Thursday, November 19, 2009

Islamists set terms in war on jihad

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    • Swapan Dasgupta
    • This distinction is crucial. It is a colossal mistake to locate the so-called Islamist rage in specific grievances such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine (the expedient default grievance). Last week, Ayatollah Abdolhossein Moezi, the representative of the Iranian ‘Supreme Leader’ in Britain, fuelled a controversy by suggesting that Muslims shouldn’t be a part of the armed forces of countries that are in conflict with fellow Muslims. “We say that Muslims are not allowed to go and kill Muslims,” he pronounced grandly.

      The argument is disingenuous. If Muslims were theologically forbidden from killing other Muslims, as the Ayatollah claimed, a trigger-happy Iranian police wouldn’t have killed so many fellow Shias protesting against something as innocuous as a rigged presidential election. Nor would suicide bombing have become a cottage industry in Pakistan, considering that nearly 90 per cent of those killed are invariably Muslims. There has to some theological underpinning to acts of murder that inflict so much collateral damage on Muslims.
    • There is a global radicalisation of Muslims which has its roots in the convergence of religion and political power. To try and overcome it with competitive theology — countering one religious quotation with another — and multiculturalism are unlikely to work. On the contrary, the battle will be on terms desired by the Islamists. It is time we seriously explore whether religious radicalisation can be offset by a dogmatic refusal to concede any space to religion in political life. It’s not easy but various alternative approaches haven’t succeeded.