How did modern Islam become so intolerant?

Israel's occupation of Palestine, Islamophobia, and disastrous Western interventions all create grievance. But no injustice can excuse or explain the rise of brutal Islamicists

Share

In Allah’s name, what is wrong with us Muslims? And why do we find it so hard to ask that question of ourselves? What will it take to break the heavily curtained window of denial?

The beardy jihadists convicted in Birmingham last week were incompetents; hard to distinguish, for many Britons, from the hilarious boneheaded fantasists in Chris Morris’s Four Lions.

I don’t find them funny and nor do most British Muslims. The ringleader, Irfan Khalid, and his henchmen Irfan Naseer and Ashik Ali meant to cause bloody mayhem, as did all those previous bombers from Glasgow to London, some of whom succeeded while others were discovered before they could bomb themselves off to hell. Sexual permissiveness disgusted them, as did most values of the country they were born in.

Grievance

The gang frequented the Darul Ihsan gyms in Sparkhill, an inner city enclave in Birmingham. These “places of excellence” repudiated “inappropriate behaviour” and banned “non-Islamic” hairstyles and clothes. And it was in these enlightening joints that the thwarted three recruited others. Some went off to Pakistan and were made to come home by their families. There will be more and we can but hope they are stopped before they get the violent glory they crave. 

I have met smart Muslim undergraduates and post-graduates at some of our top universities who offer perfectly honed theses to justify the actions of men like the Birmingham three. In sum, they give three key reasons: Palestinian rights denied by Israel, Islamaphobia, and Western interference in Muslim countries. These exact points were raised by a Muslim letter-writer to The Independent last week.

I sympathise with this position and have written with deep conviction on all those thorny issues. I am just reading Shadow Lives by the veteran journalist Victoria Brittain, on the unseen and unheard victims of our state’s iniquitous war on terror – the wives and children of  men who have been incarcerated without charge for years.

I cry as I read – as many must when reminded of the chemical warfare used against Iraqis and the suffering of Palestinians.  In Burma, Muslims are subjected to terrible persecution and Aung San Suu Kyi, now part of the establishment, expresses only tepid concern. 

But no injustice can excuse or explain the rise of brutal Islamicists. Palestine is their cynical, moral pretence. Racism? Black Afro-Caribbean men who suffer the worst discrimination in this country don’t set up terrorist cells. Muslim foreign policy rage is questionable too. Over many decades, Western meddling in, say, Zimbabwe or Kenya has led to some of the intractable, current problems in those nations. Again, Kenyans and Zimbabwean migrants to the UK aren’t cooking carnage in pots in their kitchens.

Fig leaf

Religion is another fig leaf used by millions of Prophet Mohamed’s followers. Islam, they rightly contend, does not sanction the killing of civilians by hobbyists or leaders. However, by focusing on what the good texts say, Muslims avoid the reality of what Muslims do. I doubt even the most virtuous imam can point this out without being subjected to threats.

And while ever alert on Islamaphobia, organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain assiduously avoid looking at the willed ignorance and barbarism within Muslim communities around the world in states controlled by Muslims. 

Take this last week, when Bangladesh erupted with anger and competing protests led to five deaths. Secularists demand punishment for the Bangladeshi men who committed atrocities in the 1971 war for independence from Pakistan. Some of the perpetrators were militant Muslim militia and are defended by an alliance of powerful Islamicist parties.

In Egypt, human rights groups claim children are being detained and tortured. The government has spent £1.7m on tear gas. In Tunisia, after the assassination of the popular secular leader Chokri Belaid, Ennahda, the hardline Islamic party, takes charge. Fifty-three more died in an explosion in Syria where over 70,000 have been killed in two years.

Islamic rebels in Mali, Nigeria and elsewhere carry on their nefarious, destabilising  activities. Eighty-nine Shias were killed in Pakistan, whose first leader, Muhammad Jinnah, was a Shia, as am I. They want to obliterate us there, in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Bahrain, and Iraq too, where bombs go off routinely to kill these worshippers. Other minority Muslim groups are also targeted and often murdered.

Change you can believe in

Internal and external intolerance is now Islam’s brand. Those great past Muslim civilisations famous for diversity, humanity, science, extraordinary achievements have died. Education, the arts, photographs, television, sports, even work are denounced by crazed imams online and in mosques worldwide, including the UK. In Brittain’s book, some women took on these values, and in effect, imprisoned themselves.

Polymath Ziauddin Sardar has met “countless Muslim scholars, thinkers, writers and activists” who are impatient for change and reform. That can’t happen while there is an aversion to criticism and self-criticism.

Thoughtful and honest Muslims stay silent because they fear ostracisation or inciting more racism against Muslims – both real perils. But silence now is cowardly, and collusion with the corrupters of our faith. True believers have a duty to speak out against that corruption.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Riyadh is setting itself up as region’s policeman

Lina Khatib
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor