Maajid Nawaz: We must stop giving fodder to the fanatics

Share

The terrorism legislation outlined in the Queen's Speech yesterday won't have been influenced by the remarks made by Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, the day before. Yet in revealing that British teenagers are being groomed to become terrorists, Mr Evans has helped prepare the ground that makes changes to current terrorism legislation seem necessary.

As someone who once lived by Islamism – the ideology adopted by, though not exclusive to, Jihadists – I can understand what would radicalise a young British Muslim. Sadly though, the state of debate at the moment is one more determined by politics than it is by a need to get to the root of the problem. Two camps have emerged. The first camp exclusively blames this development on government policy, both foreign and domestic. The second exclusively blames Islamism, and tends to hide a deeper animosity for Islam itself.

I believe that it is not one or the other. A more nuanced approach – based on an understanding of the Islamist psyche – is needed to get to the root of radicalisation. Islamism is a modern ideology masquerading as an ancient religion. As such it shares a common trait with many other constructed ideologies. This trait is its fundamental, theoretical justification for change regardless of circumstances. Ideologies do not merely provide "solutions" to perceived problems, they provide a framework within which to define problems in the first place.

By doing this they effectively "discover" problems where there may be none, and can act as an obstacle to solving other problems when the solution doesn't fit certain dogma. Islamism is formed by superimposing certain Western political paradigms onto the religion of Islam. The absence of such modern Islamist notions in Muslim political systems and society is subsequently equated to the absence of Islam itself. Whatever institutions are found in place are subsequently described as Kufr (based on disbelief), which must be overthrown as a religious obligation.

Herein lies the problem. Islamism is not driven by a sense of material injustice in this life. It is driven by an ideological agenda that will seek change regardless of such material injustice. For Islamists, the absence of Islamism is itself the injustice. All man-made legislation is oppressive, and only divine legislation can liberate man from such oppression. Any material problems, such as poverty, crime or conflict, are hence not primary reasons for the Islamist revolution, they are but convenient recruitment tools used to further destabilise those who rule by man-made legislation.

If the very same social problems were to occur in an Islamist state, good Muslims would be counselled to exert patience and turn to their government for solutions. Hence, revolutionary Islamists and in particular Jihadists are opposed to all regimes in the Muslim world as a point of principle, whether such systems are representative or not.

On the other hand, the vast majority of Muslims are not Islamists, and even fewer are Jihadists. So how are the minority of Muslim youth attracted to such an ideology? The factor that stands out is the way in which radical Islamism grew in popularity alongside extremely bad policy decisions made by governments, including our own. It is no coincidence that the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan acted as a catalyst for Jihadism, just as our occupation of Iraq is now doing the same. It is also no coincidence that there were no Jihadist attacks on British mainland before the fateful invasion of Iraq. Our government's pre 9/11 support for dictators in the Muslim world, including Saddam Hussein, assured this country's unpopularity amongst those who suffered under such tyrants. As Islamism and Jihadism rose globally, so did the way in which governments cut back on fundamental civil liberties. The state of our own country's terror laws are a case in point; profiling, control orders and detention without charge are all now an ordinary part of our legal mosaic. Terrorist profiling has reached such a level of absurdity that a Muslim minister of our own government was last week detained at a US airport under terrorism procedures. If the "Black Widows" – secular Chechen female suicide bombers – should teach us something it is that terrorists have no profile.

My point is that the vast majority of these measures do not affect terrorists, they aid them in their cynical use of events for ideological ends. What was once mere Islamist and Jihadist propaganda, that non-Muslims hate Muslims, is now less easy to discredit for young minds. Polarisation only serves those, on both sides of the debate, who seek war. The ordinary Muslim suffers, and in turn becomes angry. This anger unintentionally breeds an atmosphere where alienated young Muslims, still maturing in the ways in which to deal with anger, are susceptible to ideologically driven recruitment by Islamists and Jihadists.

Such an analysis requires a two-pronged approach. Islamism needs to be ideologically challenged by those equipped to do so. Vitally though, policy matters must also not be ignored. If we stop granting them fodder, it will be harder for them to recruit. It is in this light that I stand opposed to the new Counter- Terrorism Bill, just as I stand opposed to Islamism.

The writer is a former leadership member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, for which he was imprisoned for four years in Egypt

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory