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Johann Hari in Huffington Post, a piece about identity formation among young British Muslims. Note that jihad forms identity for them in some of the same ways that Israel forms identity for American Jews. Boldface mine: 

A wave of young British Islamists who trained to fight – who cheered as their friends bombed this country – have recanted. Now they are using everything they learned on the inside, to stop the jihad. Seventeen former radical Islamists have "come out" in the past 12 months and have begun to fight back. Would they be able to tell me the reasons that pulled them into jihadism, and out again? Could they be the key to understanding – and defusing – Western jihadism?…

Every one of them said the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 – from Guantanamo to Iraq – made jihadism seem more like an accurate description of the world. Hadiya Masieh, a tiny female former HT [Hizb ut-Tahrir, British group] organiser, tells me: "You’d see Bush on the television building torture camps and bombing Muslims and you think – anything is justified to stop this. What are we meant to do, just stand still and let him cut our throats?"

But the converse was – they stressed – also true. When they saw ordinary Westerners trying to uphold human rights, their jihadism began to stutter. Almost all of them said that they doubted their Islamism when they saw a million non-Muslims march in London to oppose the Iraq War: "How could we demonise people who obviously opposed aggression against Muslims?" asks Hadiya.

6 Responses

  1. Citizen
    November 16, 2009, 11:55 am

    So how do you get a million Americans to march in DC to oppose the Israeli occupation?

    • Tuyzentfloot
      November 16, 2009, 12:32 pm

      Have Gulden’s mustard sponsor it? I have a feeling Phil’s point also applies to an earlier expose on how individualism was powerless against tribalism (was that Danaa?). Individualism also serves as an example for how to act and think, especially when it’s using universalist principles. The effect may be too weak, but it’s still there.

  2. johd
    November 16, 2009, 5:44 pm

    I watched the video on Jahan Hari posted on Lowenstein’s blog. I am sorry, this guy cannot say the word Islam without also talking aboutkilling Apostates, gays and non-believers. He is a unrepentant Islamophobe. He wouldn’t even allow the other bloke to talk without constantly interjecting “kill gays:, “murder apostates” etc. etc. ad infinitum.

    Please don’t insult our intelligence with this drivel about “reformed Islamists”. Is that like “reformed Jews”, or “Reformed Zionist”?

    • Nolan
      November 16, 2009, 6:37 pm

      Your post doesn’t make sense.

      Who’s the Islamphobe? Do you know what the term itself means?

      Who was interjecting?

      What exactly are you offended by?

      Leaving cryptic posts hardly makes your case stronger.

    • robin
      November 17, 2009, 8:57 am

      I have to say, I usually really like Hari’s columns. And I thought this one was very good. But I looked up and watched some of the video you mentioned, and I agree with you that he comes off very bad in it.

      In the first place it’s odd that he is the counterpoint to Islamism on this show aimed at a Muslim audience. Doesn’t that sort of put his point of view at a disadvantage in the debate? I’m sure there would be British Muslims willing to defend a secular politics.

      And his behavior sadly undermines the good ideas he puts forward in the piece. He very much acts the part of the intolerant, aggressive Westerner, seeking to forcefully impose ideas on a Muslim. The series of one-way interruptions were glaring.

      He should have listened to the other man explain his views, and then calmly pointed out that he was promoting Islamism on the basis of social democratic or socialist values. Get rid of the “middleman” and embrace democratic socialism, if those things appeal to you. No need to mix them up with intolerance, towards Muslims or gays. It’s such a simple idea, which doesn’t need his breathless, wordy, and rude presentation.

      But again I did like the column, and I also recognized the parallel that Phil pointed out, between a Jihadi Islamist and militarist Zionist mentality. The lesson for us “Westerners” is so valuable: the best way to undermine militant Islamic fundamentalism is to sincerely espouse and live up to ideals that are truly universal. In other words, confront our own intolerance, militarism and hypocrisy.

      Per Phil’s parallel, I bet that a similar dynamic exists in Jewish support for Zionism. That younger generations are more disaffected from it probably reflects the decline of meaningful anti-semitism in the US. And, not practicing anti-semitism ourselves is likely to undermine support for Zionism, while putting forward a sincere vision of universal rights can attract more Jews to that vision (as opposed to the intolerance of a Jewish State ideology).

  3. Rehmat
    November 16, 2009, 7:50 pm

    Huffington Post being an anti-Muslim Zionist think tank – It’s interpretation of Islam and Muslim doesn’t bother me. The ‘Islamophobes experts’ of such think tanks obviously cannot comprehend that if Islamic teachings including Jihad are so bad – then why more and more people are adopting Islam instead of Judaism or Christianity? Furthermore, there far more people have been arrested in the US for spying for Israel or Russia and looting Americans’ harf-earned wealth than Muslims blamed for being Jihadis.

    Military resistance (Jihad) is a pillar of Islam – at the proper time and place. Islam has been here for the last 1400 years without on-going revisions to attract more sheep or to keep the sheep inside the faith – as the case is with other two Abrahamic religions.

    Islam doesn’t need Enlightenment
    link to rehmat1.wordpress.com

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