Patrick Sookhdeo does put forward some positive proposals to combat this ideology, which threatens Western civilization immediately, and the rest of the world in the long-term. Some general strategies should begin with what the jihadists are saying, and then by taking their ideology seriously. Religion can no longer be excluded from international relations. We are engaged in a war of ideas and must not be afraid of criticising Islamic ideology. What can we learn from the success and failures in the battle against the Islamists in the United Kingdom? As Andy Hayman, the former Assistant Commissioner in charge of counter-terrorism in Great Britain, commented in The Times of London on 7th July, 2010, he never thought the threat of al-Qaeda would be home-grown, and soon realised that they needed greater intelligence coverage at home. Counter-terrorist police officers were increased from 500 to 2000. However, the money spent, some Â£53 million, on preventing radicalisation seemed to have been a total failure since there were more people who had turned to extremism than before the de-radicalization efforts.
Hayman concluded, “MI5 once published figures stating there are 2,000 people of interest and 200 networks. But they now appear reluctant to declare any figures, possibly because it would paint such a grim picture. We should stop dancing around the problem, which has been dogged by political correctness. The plan to reduce the number of Muslims being radicalised by giving those in the mainstream the confidence to challenge extremists is sensible, but overlooks a couple of important factors. First, the extremist threat is international, and the reasons for its existence are beyond the control of any one country. Second, sections of the Muslim community are so suspicious of police involvement that these projects cannot gain traction.” The solution is greater intelligence gathering, winning support from Muslim community, and international co-operation.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo also wondered about the prospects in the Islamic world. There were some hopeful signs since some Muslim governments were engaging the terrorists at an ideological level, seeking to undermine some of their arguments. There were a number of pronouncements by individual former jihadists or former hardliners renouncing violence such as Dr Sayyid Imam Sharif. Mansour al-Nogaidan, a Saudi and former Salafist who has embraced Sufism wrote, “Muslims are too rigid in our adherence to old, literal interpretations of the Koran. It’s time for many verses — especially those having to do with relations between Islam and other religions — to be reinterpreted in favor of a more modern Islam. It’s time to accept that God loves the faithful of all religions. It’s time for Muslims to question our leaders and their strict teachings, to reach our own understanding of the prophet’s words and to call for a bold renewal of our faith as a faith of goodwill, of peace and of light.”
However, despite these positive developments, said Dr Sookhdeo, “the essential ideological problems still remained unsolved. Most counter-Islamist policies are carried out by conservatives who are not prepared to tackle the deeper theological legitimacy which terrorism derives from Classical Islam and the sources. Unwilling to argue that: [a] Aggressive texts in the sources should be contextualised, and [b] Sources and models are not applicable to the modern world”. In any case, the reformers and moderates in the Islamic world remain largely marginalized. What makes change in the beliefs of individuals from the Muslim world difficult is the fact that there is no culture of dissent or freethought, or a tradition of uninhibited exchange of ideas as in the West. Individuals remain firmly wedded to their ideologies- a abandonment of their beliefs is a far more traumatic affair in the Islamic world- apart from being dangerous. A self-confessed atheist would not last long in the streets of Cairo or Karachi. Then there is whole culture of honor and shame: a change in beliefs would bring shame on their family, tribe, and religion.
Dr Sookhdeo’s conclusions were bold. We must avoid wishful thinking, and acknowledge the role of Islam, and Islamic theology in inspiring the Islamists. I would go further. I believe, and I must emphasize that I, Ibn Warraq, alone am responsible for the following observations, that we cannot hope to reform Islam without attacking the fundamental tenets of Islam adhered to by Muslims of all colors and stripes, not just Islamists. We shall never make progress until we subject the Koran to the kind of analysis and criticism that was applied to the Bible by Spinoza in the 17th Century, and the great German scholars of the Nineteenth Century, such as Julius Wellhausen and Albert Schweitzer. We must embark on a series of translations into Arabic of works of Koranic criticism, of skepticism, of the great books of Western civilization. We must support the separation of religion and state, and secularists in the Islamic world. We must defend the religious minorities in the Muslim world: by according non-Muslims their human rights, Muslims would already be on their way to secularism.