17 October, 2006

MacShane on Islam:

Until a few months ago, any criticism of Islam was liable to be met with shrieks of "racist" from the left, including Labour MPs. Anybody pointing out the obvious problems created for a pluralist, liberal society by Muslim traditions such as wife-beating, forced marriages and honour killings, was assumed to be from the extreme right, outside the pale of civilised politics. Now, the political weather is slowly beginning to change. As yet, it is only a gentle breeze, none the less, the winds of change are beginning to blow. After Ruth Kelly and Jack Straw comes Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham and a former Foreign Office minister of state.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, MacShane begins from the premise that,

At long last, the debate on Islamism as politics, not Islam as religion, is out in the open.
From that standpoint he goes on to argue,
...we have to find answers to calls for censorship, to celebrations of jihadist terror, or a religiously ordained world view that denies equal rights for women or gays here and in Afghanistan....
...there is a new generation of British Muslims who want to engage in politics and reclaim the issues that concern their communities from religious-based outfits or those who see their task as importing foreign conflicts into domestic British politics.
The main problem with MacShane's logic is that it is built on a false assumption: that Islamism as politics and Islam as religion constitute a duality in which tensions can somehow be reconciled. A common mistake on the left, especially amongst those who can only conceive of society in secular terms. In fact, Islamism as politics and Islam as religion are indivisible. There is, and never has been, any such thing as a secular Islamic society. The Enlightenment passed by Islamic societies. In other words, rejecting Islamism as politics is effectively the same as rejecting Islam as religion and it is unlikely to happen to any significant extent amongst British Muslims.

The essence of the problem, which MacShane fails to identify, is that Islam, however defined, regards itself as a dualism in conflict with the rest of the infidel world. Consequently, what he refers to as imported foreign conflicts in domestic British politics, are in fact native manifestations of a much wider global, phenomenon: a kulturkampf between western civilisation and Islam. Indeed, in his now infamous Daily Mail interview, General Dannatt said as much, in viewing the military action in Iraq and Afghanistan as the foreign dimension of a the west's response to Islamist challenges to our way of life. Unless the problem can be correctly identified, it is going to be very difficult for the politicians to meet the domestic threats posed by that challenge.

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