why do you feel the need to label the majority of British Muslims as ignorant and stupid?????

    I don’t think he is. But what if you surveyed a group of Muslims and they actually didn’t like the word TCH. What would you do then?

  28. Andrew — on 29th May, 2010 at 3:31 am  

    Islamist seems to mean all sorts of different things. How about “extremist political Muslim”?

  29. Shamit — on 29th May, 2010 at 1:43 pm  

    Interesting isn’t it that there is no Conservative Christian Forum or Conservative Hindu Forum or Conservative Sikh Forum – but there is a Conservative Muslim Forum.

    So does that mean all these other groups have been so well integrated in society that these don’t need groups or is it because Muslims need special handling. If the latter is the case why do they need special handling?

    I am not accusing anyone of anything – but if the Conservative Party stands for a cohesive British Society why single out Muslims – are we the others not British enough or are we too British?

    But lets be honest as long as we need political parties to have groups like this to either appease or appeal to followers of one particular religion then I am afraid this term “Isalmism” would be quite common. And, the first step towards a culture where we would not need this phrase may be should start with disbanding this Conservative Muslim Forum.

  30. pedro — on 29th May, 2010 at 1:53 pm  

    If the Crusades were the righteous response of Christians to Muslim aggression why were Orthodox/Eastern Christians and Jews put to the sword, raped and tortured? I might be putting words into a blog but the author refers to how the Crusades are seen (by some) in contemporary Muslim communities. It might be an incorrect reading of history but so are the non-Muslim readings that portray the Crusades as just holy war by a representative body of Christendom (which is OK as a concept of course).

  31. pedro — on 29th May, 2010 at 5:11 pm  

    What exactly are people trying to say when they call the Crusades a defensive war against aggression then? Is that not justification? What were the Crusades if not a “holy war”?

    The lack of “modern historical research” feeds into misrepresentation of history in my opinion. Someone not expert on the history of the Crusades (myself included, though I have done an elementary amount of academic study on the subject) is going to be more likely to accept or form views based on ignorance, bigotry, contemporary concerns, and so on. I don’t think that’s altogether controversial.

    In my opinion that includes overlooking diversity within Christianity (the Eastern Churches for example who might not have wanted to be defended by the successive waves of Western Christians keen on parochial religious fanaticism and land they couldn’t have at home but could taken from Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Middle East), hatred of the religious other in the middle ages, the promotion of warfare as a virtue sponsored by a Church keen to divert violence out of their own communities, as well as the idea that Muslims were always innocent victims of non-Muslim aggression.

  32. Stray Taoist — on 29th May, 2010 at 5:50 pm  

    I recommend Runciman’s ‘History of the Crusades’ volumes 1 – 3. It was the (so-called) fourth Crusade that broke Eastern Christendom, never even got as far as the Levantine.

    Do the bodycount sums throughout that period. Go Saladin!

  33. The Common Humanist — on 29th May, 2010 at 6:15 pm  

    My bookshelves groan with Crusade literature. Whereas I don’t think any modern Western Historian would describe the crusades as a just holy war from our modern perspective, it is a little unfair to judge them from the 21st Century perspective entirely. The Age of Faith had a radically different approach to such matters. There are some Islamic historians who do see muslim equivalent conquests as more then justified but even that oil tanker is starting to turn a little.

    As for the motivations of the Christian Crusaders don’t underestimate the simple power of sincere religious desires and piety. It was a very very different time.

    Runciman is abit of a bible. I would also recommend ‘The Crusades through Arab Eyes’ by Amin Maalouf and ‘The First Crusade’ by Thomas Asbridge.

    Saladin was a leader almost without peer in the Medieval Middle East. Of course He was helped by the death of his equal – Baldwin IV of Jerusalem from leprosy and the stupidity of Baldwins successors and by a four to one advantage in numbers. He could afford to be beaten and come back (and he was and did), the Kingdom of Jerusalem could only be unlucky once (the Battle of Hattin) before the jig in large part was up.

    As for body counts…it was the Middle Ages…the body count was always high irrespective of the religion or culture of the combatants.

    Actually, in terms of dead Arabs the Seljuk invasion/migration of the early 1000s and the Mongol invasions in the 1200s were far more catastrophic for Arab civilisation.

  34. Cauldron — on 29th May, 2010 at 6:17 pm  

    “Virtually all Muslims know the phrase “there is no compulsion in religion” from the Quran, verse 2.256. ”

    How is that reconciled with what the Quran has to say about apostasy?

  35. Stray Taoist — on 29th May, 2010 at 9:54 pm  

    If we are on the recommendation route, good old John Julius Norwich is certainly well worth the effort. His ‘History of Venice’ touches the Crusading years (obviously) from a Venetian point of view. Cracking stuff. As is his history of Byzantium, which touches..yeah, you know that.

    The whole Levantine history could (just like most history) be different if it weren’t for deaths and intrigues at pivotal (they wouldn’t be anything else) moments.

    Me, I still can’t forgive the Franks. Or the Latins, come to think of it.

    And sure, didn’t the Caliphs side with the Franks and Normans, then the influx of the pious, baffled by the treaties with the infidel…etcetcetc.

    I was being flippant about the body counts. Mostly in a way that I have heard that it was the Moslems and the Jews who suffered most. A grand case of (as they say from where I come from) whataboutery.

    It is dangerous for anyside to use history when they neither understand it nor do anything other than instruct wrongheaded post-20th century ideals on to it.

    Saladin was an absolute genius, and one of the last generations of Islamic leaders at the time to be true to the origins of his faith. (But hey, let’s not go too much into the history here, I have said enough, people should go read for themselves.)

    Oh, last up, the Amin Maalouf book is *ace*.

  36. Jasmine — on 30th May, 2010 at 4:09 pm  

    Even if Islamism only is about trying to “remake Muslim communities from within by encouraging Muslims to be more devout and by encouraging non-Muslims to learn about Islam”, there is nothing wrong, frankly, with finding that pernicious and wanting to confront and scrutinise, and criticise it. Why? Well, it is all code language.

    ‘Encouraging Muslims to be more devout’ sounds harmless, until you see what it really is – coercive pressure on Muslims to shut up, do as they are told, become more cloistered, not criticise, not liberalise. Because we all know how the processes of Islamism work. Women, dissenters, gay, liberal Muslims, or just anyone who wants to be free of the baleful glare of religion are fed to the dogs, all to satisfy the Mohammad Amin’s and his Islamist buddies in society.

    “Encouraging non-Muslims to learn about Islam” – this is coded language for ‘dawah’, Islamic evangelism and propaganda, seeking to convert others to Islam, expanding the domain of Islam, imposing one view of Islam on society as a whole, frankly, shoving Islam in non Muslims faces. This is worthy of criticism by itself. The malignant effects of this kind of identity-politics and ‘revivalist’ religion on the texture of British society as a whole are extra reason to always tell the truth about Mohammad Amin’s way of looking at the world – a culture of Islamism destroys trust in society, it leads to resentment amongst ‘infidels’ towards the special priveliges and ‘respect’ accorded to Islam, it perpetuates and sets in motion ethnic and religious identity-politics competitive rivalry as groups seek to stamp their feet to be heard too, it delineates boundaries and gives the impression of Muslims making demands that nobody else makes, it wails for attention, as if British society should see things in the same crude, binary way that Islamists see society – as composed of Muslims and Kaffirs and that is the axis upon which society is divided. It also marginalises non Muslim minority groups and religions.

    In short, it is pernicious and malignant, and Amin’s attempts to foster resentments and special pleading is in tune with the logic of this reactionary, crass identity politics variation called Islamism.

    It must be confronted, refuted, rejected and criticised without inhibition, ceaselessly. It is pernicious, selfish and loathesome.

  37. Noor — on 30th May, 2010 at 5:19 pm  

    Jasmine

    “Encouraging non-Muslims to learn about Islam” – this is coded language for ‘dawah’, Islamic evangelism and propaganda, seeking to convert others to Islam, expanding the domain of Islam, imposing one view of Islam on society as a whole, frankly, shoving Islam in non Muslims faces. This is worthy of criticism by itself“

    Im sure you feel exactly the same about far more pervasive Christian missionary efforts particularly when the vast majority of these are rich Christians going to poor foreign lands.

  38. Jai — on 30th May, 2010 at 5:40 pm  

    I would also recommend ‘The Crusades through Arab Eyes’ by Amin Maalouf and ‘The First Crusade’ by Thomas Asbridge.

    I personally also recommend Thomas Asbridge’s extremely comprehensive follow-up book “The Crusades”, currently out in hardback and to be released in paperback this autumn. He’s actually a university lecturer in medieval history, and his objective & detailed grasp of the subject matter is outstanding.

  39. MaidMarian — on 30th May, 2010 at 5:53 pm  

    Crusader was Chris de Burgh’s finest work.

  40. The Common Humanist — on 30th May, 2010 at 10:48 pm  

    Jai

    Am saving my pennies as we speak. He really is a tremendous writer.

    What is excellent also are the ‘The Memoirs of an Arab Christian Gentlemen during the time of the Crusades’ by an Arab Gentlemen whose name I can’t remember and now I can’t find the damn book and it wasn’t exactly a cheap edition. Bollocks. Off to grump out.

  41. Arif — on 30th May, 2010 at 11:15 pm  

    Mohammed Amin, I think this is a good post, and I see it as a starting point for discussion.

    Firstly, I agree that it is worth being conscious of the words we use if they carry dangerous baggage and implications.

    Secondly, I agree that there is a major difference between violent and non-violent forms of pursuing identity politics and religion.

    But…. any political terrain is dynamic, and exploitable. For example, where does Hizb-ut-Tahrir fit in? They are explicitly nonviolent but they give a lot of other implicit messages to people.

    We can make a differentiation between opposing oppression (acceptable) and reverse supremacism (unacceptable) but can’t so easily stop people creating and exploiting stereotypes about their supposed or real oppressor.

    So our analytical categories need to be more subtle than the ones you suggest – even though even the relatively obvious distinction you are making is still too much for people to take in. (I would suggest this is partly because we all want to simplify and sterotype those we feel threatened by… it works both ways).

  42. Jasmine — on 31st May, 2010 at 1:09 am  

    Im sure you feel exactly the same about far more pervasive Christian missionary efforts particularly when the vast majority of these are rich Christians going to poor foreign lands

    Spoken like a true evasive, subject-shifting pernicious Islamist.

    Your ruses have been sussed. You will not get away with your identity-politics bigotry masquerading as righteous victimhood any more. Read my post again, and suck it all up. You have been seen through.

  43. Don — on 31st May, 2010 at 3:53 pm  

    Well, this has generated a good reading list. Unfortunately, I’m backed up on my reading and the pile is starting to totter. Adding any more might run into Health and Safety issues.

    Joe Otten made a good point, any single word used as a descriptor of a complex concept is going to fail. If you have something worth saying take your time and say exactly what you mean. In that sense ‘Islamist’ is not a useful term.

    It might include those who believe in using the democratic political process to get their religious beliefs more embedded in society (which I oppose)or those who see coercion or intimidation as legitimate ways to further a religious agenda (which I really oppose), right through to those who see the butchery of specific individuals and large scale random murder as justifiable if done in the name of religion. (Really, really don’t like those guys.)

    The first group might be legitimately horrified to be included along with the last. If I’m going to disagree with someone I’d prefer to to have it clear what we are disagreeing about.

    Arif,

    Well put.

  44. Boyo — on 31st May, 2010 at 4:46 pm  

    CH I’ve read some of the books you mention re the Crusades from both sides, including “from Arab eyes” and I broadly agree.

    Although bloody, brutal and, inadvertently, leading to the fall of Constantinople, the Crusades should certainly be seen as a response to centuries of Islamic aggression rather than the supposedly unwarranted attack commonly portrayed by revisionists, Islamists and fools.

    Indeed, given how much Christian territory was overrun by Islam, it’s a surprise they waited so long to respond. Islam was, literally, driven by conflict – as you will know it was the duty of the Muslim knight to extend the “House of Peace” by engaging with the “House of War” each season, and the Islamic Conquest remains a source of pride within Islam, as a visit to my local mosque and its vivid displays demonstrated.

    Christian culture traditionally views war as the last resort (although granted that may not be the case in actuality), hence the endless guilt and navel gazing over the Crusades, while I’m afraid Islamic history demonstrates a clear lack of introversion on the issue, which may explain why its violent foundations are blithely celebrated to this day and many Muslims appear genuinely unable to make the link between the spread of Islam and the Christian response.

    This may spring from the relative growing pains of each: Christians were persecuted and martyred under Rome without fighting back until, almost miraculously, Constantine converted and their faith came to dominate, whereas Muslims under the Prophet fought their persecutors, and thereby came to dominate.

    Thus it is not too much of a leap to see how the responses differ: a presumption of non-violence leading to the path of peace, compared to the assumption of violence to achieve peace.

    Guilt over the Crusades, Pride in the Conquest.

  45. Arif — on 31st May, 2010 at 5:57 pm  

    Boyo, I half agree with you. There is a lot of introversion about the issue of violence in Islamic history, but it stays way below the radar. Part of the sense of being under siege is that internal squabbles are repressed, particularly at a time when information technology makes such debates easy prey for mischief.

    So while these questions about violence have been raised and answered in many different ways in different times and places, and I have done so regularly, the current political climate is one which makes it harder to get people to feel safe enough to make a genuinely introspective response. There are books grappling with these issues and, as I was growing up, the ones I was given for the good of my soul seemed anything but proud of the conquests.

    Personally, I found it took a lot of prodding by me for my betters to admit that a conquest did occur and it was expansionist (after the time of the Prophet), and even then the admissions came with contextualisation rather than glorification.

    Now the situation may be different, and I can’t unpick all the ways and reasons it may have happened and where things are now – because we are both generalising from our own perceptions from partial experiences – but I want you to be aware that blithe celebrations of violence are not normal in my neck of the woods, even though I won’t deny they may be in yours.

  46. boyo — on 31st May, 2010 at 7:08 pm  

    Yup, Finsbury Park, post-Hamza…. but i take your point.

    IMHO (and this is ALL about my prejudices) I think Islamic practice has a huge amount to contribute but it is its very potency that causes the problems – people become attracted to it for all the wrong reasons and seek to bend it to their own prejudices. Mohammed tried to address this by writing everything down, but it still became a case of interpretation and the tyranny of a priestly caste akin to the Inquisition. I can imagine a modern Islam that is comfortable in itself, but I have yet to actually see much evidence of one – serious circumspection is drown out by Saudi petrodollars.

  47. Jai — on 1st June, 2010 at 9:38 am  

    I can imagine a modern Islam that is comfortable in itself, but I have yet to actually see much evidence of one

    It would probably be a good idea to read the “Rock and Roll Jihad” article, in that case.

  48. Arif — on 1st June, 2010 at 1:44 pm  

    Boyo – agree with you that a lot of critical thinking has dissolved in Saudi petrodollars, and been intimidated too.

    While with the one hand some of Christendom appears to want Islam to offer more reasonable interlocutors, on the other hand it seems to want to protect the Saudi regime at all costs.

    While the Saudi regime on the one hand wants to use its money to spread charity and its soft leadership of the Muslim world, on the other hand many of its clerical offshoots have takfiri fixations, waging war on critical thinking.

    That’s my simplified interpretations – one hand undermining its own other hand while strengthening third hands which come back to slap them. I put it down more to power dynamics and short-termism than to conspiracy or religious necessity.

  49. Mohammed Amin — on 5th June, 2010 at 1:20 am  

    @Shamit posting 39

    There is a Christian equivalent to the Conservative Muslim Forum. It is the Conservative Christian Fellowship, which you can find at http://www.ccfwebsite.com/home.shtml

    I am not aware of Hindu or Sikh equivalents yet, but suspect that it is simply a question of time and numbers.

  50. Mohammed Amin — on 5th June, 2010 at 1:26 am  

    @Cauldron posting 34

    Actually the Quran does not punish apostasy, as distinct from physical rebellion. (All cultures oppose rebellion.) It is too long to cover here, but please read my piece “Muslims misguided enough to abandon Islam are free to do so” which discusses apostasy in depth at:

    http://www.mohammedamin.com/Community_issues/Muslims_misguided_enough_to_abandon_Islam_are_free_to_do_so.html

  51. Mohammed Amin — on 5th June, 2010 at 1:31 am  

    @Jasmine posting 36

    ‘Encouraging Muslims to be more devout’ sounds harmless, until you see what it really is – coercive pressure on Muslims to shut up, do as they are told, become more cloistered, not criticise, not liberalise. Because we all know how the processes of Islamism work. Women, dissenters, gay, liberal Muslims, or just anyone who wants to be free of the baleful glare of religion are fed to the dogs,

    Actually I am sincere in my belief in freedom of choice, and so are many other Muslims. Conversely oppressive religious bigots can be found in all religions.

    When I argue for people’s right to propogate their beliefs peacefully, I am arguing for the same rights that everyone else in a free society takes for granted.

  52. Mohammed Amin — on 5th June, 2010 at 1:42 am  

    @Arif posting 41

    But…. any political terrain is dynamic, and exploitable. For example, where does Hizb-ut-Tahrir fit in? They are explicitly nonviolent but they give a lot of other implicit messages to people.

    A free society requires you to be free to peacefully propagate views that might be silly, wrong, and indeed bad for their adherents. To take an example from another religion, I recall that Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage people to refuse blood transfusions even when such refusal is fatal, and discourage people from attending university, even though that damages your economic prospects as well as your intellectual development.

    Despite that, like Voltaire I will defend to the death Jehovah’s Witnesses right to proselytise.

    PS I think Hizb-ut-Tahrir are also wrong, but free to argue for their views in a peaceful manner.

  53. Logo london — on 5th June, 2010 at 7:21 am  

    we need to stop using the word “Islamism”:one of the leaders in germany is muslims

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