April 19, 2007

The Rise of Radical Islam in Europe

This is an interesting talk from Jonathan Paris in London about the problems of Islamic radicalisation in Britain and France. The basic argument of the talk is that the real problems of British and French islamic radicalisation are problems of what he calls preceptisation. He argues that tackling the preceptors of such a faith is a very important part of the war on terror and a part that is neglected. Neither dealing with the problem as the Americans do using the instruments of military power nor dealing with it as the Europeans have done up until now by using criminalisation- banning the terrorists and not political Islamists. He suggests that political Islam- the kind of Islam which stresses that all Muslims have the same identity and should reject other claims of identity- that a death in Palestine is more important to a Muslim Yorkshireman than the death of a white Yorkshireman and that they should feel that more. He argues that there is a slippery slope whereby Muslims are influenced by Imams into the Muslim Council of Britain and then into Hizb and then into terrorism- he suggests that a wide tolerance of political Islam allows a few to cross the borders into terrorist activity. I should add that the talk and the discussion afterwards is worried but not hopeless- as the speaker brings up there have been cases- Indian immigration from Uganda to Britain- and as participants bring up- Sri Lankan immigration- immigration can work and there is no reason that it can't work.

There is an interesting discussion afterwards about demography and about the integration of Iberian Muslims into their societies and Pakistani Immigration not to mention any generational gaps- these are all interesting points and deserve to be raised. There is an interesting problem brought up to do with general (not just Muslim) identity shopping and Belgian problems with Islam. Personally on the demographic argument it is worth remembering that population change is often accompanied by a change in the nature of the population- so for example its not a problem to have 100 million non-political Muslims and see your entire population change its complexion doesn't matter if those Muslims are not politicised. Muslims are not the same and neither is their evolution into political Islam inevitable. Another question raised is the problem of indigenous terrorism- particularly anti globalisation movements and the religious right.

The preceptor argument is one I have some sympathy with. Solutions to it are very complex- throwing out people from the country is something I have some sympathy with- the British government needs to be tougher on this than it has been, though there are obvious problems- the question of people's rights is important- in my view we ought to be tougher in our interpretation of the laws on inciting racial hatred which for instance would catch many radical speakers for their attacks on Jews. Excluding the Muslim Council of Britain from discussions seems to be a sensible position and from government funding- why exactly the Muslim Council should be argued with when they are elected by no-one I have never understood- especially as their ambition is to create a Muslim constituency which would vote and sway power in order to acheive the aims of Political Islam. We should bear in mind though, unlike one questioner that Halal food in schools is not threatening- no more was the fact that my school had kosher food- when it comes to male doctors and women that is a different matter but rigidity on secularism is not sensible. He is right to call upon the West to look to moderate Muslims- a recent British initiative which is anti-sectarian- the New Generation Network run by Sunny Hundal and others is a step towards that, towards a view of the community which is anti-racist but also anti-MCB. Considering moves forwards is difficult, getting girls and young women involved to resist models which are avowedly sexist is a good step- women are a natural constituency to overthrow the preceptors. The solution also lies in stating again and again that Muslims are different from each other and not similar, and that under the skin we all share a common humanity.

There are plenty of issues here to consider- one interpretation is not sufficient- Olivier Roy has a different idea whereby he ties together nationalism and Islam in a synthesis. One paper isn't the answer- but the preceptoral model is a useful one- and quite how you erode the influence of imams, cousins or youth workers is an interesting one- or even Al-Jazeera- is a great problem. This is an interesting discussion- I don't think that this paper gives final answers- there isn't much detail in his talk and its more principles and also there are no Muslim voices in the audience, something that would be interesting to hear in such a debate. This is a contribution- probably better than some- but this represents a contribution- not a final one and I'm tired so I may not be commenting well- its a beggining though and we need more discussion.

Occasionally the conversation slips into what I have called Islamic Essentialism (mostly on the part of the questioners and sometimes but seldom of the speaker talking loosely about demography), but the chairman at the end sums up what I think is an important point that the place we want to arrive at is where citizenship embraces all citizens irrespective of race or creed in political allegiance and in peace.

By the way I don't have any answers- but am merely thinking on my feet largely as I listen to the talk- so my analysis may be faulty- there are other perspectives that should be acknowledged as well- but the idea of preceptorial roles being at the centre of this is I think an interesting one and we do need to think about how we deal with the ideological threat that convinces people to blow up their fellow citizens.


Pappusrif said...

Why do we claim so extremely what lies to us and what frightens us? Tragically.

Until today, only the fundamentalist minority views are covered by the media with abundance. Of course, there are more muslims in Europe nowdays than in the 40’s. But, I don’t see where is the threat. Now, the amalgam between Islam and violence is quickly established in the spirit of people.
With this criminal effervescence around the world (NY, Baghdad, London, Casablanca, Algiers …) - terrorism had made more victims among muslims - we oppose not only to Islamism but to Islam itself. I do not think it is a good idea. Such amount of hatred (of islam I mean) is expressed by the likes of Fallaci, Finkelkraut, and Bruckner. Most of them regard Islam as a form of Fascism. We see Islam as a threat.
Delirious publications (including by high profile scholars) make me sick. This relation/behaviour to the other (in this case a muslim) is as old as the human societies themselves. We need enemies. We are afraid of the other.

I do not know much about the situation in UK. So, I limit myself to France.
On demographic issue, Jonathan Paris is mistaken. The Muslims (who live in Europe) do not make more children than the others (At least in France). I’d like however Jonathan Paris to explain to me how the Muslims are counted ?. For example, one of Algerian origin Marry with a catholic of French origin. Shall we count their children among the Muslims or catholics. I imagine they will be considered automatically Muslims given that their name reflects Muslim origins. Also, if a Pakistani decides not to be Muslim anymore and changes his name and take a typically English name. In which pocket should we put him?

On the question of the return to the country of origin, it seems that Jonathan Paris is sorry that the Muslims do not return to their country after some years of work in Europe. He provides us with the counter example of Polish (Catholics) who wish to return and effectively returns to their homeland. Well, this is simply not true. I invite him to come to France, especially in north and North East to see the descendants of Polish, but also of Italian and Portuguese origins. Those came here at the end of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th to work. Their children and their grand-children are French. They also underwent racism and discrimination at the beginning of the century. One would believe that there are goods and bad ones depending on the origin.

Muslims! Well some are devout, others unbelievers, others they don’t care. Those which one regards as Muslims are in fact mainly western-like and are interested by clothes and Hip-Hop than of going to the mosque.
Radical Muslims! Well they exist, These militants reject the change, have a decalée vision of history and think that the Western societies are infected by the decline. Frankly, they do not weigh much in Europe.
This discussion at transatlantic institute is not dangerous itself, I do not think that many people follow these debates. On the other hand, when the politicians, especially the extremes and even the right (here in France It is what occurs) take over the issue, the speech becomes dangerous.

I believe the French social model better than the Anglo-Saxon multicultural model. But only in theory. In France, we never really wanted to integrate them. It is not new and it is not only the fruit of right-wing policies. Both models should be revisited.


Lord Nazh said...

On the 'counting' issue:

if you are born of a muslim, according to Islam you are a muslim. To leave the faith is to face death.

Pappusrif said...

No, You are wrong Lord Nazh. You're statment is a false one. If you're born a muslim, then you're muslim culturally but it has nothing to do with faith. If you wish to change your faith, then It's up to you.
Of course if you'are talking about a speciific situations like in Saudi Arabia, the statment would be different- maybe you will face death.
My comment was about the rise of radical islam in Europe. So european muslims are as free as christians as atheists to change or not their faith and no one would kill them.
By the way, I did not want to comment on your definition of Islamophobia (in another post) only because of my full respect to this blog and his mind.


Gracchi said...

Pappusrif I accept your entire critique- I think your points are valid. I was worried about teh way that Paris lumped all Muslims together as one- I tried hard to write this post and failed. I think the problem with political Islamism as you are right is in the Middle East primarily- I did like his idea of the preceptoral routes that young people say in the UK become exposed to radical Islam through but I agree with you that we should all be careful to state that radical Islam doesn't equal Islam.

I'm on Pappusrif's side in the debate with Lord Nazh as well. There are also lots of varients of Islam adn though some have been in the past hostile to converts away- so have many from other faiths (the Inquisition anyone?). I don't see a universal problem at all, indeed I know a Muslim who became an atheist- she is one of my best friends.