Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The UK Confronts Islamism
A century ago the murder of a British soldier in broad daylight in London would have been an act of war. In this post-imperial and post-everything age, an atrocity leads to a task force which produces a report which is then filed in a desk drawer by the undersecretary for something or other.
Like clockwork, the murder of Lee Rigby led to a task force and to a report. The report is 7 pages long. It’s possible to read it in much less than the twenty minutes that it took London police to respond to the murder in progress. You could even get through it a few times in real time while a Muslim convert who describes himself as a soldier of Allah saws away at a fallen Englishman’s head with no one to stop him.
There is a thing that organizations say when they know that they are hip deep in a crisis. They say that “we are taking this seriously.”
The report, “Tackling Extremism in the UK” certainly takes matters seriously. The evidence of that is not so much in the report, as in the task force which included the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, four Secretaries of State, three Ministers, one Chancellor, one Lord Chancellor and a partridge in a pear tree.
Like so many of the more “serious” and “sincere” efforts at tackling the biggest threat to civilization in the twenty-first century, the report mixes occasional good ideas with politically correct absurdities. It starts off by equating Islamophobia with Al Qaeda and rolls out a plan to fight back against Islamism.
“As the greatest risk to our security comes from Al Qa’ida and like-minded groups, and terrorist ideologies draw on and make use of extremist ideas, we believe it is also necessary to define the ideology of Islamist extremism,” the report states. And then it goes on to carefully avoid defining it except to contend that, whatever it is; it is not Islam.
“This is a distinct ideology which should not be confused with traditional religious practice. It is an ideology which is based on a distorted interpretation of Islam, which betrays Islam’s peaceful principles, and draws on the teachings of the likes of Sayyid Qutb.”
The mention of Sayyid Qutb is startling considering that the UK seemed to be pretending that the Muslim Brotherhood was a “moderate” group. Say what you will about Cameron, but I don’t see Obama chairing a task force that would produce a report denouncing the Muslim Brotherhood’s evil genius.
But Qutb’s mention feels like a random aberration thrown in by someone a little too knowing. Beyond that the only further definition of Islamist extremism is that, “they seek to impose a global Islamic state governed by their interpretation of Shari’ah as state law, rejecting liberal values such as democracy, the rule of law and equality.”
In other words, Islamists are seeking to impose Islam on everyone. But then they aren’t a distorted interpretation of Islam. Islamism is simply the organized political implementation of Islam in the same way that Nazism was the implementation of National Socialism and Marxism is the attempted implementation of Karl Marx’s ideas.
Apologists can argue that Marxism distorts Marx and that Islamism distorts Islam, but those remain unconvincing defenses. Implementing a set of ideas always distorts them, but realizing ideas is the only truly objective way to assess their merit by seeing their consequences.
What the report is clumsily getting at is the idea that Islam is legitimate in private practice, but not in public imposition. It’s Islam when a Muslim goes to a mosque or avoids alcohol, but Islamism when he harasses barflies or chops off heads under the dictates of Islamic law. Unfortunately this distinction has no meaning in Islam which was never rewired to function as a private religion in a secular state. America dealt with the clash between religion and tolerance by separating church and state allowing churches to retain their full doctrine while secularizing the machinery of the state. Europe dealt with it by secularizing and liberalizing national churches to such a degree that they no longer had any religious content that anyone could object to.
Islam was absent from Europe when this rewiring took place. Unlike its Christian and Jewish antagonists, it hasn’t been liberalized or secularized. And it insists on being a public religion because theocracy is what it was built to do. Islam was not the religion of the oppressed. It was the religion of the oppressors. It equates morality with authority. If it doesn’t control the public square, then it has no function.
To Europeans, the infringement of religious values on public life is considered extremism. More so than blowing up buses. But Islam is dedicated to doing exactly that. It is an unreconstructed theocracy.
The Extremism report talks around these basic facts. The solution of all the extremism projects is to combat Islamic theocracy by having governments distinguish “good Islam” from “bad Islam”. It’s a silly and awkward solution because it creates a government religion in the name of combating a government religion.
The difference, as in countries like Egypt or Russia, is that it’s supposed to end with government riding herd on religion instead of the other way around. But it’s not likely that the UK will have the stomach for the confrontation and repression that Egypt or Russia carry off with a shrug. And so Islam will ride it.
When Western governments talk about countering extremism, they mean picking and choosing between the obvious Islamists who march around with “Sharia for the UK” banners and the slightly more subtle followers of Qutb who promise to fight extremism with their moderate front groups.
True to form, the UK report tries to fight Islam with more Islam. It rightly calls for more thorough inspections of religious schools and urges universities to choose their speakers more wisely, but then it throws in proposals to equip every university and prison with more Muslim chaplains.
It never asks why, if Saudi-trained Imams are the solution to extremism, Saudi Arabia, which has more Imams per square metre than even Tower Hamlets, also turns out more Muslim terrorists than even Tower Hamlets.
Nowhere on earth has an increase in the number of Imams led to a decrease in theocratic violence. It’s like trying to slow down left-wing violence by importing more Communist agitators. It can’t ever work.
In totalitarian movements, the difference between the moderates and extremists lies only in the paths that they take to the same final goal. The radicals want action now. The moderates are willing to wait until the demographics are firmly on their side. The radicals want to blow up buses. The moderates want to expand immigration numbers. And both totalitarian paths ultimately lead to Londonistan.
Both the moderates and the extremists are Islamists. They both want an Islam that is a public religion. And that is not only a public religion, but the public religion.
It is not only the extremism of means by those who wish to make Islam into the religion of the state rapidly and violently that ought to concern Cameron; but it is also the extremism of ends that is Islam regardless of whether its rule is achieved by the bomb or the ballot box that ought to worry him.
The unlicensed beheaders are the short term threat. But the long term threat is a Britain in which the beheaders are licensed by the state.