Tag Archives: Islamist

Radical Islam: How to live with it

What is an appropriate response to radical Islam? Weapons grade rhetoric that calls down fire from heaven to ignite the apocalypse or passive acquiescence that leads to dhimmitude and interfaith worship? Does it have to be one or the other? Racism or appeasement? The clash of civilisations or the Islamisation of the West?

Fareed Zakaria, writing in Newsweek suggests we must learn to live with radical Islam. Writing from an Islamic perspective he insists, “We don’t have to accept the stoning of criminals. But it’s time to stop treating all Islamists as potential terrorists.”

In what many coinsider his finest piece of writing in Newsweek, Zakaria makes a convincing case for why the West needs to adopt a more “sophisticated strategy” toward Radical Islam.

Pierre Tristam, writing for about.com summarises this important article: “The current with-us-or-against-us business won’t do, Zakaria argues, with eight years of evidence on his side. Not every radical Islamic regime is a synonym of al-Qaeda.”

Zakaria admits, “The militants are bad people and this is bad news. But the more difficult question is, what should we—the outside world—do about it? That we are utterly opposed to such people, and their ideas and practices, is obvious. But how exactly should we oppose them? In Pakistan and Afghanistan, we have done so in large measure by attacking them—directly with Western troops and Predator strikes, and indirectly in alliance with Pakistani and Afghan forces. Is the answer to pour in more of our troops, train more Afghan soldiers, ask that the Pakistani military deploy more battalions, and expand the Predator program to hit more of the bad guys? Perhaps—in some cases, emphatically yes—but I think it’s also worth stepping back and trying to understand the phenomenon of Islamic radicalism.”

There is realism in his assessment of the threat posed by Islamists: “Reports from Nigeria to Bosnia to Indonesia show that Islamic fundamentalists are finding support within their communities for their agenda, which usually involves the introduction of some form of Sharia—Islamic law—reflecting a puritanical interpretation of Islam. No music, no liquor, no smoking, no female emancipation.The groups that advocate these policies are ugly, reactionary forces that will stunt their countries and bring dishonor to their religion. But not all these Islamists advocate global jihad, host terrorists or launch operations against the outside world—in fact, most do not.”

He cites examples in Pakistan and other countries where attempts have been made to distinguish between Islamists who are violent and those who are extreme.

“Over the past eight years such distinctions have been regarded as naive. In the Bush administration’s original view, all Islamist groups were one and the same; any distinctions or nuances were regarded as a form of appeasement. If they weren’t terrorists themselves, they were probably harboring terrorists. But how to understand Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the countries “harbor” terrorists but are not themselves terrorist states?”

Zakaria also warns us not to over-estimate the influence of Al Qaeda:

“To be clear, where there are Qaeda cells and fighters, force is the only answer. But most estimates of the number of Qaeda fighters in Pakistan range well under a few thousand. Are those the only people we are bombing? Is bombing—by Americans—the best solution? The Predator strikes have convinced much of the local population that it’s under attack from America and produced a nationalist backlash. A few Qaeda operatives die, but public support for the battle against extremism drops in the vital Pashtun areas of Pakistan. Is this a good exchange?”

The danger Zakaria highlights is that believing in the existence of an “Axis of Evil” and Huntingdon’s theory  is becoming a self fulfilling prophecy.

“We have placed ourselves in armed opposition to Muslim fundamentalists stretching from North Africa to Indonesia, which has made this whole enterprise feel very much like a clash of civilizations, and a violent one at that. Certainly, many local despots would prefer to enlist the American armed forces to defeat their enemies, some of whom may be jihadists but others may not. Across the entire North African region, the United States and other Western powers are supporting secular autocrats who claim to be battling Islamist opposition forces. In return, those rulers have done little to advance genuine reform, state building or political openness. In Algeria, after the Islamists won an election in 1992, the military staged a coup, the Islamists were banned and a long civil war ensued in which 200,000 people died. The opposition has since become more militant, and where once it had no global interests, some elements are now aligned with Al Qaeda.”

Zakaria then examines the painful lessons learnt by the Bush Administration in Iraq and Afghanistan:

“We have an instant, violent reaction to anyone who sounds like an Islamic bigot. This is understandable. Many Islamists are bigots, reactionaries and extremists (others are charlatans and opportunists). But this can sometimes blind us to the ways they might prove useful in the broader struggle against Islamic terror. The Bush administration spent its first term engaged in a largely abstract, theoretical conversation about radical Islam and its evils—and conservative intellectuals still spout this kind of unyielding rhetoric. By its second term, though, the administration was grappling with the complexities of Islam on the ground. It is instructive that Bush ended up pursuing a most sophisticated and nuanced policy toward political Islam in the one country where reality was unavoidable—Iraq.”

Zakaria urges the new US Administration to break with the Bush model of doing geopolitics.

“Beyond Afghanistan, too, it is crucial that we adopt a more sophisticated strategy toward radical Islam. This should come naturally to President Obama, who spoke often on the campaign trail of the need for just such a differentiated approach toward Muslim countries. Even the Washington Institute, a think tank often associated with conservatives, appears onboard. It is issuing a report this week that recommends, among other points, that the United States use more “nuanced, noncombative rhetoric” that avoids sweeping declarations like “war on terror,” “global insurgency,” even “the Muslim world.” Anything that emphasizes the variety of groups, movements and motives within that world strengthens the case that this is not a battle between Islam and the West. Bin Laden constantly argues that all these different groups are part of the same global movement. We should not play into his hands, and emphasize instead that many of these forces are local, have specific grievances and don’t have much in common.”

“That does not mean we should accept the burning of girls’ schools, or the stoning of criminals. Recognizing the reality of radical Islam is entirely different from accepting its ideas. We should mount a spirited defense of our views and values. We should pursue aggressively policies that will make these values succeed. Such efforts are often difficult and take time—rebuilding state structures, providing secular education, reducing corruption—but we should help societies making these efforts. The mere fact that we are working in these countries on these issues—and not simply bombing, killing and capturing—might change the atmosphere surrounding the U.S. involvement in this struggle.”

Counselling a dose of realism Zakaria concludes,

“The veil is not the same as the suicide belt. We can better pursue our values if we recognize the local and cultural context, and appreciate that people want to find their own balance between freedom and order, liberty and license. In the end, time is on our side. Bin Ladenism has already lost ground in almost every Muslim country. Radical Islam will follow the same path. Wherever it is tried—in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in parts of Nigeria and Pakistan—people weary of its charms very quickly. The truth is that all Islamists, violent or not, lack answers to the problems of the modern world. They do not have a world view that can satisfy the aspirations of modern men and women. We do. That’s the most powerful weapon of all.”

Tristam summarises Zakaria thus: “Zakaria resolves the contradiction by suggesting that accepting that fundamentalist wave, dealing with it, letting it unravel of its own, is a far smarter strategy than any attempt to bomb it. Again, evidence is on his side.”

Between annihilation and assimilation there is a third way: constructive engagement.

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Melanie Phillips: Beware The New Axis of Evangelicals and Islamists

Melanie Phillips’ article “Beware the New Axis of Evangelicals and Islamists” published in the Spectator last week is libellous. It contains untruthful statements about me which may injure my reputation or standing in the community.

I have never said that I wish Israel, in her words, “to be destroyed” or to “disappear just as did the apartheid regime in South Africa.” I have never believed this and categorically reject any position that threatens the integrity of Israel as a sovereign nation.

On the contrary I have repeatedly stated in writing (for example here, here and here) that I wish to see a safe and secure Israel with internationally recognised borders, alongside a sovereign, viable, independent Palestine.

I have, however, spoken out against Holocaust denial as well as religious extremism. I have also highlighted British involvement in saving Jewish people from the Nazi Holocaust. I have specifically challenged Christians who see nothing incompatible with membership of the BNP.

Far from seeking to “appease radical Islam”, I have criticised Islamist attacks against Christians in Iraq here and here, as well as in Afghanistan. I have challenged Iran’s human right’s record here and here and commended an important book about the Church in Iran here.

I have never knowingly, to use her words, “given interviews to, endorsed or forwarded material from American white supremists and Holocaust deniers”. My publisher in the USA, InterVarsity Press, occasionally arrange TV and radio interviews for me with Christian stations to promote my books. I trust their judgement.

On her use of the term “islamofacism“, I subscribe to the view of a leading authority on Fascism, Walter Laqueur, who concluded that “Islamic fascism, Islamophobia and antisemitism, each in its way, are imprecise terms we could well do without but it is doubtful whether they can be removed from our political lexicon.” The best piece of writing I have seen recently on “Radical Islam” is by Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek.

I keep an extensive and growing mailing list and am no more responsible that Melanie Phillips is for how others make use of material I write, or forward, which is invariably from mainstream newspapers and journals. Unlike those who choose to use anonymous blogs and websites to express their opinions, I have made my own views plain and my external ministry public.

“we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2).

To clarify my position and to anticipate such criticisms, in my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers?, I wrote the following:

“It is true that at various times in the past, churches and church leaders have tolerated or incited anti-Semitism and even attacks on Jewish people. Racism is a sin and without excuse. Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally. However, we must not confuse apples and oranges. Anti-Zionism is not the same thing as anti-Semitism despite attempts to broaden the definition. Criticising a political system as racist is not necessarily racist. Judaism is a religious system. Israel is a sovereign nation. Zionism is a political system. These three are not synonymous. I respect Judaism, repudiate anti-Semitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist within borders recognised by the international community and agreed with her neighbours. But like many Jews, I disagree with a political system which gives preference to expatriate Jews born elsewhere in the world, while denying the same rights to the Arab Palestinians born in the country itself.”

I endorse the position taken by the Heads of Churches in Israel regarding the need for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Others such as former US President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have made comparisons between Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories and South Africa under apartheid.

I do wish to see the present illegal occupation of Gaza, the Golan and the West Bank “disappear”, but only as a result of the peaceful implementation of all relevant UN Resolutions, the Roadmap to Peace previously agreed by the US, EU, Russia and UN in April 2003, and Annapolis Agreement of November 2007 and Quartet Statement of December 2008.

I have a high regard for Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and the courageous stand he has taken on inter-faith as well as ecclesiastical issues. Indeed I helped organise and promote his recent visit to Guildford Diocese.

I also deeply regret hearing that Patrick Sookhdeo has received a death threat as a result of writing his recent book, Global Jihad. Unfortunately, it is increasingly common. I have too. Veiled threats even feature on pro-Zionist Christian websites that seem to want me dead. Another example on the same website has the author lament, “Unfortunately (in my opinion) we no longer publicly and immediately stone false prophets to death.” then a few sentences later asserts, “One of the latest in a very long line of succession is a false teacher by the name of Stephen Sizer.” Thankfully, the police take these threats seriously and have arranged a measure of additional protection for my family also.

Back to Melanie Phillips. Her inflammatory alleagations about my involvement in interfaith conferences or TV programmes, alongside Jewish or Islamic leaders, is a tried and tested method intended to alienate, isolate and silence the views of those deemed critical of her own. Prior knowledge of, or agreement with, the views of others invited onto radio or TV programmes or conference platforms is not a significant criteria I use to decide whether to participate. Gaining a hearing for an explicitly Christian perspective committed to peacemaking and non-violence is.

What saddened me most, however, about Melanie Phillips’ article, were her concluding remarks criticising the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England. This is what she wrote:

“Many will be deeply shocked that the Church of England harbours individuals with such attitudes. But the church hierarchy is unlikely to act against them. Extreme hostility towards Israel is the default position among bishops and archbishops; while the establishment line is to reach out towards Islam in an attempt to accommodate and appease it. With Christians around the world suffering forced conversion, ethnic cleansing and murder at Islamist hands, the church utters not a word of protest. Instead, inter-faith dialogue is the order of the day…”

I have been a Christian minister for just short of 30 years but have yet to meet a priest, let alone a Bishop or Archbishop who displays, “extreme hostility towards Israel” or who wishes to “accommodate and appease” Islam. Just the reverse. While there is clearly a spectrum of opinion on the best way to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict within the House of Bishops, and the most appropriate way to present the good news of Jesus Christ in a multi-faith context, they are nevertheless united in opposing racism and religious intolerance whether directed toward Jewish people or Muslims.

One has to ask what has motivated her to compose such a mendacious and libellous caricature of Christians within the Church of England concerned for justice and peace in the Middle East? Is it to deflect attention from Israel’s recent wanton killing spree in Gaza? Or was it written out of frustration at the decision of the Church of England Synod to divest its shares in Caterpillar? Or just part of the wider Zionist lobby targetting Barak Obama’s new Administration? Or is it perhaps a precursor to an imminent pre-emptive attack against Iran? Lets hope not otherwise it won’t be the libel or calumny we are debating but whether her friends who seem anxious for Armageddon are right after all.

For answers – check out Melanie’s Wiki entry – that bastion of ‘objectivity’ and truth. It alleges,

“Phillips strongly defends Israel and its actions. She argues the Palestinians are an “artificial” people who can be collectively punished for acts of terrorism by Islamist terrorists because they are “a terrorist population”. She believes that while “individual Palestinians may deserve compassion, their cause amounts to Holocaust denial as a national project”.[12] She has repeatedly claimed that footage of those injured in Israeli attacks on Palestinian areas has been “fabricated/faked”.[13][14]

She frequently accuses Israel’s critics (including many Jews) of being motivated by anti-Semitism. She has described the paper “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” written by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt as a “particularly ripe example of the ‘global Zionist conspiracy’ libel” and expressed her astonishment at what she calls “the fundamental misrepresentations and distortions in the paper”.[15]

In a recent article, she criticised the membership and leadership of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches in Britain, and specifically the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, accusing them of antisemitism because of remarks made by the Archbishop about the plight of Bethlehem Christians under Israeli occupation; another factor was an opinion poll showing that the majority of Anglicans were opposed to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The article ended with a condemnation of what she sees as the churches’ failure to criticise the President of Iran’s desire to “destroy Israel”,[16] and that “the churches in Britain are not only silent about the genocidal ravings emanating from Iran but are themselves helping pave the way for a second Holocaust“.[17]

I think its time Melanie came back to church and stopped telling porkies.

For the official response from the Church of England – see here.

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