Friday, February 14, 2014

Review: The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani

The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror
The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani

Arun Kundnani (Twitter) has written a thorough critique of the Age of Obama War on Terror. And you are right, Obama supporters, that your Nobel Peace Prize-receiving hero does not call it a War on Terror like that once-reviled but now surprisingly familiar cousin George W Bush did. Obama and his people are fighting extremism. Isn't that a good thing?

Kundnani demonstrates how the failures of the culturalist wing of the Global War on Terror, ascendant during the first term of Bush the Small, paved the way for the reformists to influcence Bush the Small's second term and Obama's two administrations. These reformists chided the culturalists for suggesting that terrorism was inherent to Islam. Indeed, it was only certain kinds of Muslims who misinterpreted Islam who were the problem. Extremists. Radicals. Salafis.

And if reformism was the theory, then radicalization was its practical application. Radicalization purported to describe from where the bad Muslims originated. Without a sound basis in social science, it nevertheless reverberated across peer-reviewed journals because it gave North American and Western European governments' police and intelligence agencies targets for surveillance and provocation.

Culturalism and reformism share a rejection of the possibility that the actions of liberal regimes cause terrorism. Culturalism advocates direct suppression of those who may suggest this heresy. Reformism's tactics rely on cooperating Muslims, eager to distinguish themselves as "good" Muslims, gain the carrot of receiving money to adminster programs which intervene to save Muslim youth from the "funnel" of radicalization and avoid the stick of public vilification or further police scrutiny or inclusion in prosecutions as "unindicted co-conspirators." These cooperating Muslims do their best to eliminate all space for Muslims to express political ambitions which may represent solidarity with Muslims in other countries or challenge the liberal social and economic order or resist racist police and administrative policies. Of course, this lack of space for political action is itself a cause of terrorism, which ultimately, despite Islamophobes' assertion that Muslims' acts of terrorism are uniquely apolitical, is an act of political expression, however misguided.

Another curious result of the reformism and the War on Extremism is how neo-Nazi groups have adopted its premises. These groups used to claim that Jews in control of their nations' governments conspired to let the lazy black and brown people work (!) all the jobs that good clean native white people should have. Now, these groups can substitute the Jewish conspiracy for a Muslim conspiracy to rule by shariah and drop the race rhetoric by claiming that they will even accept non-extremist Muslims, as long as they commit to preventing their lazy extremist co-religionists from working (!) the jobs meant for Christian natives. Andres Breivik could reasonably claim that leaders of major European political movements supported his claims that multiculturalists were undermining Europe's cohesion to facilitate a Muslim takeover.

An important contribution the author makes is an entire chapter devoted to Somali youth from Minneapolis whom the USA intelligence apparatus and local law enforcement agencies targeted because some had joined with al-Shabab in Somalia. Another unique contribution was an interview with a Texan Muslim who financially supported a number of masajid in the Houston area. This philanthropist was open on his efforts to suppress political expression.

Arun asks if the pressure on USA Muslims caused Muslims in Boston who witnessed Tamarlan Tsarnaev's outburst in a masjid to avoid him rather than engage him. Had they engaged him competently, might that have turned him from the deadly path he pursued later?

Arun concludes that the only appropriate response is the end of the liberal states' War on Terror/Extremism and the beginning of a radical political process to improve the economic and social conditions of the working classes in the advanced post-industrial societies of North American and Western Europe.

I received the book from the publisher, Verso Books (Twitter).

Updated February 27, 2014 - Hear Arun Kundnani in an interview with Radio Dispatch.

Updated April 21, 2014 - Arun Kundnani mentions the five books which inspired The Muslims are Coming!.

Another update April 21, 2014 - Law & Order had an episode with confidential informants.

Updated October 27, 2015 - Article on Countering Violent Extremism program in the USA.