November 05, 2013

The similarities between Muslim and Irish anti-British language and feeling

Dr Usama Hasan of the Quilliam Foundation
Dr Usama Hasan is a senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation (profile here) and part-time imam. He appeared on BBC Radio 4's PM show with Eddie Mair on Monday November4 2013 to talk about anti-British sentiment among young muslim men. He said:
"This is a wider problem within British Islam. There are many young people who feel alienated. They are sometimes subjected to extremist teaching which says they cannot be a friend or loyal to the west. That their identity has to be with Muslims only abroad, that's the Islamist idea with Muslims worldwide, global ummah. And the ultimate result of that is young men that want to fight and die for a cause. They won't fight and die for their own country - certainly not a European of western country - but they will go and join a militant group like the Taliban or al-shabab or al-Qaeda and go and fight in Syria or Somalia or Afghanistan. We have to understand that and grapple with it openly.
He was then asked by Eddie Mair: "How do we counter it?" He responded:
"The best way to deal with it is to bring the debate into the open and challenge the extremist ideas with better ideas rather than drive it under ground... Young people holding extremist views should be listened to and debated with calmly, to show them that Britain is actually a very tolerant and inclusive society which will give them the opportunity to participate in this society. 
There is a paranoid and conspiratorial mindset that everyone is against them and that the west is against Islam. As long as they're fed that kind of mentality then they will continue to operate in dubious ways.
There is no absolute parallel between the anti-British sentiment held by muslims and more hardline Irish nationalists and republican; but the parallels are very much there. Joe Brolly explained how Britain was regarded as he was growing up. He said:
"If I’d announced thirty years ago I was intending to play rugby and arrived home from school with a drawing of the Queen, they would have been sending for the men in white coats."
This is still a mindset and regard held by many Irish nationalists and republicans to this day. Brolly's plane of regard has, frankly, broadened and matured and taken in the context of the 21st Century. (Much like the west-Belfast, Ardoyne Catholic, British soldier here.) . As Alan in Belfast reported, "Joe Brolly’s son plays rugby for Malone and goes to the Cubs (coming home recently with a drawing of the Queen) [and] Joe finds himself standing for the [British] national anthem if he’s at a Cubs service to pick up his son."

The anti-Imperialism, anti-colonialism language employed by Muslims and directed against America is so similar in tone, mode and demeanour as that used by Irish republicans against Britain. Take the language used by the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard, who said:
"The crimes of US leaders and international Zionism in dealing with Iran's great nation will never be erased from public memories and minds."
Like in Iran, Belfast and Northern Ireland has a class of young people who are participants of the emerging world culture, but they also have an angry, hostile and hysterical class who are lovers of medievalism and haters of modernity.

We in Northern Ireland, like Quilliam, need to calmly and openly debate those who hold extremist views and challenge those extremist ideas with better ideas. People in Belfast and across Northern Ireland are being fed and actively hold a paranoid and conspiratorial mindset that Britain is bad, that Britain is the cause of all ill in Ireland and that Britain is the transcendent issue even above the economy, jobs, education and healthcare (the same for loyalists of course). People will continue to be fed this perverse philoshophy and they will continue to act in dubious ways and so we must counter this with reasoned, considered argument. We cannot allow these superstitious ideas to fester under the surface.

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