Ms .45's mp3/bureaucratic/gaming blog.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ed Husain

Ed Husain is the sort of person who is one of the most important weapons in the Global War On Terror (or whatever the hell we're calling it this week). Husain is a former Islamist (author of, funnily enough, The Islamist) who seeks to expose extremism in supposedly mainstream Islamic organisations, and he does this from the perspective of one who remains devout, which gives him somewhat more credibility with the very people vulnerable to hateful ideology than a Hirsi Ali who has become a full-on atheist.

Mr. Husain is in the uncomfortable position of giving fuel to Islamophobes, which is a shame, because clearly he does not adhere to the view that Muslims are inevitably kaffir-hating nutters who seek to establish a worldwide Caliphate. I quite like the fact that he doesn't seem to have replaced Muslim extremism with anti-Muslim extremism, which will make it harder for professional Islamophobes to recruit him.

He laments the mushrooming of Islamic 'peak bodies' in this interview with Alt.Muslim:

Alt.Muslim: The British government sought the help of the Muslim Council of Britain in the past, especially after 7/7, but now they've fallen out of favour. Now the government appears to be looking towards other Muslim organisations, such as the Sufi Muslim Council, as an alternative. Is that the right approach? Should they get different Muslim representative groups together and help them come to a consensus? Or are they pitting Muslims against Muslims?

I'm in two minds about this whole – the creation of different Muslim organisations and, as you say, pitting Muslims against Muslims. Why can't Muslims just be Muslims and participate in civil society as citizens? Why do we need to have all these forums? They inevitably bring on board certain types of individuals and certain groups come with their own agenda and their own baggage. It's like Mosca said, the Italian thinker, that it's the organised minority controlling the discourse of the disorganised majority.

Why can't we just be human beings, be Western citizens of different countries, engage with the existing structure, be it through the political parties or whatever it is that takes our fancy or wherever it is we feel our niche lies – Greenpeace, for example? Engage at that level. Why do we need to have these councils where again and again they've always thrown up that sort of leadership that young Muslims – children of this soil – feel inherently uncomfortable with?
I for one am quite happy to see Australian Muslims stepping forward to form political parties, write op-eds and so on, as it indicates that they are in fact engaged with Australian life rather than withdrawing from it. However, I agree that it would be good to see Muslims visibly involved in mainstream organisations.

Conversely, you should also read Ziauddin Sardar's review of The Islamist, alongside Journey into Islam by Akbar Ahmed, to see its limitations. Husain's insight is valuable, but of course, it's his unique experience.

[EDIT: Good review by Waleed Aly in the Age.]

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