Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Peace in our time – appeasing radical Islam

In today's Guardian, the Australian Yassir Morsi writes an obtuse article on tackling radical Islam and how moderate Muslims in the west are failing in this task. As a backdrop, Morsi uses the infamous picture of a smiling seven year old boy holding a severed head in Syria (the boy is the son of a wanted Australian jihadist).
What Morsi has produced is a loquacious, long-winded excuse for an article that does excuse radical Islam, only that it does so in an intentionally meandering and surreptitious way.

Morsi is basically suggesting appeasement. That in order to stop children holding severed heads, liberal society should contemplate giving up on the moderate Muslims who denounce – and instead strike a deal with the radicals who laud – children holding severed heads.

The gist of the deal is: stop using violence and we will accommodate you. A bit like asking Hitler to get rid of the SA in exchange for your loyalty, in the hope that it will temper his movement. 
         Australian jihadist Khaled Sharrouf with his sons. He recently tweeted a picture
         of one of the sons holding the decapitated head of a Syrian soldier.

Morsi is suggesting to the majority in liberal society to give the extreme strands of political Islam a chance and not so much challenge their outlook. By extension it becomes a suggestion to abandon any hope of a wholesale integration of Muslims into liberal society, and instead focus on accommodating the wishes of fringe Muslims – which bears with it the possibility to ultimately set up parallel societies.
The key paragraph is this one, in which the key line is emboldened:
"Throwing more money and labour at this task, to fight a 'radical' Islam, is not working. Investing in a dissenting Islam that defeats its violent streak through its own political evolution might be more productive. Many Muslims in Australia retain political ambitions: to resist, and win back their religion, which they feel they keep losing."
Note that Morsi places radical in quotation marks; he would rather label it dissenting, the Islamist strand that can sufferance decapitating dissenters. As long as it could just pretty-pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top stop being violent (evolve), it should be accepted into the mainstream political fold.
Of course, Morsi puts the onus on the liberal society to do this, by “investing in” – “throwing more money” at – the political Islam that denounces that very same society.
My opinion is that if these peeps who want to “win back their religion” feel that their religious inclinations can’t be channeled trough a moderate prism, then that says a lot about their religious outlook and I can’t see why it should be invested in.
There are mainstream parties which politically aspiring Muslims can enter to realize their ambitions. For the ones who feel that none of those parties can help them “win back their religion”, then they should set up their own party. But it should not be subsidized and invested in by liberal society. It will have to win support like all other parties – in a traditional western democratic way, respecting the rule of law.
If it incites hatred, if its manifesto contains opinions and ambitions that are anathema to liberal society’s basic pillars, then it should not be tolerated. Liberal society’s tolerance does not extend into Cloud Cuckoo land (although Morsi might think so, seeing as he is funded by liberal society to produce these ideas).
And, if it’s only through such illiberal parties and organizations that the ones who want to “win back their religion” feel that they can channel their ambitions, well, hey, tough luck. If you espouse ideas incompatible with liberal society’s core universal principles, society must draw an intolerant line. There’s no accommodation to be made here, no possibility for you to e.g. set up a parallel society with separate laws and institutions. You will either have to give up those ideas or society must do all in its power to counter you – and most certainly not invest labour and money in you to forward your ideas.
Yes, tolerance is integral to a liberal society. But this must not be misinterpreted as if liberal society should be tolerant towards everything. Fact of the matter is that at its very core the progressive liberal society is bigoted, as the tolerance it extols is ultimately based on intolerance towards extreme forms of illiberal politics and culture. Such intolerance has been extensively applied when protecting multiculturalism from racist phenomena, e.g. laws against incitement to racial hatred. But similar progressive intolerance should be applied when certain extreme phenomena within multicultural minorities are fundamentally incompatible with pillars of liberal society and threatens the multicultural concept on the whole, not least the public’s trust in it.
In my opinion, the only viable long-term solution is tough secularism and more integration, accompanied by a militant intolerance to parallel societies.
Whether political Islam can accept tough secularism in the same constructive way that western political Christianity has – see e.g. the European Christian democratic movement – is another matter. But it will have to.
And it is in those constructive, moderate currents that the majority society should invest. Not in the “dissenting”, “radical” ones – regardless if they advocate violence or not.