The Conflicts Forum, headed by former British intelligence (MI6) agent Alastair Crooke, has announced a series of monographs on “feminism and gender from a stance within the Islamist community.” According to the announcement:
Monograph series GENDER DISCOURSE AND ISLAMIST PERSPECTIVES ON FEMINISM This is the first Monograph which will form part of a series on gender discourse and Islamist perspectives on feminism that will be published by Conflicts Forum. CF is seeking to address how Islamist women, who are also feminists, understand feminism. What does it mean to be feminist within the world of Islamic movements? Many in the West would see such a discourse as an oxymoron. However Islamist feminists insist that their western counterparts have no claim to hegemony, and they demand respect and the space for a distinct Islamic perspective on this issue. Making that space within the western dominated discourse, and fending off external imposition, requires that ‘new’ language must be inscribed within it: one that argues an alternative perspective. To support this debate, CF has commissioned a series of monographs on feminism and gender from a stance within the Islamist community. The purpose is to ask writers – Islamist women and writers as well as other writers and researchers – to take up the task of constructing ‘new’ language; and to situate the Islamic perspective within the wider debate, by challenging the dominant meme – especially in its claim that Islam represses women.
It should be noted that Part I of the first monograph, titled “Islamist Women’s Activism in Occupied Palestine”, contains a set of interviews by Khaled Amayreh, likely the same Palestinian “journalist” writing for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood web site who has called Jews “a cancer on the world”, called Israel a “sick and cannibalistic society that is as bestial as Nazi Germany was during the Holocaust”, and accused Israel of the “wanton slaughter of children [which]occurs each day and every day of the year. In his most recent piece for the Brotherhood, Mr. Amayreh called the Nazi Holocaust the “ultimate sacrosanct cow” which is “off limit to scrutiny.”
Alastair Crooke heads the Conflicts Forum in Beirut whose Advisory Board includes Azzam Tamimi, a leader in the U.K. Muslim Brotherhood and often described as a Hamas spokesman. The Conflicts Forum board also includes former CIA agent Milt Bearden, who played a leading role in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and Graham Fuller, a former Vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA. Another member of the Conflicts Forum Board is Lord John Thomas Alderdice who was one of the two organizers of a proposed April 22 video link-up in the British Parliament with Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based head of Hamas’ Political Bureau. A technical fault prevented the event from taking place. Another media report describes a March 2005 meeting in Beirut attended by Crooke that included the Muslim Brotherhood as well as Musa Abu Marzuq, deputy leader of Hamas, and two of his senior colleagues, leaders of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and representatives of Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami party.
A New York Time report provides some background on Mr. Crooke that may, in part, explain some of his beliefs:
Mr. Crooke has spent much of his career talking to Islamists. In the 1980s, as a young undercover agent in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he helped funnel weapons to jihadists fighting the Soviets. Later, he spent years working with Hamas and Fatah as a negotiator for the European Union, and helped broker a number of cease-fires with Israel between 2001 and 2003… He is a little evasive about his own life and career, perhaps by training. Born in Ireland, he grew up mostly in Rhodesia, today Zimbabwe, and was educated at a Swiss boarding school and at St. Andrew’s in Scotland, obtaining a degree in economics. Before joining MI6, he worked in finance in London. “It’s a dangerous area to work in,” he said of his years as a banker, without apparent irony, “because it’s so easy to get caught up in enrichment.” He is barred by law from discussing his service with MI6, which included years of diplomatic work on the Israel-Palestine issue. As a negotiator in the Palestinian territories, he is said to have traveled alone, by taxi, eschewing the armed security convoys of many Western diplomats. Colleagues who worked with him say Yasir Arafat and the leaders of Hamas trusted Mr. Crooke completely, as did some high-level Israeli officials. Some Israelis, however, apparently complained that he was too close to Hamas. In late 2003, he was recalled to London — he had reached retirement age — and quietly ushered out of government service, with a commendation. He says he has no regrets, but some of his colleagues in Conflicts Forum say he retains some bitterness about the way he was treated. In 2005, he moved to Beirut, where he lives with his partner, Aisling Byrne, and their 1-year-old child, Amistis, in an elegant, old French mandate-era apartment, working out of a home office.
An earlier post discussed a new book by Mr. Crooke titled “Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution”that, like the above piece, treated Hamas and Hezbollah so favorably and the West so critically, it raises legitimate questions about Mr. Crooke’s religious and political loyalties. The central thesis of the work, that Hamas and Hezbollah are at the forefront of “resistance” to Western “hegemony”, places the two Islamist organizations squarely at the center of a “clash of civilizations” as opposed to the nationalist struggle so often identified by supporters as being at the core of the groups’ identity. Another post discussed a second glowing tribute to Hamas and Hezbollah as well as to Islamism in general where Mr. Crooke wrote that, Islamism is “an attempt to shape a new consciousness.”