Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Anne Cryer, triangulation and the moral argument

What is the effect of the Anne Cryer approach to Muslim community development? Let me refer to something which in political circles is called 'triangulation' which describes a politician adopting the argument of his or her opponents, say for example, Tony Blair on privatisation. Not exactly the same thing, but the effect of Anne Cryer talking about forced marriage is that those people within the community who would wish to take up such issues feel either disempowered or outmaneouvred from doing so (very few people are willing to share a platform with Cryer).

The one situation in which this approach has not worked is counter-terrorism. Projects like the 'Radical Middle Way' have allowed the Muslim community to claim the moral argument for themselves in the name of Islam and for Muslims. However, many Muslim community development issues like forced marriage, youth crime or community cohesion - which require the community to make the moral stand and then work according to it - are not championed by the Muslim community precisely because the Anne Cryer approach dominates. The state in such circumstances achieves little and adopts harsher and harsher regimes - I suppose a form of bilateral radicalisation, but in the policy area of community development. I think the community is faced with a real problem here. We need to work on several issues which affect our community though there are many people who are simultaneously willing either to pathologise us or to politically triangulate us. This should in and of itself not prevent us from stepping forward in the ways that we see fit for our own development as a community.

One could suggest that in such politicised times, it is very difficult to adopt a moral stance that points the finger back at the community. I can only suggest that we should proceed with courage and caution.