More and Better Religion

I saw this distatsteful item at Normblog. Guy called Faisal Bodi, news editor of the Islam Channel. He says things I disagree with. He also says things that strike me as incomplete, in an evasive way.

The working groups’ reports on extremism published last week have a sting in their tail that few in the Home Office could have expected…It says elements of the battered terrorism bill currently stuttering through parliament such as “glorifying terrorism” or banning nonviolent groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir will have little impact in the fight against criminal extremist violence and only further alienate Muslims.

People who read such things in a hasty way (as surely nearly everyone does – we don’t study newspaper columns as if they were great poetry or recipes for chocolate decadence cake) will get the impression that Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non-violent group in the sense of being a peace-loving gentle flower-sniffing innocent kindly group – a group that is about non-violence, in the way that peace marchers are. But as Ziauddin Sardar pointed out the other day and we discussed here, that’s not right.

The bearded and elegantly attired supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), the fundamentalist Muslim group, like to emphasise the non-violent nature of their party. As a recent press release put it, they “have never resorted to armed struggle or violence”. This is correct as far as it goes. While HT has openly engaged in the politics of hatred, particularly towards the Jews, it has not, strictly speaking, advocated violence. But this does not mean that it is not a violent organisation…In fact, violence is central to HT’s goals. Its primary objective is to establish a caliphate…Their ideology argues that there is only one way Muslims can or should be ruled, that those who form this caliphate have the right to rule, that all others must submit unconditionally and that only this political interpretation of Islam is valid and legitimate. In other words, the caliphate of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s vision can be established only by doing violence to all other interpretations of Islam and all Muslims who do not agree with it – not to mention the violence it must do to the rest of the world, which also must eventually succumb.

Faisal Bodi sees things differently:

There is a big difference between someone with a strict approach to matters of faith and someone who uses indiscriminate violence for political ends: bushy beards and burkas do not a terrorist make.

Not nearly big enough, I would say. And what does he mean ‘strict’? And does he mean strict toward one’s own ‘faith’ – or does he mean strict toward, say, other people’s clothes and right to leave the house and items like that? That’s another ‘big difference’ that matters quite a lot – the big difference between a zealot who himself refrains from alcohol, kite-flying, music, image-making, whatever it may be, and a zealot who forces all those stupid prohibitions (and more, much more) on other people and whips them if they disobey. A big, big difference.

In fact the solution lies in more, and better, religion. The resort to indiscriminate violence against the homeland is often a reaction to a national disconnect, a lack of identification with a country that is persecuting fellow Muslims abroad and whose institutions remain pregnant with Islamophobic attitudes cultivated by orientalists over centuries.

No comment.

7 Responses to “More and Better Religion”