A mistake to fete repentant members of Islamist cults

Ziauddin Sardar in The Guardian:

Ziauddin_sardarI am troubled by the fact that former extremists are seen as the only people who know how to deal with extremism. Just because you have been an inmate of a mental hospital does not mean you are an expert in clinical psychology. But former extremists are being lionised because they confirm the basic tabloid prejudice that violence is a natural part of being a Muslim. So whose ignorance is being vindicated? Certainly the potential of an open, unapologetic belief in Islam as a valuable part of British society is not on the agenda.

At every stage of dealing with extremism, the government has made the wrong choice. First, only British-trained imams were to be promoted, though how and what they were trained in was not examined. Then there were to be roadshows at which religious scholars selected for their moderation and tractability, rather than an understanding of the problems of young British Muslims, would explain the error of extremist ways. Then Sufism was touted as the solution, and the Sufi Muslim Council was created as the voice of moderation. Now the way forward is with sinners who were once mouthpieces for jihadi propaganda and advocated the violent rejection of all things western.

The thing nobody has suggested is engaging the silenced and diverse majority of Muslim communities. If the debate of the mainstream is ignored, there is nowhere for those rescued from extremism to go. The silent majority is supposed to be groomed to embrace quietism – which explains why Sufi mysticism is in vogue – and, most important, to be put off politics for life.

More here.  [Thanks to Manas Shaikh.]