The Muslim leader who can defeat Islamism

By Jake Wilde

After the terrorist attacks in Brussels three months ago I wrote about the danger of under-reacting, in particular about not making the mistake of thinking that Daesh were comparable to traditional European “liberation” movements such as the IRA.

“Daesh are not attacking European cities in order to conquer them. Or to force countries to leave them in peace in their so-called caliphate. They attack because they wish us dead. If they had nuclear weapons they would use them. There are no demands from Daesh because they have none. There are no warnings before bombings because this is not about terror, it is about death. There is nothing to negotiate, nothing to discuss over a cup of tea.”

I think this is being missed in the analysis of the atrocity in Orlando, described by President Obama as terrorism (and there are other factors involved too). This is understandable shorthand for ideologically based mass murder but it is incorrect. The purpose of terrorism is to induce fear amongst a population in order to modify behaviour, such as the withdrawal of troops or political concessions, or flight amongst a civilian population. Daesh have no such motivations. They do not demand that the United States stop their bombing campaign. They do not demand peace talks. These are not terror attacks, these are death attacks.

In my previous piece I also drew the contrast between Al Qaeda and Daesh, in that the latter have generally relied upon radicalised national citizens to undertake their attacks, either as part of a centrally organised and coordinated campaign using cells and networks, or inspiring individuals to act alone without any direction. This is covered in greater detail in an excellent piece by Kevin D Williamson today in National Review:

“We speak of “lone wolf” jihadists as though this phenomenon were somehow independent of the wider Islamist project. It is not. The model of “leaderless resistance” in the service of terrorist projects is not new, and it has not been employed by the Islamists at random. If Omar Mateen turns out, as expected, to have had little or no substantive contact with organized Islamist groups, that fact will demonstrate the success of their communication strategy rather than the limitations of their reach.”

Max Boot, writing in Commentary today, also makes the point that there is no magic bullet for stopping the “lone wolf”, but diligence and extensive (occasionally undercover) intelligence:

Of course, the best human intelligence-gathering depends on the cooperation of the communities where you are trying to gain information. Thus, maintaining good relations between the American Muslim community and various law enforcement agencies is of critical importance. Unfortunately Donald Trump’s crude anti-Muslim rhetoric and his calls to “ban” foreign Muslims (which would not have stopped the American-born Mateen) detract from this goal by sending Muslims a message that they are less than wholly American. Part of the reason why there has been less terrorism in the U.S. than in Europe is that we have done a better job of assimilating our Muslims. It would be a costly tragedy if that achievement were to be undone.

The multi-layered Islamist war upon non-Islamists claims lives across the world, in Iraq and Syria, in Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Western Europe, the United States and countless other countries and regions besides, with the fifty people murdered in Orlando the latest western casualties. The Islamists involved in this war are a mixture of conventional troops, cell-based terror groups and individuals motivated to act alone. The latter two concentrate upon, almost exclusively, “soft” targets amongst the civilian population. As Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister who is still the clearest voice in The West on what needs to be done, observed after the Paris Attacks “We are at war”. So why are we not behaving as though we are? There is no sense that we, as a society, have been galvanised to do anything other than mourn when yet another atrocity is committed.

We need to be honest with ourselves. We have an enemy, and that enemy wants us dead. We must abandon our normal concepts of an enemy that can be subdued, educated and brought back into the fold. I fear we have yet to convince people, especially in the West, that this is not like the terrorism they are either used to or have read in history books. The blunt truth is that the only good Islamist is a dead Islamist. This is a difficult concept for our Western liberal sensitivities to accept.

But we forget that we are not the only enemy of Islamism and we need to work harder to build alliances at home and around the world, not just with Muslims but with everybody who isn’t an Islamist. This requires genuine leadership. It is understandable why some have mistaken Donald Trump’s overblown, ill-conceived and insubstantial rhetoric for leadership.

The controversy surrounding Owen Jones’s appearance on Sky News illustrates what needs to happen. People who attend a gay-friendly nightclub are targets in the same way as Nigerian schoolgirls, Jewish shoppers, or Parisian rock fans. Gay people are targeted because they are gay, and that, to Islamists, is an additional crime upon their broader crime of not being Islamists. It follows that there should be common ground between the LGBTI community and every other non-Islamist section of society on this one issue if nothing else, and this is important enough to be called a matter of life or death.

To create such an alliance between the LGBTI community and non-Islamist Muslims is certainly a challenge but we have, in Europe, an example of the leadership that is required. Earlier today I tweeted about the importance of Muslim leaders like Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi:

President Thaçi is a Muslim who fought to liberate his country, not to impose a caliphate but a liberal democracy. He is the fifth President of a country that saw 314 of its citizens join Daesh in the last two years. Constitutionally secular Kosovo has found itself at the centre of the broader conflict between the old West and the new East. This is from Carlotta Gall’s detailed piece for the New York Times on Daesh’s Kosovar recruits:

They were radicalized and recruited, Kosovo investigators say, by a corps of extremist clerics and secretive associations funded by Saudi Arabia and other conservative Arab gulf states using an obscure, labyrinthine network of donations from charities, private individuals and government ministries.

“They promoted political Islam,” said Fatos Makolli, the director of Kosovo’s counterterrorism police. “They spent a lot of money to promote it through different programs mainly with young, vulnerable people, and they brought in a lot of Wahhabi and Salafi literature. They brought these people closer to radical political Islam, which resulted in their radicalization.”

In May of this year President Thaçi was at the head of Pristina’s first ever Gay Pride march. Those who think that it is impossible for Islam and the LGBTI community to work together against hate and death need look no further than President Thaçi. More than that, he also knows the perils of failing to act. Carlotta Gall again:

Why the Kosovar authorities — and American and United Nations overseers — did not act sooner to forestall the spread of extremism is a question being intensely debated.

As early as 2004, the Prime Minister at the time, Bajram Rexhepi, tried to introduce a law to ban extremist sects. But, he said in a recent interview at his home in northern Kosovo, European officials told him that it would violate freedom of religion.

“It was not in their interest, they did not want to irritate some Islamic countries,” Mr Rexhepi said. “They simply did not do anything.”

Writing in The Guardian towards the end of 2014, while Prime Minister, Thaçi said:

“Kosovo is a country where the majority of the population declare themselves to be Muslim. But Kosovars wholly reject the religious dogma proposed by radical strains of political Islam, and we shall not allow it to endanger our path towards eventual NATO and EU membership.

We will crush any cells that believe, wrongfully, that they can find cover in Kosovo. Just as my former guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army rejected offers from jihadists who wanted to volunteer in the 1999 war, we now reject the new evil that is stemming from Islamic State and related groups in the Middle East.”

Here is the model then, for both Western countries and Islamism’s enemies amongst Islamic countries, to follow. Kosovo have turned the situation around, destroying the networks that acted as recruitment to Daesh and putting the perpetrators on trial. The result has been popular support for Hashim Thaçi’s election as President in February and Kosovars having the highest approval rating in the world for the United States.

Writing after Austria’s Presidential election saw a narrow defeat for the far right candidate, Norbert Hofer, Thaçi explained the potentially crucial role that Kosovars, and other Balkan citizens, could play in the quest for a peaceful future:

“Hofer’s platform, like other far-right movements in Europe is based on the Huntingtonian concept of the clash of civilizations and on promoting the theory that Islam is incompatible with Europe. For us in Kosovo, Albania or Bosnia, with large strata of our societies belonging to the Muslim faith, this effectively excludes us from feeling part of the continent where we have lived for centuries, indeed millennia.

Besides, Kosovo is not Muslim: our society is secular and civic.

Kosovo became the first Balkan country to elect a woman president in 2011 and is the only Balkan country to have recognised the LGBTI community in its constitution. I led the LGBTI Pride Parade in Kosovo last month to mark our support for this community precisely to show our citizens and the wider world that extremism and prejudice has no place in our midst.

Neither are we a safe haven for extremists. Our security services have made 110 arrests and secured 67 indictments and 26 convictions against ISIS supporters in our country. US Secretary of State John Kerry noted in a recent visit to Kosovo that Kosovars are the regional leaders in combating violent extremism.”

The bombastic soundbites and the vague military strategy offered by Donald Trump needs to be rejected, not because the use of force is not the solution, but because Trump suggests that he can solve the problem without Muslims. That is to ignore the most fundamental of simple facts – more Muslims die at the hands of Islamists than anyone else. Islamism is a far bigger problem for Muslims than it is for The West and Muslims like Hashim Thaçi have proved they have the answers to destroy Islamism while retaining a commitment to liberal democracy. If it’s a strongman you want then at least look to the real thing.

 

Reflections on Paris

By Matt Corden

The immediate response to any tragedy of this sort should be a profound sense of grief for the fallen. Despite the ferocity of the attack and the agonisingly innocent victims, inspirational resilience has been shown by the citizens of Paris.

After President Hollande declared war on radical Islamism, it didn’t take long before we were lectured about the dangers of “escalating the conflict,” “giving them what they want” or “the narrative of us and them.” But the conflict has been going on for over two decades now, they already have what they want and they’ve already made it about us and them. Throughout the 1990s, the Armed Islamic Group were attempting to set up an Islamic State in Algeria; al-Qaeda were still running their global network of jihad from a safe haven in Afghanistan; and regular attacks were happening not just on American and European targets, but as far away as India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Islamic jihad – that has absolutism, supremacism and a cult of death at its core – had already succeeded in making coexistence with it impossible a long time ago. Today its hyperactive militancy is being felt around the world every single day, from Nigeria to Somalia to Syria. Events in Paris were a timely reminder that people cannot expect a cosy life of liberal democracy in their own European cities under the pretence that this is “none of our business.” If Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his followers are going to be internationalists, then we’re going to have to be too. As Alex Massie has eloquently put it: you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.

Those looking for peace for our time will have to get used to the fact that it will be on al-Baghdadi’s terms. The world will have to get used to the idea of a Caliphate empire; women will have to get used to covering themselves if they don’t want acid thrown in their face; homosexuals will have to get used to being thrown off buildings; and anybody else who doesn’t submit to their absolutist religious demands will have to get used to being raped or put to death at any time. Anybody who thinks these are acceptable conditions for peace better get ready for their demise.

I have the feeling that some on social media missed the irony of their outrage when they pointed out excessive media coverage of Paris in comparison to the attacks in Beirut or Baghdad. The wake-up call is welcome, but if the Parisian attack was what was needed to draw their attention to the global nature of this conflict, then they should at least have the decency to question their own parochial attitudes too.

It’s ironically Eurocentric to insist that jihad is simply a product of Western imperialism; it’s obvious in the language of their sermons and communiques that it’s inherent in the ideology of religious absolutism. Paris was ridiculed by the attackers as “the capital of prostitution and obscenity;” alienation, economic hardship, colonialism or any of the other usual apologia you hear wasn’t mentioned once. To pick just one example: the slaughter of the Yazidi Christians – dug up from a mass grave last week after the liberation of Sinjar – was not the result of their unrelenting imperialism or their drone warfare.

The question looms over us all as to how much security we’re willing to sacrifice for liberty or how much liberty we’re willing to sacrifice for security, forever searching for that happy medium between the state of nature and Hobbesian absolutism. I think history will be unkind to Theresa May in her attempt to police the free exchange of ideas by banning fundamentalist opinion on the airwaves and on University campuses, citing the painfully vague principle of “protecting British values.” Aside from negating moral universalism by nationalising principles, it will also drive a very serious ideological crisis underground. It removes the impetus to discus why democracy and pluralism are worth having in the first place. This isn’t just for my sake; it’s for the sake of the ongoing dialectic and debate within Muslim communities on this urgent issue. By extension, commonly held illiberal views regarding homosexuality, blasphemy or the role of women need to be confronted head on.

It should go without saying that Muslims or migrants should not be collectively blamed for these atrocities; freedom of religion and the assumption of innocence is an inseparable part of pluralist society. The refugees from war-torn Syria are escaping the same violent theocrats who rendered their ugly faces at the Stade de France. It’s becoming more apparent that sexually frustrated European-born teenagers are the problem, as the perpetrators in Paris have so far shown. The shooting at Chapel Hill or thuggish nationalist groups like PEGIDA highlight that the assumption of innocence is not yet universally appreciated. The French Front National is the one of the largest extreme-Right parties in Europe, receiving funds directly from Mr. Putin.

Most of the victims of armed jihad are Muslims. Innumerable sacred monuments of Shi’a Islam have been blown up by Sunni gangsters. Huge sections of the Kurdish resistance against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are Sunni Muslim by confession. In fighting the Taliban, the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan – led by the heroic Ahmad Shah Massoud – consisted almost entirely of pious Muslims. Meanwhile, the youth of Iran have unanimously agreed that a holy book is no guide from which to run a society, choosing instead to look towards the secular American model. All of this points to an ongoing war of reformation between the peace-loving modernists and the militant medievalists. The reformation within the reformation is between the secular Muslims and the politically-motivated Islamists.

For this reason, it’s facile – even if it’s well meaning – to pretend that militant jihad isn’t an Islamic issue. By denying the religious connection and insisting that that these attacks are mutually exclusive, you deny the power of the liberal reformists in the Muslim world to challenge and destroy the extremists. Progressive Muslim commentators are leading the campaign to drop the faddish notion of “this is not Islam.” David Cameron – on the advice of the exemplary reformist Maajid Nawaz – is one of the few world leaders to explicitly recognize the religious aspirations of terror. I don’t know whether violence is inherent in Islamic teaching, and neither do those who declare with such conviction that it isn’t. I can only have a vague suspicion that stories of Muhammad ordering the death of Asma bint Marwan for blasphemy hadsomething to do with the Charlie Hebdo attack, or that stories of Muhammad expelling the Jewish Banu Qaynuqa tribe from Medina has something to do with the the rampant anti-Semitism within Islamist circles. This makes it all the more important to engage with dissenting voices in the Muslim world, as they will ultimately be the ones to prise out this fundamentalist tendency.

In the end this is not a war between civilizations, this is a war for civilization. The French traditions of liberté, égalité, fraternité and laicité are always worth defending against those who wish to destroy them.

Russell Brand and the vacuity of a faux revolutionary

This is a cross-post by Tom Owolade (@owolade14) at Politics Ad Infinitum

The imperishable author and raconteur Mark Twain once opined that if you “give a man a reputation of an early riser, he can sleep till noon”.

In a culture which is noted for being meretricious, so called “celebrities” who have the appearance of erudition and speak in grandiloquent soundbites tend to be exulted to a quasi-cultish degree. One notable example of such a trend is Russell Brand.

For one thing, Brand’s characteristically mellifluent rhetoric is underpinned by platitudes; his modus operandi, as stated in an interview with Mehdi Hasan is to instigate a “revolution of consciousness”. What exactly does that mean? It sounds erringly similar to the inchoate ramblings of a LSD induced post-modernist Gallic philosopher.

As a an apparent revolutionary he also to tries to discourage people from voting. Except that by relinquishing your suffrage one is not engaging in a revolutionary act, but is instead engaging in the actions of a reactionary troglodyte; It undermines an essential component of being a democratic citizen and effecting political change.

The most noble and praiseworthy actions of English radicalism was campaigning successfully in compelling Parliament to assign suffrage to all members of society. Arguing against voting constitutes an egregious inversion of such struggles- which made democratic citizenry an inalienable right.

The apotheosis of Brand’s moral retardation however finds form in his contention that David Cameron is a more imminent threat to Britain than the soi-dissant ‘Islamic state’. Not only does this underplay the evident existential threat of IS by framing them as only “abstract” and “conceptual” threats- such a juxtaposition between heinous barbarians and a Tory toff is actually indicative of Brand’s perverse moral calculus.

Mr Cameron, though he has many faults, does not subjugate women to slavery (a significant affront to gender equality), he does not evangelise unrestrained hatred to those who don’t adhere to his religious beliefs ( a significant affront to secularism) and most importantly he does not engage in genocidal practices (which is a significant affront to humanity).

Yet by framing Cameron as more of a threat than IS, Brand is engaging what has characterised the far left since their dalliance with Stalinism: dysphemistic masochism and euphemistic impartiality. “We are responsible for IS and shouldn’t do anything” (paralysing the possibility of any coherent strategy to counter the group and absolving them from any moral responsibility for their abhorrent actions). “The west is a greater threat to the world than IS”, oh really! A coalition of governments which at the very least entertain the realisation of enlightenment values is worse than fascistic, internecine zealots.

My use of collective pronoun above is of course conceptual because Russell Brand is really a narcissist of the worst kind: one who views himself as noble and intelligent and self-effacing. One who is probably all too aware of the sophistry inherent in his polemics but continues to peddle them so as to assuage the spineless status of pretentious, lazy liberals.

One who is devoid of any genuine principle- appearing on Russian state tv propaganda– and one who has the nauseating audacity to inaugurate “the next Orwell” as if he were a notable expert on Orwell- or on anything for that matter.

Oh, and he isn’t fucking funny either.

If I Had a Hammer…

by David Paxton (@CanYouFlyBobby)

In case you were unaware, there is currently a theocratic, fascistic, paramilitary force operating in North-West Iraq. In recent days the object of these gentlemen’s endeavours has been to capture, rape, convert, starve or murder an entire religious group. i.e. genocide. And by any proper definition of the word ‘genocide’.  Not like some Spanish actor opining about Israeli operations in Gaza. Actual, scary, nasty, full-blown, hairy-arsed genocide.  The sort we are supposed to have an international and internationalist obligation to prevent.

The group’s propaganda often consists of videos of hacking off heads followed by hi-def  stills of these heads imaginatively arrayed. Other highlights include videos of driving alongside cars and unloading AK 47s into the driver and passengers, pulling over and finishing up at close range. If these are unavailable then shootings of prone prisoners in mass graves often have to do.

They indoctrinate children with the desire to join the ‘jihad’ and ‘kill infidels’ and ‘apostates’. They do this in a clear state of religious exultation, with hearty songs and full cries available on the accompanying audio. Sometimes they can be reduced to tears by the sheer joy and passion of their work.

Last night Owen Jones, the Orwell of Our Generation™, explained why dropping a bomb on such people, in the course of their genocide, is a bad idea. It is a bad idea because it will “fuel them”.

I know, I know, how much more fuel could they require? How much more commitment could they possibly muster? Or even withstand?

But perhaps, to give him the benefit of the doubt, he means ‘fuel’ in the sense of recruitment. That their ranks would swell.

The recruits already come from all over, if they are not Syrian and other Middle Easterners they are from North Africa and the European, Antipodean and American Muslim Diasporas. There is little indication that they are relying on fresh Iraqi Sunnis to survive. So can this really be what ‘fuels’ means? I doubt it. I doubt he knows.

He also said, “the key issue with ISIS is Sunni resentment towards a sectarian government”. Although they currently fight several governments we can surely assume that the government in question, in the fight in Iraq, is the Iraqi one (this government’s existence is clearly the fault of the neoliberal US/West, if this helps understand the choice at all). If one cares to listen to these people they clearly state their aim is to resurrect the Caliphate. And they would now argue that they have achieved this. Such an ambition has previously been expressed by several groups, long before Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took office. So is it fair to attach such parochial motivation to this internationally recruited group especially when it contradicts their own proclamations? Could it simply be that this motivation would be the one for which the US are most culpable?

As said, this is a genocide going on right now. For the Yazidi the situation is utterly urgent. Hence emergency food and water being dropped on their desolate mountain hideaway as I write. I asked Jones what best case time-frame could be expected to achieve this soothing of Sunni resentment. I received no answer, but contrasting the urgency of the Yazidi situation with any possible answer, we surely arrive at the conclusion that to address ‘Sunni resentment with a sectarian government’ at the exclusion of confronting the combatants, we would be allowing genocide. Accepting genocide. Standing aside in the face of genocide.

This is a severe accusation to be sure. However, today when the US is about the only significant force that actually has a chance of stopping the onslaught, and the worst possible blowback is to ‘fuel’ the responsible group mid-genocide, are we not compelled to make the accusation?

The paucity of logic in the point of view Jones provides, combined with the implications of its outcomes, raises the following question: At what point is it fair to consider this merely the contortions of somebody who simply cannot, under any circumstances, accept the notion that the vast power of the US military can possibly be used in a positive way? That any action by the US is inherently bad. That any actions by local actors are merely the consequences of the only actor ascribed any agency. As David Aaronovitch said in his exchange with him, “it’s a view”. But it’s a view that is simply not morally serious.

This is ad hominem, but the argument under examination doesn’t hold up to any logical justification. When an intelligent person forwards such an argument what other avenue is left but the ad hominem?

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And unfortunately it seems Owen Jones merely has anti-Americanism as a basis for any thinking about international affairs. Surely a terrible vanity and conceit when so many are faced with such an urgent catastrophe.

Now to a large extent the above is a statement of the obvious. So perhaps not worth the effort. Except Owen Jones is a man of influence. An unserious voice seriously listened to by a great many. Particularly by the young, a young with voting power. His views are very far from an anomaly. If the arguments expressed last night are indeed from the Orwell of Our Generation™, well, then this is very bad. In the pretentious words of a snooty Chicago maître’d, I weep for the future.