Saturday, March 14, 2009

Opinion: The Vast Majority Isn't so Vast

Charles Moore for the Telegraph.

Comparing the violence in Northern Ireland to Islamic violence is fundamentally bankrupt as an intellectual pursuit, namely because Islamic violence is a religious exercise, whilst the IRA engaged in violence both out of sectarian interests, but more largely due to their other (and always violent) motivation... socialism.

Among Muslims in Britain, such ambiguities can also be found. There is a strong strand in the current state of Islam which sees the religion as a political project. This creed, often called "Islamism", holds that no society is legitimate unless it imposes sharia – the law of God. There is no doctrine of tolerance, and a complete rejection of secular or Christian rule. Islamism spreads much more widely than the active advocates of violence. I have tried to get the Muslim Council of Britain, a sort of TUC of British Islam, to condemn the murder or kidnapping of British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it has always avoided doing so.

Now why would the REFUSE to condemn the kidnapping of British troops... could it be the same reason why the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) refuses to condemn Hamas? Because deep down inside they support the actions... as Muslims, precisely because the actions follow from the canonical and exegetical texts?

So when, as happened on Question Time, people say that the Luton demonstrators "have nothing to do with Islam" and so should not be described as Muslims in the media, they are missing a key fact. So are the people who say that Irish republican killers should be called "common criminals". The key fact is that the extremists do draw on wider political or religious traditions in forming their views; and their actions do resonate among many from those traditions.

If, as in Germany this week, a deranged young man walks into a school and shoots people, it is tragic, but it is not part of a movement. Terrorism committed by Muslims in the name of Islam (which forms – that phrase again – the vast majority of terrorist acts in the world since September 11, 2001), or by Irish republicans, is.

Thank you!

Since the problem is quite wide, we need, as a nation, to defend ourselves against it. We are choosing the wrong way of doing so. We so doubt our own legitimacy that we feel the need to delegate the task to our foes. Our Government feels that the only way to run Northern Ireland is to hand nearly half of it to Sinn Fein.

Thanks Mr. Moore.

The Article:


Anonymous said...

What I always wonder about it whether the people who want Northern Ireland to join Ireland have really thought things through. From what I (as a foreigner to both countries) understood, the laws currently active in Northern Ireland are a lot more progressive and nicer in general than those in Ireland, which is, if what the news tells me is correct, rather backward. I think that many of these people would leave their cause, at least until Ireland became more modern, if they thought about that for a while.

Elephant said...

Question for you.

Let's agree that both Islamist terrorism and Irish republican terrorism draw on broader political traditions. In the Irish context, not many actually support violence as a means of achieving a united Ireland (whatever that is supposed to mean), though a lot of IRA nonsense was tolerated because of that tradition, and what your grandad did in the civil war.

On the other hand, there's an alternative tradition. A couple of years ago, the then Justice Minister Michael McDowell made some stirring speeches about "republicanism". In short, he said, real republicans were committed to democracy, due process and the rule of law. Real republicans didn't shoot people, or engage in smuggling, intimidation and vote rigging. It was unusual and refreshing to hear, but the point is that it was a defensible position that people could rally round without being accused of being traitors to the cause.

So my question is: is there anything in Islam or the Islamic tradition which could achieve something similar? Would be interested to hear your thoughts.

(Anonymous, your information is way off. Maybe in the 1960s.)

Ibn al-Rawandi said...


You mean to say "Real Islam means free elections and human rights"?

Well Muslims have said that before only to be quickly asked for the supporting texts from the canon of Islam. Fundamentalists demand they support these views and of course the views are unsupported, and any debate would see the fundamentalists win.

I see no historical or textual precedent in Islam for this. There is some talk about separation of church and state because the early Caliphs let religious courts run their business somewhat independent of the political and military power exercised by the Caliph.

Elephant said...

That would be too much to hope for! What I meant was whether there was anything in the Qu'ran or the Hadiths which would support a more reasonable view of Islam, just as some Victorian Christians were able to make up a version of "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" and discover Christian principles to oppose slavery.

What you are saying doesn't sound optimistic. Any chance of a forthcoming post on the separation of church and state in the Muslim world?