Monday, February 01, 2016
Good Cop, Better Cop
Nathan Lean, Reza Aslan's "gunsel" (as Spencer has wickedly called him -- not to mention "the thuggish Nathan Lean... the creepy Travis Bickle of jihad enablers"), has trimmed his peach goatee and put on a suit & tie like a grownup to construct a concerted hit piece against Maajid Nawaz in the liberalish (i.e., no doubt flamingly PC MC) magazine New Republic.
Needless to say, we wouldn't want to commit the ad hominem and shoot-the-messenger fallacies by dismissing out of hand what evidence Lean brings to buttress his point; though we are under no such obligations when it comes to accepting that point -- namely, his own interpretation that the data he has marshaled indicate that Nawaz is just a slimy opportunist who merely flip-flopped from one position ("extremist jihadism") to another ("reform") out of cynical careerism, with ideology never being all that relevant. Or, rather, that the flip-flop Nawaz performed like a trained seal was actually all a clever ruse just to advance his résumé as a "Former-Terrorist-Now-Muslim Reformer" along a career path where such a display would be eventually rewarded by more and more fame and money.
Leaving aside Lean's interpretation (which, coincidentally, seems to be the interpretation of his sources), we note that the data he has collected is a bit lean insofar as it is mostly the words & memories of individuals who have known Nawaz personally in one capacity or another:
Interviews with his friends and relatives suggest that his account is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies—indications, they say, of a turncoat who cares more about being a well-compensated hero than he does about the cause he champions.
As we noted, the interpretation Lean is foisting through his article is mirrored in his sources -- the juiciest quote which must have titillated his budding journalist's cockles being:
Ashraf Hoque, a friend from Nawaz’s college days, is more blunt. “He is neither an Islamist nor a liberal,” he said. “Maajid is whatever he thinks he needs to be.”
Given that this interpretation comes from apparently exclusively Muslim sources, it should be taken with a grain of couscous.
More interesting about these memories are consistent indications that Nawaz, despite his repeated protestations to the contrary, never left his extremism behind. While these memories, the data of the report, ought also for the same reason arouse our skepticism, it is possible that those sources felt confident enough in the attractiveness of the meme of the Mercenary Opportunist they thought their memories supported, such that they didn't worry that anyone would pause to wonder seriously about the darker implications -- that Nawaz is still a jihadist and thus is an elaborately (and successfully) deceitful stealth jihadist pretending to be a Moderate Reformer.
Thus, for example, we have the contradiction between Nawaz's own words avowing that he had an epiphany while in an Egyptian prison (arrested for terrorism) leading him to Moderate Reform, and the memory of his co-religionist, convert and fellow jihadist Ian Nisbet, who spent years with him in prison and recalls not a shred of any such Damascus experience in Nawaz. Nisbet goes on to imply that Nawaz wasn't sincerely committed to "Islamism" (as Lean puts it) while in prison -- thus strengthening the Merely Opportunist meme that forms a consistent subtext to Lean's exposé; however, on the heels of that, we have the testimony of Yasser Nabi, a cousin of Nawaz, who visited him several times during incarceration:
“In prison, Maajid and I spoke about many things and what was clear at the time was that his views had changed very little,” Nabi said. “In some ways, he became more jihadist in certain things. … Our discussions did not indicate any kind of push towards liberalism.”
Lean also adduces objective evidence that, at least in the aftermath of his release from Egyptian prison and return to the UK, Nawaz showed no signs of having changed his ardently Islamic views.
At a press conference after his discharge, Nawaz said, “I have become more convinced of the ideas that I went into prison with.”
On the BBC’s HARDTalk he urged the establishment of an Islamic caliphate as soon as possible. In January 2007, four months before Nawaz left Hizb ut-Tahrir, he was on the front lines of its protest outside of the United States embassy in Grosvenor Square, condemning colonialist aggression of Western governments and demanding the rise of a global Islamic State to counter it.
No doubt Nawaz could spin (and likely has already spun) this in terms of "You must understand that my awakening out of the Islamist extremism of my angry youth was a long process, during which I understandably continued to lapse back into old habits even as, in the internal stirrings of my conscience, I was indeed undergoing a change of heart... blah blah blah" (hey, maybe Nawaz should hire me as a speech-writer...).
There are more damning memories reported by Lean -- such as one by "AbdusSabur Qutubi, one of Nawaz’s friends in his youth who left Hizb ut-Tahrir in 2006":
Qutubi, whose surname is a pseudonym, met Nawaz outside of the Regent Park mosque after his release and found him more hardened than ever. Britain, Nawaz told him, was an “active land of war,” and as a Muslim in a non-Muslim land, he was not beholden to its laws.
If we broaden our focus and take a step back, we may ask ourselves, why is someone like Nathan Lean, whom Robert Spencer has copiously documented and analyzed to be a loyal hit man of that other Muslim Reformer, Reza Aslan, spending so much time attacking the reputation & bona fides of Maajid Nawaz? One would think that Nathan Lean would welcome with open arms the efforts of yet another Muslim Reformer pushing essentially the same propaganda as his own friend, Reza Aslan... It makes little sense, until we apply some categorical analysis to the situation.
First we note that Reza Aslan and Maajid Nawaz are not the same type of Muslim Reformer: the former is what I have called a "Good Cop" while the latter is a "Better Cop". My detailed discussion of this distinction may be found in my essay Better Cops. A pithy summation would be that the Good Cop's mission is to fool the Western Mainstream which, because it is dominated by the PC MC worldview, is easily fooled; while the Better Cop's role is to try to fool the Counter-Jihad, whose members have become wary and suspicious of the various Good Cops who have come out of the woodwork after 911 to console our alarm at Islam with bland bromides ("Islam is a religion of peace" and "Islam is against all forms of terrorism" and "Islam does not harm those who are innocent", etc.). Insofar as a Muslim may be becoming worried that the Counter-Jihad is a growing (albeit slowly growing) phenomenon in the West, the Muslim will have an interest in infiltrating it in order to plant seeds of disinformation and doubt about the logical need the West has, in the interest of ensuring its own safety in the long term, of suspecting all Muslims of sedition against the West.
Furthermore, we note that Counter-Jihad luminaries such as Sam Harris and Robert Spencer are predisposed to look askance at Good Cop ilk such as Reza Aslan and his chief propagandist Nathan Lean, and to contrast Aslan unfavorably with Nawaz, meanwhile giving the likes of Nawaz (or other Better Cops, like Zuhdi Jasser) every benefit of the doubt. A fairly recent commentary by Sam Harris says it all:
According to Greenwald and the rest of the regressive Left, one can criticize religion in general, but any special focus on Islam must be motivated by bigotry or “Islamophobia.” And on that assumption, many of these people think it’s fair to slander and demonize anyone who does focus on Islam—even a true Muslim reformer like Maajid Nawaz. Maajid is a former Islamist, who now runs a counter-extremist think tank in the UK. And yet for merely entering into a dialogue with me about the prospects of spreading secular, liberal values in the Muslim world, he was branded a “native informant” and a “porch monkey” by Greenwald’s colleague at The Intercept, Murtaza Hussain, and a “lapdog” by Reza Aslan’s employee, Nathan Lean. These people are simply desperate to shut down dialogue on what is fast becoming the most important political and moral question of our time. Everything they do in this area is dishonest and destructive.
Once we have this dynamic in mind, we can see the function of Nathan Lean's attack on a putative Muslim Reformer. In terms of the Better Cop's role with its target being exclusively to fool the Counter-Jihad -- and with the Counter-Jihad already prejudiced against the Good Cops and feeling righteously defensive (with a vague aura of a martyrdom complex) about attacks coming from the Good Cop camp -- we see that the chief effect of a hit piece like Lean's is, seemingly paradoxically, to strengthen, not weaken, the reputation of Maajid Nawaz in the eyes of the Counter-Jihad. And, aside from this surreptitious side benefit, the Good Cop and his PC MC Useful Idiots reap a two-fer: they also help take the wind out of the sails (at least in the eyes of the Mainstream) of the daringly uncomfortable criticism of Islam which a Better Cop like Nawaz deploys like a swashbuckler in order to win favor from, and gain entry into, the hallowed halls of the Counter-Jihad.
It only stands to reason, after all: Just as the Bad Cop, through his "bad" behavior & tactics, makes the Good Cop look comparatively good -- so too the Good Cop by attacking the Better Cop can help maintain the Better Cop's reputation of being... better than the Good Cop! All we have to do is remind ourselves of the ultimate, ulterior goal here: the advancement of Islam. And the necessary corollary: the subversion of any obstacles in the way of that advancement.
I've noticed that the Sam Harris fan club has posted a discussion on Lean's article at the forum officially attached to Sam but which apparently Sam never bothers to read -- and, of course, the thread attracted no robust discussion on the problem (the Sam Harris fans there apparently have better things to do, like praise atheist science and criticize Christians); only two vaguely limp-wristed defenses of Nawaz (one of them preposterously articulating a defense of him even if the Careerist Opportunist meme is true!).