Below are excerpts from an interview with Gilles Kepel (the author of The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West) that was published several years ago in Open Democracy. It’s not new, but Mr. Kepel’s analysis of the convergence of the European radical Left and Islam is even more relevant today:
Islam and the left: an unholy alliance
Gilles Kepel: An interesting new development here is the way Islamists are hijacking the political agenda of the anti-globalisation left, which lacks any political compass of its own. Tariq Ramadan has attended the last two European Social Forums in Paris and London, and has formed an alliance with the far left, in hope of becoming the public voice not only of French Muslim communities but of a “universalist” political agenda. For him, Islam is the destination not the starting-point, and the vehicle is created by a fusion of radical “pro-hijab“ elements within the European Social Forum with the more deluded anti-globalisation activists.
This “entryist” approach is evident in several social coalitions in France, for example a project in the Lyon suburbs (Diverscités) organised by leftists and communists which later included Islamists as representatives of the “exploited Muslim masses”. The founders trained the newcomers in public speaking and debate (the same way I was taught as a young Trotskyist thirty years ago); but when the organisation launched a campaign in defence of prisoners in Guantanamo who came from the Lyon area, the Islamists hijacked the organisation, and the leftists were sidelined.
In the face of such attempt to seize the anti-globalisation movement or its offshoots and local initiatives, greens and ex-leftists look at Islamists the way European fellow-travellers of the Soviet Union viewed the communist parties in France, Italy, Spain or Britain during the cold war. As they once believed the communists to be true representatives of the suffering proletariat, they now see Islamists as spokespersons for the suffering of Muslims, on the bottom rung of European society.
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The Islamist claim of victim status for Muslims worldwide thus has a ready political echo on the left, and helps to blur distinct political agendas and flatten political complexities in the name of a generalised suffering.
Here, “multiculturalism” is one of the key terms in the battle for Europe, because it offers a perfect opportunity for all shades of Islamism to demonstrate that European culture or its traditions are only relative, and that their own worldview is ultimately absolute. European values and perspectives are particular, but at the end of the day if not at the starting-point, theirs are universal.
This is a long way from answering your question about dissimulation. In my view, the question of whether someone like Tariq Ramadan is two-faced is not the real issue. I see nothing particularly wrong in someone who is in politics using all the means at his disposal. The more relevant point is about the kind of alliance he seeks to form with the extreme left, calculating that it is unlikely to long resist the Islamists’ much more potent and organised ideology.
Hat tip: Insubria.