An Al-Jazeera news program featuring a U.K. Muslim Brotherhood leader illustrates the global Muslim approach when discussing the problem of Islamic extremism. The program featured a discussion with Anas Al-Tikriti, the long-time leader of the Muslim Association (MAB) of Britain who recently left the MAB to help form the new Brotherhood organization known as the British Muslim Initiative (BMI). The subject of the program was described as “a British project to train religious preachers on the skills of exchanging opinions and convincing youths to shun extremism”, likely referring to the MINAB project described in an earlier post. Al-Tikriti opens his comments by claiming that extremism does not arise from religion but rather from “the political problem” and argues that governments should leave the training of preachers to “groups that form the society:
… Al-Tikriti says that the initiative indicates that the West remains confused over two issues. He explains that the first issue is the ideological aspect, because the West continues to examine why some elements resort to extremism and continues to search in the “wrong place”among religious people. Referring to the graduation in Sheffield, he says that although it encompassed people fromvarious religions, it targeted Islam and Muslim scholars. Al-Tikriti says that the British Government remains confused with regard to “understanding the phenomenon of extremism.” He stresses that “extremism in itself is not the problem” and that it is a phenomenon resulting from a greater problem; namely, the political problem. Unfortunately, he says the British Government does not want to hear this. Regarding the second issue, Al-Tikriti saysthat it is inappropriate to portray the government as the guardian of religious preachers or new religious discourse. He notes that the British Government claims that it is secular and calls for a secular society; hence, it must act fairly and “leave the groups that form the society to tackle their issues on their own.”
Al-Tikriti goes on to infer that following the bombing, the U.K. government no longer consulted with groups such as the BMI as they had in the past. He also complains that the U.K is pursuing what he describes as a “right-wing approach” that rejects political issues in the “Islamic discourse” citing the recent refusal of a visa to global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi:
Al-Tikriti says that the government’s attempts did not begin after the bombings, but that it “pursued a different approach after the bombings.” He explains that the approach that the government pursued in the past was very successful because it used to seek the assistance of Muslim institutions that are recognized by the Muslim community to peddle such discourse. However, he says that afterthe bombings, the government pursued a more rightwing approach, one that rejects any mention of politics, such as the war in Iraq or Britain’s policy on the Palestine question, in the Islamic discourse. Al-Tikriti says that had the British Government been serious about inviting scholars who address youths and call for moderation and tolerance, it would have allowed religious scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi to enter London, as he is known for his preaching about tolerance.
Al-Tikriti then echoes recent Brotherhood statements on the recently released Geert Wilders film by claiming that Muslims are the victim of extremism which is, in fact, “a world problem.” He alleges that Tariq Ramadan has become an “unacceptable figure” because he talks about Palestine and Iraq, seemingly ignoring Ramadans increasing invitations to address Western audiences.
Al-Tikriti says that the problem of extremism is a world problem and is not limited to the West. He adds that all people in Europe, be they Muslims or others, are facing the problem of extremism. He stresses that the problem must be dealt with as a “joint responsibility and burden,” one that must be shouldered by all. Moreover, he stresses that the government must not be involved in creating an Islam that suits it, noting that this is the main problem. With regard to Tariq Ramadan, who is described as a liberal Muslim and whose ideas the West has welcomed in the past, Al-Tikriti says that Ramadan has become an unacceptable figure simply because he talked about the Palestinian issue and against the war in Iraq. He concludes that the West wants an Islam that suits the governments and their interests.
Al-Tikriti appears to argue that Muslim imams should encourage young people to become involved in “political action” in order to help them avoid extremism:
With regard to the mosque’s role in instilling good values, Al-Tikriti says that imams talk about the justice of Islam, Islam’s position, and Muslims’ positions on world issues such as hunger, embargos, and massacres. He notes the imam’s role in helping angry youths express their feelings in a moderate manner by, for example, becoming incorporated in political action or addressing the media, because otherwise they could be easily recruited by extremists .
Finally, Al-Tikriti once again complains about being excluded:
Al-Tikriti says that they are in constant contact with the British Government and that they offer advice regarding a sound approach. He urges the government to understand the real problem and to deal with the parties that can tackle the problem, rather than isolate them while dealing with those whose discourse is acceptable to it. Otherwise, he says that nothing will be achieved.
Al-Tikriti’s comments on the show illustrate the politicization of religion as represented by the global Muslim Brotherhood. It is striking that his remarks have little to do with religion and refer only to political conflicts where Muslims are involved. His suggested solution to the problem of Islamic extremism is to channel all discussion about extremism away from religion to MIddle East conflicts and turn the battle against extremism over to Brotherhood organizations in the West who would then both advise their respective government and take charge of the training of imams. Al-Tikriti thus turns the problem of extremism on its head. Instead of viewing Islamist networks such as the global Muslim Brotherhood as a primary source of extremism, the Brotherhood would naturally prefer to viewed as a major partner for governments seeking to deal with this issue. Acceptance of this proposition would require that the Brotherhood’s role in the propagation of fundamentalism, anti-Semitism, and terrorism be ignored.
(Source: BBC Monitoring International Reports March 28, 2008 Friday AL-JAZEERA PROGRAMME DISCUSSES UK PLAN “TO TRAIN AND REHABILITATE IMAMS” Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 1830 gmt 21 Mar 08)