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That will require subtlety and sensitivity, the ability to differentiate between conventional religious piety and provocative political acts, the confidence to be able to face down intimidation, the knowledge to recognise extremist patterns of behaviour and the belief in liberal democratic values which are the best answer to the Islamist narrative of grievance.

But what is the alternative? Either confused passivity in the face of extremist advance, or sporadic and clumsy over-reactions which alienate potential allies while failing to reassure the public.

When we last faced a totalitarian challenge which operated on both ideological and violent planes, it came from Marxism. Its pretensions to global domination now seem a distant fantasy, almost ludicrously detached from the ramshackle reality of Soviet failure. But for decades the threat from Marxism was no laughing matter. On our campuses, in our trade unions, on our borders, Marxism posited an alternative to Western decadence and materialism which bewitched the minds of many. Indeed, avowed Marxists, operating under the banner of Militant, tried to take over the Labour Party in the 1980s, and only the most determined ideological and organisational effort saw them off.

During that long ideological struggle there was a sustained commitment among brave Western intellectuals, politicians and trade union leaders to counter the totalitarian temptation. Magazines like Encounter, writers from Orwell and Popper to Koestler and Solzhenitsyn, social democrats from Gaitskell to Golding, trade unionists from Bevin to Chapple, all entered the lists against Marxists and their fellow travellers.

Building a similar coalition of thinkers and activists against Islamism and its apologists is one of the central challenges of our time. Governments from Bangladesh to Belgium face direct security threats from Islamists. The rulers of Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Gulf states sit uneasily on top of societies ripe for violent Islamist takeover. Islamist terror groups occupy ungoverned spaces in Iraq and Syria, Libya and North Africa, Nigeria and Somalia. Islamist activists recruit and radicalise in our towns and cities.

Magazines such as Standpoint, anti-extremist organisations like the Quilliam Foundation, academics such as Shiraz Maher and politicians like Khalid Mahmood have been consistent and brave in their opposition to the extremism which threatens us all. But we need more to join them. There are still far too many who deny the scale of the problem, exemplified by President Obama’s refusal to acknowledge the Islamist roots of terrorist violence. And there are also far too many who succumb to counter-productive, knee-jerk responses, exemplified by those French politicians who banned burkinis because they confused piety with political extremism. Between them there is a space that confident and assertive liberals must occupy — or we face a century ahead of freedom in retreat and civilisation in eclipse. 
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WW2_historian
April 2nd, 2017
4:04 AM
I think you have to be pretty much free of any religious doctrine - and practice! - to be able to see that the problem of Islamism and Islam requires a deeper, wider and more involved engagement than most of us are neither ready for nor wiling and capable of. Firstly, yes, there are - at least to my, decades long experience - Muslim men who do not beat their wives and who do not practice bending in the Mecca direction five times a day, as there are Muslim women who are quite comfortable in jeans, shorts and bikinis, when on beach. The problem is deeper and does not stop at the Mecca's gate; the adherents of ALL major monotheistic religions have shifted toward "fundamentalism" the last several decades. True, the Europe has emerged from its 30-year, 100-year and whichever else religious wars which have hemorrhaged it for centuries but, lest we forgot, the adherents of two Christian sub-fractions, the Serb Orthodox, and the Croat Catholics have been gauging each other's eyes mere 25 years ago, right in this same Europe. The problem stems, in part at least, from the fact that most of us either do not have a reliable looking-glass in our homes or even if we do have, we are not capable of taking a real hard look at ourselves, and identify all the primitivism, bigotry, rejection and intolerance lurking from the depths of our souls. Islam - not homogeneous by any means! - is panicked from the prospect of falling off the bandwagon of modern civilization and is frantically trying to catch up; the Islamists are the friction layer between the subduction zones - to borrow from geophysical vocabulary - between Islam and western "civilization"; the two tectonic plates: the Jesus's land and the Allah's land (I would like to make a strong amendment for the third one but let's skip it for the sake of expediency). But in fact - there is no substance in either one; there has never been one. It is all about power control, the control of masses, be it through the Pope in Rome, the Pope in Alexandria, ..., through Lloyd Blankfein, and many others. The Internet and the cell phones notwithstanding we are - let's have enough courage to admit it - slipping into a new dark age. My vote goes to wise and courageous women of the future.

amcdonald
February 21st, 2017
12:02 PM
Geert Wilders advocates closing mosques and banning the koran in Holland. We`ll soon see how the will of the people (also known as the Holy Spirit in Zizek`s philosophising) finds expression theologically and polititically there. Even President Trump doesn`t go that far. Douglas Murray has some appreciative things to say about both (Spectator). I agree. Douglas Murray and Julie Burchill are the best journalists. Julie B goes even further advocating the death penalty for the scum who murder women. Theresa May`s feminism is milder than Wilders but has been appreciatively welcomed by feminist campaign groups in the UK. I like the way she turned up at the House of Lords for the Brexit speeches. If muslims simply misunderstand Jesus who can simply correct them?

amcdonald
January 30th, 2017
5:01 PM
Theresa May and Michael Gove agree on the `Jesuitical` distinction mentioned by Ed in his comment. A truly Jesuitical distinction has Islam/the Koran as an `alternative fact`, a bent version of Judaeo-Christian theology. Does our Prime Minister and Michael Gove think the Brexit voters are for more mosques and more sharia anti-feminism? Theresa May did amazingly well in the USA. Britain and America are now actually leading the world. Putin now knows it. He did outsmart the West until Brexit and the voters for Trump. Trump has said he will give no advance warnings about the how and when of any advances against the islamists. According to the Daily Mail the murderers of the muslims in the Quebec mosque were shouting the jihadist war slogan God Is Great. Royal Academy artist Grayson Perry is inviting Vote Leavers and Remainers to contribute graphics/thoughts/facts/alternative facts for display on two large pots to sit on the nation`s mantlepiece ( a Ch4 commission). And from the NE are two tracks of a pro-Brexit,pro-art,pro music soon to be cd circulating on social media. George Osborne allocated £5million to the Great Northern Exhibition Newcastle/Gateshead 2018. Manchester got £50 million.

amcdonald
January 15th, 2017
6:01 PM
I don`t buy newspapers anymore but I`ll be buying the Times on Monday to read the Michael Gove interview with Donald Trump. Politics is becoming surprising since Brexit. Islam is actually the greatest atheism as well as a great blasphemy against Jesus. Having an adept of Islam read from the koran in a Glasgow cathedral is just dumb.

Ed
December 21st, 2016
10:12 PM
Mr Gove, it doesn't work. Your artificial distinctions are Jesuitical in extreme. The roots and seeds of Islamism are in Islam, and the fruits of it are violence, oppression, destruction, subjugation - after all "Islam" means "Submission". I refuse to submit. Call the spade a spade.

amcdonald
December 13th, 2016
7:12 PM
I watched the BBC Muslims Like Us last night. We are all basically evil, egotistical, disgusting (says Zizek). Isn`t the pro-Sharia,islamic state and superior so-called muslim character actually displaying his inferiority complex regarding western civilisation and our popular culture ? Is he a cartoon of the prophet? Is it Islam that`s actually Satanic ? Either that or he`s evil,egotistical and disgusting. Just like the BBC for giving him the oxygen of publicity. Broadcasting treason puts public security at severe risk. And the BBC `ponces` want paying to do it. No wonder 17.4 million voted for Brexit. So no BBC rushing to join the coalition to defeat Islamism ? A bloke goes into a muslim bookshop. He`s having a look around and the muslim assistant comes over and asks if he can help. The bloke says "Have you got the new Donald Trump book?" "Get out! Get out of here and never come back!" shouts the assistant. "Yes that`s the one," says the bloke, "How much is it?".

Ean Dorugh
November 25th, 2016
4:11 PM
I don't see how/why v intelligent and knowledgeable Gove has written this. I've lived amongst Muslim communities inc in M East and I agree with comments here (eg by Burdon, Saltzman) that most Muslims find it nearly impossible to denounce/disown Islamism, rather than only condemning its current murderous campaigns, because violence is condoned in the Quran - just as it is in the Bible. But most 'Christians' have never read large parts of the Bible and in any case they have been careful from the beginning to minimise/ignore bits that are inconvenient, even some that are stated to be the very words of God- from the 10 Cs. They won't even permit the law/State to punish those who grossly defame Jesus (Witehouse v Lennon 1977), unlike the violent protests and book-burning by ordinary UK Muslims over Rushdie, not to mention the fatwah encouraging his murder from one of the top and best educated Muslim 'clerics' and jurists. I would like all indoctrination of children (inc by their parents) in supernatural beliefs of all kinds to be banned. In a generation, we could hope to find mosques emptying like churches have.

Michael Martin
November 25th, 2016
12:11 PM
I spent several years teaching at university or similar in Iran and Saudi, the leaders of the two sects of Islam, and there is no way you could separate the universalist tyrannical beliefs of these countries, esp Saudi, with those of Islamists. And, as for 'God’s will was undermined', I have never been able to get, even 'ordinary', Muslims to accepy that it is stupid, irrational and oxymoronic (and, I would have thought, listening to Saudis, blasphemous) to defend some action of theirs on the basis that omnipotent and omniscient Allah seemed not able or willing to accomplish its aim.

Arnie Ward
November 24th, 2016
4:11 PM
I lived for many years in Cape Town which has a large Muslim population. I didn't experience Islam as being admirable. It was a revelation how aggressively separatist many Muslims became following the Khomeini revolution.

Observer of the Scene
November 21st, 2016
10:11 AM
The idea that mainstream Islam is an admirable, moderate religion is somewhat undermined by the behaviour of Muslims in Rotherham (and elsewhere), and by the imam-sanctioned corruption seen in Tower Hamlets (and elsewhere). None of all that was inspired by Islamism. But the idea that Islam and Islamism are distinct doesn't hold water either. Lots of Mohammed's behaviour was "extremist" and he, to orthodox mainstream Muslims, was the most admirable human being who has ever lived, a model for imitation at all times and in all places.

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