26 April 2016
This article was originally published on The Daily Beast, authored by Maajid Nawaz.
Jihadist terrorists are systematically hunting down leading free thinkers in Bangladesh—one by one—and hacking them to death.
There really is no other way to put this. Free thinkers in Bangladesh are being serially hacked to death in their homes. An infamous hit list appeared in 2013 naming 84 “atheist bloggers.” By the end of 2015 there had been seven such murders across the country, and, tragically, this past week alone claimed three more victims.
Rezaul Karim Siddique, a professor of English at Rajshahi University in the country’s northwest, was set upon outside his house as he left for work. Siddique founded a literary magazine called Kamolgandhar and wanted to start a music school in his village as a way to involve his students in extra-curricular activities. But instead he died where he fell, succumbing to severe wounds after he was hacked in the back of the neck by cowards on a passing motorbike.
Only two days later, U.S. embassy employee Xulhaz Mannan, who was one of Bangladesh’s top gay-rights activists and editor of the country’s only LGBT magazine, Roopbaan, was murdered by machete in his home. His friend, another gay rights activist Tanay Mojumdar was also killed. Xulhaz and Tanay were behind the annual “Rainbow Rally,” held April 14 on the Bengali New Year.
The so-called “Islamic State in Bangladesh” has claimed responsibility for the killing of Professor Siddique. Its media mouthpiece, called Amaq, stated ISIS fighters “assassinated a university professor for calling to atheism in the city of Rajshahi in Bangladesh.”
And despite the Bangladeshi government’s rejection of this claim, ISIS English-language magazine Dabiq carried an interview earlier this month with their purported leader in Bangladesh, Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif, who claimed that the country had become its base of operations in South Asia.
Whether or not ISIS was behind this attack is secondary. The effect is the same. Jihadist terrorists are systematically hunting down leading free thinkers in Bangladesh—one by one—and hacking them to death.
It is “open season” on atheists in Bangladesh.
And though Professor Siddique’s daughter, Rizwana Hasin, has said that her father was not in fact an atheist, among jihadists that definition is incredibly broad.
Anyone who advocates liberal secularism, free inquiry, arts and culture, is considered an “atheist” or “apostate.” Anyone who “supports” or “sides” with atheists, supports freedom of religion as well as from religion, and anyone who maintains the primacy of free speech, including and especially the human right to “blaspheme,” is deemed an atheist, whether they declare themselves to be or not.
Atheists are among the most discriminated-against groups in the world at present, and the most persecuted minority-within-a-minority among Muslims.
Imagine what it must be like for atheists living in Muslim-majority countries where such a belief is a criminal offense.
So beleaguered is this minority that you can be put to death for atheism in no less than 13 countries around the world. In 39 countries the law mandates a prison sentence for blasphemy, and six of these are Western countries.
Saudi Arabia has even declared being an atheist a terrorist offense. Nobel Prize Nominee and Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience Raif Badawi still languishes in jail there “accused” of atheism.
Meanwhile Bangladesh’s best-known blogger, Imran Sarker—who led major secular protests in Dhaka against Islamist leaders in 2013—said that he had received a death threat on Sunday from a U.K. number saying he would be killed “very soon.”
If a society is to be judged by how it treats its weakest, its voiceless, and most downtrodden, then let that lens focus truly on these minorities-within-minorites who risk everything to question the prevailing conservative dogma within their own communities. For if liberalism is to mean anything at all, it is duty bound to support without hesitation the dissenting individual over the group, the heretic over the orthodox, innovation over stagnation, and free speech over offense.
Charb, the murdered editor of Charlie Hebdo magazine, wrote in his posthumously published manifesto: “God is a super-surveillance camera to which no one seriously objects. Yet, it was put in place without any elected official or citizen having been consulted.”
By visibly killing off dissenters in such a public way, extremists seek to scare us all into silence. The targeting starts with atheists and “blasphemers,” but almost always moves on to the sexually diverse, liberals, secularists, and minority sects—Muslim or otherwise—that rely on such pluralism to flourish.
The killers’ aim is to elicit our fearful compliance, like Charb’s super-surveillance camera. Those who murder in the name of the Master of the Universe lay claim to what came before life, what comes during life and what is to come after life.
They lay claim to our innermost thoughts, and our outer behavior. No totalitarianism can be more total than that claimed in God’s name. This is why no resistance is more urgent than that waged to protect the right to our own individual conscience. For ISIS, we are all atheists.
To read this article as originally published on The Daily Beast, please click here.
20 April 2016
This article was originally published on The Jewish Chronicle, authored by Maajid Nawaz.
The words below are not mine. But because of their gravity, it is important that you read them in full.
“The notion of resistance has been perhaps washed out of our understanding of how colonised people will obtain their physical emancipation…With mainstream, Zionist-led media outlets …resistance is presented as an act of terrorism.
“But instead of us remembering that this has always been the case throughout struggles against white supremacy, it’s become an accepted discourse among too many…
“Internalised Islamophobia has also enabled our obsession with convincing non-Muslims of our non-violent and peaceful nature, so we’re taking things a step further and dangerously condemning the resistance, branding groups and individuals as terrorists to disassociate from them, but at the same time supporting their liberation which is a very strange contradiction.
“There’s a need to change how we think about these things. After all, the alternative to resistance is what we’ve been observing over the last 20 years or so, which is ‘peace talks’… essentially the strengthening of the colonial project.
“To consider that Palestine will be free only by means of fundraising, non-violent protest and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is problematic… My issue is that whilst at time it’s tactically used, or presented as the non-violent option, it can be misunderstood as the alternative to resistance by the Palestinian people…
“We also need to remember the Palestinians on the ground… who are actively sustaining the fight and the resistance against occupation and perhaps there’s a need to …take orders if we are to really show some form of solidarity”.
These words are from a chilling speech, given in a calm and deliberated style, at a “Gaza and the Palestinian Revolution” event in September 2014 by Malia Bouattia, the new president of the National Union of Students (NUS). Ms Bouattia was speaking in her official capacity as NUS’s Black Student’s Officer.
The Union of Jewish Students is naturally alarmed at her new role as President of the NUS.
So should we all be.
The warning signs have been there for years for all to see. It was Malia Bouattia who led the charge at the NUS to block a motion that sought to condemn ISIS and show solidarity to the Kurds fighting them, because it was deemed “Islamophobic.”
At this same meeting the NUS did pass a motion to boycott UKIP, and agreed to email every student in the country on polling day telling them to do likewise. Thus, in a sign of the terrible times in which we live, Britain’s student leadership found it easier to condemn UKIP than ISIS.
And we wonder why the populist Right is on the rise?
Along with such regressive-Left apologia for jihadism, predictably antisemitism has been rearing its head among the student body. In 2011 Ms Bouattia co-authored a blog which lists a “large Jewish society” – by which she now insists she meant “Zionists” – as being one of the challenges at Birmingham University. But she even considers the UK government’s beleaguered Prevent strategy against extremism to be a result of the ‘Zionist lobby’.
Her bid for president was endorsed by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK), a group that has been banned by the NUS since 2004 after publishing material on its website originally published on neo-Nazi and Holocaust Denial websites, as well as their own post entitled “Take your holocaust, roll it nice and tight and shove it up your (be creative)!” MPACUK’s endorsement of her candidacy would be less concerning if she hadn’t appeared to welcome it, by replying “Thank you :-))”.
The new NUS president insists her concerns revolve around Zionism, not Judaism, and that her arguments are political, not faith based. But in an atmosphere in which the far-left and far-right are competing for people’s increased anger, is it any surprise that the same conference that saw her elected president applauded a speaker who argued that the NUS should not commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, because “it’s not inclusive.”
The lessons learnt over decades by such leaders as Gandhi, Martin Luther King and even Malcolm X — after he openly recanted his earlier, anti-white views — are being all but forgotten. Indeed, true to form, let us remember who it was exactly who came to kill Malcolm X for repudiating his past racist-baiting rhetoric; it was those very same bitter, angry activists who claimed to be defending blacks.
“As true as we are standing here. They’ve tried it twice in the last two weeks,” said Malcolm in one of his final interviews before his assassination. In retracting his past, Malcolm X described his former self — the Malcolm that used racially-divisive language — as a “zombie.”
“Brother, remember the time that white college girl came into the restaurant, the one who wanted to help the Muslims and the whites get together, and I told her there wasn’t a ghost of a chance and she went away crying?”
“Well, I’ve lived to regret that incident. I did many things as a [black] Muslim that I’m sorry for now. I was a zombie then… the sickness and madness of those days, I’m glad to be free of them.”
Yet to say that progressive politics is steadily being hijacked by the return of these “zombies”, who peddle racially-divisive language, would be an understatement. To those who I call Europe’s regressive-Left, by which I mean a non-progressive faction of the far-Left, jihadist terrorism has come to resemble an authentic expression of Muslim rage at Western colonial hegemony.
For – don’t you know? – we Muslims are angry. We are so angry, in fact, that we wish to enslave indigenous Yazidi women for sex, bury adulterers neck-deep in the ground and stone them to death, while throwing gays off tall buildings and burning our enemies alive. All because…Israel.
For this regressive-Left—which has now penetrated US circles too—we Muslims are not expected to be civilized. And Muslim upstarts who dare to challenge this theocratic and far-Left fascism are deemed nothing but an inconvenience to an uncannily pre-Nazi-like populism that screams simplistically: “It is all the West’s fault!”
It is my fellow Muslims who suffer most from such bad leadership. We should have had cause to be proud. We should have had reason to celebrate the election of Britain’s first female, Muslim, ethnic-minority NUS president.
Instead, the return of these zombies Malcolm X so wisely repudiated is shaming those of us who do not wish to define ourselves by how angry and aggrieved we are.
I too have lived a life of racism, anger and grievance. Does the fact that I’m not frothing at the mouth about it make me any less Muslim, or any less an ethnic-minority? Are only those who choose to allow their hate to define themselves Muslim enough, or black enough?
The regressive-Left sedative of victimhood encourages a perpetual state of opposition to society, which in turn stifles aspiration, tempers expectations and – because we Muslims have our own culture – only increases self-segregation and ghettoization. There is a natural fear among the Left that challenging Islamist extremism can only aid Europe’s populist Right. But the alternative must not be instead to empower Islamist ideologues, or far-Left proto-fascists. There is a way to challenge both those who want to impose Islam and those who wish to ban Islam. The militant politics of identity over humanity, division over discussion and violence over peace should concern not only Jews, but Muslims and everyone else, too.
History has shown us what happens when angry activists consumed by a sense of a monopoly on injustice shift too far to the left. A black mirror of their struggle emerges on the far-right, breeding nothing but mutual hostility, street-thuggery and, eventually, fascism.
But if the regressive-Left has its way, why worry about medieval punishments conducted in Islam’s name? As they would have it: Let us not become the Uncle Tom that Malcolm X became. Israel is the real enemy, after all.
Let’s keep it real, man.
To read this article as originally published on The Jewish Chronicle, please click here.
20 April 2016
This article was originally published in The Daily Beast, authored by Maajid Nawaz.
A look at the Panama Papers revelations shows how insecure the Middle East’s absolute leaders have become.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama will meet with the kings and emirs of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia. And of the many things they may talk about (Iran, Syria, Yemen, al Qaeda, and ISIS, not to mention oil prices and the efforts by U.S. lawyers and politicians to blame the 9/11 attacks on the Riyadh royals), it’s doubtful they will do much talking about the Panama Papers. But they certainly should.
It’s been more than a year since an anonymous source contacted journalist Bastian Obermayer at the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung asking a simple yet devastating question, “Want data?”
“How much?” Obermayer asked.
“More than anything you have ever seen,” came the reply: 11.5 million leaked confidential documents exposing more than 214,000 offshore companies set up through the Panamanian firm of Mossack Fonseca, with connections that include 12 current or former heads of state.
Significantly, leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar were among them. But why would these Arab sheikhs go to the trouble of hiding their money in offshore accounts? To all intents and purposes they already own their countries, and they certainly pay no taxes.
The answer points to a growing insecurity these rulers and their families may have about how long they have left in power. Most of the last few remaining absolute monarchies in the world belong to this region.
But as global connectivity, education levels, and social mobility rise, their citizens are demanding greater rights, greater autonomy, and greater control. Grotesquely wealthy, precarious, family-run fiefdoms cannot stand forever, and the fact their owners seek to funnel money abroad via secret offshore companies points to that.
Let’s take a look at some specifics:
King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who will be hosting Obama, is linked to two British Virgin Islands companies that took out mortgages for more than $34 million to purchase expensive property in London. His nephew, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, has apparently sought the services of Swiss bank UBS in order to buy Panamanian companies from Mossack Fonseca for the opening of bank accounts.
Not to be outdone, UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan used Mossack Fonseca to establish at least 30 companies in the British Virgin Islands that owned and operated $1.7 billion worth of commercial and residential assets in up-market areas of the United Kingdom.
The former emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, who ruled from 1995 to 2013 before handing over power to his son, is also named. In September 2013, al Thani was listed as the majority shareholder of two companies; each had a 25 percent stake that went to another family member, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, who was Qatar’s former prime minister and foreign minister.
Now, let me reiterate: That Arab royalty from the Gulf and beyond found it necessary to hide their money is a curiosity. The Gulf is known for its low taxes and its rulers are absolute monarchs, meaning they legally own their respective countries and all their assets.
But these days this is a very nervous absolutism, and what happened to the leaders of nearby Arab republics after the Arab uprisings that began in 2011 must have lent a sense of considerable urgency to their personal financial planning.
Over in war-torn Syria, Mossack Fonseca ran six businesses for Rami Makhlouf, cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, despite U.S. sanctions against him.
It is said that Rami and his brother Hafez Makhlouf made a fortune through exploiting their relation to the Syrian leader. A money trail in the documents ended at the Syrian president himself, without explicitly naming him. It has long been known, and the leaks reconfirm, that any foreign company seeking to do business in Syria had to be cleared by Rami, and sure enough, Rami had a 63 percent stake in a Syrian telecoms company Syriatel through his British Virgin Islands company Drex Technologies SA.
When financial investigators contacted Mossack Fonseca in 2011 about an anti-money-laundering investigation into Rami’s shell Drex, Mossack Fonseca cut ties with the Makhlouf businesses. The Syrian uprising has proved just how precarious the position of Arab rulers can be in this day and age, and suggests why they may be feathering their nests in the Caribbean and beyond.
Egypt, too, very likely provided the Gulf sheikhs with a reminder of their precarity. Former President Mubarak’s sons Alaa and Gamal were detained in April 2011, two months after Hosni Mubarak resigned in the face of a popular uprising. The Panama Papers reveal that Alaa owned the British Virgin Islands firm Pan World Investments Inc.
In 2013, after regime change in Egypt, Mossack Fonseca was fined $37,500 for failing to properly check Alaa as “a high-risk customer.” Despite having admitted internally that its procedures were “seriously flawed,” these leaks demonstrate how Mossack Fonseca carried on business as usual afterward.
Lessons are perhaps to be learned from the Sharifs of Pakistan, too. When Nawaz Sharif was deposed in a military coup in 1999, he fled to Saudi Arabia and managed not only to survive, but bounced back as prime minister in 2013. One suspects that part of the way he survived this difficult exile was to draw down accounts in foreign shell companies. In any case, Mossack Fonseca records tie Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and her brothers Hussein and Hassan to four offshore companies, Nescoll Ltd., Nielson Holdings Ltd., Coomber Group Inc., and the perhaps appropriately named Hangon Property Holdings Ltd. The companies are reported to have acquired luxury properties in London during 2006-2007 through mortgages of £7 million from Deutsche Bank (Suisse) SA, including four flats on Park Lane as well as one flat at 1 Hyde Park Place, London.
Beyond serving as a rainy day fund for a Nawaz-Sharif-style quick escape, secret accounts have also been used by Gulf rulers to fund activities which, for various reasons, they wish not to be associated with.
Qatar’s post-Arab Spring financing of Islamist factions in Egypt, Libya, and now Turkey has been an open secret that has played its part in further destabilizing an already volatile region.
Meanwhile, Iran stands accused in the leaks of creating 33 names and companies, many of which are linked to the pro-Assad terrorist militia Hizbollah. This Iran-Hezbollah axis, by some accounts, involves engaging in the drug trade in Mexico.
While the Arab press has been accused of cherry-picking only those named in the papers who are the enemies of their respective host countries, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) managed this unprecedented cache of data by coordinating among 400 reporters worldwide, who in turn kept the Panama Papers secret for over a year. That is some feat.
Obermayer, the journalist who first received the Panama Papers, commented recently about what motivated his still anonymous, financially unremunerated source: “The source thinks that this law firm in Panama is doing real harm to the world, and the source wants to end that.”
Only when some of the world’s most unacceptable regimes begin to act with such moral fortitude will the funds that flow to serve illegal drug wars, terrorism and money laundering diminish. Online transparency may just usher in accountability for some of the world’s most opaque regimes.
In the meantime, this week President Obama will be shaking hands with many of them.
To read this article as originally published in The Daily Beast, please click here.
6 April 2016
This article was originally published on The Daily Beast, authored by Maajid Nawaz.
The stench of Islamic extremism has become all too common among the religious and community leaders of the U.K.
Asad Shah was a much-loved Muslim shopkeeper in Scotland’s second city of Glasgow. Embodying the slogan of his mosque: Love for All and Hatred for None, he would post inclusive social media messages such as “a very Happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation,” and the locals loved him for it.
Yet, on the eve of Good Friday this year, Tanveer Ahmed, a fellow Muslim, appears to have driven 200 miles from Bradford to Glasgow in his licensed Uber car in order to stab Asad 30 times all over his body, stamp on his head and then sit laughing on his chest. Asad, tragically, died from his wounds later that night. With her nation in shock, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attended a vigil in Asad’s memory, and he was buried just over a week later.
The truth behind why Asad was killed makes for uncomfortable and ugly reading.
Mohammad Faisal, a friend of the Shah family, described the murderer as “bearded,” wearing a long Muslim “religious robe” and addressing Asad in his native language before killing him.
Police have in fact charged the suspect Tanveer Ahmed with “religiously prejudiced” murder. For Asad was an Ahmedi Muslim, a minority sect persecuted as “heretical” by much of Pakistan’s Sunni Muslim majority. With these facts in mind, Asad Shah has probably become Britain’s first spillover case of Pakistan’s ongoing and vicious blasphemy inquisition being waged by that country’s increasingly belligerent mullah mafia.
The Ahmedis emerged in North India under the British Raj in the 1800s, and their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmed from Qadian claimed to be the embodiment of Jesus the Messiah, returned. Such a claim has certainly caused controversy among the Sunni Muslim majority within the Indian Subcontinent.
Regardless, only the stone-cold and heartless could ignore the campaign of persecution that has been unleashed since upon Ahmadis by my fellow Sunni Muslims, especially those of the Barelwi denomination. Many would expect extremists, such as the Khatme Nubuwwat group that enforces the Finality of the Prophet, to celebrate Asad’s murder online. Beyond that, we would prefer to assume the best in Muslims, and insist that the extremists are but a “tiny minority.” A closer look reveals a dispiriting and disturbing truth.
Just how widespread and institutionalized this persecution is, are questions that few want to ask.
This is because, as the previous case of Salmaan Taseer highlighted, to defend “blasphemers” in Pakistan is likely to get you killed even if you’re the powerful governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s richest province. Taseer’s killer Mumtaz Qadri was recently executed by the Pakistani state, but nevertheless glorified and anointed by the inquisitor mullahs as a “ghazi” (warrior), who died a “shaheed” (a holy martyr), while defending namoos-e-Rasool (the honour of the Prophet).
After Qadri’s execution, the Barelwi Muslim leadership held widespread street protests in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, demanding that the government accept a list of their demands. These included imposing their version of Sharia as law, to immediately execute all blasphemers including Aasia Bibi (the allegedly “blasphemous” Christian woman Salmaan Taseer died defending), the immediate release of all those convicted for killing to defend the “honor of the Prophet,” for the state to officially declare Mumtaz Qadri a “shaheed” on national media, to expel all members of the Ahmedi community from Pakistan (that’s 2 percent of the population), and to terminate immediately the positions of Ahmedis working in government departments.
Most devout Barelwi Sunni Muslims in the West take their religious instruction directly from Pakistan, and there remains a powerful flow of ideas coming from their leaders in the Punjab.
Nearly a week before Asad’s murder the imam of Scotland’s largest mosque, also in Glasgow, Maulana Habib Ur Rehman used the messaging platform WhatsApp to show his support for the now executed Mumtaz Qadri. In messages seen by the BBC, the Imam said that he was “disturbed” and “upset” at Qadri’s execution. He then added the epithet “rahmatullahi alaih” after mentioning Qadri’s name. This is a religious blessing usually given to devout Muslims and meaning “may God’s mercy be upon him.”
In another message, he says: “I cannot hide my pain today. A true Muslim was punished for doing which [sic] the collective will of the nation failed to carry out.” This, from the most senior imam at Glasgow Central Mosque, a role which involves leading prayers and giving religious guidance to an entire community.
Police are also currently investigating links between Sabir Ali, head of religious events at Glasgow Central Mosque, with Sipah-e-Sahabah, a banned Pakistani terror group from the Deobandi sect that persecutes Shia Muslims, also for alleged “blasphemy.” And yet, just as Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had attended the vigil in memory of Asad Shah, she also chose Glasgow mosque to hold a minute of silence after the recent Brussels attacks.
Few in wider society are prepared to acknowledge just how deep Sunni prejudice against alleged blasphemers can run.
This thirst for an inquisition is not found only among extremist groups, nor limited to these key figures in the U.K.’s largest mosques. It is also present to worrying levels in the wider community.
Recently, Luton on Sunday, a local newspaper, carried a double-spread advertisement celebrating 125 years since the Ahmadiyya movement was founded. That paid advert prompted such a level of complaints from the wider Sunni Muslim community in Luton that it lead to this groveling response by the newspaper:
“Last week the Luton on Sunday carried an advertisement from the Ahmediyyah…We would like to make it clear that we completely disassociate ourselves from the content of the advertisement…On Friday we met with representatives from the Muslim community to discuss the advertisement which we had accepted in good faith but now understand has caused offence to members of the Muslim Community in Luton.”
Included is a quotation from one of the “community leaders” the newspaper met with which thanks them for their sensitivity over a matter relating to the “fundamental beliefs of all Muslims.”
But as with all things, the mosque imams and “community leaders” find succor in the stance taken by those in authority among them. Look no further than the Pakistani High Commission in London to behold the truly institutionalized nature of this “Blasphemy Inquisition.”
Any British dual-national seeking to apply for a passport, or even an identity card, to travel to Pakistan visa-free is asked to partake in the persecution. Upon applying for our papers we are expected to sign a declaration (PDF) attesting— among other religious interferences by the state—that “I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Quadiani to be an imposter nabi (prophet) and also consider his followers whether of the Lahori or Qadiani group to be non-Muslim.” Hundreds of thousands of British-Pakistani Muslims have had little choice but to participate in this ritual that normalizes the Blasphemy Inquisition, in order to gain their identity cards.
If we contextualize Asad Shah’s murder by placing it in this hostile climate, as we must, then we begin to realize the horrifying level of persecution facing those deemed heretical, such as Ahmedis or other “blasphemers.”
Over the years, in survey after survey, British Muslim attitudes have reflected dangerously high levels of support for enforcing “blasphemy” taboos. A 2007 poll found that 36 percent of young British Muslims thought that apostates should be killed. A 2008 YouGov poll found that a third of Muslim students claimed that killing for religion can be justified, while 33 percent expressed a desire to see the return of a worldwide theocratic Caliphate. A ComRes poll commissioned by the BBC in 2015 found that a quarter of British Muslims sympathized with the Charlie Hebdo “blasphemy” attacks.
By any reasonable assessment, something has gone badly wrong in Britain, and a solution must start on the ground, within the communities where the problem has festered for so long. It starts from a recognition that religious extremism has gained significant enough traction for it to pose a danger.
For Asad Shah’s sake, for all those persecuted for their religious choices, or lack of, we must speak up. Just as all of us, black or white, are responsible for challenging racism, and just as all of us, gay or straight, are responsible for challenging homophobia, all of us, Muslim or not, are responsible for challenging this religious extremism. Denial that a generational struggle, no less than the civil struggle to challenge racism, lies ahead of us is no longer a viable option.
To read this article as originally published on The Daily Beast, please click here.
28 March 2016
This article was originally published on The Daily Beast, authored by Maajid Nawaz.
We cannot pretend that the extremism driving jihadist terror around the world has nothing to do with Islam.
At least 72 people were killed and 300 injured by the suicide blast that shook the crowded Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan, on the evening of Easter Sunday. Many of the victims were children. A Taliban splinter group called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for the attack that targeted Pakistani Christians without warning. The group is believed to have carried out previous attacks, including the beheading of 23 paramilitary soldiers in February 2014. A spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said his group wanted to send a message that it has “entered Lahore.” He then threatened further atrocities.
Yesterday’s heartbreaking blasts made this the third time this month alone that Pakistan has been attacked by jihadists. All this just in Pakistan, just in March. And this needs to be understood in the context of the global jihadist insurgency that is upon us: unprecedented in its scale, pluralistic in its leadership, fractured in its strategy, nevertheless inspiring in its central message, and popular enough in its appeal that it is able to move masses.
Again, just in the month of March there have been jihadist attacks in eight different countries, and I’m not including the ongoing jihadist civil wars in Afghanistan or Syria, the similar one brewing in Libya, and smaller scale attacks and killings across the world. Turkey, Ivory Coast, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, and Belgium have all fallen prey to this insurgency.
A jihadist guerrilla war is being waged against world order, and the international community is woefully unprepared to address the problem.
Many still deny this insurgency exists, and it is true that these countries have locally specific factors that contribute to their respective insurgent conditions. Yes, the groups behind these attacks are not under one central leadership, rather they are either affiliates or offshoots of competing jihadist groups.
But they all share one cause.
They are all—including ISIS—derived from, or affiliated to just two jihadist groupings: al Qaeda and the Taliban. In turn, jihadists all drink from the same doctrinal well of widespread, rigid Wahhabism. And they share the ideological aims of popular non-terrorist Islamists. They are all unified behind a theocratic desire to enforce a version of Sharia as law over society. Considering that non-violent Wahhabi and Islamist Muslims exist in their millions globally, this drastically increases the potential recruitment pool for jihadists. The insurgency could not succeed were this not so. There is no use in denying it.
For many years, liberals—and I speak as one—have refused to acknowledge the ideology of Islamism. All talk of “ideas” was seen to be nothing but a “neocon” line taken directly from the worst excesses of the George W. Bush years.
Ironically, due to this very fear of political incorrectness we wound up repeating many of the mistakes of the neocon era. While we feared to engage in a debate on values with Muslim communities, we tried to restrict the problem to the realm of mere criminality, as something to be dealt with by law enforcement or, failing a solution there, by the military—and ultimately by war, even if that word went unspoken. Under this doctrine, President Barack Obama developed a secret kill-list, preferring simply to assassinate his enemies, even if they were American citizens, and he has wound up dispatching more drone strikes abroad than Bush ever did.
Anything to avoid discussing ideas.
And so, as this global jihadist insurgency became impossible to ignore, we liberals reluctantly, euphemistically began naming the problem “violent extremism.” We used nauseating, limp State Department-coined phrases such as “al-Qaeda-inspired extremism” to refer to what was clearly an ideology. But as the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in his Pakistani hideout proved, we cannot arrest nor shoot our way out of this problem. “Defeating” al Qaeda was only ever going to give rise to a group like ISIS, because it was not al Qaeda that had “inspired extremism”; it was extremism that had inspired al Qaeda.
Our failure to recognize this as a civilizational struggle—one centered around values—has allowed the fundamentalist problem of Wahhabism, and the political problem of Islamism, to fester and metastasize. This struggle is an ideological one before it is a military or legal one. Vague platitudes that this has nothing to do with Islam—my own religion—are as unhelpful as saying that this is the essence of Islam. Extremism certainly has something to do with Islam. Not nothing, not everything, but something.
The Lahore bombing underscores the very religious character of the jihadists’ fanaticism. This was not about alienation in a European ghetto, or revenge for American and European airstrikes in the Middle East— the secular-sounding explanations offered as the motivations of people like those who carried out the Paris and Brussels attacks. Lahore was about pure, vicious religious intolerance, killing Christians—including Christian children—on Easter Sunday because they were Christians and not the kind of Muslims the murderers claim to be.
For years, this kind of brutal intolerance has been cultivated by Pakistan’s mullah mafia. These blasts came in the context of a March 27 deadline set by an alliance of more than 30 hard-line religious groups demanding that the provincial government in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, withdraw a new women’s rights bill that the mullahs oppose. This, after mobs were roused in support of Mumtaz Qadri, an extremist executed last month for killing the man he’d been hired as a bodyguard to protect in 2011, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. The motive for the crime: Taseer had advocated reform of the blasphemy laws. Now several thousand of these blasphemy inquisitors have occupied a high-security zone in Islamabad to demand, among other things, the implementation of Sharia as law.
So, let there be no doubt. We are in the middle of a struggle against theocracy, and for secular liberal democratic values. Muslims and non-Muslims respectively must join together in that fight. This is why Trump’s divisive rhetoric is so unhelpful. Everyone must stand together to discredit Islamism, and to support a reform in Islamic discourse. All of us together are responsible for challenging intolerant, theocratic thinking before it spills over to violence. All of us together are responsible for refusing to allow religion to become the primary bond that divides us from “the other.”
As Pakistan shows us, this is a difficult, fraught, lifelong struggle that few are yet prepared to face. But face it we must.
To read the article as originally published on The Daily Beast, please click here.
16 November 2015
This video was originally shown on CNN.
Maajid Nawaz spoke with Fareed Zakaria on CNN following the Paris attacks in which 130 people were killed.
In the interview, Maajid explained why some individuals are susceptible to extremism and how they are radicalised. He also discussed how governments and civil society can work towards countering extremism.
In his newly-published autobiography, “Radical: my journey from Islamist extremism to a democratic awakening”, Maajid Nawaz, chairman of the British counter-extremism think tank Quilliam Foundation, recounts his transformation from being a member of an extremist party to founding one of the world’s first counter-extremism organisations.
Nawaz began as a member and leader in Hizb ut-Tahrir — a party calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate — then abandoned his radical ideas in an Egyptian prison before returning to Britain to combat the same ideology he had previously worked to spread.
Al-Shorfa spoke to Nawaz about his personal journey and his views on al-Qaeda, the Taliban and extremism. (more…)