Tony Blair has published an article on the Woolwich murder in the Mail on Sunday. It has received widespread attention for being so outspoken on the issue of Islamic extremism.
The basic line of argument is that the relation between extremist violence and a certain ideology within Islam cannot be ignored any longer. There is a problem within Islam and we must deal with it.
In my view, the problem within Islam is Islamism: It is the perversion and abuse of the religion by some for political agendas. Maajid Nawaz, director of counter-terrorism think tank Quilliam Foundation, summarizes it like this:
“Islamism is not Islam. It is the politicisation of Islam, the desire to impose a version of ancient faith over society.”
I think my personal story illustrates the global effects of Islamism quite well:
When I was three years old, the Bosnian war broke out because of ethnic tensions (more here). It was a very ugly conflict with many civilian deaths. The climax was reached with the genocide in Srebrenica. Even though it took the West three long years to act, the US eventually intervened via NATO and brought the conflict to an end.
Sadly, the Bosnian tragedy and the hesitant foreign policy of the West were abused by Islamist clerics abroad for the recruitment of Muslims for the global “jihad”, the holy war against the West, which is seen as the “enemy of Islam”.
Indeed, a British-Pakistani colleague of mine has been recruited as a young man by the Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir with propaganda videos about the rape and murder of pregnant Bosniak women. The causes for the conflict and Western foreign policy were misconstrued and reduced to religious struggles – ignoring other political and social factors, the distorted story went:
“Bosniaks are slaughtered by Serb ‘infidels’ (non-believers) and Europe and the US do nothing and watch the massacre, because the West couldn’t care less about Muslims”.
Interestingly, in the 1990s Islamists exploited grievances about Western non-intervention on behalf of Muslims in Bosnia, whereas Woolwich murderer Adebolajo complained about interventions in Muslim countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, his justification for the beheading of Lee Rigby was very similar to the Islamist narrative about Bosnia: that the only reason for the “jihad” is because “Muslims are dying daily” and that our Western government “doesn’t care about us” and we should “remove it”. Finally, he vowed that they “will never stop fighting us” and that we “will never be safe”.
In 2008, Ghaffar Hussain was spot-on when he noted:
“The objective of Islamist violence is never to address or correct grievances, nor is it to achieve independence from occupation.
Rather it aims to achieve specific ideological goals which would exist – with or without – western intervention in Muslim countries.
Islamists are obliged by their ideological world view to see the “infidel enemy” (read “west”) as a competitor in their quest for world domination.”
Islamists don’t distinguish between the spiritual and the earthly, between the personal and the political, between religion and the state.They feel that their interpretation of faith demands them to establish a “caliphate”, a global Islamic superstate, by all means, including terrorism.
Khadduri, an international renowned scholar on fundamental Islamic law and theology, writes:
“The Islamic state, whose principal function was to put God’s law into practice, sought to establish Islam as the dominant reigning ideology over the entire world. […]
The jihad was therefore employed as an instrument for both the universalization of religion and the establishment of an imperial world state.”
Today, there are 56 Islamic states in the world, yet none can be called truly secular or democratic. Even Turkey has been subject to Islamization under Erdogan and lost its last bit of credibility with the brutal breakdown of the protests last week.
There are only four states with full implementation of Islamic law in the world: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Northern Sudan and Somalia. But Islamic terrorism is a real threat to a free, pluralistic and secure world since militant groups like “Boko Haram” in Nigeria and the Al-Qaeda linked “Ansar Dine” in Mali try to violently overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state, based on Sharia law.
Yet, we mustn’t forget that the level of support for the ideology of political Islam is very diverse among Muslims in the world as the vast, new study by the Pew Research Center reveals:
While there is solid support for the installation of Sharia among Muslims in Nigeria (71%), Indonesia (72%), Egypt (74%), Pakistan (84%), Palestine (89%), Iraq (91%) and Afghanistan (99%), there is only little support for it in Azerbaijan (8%), Kosovo (12%) and Bosnia (15%).
Similarly, only 2% of Bosnians and Kosovars want the death penalty for apostasy, yet 64% of Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan think people who leave Islam should be executed.When asked whether religious leaders should have great influence on politics, 37% of Muslims in Jordan, 41% in Malaysia and 53% in Afghanistan agree.
Furthermore, terrorism, such as suicide bombing is condoned by 19% of Muslims in the US, 26% in Bangladesh, 29% in Egypt, 39% in Afghanistan and 40% in Palestine.