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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

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Email from a Muslim Student

It always delights me when ex-students and ex-tutees keep in touch after they have moved on to university (or wherever). One of those I’m most delighted by ongoing contact with is Yasmeen. She is bright, stunningly attractive and has a truly wicked sense of humour. She is also a Muslim of Pakistani heritage. Despite the fact we touched upon terrorism in our discussions for the World Sociology and Crime & Deviance topics, Yasmeen never let on to having any particularly strong political or religious views. Her father did, though. In an ‘Asian’ accent so strong I struggled to understand it at times, he described the Taliban as “very bad men”. He hated what they were doing to his country of birth. So I was intrigued by an email from Yasmeen the other day in which she wrote:- “Islam has a lot to offer in terms of spreading knowledge, living peacefully among others and just encouraging individuals to be good people and do the right thing. “I know things are really fragile now with Muslims, I’m sure you’re well aware of all that’s been happening in the news about Charlie Hebdo, the Sydney Siege, Peshawar Massacre (among other things) – it’s really… Read More

The Meaning of Charlie Hebdo…for Islam and the West

The power of the web has been demonstrated very powerfully the last 5 days in just how many cogent positions have been staked out so rapidly re the Charlie Hebdo murders. It also says something about how powerfully the shootings in Paris have touched so many Westerners emotionally to galvanise such strong responses. That in itself, though, is part of a disturbing narrative that feeds into the terrorists’ hate-fuelled ideology. Just 17 people are massacred in Paris and the Western media – formal and social – goes into meltdown. In comparison the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights documentation of over 76,000 deaths in 2014 in the Syrian conflict – the vast majority innocent civilians – warranted around one smallish article per newspaper – eg: The Guardian’s 28 lines – or one short item per news broadcast. The subtext of this comparison is that French lives are worth an awful lot more than Syrian lives – and this comparison is then easily meta-stated into the Western media being racist, anti-Arab, anti-Islamic, etc, etc. It’s one more piece of evidence to support such frames of reference from a line of evidence that notably includes the Americans counting Western lives lost in Iraq 2003-2011… Read More

Will the West seize the Opportunity the Peshawar Massacre may offer…?

Could it be that the horrendous events in Peshawar this week might just become a turning point in the rise of violent Islamist extremism…? A ‘watershed moment’?, as Aamer Ahmed Khan postulates for BBC News. That great founding father of Sociology Émile Durkheim (1893) stated that when a particularly horrific crime takes place, there is often a drawing together of the community in a shared revulsion and outrage of the crime. This strengthens social cohesion – the sense of belonging to a community. For a day or 5 it may seem as though much of the world is a community – united and cohesive in its collective horror, outrage and sadness at the school massacre in Peshawar. Such is the public abhorrence that the pressure put on Pakistan’s politicians and military commanders may actually lead to them taking concerted offensive action against the Taliban. For too long Pakistan’s leaders have been divided amongst themselves as to whether the risk of trying to use the militants to exert influence in the region (especially Afghanistan) was worth the terrorist atrocities committed on Pakistani soil and the opprobrium of the Americans…or they were simply indifferent to what the Taliban (either side of the border)… Read More

Why Scotland and rUK need Each Other

Whatever decision the Scottish electorate make on 18 September – and personally I hope very much they vote to stay in the UK – it needs to be made by a decisive majority. The worst possible outcome would be a wafer-thin majority for either camp – which unfortunately is exactly what the latest polls are predicting. A thin majority for the separatists would leave a sizeable minority of Scots alarmed that their country was leaping into the financial and political abyss, reflected in the anticipated flight of capital and business. A tiny minority for the unionists would leave the separatists angry and frustrated, blaming Westminster and the media for manipulating the vote, and vowing still to free Scotland from the English. The campaigning has been increasingly bad-tempered and vitriolic as the referendum approaches. It would appear from media reports that the worst of it – such as the torrent of online abuse targeting J K Rowling (as reported by the Daily Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith) and the heckling and egging of Scots Labour MP Jim Murphy (as reported by the Daily Mail’s Tamara Cohen & Kaleda Rahman) – has come from the separatists. This would indicate a large degree of RED/BLUE zealotry –… Read More

Leave Gerry Adams alone!

The 4-day arrest and interrogation of Gerry Adams (30 April-3 May) in connection with the murder of Jean McConville in 1972 has raised 2 fundamental questions not only for Northern Ireland but all similar conflicts… How do we deal with the crimes of former terrorists who have gone on to become leading statesmen? How do the victims and the aggrieved in such conflicts get justice – and, if justice can be obtained, should it be at the expense of peace? The world’s most famous ex-terrorist-turned-statesman was, of course, Nelson Mandela. With the background guidance of advisers like Don Beck – see: Don Beck & South Africa – Mandela went from being a convicted terrorist still committed to the ‘armed struggle’ to one of the greatest mediators of peace and reconciliation our world has ever known. Not only was he jailed for sabotage and conspiracy to violently overthrow the government in 1964 but he continued to plot violence whilst in prison – by his own admission (1995) ‘signing off’ on the murderous Church Street bombing of 1983. Yet, in spite of the publicly-acknowledged ‘crimes’, he became a symbol of peace, unity and hope not only for millions of South Africans – black, white… Read More

What Kind of Endgame? What Kind of Syria?

Of course, you can find a steady drip of news from Syria if you look for it; but there haven’t been that many front page headlines about the Syrian conflict since the US stepped back from the brink of a missile attack in the Summer. Under tentative Russian protection, the Syrian Government appears to have co-operated fully with the United Nations weapons inspectors who are reported to be making good progress (BBC News, 2013b) While no one should underestimate how dangerous the inspectors’ task is – and they haven’t yet been able to access some sites which are in highly-contested areas – their success has been without the kind of nightmare casualties I envisaged in Putin a 2nd Tier Thinker. (The BBC’s Jonathan Marcus (2013b) was just one expert who foresaw similar scenarios.) So far the weapons inspectors have done remarkably well, the Syrian Government is credited with meeting its obligations to the UN Security Council and Vladimir Putin with getting them to do that…and the world has breathed a collective sigh of relief. Given the commercial media’s RED/ORANGE rapacious appetite for new and exciting events to draw in the audience, it’s not too surprising the media’s attention has largely gone elsewhere.… Read More

Meanings in the Blood and Turmoil of Egypt

BBC journalist Tim Whewell has posted a brilliant and provocative analysis of the current crisis in Egypt entitled: Egypt Crisis: does Political Islam have a Future? In it Whewell characterises the conflicts which have erupted in Egypt as first the demand for the removal of Mohammed Morsi a month or so back by secularists and since then the demand for his reinstatement by Islamists. The desperate determination of the Egyptian secularists is summed up in Whewell’s piece by the Royal United Services Institute’s Shashank Joshi: “What we’re seeing is a coalition of liberal, secular, youth, revolutionary groups…who have decided that what they value is secularism at all cost, even if the cost is the shredding of every other liberal value that they hold.” While the brutality of the military in repressing the Cairo Islamists is shocking and has drawn condemnation from right around the world, there is ambivalence towards it from many Egyptian secularists. There is real distrust of the Islamists; and the fear meme has spread virally, as Whewell indicates when he says: “President Morsi was removed as much through fear of what he might do in the future as anger over what he had done already.” The Egyptian crisis… Read More

Martin McGuinness for President?

Martin McGuinness, the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, always good for a soundbite, is certainly making some interesting news stories these days.His effective admission yesterday (3 October) that the Provisional IRA did commit murder when innocent people died as a result of their activities is another – major? – step forward in Northern Ireland’s unsteady and decidedly volatile route to a lasting peace. McGuinness told The Independent: “The IRA were involved in quite a number of incidents which resulted in the accidental killing of innocent people and the term used by the relatives of those people who were killed was that they were murdered. I wouldn’t disagree with that. I’m not going to disagree with their analysis of what happened to their loved ones…. I accept that, in the circumstances where innocent people lost their lives, then it’s quite legitimate for the term murder to be used.” Of course, McGuinness maintains that the army and police personnel and Unionist paramilitaries blown up or gunned down by the IRA were legitimate targets in a ‘bitter war’ – to say anything other would be to disrespect both his own past and the hundreds of IRA members who died or served jail sentences for their cause.… Read More

‘Radical Islam’ and the Return of Tony Blair

Wow, Tony Blair sure is back in the news in a BIG way! First the Gordon Brown-bashing memoirs, then having eggs and shoes thrown at him in Dublin on Saturday and being a star guest yesterday on the inaugural showing of the new breakfast programme, Daybreak. And, of course, in the Sunday Telegraph both he and Brown were bashed by former Chief of the General Staff General Sir Richard Dannatt for failing to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq adequately. (Dannatt was in uncompromising mood, blaming Blair and Brown explicitly and personally for needless deaths.) Perhaps the most interesting set of comments to emerge from the seemingly endless round of interviews the former prime minister has conducted were those to do with ‘radical Islam’ and the threat that would be posed by a nuclear Iran. Talking about radical Islam in general, he described it to ABC News as “…the religious or cultural equivalent of [Communism] and its roots are deep, its tentacles are long and its narrative about Islam stretches far further than we think into even parts of mainstream opinion who abhor the extremism but sort of buy some of the rhetoric that goes with it.” Blair told the… Read More

Why is the West ignoring a Leading Moderate Muslim?

Are Western leaders and the Western media missing a critical opportunity to exacerbate the divisions in our Muslim communities, between the minority who advocate the use of terrorism to achieve the establishment of an Islamic hegemony and the majority who do not support such tactics and may even abhor them…? For about 5 hours on 2 March it was hot news: Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a leading Islamic scholar, had issued a detailed 605-page fatwa against suicide bombings and terrorism. He said that terrorism cannot be justified under any pretext through allusion to any real or alleged instances of injustice and there is no space for terrorism in Islam. He regretted the fact that the Islamic teachings, which are based on love, peace and welfare, are being manipulated and quoted out of context to serve the designs of vested interests (such as al-Qaeda). He said that Islam spelled out a clear code of conduct during the course of war and gave complete protection to non-combatants including women, the old, children, etc – with trading centres, schools, hospitals and places of worship deemed to be ‘safe places’. Ul-Qadri’s fatwa is far from being the first to condemn terrorism. As a reaction to 9/11, just days… Read More