A report commissioned by British Muslim news site 5Pillars reveals some interesting insights into the beliefs and views of Muslims in Britain. One hundred and fifty “influential” Muslim respondents across the Islamic spectrum were queried. The results demonstrate a problematic curve ball for neoconservatives and their endless efforts to target Islam and Muslims.
The questions revolved around normative Islamic beliefs, and across the board a generally high level of agreement with these beliefs was achieved. Participants rebutted dominant propaganda against Islam and Muslims. For instance, 100% agreed or strongly agreed that forced marriages are forbidden, and 100% agreed or strongly agreed that British Muslims are an “integral part of the UK”. It also established a high rate of agreement upon those beliefs and practices which are typically attacked by politicians in concert with the media, analysts and commentators:
- Segregation of men and women in closed public, or religious settings – over 80% agreed or strongly agreed
- There is no compulsion in Islam, no one can be forced to become Muslim – over 95% agreed/strongly agreed
- Hijab is an obligation in Islam – over 95% agreed or strongly agreed
- Niqab is a legitimate piece of Islamic clothing – over 90% agreed or strongly agreed (chart 16 is somewhat unclear)
- Islam is a holistic comprehensive way of life – over 97% agreed or strongly agreed
- Jihad as is mandated in the Qur’an is used to maintain or restore order, peace and security or to remove oppression and injustice – over 95% agreed or strongly agreed.
The above, of course, must be caveated. Whilst the variance in theological background was broad (46% for instance, belonged to the Hanafi School of jurisprudence), extrapolating the views of one hundred and fifty “influential Muslims” to the general Muslim populace is somewhat problematic. However, this is not a significant concern from an Islamic perspective. What is a concern is that only 9% of the respondents categorised themselves as “Islamic scholar/teacher”, with most of the respondents being “self-taught”. To be clear, were the results the complete opposite, it would have no bearing whatsoever on what constitutes Islam. The authority of determining various beliefs and practices undoubtedly lies with those who have dedicated their lives to studying the various branches of Islamic sciences, from both the legalistic to the spiritual, thus imbuing the quality of transcendentalism in obtaining sacred knowledge. They are the Ulama – i.e. jurisconsults, scholars, the relied upon and righteous among this class.
Having said that, it is also positive to view such broad spread agreement amongst the laity on issues which have been the butt of every joke, the fodder for every political deflection and the pretext for draconian policies.
Taking the above methodological caveats into account, and enjoining the purpose of the research which is to “facilitate discussion”, it is worth deliberating upon the number one obsession for neoconservatives and their funded group of brown validators. The findings present a problem for the “reform” deform project which has been engaged post-War on Terror on the pretext that there is, in the words of Douglas Murray, a “problem with Islam” because a Muslim has behaved in an (ironically, un-Islamic) unsavoury manner. This is exasperated by the fact that a mere 5.3% disagreed or strongly disagreed that “Islam is in no need of reformation”, 100% agreed or strongly agreed that “Islam is the final, true religion” revealed to mankind, and nearly 100% agreed or strongly agreed that Islam is a “holistic and comprehensive way of life”.
Despite Muslims feeling integral to Britain alongside their normative Islamic beliefs, the call to deform Islam into one which is concomitantly subservient to Western hegemonic interests continues unabated.
The Intellectual Failure of Deconstructing Islam
Neocons and various deformists normally associated with the counter-extremism organisations project a concerted effort to inject uncertainty in Islam through postmodernist deconstructionism, which has given rise to free-for-all hermeneutical gymnastics of Islamic source texts. Thus, established legal doctrines are undermined, creedal discourses are distorted and conflated with legal views, or, taking the Ayaan Hirsi Ali approach, calls are made to drop verses of the Qur’an because some choose to interpret them in their own destructive way (i.e. in precisely the same way deformists encourage).
The dominant Western narrative is that Islam should undergo deformation in order to comply with secular liberalism, modernity and progressivism.
In addition to the abject failure to convince Muslims of such a need, there are a series of fatal flaws with the deform notion, some of which have already been addressed on this blog. The first is that this requires twisting and distorting Islamic texts (as highlighted above) which no credible jurist will permit. Secondly, the demand of Islam to contort or “convert” to the “universality” of human rights – being rooted in Western, Christian, Eurocentric and liberal conception of “human rights” – is hollow. As I have aptly demonstrated, such a demand is fraught with problems of a non-universal, ambivalent nature.
It would suffice here to quote political scientist Professor Joseph Massad’s pertinent comment:
“The liberal project is in effect a missionary project to convert Islam to the “highest stage” of Christianity reigning in the West [i.e. secularism rooted from Protestant Christianity], even if this is carried out under the banner of a “reformed” Islam.”
Thirdly, uncertainty is also born from the associated “progressivism” as espoused by the likes of Nawaz (see recently here in his attacks on the Left) and the born-again neoconservative “Muslim Reform Movement”. Constitutive of modernity and Enlightenment rationalism is the doctrine of progressivism, i.e. a movement towards “civilisation”. In its blind desire to run from history – its own history of problems which did not afflict the Islamic world – it posits science and reason as the modes by which to attain and designate the “truth” of the present. Yet this truth of the present is to be superseded by a further set of truths establishing perpetuity of ever repealing truths, never fully justifying whether the forgoing truths were superior or inferior from a moral perspective. In other words, “progress” is ultimately self-referencing – its own god – which is uncertain, fluid and ultimately docile and vulnerable to the intellectual repression of the pre-reform Church variety as demonstrated by neoconservative/Quilliam attitude towards mainstream Muslims vis-à-vis the intolerant “muscular liberalism” policy, and the imposed extreme secular liberalism of the equally dogmatic counter-extremism strategy. It is, in the words of the German philosopher Max Scheler, “the Western thought-structure of domination”. Such dogmatism (contrary to Nawaz’s claim of “non-dogmatism”) intrinsically enables supremacy, thus arriving at the precipice of an undeniable reality: that the intellectual justification for imperial colonialism, which destroyed the Islamic paradigmatic structures of society unsettling the unprecedented stability in the lands it governed, are resurgent once more. The doctrine continues to destroy the natural order, from nations through past and present day imperial colonialism and the “arms race” which has brought forth devastating technology to kill, to the deregulation and unfettered growth of corporations at the expense of society, environment and wildlife. Islam was never a barrier to the pursuit of worldly, scientific knowledge, but, in stark contrast with progressivism, its moral grounding in divine scriptures ensured boundaries were maintained.
Conforming to what Neocons Reject
Perhaps the greatest of ironies in the deform project is that it is driven primarily by neoconservatives who categorically reject liberalism, modernity and progressivism. It is a spectacular display of deception and hypocrisy.
Leo Strauss, the intellectual figurehead of neocons, laments John Locke’s conception of rights as rooted in the “individual”. Following Strauss, the “godfather of neoconservatism”, Irving Kristol categorically stated,
“…liberals were wrong, liberals are wrong, because they are liberals. What is wrong with liberalism is liberalism…”
The following provides for an elucidative comment:
“Secular rationalism has been unable to produce a compelling, self-justifying moral code… and with this failure, the whole enterprise of secular humanism – the idea that man can define his humanity and shape the human future by reason and will alone – begins to lose its legitimacy.”
His son, William Kristol has also stated that neoconservatism’s “more fundamental mandate is to take on the sacred cow of liberalism – choice”. Following Strauss and Kristol senior, Douglas Murray calls equality – including racial equality – a “piece of false or bad logic”.
As for the doctrine of progress, neoconservatives advocate a return to a closed society based upon fascist, imperial principles, governed by pre-modern ideas. Kristol argued that America was required to start the “long trek back” explicitly towards “pre-modern political philosophy”. And by “pre-modern political philosophy” he meant the Straussian-Platonic conception of the ideal state as encapsulated in the oligarchic society marked by immanent inequality as alluded to in the allegory of the cave.
Why should Islam then be forced by neoconservatives to undergo a deformation in line with those ideologies which neocons themselves regard as obsolete? If neoconservatives see modern ideologies as producing a society which they believe is philosophically bankrupt, then by implication the call to deform Islam concordant to modernity, liberalism and progressivism, is a deliberate call to trigger failure in the faith.
Deform and Fostering Hatred of Islam
If the deform project is a failure amongst mainstream Muslims, who then is the aim of the rhetoric of the likes of Nawaz, Hasan et al? Indeed, what purpose does this deform project serve?
A brief look down the social media timelines of the deformists show that their supporters include those who hate Islam such as the far-right and hawkish pseudo-secular liberals who require affirmation of their own insecurity, superiority trips and prejudices. In short, deformists seem to be fulfilling a very neoconservative objective as we shall now see.
Put simply, in order to manufacture the Machiavellian enemy of the West, neocons have for years attempted to create hatred of Islam. Deform efforts reinforce the suggestion that there is a problem with Islam itself.
Of pertinence is the fact that Quilliam was founded under the “advisory” of Michael Gove, who sees normative Islam as “Islamism”, and therefore an enemy open to securitisation and discrimination. Githens-Mazer and Lambert explaining the function of organisations like Quilliam state that according to Charles Moore and Dean Godson of Policy Exchange, such organisations are a “re-make of a 1980s Thatcherite counter-subversion strategy in which [Quilliam’s Ed] Husain is cast in the role of Frank Chapple the “moderate” trade union leader who was, they suggest, used to discredit and undermine the “extremist” miner’s trade union leader Arthur Scargill.”
The general themes found in the rhetoric of Quilliam and neoconservative assumptions in books like Celsius 7/7 are shared with US neoconservatives like Daniel Pipes. Githens-Mazer and Lambert noting that the focus on ideology has “no credible evidence”, state,
“…it is one that Husain shares with influential thinktanks including [Gove’s] Policy Exchange and [Douglas Murray’s] Centre for Social Cohesion in the UK and Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum in the US.”
In a revealing passage from a 2005 interview with Pipes, the aim is made clear:
“According to Daniel Pipes, it is now important to find alternative leaders and ideas that can take up the fight against militant Islam. “In the confrontations with fascism and communism, we were victorious because we managed to marginalize the enemy’s ideology, making it look repulsive in the eyes of the majority.””
This is the neoconservative objective. To make Islam look repulsive in society. The façade of Quilliam and various other deformists as representatives of the “alternative leaders and ideas” which Pipes speaks of, are the tools to achieve this purpose.
Disconcertingly, neocons have achieved the aim of creating a “repulsion” of Islam. In the 5Pillars report, the statement “Islam teaches love for human beings what we love for ourselves” produced no disagreement at all. Yet, according to a Yougov poll last year, 56% of Britons regarded Islam as a “major” or “some” threat to Western liberal democracy – a ten percent increase from the figure taken soon after the 7/7 bombings. Now is a climate of anti-Muslim animus, where the press and politicians can freely associate crime with Islam in a manner echoing Nazi propaganda about Jews. The manifestation of this hatred of Islam and association of criminality now sees women in Hijabs brutally attacked, and a defenceless pensioner on his way to the mosque killed by a white man as he cites stereotypes which have been endorsed at the highest level of government. In short, neoconservatives and pro-Israel activists have successfully conditioned xenophobia, anti-Muslim hate and discrimination of the Muslim minority at the policy level, which has, to a large extent, permeated society.
Questions must be asked.
Is argumentum ad metum as a tool of persuasion advocated by neocons, which results in fostering prejudices against a minority that result in violence against the vulnerable, a benefit or threat to social cohesion?
Indeed, are those who advocate totalitarian, closed-society policies, are subverting democracy and are actively promoting a clash of civilisations from the pulpits in Parliament a threat to Britain, or Muslims who believe themselves to be an integral part of Britain despite experiencing cold-war era subversion strategies of repression?
The report on normative Islam is a small indication to the resilience of the Muslim minority. Despite the attempts to dissect the hearts of Muslims, Islam will survive these culturalist attacks to the dislike of neocons. Introducing uncertainty into any system, be it one grounded in physics or the metaphysics of modern law would undoubtedly lead to anarchy and ultimately destruction. How then can Muslims accept such uncertainty in their faith?
The message is clear: Islam is not up for negotiation.
“[This is] the revelation of the Book about which there is no doubt from the Lord of the worlds.” (Qur’an, 32:2)
“This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.” (Qur’an, 5:3).
And We sent you (O Muhammad) not but as a Mercy for all creation (Qur’an, 21:108).
“The best of people are those who bring the most benefit to the rest of mankind.” (Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, Daraqutni)
 Massad, J.A, Islam in Liberalism, The University of Chicago Press: London, 2015, p.106
 As quoted by Hallaq, W.B., The Impossible State, New York: Columbia University Press, 2013, p.17
 Strauss L., Natural Right and History, London: The University of Chicago Press, 1965, p.248
 Kristol I., Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, New York: Free Press, 1996, p.486
 Ibid., p.132-133
 Murray D., Neoconservatism: Why We Need It, Encounter Books: New York, 2006, p.37
 Kristol I., Reflections of Neoconservative, p.76, as referenced in Thompson/Yaron, Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea, Boulder: Paradigm, 2010, p.87