This article was published on the website of “The Times UK” you can read the article in English here .
As London recovers from a series of tragic events, another terrorist attack hit the streets of the city on Monday morning. The revolting anti-Muslim campaign took place outside the Muslim Welfare House, while the faithful left after the evening prayer.
Witnesses recounted the alarming cries of the aggressor who repeated “I want to kill all Muslims” while driving in a van through pedestrians. It is clear that this individual’s actions were a manifestation of anti-Muslim hatred spreading in the West for some time now.
The different forms of contemporary extremism in the West – Islamism, ethno-nationalism and regressive leftism – have their respective violent ramifications that use similar rhetoric to justify themselves and others. All three despise and target the moderates who criticize them. At this moment, the most organized and dangerous of them is perhaps Islamism, but this assessment is not fixed in time as shown by the attack at the mosque of Finsbury Park. Let us not forget that Europe is at the origin of an anti-Muslim genocide in Bosnia. To argue about action and reaction, about who started and whose anger is the most justified is as useless as asking who came first, the egg or the hen.
The recent terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS in Manchester and then in London have been deliberate military tactics, carried out with the intention of dividing and polarizing our society. ISIS has told us so. Once the social divide begins to settle, people tend to take refuge in extreme positions and viewpoints. Only extremists on both sides take advantage of this downward spiral to provoke a civil war.
Anti-Muslim bigots and Islamists are often seen as two opposing groups, when in fact they are just two sides of the same coin. Yes, jihadist terrorism presents a much greater global threat, but according to our government, anti-Muslim extremism has been the fastest growing extremism in recent times. The anti-Muslim “Muslimphobes” and the Islamists have a lot in common: both groups insist that Islam is a totalitarian political ideology that contradicts our liberal democracies. They both insist on an unavoidable opposition. While one group often calls for a ban on the Qur’an, the other calls for a ban on everything but the Qur’an. Together,
Anti-Muslim extremism and Islamist extremism exist in a kind of symbiotic unnatural relationship where each supports the other, and both together create the perfect ground for their respective ideologies not only to persist but also to flourish. The desire to impose Islam and the desire to ban it are twin ideologies that, if not controlled and challenged, have the potential to wreak havoc in our societies.
But that does not mean that we let this vicious circle of hate continue. We can not and must not allow one or the other of the parties to divert the speech, to dictate our worldview and to polarize our societies, or even to stifle the intellectual debate about the role of religion and its need for reform in our complex societies. As Islamists often call all non-Muslims enemies, and anti-Muslims attack all Muslims as enemies, it is up to us, civil society, to be rational enough to see absurdity of such a black and white worldview.
Civil society must resist extremism in all its definitions, whether it be a speech or a violent demonstration. Any attack on civilians for ideological purposes is terrorism, and any act of terrorism is an attack on liberal values rooted in the very foundations of the free world.
Just as we ask Muslims to do more to fight against clandestine Islamism in their communities, we must also ask the populist right to tackle the rise of anti-Muslim extremism in their ranks. We must all stand together against all forms of extremism, violent or otherwise, wherever it comes from.
Maajid Nawaz is the founder of Quilliam, the world’s first anti-extremist organization.