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Serendib joins Black in Blue

May 2, 2007

Living in Fear of the ‘Saracen Hordes’

Islamic Fundamentalism vs. Extremism

A visitor to Douai Abbey in the heart of Royal Berkshire is struck by the tranquillity and peace that envelopes the surroundings. There monks will be found in silent contemplation of their faith in the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. These monks are considered as harmless followers and exponents of the basic tenets that teach compassion and harmony in a world where peace is hard to find.

Still in the Royal County, just a few miles away, in central Reading followers of the Prophet Mohammed meet at their local mosque just a few hundred metres from the town’s busy commercial centre. They too are engaged in silent contemplation of the basic precepts of their faith, which is also seeking compassion and harmony in a world where peace is hard to find.

What is the difference between these two pictures, with the exception of the obvious affluence related to Douai Abbey and its well manicured gardens as opposed to the economic deprivation experienced by those living within sight of the mosque and the traffic-congested streets?
Both groups are following the basic code of belief of their specific faith with the intention of greater spiritual and intellectual development, yet the latter worshipers live in fear of accusations of what has now been termed ‘Fundamentalism’ and all that is conjures up since September 11th 2001.

To some Fundamentalism is the broad-based but diverse religious movement that has swept across the Muslim world, from North Africa to Southeast Asia, during the past two decades.

It can be reasonably stated that fundamentalism is merely the re-evaluation of one’s faith and a desire to return to a more basic approach where life is centred on the power of prayer and seeking heavenly rewards through personal peaceful efforts. This change of approach is to counter the onslaught of what some may believe to be the demise of family values and ethics brought about by the ever increasing Westernisation and its exploitation.

In the world of the late twentieth and into the dawn of the twenty first century contemporary Islamic fundamentalism has manifested itself in personal and political life, from greater emphasis on religious observances such as prayer, fasting, Islamic dress, and family values to reassertion of Islam in politics.

Not only has Islam seen a resurgence in what may be considered as its home in the Middle Eastern countries, but also in Western Countries second and third generation descendants of South Asian migrants as well as many African and African Caribbean youngsters have sought solace and personal identity in re-affirming their faith in this worldwide fellowship that has no gender, ethnic or cultural barriers.

The term ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, while commonly used, is misleading. The term fundamentalism is laden with Christian presuppositions and Western stereotypes, and it implies a monolithic threat. If fundamentalism means the acceptance of the primary tenets of Islam then the modern interpretation is somewhat insulting as it is generally used to identify individuals or groups that are hostile to specifically Western Countries and their capitalistic ethos.

In Western Europe the same term would not be used to identify similar spiritual followers of the primary tenets of Christianity whilst going about their contemplations in a monastery in Exmoor or the depths of Wiltshire. More useful perhaps are the terms Islamic revivalism and Islamic activism, which are less value-laden and have roots within traditions of political reform and social activism.

For a considerable number of Muslims, the resurgence of Islam is a reassertion of their cultural identity, formal religious observance, family values, and morality. The establishment of an Islamic society is seen as requiring a personal and social transformation that is a prerequisite for a true Islamic government. If effective change is to come then it will come from below through a gradual social transformation brought about and assisted by the implementation of Islamic law.

On the other hand, a significant minority of quasi-Islamic followers view some of the societies and governments in the Muslim countries as hopelessly corrupt. They believe that un-Islamic societies and their leaders are no better than infidels and that the religious establishment has been co-opted by the government.

Such critics believe in some more extreme cases that both established political and religious elites must be overthrown and a ‘new’ Islamic law imposed. These radical revolutionary groups, though relatively small in membership, have proved effective in political agitation, disruption, and in some cases assassination. They have not, however, been successful in mobilising the masses.

From a Western perspective it could be said that the well publicised countries that claim to be hard-line ‘Islamic States’ are arguably held together more through political and military dictatorship rather than any widespread ecumenical belief system. Such societies have historically been seen to naturally fall through internal means rather than any external pressure.

What does this all mean in the UK today?

It is vitally important that the United Kingdom Police service itself does not, by acting upon inappropriate thought processes, or using negative language and behaviour, fall foul of playing into the hands of those who wish to besmirch both the followers of Islam and the Muslim world in general. The media is keen to show that the ‘Saracen’ hordes are waiting to sweep in from the East and destroy Christendom. This will only lead the Service into becoming more isolated from certain groups who already (through the inherent quasi-Christian ‘British’ racism, economic, social deprivation and exclusion) find themselves estranged from mainstream society.

By further demonising the Islamic World, western society is in fact giving a genuine reason for some to actually turn towards certain extremist groups with either their verbal and intellectual support or in the minority of cases to actually give physical support when called upon. Many within western society are not even aware that it is they who are victims of the ‘Medieval’ anti-Islamic biases of their fore parents, who without conscious knowledge still fear the sacking of Jerusalem and a return to the ‘Dark Ages’.

With such rampant bigotry and disgraceful attitudes shown towards Islam and Muslims especially on the part of many western policy-makers and opinion-formers, someone has to take the initiative to correct the situation.

Perhaps it is time for the benefit of all people within the West to shed this ‘Medieval’ cloak of bigotry that they have towards Islam and still wear, and rather learn to appreciate what Islam has given to the World in the form of the Sciences, Literature and the Arts. It was in fact the Islamic World that established the first universities not just for pious study, but actually where Medicine, Politics, Philosophy and Economics were studied and the knowledge was further enhanced for the benefit of all.

If Western society and specifically the UK also then further empowers those people who are placed and kept within the most deprived groupings and they are actually accorded the opportunity for their voices to be genuinely heard then extremism will find it difficult to establish a firm base of support.

This inclusive stance has no ethnocentric basis as extremism is certainly not just in the sole ownership of Muslims and other visible minority groups within society, but also of the indigenous White European majority. Rather than being the source of fear and trepidation, Islamic fundamentalism rather supports and seeks peaceful means of change within society through intellectual and spiritual development.

Although it is not the sole responsibility of the Police service to undertake this task, it has become, over the past two decades, since the Scarman Report of 1981, the legal and moral duty of the service to become an influencer for change within wider society.

Unless all the peoples of a nation and especially its youth feel valued and their concerns are listened to then we will see a continued growth in the numbers of young people mainly believing that they will find their identity and a fellowship amongst the extremist groups that use elements of a faith to attract, hold on to and ultimately control their membership.

There is yet hope as people in the West are starting to question their ‘Leaders’ statements and proposed actions as seen by the recent ‘Peace’ marches held in many ‘Western’ capitals. Why are so many people verbally and physically demonstrating their defence of their Muslim Brothers and Sisters? It could be that many within the West have matured as a result of the ‘Western European’ inhumane actions that the world experienced in the twentieth century and realise that it is only a matter of time before the pendulum swings again and that they may be the next target of the of those who wish to invoke mass hysteria and fear for their own personal and immoral reasons.

Pastor Martin Niemoeller a World War 1 U-Boat Captain and Hero once wrote of the Nazi regime “In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

Rather than fear Islamic fundamentalism, the West perhaps may benefit from listening to what it is saying and will without doubt hear something of note and value for its own use and further development, likewise the monks at Douai Abbey could also teach us all a thing or two to aid us in these troubled times. Respect for other faiths and cultures engenders respect and inclusiveness, thus reducing any ground swell support for extremisms. NB Please note that these are the thoughts as compiled by Serendib and not necessarily those of Twining who has kindly allowed me add to this site.

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25 comments

  1. Serendib, the name is Twining! Not Twinning man!


  2. Welcome Serendib. I have corrected your obvious error in my name, TWINNING, my foot! The first rule of blogging man, is to keep it short and sweet. The second rule is to bring it down to earth. Thirdly, my name, man! I am learning too.

    Are you saying that we should not fear Islamic resurgence? I have concerns about any fundamentalists, included the dreaded BNP. I have to say I don’t fear it or any other faith and have experienced racism from different faiths.

    My issues are with any faith or belief that practices racism. How do the 7/7 bombers fit into this? I accept totally that not all Muslims are or will be terrorists? In my experiences some in Islam have not given love? Is this because they feel they are not given love? Do people want separatist communities are a whole community? So how then do we deal with preventing future terrorism?


  3. Twining, I thought this was your blog?
    This posting is twaddle, and if Serendib wants to write this sort of thing he should post it to his own blog, and you can link to it there.
    Interested people can find it by browsing your blog and others, or just happen upon it while browsing.


  4. Dear pgtips, an interesting observation if not brief in the extreme, I apologise for what may seem an obtuse question, but what exactly is ‘twaddle’ in your opinion. I am very interested in hearing your academic perspective of the piece?


  5. Tips, surely your not dicatating who has access and who does not, to my blog? I guess you are. I have asked Serendib to make the point succinctly as you have seen. Serendib is also Black in Blue….And has a perspective.


  6. Well, Serendib, I just don’t where to start, and a comments section of a blog isn’t the place.

    ‘Comments’ are not the place for a detailed response, academic or otherwise to such a piece.

    I will say that your comparison of a bunch of Christian monks to some of the more loopy Muslim Clerics that seem to abound is bizarre – I don’t think I’ve heard many monks calling for a ‘crusade’ or encouraging suicide bombings, behaedings etc etc.

    The nearest we’ve had is the Bishop of Rochester having a pop, the Bishop of York stating some excellent thingd as usual and the Archbishop of canterbury indulging in some hand-wringing, which he does on every subject going.

    As for the rest of your piece, twaddle, rubbish and drivel. Get the dictionary out! As Twining observes, you have a perspective, and one driven by a touch of paranoia many would think.

    And Twining I don’t dictate anything, another bit of sensitivity on your part. You have your blog, you post, others can comment. If Serendib wants to post why doesn’t he get his own blog and then others can read etc. You can then link in as you do with other bloggers.

    Blogs are personal things and have their own(ers) personality, isn’t that the point?


  7. As for having something to learn from islamic fundamentalism – I don’t think we have anything to learn from fundamentalism of any kind, muslim, christian or whatever!

    muslim fundamentalism seems to have kept many societies rooted in medieval times, it opresses women and seems to openly celebrate murder and mayhem for what? God?

    As for freedom of speech and human rights?

    We hear a lot about how the Koran has been misinterpreted by extreme elements, but wwe don’t see the ‘leaders’ within the muslim community saying it often and loudly enough.

    As for Christian fundamentalists, they are are scarily mad, but thankfully the proportion of these lunatics to muslim lunatics seems mercifully small.

    If you wish to live under such regimes, there are plenty of places across the planet where you can do so happily – the vast majority of British/European people have no time for it, are completely against it and will, if pushed, ensure it doesn’t spread here. If you don’t like it? Leave!

    I’d love to see church and state kept completely separate, out of schools, out of every sphere of communal life. If you want to celebrate particular religions etc, do it in your own time. There’s no reason why not.

    It seems to me that police officers should try to be just that, police officers and good ones, the obsessions with race, gender and religion mires British public services in all sorts of irrelevancies. Just get on with it. If you don’t like it? leave!

    The UK is a very tolerant society, despite the mistakes etc made over the last 40 or so years it is a very welcoming society, and in comparison to many other countries it is a fair and democratic society, something most muslim states do not appear to be. It should not be abused!

    I won’t comment further, other than to say that Twining, you do have some interesting points at times, but not this time.

    Undoubtedly I will be labelled as a racist by you, but I’m not, what I do hate and loath so very passionately are the people who abuse our society and seek to import and impose (ultimately) an alien culture.


  8. Dear pgtips,

    The article is to stimulate debate. It is not an attack on you personally at all. I am not a follower of Islam myself but do see the difference between Islam as a religion and the politicisation of this worthy religion through the ‘Islamist’ movement.

    Fundamentalism as a term, I would argue is something different and has perhaps been corrupted by the Christian Right who are as abhorrent as those that try and say that the Qur’an preaches anything other than ‘just’ tenets. Fundamentalism is far more about in my opinion (and that is all that it is) about seeking a truth through these basic tenets rather than interpreting them to fit ones political agenda.

    It is worth remembering that much that we hold as the norm here in the ‘West’ such as the development of health and the sciences would not have been brought about had it not been for the development of the early scholarly Islamic tradition. Islam was once and I a sure that it can be again truly a religion seeking the truth. It was in the Islamic world that the University system as we know it was developed and it was in this world that the greatest minds of its day came together to expand their collective knowledge. I would ask the question, so what went wrong, why has the faith seemed to have changed its direction? Rather than rant on in a meaningless manner.

    As for your comments “It seems to me that police officers should try to be just that, police officers and good ones, the obsessions with race, gender and religion mires British public services in all sorts of irrelevancies. Just get on with it. If you don’t like it? leave!”

    Are you not pleased that the there are Police Officers and other members of the Service who are challenging the perceived ‘norms’. There is far too much evidence in history that show us that where there is a intolerant and dictatorial society then we also see an intolerant Police Service who do the malicious bidding of their ‘Masters’. Is this what you wish to have in the UK, a mindless and brutal Police that are more akin to the Police Service’s of Nazis Germany or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq?

    If you just wish to attack the articles that are written as you seem to, I am not sure why you continue? If your mind is that closed then perhaps it is time for you to vote with your feet (or in this case, fingers) and just leave. As for Twinning and myself we know why we do what we do, do you?

    Enough of that now, for you do actually come out with some rather interesting issues and challenges, just quit the venom it is sooooooooo not ‘British’.


  9. Well, I quite enjoy some of TWINNING’s posts, I certainly don’t agree with many of them. I like to think that I can counter some things and maybe even see a fresh perspective, and I have, once maybe twice!

    Anyway if I didn’t respond it would just be the two of you!

    What I would like the police service to be is an organisation that enforces the law and not to be a bunch of hapless social engineers arguing in small minority groups.

    I would have liked the Police Federation to have taken some interest and thus some control a few years back; and now it could have some proper influence and be a proper representative body.

    As it is I feel that it is treated as being of no consequence by government, a far cry from the late 1970’s, hence the problems with pay and conditions.

    (The FBU is having some debate about representative groups on its commitees at the moment and it will be an interesting result either way).

    I’m not sure where you’re going in para 5, you’ve a tendency to exaggerate I fear.

    Parliament is the place that should debate the why’s and wherefores before passing legislation.

    The British police service was never any of those things you fear it is or could be.

    It may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but then they were generally committing crime. Whether they were committing crime becasue of various social pressures or conditions is another argument, but one, I submit, which is not a problem for the police.

    Unfortunately New Labour seems to have forgotten that laws are useless if not enforcable.

    I am very open to debate and I deny any venom, but if people are not happy with this country or their job, Leave! Quite simple.

    I do find it strange how some people have come to the Uk because of it’s reputation and its traditions of fairness, free speech and democracy, freedom of assembly and religion etc, and then campaign against it and want to recreate it would seem the conditions they ran away from – bizarre.

    Whatever Islam was it isn’t now; and I want nothing to do with a religion that creates a society of fear and opression and which stones women to death or hangs them from cranes in stadia (extremes I know) or films beheadings and rejoices in death so much (Sunni v Shia).


  10. Dear pgtips,

    You start off so well be balanced, but then it would seem that you cannot help getting personal.

    I have been a Police Officer for a quarter of a century, and unfortunately for me, my reality does not seem to match your perception. The Police Service should never be mindless automatons just carrying out the unjust will of a government. The Service here in the UK has sworn an allegiance above that to only the Government and is critical in protecting the human rights of us all. I have genuine fears about where the Police Service is and where in an unquestioning society it could go and become.

    Also, I would very much fear a Police Service that had voiceless members who by their silence are condoning such inappropriateness that I and others have experienced or are aware of. The Police as an extremely powerful role model in society and influential in all aspects of our lives are I suppose by default social engineers. This means that it is best that there are even more people internally challenging the system rather than less does it not? You would not really want a return to the apparent ‘mindless’ Constable who would doff ‘His’ hat for the gentry and trample on the poor?

    I do agree with you though that the myth of British society over the past century is that it is a defender of traditions of fairness, free speech and democracy, freedom of assembly and religion etc. Unfortunately it is only a myth, but it could actually still be a reality.

    Britain has from its start been a country of migrants and has survived and grown because of the constant diversity that has arrived on its shores. What is there to fear now? I have an unhealthy feeling that the current attack on Islam is just a rouse to provoke racism against ALL peoples of colour and anyone else who is deemed as not British (whatever that may be).

    Surly as a member of the Police Service I should be interested in people who are trying to destabilise society in this manner for they are ‘Criminals’ and far more of a danger to the fabric of society in my opinion than a petty thief who steals to survive.

    In the present climate it is too easily to become entrenched in a specific camp. In trying to defend others faith it does not mean that I actually support the substance of it but their right to have it. My personal beliefs into another’s faith are only important if it does harm to others. Islam in itself does not do this but some alleged proponents of the faith do?

    All religions are by there very being political for they wish to change the environment and society for the betterment of their followers (and hopefully others). Britain is no different in this, but many Christians or alleged agnostics and some so-called atheists do not see the Christian domination of society for that is what they are used to. Those of us who are not followers of this faith are keenly aware of its existence. Again this is not meant as a criticism for most societies will be the same and certainly my ancestral homeland is reflective of this. The fact is though that our laws and the fabric of society are based on Christian or quasi-Christian tenets and as such there can be hostility and conflict to others faiths that following an equitable evangelic approach.

    Enough of this for now, keep the correspondence going, but please less of the personal. Like you both Twining and I bleed.


  11. Fair enough, I don’t know why you feel I’m being personal though. We’ll have to leave it there for now as we are at aither ends of the spectrum on this one, especailly as to the role and function of the police, and the role and function of the police in British society.
    As for immigration, that’s a massive subject that we cannot debate here. I will say that although Britain has a history of immigration – forced or otherwise, we have never faced such a huge wave of immigration from so many sources. It is unsustainable in so many ways, but I’ve said too much, it needs to be controlled and managed properly.
    I’ll keep dipping in from time to time though, unless for you and twinning, 2’s party etc.


  12. Well, I have left you at it and returned to find a full blown something or the other. I can’t describe it. Blogs can be shared Tips.

    It’s about trust and friendship. What is the essence of Serendib’s message. Tips I am not sensitive. You are assuming again. Serendib 5 points please maximum. Then 5 from you Tips. So Serendib speaks twaddle and I am sensitive?


  13. PG Tips, this is my country. This is my home, but no one has the righ to abuse me, article whatever, Human Rights Act, just as I do not have the right to abuse you!


  14. Anonymous above:

    I can’t see where I abused anyone.

    I am merely entering a debate on some important issues as I am entitled to.

    Don’t be so sensitive or easily offended.

    The UK is my country, with long standing traditions, customs, laws and values which are attractive to many people who come here for a better way of life as a result.

    I will not tolerate people who come here and strive to turn it into an intolerant, opressive and
    undemocratic, theocracy seemingly rooted in the middle ages.

    There are rights and there are entitlements, many forget these come with responsibilities as well.


  15. Dear Pgtips’

    This is where you miss the point when you state ‘The UK is my country’.

    Is it not our country too?


  16. ‘I will not tolerate people who come here …………….’ Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, food for thought that is!


  17. Of course it is your country too.

    You paranoid pair!


  18. Dear Pgtips,

    You may say paranoia but we are not coming out with sweeping statements about what is wrong or rights and linking this to what is Britishness! Some may feel that ‘intolerance, oppressiveness and an undemocratic, theocracy seemingly rooted in the middle ages’ already exists in part in the UK and that it is time that things moved on.

    Liberalisation of society does mean accepting others points of views and ways that one may feel uncomfortable with. Surly that is what Britain has historically shown itself to be capable of?

    Lets build on this liberal society with tolerant views rather than become what we criticise others for being narrow-minded and dictatorial. If we can divorce political agenda’s from the tenets of a faith then we will find accepting others differing faiths more easy by tarnishing Islam, Christianity or for that matter any other faith with the actions of a minority then we will never be fully accepting of diversity.

    Multiculturalism is about embracing all these differences as they enrich our society not putting our own value judgements against them.

    Serendib


  19. “…Some may feel that ‘intolerance, oppressiveness and an undemocratic, theocracy seemingly rooted in the middle ages’ already exists in part in the UK and that it is time that things moved on”.

    If you are comparing UK Christianity with the (UK) Islamist movement (in these current times) in this statement then you stretch credulity too far.

    “Multiculturalism is about embracing all these differences as they enrich our society not putting our own value judgements against them”.

    Nice statement, but without value in present times. I submit that there are places in the UK that have no intention of enriching British Culture, they are more than happy with the ghettoes they have become.

    “Liberalisation of society does mean accepting others points of views and ways that one may feel uncomfortable with. Surly that is what Britain has historically shown itself to be capable of”?

    I think that British society has over the last 50 years has more than proved itself to be capabable of this. It is some within our incoming cultures/communities that have shown they are incapable of this, and seem determined to refuse to integrate and thus enrich and develop society as a whole.

    Good luck, I’m going to leave the two of you to communicate with each other on here, you seem incapable of debating any point without implying racism with each response. Pointless to continue.

    Enjoy your Quixotic flailings at the NPBA, your idealism is commendable as it needs sorting out if it is to get any credibility.


  20. PG Tips, I have not accused you of being racist and if I had you WOULD HAVE READ IT. So don’t come here and make silly mindless accusations. Troll’s do exist and their purpose is to do exactly what the establishment does; frustrate change. You have note answered reasonably anything Serendib has suggested. And he has been reasonable. You accuse me of being incapable of debate? There is a number plate available for sale and I am more direct than Serendib.(A55 H—). It might fit your purpose. I’ll be even more direct shall I, as Noddy says, Twining is classier than PG Tips. And I am not having a conversation with Serendib here at all, you have though and lost badly. You are showing your hand, and from here it is not pleasant. If Gandhi was alive he would kick your butt too!.


  21. How predictable, shame on you Twinning. I doubt that Gandhi would do anything of the sort. Your inability to argue reasonably, using insults to respond instead shows you in a true light. Get that big chip off your shoulder and stop standing up for extremists in our midst. Most of Serendib’s statements and comparison have been fatuous. Many of yours are simply peurile – enjoy your conversation! “As Noddy said…..” – Grow up!


  22. PG Tips, really, as Black people are we all predictable? You can hide behind your thoughts and words. You are the predictable one. I have not time for any extremists I am afraid, and some of your views are simply that, a corner of England will always be English, but do correct me on my understanding of poetry and academia.

    The reality is, there are many corners of England that are cultural and include many minorities that are British. And the name is Twining. Accept it, you have been conversing with Serendib, why accuse me. Yours I am afraid is a racist world, mine I hope is not. Sorry if you felt insulted but the truth is a bitter pill. Ciao.


  23. Tips your inability to LISTEN clouds you as a great amongst the shrude behaviours of people defined with the Macpherson Report.


  24. PG Tips don’t be so damn sensitive.


  25. PGTips,

    Only being a simple PLOD, hence I lack your way with words, I had to looks the following up:

    Fatuous: asinine: devoid of intelligence

    Puerile: adolescent: displaying or suggesting a lack of maturity; “adolescent insecurity”; “their behaviour was juvenile”; “puerile jokes”

    I am so please that you do not resort to insults! Whatever next?

    Have a good life. May bigotry and intolerance continue to not darken your doorstep.

    Yours

    Serendib



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