A reply to Ghazala Salam (Huffington Post 1/10/13)
Ghazala Salam may have a point in her legitimate objection to the use to the word ‘Islamism’ in her piece in the Huffpost. However, even if her semantic claim to the root of the word ‘Islamism’ being corrupted by the Western media when reporting on the more extreme violence perpetrated by followers of Islam is true, the rest of the article falls victim to the Normal Distribution Curve.
The curve, which many will remember from school mathematics and looks like the outline of a bell, illustrates a basic truism to all randomly selected populations. It shows that the vast majority of any population falls in the middle, in the tall bit, and very few fall into the extremes on either side.
The central theme of Salem’s piece, that of the 1,6 billion that self-identify as Muslims fall into the middle bit and are nice, easy going, reasonable people, who do normal things; go to work, wear nice jumpers and eat cheese is simple stating the blindly obvious!
The 1,6 billion who self-identify culturally as Muslims covers an enormously wide based group, from violent and psychopathic extremists to atheists. Salem offers us a simple platitude that ignores certain hard evidence – the 9/11 attackers and the 7/7 bombers were, quite undeniably, motivated by the teachings of Islam and its interpretation of a requirement for violent Jihad.
A reasoned argument from Salem as to why the Koran was mistakenly interpreted in this way or why the bombers were completely wrong in this interpretation of the Koran or indeed, how these interpretations contradict the central tenants of Islam itself may have been more interesting.
It may have been more interesting, but it would be pointless – they were motivated by Islam.
To what extent is the extremely repressive, brutal and misogynistic political system in Saudi Arabia – a system about as far removed from civilised values as can be imagined, built upon Islamic values? Of course it’s a question that needs no answer, it was built upon Islamic values, albeit the extreme Wahhabi version of Islam, but Islam nevertheless.
More subtle questions such as to what extent the seven men from Oxford, who were prosecuted in May for serious sex offences toward young women and girls, were influenced by their adherence to Islam; a belief system which actively denigrates women? The same question could be asked of the Rochdale, Rotherham and Telford gangs.
I have chosen these two examples of the negative aspects of Islamic influence out of a vast list, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Egypt, the list goes on. To carry on listing situations where Islam is at least an underlying influence, if not a prime mover, would be pointless, my point has already been made; merely pointing out that the majority of Muslims don’t identify with the more extreme interpretations of Islam is not only obvious but pointless.
Islamic countries embracing values espoused in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly toward women is probably unrealistic. Imams speaking out and interpreting the Koran and the hadiths into a less extreme form of Islam may be a little too much to hope for, for the time being at least, but a more robust condemnation from Islamic commentators on the extremism that’s carried out in the name of Islam would be a welcome start.