In a previous article I noted that the so-called “counterjihad” is really a confederacy of covetous and ideologically opposed individuals and groups with inflated egos loosely united by hate for, and an irrational fear of, Islam and Muslims.
All that binds them is Islamomisia and Islamophobia. On the surface their ideological backgrounds provide a motive: a belief in the need to preserve Christianity in the face of post-Modernity and a rise in Secular Humanism, a belief that it is good for Israel and Zionism, a desire to keep White Europe pure, the nostalgic belief that they are the vanguard “defenders of freedom” who will not only save the “West” from a resurgent Islam but harken in a golden age, and if not–Armageddon.
These contradicting aims and ideologies are often combustible, leading to internecine blog wars that reveal the inherent instability within the movement.
There is however a group that I failed to mention, the self-described “9/11 Liberals,” a group that joined with neo-Conservatives after 9/11. Some are Atheists, Anti-Theists, Agnostics, former Communists, Socialists, Democrats, etc.
What they have in common is their belief that the “West” is morally and culturally superior to all other societies and civilizations and (replacing Communism) that so-called “Islamist totalitarianism” is the gravest threat to the world.
Like their 18th, 19th and 20th century imperialist predecessors they believe with militant missionary zeal that the rest of the world, especially the Muslim world must be “civilized” and “modernized.” In the process they whitewash the history of colonialism and Orientalism and support interventionist wars, i.e. the spread of “democracy” through force.
They also arrogantly claim to be the “defenders of rationalism/reason,” when in fact they depart from rationalism and pick up the traits of those Jacobins who deified reason and left carnage and blood in their wake.
Maajid Nawaz: Bill Maher’s kind of Muslim
Bill Maher, a self-proclaimed “9/11 Liberal” fits the above description. He has a history of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, claiming falsely that Islam and Muslims are: uniquely more violent than practitioners of other faiths, the Bible is less violent than the Qur’an, there are “too many Mohammads” in the West and he is fearful they will “takeover,” Arab men (who he interchanges with Muslims) are all horrible to women, and women cannot vote in 19 out of 22 Arab states. Maher is also a staunch supporter of Obama’s drone assassination program and is on record defending Geert Wilders.
Maajid Nawaz starts off by answering Maher’s question about Quilliam Foundation’s purpose:
[Maajid Nawaz]: “Quilliam is the world’s first counter-extremism think tank, basically what we are about is counter-messaging. Trying to popularize counter-narratives against Islamist extremism…we’re focusing on counter-messaging, getting into the grassroots in places like Pakistan and galvanizing young people and inoculate them against extremist narratives and popularize democratic [unintelligible].”
I am unsure if Quilliam is really the first “counter-extremism think tank” (there are many who have made a living in that trade) but this is a good start; no one minds an organization that battles “extremism.”
Extremism is a serious issue, however: is Quilliam well placed to tackle such an issue? Will a PR campaign of counter-messaging be a solution to the complicated social, economic and political reasons why individuals embrace extremism? It appears Quilliam does not fit the bill, it suffers from a severe deficit of trust and is overwhelmingly disdained by UK Muslims who are extremely critical of the organization.
Maher who is apparently oblivious to Quilliam’s reputation in the UK responds by heaping effusive praise on Nawaz,
[Bill Maher]: “I have to say you are the only guy I’ve ever heard of doing this. Why isn’t the government giving you a grant to do this and a medal.”
Nawaz is Maher’s kind of Muslim! He even wants to stick a medal on him!
Maher is flatly wrong and ignorant on this point for two reasons: 1.) Before there was a Quilliam and before Maajid Nawaz left his radical days with Hizb-ut-Tahrir there were many Muslims who were actively and successfully countering extremism, as they view it as antithetical to Islam.
2.) Quilliam has until recently been funded by the UK government, so they in fact have been getting grants!
Instead of acknowledging this fact Nawaz responds by saying:
[Maajid Nawaz]: “I don’t know if government grants at this stage would help because they would probably get me killed.”
[Maajid Nawaz]: “You ask: Why aren’t more people doing this? The answer, Malala the young girl who wanted to challenge the Taliban because she wanted an education and they shot her in the head and that’s the short answer, the short reason why more people aren’t doing this.”
By going down this line, Maajid Nawaz, gives credence to the false narrative often propagated by bigots and Islamophobes that “Muslims have been silent,” and are “too afraid” to counter extremism. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Following up, Maher brings in his New Atheist comrade Sam Harris as if appeal to authority (even if Sam Harris has none) enhances the correctness of his claim,
[Bill Maher]: “And they did not kill her, little Malala. And Sam Harris called her ‘the best thing to happen to Islam in a thousand years.’ Would you agree with that?”
On this absurd remark Nawaz was amazingly silent, he could’ve at least replied by saying: “I think Malala is wonderful as well but…‘the best thing to happen to Islam in a thousand years?’ That’s stretching it by A LOT.”
Harris and his ilk don’t really care about Malala, she’s only relevant to them in so far as they can attack Islam and Muslims. Malala opposes the policies they support and promote because they would leave her and her friends droned out of existence. Curiously, you never hear a word about that.
Maajid went on to make some bodacious claims about how there is a lack of “democratic symbols” in the Middle East.
[Maajid Nawaz]: “On the flip-side I had asked people what are the democratic symbols in the Middle East? Who are the democratic leaders and we can’t think of them. They are conspicuous by their absence. Now Malala and others have come along. It’s nascent, it’s in its early stages but that’s the sort of thing we are trying to generate.”
Maybe the invasion of Iraq will do as a “symbol?” Perhaps Maajid will be the magic symbol that fills the void of “democratic symbols” in the Middle East?
The reason why “Westerners” are unaware of the democratic leaders in the Middle East is because many are ignorant, they do not know the likes of Asmaa Mahfouz, Rachid Ghannouchi, or even the Noble Prize winner Tawakkol Karman (she won’t be invited onto Real Time anytime soon).
At this point Maher interjected to once again add another Atheist comrade to the mix, this time Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
[Bill Maher]: “And Ayaan Hirsi Ali. There are some people out there doing this.”
If Nawaz had courage, he would have pointed out to Maher that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a fanatical anti-Muslim bigot who has called for “Islam to be crushed militarily,” called for the constitution to be changed to eliminate Muslim rights, and has sympathized with the terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. Most importantly he could have informed Maher that Ayaan isn’t “doing” anything for Muslims, female or otherwise.
Instead, Maajid endorses Ayaan Hirsi Ali,
[Maajid Nawaz]: “Few and far between but there are more and more. Ayaan’s specific remit is ‘women’s issues,’ ‘gender rights,’ Malala’s is ‘education.’ I work in the grassroots to provide counter-narratives and all of this put together is the beginnings of a nascent phenomenon.”
And then people are dumbfounded about why Muslims would be critical of Maajid Nawaz. He strikes one as hypocritical, on the one hand he leads a “counter-extremism” think tank but on the other hand he is silent or supportive of extremists on the other end who want to obliterate Islam militarily.
Between his interview with Nawaz and the Overtime portion of the show Maher got into a debate about Islam with his panelists: Michael Moore, Valerie Plame, Rev. Al Sharpton and Richard Dawkins. In the process Maher once again trotted out his usual nonsense about how uniquely evil Islam is in comparison with other religions. Maher said, “Christianity is herpes and Islam is cancer.” Think of the ramifications of that statement, herpes is usually benign, flares up once in a while and you’re stuck with it for life but cancer is a life threatening disease that must be excised from the body or you will die. In essence Maher is echoing Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “Islam must be crushed.”
The Overtime portion would have been a perfect opportunity for Nawaz to take issue with Maher’s description of Islam as “cancer,” but again he was silent even though he claimed to have listened to the whole discussion.
Nawaz is correct in one respect, as has been noted numerous times in the past, (including on our website), the leaders, theoreticians and ideologues of extremist organizations, some of which self-describe as “Islamist” are overwhelmingly not theologians, scholars or specialists in Islam.
Many of them are novices in the religion, usually doctors, engineers and scientists. It should also be added that most extremists and terrorists are uneducated in Islam.
Nawaz’s explanation that “Islamism” was merely an outgrowth of Arab Socialism, i.e. Ba’athist fascism in religious garb isn’t convincing. A serious tracing of the genealogy of ideas and intellectual history of “Islamism” shows us that these two political forces are unique and contradictory even if at times certain ideas have overlapped.
“Islamism” is a fraught term, as it attempts to describe a disparate, diverse and geographically spread out phenomenon that is ever evolving in monolithic language. While some groups and ideologues self-describe as “Islamiyoon” (Islamists), often groups who do not are also lumped into the category of “Islamism.”
Adding to the fraught nature of the term many Muslims reject its validity wholesale. It doesn’t matter to them if it is employed by political groups for purposes of self-description or not because of the abuse and violence many of its proponents both Muslim and non-Muslim perpetrate against “Islam.”
Islam of course predates the concept of “Islamism,” a thoroughly modern phenomenon that quixotically attempts to unite “deen wa dawla” (religion and state), establish an “Islamic state,” and reconcile the ideology of nationalism within an Islamic politics.
The contradictions between Islam and this broad conception of “Islamism” are evident. Dawla for most of Islamic history and literature has been defined and referred to as meaning “dynasty.” The modern nation state conception was an outgrowth of Christian Europe and is alien to the long history of Islam which favored strong societies and weak governments rather than strong states and weak societies. Islam and the modern concept of nationalism are also in tension.
This topic and its lending itself to the “Good Muslim vs. Bad Muslim” dichotomy would require a feature series on its own which is beyond the purview of the present article.
I don’t know what the future holds for Maajid Nawaz and Quilliam but clearly being Bill Maher’s favorite Muzzie isn’t going to win him much sympathy, in fact he will likely continue to find support lacking and criticism high, I just hope people understand better why.
Also Read: Quilliam Foundation–Powerbase (h/t:VforVendetta)