Friday, May 22, 2009


With the end of the Bush administration and the coming economic crisis a number of formerly hot topics have gone rather quiet. Iraq, terrorism, Islamic-American relations and Islam itself have largely subsided as topics for conversation. Part of it is the rise of the latest and greatest crisis story and increased (but not enough of an increase) of attention paid to global warming, but there is also a sense that now that Obama is in office, everything overseas will just be dandy.

Just because we are not paying attention doesn't mean things still aren't happening though. We should all listen to the debate surrounding Ed Hussain's the Islamist, Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I Saw and Why I Left. Originally published in Great Britain, the book caused quite a storm of controversy. A number of the center and right papers wrote positive notices, while the major left paper, the Guardian, and a number of others had less positive things to say about it. Wikipedia has a nice summary of the arguments.

One of the major arguments is over whether his depiction of the state of militant Islam in modern Britain is accurate or not. That will take someone more learned in the subject to say. What I can say is that the book provides a personal view of how militants (of all stripes) recruit, manipulate and use young people to build dangerous movements. It isn't as if Hussain lacked positive role models. His had a loving family, a solid education and a mentor in a socially and philosophicaly oriented rather than politicaly oriented Islam.

Americans will of course be interested in whether the aggressively anti-Western Islamic movements of Britain could arise here in the United States. Hussain addresses this in an afterword for the US edition. His answer is that the short term looks good, because American society is more inclined to assimilate newcomers than Europe but long term risky, as the Wahabists are beginning to make inroads.

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