Call for Proposals: Ethnopolitics Special Issues
Ethnopolitics has a long tradition of publishing Special Issues on specific topics of interest to the field, both covering particular themes or conflicts. Past special issues that have been highly successful include Moral Hazard and Intervention (guest-edited by Timothy W. Crawford & Alan J. Kuperman), Governance in Ethnically Mixed Cities (guest-edited by Sherrill Stroschein), Northern Ireland ten years after the Agreement (guest-edited by Chris Gilligan), Federalism, Regional Autonomy and Conflict (guest-edited by Graham Brown), and EU Conflict Management (guest-edited by James Hughes).
The Editors of Ethnopolitics wish to continue with this tradition of publishing high-quality special issues (subsequently also included in the prestigious ASN book series) and are therefore introducing an annual competition for proposals for Special Issues.
Interested scholars in any relevant field are invited to submit a short proposal of no more than 1,000 words outlining:
- The theme of the proposed Special Issue
- The articles and authors that it would contain
- The approximate length of individual contributions and the Special Issue as a whole
Apart from analytical and theoretical coherence, proposals should demonstrate how the proposed Special Issue will contribute to the theoretical and/or empirical advancement of the field of ethnopolitics. Please also include information about the genesis of the proposal (e.g., workshops seminars, conference panels past or planned).
A short bio of the Guest Editor/s and the names of potential peer reviewer should also be included in the proposal. Guest Editor/s will be expected to liaise closely with the Editors of Ethnopolitics.
This is an annual competition with a deadline of 1 December and envisaged publication date of the Special Issue approximately 15-18 months after acceptance of the proposal.
Informal inquiries and proposals should be sent electronically to the Editors of Ethnopolitics:
Karl Cordell: K.Cordell@plymouth.ac.uk
Stefan Wolff: email@example.com
This call for proposals is also available on: http://www.ethnopolitics.org/ethnopolitics/special-issues-cfp.htm.
Call for Papers
Title: Studies of Transition States and Societies (STSS)
Publisher: Institute of Political Science and Governance and Institute of International and Social Studies, Tallinn University
Frequency: 2 issues per year
Print ISSN: 1736-874X, online ISSN: 1736-8758
Access: open access journal, available at the website www.tlu.ee/stss, also in DOAJ, Proquest, Ebsco.
Published: since 2009
Editor in Chief: Raivo Vetik, Tallinn University
Articles to the Spring issue should be submitted by December 19, 2011. See the webpage www.tlu.ee/stss for information on the submission. Articles arriving later than that will be considered for the 2012 Fall issue.
Aims and Scope:
Studies of Transition States and Societies (STSS) aims to promote interdisciplinary exchange between scholars in all major subfields of sociology and political science. The substantive focus of the journal is on the transitional societies, particularly on the societal and political changes in postcommunist countries. Conceptually speaking, this journal seeks to challenge the teleological understanding of transition processes that is based on dichotomous classifications (traditions vs.
modernism, democracy vs. totalitarianism, nation-states vs.
multiculturalism etc.), placing emphasis instead on holistic approaches and gradational units of analysis. STSS contains peer reviewed articles that articulate both theoretical and comparative, as well as quantitative and qualitative approaches. Besides articles, STSS also publishes short research notes about ongoing studies, as well as review articles and book reviews. In addition, collections of articles about a common theme or debate are published as short symposia.
Karl Ulrich Mayer, Yale University; Michael D. Kennedy, Brown University; Hans-Peter Blossfeld, Bamberg University; Hans-Dieter Klingemann, Freie University Berlin; Catherin Hakim, London School of Economics; Irena Kogan, Mannheim University; David Ost, Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Risto Alapuro, Helsinki University; Pirkko Pitkänen, Tampere University; Attila Agh, Corvinus University Budapest; Hilary Pilkington, Warwick University; Paul Lewis, British Open University; Ilkka Alanen, Jyväskylä University; Peter Robert, TARKI; Carlo Barone, University of Trento; Colin Copus, University of Birmingham; Noemi Lendvai, Bristol University; Christian Toft, Universität Kassel; Jochen Franzke, University of Potsdam Leif Kalev, Tallinn University; Airi-Alina Allaste, Tallinn University; Ellu Saar, Tallinn University; Anu Toots, Tallinn University; Rein Ruutsoo, Tallinn University; Georg Sootla, Tallinn University; Rein Vöörmann, Tallinn University.
Institutional Subscription, Print € 50
Individual Subscription, Print € 30
To acquire subscription please send the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org:
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Conservative thinktanks are in a bit of a bind when it comes to responding to the rise of Islamophobia. On the one hand they want to condemn the BNP and the English Defence League for their racism and violence, but on the other they want to downplay the extent and existence of anti-Muslim racism because it might deflect attention from “Islamism” – the catch-all term for politically active Muslims, which they see as the main problem facing the UK. The difficulty with their position is that they end up condemning the peaceful political activism of Muslim groups, while downplaying and even excusing the violent modus operandi of racist and Islamophobic groups such as the EDL.
In our report we examine two of the most prominent British thinktanks engaged in work on the role of Islam in UK politics. The Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) is the smaller of the two, focusing mainly on Islam, while Policy Exchange has a wider remit. Nevertheless, their work has followed quite similar lines. They have both rejected counter-terrorism policies based on public safety and have instead sought to revive discredited counter-subversion policies from the cold war era – policies that targeted a generation of trade union leaders and peace activists, including future Labour ministers.
The counter-subversion thinking of this earlier period undermined civil liberties and had a problematic influence on counter-terrorism policy; they risked repressing those engaged in legitimate political activity, while misunderstanding those who present a genuine threat of violence. As a result of following this highly ideological approach, both thinktanks have regularly attacked politically active Muslims, Muslim organisations and traditional liberal institutions such as churches, universities, schools and libraries. In one report, The Hijacking of British Islam, Policy Exchange famously attacked mosques alleging that they were selling extremist literature. The report was subsequently removed from the thinktank’s website after the BBC discovered evidence suggesting that the report’s findings had been fabricated.
The record of these thinktanks is that their publications at best exaggerate the threat posed by “Islamists” and the supposed Islamisation of public institutions. Their concern is not over the threat of terrorism or even of any illegality. Rather it is based on their counter-subversion analysis. This leads them into suggesting – as Policy Exchange has in a report titled Living Apart Together – that experiences of Islamophobia and discrimination faced by Muslims in Britain are simply “myths” attributable to a “victim mentality”.
This downplaying of Islamophobia is also seen in the thinktanks’ analysis of the far right. The CSC has produced two reports on the British far right. One, on the BNP, in particular underplays the extent to which it has been influenced by other Islamophobic currents. The BNP’s alliance with the counterjihad movement and the subsequent emergence of the EDLwere among the most significant developments on the British far right in recent years. Yet neither of the CSC’s reports on the far right adequately addressed them. This is, perhaps, not surprising in the light of the CSC’s own contacts with members of the counterjihad movement, such as the US-based Robert Spencer. In marked contrast to the CSC’s analysis of other forms of political extremism, its director, Douglas Murray, has characterised the EDL as a predictable response to political failure and has recently described the EDL as a “grassroots response from non-Muslims to Islamism“.
Events in Norway have now directed attention to the violence of the far right and in particular serve to highlight the danger presented by the spread of Islamophobic ideas. It would be a mistake to replace an exaggerated fear of Islam with a mirror image fear of the far right. However, the double standards at the heart of the approach taken by Policy Exchange and the CSC suggests that any policymaker or politician genuinely interested in public safety and the health of the democratic system should recognise that Islamophobic ideas are not just a product of violent far right groups, but equally can be fostered even by apparently respectable thinktanks.
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The riots that have engulfed London and other major cities in England over the past week have finally receded, but in the wake of the horrific scenes of violence, looting and arson that left people shaken, the real issues look set to take centre stage, especially as post-mortem examinations are carried out.
Yet while it would be easy for questions just to focus on the failures of the system, it would be a shame to simply gloss over examining the causes of the initial riot and the subsequent snowballing incidents of looting and criminality. The complication, though, is that the riot had multifaceted elements, and a proper approach to examining its causes is akin to the peeling away of the layers of an onion’s skin.
The government, for its part, is perhaps keen to highlight these incidents as “criminality” as opposed to anything deeper, despite David Cameron’s statement to parliament on its recall from the summer break, acknowledging the potential “context” of the riots. In a way, there is some justification to regarding some of the incidents as criminal, especially some of the copy-cat incidents that followed the initial wave of riots on Saturday night. However, to simply blame this on criminality is perhaps to be slightly naive, an attempt to put a Band-Aid on a very deep wound in British society.
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A slightly longer version of this article appeared on the website of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue. Please click here to read more.
There is a lively debate taking place in the UK media between left and rightwing commentators as to the causes of the English riots, in which hundreds of shops and businesses have been looted. However, both sides agree that the looting has been inexcusable. I hope both sides will also agree with me that Muslims have played an important role in helping to tackle the looting and preserve public safety. This would be an especially important acknowledgment if it came from those Islamophobic commentators who consistently denigrate Muslims.
“When accused of terrorism we are Muslims, when killed by looters, we become Asian”, a Muslim student explained to me. He was commenting on the media reportingof the death of three young Muslims in Birmingham on Tuesday night. Like many other Muslims, they were bravely defending shops and communities as rioters went on a violent rampage of looting.
In recent days Muslim Londoners, Muslims from Birmingham, and Muslims in towns and cities around England have been at the forefront of protecting small businesses and vulnerable communities from looting. Having worked closely with Muslim Londoners, first as a police officer and more recently as a researcher, for the last ten years this commendable bravery comes as no surprise to me. But their example of outstanding civic duty in support of neighbours is worth highlighting – especially when sections of the UK media are so quick to print negative headlines about Muslims on the flimsiest of pretexts.
On Monday evening when London suffered its worst looting in living memory I watched as a well marshaled team of volunteers wearing green fluorescent security vests marked ‘East London Mosque‘ took to the streets of Tower Hamlets to help protect shops and communities from gangs of looters. This was the most visible manifestation of their pro-active response to fast moving and well co-ordinated teams of looters. Less visible was the superb work of Muslim youth workers from Islamic Forum Europewho used the same communication tools as the looters to outwit and pre-empt them on the streets.
While senior Westminster politicians started to pack and rush back to London from foreign holidays I watched Lutfur Rahman, the Muslim mayor of Tower Hamlets, offering calm leadership and support in the street as gangs of looters were intercepted and prevented from stealing goods in his presence.
Most important to emphasise is the extent to which everyone in Tower Hamlets was a beneficiary of streetwise, smart Muslims acting swiftly to protect shops, businesses and communities against looters. It is often wrongly alleged that Muslims lack any sense of civic duty towards non-Muslims and especially towards the LGBTcommunity. I wish peddlers of that negative anti-Muslim message had been present to see how all citizens in Tower Hamlets were beneficiaries of Muslim civic spirit and bravery on Monday night.
I am not sure if the Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan was robbed of his bike by looters in Tower Hamlets or in another part of London as he cycled home from Hackney to Greenwich on Monday night, but even his incessant negative reporting of Muslims associated with the East London Mosque would not have excluded him from their neighbourly support had they been in the immediate vicinity to help him.
Gilligan reports that police were unable to offer him any advice other than to go home when he finally received an answer to his 999 call as a victim of a violent street robbery. London policing on Monday night was stretched as never before and Gilligan was one amongst hundreds of victims who had to fend for themselves as looters ran amok around the capital city. In these unique circumstances the street skills of Muslim youth workers, who are routinely helping police to tackle violent gang crime and anti-social behaviour in Tower Hamlets, Walthamstow, Brixton and in other deprived neighbourhoods, were a key ingredient in filling the vacuum created by insufficient police numbers.
I first saw East London Mosque and Islamic Forum Europe street skills in action in 2005 when they robustly dispatched extremists from Al Muhajiroun who were in Whitechapel attempting to recruit youngsters into their hate filled group. I saw the same skills in action in the same year when volunteers from the Muslim Association of Britain and Muslim Welfare House ousted violent supporters of Abu Hamza from the Finsbury Park Mosque. More recently, Muslim bravery has been seen in Brixton when extremists spouting the latest manifestation of Al Muhajroun hatred were sent packing out of town. In all these instances, and so many more, the brave Muslims involved have received no praise for their outstanding bravery and good citizenship, and instead faced a never ending barrage of denigration from journalists such as Gilligan, Melanie Phillips, Martin Bright…. sorry I won’t go on, it’s a long list!
Sadly, many of the brave Muslims helping to keep their cities safe have not only grown used to denigration from media pundits but also faced cuts in government funding for their youth outreach work with violent gangs. This is not as a result of widespread economic cuts caused by the recession, but because the government adopts the media view that they are ‘extremist‘. Street in Brixton is a case in point. Yesterday Dr Abdul Haqq Baker director of Street was forced to close a Street youth centre in Brixton as his reduced team of youth of workers struggled to keep pace with the task of tackling gang violence and its role in rioting and looting.
Significantly, the same potent mixture of Muslim street skills and bravery was evident last summer when the Islamophobic English Defence League (EDL) began to prepare for a violent demonstration in Whitechapel. On that occasion police commended the skills of Muslim youth workers who helped reduce tension and manage anger towards the EDL.
Two weeks ago, under the banner United East End neighbours of all faiths and none gathered at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel to express solidarity with their Muslim neighbours who are the target of another provocative English Defence League demonstration planned for 3 September. It is no co-incidence that Anders Breivik found common cause with the EDL.
The EDL regards the East London Mosque as the hub of the Muslim extremism it purports to oppose. Regrettably, EDL’s hate-filled analysis of Muslims is based on the work of mainstream media commentators who should now reflect on the unintended if not unforeseeable consequences of their Islamophobic discourse.
It is also worthy of comment that Muslim bravery during this outbreak of looting has taken place during Ramadan when Muslims are fasting – without food or water – from sunrise to sunset. This is a hard enough regime when relaxing, but when taking part in dangerous operations against looters, it is worthy of special reward – no doubt something their religion caters for.
Today, as Muslims in Tower Hamlets and around the country continue to work with their neighbours to repair damaged shops and to restore public safety, it is important I conclude this article by paying special tribute to Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali and Abdul Musavir, the three typically brave Birmingham Muslimswho were killed while defending their neighbourhood on Tuesday night. I pray their legacy will be a wider appreciation of good Muslim citizenship, a reduction of media anti-Muslim denigration, and the elimination of EDL anti-Muslim intimidation and violence.
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Yesterday survivors and relatives of those who died in the 7/7 bombings announced that they were finally abandoning their legal attempt to force the government to hold a public inquiry into the attacks, acknowledging that proceedings would be likely to be unsuccessful and would inevitably cause “further unnecessary distress”.
My own interest in a public inquiry has been to examine the root causes of 7/7 and to assess the legitimacy and effectiveness of UK counter-terrorism. As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and the launch of the war on terror the need for a complete overhaul of counter-terrorism is urgent. What has worked and what hasn’t. In the absence of a public inquiry we will have to make do with a public debate instead.
My modest contribution to public debate, published next month, Countering al Qaeda in London challenges much received wisdom about terrorism, counter-terrorism and public safety in Britain. I argue that the best kind of counter-terrorism remains narrowly focused on the terrorist threat and seeks to avoid stigmatising or criminalising those communities where terrorists seek recruits.
In particular I challenge the popular assumption that many politically active Muslims have either wittingly or unwittingly been part of the terrorist problem – sometimes described as a “conveyor-belt” model of radicalisation.
This pernicious account of radicalisation has been adroitly promoted by neo-conservative think-tanks on both sides of the Atlantic. Significantly, two neo-conservative think-tanks in Westminster, Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion (recently subsumed by the Henry Jackson Society) are examined in a report published today by Spinwatch.
A detailed and revealing report ‘The Cold War on British Muslims’ perfectly captures the sense in which both think-tanks have a core mission of undermining Muslim individuals and organisations deemed to be subversive by recourse to counter-subversion strategies and tactics employed during the Cold War.
Having worked closely with many of these so-called Muslim subversives for many years I am inclined to suggest that the vast majority are far less subversive to British democracy than some of the individuals funding and implementing this new Cold War strategy against them. Significantly, many of them also have far more impressive counter-terrorism credentials than their counter-subversive opponents.
“Funded by wealthy businessmen and financiers, and conservative and pro-Israel trusts and foundations”, both think-tanks are assessed in the report to be “inspired by the operations against peace activists and trade unionists during the Cold War and explicitly seek to revive this tradition of political counter-subversion”. Their targets are said to be “politically engaged Muslims, liberals and leftists, as well as liberal institutions such as schools, universities and public libraries”.
Of the two think-tanks Policy Exchange is by far the most influential, helping to shape the government’s recent shift towards counter-subversion under the guise of countering non-violent ‘extremism’.
In my book I explain how Policy Exchange has gradually won government backing for a Prevent strategy that is a counter-subversion strategy in all but name. Significantly Prevent no longer purports to be tackling ‘violent extremism’ but simply ‘extremism’. As a result several outstanding Muslim community projects that have reduced the adverse impact of al-Qaeda influence in Britain have been shelved and risk stigmatisation as ‘extremist’ or ‘subversive’ instead.
Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph columnist and former chairman of Policy Exchange, invoked the image of arch subversive Arthur Scargill when warning an audience in 2008 of a threat to democracy posed by several reasonable, mainstream Muslim organisations.
Moore outlined a counter-subversion strategy every bit as clandestine and ruthless as the alleged threat it sought to undermine. Now as then when combating communists like Scargill, embedded supporters within the enemy camp would, Moore argued, be crucial players in efforts to undermine ‘the extremists’.
Thus Moore identified Ed Husain, co-founder of the ‘counter-extremist’ Quilliam Foundation, playing a similar role to Frank Chapple, a ‘moderate’ trade union leader who was willing to tackle Scargill:
“One of the most powerful lessons from Ed Husain’s remarkable book, The Islamist, is that the people most intimidated by Islamist extremism in this country are Muslims themselves….We need to realise that every time the wider society enters into dialogue with the extremists we are not only dealing unwittingly with bad people, we are also empowering them against good people”.
Moore considered it apposite to quote Edmund Burke’s description of revolutionary agitators as a “half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern [who] make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the British oak, chew the cud and are silent”.
In fact the research I present in my book suggests that Muslims targeted by Policy Exchange have more community legitimacy and support than Policy Exchange and their allies in two separate periods of London politics.
Sharing an elitist top-down vanguard approach to politics Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion share a lack of experience of real urban street life. Indeed, it is perhaps inherent to this kind of top-down political thinking that it is considered legitimate for a small, elite group of Cambridge alumni to forge a counter-subversion strategy against their less privileged political opponents.
As the Spinwatch report concludes, “the policies advocated by the Centre for Social Cohesion and Policy Exchange will have grave consequences for British politics if they are not challenged”. Lets start that debate now.
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According to Geir Lippestad, his lawyer, Anders Breivik appears to be insane. If this non medical assessment proves correct then the Islamophobic and extremist nationalist Norwegian mass killer will be one of the first terrorists in the entire history of political violence who has not been psychiatrically and psychologically normal.
Interestingly, it is only in recent years that academic research has finally laid to rest the persistent and popular notion that terrorists are predisposed to insanity or psychiatric or psychological abnormality. Whatever the cause terrorists pursue and – in those cases where they survive the terrorist attacks they carry out – whenever they are examined by medical experts their sanity and normality is invariably proven.
Even Nazi war criminals were eventually shown to be psychologically healthy and normal and indistinguishable from a sample of average American civilians.
Terrorism scholar Andrew Silke has done more than most to explain that psychological abnormality or anomaly is rarely a trait in terrorists and is certainly not evidenced simply because terrorist violence ‘runs contrary to the accepted standards of society’. Instead, rigorous examinations conducted over three decades point to the fact that terrorists are perfectly rational and approach their chosen tasks in much the same way as soldiers.
I should add that all of the terrorists I have investigated or researched over the last thirty years have all been entirely sane. Indeed, some of them are now considered sufficiently stable to hold high political office.
On the face of it Breivik appears entirely rational as well. Having just ploughed through his 1500 page political ‘manifesto’ and reviewed the terrorist tactics he employed on Friday 22 July, it also strikes me that he possesses outstanding organisational and planning skills that would be highly valued in society if he put them to conventional use – most obviously in the Norwegian military.
Of course we should wait for a full medical examination of Breivik before coming to any firm conclusions about his mental health. However, I am compelled to write this article now because Lippestads’s premature pronouncement of his client’s insanity has naturally become a headline and a media mantra that is likely to set the tone for the coverage of the case for the foreseeable future.
“This whole case indicates that he’s insane,” Lippestad told a press conference but when pressed by reporters he appeared to lack any solid basis for his assessment. In fact when he described Breivik’s behaviour and his doctrine of politics and political violence it was clear that Breivik had been talking to his solicitor in the same measured tones he uses in his written ‘manifesto’. “[Breivik’s] in a war and he says that the rest of the world, particularly the Western world don’t understand his point of view but in 60 years time we all will understand it” Lippestad said.
Eventually Lippestad concludes that Breivik is insane because he ‘is not like any one of us’. But experience suggests that Breivik is ‘unlike us’ because he has resorted to terrorist violence for exactly the same kind of reasons that terrorists in all kinds of terrorist movements always have done over the last hundred years or more.
More to the point Breivik’s manifesto is of a piece with the sentiments and methods Europe’s burgeoning violent extremist nationalist network that appears to have sustained his morale during a long process of strategic and tactical terrorist planning.
Lippestad reveals an alarming lack of knowledge of terrorism and of his client’s apparent motivation when he says he simply does not understand why Breivik attacked Labour Party members and not ‘Islamics’ (presumably Muslims). As if again this was somehow evidence of insanity. Instead, by choosing to attack a government building and a Labour Party summer school, Breivik is drawing attention to what many fringe nationalists see as the political failure of mainstream and left-wing politicians to confront the Muslim threat. So-called appeasers of the “Islamification of Europe” have become as hated as Muslim activists and therefore face the same kind of attacks.
Breivik can claim to have followed a long tradition of terrorism target selection that is intended to send a strong message to politicians in an attempt to persuade them to change policy. As leading terrorism scholar Alex Schmid reminds us, terrorism is a form of communication that ‘cannot be understood only in terms of violence’. Rather, he suggests, ‘it has to be understood primarily in terms of propaganda” in order to penetrate the terrorist’s strategic purpose.
This is normal terrorist thinking. Thankfully terrorism is by definition a minority pursuit. If it ever it became commonplace Europe would be facing the kind of civil war Breivik intends he and others like him will eventually trigger.
If we make the mistake of calling terrorists mad we will be in danger of overlooking their extremist politics and their adherence to tried and tested methods of political violence. Significantly, we never make that mistake when dealing with al-Qaeda terrorists so until we get compelling evidence to the contrary let’s not do it with extremist nationalist terrorists like Breivik.
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The killing of Osama bin Laden on Monday 3rd of May was indeed a historical advent which ought to signal the end of one of the most difficult phases in the relationship between the West and the Muslim world.
For nearly a decade, Bin Laden had become not only the world’s most wanted man but also the main signifier in a troubled relationship with Islam and Muslims worldwide. In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the world lived a brief moment of unity in which all nations expressed shock and outrage as to the attack that claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people. Sadly that moment was scuppered rather than capitalised on, with the launch of the ‘War on Terror’ and the apparent intent of the US administration to seek vengeance through a military, intelligence and security campaign that claimed the lives of thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians.
The war in Afghanistan followed by the invasion and occupation of Iraq, brought not only unspeakable misery, pain and strife upon those who in normal circumstances would not support Al-Qaeda ideology and tactics, but severely damaged relations between the West in general and Muslims as a whole. With terrorist attacks following in London, Madrid, Paris, Istanbul and countless other locations resulting in the death of hundreds of innocent by-passers, it was clear that those intent on bringing death and destruction operated on both sides, with the global population caught in the middle and suffering as a consequence.
Over the past years and on frequent occasions, mainstream Muslim organisations, groups and figures have consistently condemned the ideology espoused by Al-Qaeda, the wave of terror and fear it was waging. The message from mainstream Muslim community was constant and unequivocal: Islam, as well as universal human values, forbids the shedding of innocent blood regardless of colour, creed, race or culture. It was immoral and criminal to consider commuters in New York or London as legitimate targets, as it was to consider passers-by in a Kabul or Baghdad market mere collateral.
Few disagree that for years, Bin Laden has been little more than a spiritual leader rather than an effective operational commander of Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda has rapidly become an idea and a brand rather than an organisation with any tangible structure or base, as a result of a number of factors including some which the USA, the UK and several Western governments must contend with and answer for. His capture and death should have signalled the end of a difficult chapter in the lives of countless people around the world. However, the manner in which he was killed and subsequently disposed of, adds to the long list of mistakes that cements the state of mistrust, lack of faith and goodwill between the West and the Muslim world.
The celebrations that broke out on the streets of several US cities, while understandable on some level, displayed an unsavoury side of the US to the rest of the world. Civilised nations do not celebrate the death of an individual in that manner, nor do they consider vengeance a palatable objective. It is also likely that this will lead to more young people sympathising with rather than rejecting the line which Al-Qaeda promotes, and rhetoric of an extreme nature is already appearing on online blogs and discussions forums. Instead of moving on, it seems we are in for a long haul of staying exactly where we are.
Some expressions of sympathy that have emerged from some corners whom were renowned to have always condemned the statements, policies and actions of Al-Qaeda, should be taken in the spirit of both Islamic tradition as well as political reality, rather than support for the demised. Islam forbids its followers from speaking ill of the dead especially those killed, and calls upon them to pray for their forgiveness. Furthermore, in light of failing Western policies throughout the Muslim world and particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, amongst other reasons, Bin Laden was seen as the West’s nemesis. This afforded him popularity amongst disenchanted and disenfranchised masses despite them rejecting his ideology. Some groups and figures, chose to recall his earlier days of fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan forgoing the life of lavish luxury he could have well enjoyed, before an extreme ideology and skewed interpretation of Jihad and liberation took hold of him. He espoused an ideology of hatred, isolation, fear, violence and bloodshed.
Such statements must not be mistaken for support. Indeed, the Arab Spring that brought peaceful protests and revolutions throughout the Arab world in the past four months were the perfect antithesis to Al-Qaeda and its poisoned rhetoric, and were as much a rejection of extremism and terrorism as they were of corrupt despots and dictators.
Muslim leaders in the UK and the West must capitalise on this and act and speak responsibly as young people are searching for leadership and for guidance at these tense times. We must, at all costs, avoid initiating a new era where recriminations and counter-recriminations coin West-Muslim relationships. If anything was learnt from the past decade, it is that violence begets violence and the cycle of bloodshed is virtually impossible to break.
Western Muslims must join efforts with fellow country folk to reject policies which deem human lives dispensable and war an easily ready option. Just because the death of an innocent person is initiated by virtue of a government state decree does not make it any more acceptable than if decided by a rogue individual.
The challenge is for us all to truly turn a leaf and set a new standard for West-Muslim relations. This requires a new vision, new dynamics and people of courage, clarity and faith.
The recent violent protests in Afghanistan – a reaction to the burning of the Quran by a small church in the United States last month – recalled an inescapable reality.
Extremists on all sides – whether in free, democratic America, or in corrupt, occupied Afghanistan – create havoc and chaos, demonstrating the danger brought about by a deadly cocktail of ignorance and idiocy. Ultimately, they cause the deaths of innocent people.
Conversations in the Arab street are much more bold, brazen and uncaring about who might be eavesdropping. It’s simply a matter of time, but change is certainly now a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.
Once free, the Arab and Muslim nations will not resort to violence, extremism and isolationist practises, as some would like the world to think.
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