Turn Your Gaze to Gaza

By opening its columns to Islamist apologists, Prospect magazine is undermining moderate Muslims

Counterpoints Islam Israel Media Middle East Politics

Ed Husain’s The Islamist was the first book by a British Muslim that attempted to explain why so many members of his own generation were tempted by Islamist politics, and in some cases by al-Qaeda terrorism. Its considerable impact on public opinion has had two consequences. Like-minded Muslims have set up the Quilliam Foundation to challenge fundamentalist influence on their community. And the Islamists are hitting back.

In the August issue of Prospect, Anshuman A. Mondal, who is deputy director of the Brunel Centre for Contemporary Writing, launches a wide-ranging critique of Husain’s book. He depicts most of the writers and organisations which are Husain’s targets as advocates of a “Muslim middle way” and denies that they are “Islamist” at all. For example, he defends Abu A’la Mawdudi, the Indian ideologue who has inspired many of the British-born Islamists whose roots lie in the subcontinent. Mondal contrasts Mawdudi with the “violent” ideology of the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb: “The chasm between Mawdudi and Qutb is as wide as that between Fabianism and Bolshevism.” Yet Mawdudi described his ideal Islamic state thus: “In such a state, no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private…the Islamic State bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states.”

Mondal also defends Tablighi Jamaat, the global Muslim proselytising organisation that is behind plans for a “mega-mosque” in east London and whose members have participated in various terrorist attacks and conspiracies. While acknowledging that Tablighi Jamaat was inspired by Mawdudi’s ideas, Mondal goes on to quote an unnamed “intelligence analyst” who compares the group to the RSPCA, which has nothing to do with militant animal rights fanatics.

Finally, Mondal rejects Husain’s criticism of the oldest and most powerful Islamist organisation of all, the Muslim Brotherhood. This, he claims, is now a democratic movement that disavows violence and is similar to Turkey’s moderate ruling party. Naturally Mondal champions Tariq Ramadan, the Oxford academic who is now the Muslim Brotherhood’s most celebrated figure, against Charles Moore, who had the temerity to point out that Ramadan only came to Oxford because the French regard him as an extremist.

Yet Mondal is curiously silent about the Muslim Brotherhood’s most notorious offshoot: Hamas. Coincidentally, as I was reading his essay, it was reported from Gaza that Hamas gunmen had slaughtered 11 fellow Palestinians loyal to Fatah, then denied more than 100 wounded (at least 12 of them children) access to hospital. A handful of survivors of the massacre made it to Israel, where they were treated for their wounds. One said: “Most Gazans hope Israel will invade Gaza after what they’ve been through. We’d love to see the Israelis take out these [Hamas] people.” However, the Palestinian Authority refuses to allow these Gazans into the West Bank. A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority said: “Everyone knows that if we allow people to leave the Gaza Strip, almost all the residents living there would try to cross the border into Israel.”

So the reality of life under Islamist rule – specifically the rule of Islamists who follow the precepts of the Muslim Brotherhood – is Gaza today. Rather than endure Mondal’s “Muslim middle way”, Palestinians would prefer to take refuge in Israel. Curious that Prospect, a magazine that really does belong in the Fabian tradition, should have been so naive as to open its columns to an Islamist rebranding exercise intended to undermine genuinely moderate Muslims.