Tag Archives: islam

On Teenage Nihilism, And Radical Islam

Anyone who has ever shared a house with a teenager knows they can be very silly indeed. Part of the act of growing up involves the adoption of daft, deliberately controversial, often nihilistic beliefs as a way of rebelling against authority.

When I was a teenager, this might involve growing your hair, going to live in a squat and getting into the underground scene, as it was then known, which generally involved a lot of drugs.

When I was at university, there were plainly individuals who had adopted extreme political views, mainly Trotskyite, as a rebellion against authority, as embodied by their prosperous, middle class parents.

There was not much damage done by all this. Those teenage Trots probably settled down as lawyers, accountants, whatever. Some may have gone into politics, but of a more moderate kind. Admittedly I knew two contemporaries who ended up with drug-induced schizophrenia and one gentle soul who died, subsequently, of a heroin overdose.

The Radio 4 programme had an item the other day about radical Islam, its pull on young Muslims, and the actions being taken by the authorities to prevent this. The reporter did not have to travel too far to find a few simpletons outside a school who said that, yes, they could see where Isis was coming from.

And one complete idiot who said he was tempted to travel to Syria to fight for the cause. And kill fellow Muslims, he was asked? Well, the ones he would be killing wouldn’t be proper Muslims, would they?

It is tempting to see this yet another example of teenage nihilism, one specific to young Muslims. Except for two big differences. There are people in their community encouraging them. And the consequences can often be lethal, to those teenagers and to others.


On Arab Civilisation

You must read this. A respected Arab journalist says Arab civilisation has collapsed and will not recover in his lifetime. Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief of a Dubai satellite channel, says the Arab world today is more violent, unstable, fragmented and driven by extremism than at any time since the Ottoman Empire disintegrated a century ago.

In “The Barbarians Within Our Gates”, in Politico Magazine, he says: “Every hope of modern Arab history has been betrayed. The promise of political empowerment, the return of politics, the restoration of human dignity heralded by the season of Arab uprisings in their early heydays—all has given way to civil wars, ethnic, sectarian and regional divisions and the reassertion of absolutism, both in its military and atavistic form.”

It is a despairing piece. Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen – possibly set to be the first country in the world to run out of drinking water – the Lebanon, etc. Melhem points out that place like Alexandria, Beirut, Cairo and Damascus, once cosmopolitan centres of learning and creativity, are now nothing of the kind.

The early Arab nationalists believed that Arab language and culture were enough to unite different cultures with different levels of social, political and cultural development. No more. The hard men, the dictators, opened the doors to the Islamists through their repression and incompetence.

Every Muslim state, from al-Andalus in the 11th century to the Saudis in the 1920s, has been bedevilled by extremists. The Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Islamic Stare are nothing new.

See the link here.


All Students are Equal…

An item on the Today Programme conflated two recent stories about freedom of speech in our universities. An outfit called Universities UK has decreed that segregated seating, separating men from women, may be permitted if requested by certain orthodox religious speakers.

Meanwhile, at the London School of Economics, two students from the Atheist Society were challenged by the authorities over a harmless T-shirt that depicted Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad. There was no indication who had complained, or whether there had even been complaints.

Neither Universities UK or the LSE took part in the programme. There were, I am glad to say, vociferous protests featured from students concerned about the introduction of gender segregation.

Student life has plainly changed somewhat since I was at college in the 1970s. Then, any suggestion that under any circumstances male and female audiences should be treated in any way differently would have had you torn limb from limb by dungareed Amazons. At the LSE, militant atheism was not so much discouraged as part of the core curriculum.

There was an interesting gap in the BBC’s reporting. One must deduce that a party or parties are putting pressure on academe, or certainly the LSE,  to stamp down on any attack on any religion, however anodyne. Said party, or possibly another party, is keen to introduce segregated audiences at universities when they are addressed by speakers from, and I quote the BBC, “orthodox religious groups”. In both cases, the authorities involved appear to have capitulated to this pressure.

But who are these parties, for whom the Enlightenment was seemingly an irritating distraction? No one has said. The Moonies? The Scientologists? The Flat Earth Society? I have no idea, and it would be entirely contrary to the traditions of objective academic research to speculate with no evidence available. Perhaps the BBC should have dug a little deeper and told us. Or perhaps they chose not to.

We will never know.