Sunday, December 4, 2011

No, we absolutely must not 'embrace' Islamism

"[The] general enemy, of course, is extremism. What has extremism ever done for anyone? Where are its gifts to humanity? Where are its works?" – Martin Amis1

"Question to several white, secular liberal friends in the West: why are you so keen on a #MuslimBrotherhood victory in #Egypt?" – Mohammed ‘Ed’ Husain, author of The Islamist, on twitter

Last Thursday, Reuters ran the headline, ‘West should embrace “Arab Spring” Islamists – Qatar’, citing a Financial Times interview with the Qatari Prime Minister Hamad al-Thani in which he voiced this opinion. As suggested by the above quote of Ed Husain’s, al-Thani may have been pushing an open door. So now that the ‘Arab Spring’ (if we’re still calling it that) has brought us the incredible spectacle of secular Westerners applauding the electoral successes of Islamist parties from Casablanca to Cairo, it might be worth recalling what we all knew, or ought to have known, twelve months ago.

Which is that Islamism – the politicisation of Islam, or, if you prefer, the Islamisation of politics – is extremism by definition. As much as the phrase has been allowed to infiltrate our language, there is no such thing as a ‘moderate Islamist’. From the outset, Islamism says that the practice of religion may not be left to the private domain; that the relationship between man and God is not allowed to be a merely personal one. Instead, you, the citizen, are to be given no say in your spiritual and metaphysical beliefs: the state has made up your mind for you, and is going to make certain that you obey the compulsory pieties and strictures while it’s at it. All questions of interpretation, nuance, allegory, etc., are out: the state knows best, and there is no court of appeal. By this intrusion into the innermost realm of the individual, Islamism combines totalitarianism and tyranny with the basest insult to the intelligence – the manifestation of Orwell’s Big Brother who can tell you that two plus two makes five, and make you very sorry if you dare to disagree.

And what, indeed, has Islamism ever done for anyone? Where are its gifts to humanity? Where are its works? Are they perhaps to be found in Yemen, ranked dead last in the World Economic Forum’s 2011 Gender Gap report, where more than a quarter of the female child population is sold into marriage (and therefore rape) by the age of fifteen? Or how about the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which came in third-last on the same index, while topping the Committee to Protect Journalists’ ‘Deadliest Countries in 2011’ list? The sterile world of statistics cannot adequately capture the pure hell of this failed state, unforgettably described by Christopher Hitchens as follows:

Here is a society where rape is not a crime. It is a punishment. Women can be sentenced to be raped, by tribal and religious kangaroo courts, if even a rumor of their immodesty brings shame on their menfolk. In such an obscenely distorted context, the counterpart term to shame—which is the noble word “honor”—becomes most commonly associated with the word “killing.” Moral courage consists of the willingness to butcher your own daughter.

Nor is the picture much brighter in Saudi Arabia or Iran – the powerhouses of Sunni and Shia theocracy, respectively – where all social and cultural development is vetoed, and the people are harassed and humiliated daily by the secret police. Things are rapidly tending this way in the ‘Holy Land’, where the most admirable political cause of the modern era – the liberation of Palestine – has been hijacked by the fanatics of Hamas and Hizbullah, who want to kick out the Zionist empire only to install their own Islamic one in its place. True, life is bearable enough in comparatively relaxed Gulf dictatorships such as the UAE, so long as one is mindful not to ‘insult Islam’ by, say, criticising the Taliban. And then there is the purported ‘model’ of Turkey, where the advances made by Prime Minister Erdoğan’s party in economic and other respects have come at the price of an encroaching muscular reactionism in which a growing list of ‘vices’ from adultery to alcohol are falling under the stifling scrutiny of the state.

And now we suddenly have Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Egypt to add to the list. Only time will tell how fascistic each turns out to be, although the Tunisian ‘Ennahda’ party may have given us an early indication last month when its secretary-general, Hamadi Jbeli, proclaimed that, “We are in the sixth caliphate, God willing”. That as many as a quarter of Egyptians appear to have voted for the Salafi 'al-Nour' party – a spawn of the same sewage that nearly murdered the greatest novelist of the Arab world, Naguib Mahfouz – is also less than comforting. Of course, one must presume innocence until guilt is proven, and democratic nations should at least tolerate Islamists to the extent that they adhere to international law. But to ‘embrace’ them would be to abandon every principle – and every friend within each of these countries – to which the secular world owes its unconditional allegiance. Over. My. Dead. Body.

1 Amis, M., The Second Plane: September 11, 2001-2007 (2008), Author’s Note


  1. Their guilt already is proven, as is their intolerance. Not only should they not be tolerated, let alone embraced, but they should be strenuously called out for their misdeeds time and time again. Keep up the good work.

  2. To think that more than a billion lemmings blindly follow the rantings (pieced together largely from Christianity & Judaism) of a paedophile who went from village to village raping 12 year olds.
    Wake up, smell the coffee and let your conscience give you the strength to relinquish the cancer of islam that you've been so desperate to rid yourself of all your life