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

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

Recruitment Genius: Professional Sales Trainee - B2B

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...

Recruitment Genius: Creative Web and UI Designer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced creative web and...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£17000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity is now ...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Caitlyn Jenner's first shoot is a victory - but is this really best version of femininity we can aspire to?

Sirena Bergman
The sun balances next to St Albans Church in Earsdon, North Tyneside.  

The world’s nations have one last chance to slow climate change

Michael McCarthy
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral