Monday, August 25, 2014

A bleak future of Islamophobia & Islamic extremism

The kidnapping and murder of American journalist James Foley has shocked many people around the world. The killing by Muslim extremists has also rekindled the debate concerning what the West should do to curb the growing tide of fundamentalism.

Whilst most academics and Muslim leaders say that the majority of Muslims are peaceful, there are a growing number of Muslims who are angry at Western foreign policy and exploit the Koran for their own purposes.

Religious interpretations

The interpretation of religious texts is often disputed, be it the Bible or Koran. Some words are taken literally, whilst others are softened or even ignored for convenience. Indeed the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is not always observed even by Christian societies who take part in conflicts around the globe.

Hebrew texts make exceptions and allows for justified killing in the context of warfare, capital punishment, and self-defence.

The Koran too, makes clear its stand on killing. ""Do not take any human being's life which God has declared to be sacred other than in (the pursuit of) justice: this has He enjoined upon you so that you might use your reason." [Quran 6:151]

However, it comes down to interpretation and the twisting of words. Jews might seek justification in its texts that allows killing in times of war. Meanwhile Islamic extremists might suggest that their executions and murders are only carried out in the "pursuit of justice".

Whilst many Christians discard parts of the Bible, deeming certain sections to be incongruous with current times, some Muslims take the whole of the Koran very seriously.

Graven images & blasphemy

For example, the Bible states, within the Ten Commandments that one should not make a graven image or false idol. In Exodus 20:4-6 it says, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me."

There are similar tracts in the Koran too. But whilst most Christians no longer take no issue with images of Christ or even depictions of God, for Muslims their attitude is very different.

There are conflicting opinions whether Islam prohibits graven images. Not all Islamic traditions ban images of Mohammed. Indeed some are pretty lax about pictures of lesser figures. For Muslims, the rule against depicting God and the prophets comes from the Hadith, a collection of sayings and actions attributed to Mohammed.

A few years back a cartoonist in Denmark drew pictures depicting Mohammed and drew ire from both radical and moderate Muslims alike [tvnewswatch: Trouble flares over Mohammed cartoons].

But whilst some Muslims condemned the cartoonist only with words, others threatened both the artist and Denmark with violence [tvnewswatch: Denmark faces financial crisis in wake of cartoon row].

Extreme opinions

Years before 9/11, the Taliban destroyed massive Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. They were seen by the ruling Taliban as being false prophets - false idols that demanded their destruction. Indeed the Taliban's war on art was inspired by the Koran which is often interpreted as forbidding the portrayal of living things.

"Personally I agree with the destruction of the Buddhist statues," one Muslim tells tvnewswatch. This was no flippant remark. Kadeer, a man aged about 40 and living in Shanghai, spoke passionately concerning his beliefs.

As he sat sipping an espresso coffee, he spoke of how he supported the actions of the Mujahideen and justified their actions saying, "How many times must we be hit before we react?"

Like many 'extremists' he insisted that no-one in the Twin Towers were innocent and are all were guilty of propping up the imperialist machine that is America. It is up to the US and the enemies of Islam to call a truce first, Kadeer insisted.

In spite of such views he says that Muslims are nonetheless peaceful. "What does Salaam Alaikum mean?" he asks. "It means peace be upon you," he explains.

Speaking very animatedly and with conviction, Kadeer, a Jordanian now living in China for the last 14 years, says that his views are not of a small minority of Muslims.

"I'd say around 60% of Jordanians support the Mujahideen". Though this cannot be verified, it does give an indication of how much anger exists in the Middle East directed at the West concerning their perceived interference in foreign lands.

But he calls for change not just in the West, but everywhere. Leaders everywhere exploit their citizens and that needs to change before there's peace, Kadeer says.

Kadeer is just one man amongst many who are angry at the West. And while he seemed unlikely to launch terror attacks himself, his views expressed were certainly unnerving. But there are others who not only hold such views but willing to stage violent attacks.

Suspicions and divisions

In Britain there is a significant Muslim population and in recent days they have been become the focus of suspicion. There is a fear, especially amongst the predominantly white indigenous population, that all Muslims are a threat, despite claims to the contrary.

And reports that up to 500 British jihadists have left Britain to fight in Syria and Iraq only raise levels of distrust.

The likes of extremist groups such as Al Muhajiroun and protagonists such as Anjem Choudary, Abu Hamza and others don't help the cause of moderate Muslims who insist they are not a threat to Britain and its way of life.

Losing hearts & minds

An article published in the Independent on Sunday reported that Muslims were themselves to blame. "We share blame for creating jihad generation" a Muslim strategist claimed. a former senior Muslim Army officer suggested that many young Muslims in British inner cities had been left disenfranchised by society.

During the early throes of the War on Terror which began soon after 9/11, there was much talk of "winning the hearts and minds" of Muslims around the world.

That policy has largely failed, claims Afzal Amin, a former army officer and chairman of the Armed Forces Muslim Association. And he says there must be more efforts to "defeat the coherent message of international terrorists who've hijacked religion for their own ends".

Young British Muslims' disenfranchisement is exploited by radical Islamic groups who point to the faults of NATO and its allies. The torture and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, the disproportionate number of civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US backing of Israel has not helped.

Syria and Iraq have now become bases for the new 'al-Qaeda' while Britain has become a recruiting ground and outpost [Telegraph].

The West justifies its continued military action in Iraq and elsewhere saying groups like ISIS pose a threat to the region and western interests. Militants continue their 'jihad' saying that they are merely "seeking justice" for Western crimes against Muslims.

With no side willing to call a halt to hostilities, extremism is only likely to grow with each allied strike. Conversely, each terrorist attack, beheading or atrocity will only cement the resolve of the West in what seems like a never ending War on Terror.

Britain's Home Secretary has promised new laws to combat the rise of extremism [Telegraph]. However, such laws may do little to strike at the deep seated causes. Indeed the future may well be one of increased Islamophobia and Islamic extremism.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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