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    « Thanks for the sentiments, Mr Editor | Main | For history, not narratives »


    Steve M

    "The best way to control these movements and to moderate them is to integrate them into the political game," said Bouabid Brahim, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry. "Because then the fight is with ideas and not arms."

    Judy, would you adopt this approach with Hamas?

    PS: Why the silence in the British media, including the BBC, on this demonstration by Moroccan Muslims?


    Steve, I have been reconsidering my blanket-no since reading about this situation. I think in countries like Morocco and Turkey, where Islamist parties are established without having armed gangs of enforcers and terrorists as part of their organization, Brahim's approach is probably wise.

    But in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where Hamas organizes training for suicide bombers,arms terrorists, recruits children as potential murderers etc., no. They don't pass the democracy test. The same is true for the IRA in northern Ireland.

    And I don't think any party that advocates the killing of any group (as did the Islamist Hizb u Tahrir in the UK for gays, Hindus and Jews, should be actively dismantled and its members prosecuted for incitement to murder.

    I think the British media are very reluctant to look at any country which has no past colonial link with the UK. In fact, it is even reluctant to give any attention to ex colonies. There has been enormous criticism of the lack of coverage of the horrendous aftermath of the Pakistani earthquake in the British media.

    I also think the story of positive Islamic demonstrations against Al Qaeda doesn't sufficiently fit the worldview that the UK press tends to put across.



    The Boston Globe report overlooks important issues with Islamists and elections that have, in some countries, arisen. In particular, Algeria comes to mind.

    In Turkey,moreover, since the election of the Islamist-light government, there have been subtle and not so subtle efforts to undermine the more or less secular veneer of the country. See this article:

    The article reports, among other things:

    --------In the past year, the AKP has begun to translate its near monopoly over most major municipalities and national government into action. Rule-of-law has been a casualty. On January 7, 2005, bulldozers and dozens of policemen showed up outside Chocolate, a trendy café adjacent to the Besiktas soccer stadium. After a Besiktas match, men and women, sons and daughters, would cross the street and relax, have a coffee or beer, and watch the boats go by on the Bosphorous. On that rainy day, the police arrived with bulldozers and told the shocked staff the municipality — run by AKP — had ordered the restaurant destroyed. Television cameras and the property owners videotaped the subsequent confrontation. The landlord’s lawyer demanded to know on what grounds the municipality would demolish the restaurant. He produced the requisite permits and demanded to see a court order. “I don’t know anything about a court order. And I don’t want to see your permits,” the AKP official said. “I have a job to do.” Minutes later, bulldozers drove through the glass atriums of the restaurant in front of shocked onlookers. The AKP did not even switch off the restaurant’s gas before the demolition. Vendetta trumped safety. Three other restaurants fell victim to the AKP’s bulldozers on the same day. The video shows waiters and cooks weeping. No restaurants meant no jobs in Turkey’s already tight job market. Had they worked at a more Islamic establishment, they need not have worried.-----------

    In an interesting article on the HNN website, scholar Martin Kramer explains in some detail the problem with Islamists working as part of democracy and why such is not an easy formula. See

    In short, I think you are seeing "signs" - droppings from the sky - which disguise the bigger picture which is the re-traditionalization of Islamic society.


    Neal-- I agree that one cannot take Islamists working within democracies as a simple issue. However, I think that where there is a healthy democracy, it becomes more an issue of appropriate policing of political parties that get into "enforcement" and intimidation. That's certainly by no means confined to Islamist groups,eg the northern Irish tradition-- and quite a few other mainstream western political party traditions.

    One of the encouraging things about the Moroccan situation is that you are unlikely to have an electorate that is either ignorant about or naively trusting of Islamist blandishments.

    There is also a parallel with the positioning and threat from former communists in countries like Poland which were formerly Soviet satellites.

    The population knows only too well what the communists stand for, but sometimes they will choose them for pragmatic reasons, and they ensure that their power can be challenged.



    My gut reaction is that Islamism cannot be squared with anything but violence and hatred. Which is to say, I would not place any faith in Islamists having any role in any society.


    Islamists have to be folded and brought into the democractic system in the same way that we tolerate the BNP and their fascist friends within the democratic system.

    I don't like the BNP but they should be allowed to have a voice. In the same way I don't like religious radicals, but if you don't give them some avenue of legitimate expression at least, they go underground and do more underhanded things. At least by being in the public face they have to behave with stricter regulations and be careful of not associating with vile elements of society that alienate a big group of supporters.

    Just take the BNP and their links with the National Front as an example. Hizb ut Tahrir also cleaned up their website of anti-semitic garbage (insincere but nevertheless) when the public spotlight turned on them.

    I may not always agree with you, but you write well. In this case though, I also agree with you.

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