Reality shows are supposed to convey a sense of reality using “real-life” people. The “reality” is, however, that the shows are as real as the statements coming forth from the mouths of politicians. This is the case in a post-modern age when lying has become an unquestioned furniture of an increasingly dire political landscape. As the flurry of well-orchestrated distraction events unfold in the US, it is difficult to accept that what we are witnessing is no longer Donald Trump’s political version of the Apprentice but something far more tangibly sinister.
A Prevent Strategy for Trump
A number of issues crop up from Trump’s ascendance to power. For instance, how does Britain, which projects its “British values” of democracy, freedom, equality and individual liberty internationally, square its relationship with a man who has the nation on the street protesting against him (time for a “regime change”?); discriminates against Muslims; candidly gropes women; publicly berates the press bar the bastion of post-modern “truth” that is Fox News, shares cheery relationships with authoritarian dictators and openly advocates torture and the killing of innocent civilians? Indeed, how will Prevent deal with this Presidential “extremist” when he sets foot on British soil, radicalising the already effervescent far-right?
It is a conundrum for Theresa May, but a greater one for people in Britain. With Brexit jeopardising Britain’s trading strength in the EU, the country has little choice but to succumb to the US, her conditions and a morally vacuous man who has enhanced his business empire on scandals. Abandoning a “moral compass” to please Britain’s largest single export market is not a matter of prudence, but a necessity. When BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg recounted some of the abovementioned patriotic values to Trump and May, before asking May whether she remained true to her promise to be “frank” with Trump on these issues, Trump’s response was revealing:
“That’s your choice of a question? That’s it for that relationship”.
May believes Trump was listening, since this is “part of having a dialogue”. Listening, however, is one thing, acting on what is said is completely another. A post-Brexit Britain is in no position to making policy-changing demands.
From a Muslim perspective, this should be a cause for alarm.
Beyond the “Muslim ban”: Egypt
Since her visit, the “Muslim ban” has shocked the world. Countries which are banned (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) are those that have stood witness to years of violent American interference. Indeed, Trump has already overseen a “dawn raid” in Yemen which had resulted in a slaughter of thirty civilians, including ten women and young children.
More telling are the countries which have not been banned. Countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, all of which operate as proxies for US militarism and propaganda programmes like countering violent extremism (CVE – this is the international equivalent of the Prevent Duty), have survived. Egypt is a particularly worrying case as, as we shall see, the foreign policy aims of the ominous US military strategists align with the dictator-ruled country and, most significantly, Israel. There is a reason why, no sooner had Trump taken charge, he was on a call to Sisi to discuss how to “deepen the bilateral relationship” and “support” Egypt’s war on terrorism and “extremism”.
Egypt’s policies have been shaped by contemporary crusaders like Tony Blair as early as 2014. Described as Sisi’s “éminence grise” (a powerful, “behind-the-scenes” decision-maker), Blair has been responsible for “polishing” Sisi’s image. Taking advantage of Egypt’s spiralling economic situation, Blair has been perpetuating his warmongering “existential battle against Islamism” in the region. As per an article published in the same year concerning counter-extremism on the pro-Israel, Islamophobia-financed Tony Blair Faith Foundation website, Blair does not regard a “fringe” element of Muslims to be the problem. Rather, he considers that the whole “spectrum of opinion based on a world view which stretches far further into parts of Muslim society” requires fighting. The same article has also asserted that “it is massively to our advantage that President Sisi succeeds” and furthermore “we should help him.” As we shall see further below, this seems to have led Sisi to a flurry of “reform Islam” demands.
Blair’s clarion call to support Sisi seems to have worked. His carefully modelled image as the face of a moderate “Sisi Islam” has resonated with bloodthirsty hawks in Washington. Sisi’s violent, counter-Islam, pro-Israel strategy is precisely the type of thinking which correlates with the minds of those surrounding Trump.
War on Terror 2.0: The War on Islam
While attempting to use generic language, CVE programmes invariably involve the forced formation of an Islam which is “reformed”, or rather, deformed in a manner which renders the faith neutered of any type of activism. Towards the end of last year, a narrative in the US started to gain prominence which saw the criticising of CVE policies instituted under Obama by neocons. The former chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Michael McCaul, while seeking the position as chief of the Department of Homeland Security, called for the administration to repeal Obama’s “failed, politically correct” CVE policy. He sought to have it replaced with a strategy which explicitly targeted “radical Islamist terror”.
This expressly discriminatory policy has its roots in disconcertingly unhinged far-right neoconservative thinking. The neocon conspiracy theorist, Frank Gaffney’s, Center for Security Policy in 2014, citing Michael Ledeen among others, argued in 2014 that terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims are not terrorism but something unique, due to it being solely motivated by Islamic ideology, an approach which contradicts growing academic consensus. They further argued that terms like “violent extremism” and terrorism are insufficient to define “the Islamic threat”. Instead, the Islamically illegal act of terrorism should be called Jihad. The highlighting of colonialism and subsequent economic and cultural colonialism by the West, as well as violent “interventions” in the name of spreading democracy in the discussion on terrorism are, they assert, attempts to weaken US defence.
This unequivocally anti-Islam, clash of civilisations analysis has been replicated in Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and ultra-neocon Michael Ledeen’s 2016 book Field of Flight.
Ledeen is an extreme proponent of the fascist ideas of neoconservative figurehead Leo Strauss. He has suggested that politicians should adopt “Machiavellian Leadership”, which consists of sometimes resorting to evil actions like being a dictator in order save freedom. To demonstrate this point Ledeen points to Mao and Hitler as model examples. Of relevance is that Ledeen has supported Blair’s analysis on the Middle East.
In an interview with the Intercept last year, Flynn was crystal clear as to which faith required subjection to a “political struggle”:
“This is a political struggle… Islam is a political ideology masked behind a religion, using religion as an advantage against us. Islam is a political ideology. Sharia, the law of Islam, OK? Sharia is the law. Just like our Constitution is our law.”
The book enhances George Bush’s Axis of Evil by linking ISIS to the governments of North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba – an association which “strains credulity”.
Flynn and Ledeen attack the very foundations of Islam by renewing old colonialist language:
“Shariah is a violent law that is buried in barbaric convictions”
They outline their updated “counter-extremism” strategy in the following terms:
“Another more fundamental and dramatic effort would be a call for a complete reformation of the Islamic religion. This must start inside the Muslim community in order to succeed – but it must start somewhere. This need for a “religious” reformation is more for political purposes than purely religious.”
And the model conduit for this agenda?
“Finally, a call for religious reformation in the Islamic religion was expressed in an incredibly brave and bold speech by the leader of Egypt, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, on New Year’s Day 2015… “President Sisi has been a vocal supporter of a renewed vision of Islam and he is one who should be internationally admired and respected for his intellectual courage in this call for a reformation of the Islamic religion.“
Sisi, using the counter-terrorism pretext, has proscribed the peaceful Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation – a position the Gaffney-advised Ted Cruz is currently tabling a bill for despite the organisation not posing a national security threat. The Egyptian dictator has also leveraged the now state-controlled Al-Azhar University in a “crusade” against “extremism” using the once prestigious university to create a deformed “Sisi Islam”. Mosques too are now being controlled directly by the Sisi regime. The type of reformation called for by Sisi, as espoused in a lecture to Azhari scholars in December 2015, is one which is similar to reformation attempts here in Britain through deformist think-tanks like Dilwar Hussain’s New Horizons for British Islam. It carries the hallmarks of a Christianisation of the faith. Indeed, churches in Egypt now appear to have greater freedom than mosques.
Unsurprisingly, Sisi’s talk of effectively Christianising Islam was proliferated by Steve Bannon’s Breitbart propaganda outlet. Recognising that Sisi, like the abovementioned neocons, solely identifies Islam itself as the problem and excises Western policies from the “radicalisation” equation, the principal propagators of anti-Islam hatred, the Clarion Project, have also identified him as the person who may “spark what the world needs most: an Islamic reformation”. Like the neocons, Sisi has dressed up the deformation of Islam as an attempt to counter terrorism and extremism.
There is, however, utter hypocrisy in all this deformation discourse. While calling on Muslims to deform their faith using hermeneutical twists which would put a contortionist to shame, the Trump regime is putting in place “literalist” judges to interpret the US Constitution in a narrow fashion, without regard to changes that have occurred in American society since the 18th century document was written!
Sisi – The American-Trained Soldier of “Reformation”
Noticeably, Sisi’s Islam also endorses an unremitting security nexus with Israel, which seems to have begun days before the deposition of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi.
In August 2016, Flynn gave a lecture about the contents of his book at the Ahavath Torah Congregation in Massachusetts. Introducing Flynn was Rabbi Jonathan Hausman. Hausman, questioning why the Republicans had previously supported the government of Morsi and not the despotic regime of Sisi, described Sisi as an “American-trained soldier”, who “espoused reform of Islam”.
To better understand the Rabbi’s statements regarding Sisi, it is worth considering that in 2009, he organised an event at his synagogue in conjunction with notorious neoconservative Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, an organisation identified by the US think-tank Centre for American Progress as one of the eight largest financiers of Islamophobia. The event hosted the British-banned fascist Islamophobe Geert Wilders to screen his inflammatory anti-Islam production “Fitna”.
Sisi, quite evidently, seems like a neocon-propped strongman, advocated by anti-Islam pro-Israeli Rabbis, Flynn, Ledeen and Blair. His utility is providing a blueprint for yet more attempts to destroy Islam and assert control over Muslims.
The above outlines the ideological dimension of the War on Islam.
Militarily noteworthy is the fact that Flynn is close to Trump’s apocalyptic Chief Strategist who now sits above military generals at the National Security Council: Steve Bannon. Bannon echoes Ledeen in that he believes “darkness”, like Satan, Dick Cheny and Darth Vader, “is good”. He has called for the strengthening of the Judeo-Christian stronghold against the perceived threat of Islam. Bannon is a man who thinks that Obama was not warring enough despite Obama’s penchant for extra-judicial killings and dropping tens of thousands of bombs on Muslims. When this is taken into consideration along with his seemingly psychotic obsession with war, “tough and ruthless” military men and his agenda for global “aggressive military action” to defeat “radical Islamic terrorism”, the future looks like a world descended into further chaos.
Bannon’s world view is world on fire with Islam and Muslims as the fuel.
The Islam of Sisi’s arch rival, Morsi, was pluralistic, inclusive and outreaching. By supporting Sisi, the message from Blair, Ledeen, Flynn, Bannon, and Trump is that all kinds of Islam are unacceptable unless Muslims agree to Christianise their faith through whole-scale reformation.
Bannon’s anti-Islam Breitbart, which has been conceived in Israel, has consistently attacked grassroots Muslim organisations like the apolitical Tablighi Jama’at. Already, “Muslim reformers” slave to the neoconservative agenda have welcomed the “Muslim ban” and called on the Trump regime to focus on “underlying extremist” groups like Salafis and Deobandis. British Muslims for Secular Democracy, founded by Yasmin Alibhai Brown and run by Tehmina Kazi, is an organisation dedicated to “reforming” Islam. Its Facebook manager, Shaaz Mahboob, has expressed confidence that Trump can deal with Islam through “strategic alliances” with “pro-reform Muslims” at the exclusion of “Islamists”.
Serious questions are to be raised concerning May’s visit. Will May issue forth a set of instructions, which have been suggested to her as part of her “listening” exercise and “special relationship”, that target a wide range of Ulama and grassroots Muslim organisations? Will the government continue and strengthen the failed attempts to “reform” Islam through delegitimised, secretly funded “independent” organisations and “counter-extremism” strategies?
The War on Terror has led the US down a path which has culminated in destruction across the Middle East and state-sanctioned discrimination of Muslims in the West. Far from learning lessons, a supercharged version of the War on Terror is being formed with more “ruthless” violence and a more aggressive ideological war on Islam. The Muslim community must remain on guard against the designs of deranged fascist neocons who have taken War on Terror strategies to a whole new level of agitation and hatred in an explicit attempt to eradicate the faith of 1.9 billion Muslims.
 Michael Ledeen, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership, pp.173-174, pp.19-20
 Flynn and Ledeen, The Field of Flight, p.110
 Ibid. pp.132-133
 Ibid. p.133-134
 Ibid. 1:20
 Kazi is associated with neocon, Ledeen-linked activist Caroline Cox. C.f. http://5pillarsuk.com/2016/01/07/tell-mama-is-nearing-its-sell-by-date/ and http://powerbase.info/index.php/Caroline_Cox
The views expressed on Islam21c and its connected channels do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation.