Theocracy: ‘not that great’

Brian Whittaker, or maybe his subeditor, poses the world’s easiest question: ‘Should faith override the will of the people?’

He’s responding to a piece by Bob Lambert and Jonathan Githens-Mazer. That article explained to CiF readers that British Islamists are actually a wide and diverse group of people, who do a lot of charity work, and therefore we should give them loads of government money in return for not being blown to bits.

Like Ophelia, Whittaker is sceptical. He points out that even in the extremely broad definition that Lambert and Githens-Mazer use (which has little relevance to the actions and philosophy of contemporary Islamists) there is one big problem: theocrats want the word of God to take precedence over the laws of humanity.

This is where Islamism starts to become deeply problematic. One of the basic requirements for freedom in politics is that sovereignty belongs to the people. Power may be delegated to representatives but the people should remain the ultimate arbiters.

Islamists, no matter how they try to dress up their ideology, do not accept this key point. They seek to apply ‘Islamic’ principles to the state – hence the slogans of the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘Islam is the solution’ and ‘The Qur’an is our constitution’.

Not only that but he fumbles his way to the conclusion that an Islamic state would also be bad news for Muslims who don’t want Islamist rule (which is most of them). As Whittaker says:

Some Islamists directly counter the idea of popular sovereignty with another slogan: ‘La hukma illa li-Llah’ (‘Sovereignty belongs to God alone’) and this leads to the claim that secular Muslims who question God’s sovereignty in worldly politics are guilty of apostasy.

He also points out, charitably, that applying the governance of Bronze Age Palestine to the twenty-first century world would be impractical.

It’s not quite a scales-falling-from-eyes moment but Whittaker does agree that these ‘fundamental issues often get lost in the debate about relations between the British government and Muslims.’

It strikes me as weird that there are nineteen-year-old university students who can demonstrate a greater understanding of Islamist philosophy than many writers on the UK’s leading liberal newspaper.

Whittaker concludes:

Lambert and Githens-Mazer are right, though, in suggesting that exclusion and suppression are not the answer. The only effective way to confront Islamism is through rational argument.

Yes. But that had better be rational argument in its true sense, rather than a synonym for engagement, ‘understanding’, or accommodation.


Aftermath of a Taliban mosque bombing in Jamrud, Pakistan, March 2009


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