Pusillanimous Incoherence

Michael Ramirez

Melanie Phillips praises British PM David Cameron for his speech attacking multiculturalism, but also notes that Cameron was way too kind to Islam:

…the Prime Minister did not go far enough. Despite the welcome advances in the previous remarks, he qualified them by reverting to some of the pusillanimous incoherence that lay at the heart of the previous failed thinking. The problem – as ever – is that although he identified ‘Islamist extremism’ as the problem, he simultaneously tried to suggest that this was nothing to do with Islam:

‘We should acknowledge that this threat comes in Europe overwhelmingly from young men who follow a completely perverse, warped interpretation of Islam, and who are prepared to blow themselves up and kill their fellow citizens…

We should be equally clear what we mean by this term, and we must distinguish it from Islam. Islam is a religion observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a political ideology supported by a minority…

It is vital that we make this distinction between religion on the one hand, and political ideology on the other. Time and again, people equate the two. They think whether someone is an extremist is dependent on how much they observe their religion. So, they talk about moderate Muslims as if all devout Muslims must be extremist. This is profoundly wrong. Someone can be a devout Muslim and not be an extremist. We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing…

The point is this: the ideology of extremism is the problem; Islam emphatically is not.’

This is a muddle. ‘Islamist extremism’ is not a ‘warped perversion’ of Islam. It is rooted in authentic Islamic theology and history. What is certainly true, however, is that it is merely one interpretation of Islam. That’s a very different matter. Many millions of Muslims do not sign up to it, and it is important to make that clear; they themselves are amongst its potential victims. That is why I use the term ‘Islamist’, to permit a distinction between the jihadis and those Muslims who pose no threat to anyone.

But to deny the Islamic nature of Islamist extremism is absurd. It reminds me of the conversation I had a while back with a government official, who told me that the approved Whitehall line was that the cause of terrorism perpetrated by Muslims was ‘ideology’. But ‘ideology’ on its own is of course meaningless. ‘What kind of ideology?’ I inquired. ‘Political? Racial? Religious?’ The official looked pained. ‘Just ideology’, he sighed.

Not only is this ludicrous, but denying the religious nature of this fanaticism means it will continue to be misunderstood and thus there will be a continued failure to deal with it appropriately.

…does the Prime Minister really mean what he has said? For if he does, then in spite of the caveats above the implications of his words are enormous. Listing the criteria by which the government will henceforth judge whether or not to treat with Muslim organisations, he said:

‘So we should properly judge these organisations: do they believe in universal human rights – including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in equality of all before the law? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separation? These are the sorts of questions we need to ask. Fail these tests and the presumption should be not to engage with organisations – so, no public money, no sharing of platforms with ministers at home. At the same time, we must stop these groups from reaching people in publicly-funded institutions like universities or even, in the British case, prisons.’

Golly. If this is followed, then it means that not only the Muslim Brotherhood-influenced Muslim Association of Britain but the supposedly more mainstream Muslim Council of Britain, along with most if not all of its affiliates, will now be deemed to be beyond the pale. Is the government really going to take that approach? Will it, as this also inescapably implies, sack the Brotherhood types who are now acting as advisers on Muslim extremism within Whitehall? Will it finally take action against Islamist groups preaching jihadi subversion on campus? Will it arrest the spread of sharia law, end the Saudi funding of mosques and university Islamic studies departments, and row backwards on sharia financing?

I’ll believe it when I see it.

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