Outreach to Islamist Radicals  (2009+)

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Introduction +


In September 2002 the present writer suggested that challenging the ideology of Islamist radicals, rather than reliance on security / military tactics, would be the most effective method of dealing with the risk of terrorism by extremists (see Discouraging Pointless Extremism).

This document records some other views (including a 'radical' perspective) on this matter, and observations about an Islamist's call for the adoption of Sharia law in Australia.

Comments on Other Views

CPDS Comments on Other Views

Comments on De-radicalising Suggestions by Kruglanski, Gelfand and Gunaratna

In April 2009 it was noted that a process for de-radicalizing potential terrorists (by challenging the ideology of Islamist extremism) had been developed as a matter of necessity in Muslim-dominated nations. and could potentially be of value elsewhere ("A radical case for treatment", The Australian, 4-5 April 2009).

In brief, key points in the article by Professors Arie W. Kruglanski, Michele J. Gelfand and Rohan Gunaratna seemed to be that:
  • "radical ideology holds that Islam has been under physical and moral assault from non-believers, that it is the sacred duty of all Muslims to rise to its defence, that the most effective defence is an attack against all infidels (military or civilians), and that such attack is fully warranted by the Koran and the Hadith. This violent ideology identifies an aim or an objective, the defence of Islam, and a tactic or means deemed effective for this purpose and morally justifiable, namely terrorism";
  • radical ideology can be challenged by: (a) demonstrating to potential extremists that a proper interpretation of Islam does not condone violence against non-combatants - which mainly requires action by those with great knowledge of Islam; and (b) demonstrating that non-believers are not out to destroy Islam - which mainly requires action by non-Muslims to demonstrate their goodwill and respect for Islam.

Unfortunately the suggested this process is too narrow. It can only solve part of the risk that extremists pose to their own and to others' societies (ie the 'religious' component of Islamism). It can not deal with its 'political' component.

A significant motivator of the Islamist view that others are seeking to destroy Islam appears to be the pervasive economic weakness of Muslim dominated societies and their often-unsatisfactory political systems.

Those political and economic limitations arguably have their origin internally in the broader world-view that scholars have erected around the religion of Islam - as this (for example) leads to social arrangements that constrain people's ability to learn and achieve the rapid change that economic prosperity requires (see Discouraging Pointless Extremism, 2002).

While challenging radical 'religious' ideology will reduce security risks to others, it will not be sufficient to overcome the constraints on the prospects of Muslim dominated societies that arise from the broader world-views that Muslim-insiders have erected around the religion of Islam.

As a result of circulating the above comments, and interchange with an Islamist radical resulted which is reproduced below

Thoughts on Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Australia

In July 2010, suggestions about Australia's response to the radical Islamist organisation Hizb-ut-Tahrir were put forward by Ungerer and Bergin, and the following email records CPDS suggestions which parallel 2005 Comments on Hizb-ut-Tahrir Britain's Manifesto

Email sent 9/7/10

Carl Ungerer and Anthony Bergin

Re: 'We must cry a halt when Islamists take liberties', The Australian, 9/7/10

I should like to try to add value to your suggestions about responding to radical Islamist organisations such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Communism was an oppressive ideology which none-the-less appealed to the disaffected who did not understand its consequences. Communism was not defeated by clamping down on communists, but rather when those exposed to Communism (especially those in the USSR) realized that Communism did not work. Radical Islamism, like Communism, needs informed and critical evaluation by its potential supporters, not to be 'clamped down on'.

My interpretation of your article: There is a case for clamping down on the confrontationist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Hizb-ut-Tahrir's Sydney conference to promote a transnational Islamic caliphate reminds us of the main challenge to the security of the modern liberal democracy. The threat is not military or a secular ideology, but radical Islamism. Unlike Islam which has sought to avoid modernity, modern Islamism seeks to confront it. Hizb-ut-Tahrir is on the vanguard of this. Islamism's supranational ideal makes recruiting easier in Western cosmopolitan cities than in traditional homelands. Tactics translated from national / transnational battlefield are used to destabilize democracies and alliances. Islamism also addresses the conflicting allegiances of minority second-generation communities living in the West by offering simple explanations of, and solution to, complex grievances. It exploits the Internet. Following Sydney conference a call was made on all Muslims to work outside the democratic process. Radicalization by peer pressure and firebrand preachers is a better predictor of violent extremism than education, unemployment, mental illness or wealth. Hizb-ut-Tahrir reinforces a sense of alienation amongst Muslim youth. Mainstream Muslims can be supported in dealing with this dangerous ideology by engagement online, and bringing religious knowledge to bear on issues being debated by extremist's virtual study groups. HIzb-ut-Tahrir should be monitored - as it: takes advantage of tolerance to engage in ideological warfare; and seeks to create a 'them and us' divide. Banning the group could be counter-productive and increase radicalisation and extremism. Sedition and terrorism components in the Criminal Code provide a means of imposing constraints. Australia has not seen how the hatred of the West that Hizb-ut-Tahrir promotes can quickly lead to violence.

There is a great deal of good sense in your article.

However I would suggest that in dealing with organisations such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir the focus should not be on the risks that radical Islamists pose in the West, but rather on the adverse consequences in Muslim-dominated countries of the worldview that (Arabic?) scholars have elaborated around the religion of Islam - as their existing disadvantages would probably be reinforced by Islamists' proposals. Moreover:

  • contrary to your suggestion, any efforts to interface with extremists' virtual study groups should not be in terms of religion, because: (a) religious assumptions can't be proven one way of the other by rational debate; and (b) Islamism, though it exploits a religion, is a political movement (rather than a religious one) and can thus best be debated in terms of the practicality of the 'solution' to the world's problems that Islamists advocate;
  • allies in challenging radical Islamism should primarily be sought amongst those in Muslim dominated societies who are confronting practical political and economic problems - rather than amongst those with a primarily religious focus who tend to be unaware of, and unconcerned about, the practical consequences.

Muslim dominated societies have experienced centuries of political and economic failures apparently mainly (but not only) as a by-product of elements of (traditional Arabic?) world views that have been elaborated around Islam. One key point that emerges from a consideration of the different paths to modernisation by Western and East Asian societies (see Competing Civilizations, 2001). is that the ability to change is critical to success.

Unfortunately elements introduced to Islamic societies seem to have led to a form of 'communal oppression' of individuals that inhibits change. The origin of 'communal oppression' seems to be the view that individuals should be responsible for the morality of others' behaviour (see A Response to Hizb-ut-Tahrir Britain's Manifesto, 2005). a view that contrasts with the Christian assumption that individuals are responsible to God for their own behaviour (which facilitated individual liberty, and more effective problem solving, in Western societies). This seems to be supported by a cosmology that ascribes all events to external influences (see About Arabic Thought and Islamic Science, 2005), which rationalises: (a) viewing science primarily as a means to gain understanding of the Divine will; (b) fatalism; and (c) a sense that failures must be the result of malevolent external forces.

Suggestions about informed evaluation of whether political enforcement of the religion of Islam (which is Islamists' goal) can actually be a constructive solution to anything were put forward in Discouraging Pointless Extremism (2002), as Islamism would seem to simply reinforce the 'communitarian oppression' of individuals with 'state oppression' under Sharia law. The latter document also highlighted the crisis that radical Islamists have probably provoked for the religion of Islam by advocating it as the basis of a system of government - because they have made it necessary to critically evaluate the realism of the political, economic and scientific worldview that (Arabic?) scholars have built around Islam.

I would be interested in your response to the above speculations.

John Craig

Rising to the Islamic Challenge

Also in July 2010 concern was expressed by a Christian organisation (Barnabas Aid) about the need to rise to the challenge to Western societies posed by Islam. The email below records CPDS' suggestions that the best way of responding to this would be through examining the impact in Muslim dominated societies of the form of 'communal oppression of individuals' that seems to be associated with Islam.

Rising to the Challenge - email sent 5/7/10

Barnabas Aid, UK
c/- Barnabas Fund

Re: 'Christianity in the West: rising to the challenges', Barnabas Aid, July-August 2010

I noted the concern that this article expressed about the impact of Islam in Western societies, and particularly in the UK.

Might I respectfully suggest that the best way of responding to this would be through examining the impact of Islam in Muslim dominated societies - which have experienced centuries of political and economic failures largely as a by-product of the pervasive influence of Islam.

This was suggested in the email to Dr Patrick Sookhdeo that is reproduced below. One key point is that a societies' ability to change is critical to its economic success, and Islamic traditions lead to a form of 'oppression' of individuals that inhibits change. The origin of this 'oppression' seems to be the view that individuals should constrain others' behaviour (rather than individuals being responsible to God for their own behaviour as is the Christian alternative) was outlined in A Response to Hizb-ut-Tahrir Britain's Manifesto. Other referenced items commented on other aspects of the problems that Muslim dominated societes create for themselves.

It would not be too hard to build understanding of this in Muslim dominated societies (eg as suggested in Discouraging Pointless Extremism). This would in turn discredit the Islamist cause by making it clear that Islamists' 'solutions' to failures in Muslim-dominated countries (ie reinforcing traditional communitarian oppression of individuals with state oppression under Sharia law) would actually make their situation worse.

Another point to consider is that Muslims may represent the most potentially productive mission field - as they have an established determination to submit to God, but have an unrealistic view of what submission requires (for reasons suggested in About Arabic Thought and Islamic Science, which notes the difference between the Islamic assumption of a universe that is micro-managed by God, and the way the universe actually operates).

John Craig

Attachment: Another way of "Understanding Islamic Terrorism"
(Email sent 18/2/07)

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo,
Institute for Study of Islam and Christianity

I was recently made aware of your analysis, Understanding Islamic Terrorism: The Islamic Doctrine of War (2004), and would like to suggest that there is another way of looking at the issue that could prove productive.

Your analysis focuses on the link between traditional Islamic ideas about war and modern terrorism, and undoubtedly helps in understanding how Islamist extremists can mobilize a following by arguing that jihad requires violent (as well as spiritual) struggle.

However valuable insights can also be gained by examining the subject from the viewpoint of what is required for a civilization to be successful in the modern world - because leading Islamist radicals appear to be primarily motivated by a desire for Islam to be seen to be relevant to Middle Eastern and global problems.

'Islam is the answer' is the rallying cry in the Middle East - and gaining political power to enforce Shari'ah Law is their apparent goal.

Based on my own preliminary work (see below) it seems that a serious examination of whether Islam genuinely could be 'the answer' is likely to reveal practical problems that are implicit in the world view that Arabic scholars have constructed around Islam, that are more significant to whether Islam can be 'the answer' to prevailing political, social and economic problems than whether jihad is interpreted as a spiritual or a military struggle.

The above propositions are examined in more detail (though undoubtedly inadequately) in:

  • Competing Civilizations (from September 2001) which is based on prior study of the path to material prosperity by both Western and East Asian societies, and which suggests (amongst many other things) that enforcement of moral legalism under Islam is likely to be the core of the political and economic predicament that prevails in most Muslim-dominated countries;
  • Discouraging Pointless Extremism (September 2002) which suggests that encouraging an informed evaluation of whether political enforcement of the religion of Islam can actually be the solution to anything might be the best way to defeat extremists. Communism ultimately lost influence when it was discredited in the minds of potential adherents. This was not the result of external opposition - as the latter may merely strengthen resolve. This document also highlights the crisis that extremists have provoked for the religion of Islam by advocating it as a system of government - because they have made it necessary to critically evaluate the realism of the worldview that has been built around it;
  • About Arabic Thought and Islamic Science (July 2005) which considers the world view that has been built around Islam;
  • A Middle Eastern Solution to Ethnic Conflict? (December 2005) which suggests that a close study by Muslims of what Christ (who Muslims recognize as an important and authoritative prophet) said about the limitations of, and alternative to, moral legalism would go a long way towards solving the problems that Muslim-dominated communities have suffered - including conflict with their neighbours; and
  • A Response to Hizb-ut-Tahrir Britain's Manifesto (May 2005).

I would be interested in your views about these matters.

John Craig

Radical Islamism's Challenges to Freedom

In September 2010 it was argued that radical Islamism constitutes a threat to the West, not only in terms of terrorism but also in terms of seeking laws that would restrict free speech.

Terrorism is often seen as radical Islamism's main threat to west and world. The isolation of Muslim communities, which allow radicals to recruit people, is also a factor. This confuses causes with effects. The world in not just dealing with a faith - as radical Islamism is a worldview (comparable with, though different from, Marxism). Islamists claimed that their ideology is rooted in fundamental Islamic sources - and they dismiss alternative views of the Koran and sharia law offered by reformist / moderate Muslims. While respecting the faith of ordinary Muslims, Islamist ideology must be met a different way. Western societies have one law for all - an idea emerging from Judeo-Christian tradition that all are made in God's image and mediated by Enlightenment emphasis on liberty. Islamist view by contrast is absolutist - and applies to all areas of life. Demand by some Muslim leaders for recognition of aspects of sharia law in UK / Australia needs to be viewed in this light - and this needs to be considered by Western clergy / jurists who support such calls, Canadian Muslim women campaigned against adoption of Islamic law to settle family disputes - because Islamic law is highly prescriptive (figh) and is incompatible with Western assumption of equality (eg between men and women; Muslims and non-Muslims; slave and free). In UK Lord Chief Justice argued for recognition of some aspects of Islamic family law, while British Law Lords were ruling that a woman could not be deported because she would then be deprived of custody of her child (seen as a basic right). Human rights in Islam differ from UN Declaration on Human Rights. International commitments to personal freedom can't be reconciled with sharia law (eg apostasy can be punishable by death). In Western countries where such laws can't be enforced, apostasy and blasphemy can result in harassment - and laws have been proposed that go beyond civility in public discussion and would constrain free speech [1]

However, while this may well be so, there is (as above) probably more to be gained by highlighting the adverse effect which such pressures have for Muslim dominated societies.

Interchange with an Islamist Radical

An Interchange with an Islamist Radical

The following records an exchange (with an individual whose name has been suppressed) that arose as a consequence of circulating comments outlined above on 4 April 2009.

Response 16/4/09 from XXX - and CPDS Reply of 17/4/09

Australia is not the only country trying to develop similar outreach programs.

Unfortunately what you are suggesting is not a root-cause remedy to the problem.

The bottom line is that for some strange reason butting-out of the affairs of the Muslim World is not something the Australians, Americans, British etc... are putting onto the table. It just is not in your vocabulary strangely enough.

I don't know why it is not in your vocabulary to tell your government to keep Australian troops in Australia!?

If in the estimation of the article "radical ideology holds that Islam has been under physical and moral assault from non-believers" then to put it simply why continue to attack, occupy and interfere in Muslim Countries?

How about just staying at home and not going around the world attempting to impose your "way of life" on others?

What is wrong with Australians living according to their values, Americans living according to theirs, the British to theirs, and the Muslims in the Muslim World living according to their Islamic way of life?

Is the world that tiny that we cannot live and let live?

The only thing that is radicalizing people is this insistence in interfering, occupying and imposing ones will on others.

Regards, XXX.

[A Muslim Whose Ideal It Is To Be Living Purely According To The Islamic Way Of Life Without Uncle Sam Butting His Nose In Where It Simply Is Not Wanted.]

CPDS Reply of 17/4/09

Thanks for your suggestion that people should not impose their way of life on others. It deserves a considered response - which can't be simple.


I thoroughly agree with you that using force in other countries is undesirable. However, as I understand it, there are many reasons that countries do so. At times this might involve an attempt to capture other territory / resources / assets or expand a country's influence. Such motives were certainly common in history (eg consider the spread of Islam in the 7th century, or the spread of European influence around the world between 16th and 19th centuries).

At present, most major powers would claim that their goal is defensive. For example, US strategists who are concerned about the possibility of major future wars seem to take the view that 'pre-emptive (minor) wars' can stop the development of threats which that lead to major future wars. They also respond (understandably) to threats of terrorism which, in the current environment, are likely to eventually result in the use of WMD. Though, most of the Islamist extremists who have been responsible for attacks against Western societies have probably been based in Western societies, the grievances that motivate the extremists seem to arise from problems in Muslim-dominated societies which are thus seen to need to be 'fixed' to eliminate the terrorist threat - and this suits the Western Islamist extremists because they hope such interventions will mobilize many to their cause.

I suspect that we would both agree (and that even US strategists are finally beginning to suspect) that pre-emption and trying to 'fix' other's problems by the use of force is likely to be counter-productive to everyone's interests.

The same weakness, of course applies, to Muslims who might attempt to impose their way of life on others by force (eg see comments about No Dialogue: Only Da'wa - which apparently was an extremist's virtual declaration of holy war in 2004 to force everyone to change to Islam; and claims of violence on the borders between Muslim societies and many others as attempts are made to expand the faith, perhaps at a cost of about 250,000 human lives annually).

Imposing Change

However, even without the complexity of force, attempts to impose a different way of life may well be ineffectual.

For example, the US's goal in Iraq was presumably not only to eliminate the destabilizing influence on the Middle East of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime, but also to impose a successful political and economic system which could be a model for, and thus potentially transform, the Middle East. However the US's idea of such a system was democratic capitalism - because this is what works in the US. But the domestic effectiveness of democratic capitalism in the US (such as it is) depends on a large number of cultural and institutional preconditions that were simply not available in a country like Iraq (see Fatal Flaws). Thus, even if there had been no conflict involved, it is unlikely that the system that has made the US successful could have been grafted into Iraq.

Change Can Be Beneficial

In history, peoples' ways of life have constantly been changing as a result of external influences. For example innovations such as agriculture, the smelting of iron, industrialization etc have spread from their origins - because others saw them to be advantageous rather than because they were imposed. Similarly social innovations (such as companies) and intellectual innovations (such as science) have been copied and enhanced by societies other than those that originated them.

Even where change has been imposed by external force, history shows that at times the effects can be beneficial. For example, the British Isles has arguably been the most invaded region on earth over the past 2000 years. But the people's ability (for some reason) to absorb (rather than perpetually resist) whatever new influences were thrust upon them by endless invasions created a society which at one time was immensely successful - and whose influence spread through the world and remains - eg through the free association of 'Commonwealth' countries which based their political and economic systems on the 'British' models that had emerged from so many different sources.

Is Isolationism Feasible?

You suggested that the world should be big enough for people to live and let live. I suspect that this is now impractical, because improvements in communication systems and high levels of international social, economic and political interactions now make isolationism impossible.

Is Isolationism Desirable?

Also, while I don't agree with imposing changes (by force or otherwise), I believe that it can be immoral not to attempt to influence others' way of life - if that way of life causes others to suffer disadvantages.

For example, indigenous communities world-wide want to both: (a) maintain their traditional way of life; and (b) enjoy the material benefits that can come from modernisation. A recent UN declaration on the rights of of indigenous people seems internally contradictory and a formula for perpetuating the disadvantages those peoples suffer, and thus to be dubious morally (see UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Perpetuating Disadvantage?).

Culture is arguably a major factor in people's ability to be materially successful and to live in harmony with others because it affects people's goals and aspirations; the way they understand reality (and thus how they go about solving problems, and whether they can develop technologies); their ability to learn, to cope with risk and to change; and the institutions their society maintains. The fact that few want to consider the practical consequences of cultural assumptions (out of a 'virtuous' desire to 'live and let live') may be the main cause of conflict in the world (see Competing Civilizations). It is also arguably the main cause of the humanitarian disaster reflected in the existence of (about) 21m refugees in the world.

Cultural limitations affect Muslim dominated societies in particular - ie people wish to maintain their traditional way of life even though (for reasons that they presumably don't suspect) it probably disadvantages them. This was the theme of my earlier email (see above). As I understand the situation, the broader world view that was constructed around the religion of Islam (which perhaps simply reflected earlier traditions in the Arabic societies in which Islam emerged) has imposed an inability to learn, adapt and change on Muslim people that has unnecessarily disadvantaged them (eg see also About Arabic Thought and Islamic Science).

I don't accept your suggestion that "The only thing that is radicalizing people is this [ie outsiders'] insistence in interfering, occupying and imposing ones will on others". As I understand it, frustration with the Muslim world's lack of progress in recent centuries is the major problem - and, while it is convenient to blame this on others' interference, this is not the real problem.

People need the opportunity to work these things out for themselves, rather than having change imposed. This was the reason for the process I suggested in Discouraging Pointless Extremism, which would allow the practical implications of the Islamist ideology that seems to motivate extremists to be better understood by Muslims. Pakistan's recent decision to allow the application of Shari'a Law in parts of that country is likely to prove in 10-15 years time to have been a useful step towards increasing understanding of the limitations of Islamism - providing conflict can be contained.

But the problem is even more complex - because a desire to preserve a traditional way of life from outside influence (ie for isolationism) can lead to attempts to force others to change their way of life. I recently saw a presentation (America's Fate in the Coming Era of Chinese Hegemony) which suggested that East Asian societies preferred dominance by China to the current Western style world order because they like to be 'isolationist' (eg they prefer outsiders not to mention internal 'human rights' abuses) - and it is my understanding that they prefer this because they have a different (ie communitarian rather than individualistic) notion of what constitutes 'human rights'. However the presentation also suggested that traditionally 'isolationist' China is now seeking to become the world's dominant power - because the intensity and immediacy of influences on it from the broader world have made isolationism seem impossible.

If this is so, China's goal in seeking to change the nature of the global order would probably not only be to create a global order in which Han Chinese people were dominant, but also a world in which people would in future not interfere in others' way of life. This was one of the principles for collaboration that China's premier implied in an address in Australia a few years ago (see China as the Future of the World). However this would; (a) involve not doing anything to help those who were disadvantaged by their way of life; and (b) involve a system in which social elites were regarded as the ultimate authority on the nature of moral behaviour - outcomes that would probably be of some concern to truly serious Muslims.

Response of 18/4/09 from XXX + CPDS Reply of 18/4/09

Thanks for that prompt reply.

It is great that you thoroughly agree that using force in other countries is undesirable. However you seem to imply there is a "but" with what seems like a justification of doing so. I understand however that this is an attempt at explaining why certain powers do so.

To use the terms 'Islamic Extremists' is just a way of boxing of Muslims who do not wish to comply with western interests into one box. This is classic "divide and rule" that is being used in almost all western propaganda.

I would argue that for Muslims, the ideal of living according to the Islamic Way of Life as individuals, society, and state - is normal and everything pulling them away from that ideal is extreme to them.

Muslims who are involved in legitimate resistance also claim that their goal is defensive. For example that their Jihad is against all the interference and occupation in the Muslim World. Which is why for example they haven't attacked Sweden. They argue that the current regimes in the Muslim World are agents of the West imposed during the post-colonial era when the Muslim World was occupied, divided and ruled. They also argue that the current borders are also colonialist-imposed and to recognize them merely legitimizes colonialism.

You may know about this since Australia was colonized too and now the occupiers rule it to this very day. Even though they may have displayed some conjured-up process along the way in order to make their occupation appear to be legitimate.

The Muslims are also responding (understandably) to the threats of western terrorists who use democro-bombing as a terrorist weapon, the tools of which are B52 Bombers, F16s, Daisy Cluster Bombs, Uranium-tipped Missile, White Phosphorous, which in the current environment actually are WMDs!

The capitalist-extremists who have global reach have been responsible for systematic terrorist bombings against Muslim Countries (Terrorism  using violence against others to pursue political ends), the grievances that motivate them seem to arise from greed and hence the legitimate resistance by Muslims in order to counter western-terrorism needs to be dealt with so that the problem of so-called Islamic Terrorists needs to be 'fixed' to eliminate the legitimate resistance - and this suits the Western Extremists because they hope such interventions will serve their corporations so that things remain business as usual.

I agree that offensive western terrorist attacks against Muslims ("pre-emption" is a bastardized term) and trying to enslave the Muslim World by the use of force will be ineffectual and is likely to be counter-productive to everyone's interests.

The same weakness does not apply to Muslims as Da'wah by definition is an 'invitation' to embrace Islam - not imposing of a forceful conversion. If there is anyone who would suggest conversion by gunpoint, the Muslims can deal with that very easily, in fact the consensus is in our favor.

While true that in certain cases external forces appear to have benefited. In the context of the Muslim World, Islam has never been a turn the other cheek way of life.

Live and let live does not necessarily equal isolationism, such an assertion is not accurate. Yes we need to trade, communicate, travel etc. But this is quite different to imposing a way of life, imposing a political system, and subjugating people. Similarly there is nothing against material and scientific progression which was seen even at the peak of the Islamic Civilization, again another inaccurate assertion.

If in certain situations you see it as immoral not to interfere. Then if "immorality" is a benchmark then Islam has its own moral code and defines its own morality which Muslims as followers of Islam are content with. i.e. we need no help from you, so thanks but no thanks.

I disagree with your assertion that "The only thing that is radicalizing people is this [ie outsiders'] insistence in interfering, occupying and imposing ones will on others" is somehow not really what is causing radicalization. Islam is not against progress, whether Muslims pursue progression is something for them to get on with and has little to do with outsiders, except maybe when you do not want us to have nuclear technology.

This assertion can be proven simply by pulling all western troops out of the Muslim World, stop interfering in the affairs of the Muslim World including by propping-up dictators. If your assertion is correct you'll have little to worry about but at least the assertion is put to the test, something that until now has not been done. Like I stated this is something that just does not appear to be in your vocabulary.

It is as if the policy is now "We will interfere, occupy and subjugate, and Muslims can just put up with it or die".

CPDS Reply of 18/4/09

What I was trying to suggest is that there is a need to look within for the major causes of the problems that Muslim dominated societies have suffered.

Living in accord with the Islamic way of life may seem normal and desirable - but there are limitations in assumptions about the world / universe generally that have been elaborated around Islam that need reconsideration in my opinion. I have made some study of the path to 'progress' in both Western and East Asian societies, and can see serious constraints in the assumptions that have been made by some Islamic scholars. For example, while at one time scientific progress was led by Islamic civilization, this did not result in all that much application of the results and since that time assumptions seem to have prevailed which impede progress even in pure scientific knowledge (see Islamic Science).

It is of concern to me that those who promote Islamism (ie the adoption of Islam as the basis of state power) do not seem to be asked to prove to their followers that this would actually work in practice. The assumption that all problems must be the fault of outsiders who (for some obscure reason) want to 'enslave the Muslim world' is a convenient excuse for ignoring such practical questions, but until it is challenged Muslim people's situation is unlikely to improve.

You suggested that "Islam has never been a turn the other cheek way of life". If this is so, and remains unchanged, I fear it will take Muslim people a long time (perhaps forever) to get beyond real and imagined past injustices to look at what is required for practical success.

Response of 23/3/09 from XXX + CPDS Reply of 23/4/09

Surely if all the interference comes to a halt. Then there is no one to blame. If the interference does not stop, then yes this could go on forever. Nevertheless these matters should not be subject to the West's interference nor should they await the West's approval. Everything does not need a rubber-stamp from external forces. Muslims should be left to get their own house in order.

CPDS Reply 23/4/09

Certainly being left alone to 'get on with it' would be of benefit - as there would then be no one left to blame.

This was the reason that I suggested that moves such as establishing a region in which Shari'a law applied in Pakistan would be of benefit in demonstrating whether Islamism would actually work. But whether such an experiment would have any chance at all depends on eliminating violence - and it seems to me that people whose world-view is based on the assumption that their problems are the result of external oppression would have great difficulty renouncing violence (and thus that they would not just be left alone).

Leaving people alone to 'get on with it' was the basis of the containment policies applied to the former Soviet Union (for example). It took from 1917 to 1989 for Russian people to recognise that the communist model was an economic and political failure - and for about half of this period the world faced the threat of nuclear war. The world is going to demand a pretty high standard of non-violence from any other system of experimental political economy - because the risks otherwise will be seen to be too high in an era in which WMD have proliferated.

Iran is a situation were an Islamist model has been given a chance - and (as I understand it) the outcome has been an economic disaster (and a social disaster also if European journalists can be trusted as reliable observers).

If Muslim people want to be left alone to 'get on with it' they simply need to renounce the use of violence - like Ghandi did in his passive resistance movement which saw India gain independence in 1947. However it is worth noting that India took decades after being left alone to 'get on with it' before it actually started to succeed.

My suggestion is that Muslims would benefit by finding out now whether the creation of an Islamist state would actually be worth achieving. My suspician is that, if this were done, Islamism would be recognised to be likely to reinforce the main causes of the political problems and economic weaknesses that Muslim peoples have tended to suffer in recent centuries.

Why not do the 'thought experiment'? Outside interference can't prevent Muslims from doing this.

Response #2 of 23/4/09 from XXX + CPDS Reply of 27/4/09

As Malcolm X said: "We will be non-violent with people who are non-violent with us".

What is currently occurring is a systematic attack on one Muslim Country after another.

Your suggestion implies to let the West attack, bomb, occupy and continue to interfere - but Muslims must not resist, this assertion is ridiculous.

Why didn't Americans and the French get independence the "Ghandi" way?

Why should Muslims accepts governments in the shadow of occupation? (Whether colonial or imperial?)

Renouncing violence is not a one-way street. The greatest perpetrator of violence is the US Government and until it disarms and de-escalates its war-machine it's going to be hated around the world.

The WMD-armed international state-terrorists should take the lead in 'renouncing violence', otherwise it pointless blaming counter-terrorist insurgents who merely resist them with light weaponry.

The West can also stop living in the past and prove it by disassociating itself from its predecessors not just by mere lip-service but in practical steps. For example if Britain is no longer colonialist and see's the colonial era as part of a dark gloomy past. Then it should for instance declare the Balfour Declaration, Sykes-Picot Agreement and every other colonial treaty or designs (apparent or secret) - null and void. Since colonialism is just plane wrong!

But their actions to this day simply re-enforce these treaties and designs... so who is living in the past I wonder?

It is like me saying the "Soviet Union is old news John, stop living in the past!?"

Anyway John we are merely discussing theories, neither you nor I decide what the powers that be should or should not do. I see this as a struggle for the US to keep its position as a superpower and nothing more. Any perceived threat gets dealt with regardless of whether it is good for people or not. If the US is so 'democratic' why have a Veto [aka the power to cancel democracy] in the UN? That's not very democratic. Self-interest is the bottom line and it doesn't matter who dies in the process.

I think there is now a better chance for non-interference in the Muslim World due to the on-going recession causing the US to back-off as opposed to doing so freely and voluntarily.

I think we will soon see the fall of a major client-state in the Muslim World and the rise of a state based on Islam established on its ruins. Then Muslims will be able to turn the tables and rightly so.

At that time we will see a social-political order based on our way of life. That serves the interests of Islam and Muslims (first and last) as opposed to US interests. What this means for the World is simply that:-

  1. It would have to tolerate an Islamic power conducting itself in accordance with the Islamic Belief of its people according to their way of life.
  2. It should remain non-violent with it in order to expect the same courtesy in return.
  3. Every issue in the Muslim World is an 'internal matter' and must not be subjected to further interference.
  4. Such an Islamic power will abolish Fiat Currencies and will establish and Islamic economy based on an Islamic Gold Standard, and all international transactions will have to be settled in Gold including for example Oil and Natural Gas. Oil might be traded for example at between 8-10 barrels per ounce of Gold.
  5. An Islamic State will not be a member of the United Nations or signatory to any international treaty.
  6. It is within the right of such a state to purge colonial-imposed borders between fellow Muslim territories. Denial of such a right would be deemed a continued support of old colonial policies i.e. "divide and rule" of our lands with the use of client regimes.

Such measures would give the Muslim World much needed peace, security and stability - and see that the needs of the people such as food, clothing, housing, health care, education etc are met and people can live in comfort and spiritual tranquillity.

CPDS Reply of 27/4/09

I am on the record as suggesting that security / militaristic 'solutions' are unlikely to be effective as a response to violence - and I would respectfully suggest that, if you genuinely wish to advantage Muslim peoples, you could take a useful lead in espousing a similar response to violence by others.

Malcolm-X has not been alone in taking the view that "We will be non-violent with people who are non-violent with us". Thus violence begets little but more violence.

Unless someone breaks the cycle it will, as I suggested before, take Muslim people a long time (perhaps forever) to get beyond real and imagined past injustices to look at what is required for practical success. Yasir Arafat's was hopeless in a practical sense when when given a chance to govern as the first president of the Palestinian National Authority because the PLO had never seriously studied the arts of peace, only the arts of war. It's situation was, of course, complicated by conflicts between Hamas and Israel - but that problem might have been greatly reduced if Arafat's regime had not been so ineffectual in actually governing.

Regimes founded on violence tend to be be unstable - because people have long memories and such regimes are seen to lack legitimacy. France established its First Republic through revolution in 1792 - whereas Britain negotiated a similar transition (from the ancient regime in which kings and nobility ruled autocratically) with very little violence. France has had something like 5 subsequent revolutions. Britain has had none.

I noted that you have some suggestions about how a future state based on Islam might function, and would like to suggest that some of those principles need further consideration. For example:

  • you suggest that the regime would 'conduct itself in accordance with the Islamic Belief of its people according to their way of life'. Where is the evidence that this would result in success? My (undoubtedly-only-partial) understanding is that any religion is necessarily inadequate basis for government - because of the mismatch between simple timeless religious principles and governments' need to deal with rapidly changing and complex social and economic systems. Moreover a key requirement for economic success is the willingness / ability to change, and an Islamist regime that was primarily intended to prevent change in people's way of life would guarantee economic failure (see Problem in Extremists' Presumed Manifestos). Serious study of many practical issues is vital (rather than simply prescribing conduct in accordance with Islamic belief and traditional ways of life), if any regime is really to "see that the needs of the people such as food, clothing, housing, health care, education etc are met and people can live in comfort and spiritual tranquillity". I would have thought that the Islamic Republic of Iran already met your criteria, and so should be studied closely. Concerning that experiment it has been suggested that:
    • there is conflict between those who wish to modernize and engage the modern world and conservative authorities who believe that Islam has all the answers. Everyone seems angry about something - eg economic mismanagement, lack of opportunity, slow reform, lack of fun. Corruption is growing. Traffic is gridlocked (Elliot T., 'In the shadows of the Ayatollahs, Australian Financial Review, 7-8/12/02);
    • the Islamist revolution in Iran reduced per capita incomes to 1/3 of what they were previously [1];
  • you envisage a regime that adopts an Islamic Gold Standard - rather than a fiat currency. This unfortunately creates difficulties in macro-economic management because it limits scope for counter-cyclical public spending in the event of a recession. The gold standard is widely seen to have been a major factor in the Great Depression in the 1930s because it so severely constrained policy responses to the economic downturn. This could be easily checked through Google;
  • emphasis should not be placed on selling oil (whether for gold or for anything else) because:
    • there seems to be general recognition that the global 'peak oil' event is approaching. For this reason, and also because the risk of political instability in the Middle East has not been reduced, there is now a general acceptance by developed economies of the need to develop substitutes that will eliminate dependence on oil. The US has a fairly formal goal to achieve this in 10 years. China has launched a major program to develop hybrid vehicles (seen as the most promising alternative transport technology). The net effect will be that: (a) the actual oil production in Muslim dominated countries will start to decline in a few years; and (b) this won't cause problems for anyone apart from countries whose economies depend on oil exports;
    • reliance on natural resource wealth (eg oil) leads to failure in broader economic development - because it necessarily results in the dominance of local political / business elites (ie in client regimes) who provide poor economic leadership (see Comments on the Curse of Natural Resources);
  • it might be better to consider what sort of world system would be effective, rather than just refuse to be part of the UN or international treaties. Surely there is a need for some sort of global framework - even if just for such bodies as the FAO and World Health Organisation? The US has tended to shun the UN and multilateral arrangements for about 20 years because it believed that the institutions which it helped found in the in the 1940s had become ineffectual. However this has hardly proven successful for US, and it is now starting global re-engagement.
  • how could a determination to 'purge colonial-imposed borders' between Muslim territories be compatible with being seen to be non-violent and thus worthy of a similar attitude by others? Unity within the Muslim world (and thus scope for peacefully changing borders) seems to be a very scarce commodity.
Response of 28/4/09 from XXX + CPDS Reply of 28/4/09

1. As I recall the colonial-imposed borders were not put in place after a peaceful referendum of the people.

So if they were not imposed peacefully why should they be removed peacefully? I do not envisage it to be a problem for the masses, only for the western-backed dictatorial regimes.

2. The Gold Standard has nothing to do with the great depression, or theories of macro or micro economics. Gold is real tangible wealth and not pieces of paper printed at will by a private bank.

It is this fiat system intertwined with interest based capitalist economics which is causing the current recession.

Once the British followed by the Americans abolished the Gold Standard in the 30's it took a catalyst namely Saudi-oil to reinstate the dollar as the dominant currency.

The abolition of the Gold Standard was a great deception to pull the wool over the eyes of the general public.

The US re-instated a partial tie to gold which subsequently was abolished by Nixon. Paper money is simply not worth the paper it is written on.

3. Issues of political stability in the middle-east are in the long term only an issue for the west. So long as the oil keeps flowing and the dictators serve the interests of the west, this is deemed as "stability".

America was happy with Saddam, so long as the oil kept flowing and he kept Iran at bay. The people suffering was irrelevant. America today has the audacity to say that the brutal dictators of the Muslim World are the "legitimate moderate regimes" and that they would be threatened by any independent non-subservient Islamic replacement!?

Stability is what the Muslim World will achieve from unity under Islam - unified lands, unified resources, unified currency, unified army, one leader to unite us all. Whether this is deemed instability for the west, is entirely depended on their attitude.

4. In terms of breaking the cycle of violence. I do agree with you. But in only one way, the aggressor is the one who needs to stop.

That means all the Western countries keeping their troops within their own homelands. As opposed to getting them killed in conflicts abroad aimed at controlling others.

If the West stops terrorizing the Muslim World there will be no retaliation. I believe this 100%, that if the West just pulled-out and went home the Terror-Threat levels to their homelands would be reduced to ZERO.

The only issue is that this option is simply not on the table as far as the west is concerned, hence the cycle of violence will unfortunately continue. Fortunately I think the Muslims have more resolve than the West.

5. The problem is you think that a country like the "Islamic Republic" of Iran meets my criteria, nothing could be further from the truth. UN Membership for example is very problematic Islamically.

The problem is you are looking to compare Islam to secular religions. Islam does not only deal with religious sphere of life, but every sphere of life.

The problem is regardless of the theories of analysts of what an Islamic Regime may look like. The west is happy to continue making direct interventions into the Muslim World to prevent such a regime from rising up.

But if such a state on "based on religion" is going to be such a failure, why are the west hell-bent on fighting to prevent its establishment I wonder?

Surely if you are that convinced it will be such a failure, then simply pull-out, stop interfering, and 'sit back and watch' while an Islamic Caliphate is formed.

If you know that "people have long memories" then why does the west keep interfering, occupying, subjugating and killing?

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan Jimmy Carter said: "It is a deliberate effort of a powerful atheistic government to subjugate an independent Islamic people"

Why should it be any different today when it is the U.S. and its Allies who are the invaders in the Muslim World?

The truth is in fact in another speech by the very same Jimmy Carter in his 1980 state of the Union address:

"Let our position be absolutely clear; any attempt by an outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force"

It appears this is now also the case when it comes to an internal force too.

If the Americans are today using "any means necessary, including military force" then surely it is the fundamental right of those who are subjected to this state-terrorists use of force to defend themselves from this "outside force" by any means necessary.

Your solutions John will only leave Muslims to continue being subjected to more interference, occupation, killing, and being subjugated by outside forces and their puppets it the region. That is an unacceptable inhumane state of affairs. The Americans would not accept it if it happened to them, neither would the British, and I am sure neither will the Australians.

Live an Let Live because the alternative that is unfolding looks like it is going to be Live and Let Die.

Never point the finger at people who defend themselves and fight for real freedom.

CPDS Reply of 28/4/09

Thank you for clarifying where you think the world (or at least part of it) is heading. Some observations are:

  • the colonial-imposed borders could not be removed by force whilst maintaining that regimes that sought to do so were non-violent and thus should be worthy of a non-violent response from others. However, if democratic regimes were established in such countries, then the masses would be able to express their opinion directly about peaceful amalgamations. My understanding though is that only about 15% of the masses would actually support the Islamist cause (ie favour a system of government based on Islamic religious principles);
  • the nature of money and the way it is managed is a complex and vexed question. However the gold standard is no panacea (eg see The gold standard and the Great Depression, and the Wikipedia Great Depression article). Likewise the current global financial / economic crisis is not simply a product of the "fiat system intertwined with interest based capitalist economics" (see Causes in Global Financial Crisis: The Second Test). The global financial imbalances that arise from the radically different financial / monetary systems that have been the basis of economic miracles in East Asia are also particularly significant (see Structural Incompatibility Puts Global Growth at Risk, 2003 and Financial Imbalances in Global Financial Instability: A Many Sided Story);
  • rather than simply asserting that unity under Islamism and a Caliphate would be the solution for the Middle East, I have been suggesting the need to perform a 'thought experiment' involving description of how such a system might work in practice, and subjecting that model to critical review. If it could be shown that it would work, and bring stability to the region, then strong outside support would undoubtedly be available. As you noted access to oil has been the main basis for the world's concern about the region's stability in the past - and (though this will disappear in 10 years or so as oil becomes strategically insignificant) there would be broad support for ANY model that would bring stability in the meantime;
  • the traditional basis of US foreign policy was 'realism' - which involved a willingness to work with dictatorial regimes (such as Saddam Hussein's) because it was believed that there was no choice. However CIA analysts raised concerns about the phenomenon of (so called) 'blowback' about 20-30 years ago (ie that support for such regimes tended to generate outcomes which adversely affected US interests). This led to a policy shift led by the 'idealist' Neo-Cons who gained ascendancy under the second President Bush. Their philosophy was that US power could be used to transform (rather than work with) unsatisfactory local regimes - and so hopefully avoid 'blowback'. Iraq was the big test of this theory. However, as I noted previously, there were good reasons to suspect that the model which the US believed to be the basis of its economic success and political stability could not be grafted (hopefully as a model for future success and stability in the Middle East generally) into a country that lacked the necessary cultural and institutional preconditions;
  • while homeland terror threat levels might fall dramatically if all outside influences were removed from the Middle East, I suspect that the fact that the Middle East would then be engulfed in wars for many years between Islamist revolutionaries and existing regimes would cause continued concern. Measures to eliminate dependence on Middle Eastern oil are only just starting to be put in place, and won't allow indifference to the fate of the Middle East for several years;
  • while you suggest that Islam is a religion which deals with ALL aspects of life, my perception is that Islamic scholars have elaborated a broad world view around the religion of Islam which lacks realism and thus severely limits its likely practical effectiveness in terms of (say) political, educational, scientific and economic affairs (see Problems in Extremist's presumed Manifestos). These are the problems that I suspect would emerge from a 'thought experiment' about Islamism. As suggested above, few would be likely to resist an Islamist basis for government in the Middle East if they could clearly see that it might be successful in practice and bring peace and stability. At present all that outsiders see is senseless violence, as no one has sought to publicly make a case for the ideology that motivates 'resistance'. If Islamists could demonstrate a reasonable case (which could withstand critical review) outside support would be forthcoming. However my suspicion is that Islamism would fail such a critical review - so Muslim dominated countries would then be able to move on to more practical political alternatives.
Sharia 4 Australia?

Sharia 4 Australia? (email sent 20/1/11)

Ibrahim Siddiq-Conflon

Re: Neighbour S., ‘Gillard should step down and ‘let the Muslims take over’, The Australian, 20/1/11

I noted with interest your reported suggestion in the above article that Sharia Law should be adopted in Australia as an alternative to democracy. On the basis of this, and another more comprehensive presentation of your case in The Benefits of Islam in Australia, I would like to submit for your consideration that:

  • More than an idealistic account of Sharia Law is needed before Islamists are likely to convince anyone that the adoption of Islamic law would give rise to a system of political economy that would well work in practice;
  • Coercive approaches to enforcing Islam (which Islamists’ goal of basing government on Islam would take to a new extreme) are arguably: (a) a major factor in the disadvantages that Muslim-dominated societies have suffered in recent centuries; and (b) an ‘add-on’ to the original teachings of Islam, reflecting the social context in which Islam emerged and the subsequent speculations of some Islamic scholars;
  • There would be value in considering how widespread adherence to Christianity, and also democratic capitalism, can benefit (as well as stress) societies;
  • While Australia faces social and environmental challenges, these need to be addressed though institutions that are likely to work.

My reasons for suggesting this, together with an interpretation of your arguments, are outlined below.

I would be interested in your reactions to my speculations.

John Craig

Outline of Argument and Comments

My interpretation of ‘Gillard should step down and ‘let the Muslims take over’, in which you were quoted: Ibrahim Siddiq-Comlon argues that only Allah’s laws should be obeyed. He attacks Australia’s PM and Parliament, as the latter have no right to legislate. They should step down and let the Muslims take over. Through Sharia4Australia he is pushing for the introducion of sharia courts as the first step towards Islamic law. Sharia is inevitable in Australia he suggests, and hopes for a peaceful transition but notes that history suggests that a fight will be needed to achieve this. Sharia4Australia’s main goals are to (a) persuade Muslims to hate the worship of any God but Allah (including democracy); (b) advise elected governments that they have no authority to rule; and (c) advise non-Muslims on the benefits of sharia (eg stoning of adulterers, and cutting off theives hands). Cutting off a hand can be merciful because it can expiate sins. Siddiq-Conlon will join debate in Paramatta organised by Zaky Mallah. Pro-democracy case will be argued by Jack Zedee (army veteran, ‘concerned Aussie’ and member of Firearms Forum) . He sees Conlon and Sharia4Australia as preaching hatred.

My interpretation of key themes in ‘The Benefits of Islam in Australia’: Islamic Sharia Law in Australia should be adopted in Australia, because of the social and environmental failure of Christianity and democratic capitalism. In particular: (a) Islam is a total system for life which applies to both personal and governmental affairs; (b) Islam is similar to the traditions of indigenous Australians; (c) there has been a loss of values in Australian life; (d) Islam prohibits vices / interest / homosexuality / exploitation for money / immorality / wife beating / over-indulgence / removal of clothing / rape / paedophilia; and (e) Islam promote water conservation; and ethics in the workplace.

More than an idealistic account of Sharia Law is needed before Islamists are likely to convince other Muslims (quite apart from anyone else) that the adoption of Islamic law would give rise to a system of political economy that would actually work in practice. The fact that Islam is ideally a 'total system for life' (ie is expected to apply to both individual and governmental affairs) and is apparently enforced by communal or state pressure on individuals are arguably the main, though not the only, causes of the economic and political difficulties that Muslim dominated societies have experienced in recent centuries (see Discouraging Pointless Extremism). The latter basically suggests that:

  • even if they are well-intended, communal constraints on individuals to comply with complex moral requirements impede the socially and economically disruptive changes / innovations that are vital to economic prosperity; and
  • if they were to succeed in imposing Sharia Law, Islamists would probably expand the disadvantages facing Muslim-dominated societies (see also comments on the likely adverse effect of Unifying Religion and State in Indonesia through the creation of religious courts).

A number of other points that might be worth considering are that:

  • The advantages that Western societies have enjoyed in recent centuries are probably ultimately founded on the ability that Christianity provided for societies to create simplified social spaces in which rationality could be a reasonably-effective means for problem solving. Individuals are enabled to make locally-rational decisions without having to second-guess the reactions of moral or state authorities where: (a) the morality of people’s behaviour is promoted by individual consciences responsible to God (rather than by communal or state coercion); (b) there is a rule of law, and strict reliance on money as a measure of value. This dramatically increased: (a) the effectiveness of individuals in all walks of life; and (b) the benefits of education in enabling individuals to use information – see Cultural Foundations of Western Strengths. And governments can be more effective in dealing with complex rapidly-changing social / economic systems when they are not embroiled in enforcing individual morality or bound by overly-simplistic principles;
  • There are undoubted serious social dysfunctions in Australia that have arisen because many have drifted away from their ethical moorings (see Moral Foundations of Individual Liberty). However these difficulties need to be overcome without losing the political and economic advantages that derive from legal and government institutions based on individual liberty (as suggested, amongst many other things, in A Nation Building Agenda);
  • Humanity faces environmental challenges – just as it has more or less continually since the agrarian revolution. However solutions to these challenges will (as always in the past) be likely to require difficult technological advances as well more careful use of the earth’s resources. Thus there is a need to value social, political and economic arrangements that have best enabled technological advances in the past;
  • While I am anything but an expert on Islam, it seems that the interpretations of Islam that involve a dysfunctionally-coercive approach to ensuring the morality of individual behaviour (or imposing Islam by force) were not how Muhammad initially presented his revelation, and are probably primarily a reflection of pre-Islamic Arabic social traditions. Moreover, it seems that Islamic scholars have erected cosmological interpretations around Islam to reinforce and rationalize that coercive approach – and thereby rendered Islamic science largely impotent (see About Arabic Thought and Islamic Science). While Muslims who have studied undergraduate science in Western universities appear to believe that the strict determinism it implies supports Islamist political agendas, if they studied further (eg in modern physics or in the social sciences) that naïve conclusion would evaporate.