Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Italy names Islamic advisory body

Italy's interior minister Giuseppe Pisanu has announced the 16 members of a newly-established Islamic body which will have a consultative role on issues regarding the integration of Muslims into Italian society. The initiative will increase dialogue "with moderate Muslims, who are our natural allies in combatting extremism" he said. One of the surprises in the line-up was the head of the Italian Union of Islamic Communities (UCOII), Mohammed Nour Dachan, considered a more radical voice among Muslims in Italy.

I am not sure that this is the right way to go, especially involving "more radical voices", as Tony Blair has done. Apparently though, someone thinks it might be the right strategy:

Blair may or may not understand Islam. Here's what he does understand:

  1. The winners write history;
  2. History writes religion (religion shapes but also inevitably conforms to the people over time, not vice-versa);
  3. Social pressure works.

What Blair is doing here is threefold:

  • Setting up social expectations re: British Muslims that will pressure them to live up to them.
  • Offering a psychological "out" that some British Muslims will accept and embrace as part of what their identity should be about (and for many outside the madrassas, it's not a big stretch).
  • Creating a counter-narrative that, in concert with political and military pressure on the Arab/Islamic world, seeks to extend this "redefinition" of Islam more broadly. Some will do this from fear, other because they're tired of having some "bearded monster" (to use a term from Chan'ad Bahraini) dictate to them, and revolt against Islam's internal oppressors.

Anyway, I hope Italy will keep this in mind:

"Why are liberties granted to fascists who threaten those who disagree with them with hell and death? Pursuing the extremists would serve, first and foremost, the Muslim community, and would protect its members more than anybody else..."

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