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» » News18 Shorts

Islamophobia vs Islamism: West losing the battle?

Oct 29, 2011 10:16 PM IST India India

Suhasini Haidar: Hello and welcome to this week's edition of World View with me Suhasini Haidar. Tonight those protests over Burqa bans, the rise of the right wing anti-Islamist groups, the question we are asking is the clash between Islamism and Islamophobia leading to Europe just losing that battle. With me in the studio tonight is Dr. Shri Ram Cholia, he is a professor and the vice-dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs. Also in Washington Ed Hussain, thanks so much for joining us. He is the former member interestingly of the radical Islamist group there in the UK. He was at Tehrir, he is now an expert on how to tackle radical Islam founding the Quilliam foundation and he is the author of the book, The Islamist. In that battle of Islamism and what been seen as a growing Islamophobia France has now begun to fine women who wear a veil while anger over that is rising in the Muslim community, there is also rising rage from the far right across Europe. Clearly France's battle with the Burqa is only the tip of the ice berg.

It's Presidential campaign, in protest 32 year old Kenza Drider, a Muslim and mother of four says she will fight against President Sarkozy because she is angry with the Frenchman on the Niqab or the full face veil this year.

Kenza Drider (Presidential Candidate of France): You cannot generalize that all women who wear the veil are suppressed and my priority is to defend the freedom of all women in France. I ask all the women of France to accept my candidacy in the election for the president of France. Today I have the ambition to be of service for all women.

Kenza has little hope for any success, but she is at the center of a much larger debate that engulfs all of Europe. Islamism vs. Islamophobia. Growing concerns over the spread of Al Qaeda and the affiliated terror groups is fueled by several events. Including suicide bombings in London, Madrid and terror attacks in European capitals. The fatwa against a Danish cartoonist and against anyone portraying the Prophet. Protests by Muslim groups against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have sparked riots.

Charles Grant (Director, CRE): There is a perception that there is an element in Islam which is radical, which is Jihadist, which is anti-western, which is prepared to condone the use of violence. There is that perception but of course its true for a minority. The reality is that it is only a very small minority of Muslim people living in Britain think that way.

But the violence and the counter-violence is not exaggerated. In July this year the world was horrified as a gunmen in Norway gunned down 77 young men and women at a youth camp. Andres Breivik said he was protesting the Government's soft policies on Islamic radicalism. While Breivik may have belonged to a fringe extremist group, the truth is more and more European countries are seeing right wing parties in their main stream, with political agendas specifically targeted at curbing Islamism. Right wingers are now in power in Sweden and Italy and the second and third largest parties in Bulgaria, Finland, Denmark and Norway and countries like the UK are seeing the growth of parties like the English Defense League. Members of the 25 million strong Muslim communities in Europe say they are too small a community to warrant such a back lash.

Ghiyasuddin Siddiqui (Trustee, The Muslim Institute): They are basically misleading their own people for no reason and creating conflict in a society which doea not exist.

Sanjay Suri, Political Editor, Europe: There is a danger that this kind of Islamophobia of which the extreme right is an expression could end up feeding the very extreme that it fears.

But the conflict is real and growing, raising the question Islamism vs. Islamophobia: Is Europe losing the battle?

Suhasini Haidar: And as we said, France is only the tip of that iceberg. Lets quickly look at some of those other countries. The Burqa remember, the face veil has been banned in France, in Belgium and in the Netherlands already. All in the last few months, Denmark as well, their Prime Minister saying they are likely to clear ban on veil, not saying by when but could be by December. Spain's Parliament interestingly voted against the Burqa ban but it did come up in the Parliament. In addition France has already banned public prayers, prayers in any public places. Switzerland has banned any construction of new minarets also any use of loud speakers in Mosques. We are looking at perhaps a trend Dr. Chaulia and the question really, is the Burqa ban likely to spread not just in parts of Europe but other parts of the west as well.

Prof Sreeram Chaulia (Jindal University): I think we are seeing a high degree of institutional intolerance that's creeping into western establishments. To put it in another way, the symbolic gestures such as banning of these are reflections of deeper attempts to pander to right wing fundamentalism which is white, which is Christian primarily and to try and create a situation where ghettosation of Muslim minorities which had been on for a long while is now in an advanced stage in the run up to various elections. The presence of conservative political parties at the helm in most of these countries we have just seen just goes to show how much regimes matter in these kinds of politicization of minority rights and cultural rights. If there were socialist governments in place for instance you probably wouldn't see this extent of victimization and minoritisation which we are now seeing.

Suhasini Haidar: Ed Hussain you are watching from there, you are with the council of Foreign Relations in Washington for the moment but of course you have watched Europe much closer. On the one hand we see these bans on the Burqa, on other prior restriction we see the rise of the right wing parties, protests on both sides. Is it going to get uglier?

Ed Hussain: I think the ugly truth is whats going on from the far right is beginning to impact whats going on in the Muslim far right. In other words Muslim extremists are publicly Muslim. We are already begging to see major Islamic groups in European countries tone down their separatism, tone down their extremism and hopefully in the short and medium term what we will see is a different picture emerging.

Suhasini Haidar: You are saying in the long term you are still optimistic, really in the short term what is the impact of this burqa ban we have seen of the other prior restrictions on young Muslims there in France right now.

Ed Hussain: I think in the case of France what we are seeing is young Muslims on one hand being more French than the French but they are not being accepted as being French because they see discrimination because their name appears to be Mohammad on a CV, so that then further fuels rejection and radicalism. You can't as a state, a) ban women's clothing, whatever their clothing is and how much we disagree with it and then b) imprison them to free them, in other words if they wear their face cover, the Niqab, they would go to prison in order to be free of this. So there is a incoherence there that I think not only helps underline the kind of negativity that leads to Muslim women wanting to mark themselves off as being separatists to start with.

Suhasini Haidar: All right, Dr. Chaulia, what does this really mean for India, obviously in conservative societies, in Eastern societies, there is no question of banning the burqa even so India has taken it up with the visiting French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, S.M. Krishna bringing up that turban ban in particular. The question really, it's about religious symbols, but its also about France's own laws. Let's just listen for a second to what the French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said,

Alain Juppe (French Foreign Minister): We have passed a legislation banning the dues of religious signs in the open space, in the schools and in all the official buildings. And there is no discrimination against any religion in this law. The Sikh community is treated exactly as the Christian one or the Jewish one or the Muslim one.

Suhasini Haidar: The question really Dr Chaulia, should India be making this a bilateral issue?

Dr Chaulia: I certainly don't think so. I mean we don't represent, it is a secular state and we don't represent any particular religious group. And therefore there should be no reason at all why we should be advocating. If it's a case of say general discrimination or prosecution of say Indians or people of the Indian origin then there probably is a case but for a particular religious community it probably is a, you know it's not going to change anything in terms of France's domestic politics. What has changed are public policies within France, within the Netherlands, within Britain where conservatives are on the ascendant.

Suhasini Haidar: All right, Ed Hussain we are looking at how Europe is dealing with this Islamophobia vs Islamism kind of debate. You are also been a member very famously of the group, the Hizb-ut-Tahrir the radical Islamist group there in the UK. In a way a precursor for groups like the Al Qaeda, what's your sense of what's happening on the ground in the UK. Are they actually gaining recruits now?

Ed Hussain: What we know are numbers of the violent wing of extremist groups. So for example the British Police Force is currently monitoring around 3000 young violent extremists. But what we don't know are numbers of those who are non-violent, so it's difficult to answer the question whether they are on the rise or whether they are on the decline. But what's for sure is that they still have recruits, they still a have public presence and they still have large numbers attending their events.

Suhasini Haidar: I ask this Ed because in your book, The Islamist you talk about how you recruited for the Hizb-ut-Tahrir making it very clear that what you have to produce a kind of ghetto mind set, make people use their religious symbols wear the burqa, wear Islamic clothing and pray very overtly. But does it follow through, is there a direct link then to acts of terror?

Ed Hussain: To my mind yes there is and the link is as follows, they provide the mood music to which suicide bombers dance. It's in those communities of separatism, of ghettoisation, of confrontation. They have acceptance that somehow suicide bombers are legitimate or the families of suicide bombers are somehow honorable, the act of killing innocent people is somehow a form of martyrdom, an act to be honored. All of that often, an entire narrative often goes unchallenged in the ghettos, so there is a connection. But the response should not then be to try and clamp down on those ghettos rather open them up, expose them and challenge them to the thinking of the mainstream, rather than marginalizing them even further.

Suhasini Haidar: Finally Ed this has been a momentous year but of course it is. The big story was the killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden but there have been those Arab Spring protests that we are seeing as well. Do you think Islamic radicalism is really on the rise, do you think that we should worry about more terror attacks now.

Ed Hussain: Osama bin Laden was only a messenger if you like but his legacy is that he has left many, many, many, many messengers behind him in countries such as Saudi Arabia, in Egypt, Gaza, indeed in Somalia, in Pakistan, the fundamental point is that Bin Laden himself was responding to an old message that was doing the rounds inside Arabia and in Egypt. That message, that philosophy, that ideology of Islamism branded with Jihadism still its very much alive. The challenges in the post Arab Spring is that in the free Arab world, those views are amplified in a way that they were not amplified better.

Suhasini Haidar: All right, Dr. Chaulia, in our neighborhood of course we have many Islamic countries, in South Asia as well, but the big worry will remain Pakistan.

Dr Chaulia: Pakistan, the military has not stepped back, in fact as long as the armed forces continue to remain at the helm of affairs, de facto rulers, they will fan these forces to the point where you have a situation where they are needed for some stability and order and for secular hour. So the fear is that eventually Pakistan will continue to export terror on a wider scale, that's why the Americans are talking about the new enemy now.

Suhasini Haidar: All right, Ed Hussain there in Washington with the Council for Foreign Relations, also here in the studio Dr Sreeram Chaulia, thanks so much for joining us here on Worldview. But up ahead on the show, occupying the world this week, the protests spread to cities around the world. We will tell you why the US President should be most worried about what's happening.

Segment 2

Suhasini Haidar: Welcome back to Worldview, now 2011 has certainly become the year of the protestor. But what's occupying the world this week is this.

Six weeks of anti government rallies that began as the Occupy Wall Street campaign that has now spread worldwide. Melbourne, London, Tokyo and even Mumbai pitching in the protests. The US government had so far ignored them but this week Police in US began to clamp down evicting tents as well as firing tear gas shells at rallies, like these ones in the town of Oakland, California.

But amidst all those protests what is really worrying the White House right now is the far left protestors including Hollywood celebrities, remember they were a big part of President Obama's campaign four years ago, now they are joining those on the streets. Careen Winter has more.

In 2008 Hollywood stars firmly embraced Barrack Obama, lately they have been loosening their grip. Disillusioned by his actions in office.

Matt Damon: I no longer hope for audacity.

Matt Damon, once a big backer of the President has become one of his most vocal critics. He told CNN's Pierce Morgan.

Matt Damon: He is a brilliant guy, but I definitely wanted more and I believe there was more there.

Damon accuses him of bowing to corporate America. So does singer Melissa Attridge.

Melissa Attridge: Obama, you know good luck to you. I still know who he answers to, who his boss is. And those are some pretty powerful corporations.

Now, some stars are telling the Obama bashers to back off. On HLN's Joy Behar show, Martin Sheen had a couple of words for the President's Hollywood critics.

Martin Sheen: Steady, steady.

Sheen argued that the President deserves Hollywood's full support.

Martin Sheen: You are talking about a very special man you know, I adore him and I think he's done a great job.

So while some stars may voice complain about Obama.

Adrian Grenier: I for one would like to see him be a little bolder. Be a little, more outspoken.

Come election time, they may return to the fold. In Hollywood, I am Careen Winter.

Suhasini Haidar: So much President Obama should worry ahead of 2012, for an expert take CNN's Maggie Lake talked to Nobel Laureate Historian Eric Phoner.

Eric Phoner: If I were President Obama and his advisors I would be very nervous. Four years ago the kind of people who were out there in Occupy Wall Street were all working for Obama. Well, we haven't really had a heck of a lot a change and I think now this shows a tremendous disillusionment with the Obama administration on the part of the young. If politicians are gonna learn a lesson from this, it is that there is a deep democracy deficit and if we do claim to be a democracy we better address that.

Suhasini Haidar: And here is our take. Let's remember that whether it is Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring, anti Burqa ban protests or the rise of the right wing there are economic roots to all these ideological protests beyond the right to free speech remember the root cause of the world's alienation comes from the fact that we don't have the right to make a decent living.

Our website ibnlive.com/worldview is where this debate continues. Do write in, and from the team at World View, thanks for watching.

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