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Edward Luce in the FT today discusses a much-trailed Biden plan to embrace ‘global democracy’ promotion. The plan will place democracy at the center of the incoming president’s foreign policy, a break from Obama’s more realist approach to international relations and closer to the George W Bush era. Luce suggests this is partly to take on China in the realm of ideas, China’s economic success — down to a blend of state capitalism and authoritarian government — has become an alternative ideological model in a post-post-cold war world. The Biden administration wants to widen efforts to contain China beyond trade concerns to broader ideological ones. With Trump’s support for strongmen, many critics of America have argued it no longer leads the ‘free world’. …


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I was asked to put together a political briefing on Macron’s so-called bill to outlaw separatism. Here is an edited copy (with thanks to Zakaria K).

The ‘separatism’ Bill announced by Emmanuel Macron on the 2nd October is currently working its way through the institutions of the French executive. The proposed law is called the “Bill to Reinforce Secularism and Republican Principles”, the term ‘separatism’, once considered, has been removed. The Bill looks to update the 1905 law that officially separated church from state.

The French Minister of interior, Gérald Darmanin announced on BFMTV 3 weeks ago that the completed draft will be presented to the Conseil d’État or Council of State. This is a quasi- legal branch of the French state that looks at bills to make sure it conforms to the French constitution. …


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Liberalism, as Douglas Murray rightly points out in his Spectator piece, is in the dock and subject to a new “cultural revolution.” Murray’s piece reflects an ever-growing pessimismacross western societies that the edifice upon which liberalism was built is giving way to a “woke” progressivism concerned with curtailing free speech and toppling statues. In this new world, young people exhibit an illiberalism that would, in Murray’s mind, not be out of place in a “Talibanised” society.

For Murray, Britain and the West face an existential crisis. Saving liberalism requires the idea to be defended and reasserted. Liberalism today is facing challenges from within and without, most notably because of the rise of nationalism. This well-trodden and rather pessimistic forecast is captured in Edward Luce’s gloomily titled book, The Retreat of Western Liberalism. Yet Murray and his fellow crusaders recall a mythical liberalism that has never actually existed. In reality, liberalism has all too often been co-opted by eurocentrists, imperialists, racists, and white nativists (like Murray) that place European civilization above all other cultures. …


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Imam Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazzālī in his magnum opus, Ihya Ulum al-Din, supports a series of searching recommendations that I would have, regretfully, scoffed at many years ago when starting in the world of Islamic activism. Yet at the same time, I was ready to quote al-Ghazzālī when his statements accorded with my worldview.

But study, time and events have enabled me to realise that his central recommendation in his chapter on knowledge, to discipline the soul, is one of the most important personal duties of any Muslim that seek to engender a social or political change. Like the public debaters al-Ghazzālī encountered at his time and whose number al-Ghazzālī once belonged, those that gain prominence through public activism are trialled by a host of negative traits, which if not recognised and addressed, can lead one to troubling places. …


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Ertugrul, for those of you that haven’t seen it and I cannot imagine that’s many of you, is a show about the legendary father of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Sultanate. Very little is known about Ertrugul, except that he paved the way for the nascent Ottoman rule through his heroic commitment to the then Seljuk empire. Since the fall of Baghdad at the hands of Mongolian hoards, the seat of the Abbasid Caliphate, in 1258, the Islamic world was without central leadership, instead falling into several smaller and often competing sultanates. …


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The British government is careering into a coronavirus catastrophe, on the scale and intensity Italians are experiencing today. It is a tragedy entirely of its own making. Over the past two months, the government has failed to plan appropriately for the crisis, has failed to follow sound universally accepted scientific advice and has failed to respond to the clear indicators that a disaster is looming. Instead, the hapless, ill-informed, incompetent Prime Minister and his hamstrung Chancellor and Health Secretary move from one press conference to another, unable to respond in any meaningful way to what will now almost certainly be a public health disaster that will cost the lives of thousands. …


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In the past week, a radical shift in the balance of an eight-year conflict has swung in favour of the Damascus regime. Assad’s blood-stained project to reclaim territory lost during the civil war is now near complete. …


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Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

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Promoting a reformation movement within Islam has been a preoccupation of European and American policymakers for almost two decades. As the argument goes, sections of the Muslim community have a predilection to violence that is justified by an extreme and intolerant reading of Islamic texts. The prerequisite to creating an inert ummah is for a European-style reformation movement to emerge that critically questions Islamic scripture and reclaims the faith from the scourge of extremism. The narrative has broad acceptance with the liberal left and the conservative right, differing only on emphasis and tone. Bush’s ill-conceived notions of a ‘clash within civilisation’ and his winning the ‘war of ideas’ rhetoric was indistinguishable from Obama’s softer but equally malign policy of countering violent extremism by cultivating a message rooted in Islam and using Muslim scholars and intellectuals to front the campaign. The intended aim remains the same. …


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Asim Qureshi is an unlikely activist. He studied law before deciding he would serve the Muslim community by shining a light upon the policies and motivations that have accompanied the post 9/11 security state. The Daily Mail in its usual shrill mode called him a ‘middle-class’ leader of the resistance. Asim speaks with knowledge, precision and eloquence as he explains how the Muslim community is viewed by the state as a ‘suspect community’. …


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This year marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first British ship carrying enslaved African’s to America. The vast majority of whom had lived free lives until their world collided with the cruelty and profiteering of Europeans that believed black Africans represented a sub-human species, that were placed on the earth as chattel. This system of slavery lasted until the 19th century after having displaced some 10 million people.

In history lessons, in America and Europe, slavery in recent years has entered the curriculum in an era of liberal contrition. However, my guest this week argues that an orientalist narrative is often forwarded, depicting African’s as backwards and devoid of culture. At the heart of this ‘black orientalism’ is the notion that these slaves did not come from a culture rooted in civilisation and importantly there is a scant attention given to the fact that many of these Africans came from Islamic communities and were devout Muslims. …

About

Muhammad Jalal

Politics lecturer, London. Host of The Thinking Muslim Podcast

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