Thinking about the think tank

31 Jul

Religious language and religious groups cause no end of angst to many folk, and the further they are from our own experience and immediate circle the more angst we are likely to suffer. For example, a nice man named Ben has just left a comment on the Big Archive at the entry Looking for the “gay lobby”, the point of the entry being that the “gay lobby” is essentially a paranoid construct in the minds of people who don’t like gays and lesbians, or suspect them of enormous power and credit them with a unity of purpose they sadly lack. Ben begins and concludes his message thus; I’ll leave you to check, or just guess, the middle:

For the time being, the problem is not that Christ is against gays, but that gays are against Christ. The former problem will come about later, but let’s talk about the latter first…

The Lord is patient and longsuffering, but he has assured all that he has appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness. Be sure that abomination will be rewarded by shame, everlasting contempt, punishment and destruction, weeping and gnashing of teeth, fire unquenchable, indignation, wrath, tribulation, anguish, eternal fire and the blackness of darkness forever.

That’s “that old time religion” to quite a few out there, especially in the USA, but not only there. I have replied at the comment, if you wish to look. I didn’t argue with him. You can’t. It’s a waste of time.

My point here, however, is different. It would be highly likely that any person in the USA, especially any person in a Christian church, and especially any person in a Baptist church, would have a relative or acquaintance who holds those views. Similarly it could well be pointed out (I think unfairly) that the KKK holds those views.

Now we get to the question of Islam. Last night on Lateline we had an interview with a “terrorism expert” from a UK-based think tank with a focus on South Asia: the Asia-Pacific Foundation. See Quentin Dempster discusses the handling of the Haneef case with Sajjan Gohel. Their web site is very secretive. Source Watch is rather more informative. A very clear sound of axes being ground emerges from that. Quentin Dempster was right to ask “terrorism expert” Gohel where he was coming from; he did not get an answer. He might have asked Gohel what he thinks of Shiv Sena, however. In other words I think it is fair to question the objectivity of Mr Gohel and the reliability of his analysis.

What did emerge, however, was that a likely issue for Kevin Andrews in his assessment of Dr Haneef has been perceived — possiby actual — connections between Dr Haneef and/or members of his family with an outfit called Tablighi Jamaat. Mr Gohel sees that group, which is not outlawed, as a “feeder” to terrorism. It also happens to be the world’s largest Muslim fundamentalist group. Finding a Pakistani or Indian Muslim who is related to or knows a Tablighi is rather like finding an American who knows someone who is, knows, or is related to a Baptist. Baptists could be seen as “feeders” to the KKK, of course, though most Baptists would loudly protest at that thought — and rightly.

How do I know? Because I have encountered Tablighi Jamaat myself. See Retreat from the Global: 11 March 2004: “Ali” of The Mine and the Tablighi Jamaat on the Big Archive, and do follow all the links there. You will see there are other Muslim fundamentalists who deplore Tablighi Jamaat as quietist and effeminate.

Is that the rabbit in Mr Andrews’s hat?* We will see, perhaps. One may also wonder who it was at the ABC (or outside the ABC?) that recommended the Asia-Pacific Foundation as a good source.

I have done some searches on interesting blogs for “Tablighi Jamaat”:

1. Ali Eteraz.
2. Irfan Yusuf doesn’t like their puritanism, and I would agree with him. “Ali” of The Mine did remind me of myself as a Teenage Calvinist, I’m afraid.
3. Indigo Jo is not a fan either, but of all the blogs so far he has the most (and most sustained) analysis of how the group is represented in right-wing Western media. I really commend his entries. The most recent one (“United bigots of the ‘mega-mosque’ campaign”) refers to the Great London Mosque, near the Olympic venue, which Sajjan Gohel also referred to. The role of the BNP in opposition is predictable.

Of course, many Muslims have reservations about this mosque. I am not sure the Tablighi Jama’at are the right people to run a multi-national mosque for Olympic participants, spectators or workers: they are rather conservative and have a tendency to look down on Muslims who do not practise Islam their way – but then, after the Olympics are finished and the tourists gone, it will likely revert to the use that was intended when the Tablighis bought the land: as a community mosque and markaz – that is, if gentrification does not push the local Muslim community out. I fail to see why a mosque should cost £100million to build, or even a tenth of that. If they are going to spend masses of money, they should make the mosque beautiful, which the present proposal certainly is not – it’s an “iconic” modernist design, and such buildings have a history of being detested by those who use them, however many architectural awards they win (see earlier entry). (Update: the modernist plan referred to, by the Mangera Yvars architectural practice, was considered but has been turned down.) However, this does not justify the use of smears and half-truths to deny a section of east London’s existing population their right to a community facility that they need. The Tablighi Jama’at have had a markaz in London for years; they need a new one because it is too small for the number of people that come every week.

As for the Muslims who are supporting the anti-mosque campaign, the fact is that their concerns are sectarian, and go back decades. Some of them would, if they were able, prevent the construction of any Deobandi or Tablighi mosque anywhere in the world; some of them regard the Deobandis themselves as hypocrites or even as unbelievers. They know full well that the Tablighi Jama’at are not a security risk in this country, whatever they tell the media; they seek to curtail their activities because they dislike them for their own, mostly historical, reasons. Muslims who are not blinded by sectarianism should oppose this unholy alliance and its bigoted campaign.

The Kashmiri Nomad doesn’t mention the name, and iMuslim does not have a search engine, though a Technorati search of her site came up with zero results.

Again I refer everyone in this hothouse to Isis’ Guide to Sensible Islam Posting.

I am a conservative Republican. I am a freelance writer for several local media outlets. I also have journalistic experience. Therefore, today I am going to blend my regard for the complexities of Islamic culture with my experience as a journalist and provide friends, pundits, and fellow members of the Rightosphere with my Guide to Sensible Islam Posting. It is my hope that they are used to enhance productive discussion of Islam, its practitioners, and Americans of Muslim faith in our domain.

Let me start by stating why I feel it has time to set forth some rules. One word: BACKLASH.

When all you ever read about an entire group of people goes against your experiences with actual members of that population, you are inclined to disregard the author’s views. All of the author’s views. On all subjects. And this is beginning to happen to pundits failing to distinguish between Islamic terror-lovers and law-abiding, freedom-desiring Muslims who are supportive of the Global War on Terror…

That post is a must read!

The trouble is most of us know very little about India and Pakistan and bugger-all about Islam. I include myself in that. The worry is that may well apply to those in power who should know. One even suspects that there are some, and not all that far removed from seats of power, or from the ABC, whose view of Islam has very much been shaped by Melanie Phillips.

I think we have to conclude the interview with Mr Gohel on Lateline served certain interests and was not the finest hour in objective analysis. On the other hand, Quentin Dempster’s scepticism was fairly clear.

* It turns out to have been certain bits of internet chat and phone messages. See yesterday’s entry on Dr Haneef for the update.

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