Don’t blame the West, the ter­ror won’t stop un­til Mus­lims re­ject the caliphate

The at­tacks in Spain dis­prove the idea that our for­eign pol­icy is to blame for Is­lamist ex­trem­ism

The Daily Telegraph - - Comment - ED HUSAIN Ed Husain is a se­nior fel­low at Civ­i­tas, In­sti­tute for the Study of Civil So­ci­ety, Lon­don; and a global fel­low at the Woodrow Wil­son Cen­tre, Wash­ing­ton FOL­LOW Ed Husain on Twitter @Ed_hu­sain; READ MORE at tele­­ion

What did Spain do wrong? Why did Mus­lim rad­i­cals at­tack so many in­no­cents? Those are the questions be­ing asked across the West fol­low­ing the atroc­ity in Barcelona. Many will re­sort to the self-flag­el­la­tion of “change our for­eign pol­icy” or “we are to blame be­cause of colo­nial­ism”. I wish it were so sim­ple. I know the mind­set of mil­i­tant Mus­lims seek­ing to kill dis­be­liev­ers in the name of a caliphate, be­cause I called for the cre­ation of such a caliphate for five years of my life. I recog­nise the ide­ol­ogy, the­ol­ogy and strat­egy be­hind the vi­o­lence. There is no ap­peas­ing the fa­nat­ics.

Con­sider the facts on Spain: on March 11 2004, al-qaeda ter­ror­ists killed 192 and in­jured 2,000 on trains in Madrid. Spain had 1,300 troops in Iraq at the time (Amer­ica had 135,000 and Bri­tain 8,700). Three days after the bomb­ing, José Maria Az­nar lost the gen­eral elec­tion to a Left-wing party com­mit­ted to end­ing Spain’s in­volve­ment in Iraq. On April 18 2004, the new prime min­is­ter or­dered the with­drawal of Spain’s troops. Scarred by the Madrid bomb­ing, fear­ful of reprisals after the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in France, in Novem­ber 2015 the Span­ish govern­ment re­fused to join a global coali­tion against the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant (Isil). So what did Spain do wrong?

We are ask­ing the wrong questions. Spain’s for­eign pol­icy shows that we can­not stop ter­ror­ism by chang­ing our be­hav­iour. In the mind of the Mus­lim ex­trem­ists, Spain is not Spain, but al-an­dalus, part of a Mus­lim em­pire that lasted in Spain for 700 years. To­day’s Spain is con­sid­ered to be “oc­cu­pied land” that must be lib­er­ated. The last Mus­lim ruler of Granada, Boab­dil, who ne­go­ti­ated a peace­ful end to his emi­rate in 1492, made a ter­ri­ble mis­take, ar­gue the ex­trem­ists. Spain must re­turn to their ver­sion of Is­lam, for in that lit­er­al­ist read­ing of re­li­gious scrip­ture, the world is di­vided into two realms: Dar al-is­lam and Dar al-harb, the Abode of Is­lam and the Abode of War. And once a land is con­trolled by Dar al-is­lam it must for­ever be­long to that sphere. Ter­ror­ism is merely a tac­tic to support the aims of the caliphate.

In Fe­bru­ary this year, Isil warned that it would tar­get Spain’s beaches and it in­creased its pro­pa­ganda ma­te­rial in Span­ish. But Spain is not the only tar­get. In­dia was also part of their in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Dar al-is­lam be­cause it was un­der the Moghuls un­til 1857 and must there­fore re­turn to the do­main of the caliphate. Is­rael must be de­stroyed as the caliph must re­claim Jerusalem. Turkey’s Mus­lim re­former, Ke­mal Ataturk, ended the caliphate in 1924 and a sec­u­lar Turkey must re­turn to the fold. Charles Mar­tel of France de­feated the Umayyad caliph’s sol­diers in the Bat­tle of Tours in 732, and Aus­tria held out against the Ot­tomans in the Bat­tle of Vi­enna in 1683. Time and again, Isil refers to the West as “cru­saders” and tar­gets the Pope and Rome as eter­nal en­e­mies of Is­lam.

They are prisoners of his­tory, and this se­lec­tive nar­ra­tive of the past fu­els their cho­sen griev­ances of the present. For them, the West is to blame for every dic­ta­tor and in­jus­tice in the Mid­dle East. They talk of the Sykes-pi­cot agree­ment of 1916 as if it were yes­ter­day. The dic­ta­tor­ships, tyrants and lack of pros­per­ity in the Arab world fan the flames of anger. The pris­ons of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Ara­bia, Syria and Al­ge­ria are full of Salafi-ji­hadists who wished to over­throw their gov­ern­ments and cre­ate so­ci­eties based on rule of hard­line sharia. Be­tween dic­ta­to­rial tyranny and re­li­gious theoc­racy, where is the free­dom for or­di­nary Arabs to re­form their coun­tries?

In ad­di­tion, we have rad­i­calised net­works of ex­trem­ist Mus­lim or­gan­i­sa­tions re­in­forc­ing the worst el­e­ments of vic­tim­hood. They op­er­ate on the in­ter­net, but also in our uni­ver­si­ties, com­mu­ni­ties and pris­ons. Like the com­mu­nists of the last cen­tury, they rail against cap­i­tal­ism, in­jus­tice, the West and dic­ta­tors, and talk about the racism faced by French Mus­lims, or the Is­lam­o­pho­bia en­coun­tered by Bri­tish Mus­lims, while of­fer­ing an ide­o­log­i­cal panacea: Mus­lims are weak and can only be strength­ened by cre­at­ing a pow­er­ful caliphate.

To strengthen Mus­lim iden­tity against the West, they seek to di­vide and rule. They abuse re­li­gion to am­plify dif­fer­ences, rather than unite based on com­mon be­lief in one God, good­ness, and faith.

The at­tack in Barcelona and the calls by Isil to at­tack beaches weren’t ran­dom: they hate the free­dom of women to dress in biki­nis. They at­tacked the Ari­ana Grande con­cert in Manch­ester in May be­cause they de­spise men and women dancing freely to mu­sic. They at­tacked Char­lie Hebdo be­cause they refuse to al­low for blas­phemy. They tar­get syn­a­gogues and kosher gro­cery stores across Europe be­cause, like their neo-nazi coun­ter­parts, they hate Jews.

But when I visit Turkey, I see Mus­lim women in biki­nis on the beach be­side women in head­scarves. In Tu­nisia, Sheikh Rached Ghan­nouchi, leader of the con­ser­va­tive En­nahda party, talks about the mosques be­ing open, and also the bars and the beaches. In Morocco, I see Jewish com­mu­ni­ties hon­oured.

We have to be hon­est. Across the West we now have 30 mil­lion Mus­lims who are Western­ers. There is no war against Is­lam. The free­dom of Mus­lims to wor­ship and live proves that the old, im­pe­rial par­a­digms of Isil’s Dar al-harb and Dar al-is­lam are out­dated. Most Mus­lims are qui­etly thriv­ing in busi­ness, pol­i­tics, me­dia, sports, and more. In Bri­tain, Mishal Husain’s voice wakes us up on the To­day pro­gramme. Nadiya Hus­sain of The Great Bri­tish Bake Off pre­pares cake for the Queen. Mo Farah re­in­states Bri­tish sport­ing pride. The list goes on. But there is a dark, sin­is­ter move­ment grow­ing, too.

Ten years ago, when I wrote my book The Is­lamist and warned against this ide­ol­ogy on the rise in our midst, many in the Mus­lim com­mu­nity dis­missed me as an alarmist. To­day, an ac­tual caliphate ex­ists and its sol­diers are wreak­ing havoc. Enough of blam­ing the West. Isil has at­tacked 30 dif­fer­ent coun­tries, and the vast ma­jor­ity of its vic­tims in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Ara­bia, Pak­istan, Bangladesh and else­where are Mus­lims. Isil and other ex­trem­ists thrive on the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion that it is re­li­giously oblig­a­tory to cre­ate a caliphate. Ji­hadists com­mit mass mur­der in the pur­suit of, or de­fence of, this be­lief in a caliphate. For too long we have been re­spond­ing to their ter­ror tac­tics, rather than up­root­ing their strate­gic ob­jec­tive. I learned through my own stud­ies and long con­ver­sa­tions with re­li­gious au­thor­i­ties that a caliphate is not a re­li­gious obli­ga­tion. We can be per­fectly Mus­lim with­out aim­ing to sub­ju­gate others to a theoc­racy.

Mus­lims must re­ject the idea that we need a caliphate. Un­less we dis­card the drive for a Mus­lim su­per-state, many more will be killed in pur­suit of it. Mus­lim or­gan­i­sa­tions, gov­ern­ments, web­sites, po­lit­i­cal par­ties, re­li­gious lead­ers and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions must roundly, un­re­servedly ac­cept that we no longer need a caliphate. Re­move that ob­jec­tive and the vi­o­lence to jus­tify it falls away. The West must take sides, too, in this bat­tle of ideas among Mus­lims.

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