Muslims are in Crisis

Muslims are in crisis. We are a religion of over two billion adherents, blending cultures that encompass Berbers, Malays and Mongols. Converts and diaspora are in every country of the world. And yet we are all, collectively, held hostage by a tiny minority. Their black flags and unkempt beards fill the screens and newspapers of the world, while the vast and rich heterogeneity of the faithful goes unreported. Their intolerance drowns the universal message, their brutality masks our charity and compassion.

Muslims are in crisis because unless we understand the source of this vicious parasite, and how it draws strength, it will consume us.

Muslims are in crisis because in our apathy and ignorance we have allowed this thing to gnaw its way through the body of the Muslim Ummah. We may wince when it strikes another part of the body, but we bear the pain and keep going, thinking it will not come for us, unaware that those around us only see its festering form, and turn away from its diseased stench.

Muslims are in crisis, but not because of a terrorist wielding a gun under a black flag, or because a bearded madman preaches hate from a pulpit. The parasite is one of belief. There is a creed that promulgates an Islam shorn of humanity, and whose adherents see difference as something to be scoured from the earth.

Muslims are in crisis because the periodic plague that has ravaged the faith from its earliest days has risen again. It is an infection that has no purpose other than to consume its host, and this time, fuelled by lakes of oil, it has run rampant. It has adopted the forms of the religion without understanding their spirit, it has taken the words and robbed them of context and tone. It has even turned on the lunatics that let it loose.

Muslims are in crisis because of the Wahhabis (who may also take the labels Salafi and Deobandi). Their austerity is not a noble denial of the self, but a joyless, inhuman existence that hardens the heart. Their piety is a ritual empty of the soul soaring height prayer can offer. Their purpose in this incarnation was as a prop for the House of Saud to impose itself on the Arabian peninsula, a tool of power. It is the lifecycle of such tools to turn upon their wielder. If ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and Lashkar e Jhangvi scream their hatred for the hands that shaped them, it is the natural puberty of their development.

The House of Saud and their fellow Emiratis have done a deal with the devil for their power and status, and the devil always gets his due. Don’t pity them cowering in their palaces. They have sold out our religion while wearing the robes of guardians, and they may cost you your soul as well.

All of this is known. Here is a shortened version from The Telegraph. There is a world of difference between being known and being accepted, and several more steps along the road to recovery before any action is taken. But like any parasite this one can be removed, like any disease it can be cured, as long as we don’t let it go too far.

Stop. You’re about to say this is nothing to do with you. The abomination that is ISIS does not speak for you. You abhor its actions. You put the “Stand with…” pictures on your Facebook newsfeed, what more could anyone ask for?

You are deluded.

This thing has grown up within the bosom of the Muslim Ummah. Yes, Wahhabism is a construct that was planted to serve a political agenda, but it is the Muslims that have enabled its growth, the Muslims who turned a blind eye to its crimes, and now it is the Muslims that have to act.

Your silence has been its enabler. Keep your Facebook posts and the watercooler comments at work. I mean your silence when that guy in the mosque, you know the one, makes his violent comments about the kuffar, and you shrug your shoulders and move on. Or maybe you cringe. But you say nothing.

Perhaps you tune out during Friday prayers, when the sermons turn to injustice anywhere in the world being cause for retaliation anywhere else. Others are listening, and without a voice raised in protest there is no one to tell them you cannot defeat injustice with more of the same. Or maybe you have more courage than the rest. You ask questions and the preacher says, “just believe”.

Islam is bigger than your curiosity. Ask. Ask. Especially about the things they tell you not to.

You’ve seen your mosque grow. The buildings refurbished, and the committee members slowly changed. The beards grow longer, the trousers shorter and suddenly all the double glazing and central heating can’t take the chill from the air. There are new books on the shelves, but you don’t read them. You don’t question where the money came from, and at what cost.

That brother with the uncomfortable views, the preacher you try not listen to, the money you don’t want to know the source of – they are all part of the same disease that is subverting everything you hold dear. It thrives on your reticence, it multiplies in your apathy.

Do nothing, because it is none of your business. You fast, and you pray and let everyone else to their own conscience.

So you watch as that brother, who rants against the kuffar, goads another and another. The brother huddles with the preacher. Suddenly there is money to fund a study trip to Pakistan, or reconstruction work in Somalia. You kid yourself that the boy will come back a man strengthened in faith. Someone with his face comes back, strengthened in something that makes your skin crawl. But his wild-eyed speeches are just words, they won’t hurt anyone.

Some time later there is a bang. You stand with wherever it was, but it was nothing to do with you.

Except it is everything to do with you.

Muslims are in crisis. You have to speak out to save us.

END

Update 25th May: since I wrote this see the following from Patrick Cockburn on the Wahhabi roots of terrorism and this on 1000 revolutions: The concentric circles of blame for the Manchester attacks

Related thoughts of mine in previous posts:

The Diversity Deal

J’accuse… the Muslims

I am Cassandra, you are Niemoller

The Cancer Magnet

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Tridents Into Ploughshares

Trident Submarine from the Defense Archive

Trident Submarine from the Defense Archive

I am not a pacifist. Tragic and traumatic though it may be, there are times when only the threat of force or its application will bring miscreants to justice, or preserve our liberty.

Today we remember the fallen. We remember the wars that we consider just and moral, and those who died with no less courage and obedience in wars of questionable legality and purpose. Questions do not diminish the sacrifices made and hardships endured by those following orders. I salute them all.

They died so we can ask questions and hold those giving the orders to account, which makes today a good day to ask questions.

One question live in the political air is around Trident, the UK’s nuclear deterrent. On one side of the debate is the established view: retaining a deterrent is an essential part of our role as a global power, a bulwark against an increasingly muscular Russia, and future threats unknown.

On the other side is a view championed by the left wing lunatics and bleeding hearts: the deterrent is a relic of a war we are no longer fighting, and a weapon we would never countenance using.

So here’s my first question: would we ever use our nuclear arsenal? Under what circumstances would the arcane procedures be enacted, leading to the launch of indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction, when the deaths of non combatants must be taken as a given?

Pre-emptively surely that is an emphatic no. At no stage would we ever launch first, no matter the degree of threat.

Then in response? What if London were a smoking ruin? Cardiff levelled, nuclear winds howling across the Highlands? What then. Would we launch then?

I hope not. I am not one for mindless retribution. Would it ever right to avenge our innocents with the blood of non combatants, be they in the streets of their own cities, baying for our blood? No. Not even then.

And if it is my children and all the light and joy of my life sucked into the maelstrom? I hope, even then, I would say no. Let no other father have to contemplate it.

Don’t misunderstand me. Should they land their troops on our shores I would take my pitchfork and man the barricades and take a bullet. I’d swing whatever weapon I was given to stall the aggressor. But I could not kill his children. Even with his knife at my throat, even with the blood of my children on his hands I hope I would never stoop to threaten his children. God willing I can be that man.

I also hope I am not alone in this. I hope there are others who draw some line of absolute morality, of absolute humanity, and would hold fast to it irrespective of the inhumanity they face.

If you have stayed with me thus far, and even if you disagree, please follow through with the thought experiment. The second question is: if the deterrent will never be used, and the moral position is communicated, what purpose does it serve?

A couple of subordinate questions flow from that:

First does the presence of the deterrent increase our risk, or diminish it? Again there are two schools of thought. From the establishment: we won’t use it, but we have it. Back off.

And those same hand wringing bleeding hearts whinge: if we’d never use it, it serves no purpose. Let it go.

Second, does Trident deter any of the actual risks we face today? Our greatest threat is from international terrorism. It is a clear and present danger. Madness and insanity rooted in Salafism has brought death and destruction to our country, and threatens to do so again. The disaffection and poison is here on our own shores. But will we in response turn Riyadh or Doha to glass, as they are the source of the evil? We will not. Will we level the mountains of Afghanistan or send the scorching winds across the Syrian desert?  We will not.

And yet this is not the only risk. Although ISIS and its progenitors are a common enemy we are appalled to the point of inaction by Russia’s presence in Ukraine, jealous of its robust action in Syria and concerned for our newly minted allies in the Balkans and Baltics.

So would Russia ever launch its vast arsenal against us?

The answer I think lies just one move ahead in the geo political chess game. A commitment not to use a measure can be questioned and derided in the court of an aggressor nation’s public opinion. While we retain the means the commitment is just words.

Remember we went to war on the strength of a fictional dossier that put Saddam Hussein within 45 minutes of landing weapons of mass destruction on British soil. Do we think Putin is above lying to his populace as Blair lied to us? He would spew the lie in a heartbeat and use it as a pretext for a pre-emptive strike.

The only way to make the moral position credible is to relinquish the means. Perhaps it would stall the finger on the big red button knowing the target had no means of retaliation. Would even the bruised and battered national pride of the Russian people allow a strike against the unarmed? I fear that the degree of suspicion and mistrust is such that we cannot answer the question with certainty.

Be in no doubt we would be weaker. Even a sword never taken from the wall confers a sense of security. At best relinquishing Trident would leave our chances of facing devastation unchanged.

It sounds like a bad deal; lose a sense of protection for no diminution in risk. Which brings me to the third question: what’s the alternative?

The best place to start is money. In round numbers we’re talking about a procurement cost of £20bn and then running costs of about £2bn per year. (Source) That’s before we let military procurement botch it, more on that later.

What could that money buy that would be a better bet?

The first is a credible defence that inspires caution and respect in others. Our armed forces have faced cuts and criminal mismanagement for decades. Military procurement is synonymous with incompetence.

We should reinvest some of the billions that would be poured into the bottomless well of Trident into complement, capability and competence.  The last step means buying in some of the skilled, ruthless and relentless procurement specialists it has been my mixed blessing to work with over the years. It means the emotionless sacking of those who lack the skill to manage suppliers or complex contracts, and to hold those suppliers to account. We’re already deep in the hole on Eurofighter. Each additional one costs about £70m. That’s a lot extra airborne defence you can buy and leave a lot left over.

To be honest if the better procurement doesn’t pay for itself then its being done wrong.

We need a well manned, well armed and well supported military relevant to the threat of global terrorism. Part of the money saved will buy that.

As for the threat of global thermonuclear war, that also means investing in the technological advancements that would take down missiles in flight. There’s no point in launching them if they can’t reach the target. It is also a more pertinent approach when nuclear capability rests in increasingly unreliable hands. It would be an advancement worth the cost of developing it.

There will still be cash left over and we should pump that generously into research. Medical, social, life giving research which we share with an open hand with all the world. Better than bombs and boots on the ground is a small Union flag on the cure for malaria, or the water pumps that save lives among those people who would be radicalized against us.

At the same time the world’s best scientists would come back here. Drawn by the funding and support, they would also teach our youth and begin the essential rebuilding of our sick economy that makes little and sells much.

And there is the real unasked question of Trident: not what does it give us, but what does it prevent us from having: genuine security, investment in progress and the chance of a peaceful future. I think those are the things the brave people we remember died for.

END

Update 11/11/15: Article by Major-General Patrick Cordingley (who commanded the Desert Rats in the 1991 Gulf War) in The Times today: Trident is not a deterrent so let’s get rid of it

More of my writing here

The Cancer Magnet

What would you give me for a medical marvel? If I offered you a means of gathering all the cancerous cells in a body in one easily excisable place, where one swipe of a sharp knife could affect a cure, what wreaths and garlands would you lay at my feet?

It is an intriguing thought, taking that which spreads and is difficult to track, and accumulating it away from vital organs ready for surgery.

Now imagine the disease is not of the body but of society: a menace spreading lethal tendrils across borders. A disease with its roots in the virus that is Salafism, and that was incubated and nurtured in the laboratory of the Taliban and Al Qaida. The cancer magnet is ISIS.

Hundreds have left these isles already to associate themselves with brutality and evil, and hundreds more have joined them from an array of nations. Surely this is a good thing. Lunatics who would be a danger to us have been attracted away to become cannon fodder. At worst we can close our borders to their return, at best they’ll be permanently removed when high speed brass becomes precision radiotherapy.

ISIS is society’s  cancer magnet, should we lay wreaths and garlands at the feet of their progenitors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar?

Should we congratulate ourselves for ignoring decades of warnings*, and thousands of deaths (including the target killing of Shias in Pakistan, but also indicated in the repressive regime in Bahrain, the lack of plurality in Saudi, the list goes on)?

Were we wise to buy oil and sell arms to regimes with this spavined ideology, turning a blind eye to their barbarism for our economic self interest?

Surely the answer is yes. The problems they have generated are on their own doorstep, far from us, and though we lived in fear for a time, and went chasing henchmen rather than masterminds for 9/11 and 7/7, the poison is now being sucked out of our cities and sent over there.

And yet something in all this sits uneasily in me. What is it in our free, open society that leaves young men seeking validation in violence, and women willing themselves into sexual slavery as jihadi brides? What could possibly be attractive in a group that kills with indiscriminate abandon and advocates the rape of captive women? It is an abomination and abhorrent and offends every human sensibility. So why are the disaffected and misguided taken in by it. Why are they going?

More worryingly why is it that in some Sunni circles, where there is an affinity with the cold austerity of the Salafist creed,  there is a quiet appreciation of ISIS actions?

It is a problem in two parts. The latter is an issue of the slippery slope. Salafism leaves no room for the human heart, it has no accommodation with variety and individuality. The inhumanity of ISIS is merely the logical conclusion from that first step of flawed interpretation of Islam.

The ideology is quickly debunked, evidence easily visible in the Quran and Hadiths (non Quranic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) lay bare the paucity of its spiritual and intellectual underpinnings. At its core is an error in one book of Hadith that a cursory examination of the other major works would reveal. The willful withholding of this evidence is crime of faith, perpetrated with the purpose of sealing the hold of the House of Saud over the Arabian peninsula.

Its key is therefore not in hearts and minds, but in power. Power now fueled by oil money, which funds madressas across the globe: mosquitoes for the virus. How tragic that the liquidity for spreading hate is the oil we buy, from the regime we tolerate, in the name of economic security. That money enslaves entire states, and when the only message their citizens hear is this stunted mutation, overriding local interpretations and cultural modifications, then can we hold those people solely culpable, or are we complicit in their religious bondage?

The other issue of attractiveness is a more challenging one. It is the con of distraction. The untrained eye sees the piety and observance of prayer, fasting and the ordinances of faith, and misses that the spiritual core is broken, that the substance of the litany makes no sense. If you fall for the first premise the rest follows. And therein lies the attraction. Salafism is internally consistent and true to its ugly rules, while our system of politics and our society is mired in grey areas where the rules don’t apply, or only apply to a few, or favour some over others.

The disaffected from our flawed but compassionate environment look across at something that seems whole and consistent, unable to identify the fallacy at its core.

The finger of blame sways and points at many. Foremost are the Islamic nations. Their denunciation of ISIS is not enough. They must act to cut the funding and support flowing across their own borders, they must realise that no political gain is worth suffering the existence of this evil. That is harder than it looks, evidenced by Turkey, a NATO member yet only a grudging and foot dragging participant in the effort to end ISIS.

But we must also look to ourselves. Inequality is rife in our own countries. We vilify the poor as feckless and complicit in their poverty, unwilling to get on the wealth bandwagon, while their opportunities to participate are starved. We have, collectively, elected governments for decades that put prosperity ahead of principle, trading with and supporting selected dictators and going to war in the name of freedom and democracy with others. We have let them stand silent while the voices calling for freedom have themselves been silenced.

Take a young person in a spiritual vacuum, educate them, and then show them an increasing gap between rich and poor, politicians with no moral compass, and social and financial systems designed to protect the wealthy. Then show them a pious man, eschewing wealth and making a stand against this system, hide the flaw in his religion that means he has no room for compassion, and then lead the recruit to the conclusion everyone else is wrong, and must be killed. It is not fiction, it is happening.

The flaw in our society has collided with the ideological flaw that is Salafism. The result is bodies willing to stand beneath the ISIS flag. For us to collect its adherents somewhere between Iraq and Syria and bomb them may be cathartic, but it will be fruitless unless we address all the causes.

Holding Saudi Arabia, Qatar et al to account is a start. Sunni scholars lifting the veil on the true Hadith is essential, but we must also address the disaffection on our own shores, lest it find expression somewhere else.

A cancer magnet may remove the sickness for a time, but it is not a cure. Hold your wreaths and garlands, there is much work to do yet.

END

* you could argue that it is centuries of warnings: see this from the successor of the Prophet Muhammad and fourth caliph of Islam from about 1400 years ago:

“If you see the black flags then remain on the gound and do not move a hand or a leg. A group of weaklings will then appear their hearts are like iron. They are the owners of the state. They fulfill neither a contract nor a covenant. They call to the truth, but they are not its people. Their names are a kunya (i.e. Abu so and so) and their lineages (surnames) are a town. [my note: vide Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi]. Their hair is unwinding like the hair of women. Do this until they differ between themselves, then Allah will give the right to whomever He desires.”

Ali Ibn Abu Talib; Kitaab Al-Fitan, Nu’aym bin Hammad. Hadith #557

More thoughts on the growth of terror in I am Cassandra, you are Niemoller

Some reflections on Satire and Faith in Islam Needs Satire, and some reactionary fiction in A Sacrifice for Satire

If you are interested in my storytelling look here.