A widely researched argument about why the war on terror will have no success unless the West stops blaming Islam and starts locating the roots of political dissent.
In fighting the war on terror, Kundnani (Terrorism Studies/John Jay Coll.; The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain, 2007) sees the governments of the U.S. and Britain as employing the same wrongheaded surveillance tactics that were created by the Russians and sharpened by the CIA, then the FBI, in cracking down on dissidents during the Cold War and the civil rights era. The problem, writes the author, is that Muslims have become an “ideal enemy,” perceived by mainstream American and British societies as unable to assimilate properly due to the essential flaw in their religion: the inability to separate church and state. Policymakers view extremism as a “perversion of Islam’s message,” the twisting of what is essentially a benign religion into “an antimodern, totalitarian, political ideology.” The truth is that most people are peace-loving and assimilationist, and Muslim communities have become a kind of “Asian model minority.” Yet some of the youth, thwarted in their political expression, lash out in extremism—e.g., in the reaction to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the plight of the Palestinians against Israeli aggression. In the crackdown on anti-extremism, scholars of “radicalization”—i.e., the process by which Muslims move toward terrorism—zero in on a spurious “cultural-psychological predisposition” toward violence and disaffection that offers intelligence and law enforcement agencies a framework to work with but does not address what Kundnani believes is at the root of the unrest: poverty and oppression. His examples of the pernicious reach of many policing tools are useful, such as the Prevent model launched in Britain in 2004, provoking questions about privacy and discrimination.
Kundnani frankly and refreshingly moves away from ideological symptoms and toward political causes in tackling extremism.