Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Beginnings of a response

The following are a series of scattered thoughts on the London bombings.

1. I was right all along. There is a tendency for commentators on the bombings to jump to the reassertion of their stance towards the ‘war on terror’ as a whole. This has to be avoided. Theories if they are not to be circular or self-justificatory must be backed up by evidence.

2. We live in the land of Hume. I have always been surprised by the extent to which people who live in England engage in psychological forms of argumentation (fear-mongering). We live in the land of Hume, we require evidence for all assertions.

3. Following on from point 2, it is imperative that we do not mislead. The Sun featuring Tariq Ramadan on its front cover yesterday (though he has spoken out clearly against terrorism), or Newsnight inviting Irshad Manji on to its discussion last night (to forward the reformist agenda) are examples of complete misjudgement. The most important argument at present is the one with the terrorists. All other matters will distract us from this most urgent of actions. They have to be dealt with as a matter of priority. Any anti-Muslim opportunism should be challenged.

4. Draining the swamp. This phrase is used by counter-terrorist personnel and they mean by it that the support that the terrorists receive has to be challenged. This could be done through three means:

From fiqh (Islamic law). A fatwa should be prepared on terrorists and terrorism. It should answer: What is the ruling on killing innocent people? What is the punishment for those who do? Is there any room for disagreement? I trust that the scholars will be able to put this together quickly. Post September 11, there should already be some available.

Against false heroism. The terrorists believe that they are heroes on our behalf, the ummah. We, the ummah, have to turn around to them and tell them that they are not our heroes and that they have no credibility in this matter. Their actions will not progress the political argument against the suffering of those for whom they are concerned. There is nothing manly, heroic, applaudable or virtuous about killing innocents

Politically. The anger and frustration has to be directed into positive collective action. This has to be through the identification of positive, constructive ways of work. This requires authentic political leadership.

5. Inevitability. Let us be clear though, that the police had previously said that this was inevitable. This is because the stakes have been raised (post Iraq war).All of the violence fits into a neat jigsaw puzzle and what is required is a dismantling of the whole puzzle.

6. Persons should be clear between moral prescription and an analytical description of the events. We should distinguish between morally prescribing through the shariah for these acts as forbidden while we simultaneously analytically describe their provenance (which will emerge in time).

7. I believe that one of the factors behind all of this is moral ambiguity. The events of the past few years have nurtured a cynicism towards moral action – a ‘they kill us, we kill them’ kind of approach. This strikes against the heart of any sensibility that is in pursuit of the Divine, or claims to be in submission to it. I have heard people employ morally ambiguous language many times. I have not sought to correct them on each occasion though. This is something that we all have to do now. There should be no space for disagreement from a fiqh perspective or as a matter of political credibility.
However, we should also be careful that we do not bend too much at this time. We have to advocate a firm moral position that cannot be challenged. But, here, unfortunately, it’s not about right and wrong – it’s about what will work with the young lads and we should be careful against making statements in the heat of the moment which will provide them with rhetorical succour – that is, that instead of admitting that they are standing on very dodgy ground, they will instead criticise us for the one or two mistakes that we could make. An example is the suggestion that the bombers are not Muslims by their act of terrorism. This ‘going over the top’ only provides them with an opportunity to come back and say that we are advocating theological positions that are not correct. It is this kind of tendency that we should avoid so that we can focus our moral anger onto those that have lost all sense of humanity. Human life is sacred.