Reaching a wider audience (above: a cat listens to the live broadcast of the BBC Today Programme on Radio 4 at the British base in Basra Palace, 2006)

Thursday, 9 October 2008

The X Factor


Exhausted after several days of polite handshakes and “terribly important” high level conferencing, I decided not to cook breakfast last Saturday. Instead I slunk off to my nearest greasy spoon for a fry up. OK, it was Sainsbury’s cafe, but that’s as near as us middle classes get to slumming it these days. The contrast to the silver spoons of the previous few days was somehow comforting, and whilst I didn’t quite have a plastic knife and fork, I was delighted to see that the previous inhabitant of my ketchup smeared table had kindly left The Daily Star for me to read.

And there is was writ large “Muslim Plot to Blow up Eastenders”. Within moments I was back in the groove and I fear I raised a few eyebrows, as I all but launched a fatwa against the said newspaper. In moments The Daily Star had turned me into an extremist. But with a difference, I vent the feeling of injustice with words not with physical might. One reader had texted in “Are these Muslims thick?" and the paper in their wisdom printed it. Closeted in my safe world of The Guardian, I had no idea this ugliness went on – I felt ashamed that I was unaware of it and mentally wrote a note of apology to my Muslim friends who I had in the past written off as paranoid.

So here is the main point (I got distracted by describing my breakfast, sorry) - I didn’t need a three day conference on extremism to tell me that Islam is not the problem. My definition of extremism (which doesn’t include the kind of sporting pursuits my brother engages in) is someone who is willing to act in violence, not out of spontaneous anger, but because of a deeply held belief. And this X Factor lurks within many societies including our own. Tamil Tigers are doing it, Basque terrorists are doing it, British football hooligans are doing it. And well, yes it could even be argued that our troops are doing it (flashback to Baghdad Air Station 2006 when I overheard a young American soldier from the projects saying “we are going to kick some Iraqi ass”). My grandmother was a child when Britain’s radical youth lied about their age to bear arms against the German infidel in the First World War. Although they were child soldiers, we still consider this a noble act today. Before we begin to analyse why people are lead to violent extremism, we must accept that the X Factor is an inherent and potential part in EVERY society. This is nothing to do with Islam – Muslims don’t hold the monopoly on extremism.

It is also clear to me that if we continue to Islamise extremism, terrorism, and radicals (hell, I was pretty radical in my youth) we are playing right into the hands of the small group of murderers (and I mean small – some estimate Al Qaeda as being less than 500 strong). These bad guys need a narrative, they need a single ideology to sell to their followers. The west versus Islam is a neat strap line – but it is THERES and should never be used by anyone with even a vague vested interest in opposing terrorism. I used to work in advertising (you see, I said I was radical) and I have to say that it is would be extraordinary to see your main competitor defining your own brand for you.

Saying that “Muslims” are plotting to murder Britain’s favourite soap stars is like saying “football fans” are planning on slaying Sheffield Wednesday supporters in a cup final. It makes no sense (no, not the bit about Wednesday being in the cup final, silly). If this confusing line were taken, it would surely lead to a sense of persecution, exclusion and “they just don’t understand us”.

OK, it’s a strange analogy. But if only one Daily Star reader (or god help us an editor) gets it, there might be a glimmer of hope – a chance for me to enjoy a greasy fried breakfast with my family without me launching into an embarrassing rant in Sainsbury’s.

5 comments:

timethief said...

My definition of extremism (which doesn’t include the kind of sporting pursuits my brother engages in) is someone who is willing to act in violence, not out of spontaneous anger, but because of a deeply held belief.

I am not an extremist. Although I do become angry, particularly at those who say they are Christians and then spew hatred, biogry and racism, as well as, shamefully proclaiming God is on their side in Iraq, I am a pacifist.

Karate Weapons said...

well this is really sad event

kmwakak8™ said...

I have read this before and I agree with you on so many levels- as former military...hell I am a pacifist too.

Ekawaaz said...

My definition of extremism (which doesn’t include the kind of sporting pursuits my brother engages in) is someone who is willing to act in violence, not out of spontaneous anger, but because of a deeply held belief.

Yes and even for me, Islam is not a issue but Islamic Jihadist yes..I have many Muslims close friends and they are lovely to me...but when I see extreisism in any religion its automatically become problem for me. No issue wit Islam its religion with world largest followers so I hold respect for it, but this is also true that many Islamic community leaders holds very extreme views especially against the non Islamic believers..

UScha said...

You obviously have like half knowledge of Islam, or pretend to have, otherwise you wouldn't talk such.
Your def of extremism: "someone who is willing to act in violence, not out of spontaneous anger, but because of a deeply held belief." was very well put. well done. It is also apt for islam and its followers. But you went ahead and turned it into a joke by comparing the situation with Football hooligans etc.
There is not a single club which says that the follwers would goto heaven for killing/harming someone from another club. There is not a single club which says that leaving the club for another is punishable by death. There is not a single club which says they are the "only" true club and all other clubs are false, and their followers should be eliminated.
Aw c'mon, if you want to make a name for yourself by being sympathetic to muslims, do so, by why twist facts? It does immense harm to us general public for what we have to go through by your " extremely peaceful" religion.