The Voldemort effect

Maajid Nawaz has some ideas on what to do about spreading Islamism in the UK.

For years, Islamists and other extremists have taken advantage of grievances of Muslims in Britain, and have successfully identified ways to integrate them under one “Islamic” banner. Sensitive issues such as Palestine, Kashmir, and Iraq have been used to bring together Muslim communities under unified goals. As a result, separate Muslim education programmes have increased among these communities, and inter-marriages between Muslims of different cultural backgrounds has become the norm. Through this, extremists hoped to create a religious “Islamic” identity that transcends, and grows on, ethnic and cultural differences.

It appears to be working. Half of British Muslims interviewed stated that prejudice against Islam makes it very difficult to be a Muslim in this country. Some 51 per cent do not believe that Muslim clerics who preach for violence against the West are out of touch with mainstream Muslim opinion. Increased sympathy for an Islamist cause, lack of integration, and the absence of acceptance of Muslims into British society makes it harder for Muslims to challenge Islamism, and tough for non-Muslims to understand it.

Islamism is a desire to impose a version of Islam over society, anywhere. It can also include an effort to introduce it here, in the country where we reside via entryism. By refusing to challenge its roots, and its inherent biases, we increase negative spillover effects on all Muslims who live here. This manifests as prejudice. The way to tackle Muslimphobia is to tackle prejudice against Muslims. What it is not, is to pretend that Islamist extremism does not exist.

It’s too bad the Obama administration didn’t invite Maajid to that conference on “violent extremism” last week. The Washington Examiner – which is not one of my favorite sources – reported that he and other anti-Islamist Muslims were excluded (as opposed to just not noticed).

Muslim reformers say the administration is ignoring them because they disagree with Obama’s refusal to acknowledge the Islamic roots of the extremists’ ideology.

Some of the most prominent reformers have argued for years that the ideological and theological roots of Islamist extremism must be addressed, but administration officials carefully avoided exactly that subject during Obama’s three-day summit.

And they avoided it in naming the summit – on “violent extremism” when what they meant was Islamist extremism.

The coyness really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

“We have to own the issue of extremist Islamic theology in order to defeat it and remove it from our world. We have to name it to tame it,” Muslim journalists Asra Nomani and Hala Arafa wrote in an essay published Friday by the Daily Beast.

“Among Muslims, stuck in face-saving, shame-based cultures, we need to own up to our extremist theology instead of always reverting to a strategy of denial, deflection and demonization.”

Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist radical and one of those who signed the Times advertisement, is co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremist British think-tank. The refusal of Obama and his officials to name their real enemy is referred to among reformers as the “Voldemort effect,” after the villain in the Harry Potter books whose name could not be mentioned.

Nawaz told CNN on Wednesday that refusing to address the Islamist ideology directly puts all Muslims at risk of being blamed for the actions of a tiny minority — the exact opposite effect of what Obama intended by his approach.

It’s all a bit…ostrich-like.


  1. Blanche Quizno says

    Roe vs. Wade and the resulting backlash against now-legal abortion likewise provided the banner under which typically feuding and mutually distrustful, hateful Christian sects could join forces – Catholics sitting next to Evangelicals, everything’s hunky dory so long as they have a mutual enemy to join forces against. And Christians in the US likewise whine incessantly about how “persecuted” they are, especially when they’re thwarted in their attempts to get their bigotry enshrined as law, their superstitions taught in the public schools, and their candidates elected.

  2. quixote says

    It’s a short step from calling Islamism a problem to noticing that it’s identical in spirit with all other intolerant fundamentalists. And US Americans, who are exceptional and beyond all other humans, would take exception to the parallels and you might lose a vote or two.

    Can’t have that.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Consider the outpouring of bilge Obama got when he did make some passing references to hyperchristian violence.

    Contemplate how much rage he would produce if he ever did speak up about Jewish violence (aka The State of Israel™).

    Imagine the howling if he frankly addressed police violence.

    Actually identifying the sources of violence in US society has become utterly taboo.

  4. Anne Fenwick says

    I agree with Nawaz, hate speech is going on on both sides, and actions follow. I think it’s the fact of hate speech itself we should be tackling, rather than broad ideologies. I broadly agree with quixote that lots of ideologies are potentially as bad as each other, and also that attacking them is unlikely to have constructive effects. Trouble is, the US is ideologically opposed to considering hate speech as a thing to be stopped so I’m afraid it may prove a poor leader according to my way of thinking.

  5. johnthedrunkard says

    Is there such a thing as ‘moderate’ Islamism? Islam is supremacist, tends to foster Arab racism, triggered the most rapid imperial expansion in history.

    MOST Christians no longer support slavery. But the book hasn’t changed, and it would only take one well-funded movement to make slavery a ‘core value’ for a substantial sect.

    The Koran is worse than the Bible, and it appears that very few Muslims are able to bring common decency to bear the way the other Abrahamic groups have.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    all Muslims at risk of being blamed for the actions of a tiny minority

    Some 51 per cent [of British Muslims] do not believe that Muslim clerics who preach for violence against the West are out of touch with mainstream Muslim opinion

    That’s some tiny minority, that 51%. Terrible shame if all Muslims were blamed for what most of them believe to be their own mainstream opinion.

    Wait, what?

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