Kevin Myers, a columnist on the Irish Independent (a paper whose website is suspiciously similar to the Independent in London) who has also written for the Telegraph in the UK, raises a fairly common Islamophobic cliché in his assessment of why an apparently peaceful Muslim can suddenly become violent: because apparently, the perception of the need for jihad can simply override the normal laws of Islam any time it occurs to someone:
But at bottom, jihad — the holy struggle — is the key liberator which enables the Muslim fundamentalist to depart from the rules of the society in which he is living.
Jihad can be formed as a result of the teachings of an imam, but it boils down to a personal contract between Allah and the believer, based on an extreme interpretation of Islam. This effectively declares: “If you feel very strongly that the rules in the Holy Koran about never injuring the innocent, and always respecting women and children, and respecting the rights of the kaffirs to remain non-believers, are subordinate to jihad, then these rules do not apply to you.
Moreover, if you feel specifically enjoined to break these rules in pursuit of jihad and martyrdom, the reward shall be paradise and all the blissful wherewithal of the heavenly hereafter.”
This notion of a personal contract with Allah, that authorises a believer to break even the most civilised and civilising laws of the Koran, is a sure-fire recipe for murderous irrationality and social anarchy.
This entire notion has, of course, been invented by Myers for the sake of his column. While there is a notion of a connection between the Believer and Allah in Islam, the notion that this connection allows anyone to simply ride roughshod over any rules he sees fit in the name of ‘jihad’ is baseless. In fact, the idea that there are some individuals whose status entitles them to go against the Shari’ah has been widely discussed, particularly as there are some so-called Sufis who claim this, and rejected. There are rules to jihad and they do not include randomly killing a group of people who regarded you as one of them.
There was, for example, an incident in which a Sahabi had been from Madinah to Yemen, and the journey back required him to pass through Makkah, which was at the time under enemy (pagan) control. The pagans let him return to Madinah on the assurance that he would not fight them. He told the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) this, and it was agreed that he should not join the Muslims in the battle that followed shortly afterwards. Nidal Hasan was in much the same position; although he had, of course, not explicitly promised not to fight them, he was among those who believed he was a comrade regardless of his religion (or, at least, many of them did).
He goes on:
And these have become the defining feature of almost every Muslim society in the world. So where there are no Muslims, the problem of jihadist terrorism does not exist either. It is the most obvious statement imaginable, yet it is worth making. Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Iceland, Japan, Mozambique, Taiwan: they do not have Muslim immigrants, and so do not have the problem of Islamic terrorism.
This reveals his ignorance. Chile and Japan do have Muslim immigrants (or at least workers and students, in the case of Japan; Chile’s Muslims are mostly Palestinian). Mozambique, although its single biggest religion is Catholicism, has a substantial indigenous Muslim population and it is widely agreed that it is named after a Muslim king called something like Musa Mbiki. Not every country which has a substantial Muslim minority has seen any kind of explosion of violence — consider Sri Lanka, in which the Muslims have remained peaceful despite pressure from both the Tamil Tigers and extreme elements in the Buddhist Sinhala population. Consider also most of West Africa, Nigeria excepted (and even there, Muslim extremism is not the only problem; there are also land disputes, ethnic disputes in which religions happen to differ, and aggression from Christians). Ireland also has Muslim immigrants, and so far has not had any problems with Muslim terrorism. So this belies the claim that Muslims’ “universal belligerence has no universal cause, other than in the universality of Islam, which seems so often to respond lethally to local conditions”.
The barren and barbaric Hindu Kush is not the same as the perfumed court of the Ottomans. But somewhere inside the greater Islamic mind is an absurd sense of victimhood: and where there is no local grievance, why then there is always “Palestine”, as if those few disputed acres in the vast Islamic landmass of Afro-Asia merited the unanimous and indignant global furies of all Muslims, from Delhi to Dearborn.
This same querulous organ of self pity also resents Muslims becoming the subject of intelligence operations after an Islamic atrocity, as if it were reasonable and wise to subject Mexican laptop-dancers and Lapland reindeer-herders to equal levels of scrutiny and suspicion.
India has been the home of Islamic moral-secessionists for longer than anywhere else. And the Indian intelligence services are often almost paralysed in their hunt for Islamic-terrorists by the political power of Muslim “community leaders” who unfailingly denounce terrorism — but then equally denounce any action by Indian intelligence against members of the Muslim communities: for such actions, it is argued, are clear proof of the fundamentally Islamophobic nature of the Indian state, and the reason for the fundamentalists’ actions in the first place.
Anyone who knows anything about the recent history of India knows that Muslims there have better reason than any other Muslim minority to perceive the state as “fundamentally Islamophobic”. Hindu fundamentalists have been in power in several states in India this decade, and formed the government for part of it. We have all heard of the organised rioting and murder against the Muslim population in Gujarat. The government has much less to fear from Muslim “community leaders” than it has from Hindu ones, many of whom can rely on being able to draw a mob to go and rape and pillage and wreak general havoc when they hear of some offence to their sensibilities, and even Muslim community leaders will castigate the “offending” Muslims for being so stupid as to slaughter a cow.
Furthermore, Muslims in the west do not (in general) object to the state pursuing the perpetrators of terrorism, or any other crime. What we object to is being harassed as we go about our business. This includes being stopped at border crossings, airports etc and being asked stupid questions by bigoted officials, which certain airports in the UK are notorious for.
This is a sealed moral system, an internal autonomy that is immune to penetration or logic. Fear of such accusations of Islamophobia — phobophobia — almost certainly prevented Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s superior officers from disciplining him for his public jihadist outpourings.
Pre-emptive action would certainly have been portrayed by the liberal media as Islamophobic discrimination against a patriotic Muslim, and would have enraged that reliable stock-character of media portrayal, “moderate Muslims”.
Thirteen genuine patriots are now dead as the price of such phobophobic appeasement.
To begin with, it is not known for sure whether the writings of Nidal Hasan on the web came from the same Nidal Hasan who carried out the shootings. Muslim organisations would have objected, as perhaps would more general civil rights organisations, if someone had been punished for expressing anti-American sentiment other than in the Armed Forces. Within them, it would certainly have demonstrated that he was not suited to be in the Forces, and his discharge would have been entirely justified. Whether the victims really are “genuine patriots”, or people who joined up because civilian life offered no prospects, or are unthinkingly patriotic white working-class provincial Americans, is unclear.
More importantly, the US must now wake up to the consequences of its open-door immigration policy, just as Britain did four years ago after July 7. The subsequent pattern will presumably be similar. Watch now, as “victimised” American Muslims close ranks, the burka and the hijab become commonplace amongst their womenfolk, and the rest of the US asks in tones of awestruck horror: My God, what have we done?
This is an invitation to judge the entire Muslim community on the basis of the actions of a deranged or delinquent few. Muslim immigrants first arrived in the UK in large numbers in the 1950s; it took two generations for any group of these Muslims to commit any act of terrorism. The USA also has never had an “open-door” immigration policy, although it overlooked illegal immigration to a certain extent until after 9/11; most of those it let in as permanent residents were skilled workers and those with family connections. Similarly, the UK ceased to have an open-door policy in the 1960s. The comment about the hijab is also an entirely irrelevant statement of prejudice; hijab on various levels, including niqab, has been popular for years among Muslim women of various tendencies, most of which have no truck with terrorism, while the vast majority of terrorists are men.
While I don’t dispute that some Muslims have an over-developed sense of victimhood, the fact is that outright bigotry against Muslims has become the acceptable prejudice in the UK, certainly, in the last few years, much as it has in the rest of Europe. The fact that an inveterate bigot like Kevin Myers gets space to spout this kind of nonsense time and again, in both British and Irish broadsheets, is a case in point: he claims that barely a white face could be seen in BBC coverage of shopping in the West End (not true, and I go there a lot, although there are good reasons why there are many foreigners there, including the student and business populations and the fact that people visiting London from abroad are unlikely to make a detour to Sutton or Enfield high street while those places offer most of what the locals need) and that “huge areas of Britain have become foreign colonies, which demographically and culturally dominate the native populations” — an arrant untruth — which could happen to Ireland also because of the Common Travel Area; this is also obvious nonsense, particularly given that hardly any Muslims from the UK relocated there during the “Celtic Tiger” years and is even less likely to now that the financial system (on which Ireland dependent even more than the UK) has crashed and manufacturers, including Dell, are relocating to eastern Europe.
The biggest fault with Myers’s article is that he seems to think that the single common factor between the 2005 London bombings, 9/11 and the Fort Hood shooting — that Muslims were involved — is all that needs to be considered, and that it reflects on all Muslims. In fact, Nidal Hasan may have acted alone or possibly with two other people, and the groups behind the other two atrocities were small cells, not mass movements, yet he uses this as yet another excuse to throw mud at Muslims. I do not believe that yet another Holocaust is imminent, but the complaint of Anne Frank, that what a Gentile does is attributed only to that person but that all Jews are judged on what any Jew does, is echoed when I read what appears in the right-wing English-language press. It has become acceptable for “respectable” newspapers to print plainly false claims and for the popular press to scream the claims from the front page. It is quite understandable that Muslims are fearful and feel victimised.
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