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‘Islamic State’, the Narrative, and Charter 77

By Tim Marshall

We have among us in Europe, and in the Middle East, a few brave individuals swimming against a tide of ‘intellectual’ and some times physical intolerance. They are reminiscent of the heroes of the Charter 77 movement who from within the heart of the USSR, at the height of the Cold War dared to say the unsayable.

Finally there are signs that the tide is turning.

Last week’s mass murder in Tunisia has opened the political space for the British Prime Minister to confront what has been the truth all along – that there is indeed a link between Islam and Islamist Jihadists. He, and others, are tiptoeing to a public acknowledgment of this knowing it must be done in a non confrontational manner.

For years the response to myriad examples of slaughter has been ‘This is nothing to do with Islam’. This was usually said first by ‘leaders’ of the ‘Muslim Community’ and then parroted by a spineless political class and Osama’s Useful Idiots in the media. The rationale for this seems to be a paralyzing fear in the post colonialist era of daring to criticize anything which sprang from a non-European culture. Thus did a poisoned mutation of Islam embed itself in some of the Muslim communities. Thus were generations of small British girls abandoned by the authorities to the butcher’s knives used in female genital mutilation.

I wrote ‘Muslim Community’ in quotation marks because there is no such thing. There are many communities, marking the diversity of the faith. For years the media and politicians usually only went to self-appointed spokesmen of one British community, that of mainstream Sunni Islam, usually of Pakistani heritage and holding a strict Deobandi and sometimes Wahhabi (Saudi) influenced interpretation of their faith. Had they bothered to speak with, for example, the persecuted Ahmadiyya sect they would have realised there was a plurality of views.

Some of those views are now being given space in the public square. For example, the Quilliam Foundation is doing magnificent work under difficult circumstances with some staff operating in an atmosphere of intimidation from extremists within the Muslim and non Muslim communities. From the left Nick Cohen of the Observer has been ploughing a lonely furrow for years, trying to hold the vestiges of liberal values together even as fellow left wingers invite what are essentially religious fascists to share their odious views on our campuses and mosques.

Iyad Abu Shakra. Photo by

Iyad Abu Shakra.
Photo by

Those on the side of a 21st century Islam have their counterparts in the Arabic speaking world and here the intimidation is even greater.

There, a few lonely voices are confronting the sensitive, difficult, and dangerous idea that Daesh, Al Qaeda, Hizbollah, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, et al do spring from Islam, do have a coherent, albeit evil, world view, and do underpin it with selected Islamic scripture. To argue this, is not to denigrate Islam, it is not to argue that it is not a religion of peace, it is simply to diagnose a problem in order that it can be solved for the good of us all.

If the jihadist gang leaders, who send the young suicide attackers to their, and our, deaths do so through selective choice, and interpretation of scripture, then the job of the public, and the learned ones, is to explain how misguided the gang leaders are and why.

This week an important article in this discourse has emerged from a leading Arab journalist. Iyad Abu Shakra has dared to say something which if written by a non Muslim guarantees the accusation of ‘Islamophobia’.

Writing in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat he argues that Muslims have been silent for years while crimes are carried out in their name, or worse have sought to excuse mass murder.

“Muslims, especially the Arabs among them, now have a choice: Either ignore the bitter truth and enable the disease to spread until it kills, or choose to acknowledge its existence in preparation for fundamentally dealing with it.”

He goes on to quote an article by Nadim Koteich which followed the Charlie Hebdo/Jewish supermarket attacks in Paris in January.

“the killers do not kill for nothing, they kill in the name of books, fatwas, ayahs, and age-old tradition. All of these things are inseparable parts of true Islam……. These killers are us. They are our religion at its most extreme. They are our true Islam taken to its furthest extent and they are not beyond the scripture.”

“….There is a true crisis in the way we think, which is the cause of our evil acts and the fact that we move from one defeat to another, and to destruction.”

Daring to propagate such views is roughly akin to those who drafted Charter 77 in Prague in 1977. The Charter was banned, its authors intimidated, and it was forbidden to even speak about it. Nevertheless they managed to smuggle it out. The country where it was received with the most support was the United Kingdom where a generation of activists and thinkers did what they could to support the Chartists, and crucially let them know they were not alone.

Among those who drafted the text was playwright Vaclav Havel who went on to become President of Czechoslovakia and a towering figure in 21stC European history.

Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel

His words are universal and connect us to those now on the right side of history who are trying to help shape a 21st century Islam –

“None of us know all the potentialities that slumber in the spirit of the population, or all the ways in which that population can surprise us when there is the right interplay of events.”




Translations from Arabic by MEMRI.


3 Comments on "‘Islamic State’, the Narrative, and Charter 77"

  1. “The so-called ‘War on Terror’ is a ludicrous concept. Terror is a tactic and you cannot wage war on a tactic.”

  2. Excellent article. However, it misses one small but important point. Religious groups do not actually need to have their source in the text of their particular Holy Book. They can simply say that it is the intended meaning, or intended consequence, of belief in that faith. There is absolutely no foundation in the New Testament, for example, that justified the atrcocities carried out by Cromwell against Catholics, or by the inquisition against non-catholics. However, they justified it as a natural consequence of not believing the true faith.
    Once someone has been identified as not belonging to the true faith, it enables the believers to treat them as less than human. With Christianity in the 1500s, this treatment was tolerated because it happened to be also the secular legal way of punishing anyone suspected of being a spy, a witch, a criminal. Islam has the same approach, but worryingly it has the added element of also being able to actually quote from its own holy book – a double whammy!

  3. Mahatmacoatmabag | 30th June 2015 at 2:01 pm | Reply

    Tim you wrote:’For years the response to myriad examples of slaughter has been ‘This is nothing to do with Islam’. This was usually said first by ‘leaders’ of the ‘Muslim Community’ and then parroted by a spineless political class and Osama’s Useful Idiots in the media.’

    For at least two decades Western politicians have been unwilling to Pin Point the problem, that Islamic Terror is actually carried out world wide by, you guessed it, Muslims. Instead they have joined the chorus of Muslim leaders practicing Taqiyya & left wing so called liberal intellectuals pushing the failed multicultural agenda that is a core objective of the left.
    So here is a little ‘Quick List’ to remind Politicians claiming that Islamic Terror as no connection to Muslims :-
    The Shoe Bomber was a Muslim
    The Beltway Snipers were Muslims
    The Fort Hood Shooter was a Muslim
    The underwear Bomber was a Muslim
    The U-S.S. Cole Bombers were Muslims
    The Madrid Train Bombers were Muslims
    The Bali Nightclub Bombers were Muslims
    The London Subway Bombers were Muslims
    The Moscow Theater Attackers were Muslims
    The Boston Marathon Bombers were Muslims
    The Pan-Am flight #93 Bombers were Muslims
    The Air France Entebbe Hijackers were Muslims
    The Iranian Embassy Takeover, was by Muslims
    The Beirut U.S. Embassy bombers were Muslims
    The Libyan U.S. Embassy Attack was by Muslims
    The Buenos Aires Suicide Bombers were Muslims
    The Israeli Olympic Team Attackers were Muslims
    The Kenyan U.S, Embassy Bombers were Muslims
    The Saudi, Khobar Towers Bombers were Muslims
    The Beirut Marine Barracks bombers were Muslims
    The Besian Russian School Attackers were Muslims
    The first World Trade Center Bombers were Muslims
    The Bombay & Mumbai India Attackers were Muslims
    The Achille Lauro Cruise Ship Hijackers were Muslims
    The Sousse attacker was a Muslim
    The September 11th 2001 Airline Hijackers were Muslims

    If only a few brave media people were to stand up at the next press conference given by some Western leader claiming that Islam is the religion of peace & quote from this short list I think the message might get through to a few of them

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