Extremism experts think Joe Rogan is more dangerous than Hamas
Lecturers on a civil-service counter-terror course in London were more concerned about provocative podcasters than murderous Islamists.
A former civil servant has written about her experience of a civil-service counter-terrorism course at King’s College London. It makes for disturbing reading.
Writing in Fathom earlier this month, Anna Stanley recalls an academic expert on extremism telling attendees that author and journalist Douglas Murray and comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan were examples of ‘far right’ extremists. The lecturer then told attendees that society needed to find ‘ways to suppress’ such figures. He complained that just de-platforming them ‘would cause issues’, because ‘they have millions of followers’.
It gets worse. While this extremism specialist was only too happy to call for tough action against the likes of Joe Rogan, who is not ‘far right’ in the slightest, other lecturers on the course were restrained and even sympathetic towards Islamist extremists. Though the course took place before the atrocities of 7 October, it is still shocking to read of extremism experts encouraging civil servants to consider Hamas as ‘freedom fighters’. After all, Hamas is a proscribed terrorist group under UK law. Yet lecturers were warning civil servants of the risks of making ‘moral judgements’ about Islamist terrorists.
Stanley’s experience of the King’s College course illustrates the double standards at work in our elites’ approach to terrorism and extremism. As William Shawcross explained in the UK government’s review of the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy last year, there tends to be an ‘expansive approach to the extreme right-wing’, capturing a variety of influences ‘so broad it has included mildly controversial or provocative forms of mainstream, right-wing-leaning commentary that have no meaningful connection to terrorism or radicalisation’. At the same time, wrote Shawcross, there tends to be a much narrower approach to Islamism, ‘centred around proscribed organisations, ignoring the contribution of non-violent Islamist narratives and networks to terrorism’.
If Stanley’s account is anything to go by, things are even worse than the Shawcross report suggests. Even proscribed Islamist groups like Hamas are receiving soft treatment from supposed extremism experts.
So why is this happening, especially in academia? Why is it that to be classified as a ‘far right’ extremist you merely have to express mildly right-leaning views, but to be deemed an Islamist extremist you practically have to be on a path to joining ISIS?
Partially, it is because left-wing identitarians dominate the academy today. They are shaping the academic discussion of extremism according to their own worldview. And as we have seen in their response to Hamas’s slaughter of Israelis, Western identitarians now see such terrorism as a righteous – or at least understandable – reaction to supposed Western imperialism. Meanwhile, anyone who criticises this approach is smeared as ‘far right’.
The growing leftist sympathy for Islamism is also being fuelled by the flood of funding to British and American universities from Qatar. As a sponsor and host of the Muslim Brotherhood and its subsidiary, Hamas, Qatar has long invested in softening the image of Islamist extremism in the West.
In the past, Saudi Arabia and the UAE also promoted Islamist extremism abroad, including both Salafism and the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. But both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have since turned against promoting Islamist extremism, declaring it a regional threat. The funding gap they left has been eagerly filled by the Qatari regime.
The influence of this funding from the Gulf, both old and new, is now deeply rooted in Western academia. Its crowning achievement has been to take ideas formed in Islamist circles and push them into the mainstream, via universities.
In 1998, I attended a three-day meeting organised by students associated with the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS). One of the sessions focussed on how British Muslims could increase their influence in British politics, by using and popularising the idea of ‘Islamophobia’. Fast forward to today, and there is an entire industry, much of it in and around academia, promoting the idea that Muslims are uniquely victimised in Western society – a key component of the Islamist victimhood narrative.
Far too little attention has been paid to academics’ embrace of such narratives, especially within the very departments tasked with impartially analysing Islamism. One of the chief effects of Islamist influence activities is a tendency to only see the most extreme examples of violent Islamism as a problem, rather than the ideology which fuels them.
Furthermore, those who do explore and criticise ‘non-violent’ Islamism are often labelled as ‘Islamophobes’ for doing so. Take Georgetown University’s ‘Bridge’ initiative, an ultimately Saudi-funded research project on Islamophobia. On its website, Bridge features an ever-expanding list of ‘fact sheets’ profiling ‘Islamophobes’. Among them are Muslim critics of Islamism, like the journalist Asra Nomani, ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, highly respected academic analysts of Islamism like Lorenzo Vidino and former Democrats like Tulsi Gabbard. These figures are placed alongside neo-Nazi groups and individuals like Stormfront Downunder, David Lane and James Mason. Bridge has effectively put together a blacklist of critics of ‘non-violent’ Islamism, and demonised them by association with actual neo-Nazis.
This is where we are now. A combination of the identitarianism of left-leaning academics and funding from the Gulf has served to whitewash Islamism and smear its critics. It means that a right-wing journalist with a provocative turn of phrase, or a podcaster-comic with a perennially open mind, can be deemed a threat in need of suppression. Meanwhile, the murderous anti-Semites of Hamas can be regarded as freedom fighters. It seems that too many in academia have completely lost the plot.
Alaa al-Ameri is the pen name of a British-Libyan writer.
Picture by: Getty.
To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.