Radicalism and restricted loyalty

February 13, 2010 at 12:50 pm (is religion good or bad for you?, Islam, moral issues, society)

This week there was a TV programme about young British Muslims being radicalised… and a programme about a young white guy being radicalised into the BNP (an extreme, racist political party). The similarity between the two was striking. The pattern seems to be that they are looking for a place to belong, and people welcome them into that radical club and make them feel that sense of validation and belonging that they need.

I think I can understand radicalisation; after all, it is sort of what happened to me as an undergrad. I was seduced by an all-encompassing world view, a belief system that really gave me something to live for. For whatever reason, a lot of the younger generation need that in a way that their parents didn’t.

What I understood from the programme about radical Islam is that a lot of the parents of these young guys, who immigrated to Britain and brought a moderate Islam with them, don’t recognise that their offspring are believing quite differently from themselves. They are shocked when someone in their community is charged with supporting terrorism, and when it’s proved that he didn’t do anything, they are all “we knew you weren’t a terrorist, you were always a good lad, you have been badly treated by the police” – not realising that he supports terrorism even if he was never going to do anything. They seem to have their heads in the sand about it. This is worrying.

Militant Islam and the BNP are both finding support because of grievances that people have. People are finding meaning in these ideologies that is drawing them in. The BNP ideology is not based on any religious world view, so we can safely say that it is not religion that is the underlying cause in either case.

But being religious doesn’t help. The notion of the ummah encourages people to get worked up about Muslims suffering elsewhere in the world and to demonise the non-Muslims that are perceived to be to blame. It creates “The Other”. And when that Other is your neighbour, who might be politically liberal and strongly supporting your right to practice your religion in this country, and yet you have no loyalty to that neighbour because they are not part of your ummah… I find that very offensive. It’s the epitome of tribalism and it stinks.

When you can’t even wish your Christian neighbours a Merry Christmas, because it amounts to congratulating the kuffar on their festivals of shirk, then I don’t think you deserve the automatic right to build minarets in the country, or the automatic right to wear your niqab in the street. Pluralism is a game we all have to play with the same commitment to goodwill.

In such a globalised world, I feel we need to move beyond tribalistic or racialistic notions of loyalty. We need to begin to see everyone as our neighbour, our brother, our sister. It may sound overly simplistic, but it’s going down otherwise, isn’t it? I think we need to criticise when wrong is being done. We need to stand up against bullies in the world who are oppressing people. Respect doesn’t mean infinite tolerance. But we need to stop demonising each other and start to try and understand – see beyond our superficial prejudices which are only reinforced and deepened by our radical ideologies. We need to sympathise with the pain inside the radical Muslim and the BNP supporter.

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25 Comments

  1. susanne430 said,

    “The pattern seems to be that they are looking for a place to belong, and people welcome them into that radical club and make them feel that sense of validation and belonging that they need.”

    I understand this is why gangs proliferate here. You have young black or Hispanic or Asian or white men who have broken homes or else they are just looking for belonging so they forms gangs.

    And then they fight each other over turf among other things. :-/

    “We need to sympathise with the pain inside the radical Muslim and the BNP supporter.”

    How would you suggest we do this? You said we need to “stand up against bullies in the world who are oppressing people” yet we should sympathize with their pain. Any suggestions?

    • Wrestling said,

      Susanne – I think this is basically the same sort of thing as gangs.
      I think we just need to listen to each other more… to our grievances, our perspectives. Watching both of those TV programmes, I felt sorry for the young people being drawn into these ideologies. I don’t think we should be quick to judge each other. There is a reason why people do horrible things and that reason needs to be addressed. But without in any way condoning the actions. It’s all about being honest, sharing our honest views – which includes criticism – and being prepared to listen to each other.
      What can we do when others won’t listen… I don’t know… but I think ideally, carry on listening and addressing our own wrongs, even if they threaten to hurt us… like turning the other cheek: you become powerful when you refuse to react in the usual negative way.

      • susanne430 said,

        Those sound like great ideas. I’ve found listening to people and trying to understand them to be very helpful. Thanks!

  2. Jasmine said,

    “When you can’t even wish your Christian neighbours a Merry Christmas, because it amounts to congratulating the kuffar on their festivals of shirk, then I don’t think you deserve the automatic right to build minarets in the country, or the automatic right to wear your niqab in the street. Pluralism is a game we all have to play with the same commitment to goodwill”

    I agree so thoroughly its unreal. I often worry about my friends – are you supporting Islam or radicalism? I ask them. Because as far as I can tell extremists are the enemy of stable society no matter what brand they operate under be it Muslim, Christian or whatever – anyone who seeks to bully others and use force and hatred against them needs to go.

    How do we do it? A thousand different ways – but before you can solve a problem you have to admit you have one, and our communities will not do that. No way.

    Many of my muslim friends also feel that if there were some troubles in England that it is their duty to side with the Muslims no matter what political agenda theya re pushing. Which is terrifying – because if all we need to do to garner the unwavering support of the Islamic community is “be Muslim” then we are talking about a very dangerous mix of elements there.

    Its like religion is blinding people to seeing what is truly right and what is truly wrong – what is truly good and what is truly bad – not just for us, but also our society. How much fighting must there be before people understand that it doesnt get us anywhere?

    Ah. So sad, so rage inducing and so tragic.
    So very tragic.

    • Wrestling said,

      Jasmine – yes, exactly. Sooner or later I think people have to face up to the fact that there are these issues, and actually discuss them.
      It is scary when people let religion dictate who their loyalty should be with. A Christian once told me that as a Christian you have to side with the Jews in the middle east conflict. That kind of view just turns me off religion.
      The world is so messed up… 😦

      • susanne430 said,

        “A Christian once told me that as a Christian you have to side with the Jews in the middle east conflict. ”

        Sadly, a lot of Christians believe this way because of their misguided understanding of the OT. Plus for American Christians, they often don’t know the other side of the story so they see poor underdog Israel being picked on by those millions of angry, militant Arabs & Persians who want to wipe them off the map.

        • Jay kactuz said,

          Tell me, Susanne, what right do you have to say that others have a “misguided understanding of the OT”?

          And why do you assume that American Christians often “don’t know the other side of the story”? Can you separate those who “do” from those who “don’t” and what if those who “do” still support Israel?

          Just asking, just being horrible

          • susanne430 said,

            No problem. Well, I speak as one of those and, yeah, maybe I was wrong to do that as I can really only speak for me. 🙂

  3. LK said,

    ….its not against Islam to say Merry Christmas. UH people need to get their heads out of the sands! People of the Book, all of them, use to be part of the Ummah. That was the whole point! Now its Muslim only, and only “good” muslims on top of it.

    I agree though. You can’t expect respect from your neighbors if you don’t show them any respect. Sometimes I don’t blame people for having an askewed view of muslims if the muslims are always being uncompromising. Always trying to separate themselves from society. If you do that your country will not accept you and you will cause issues. How about peace instead of trivial issues? Say Merry Christmas!

    Radicalism is everywhere and its hard to stop. It has to go one person at a time. People need to be willing to not follow things blindly. But Islam has radicalism within itself. Look and the Sunni Shia issue. If they can solve it within themselves how are they suppose to unite to solve it outside with the rest of the People of the Book? The world has gotten out of control.

    • Wrestling said,

      LK – I agree, and I used to basically blame my own culture for being anti-Islam, but my encounters with the Muslim community have shown me that it goes both ways. It definitely does. What’s even scarier is when it’s converts – people going completely against their own culture and losing all loyalty to people within it.
      “People need to be willing to not follow things blindly” – I think this is the key. If we all just use our brains and our hearts and keep it real…. lol… we’d be OK.

      • aynur said,

        oooo yeah that is really creepy … I’ve seen it online, where people say they don’t have any ties to this country, and want to live in a ‘Muslim’ country, and that they’re not American, they’re just Muslim. Well, they can suppress it all they want – but you’re always going to be affected by the culture you were raised in, even if you don’t want it to be so…. :p

        • susanne430 said,

          Those are the types I wish WOULD leave and go to ‘Muslim’ countries. Those are the ones who are scary.

    • aynur said,

      I agree with you LK, although I’m sure I can find some websites that will say it is wrong to wish someone Merry Christmas … let me pull up some now…

      This one says “As for our Christian friends, our own faith doesn’t quite allow us to wish them “Merry Christmas,” lest anyone should think we believe in the reason for the celebration.”

      http://www.readingislam.com/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1260258162012&pagename=Zone-English-Discover_Islam%2FDIELayout

      And here’s another:

      To wish the non-Muslims with Merry Christmas or any of their religious festivals is haraam (forbidden), by consensus of the ulama (ijma’), as Ibn al-Qayyim, may God have mercy on him, said:

      “Congratulating the kuffaar on the rituals that belong only to them is haraam by consensus, as is congratulating them on their festivals and fasts by saying “A happy festival to you” or “May you enjoy your festival”, and so on. If the one who says this has been saved from kufr, it is still forbidden. It is like congratulating someone for prostrating to the cross, or even worse than that. It is as great a sin as congratulating someone for drinking wine, or murdering someone, or having illicit sexual relations, and so on.

      Many of those who have no respect for their religion fall into this error; they do not realize the offensiveness of their actions. Whoever congratulates a person for his disobedience or bid’ah or kufr exposes himself to the wrath and anger of God.”

      http://www.bismikaallahuma.org/archives/2006/ruling-on-celebrating-christmas-and-congratulating-them/

      • susanne430 said,

        I don’t see how wishing someone a happy holiday means the same as *congratulating* them for doing something forbidden. Just because you wish someone a joy-filled day doesn’t mean you are congratulating them for being an infidel.

      • Wrestling said,

        Aynur – your second one is the same as the one I saw posted in a forum. The person probably lifted it from there. It really upset me.

  4. Sara (cairo, lusaka, amsterdam) said,

    “The notion of the ummah encourages people to get worked up about Muslims suffering elsewhere in the world and to demonise the non-Muslims that are perceived to be to blame. It creates “The Other”. And when that Other is your neighbour, who might be politically liberal and strongly supporting your right to practice your religion in this country, and yet you have no loyalty to that neighbour because they are not part of your ummah… I find that very offensive. It’s the epitome of tribalism and it stinks.”

    Unfortunately I see more of this from Europeans than from Muslims in Europe. They create “the Other” in their fellow Muslim citizens, thus alienating them. This makes a lot of them turn towards radical Islam.
    The idea of the Ummah was meant to be something positive, and since there is no compulsion in religion it should not mean forcing people to become Muslim, like some radical Muslims interpret it to mean.

    Not that many Dutch people are politically liberal or willing to allow Dutch Muslims to practice all aspects of their religion. Before I moved to Holland I thought it was mostly the fault of the Muslims for not integrating or for being too extreme. But now that I am here I think the problem comes more from certain (large) parts of Dutch society. But as usual the media presents a different story.

    • Wrestling said,

      Sara – of course, it goes both ways. I think anti-Islam sentiment is probably stronger in some mainland European countries than here in the UK. We’ve had multiculturalism for a while and got past all the racism years ago… or so we thought. Unfortunately problems are brewing again. But then, we’ve also had terrorist attacks here. Hard to say which causes which and it doesn’t matter – it’s all wrong.

  5. Lat said,

    I agree with your pov.
    Race and religion is just too sensitive an issue that tolerating and understanding each other’s faith and lifestyles is just not enough,no matter how much we try.All it takes is a simple spark to destroy the years of peaceful co-existence bet different races.

    What you said about belonging makes sense.It forges and maintains relationships and destroys them at the same time.As long as humans cannot decide on a common sense of belonging as a whole we’re never going to get around this touchy topic….at all.

    • Wrestling said,

      Lat – yes, I really wonder if we will ever get past the habit of dividing ourselves up!

  6. Sarah Elizabeth said,

    I don’t think any multicultural society will “get past” racism. It will always be a part of the fabric, I think the challenge is in people realizing that and responding to it by looking at themselves and their contribution to racism, radicalism, etc…

    This whole “merry christmas” thing disturbs me. I have not met any Muslims this extreme, and I choose not to look at websites that promote hate because it will only make me angry, but I think change starts with the individual.

    My husband and I celebrate christmas with my family, wish people happy holidays, and I like to send cards also.. When one is a convert, they cannot forget where they come from or the culture they were raised in. The responsibility within a mixed marriage is to embrace both sides and form your own blended version of Islam. It HAS TO support both cultural and idealistic views the person in the marriage has, it cannot just conform to one way or the other. A mixed marriage also has to allow the other person to be who they are without trying to change them… But it only works if it goes both ways. There has to be mutual respect. If a person got into a mixed marriage and expected the other to only follow their culture or view, then they are ignorant of what they got themselves into.

    Anyways, I think converts can sometimes be the most harmful, because some try so hard to fit in that they become “the most extreme” in their views to try gaining acceptance. I have met converts like this, who are the most judgmental, and I laugh to myself because they have lost sight of themselves.

    For me religion has never been, nor will it ever be, all encompassing.. My individual contribution is to remain grounded in who I am, show people how great Islam is because I believe my husband and I are great examples of the compassion and love within Islam, and to fight extremism by not supporting nor surrounding ourselves with people who believe these things… I don’t support racist Whites or non-Muslims who are ignorant and prejudice, and I don’t support hateful Muslims who spew their “haram” and “Kaffir” garbage all over the community.

    • Wrestling said,

      Sarah Elizabeth – I think you’re a great example 🙂
      Maybe some converts are drawn to religion and to extreme, divisive interpretations of religion because of some sort of issues in their lives.
      But if there weren’t scholars out there putting out these distressing articles, they wouldn’t be able to think this way. What’s motivating the scholars? Probably politics or some other type of issues. But if there wasn’t raw material in terms of hadiths that support this attitude, they wouldn’t be able to write these articles. These hadiths reflect a tribal mentality that I think we desperately need to move on from.

    • susanne430 said,

      Nicely stated, Sarah Elizabeth! You do seem a good example of the beauty of Islam. I remember seeing this in most everyone we met in Syria. I think it’s people like you who attract people to the religion.

  7. Achelois said,

    What an excellent post! I was thinking about writing something about how niqaabi women are now increasingly told in the UK that they’d have to remove their veils to integrate into the British society and how it is causing a lot of grief on either side. This post may actually help me think more on the subject before I write.

    Thanks for this post. I agree with you completely.

    • Wrestling said,

      Achelois – I hope you do get the chance to write about that! It needs to be talked about and all points of view need to be heard. I personally don’t want to prevent anyone from wearing what they want to wear, but I can understand why people might resent certain things… although there is ignorance and prejudice there too. It seems like trouble is brewing in terms of relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe, and effort needs to be made on all sides to fix it.

    • susanne430 said,

      I’d like to read that as well.

      How are you liking your new books? 🙂

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