By Jeremy Havardi
3 June 2013
Mehdi Hasan likes nothing better than to launch sanctimonious tirades against Western foreign policy. Whether it's Iraq, Afghanistan, the ‘War on Terror’, or support for Israel, Hasan is usually ready to pounce with a scathing and ill-informed diatribe.
So it's hardly surprising that he has chosen to exploit the tragic murder of Drummer Lee Rigby for his latest rant.
In an article this week for the Huffington Post, Hasan rebukes the political class, particularly David Cameron, for denying its own role in this act of terror.
He accuses David Cameron and others of trying to “zealously police the parameters of the debate, pre-emptively warning off those who might dare connect the dots between wars abroad and terror at home”. He then goes on to quote from Michael Adebolajo's vengeful tirade and his claim that he hacked a soldier to death because "Muslims are dying daily...This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". Hasan thinks that we are deceived by our political masters. Foreign policy is purportedly a recruiting sergeant for terror yet it has become “the issue that dare not speak its name”.
For starters, Hasan should become familiar with the Islamic notion of Taqiya, the idea that Muslims can legitimately conceal their beliefs and deceive others if circumstances require it. Nowadays, radicals use Taqiya to promote the view that terrorism is a cry of despair from the anguished and the aggrieved, a device for fighting back against the perceived wickedness of western foreign policy. They know that such victim-centred narratives play out well among our sceptical and often war-weary liberal commentariat, Hasan included.
In reality, Jihadis everywhere entertain dreams of recreating a global Islamic caliphate ruled by Sharia law. They detest any 'apostate' Muslim government which has not been thoroughly purged of its ties to western governments. Above all, they view all western interference in Muslim lands as automatically illegitimate and colonialist. For them, there is no legitimate self-defence against Islamist assault and even terrorists blown up in drone strikes are regarded as innocent.
What Hasan will not acknowledge is that the real root cause of these terror attacks is widespread religious fanaticism. Indeed he revealed recently that having visited mosques in Europe and America throughout his life, he had “never come across an imam preaching violence against the West or justifying the murder of innocents.”
Yet repeated exposes like Channel 4's excellent documentary Undercover Mosque in 2007 show that radical clerics do indeed justify violence and terror against the 'Kuffar'. In that documentary, extreme preachers praise the killing of British soldiers, call for homosexuals to be executed, and demand the murder of Indians and Jews. By any standards, such diabolical diatribes are explosive, inflammatory and deeply racist. They are suffused with a burning hatred and suspicion of 'unbelievers', attitudes which are naturally passed on to their adoring followers.
When such incitement is alive and well in Britain, it is clearly going to thrive in non-western countries, particularly in the madrasas of Pakistan and the mosques of Saudi Arabia. It is not enough for Hasan to protest that Muslims have stopped attacks, which they clearly have. He goes further and denies any link between radicalisation and religion, a highly risible claim.
Hasan acknowledges that 9/11 preceded the Iraq war, which he seems to regard as the seminal radicalising event for modern Jihadis. But what preceded this was the elephant in the room, namely the “west's support for Israel's oppression of the Palestinians”. Here he ignores the real elephant, namely that during the years before 9/11, Ehud Barak's government was busy trying to disengage his country from the West Bank, Lebanon and the Golan. Barak offered to create a viable and contiguous Palestinian state, shorn of settlements, yet his offers were firmly rebuffed by Yasser Arafat. Clearly, Bin Laden's followers were too busy plotting attacks to watch the news.
Today, western governments pour vast sums into the Palestinian territories. America alone has contributed over $4billion since 2006 as different administrations have sought to provide humanitarian assistance and combat destabilisation. Yet Hasan’s selective perception shows little interested in this.
Of course, when it comes to Israel, Al Qaeda's real grievance is that the “sons of pigs and apes” have established any sovereign presence in what is deemed to be a part of their future Caliphate. The Jihadis are bewildered that these 'dhimmis' have the temerity to refuse submission, and that they have survived an Arab onslaught for over six decades.
When one listens to the widespread denigration of Jews across the Arab and Muslim world, it is clear that the main complaint against the Zionists is not the occupation, Gaza or settlements, but the alleged perfidy and corruption of the Jews. Hasan has himself recently acknowledged that Muslim anti-Semitism is one of his community's “dirty little secrets”. Yet in the context of terrorism, he refuses to connect the dots.
Above all, Hasan is very selective with his analysis of western foreign policy. He ignores the intervention in Kosovo where the west (rightly) saved the lives of countless Muslims from Serbian ethnic cleansing. There is no mention of the first Gulf War where, thanks to US-led intervention, Kuwaitis were spared the horrors of a protracted Iraqi occupation. He lambasts the west for supporting Arab dictators, forgetting that many such leaders (i.e. Assad) thrive instead on Russian and Chinese support. But to acknowledge such complexity would be far too problematic. Why spoil a good narrative after all.
Hasan denies suggesting that our government should change foreign policy because angry Muslims don't like it. Yet this is hard to square with the overall tenor of his argument. He ends his Huffington Post rant by quoting approvingly from an interview with former CIA man Michael Scheuer: "People are going to... bomb us because they don't like what we've done.” Changing our foreign policy would make anti-western terrorism a more "manageable problem", it would seem.
But this easily translates into an argument for capitulation. Do as the terrorists demand and they will eventually wither. In similar vein, we could easily end attacks from anti-abortion activists by outlawing abortion. And we could nullify violence against the animal experimentation industry by ending experiments. Such an abject submission to terror is morally reprehensible.
It is also counter-productive because it would make us less safe rather than more. Terrorism would become the preferred option for any aggrieved interest group if they could see that peaceful protest brought fewer dividends than violence. Western leaders should formulate foreign policy on the basis of perceived national interests and ethical considerations. They should not be pandering to a radicalised minority.
Of course, British Muslims are entitled to disagree with our government's foreign policy. But what is open to them is the path of democratic dissent, not lawlessness and jihadist violence. Indeed to suggest otherwise does a profound disservice to the majority of law-abiding Muslims who reject such extreme responses.
To be fair, Hasan also condemns those who choose terrorism. But he goes much further in denying its root cause, namely the vicious anti-western incitement and religious fanaticism that is found across and within Islamic societies. Such blatant whitewashing of his faith is both intellectually and morally mendacious.
Jeremy Havardi is a journalist and the author of two books, Falling to Pieces, and The Greatest Briton