Friday 15 January 2016
Today Indonesia is in mourning. The world’s largest Muslim nation has lost citizens to terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam. A suicide bomber killed at least two people and spread fear throughout the population. The vast majority of the fatalities from Islamist terrorism internationally are Muslims, and yet Sunni Muslims conducted 450 of the 452 suicide bombings in 2015. What is happening?
Not just in Indonesia, but this week we have seen killings in Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a growing dogma of seeking separation and creating confrontation that is finding followers within the Muslim world. We call this Isis now; we called it al-Qaeda previously. The name must not distract us – there is an underlying mindset, a unity of purpose that is shared by these murderers.
This is a global problem, but it festers in our midst. The attacks in Indonesia are an attack on us, the West. We are yet to wake up to the depth of the problem: governments cannot solve this on their own. Terrorists are growing in number because we in the West are scared of promoting our values. Our political correctness stops us from identifying the separatist mentality that leads to terrorism.
Isis regularly mocks the West for our “analysis paralysis”. We cannot decide what is right and wrong because we have lost our moral compass – they, meanwhile, retain an extreme clarity.
Guilty from days of empire, we no longer feel we have the right to tell others how to behave. Islamist fanatics have no such compunctions and exploit our reticence. This is a culture war, a battle of ideas.
When a German judge allows a Muslim husband to beat his wife because the “Koran permits it”, and “it is their culture”, then we are letting the hardliners win. When our teachers, in all good intent, grant girls as young as four and five the right to wear the hijab to schools across Europe we are sending a message that these young children are different, and we accept their markers of separation.
In our universities, there are student events where Muslim women are seated at the back or, worse, in separate rooms. A UCL debate was organised with segregated seating until one speaker refused to participate under those conditions.
Across our campuses, where we are meant to be producing open and inquisitive minds, we are fostering a new culture of the far left getting in bed with the Islamist far right. The National Union of Students has consistently battled with successive governments and opposed the anti-extremism agenda of the Government. Worse, in the name of free speech, student unions on multiple campuses have held events with an advocacy group that labels Jihadi John “a beautiful brother”.
The calls for boycotting of Israel by leading academics in the UK is another sign of the atmosphere in which student life is conducted. This is not only about Israel. Until recently, Islamist activists shunned Holocaust Memorial Day. Their hatred for Jews is only one side of their ideology. That mood music has consequences: anti-Semitism is on the increase. Synagogues and Jewish communities employ private security in our country because they do not feel safe. That fact alone should make us hold our heads in shame.
Mohamed Emwazi aka Jihadi John, Umar Farouk Abdulmtallab aka the “underwear bomber” and others were also products of our education system. Something deeply disturbing is afoot. We are no longer challenging bigotry, prejudice and hatred as long as it is garbed in Islam.
We think we are helping Muslims: in fact, we are allowing dogmatic terrorists to hijack a world religion. There is nothing in the Koran or the teachings of the Prophet that suggests girls as young as four should be wearing a headscarf. Why are we letting their childhood be stolen? Why are we aiding those who advance conspiracy theories and loathe Jews? Have we learned nothing from our own European history about where such rhetoric ends?
Young Muslims in Britain are being raised on a diet of anti-US, anti-Israel protest politics that university professors refuse to challenge in classrooms because they are part of this self-flagellating “anti-imperialism”. This is identity politics which marked a differentiation, a confrontation with the wider society. We want to believe Muslims are different.
The rise of this racism of low expectations feeds the culture of victimhood that gives Isis ideology an echo chamber in Britain. British Muslims in their hundreds are going to live in the caliphate because they believe the propaganda and claims of Isis to be representing Islam.
Nothing could be further from the truth. North Korea claims to be democratic: its name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. But we know enough about democracy to deny them that title. The vast majority of the world’s Muslims deny and defy Isis as being legitimately Islamic. Yet our impulse is to see Isis as a product of Islam. The world’s foremost Sunni Muslim scholar, Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, and a millennium of scholarship before him, emphasise that the shariah is entirely about the preservation of faith, family, intellect, wealth, and human security. These are known as the maqasid of the higher aims of the shariah.
Islamists and their jihadist cousins do not share this millennium-old Islam. Theirs is a religion of literalism: of taking over governments, imposing a literalist reading of scripture to stone adulterers, throw homosexuals from buildings, amputate the hands of thieves, live in a permanent state of jihad with Muslims who disagree, and kill non-Muslims. This is not the Islam that gave us the Taj Mahal or the Blue Mosque.
The West’s universities and intelligentsia need to stop playing the mood music to which Isis dances, and support the Muslim mainstream in destroying this cancer in our midst.
Ed Husain is a senior adviser at the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics (CRG), an initiative of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation