2017-09-03

Flawed Counter-Terrorists

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Maajid Nawaz

A autobiography I found of special interest in understanding how a British Muslim became radicalized and eventually de-radicalized was Radical by Maajid Nawaz. I discussed one aspect of it in the post The Conflict between Islamism and Islam. From his biography and in his online writings and talks I have read and heard since there is absolutely no way I could ever think of Maajid Nawaz as an “anti-Muslim extremist” as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has branded him. (My reading of the SPLC’s justification is that key persons in that organization fail to understand the difference between Islam and Islamism, and it is such persons whom Nawaz and others warn against. Incidentally, I have had to ask at least one Islamist to stop using the comments on this blog as a platform for spreading that ideology.)

Maajid Nawaz comes across to me as a flawed leader in the constellation of counter-extremist efforts. There is no one cause for radicalization and different motivations propel different persons in that direction. I once posted that I saw Maajid Nawaz as an example of a “status seeking” radical, following the descriptions of a wide range of historical extremists by Clark McCauley and Sophia Moskalenko in Friction. Such a motivation would explain what I think has been Maajid Nawaz’s biggest mistake — collaborating with a genuine “anti-Muslim extremist”, Sam Harris, with the publication and promotion of  their jointly authored book, Islam and the Future of Tolerance. The association has certainly lifted Maajid’s public profile at a time when reports that he had not fully honest about his past began to surface, but it would have been, well, possibly more appropriate for him to admit and apologize for past errors and move on by building on his experiences instead of offering opportunities for the Sam Harris’s and Jerry Coynes to falsely use him to promote prejudices he himself opposes. But, then again, there is money involved, and the need to sustain a cash flow for his organization, Quilliam. He has put himself in a difficult position.

Wheh! After all of that introduction, now to the point of this post. Salon.com has posted an interview with Maajid Nawaz where he is given a chance to explain himself and what he stands for, along with a commentary on the term he coined, “regressive left”, that has taken on entirely new connotations among Islamophobes like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne.

Former Islamist radical Maajid Nawaz on “regressive leftism” — and why the SPLC has labeled him an “anti-Muslim extremist”

 

5 Comments

  • Tige Gibson
    2017-09-03 22:50:11 UTC - 22:50 | Permalink

    I would say that the dominant voices on the left suffer a lot of interference from ignorant people on “both sides” because left wing arguments are inherently complex and most people aren’t willing or able to invest in understanding them. The dominant voices on the right speak in a very simple monomorphic dogwhistle which is not really intended to be unpacked and understood by most people, but is actually understood by many but denied beyond the line of convenience, as that is the intent behind its formulation, plausible deniability.

    People who claim to be on the center-left, neutral, or center-right will all vainly “criticize” complex arguments from the left while affirming simplistically wrong arguments from the right, even when they do understand both. The effect of political cowardice is overwhelmingly right-leaning because there has never been any doubt that the right will carry out violence and economic sabotage as a means to an end. The left has occasionally been pushed to use violence, and the side-effects of their violent resistance have always been over-emphasized and exaggerated compared to the apparently “civilized” effects of economic violence and implied threats which come from the right. The red scare was and is ironically an implied threat manufactured by the right. Racism has always been a means of easily making an implied threat against politically ignorant people.

    The right especially relies on the names of people to identify allegiance because the content of their “ideology” (if there even is one) is too complex to expect anyone to understand. This person fits into this box and anyone who follows or agrees with this person is an ally or enemy based on that over-simplification.

    Really the worst thing you can do is try to control the meaning of a word or expression. It is an axiom that language changes. Simple people rely on words having simple meaning, but more often than not people will use a word without understanding it at all. The word “god” has no objective meaning and that is a word that almost everyone uses quite a lot. The fact that most people don’t understand the meaning of racism or feminism or trans-sexuality is an inertial feature of conventional culture that we have to adapt to with education.

    People like Sam Harris have some difficulty understanding or making themselves aware of how their elevated speech sounds to ordinary people and seem unwilling to either educate himself or his followers on the underlying meaning of what he’s saying. Both him and Nawaz aren’t going to make much if any progress speaking mostly about and against only a specific sub-group which most other people have little or no grasp. Especially considering their favorite target doesn’t really have any special features that other totalitarian groups might lack. If anything Nawaz is taking advantage of a comfortable position in Western culture to attack his own culture from the outside.

    As a former Christian I haven’t gone out of my way to take advantage of living in a Muslim country to criticize Christians in safety and with the political support of the right wing in such a country.

  • Tige Gibson
    2017-09-03 23:17:40 UTC - 23:17 | Permalink

    It seems that Nawaz is very upset that Muslims are learning to adapt their dogwhistle to resist outsiders from understanding it. Christians do the same, and I wrote about this myself years ago, but the difference is I never felt that we needed to understand it at all. You see, ordinary people don’t understand dogwhistle, it sounds nonsensical, so we all know immediately that the person saying it is a nutjob. That’s all we need to know. For example, when we hear racists saying “14 words”, we don’t need to know what the 14 words are, what they mean, just that anyone using them is an extreme racist.

    And we don’t need to understand the theological construction of their arguments justifying their extremism. If you’re curious, that’s one thing, but a curious person is likely to get caught up in the ideology itself rather than actually learn anything deeply spiritual assumed to be behind it.

    Nawaz also seems to be a proponent of the flawed “messaging” theory of politics, that (they won’t phrase it literally) the left needs to pack complex arguments into simple slogans that can be passed on quickly through culture, “before the truth gets its boots on”. Countries full of starving people just need someone to teach them the proper way to fish.

  • Al Roth
    2017-09-13 19:57:06 UTC - 19:57 | Permalink
    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-09-13 20:23:25 UTC - 20:23 | Permalink

      Thank you for this. I will try to find out more about Q.

  • Raz
    2017-09-27 19:06:48 UTC - 19:06 | Permalink

    Never miss an opportunity to name call a man you despise for saying things you can’t understand.
    Right next to the story on how SPLC made fools of themselves for similar thing. Some people never learn.

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