How does the state pivot its intolerance to terror against the terror that tolerance brings? The loss of civil liberties by the citizenry is a natural consequence of counter-terrorism legislation. Likewise, attention has to be paid to the impact of such legislation on religious publics, in particular, Muslim communities and swirling misdescriptions of Islamic-identity. Magisterial scientific and artistic works from the seventh to the fifteenth century emerged from Isfahan, Samarkand, Istanbul, Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and Cordoba. They cannot be placed in parenthesis. Despite this monumental contribution, there is no reason to doubt that religion played a part in the terrorist attacks in New York, Bali, Madrid and London. These events have brought into relief the malevolent meshwork amongst identity, violence and religion since the Crusades.
While many Muslims would argue fervently that Islam rejects terrorism, one cannot fail to acknowledge that terrorist attacks around the world can be, and indeed have been, fuelled by religious motivations, no matter how misguided. The allegations of the Trojan Horse Letter in November 2013 spurred Ofsted to investigate 21 schools in Birmingham polarising Britain’s relationship with its Muslim citizens. Education Secretary Gove criticized Theresa May for the approach taken to deal with non-violent extremism. Five years later, the provenance of the letter remains veiled despite numerous government reports, parliamentary hearings, and a bewildering array of legal processes.
Today, it is problematic to convince others to acknowledge the relevance of identities other than what is marshalled for the purpose of denigration alongside descriptive distortions of ascribed identity. The Israel-Palestine reality is an experience of dichotomized identities ready to inflict brutal penalties on either side. It is here that Al Qaeda and ISIL rely on cultivating and exploiting a militant Islamic identity. Reports from Abu Ghraib concerning the use of unrestrained power over enemy combatants or presumed miscreants separated the prisoners from their custodians across a hard line of divisive identities. This crowded out any consideration that Muslims on the other side of the breach are tolerant and are not confrontational and have a shared membership within human civilization.
It was Karl Marx who first argued against viewing workers ‘only’ as workers and ignoring their diversities as human beings. I may be a Serbian Orthodox Christian but my religious persuasion is not my all-encompassing and exclusive identity. Identities are robustly plural. The importance of a dominant visage does not obliterate the varieties of categories to which one simultaneously belongs. One can be at once a heterosexual man, a feminist and a defender of gay and lesbian rights, a believer in secularism and atheistic lifestyles, of Slavic ancestry, a citizen of Bosnia Herzegovina, a Canadian resident and a footballer.
The illusion of singularity grows from the substrate that a person not be seen as an individual with multiple affiliations, but just as a member of one particular collectivity that confers on them a uniquely significant identity. This contrivance inspired the ghettoisation of Jews and the Holocaust. The realization that each of us can and do have many different identities allied to different noteworthy groups to which we concurrently belong is quite ordinary and elementary. The importance of one identity need not annihilate the importance of all the others. It is the milieu that determines the mask and the relative importance we attach to the divergent loyalties and priorities that compete within us for precedence.
The fiction of a singular-affiliation hinges on the crude assumption that a person can belong to only one group. Sometimes it is the case that a classificatory unity emerges through social arrangements. A prince guided by Macbethian witches can come to the supernatural belief in the perfidy of persons born into Muslim households. Here Pierre Bourdieu has clarified for us how a social action can produce a difference where none exists and ‘social magic’ can transform people by telling them that they are different.
This is precisely what competitive examinations achieve. At 11+ innocents are sorted-out using a selection test that produces categories which determine life-chances and further education prospects. In this way, the social world constitutes differences by the mere fact of designing them. Such categorizations manufacture dividing lines and scholars thus classified acquire derivative relevance. In arguing that the Anti-Semite creates the Jew, Jean Paul Sartre proffered that charged attributions lead to misdescribed characteristics, which eventually become the salient features of the targeted group’s identity. The Chilcot Report is a homily which took 7 years to write. After 2.6 million words, it concluded that the invasion of Iraq 15 years ago was justified using flawed intelligence. When hostilities ceased and Mr. Hosein was removed, an intolerant Caliphate was declared in the vacuum.