Nathan Lean (The Islamophobia Industry; Pluto, 2012) and Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed (A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation; Pluto, 2010) have both penned articles in the Huffington Post in the last fortnight, and both are lucid and erudite – no more than you’d expect from the authors of such great books. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to see them yet, let the below piece of bloggery serve as a nice, succinct digest…
Nathan Lean: 11 Lies the Right Spreads About Muslims
Lean has been quite prolific recently, writing a number of pieces about the pernicious phenomenon of Islamophobia, with a special focus on the US. In his latest HuffPost contribution he makes the Islamophobia = cancer analogy once again, writing that ‘Mosque burnings, racist bus advertisements, Congressional witch-hunts, and a string of attacks (including recent acid bombs and shootings in Chicago) directed at followers of the Islamic faith are among the nasty effects of this discourse of hate that is ripping apart the pluralistic fabric of America.’
A quick look at the statistics suggest Lean’s hypothesis (that the Right manufactures this discourse and provokes such reaction) is correct – 57% of Republican voters view Muslims unfavourably, compared with 23% of Democrats; the Brookings Institute reports that 2/3 Republicans, Tea-Partiers, and Fox viewers consider Islam to be incompatible with American values. Perhaps the most ridiculous and worrying stat Lean cites is the enduring myth of Obama’s Islamic faith (1 in 3, according to Pew Research, still believe he is a Muslim), with the implicit value judgement that comes with.
The crux of Lean’s piece (the above is merely pre-amble) is ‘eleven dirty lies [the right] are spreading’. This comes in the form of a nice app at the bottom of the post. Best to view it on the page in all its glory, but to summarise:
1. Muslims are ticking time bombs
2. Muslims are un-American
3. “Creeping Sharia” is a threat to the constitution
4. Muslims are subverting America through “stealth jihad”
5. Muslims are demographic rabbits
6. Muslims hate Israel and Jews
7. Muslims hate Christians
8. Muslim women are oppressed
9. Your neighbour is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood
10. Barack Obama is STILL a Muslim
11. American Muslims are puppets of foreign money
Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed: Extradition: A Victory for Terror
Ahmed’s post comes in the wake of Abu Hamza al-Masri’s recent extradition ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Its ruling stated that five British terror suspects, of which Abu Hamza is the most notorious, can be extradited to the US to be tried for terrorism charges. Leaving aside the important argument of the merits and demerits of this ruling, Ahmed focuses instead on the dubious role played by British intelligence services over the last 15 years.
Perhaps unsurprisingly (given reasonably widespread public knowledge of, most famously, Moazzam Begg‘s imprisonment without trial in Guantanamo Bay between 2002-2005) the intelligence services were involved in the pre-emptive imprisonment of Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad. Both cases were without legal grounds for arrest, and in the case of Ahmad, the arrest came at the behest of the US authorities, using as evidence a file that had been previously rejected by the Crown Prosecution Service in 2004. Nearly a decade has since passed with no recourse to justice.
But Ahmed’s main point has to do with the active collusion between MI5 and Abu Hamza between 1997-2000. He writes: ‘the cases of the other three, Abu Hamza, Khaled al Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bari, raise even more disturbing questions about the political games being played behind-the-scenes by US and British intelligence agencies.’
He goes on to document what form this collusion took:
As early as 1997, Hamza was running a terror training network across the UK, including at Tunbridge Wells and Brecon Beacons. His followers were taught to use guns, strip and clean weapons, and were given endurance and surveillance training by British ex-soldiers who had fought in Bosnia.
Much of this material was known to British authorities. Special Branch agent and MI5 informant Reda Hassaine gave his handlers “scores of documents” linked to Hamza, containing “communications from GIA [al-Qaeda affiliated Armed Islamic Group] activists in Algeria” and “cells planning terrorist attacks in Britain.” Yet none of the preceding evidence ever made it to court. No wonder Hassaine concludes that “terrorist recruitment and fundraising by Islamic militants” under Hamza’s tutelage “were ignored for years by the British security services.”
But he wasn’t just ignored. During this period of terrorist training extensively monitored by MI5 informants, as journalists Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory document in their seminal book, The Suicide Factory (p. 229), Hamza was courted by the security services.
The article goes into greater detail about the case of Abu Hamza, as well as other extraditees, before forming its conclusions. Identifying it as a problem that hasn’t gone away, he suggests that the authorities are often happy to conceal the role of violent extremists as assets in their pursuit of narrow geostrategic interests abroad. This is a ‘function which appears to have facilitated their capacity to support terrorist activity from British soil – including the 7/7 attacks.’
We reproduce the conclusion of Ahmed’s disturbing, insightful piece:
Extradition, in other words, does nothing for the fight against terrorism. On the contrary, it is a self-serving red-herring designed to conceal the dubious systemic failures of British and American security agencies from public knowledge, while vindicating their unaccountable powers to override the rule of law. If we want to win the ‘war on terror’, we should wonder why so many UK-based Islamist violent extremists have failed to be properly prosecuted in the UK – and we would do well to demand that light be cast on how the very agencies we trust to keep us safe have, and continue to, flagrantly foster the enemy we are supposed to be fighting.
How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims
Nathan Lean. Foreword by John L. Esposito
Disturbing account of the rising tide of Islamophobia sweeping through the United States and Europe.
“This concise, accessible and illuminating book meets one of the most urgent needs of our time. Lean has provided a compelling counter-narrative that reveals the vested interests and highly organized networks of those who preach the virulent Islamophobia that is not only endangering world peace but is also corroding the tolerance and egalitarian ethos that should characterize Western society. This book should be required reading.” – Karen Armstrong
“Islamophobia is not only about ignorance and fear. Some people purposefully nurture it and use it as a political strategy. Nathan Lean’s The Islamophobia Industry shows what is happening behind the scenes. It is an essential book for anyone who wants to understand the rationale and objectives behind those who foster this new racism against Muslims.” – Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University and author of The Quest for Meaning
And How to Save It
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
Argues that the many world crises, including the financial meltdown, climate change and terrorism, are connected problems of a failing global system.
“[Ahmed’s] arguments are in the main forceful and well-sourced, with particularly good sections on agribusiness, US policies of ‘energy security’, and what he terms the ‘securitisation’ of ordinary life by Western governments.” – Guardian
“How can a discussion of the all too familiar crises of our time be a hopeful book? By combining a microscopic dissection of the structure of each with a telescopic view of how they weave together in a whole system. If the myriad international conferences and programs haven’t worked, it isn’t that we have to try harder but that we have to confront the whole free of conventional constraints. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed confronts the whole.” – Richard Levins, John Rock Professor of Population Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University; author, Evolution in Changing Environments