Kenan Malik on Islamism and racist populism as identity politics

March 1, 2015 at 9:32 pm (intellectuals, islamism, Jim D, populism, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", religion, terror, youth)

Kenan Malik

“Identity politics has, over the last three decades, encouraged people to define themselves in increasingly narrow ethnic or cultural terms. A generation ago, “radicalised” Muslims would probably have been far more secular in their outlook and their radicalism would have expressed itself through political organisations. Today, they see themselves as Muslim in an almost tribal sense, and give vent to their disaffection through a stark vision of Islam.

“These developments have shaped not just Muslim self-perception but that of most social groups. Many within white working-class communities are often as disengaged as their Muslim peers, and similarly see their problems not in political terms but through the lens of cultural and ethnic identity. Hence the growing hostility to immigration and diversity and, for some, the seeming attraction of far-right groups.

“Racist populism and radical Islamism are both, in their different ways, expressions of social disengagement in an era of identity politics. There is something distinctive about Islamist identity. Islam is a global religion, allowing Islamists to create an identity that is intensely parochial and seemingly universal, linking Muslims to struggles across the world, from Afghanistan to Palestine, and providing the illusion of being part of a global movement.

“In an age in which traditional anti-imperialist movements have faded and belief in alternatives to capitalism dissolved, radical Islam provides the illusion of a struggle against an immoral present and for a utopian future”.

Kenan Malik is always worth taking notice of. He was obviously too bright to stay with those idiots calling themselves the ‘Institute of Ideas’, and now seems to have broken with them and become a free-lance intellectual of considerable force. His article on Islamism in today’s Observer is outstanding, and if you haven’t already done so, you should read it now.


  1. patrick said,

    Malik’s got a point. But he’s a ‘self hating Muslim’, and he used to belong to a cult called the RCP and his guru is frank furedi.

    • Jim Denham said,

      He’s now broken with the cult called the RCP/Institute of Ideas’, etc.

      Calling him a “self-hating Muslim” is just an insult with no political meaning.

  2. damon said,

    Calling the ”Institute of Ideas” idiots is a bit silly when there are posts on this website that sound like they were written by Arthur Scargill.
    The one that was called ”Open letter to Socialist Party members in Unite” sounded like it was.

    I know that most people on the left don’t get them at all, but they give better analysis than most today in my opinion.
    Just look at the Spiked coverage of the Chelsea FC racists in Paris story for example. Who else would say that? (and they were totally right imo.)

    I rate Kenan Malik highly, and even amid the bluster, Brendan O’Neill can be pretty good too.

    ”Why don’t we tell students that Kant is better than the Koran?”

  3. Rosie said,

    Malik is an atheist and seems to have dropped his religion pretty easily. “Self-hating Muslim” is ridiculous. He cut his political teeth on the anti-racism of the 70’s & 80’s, not later identity politics.

    He never says anything about his association with RCP. Given that he’s clever and has depth whereas the rest are a bunch of shallow contrarians, I always find it hard to believe he was one of them.

    • damon said,

      I’ve read you saying that about Spiked/RCP many times now Rosie, but without ever saying why exactly. So that criticism doesn’t count imo.

      While I think that there is something a little annoying about the style they have, they make good seemingly unique points every week.
      Maybe it’s just that certain kinds of views and analysis are completely incompatible and toxic to each other.
      So you will have the Morning Star which this site seems to think worth talking about on the one hand and some twitter incontinant like Sunny Hundal – who is more like Russell Brand on the other.
      I know it’s not your way (you know I got banned on Harry’s Place by the way?) but I’d almost challenge you on Spiked to show how relevant they are. But I don’t think you’d get that either. Criticising anti racist campaigns like ”Kick it Out” for example. I have never seen any left criticism of that anywhere outside of Spiked. And the greater part of the left just wouldn’t get that criticism I think. Do you?
      Oh, I remember you saying you don’t read it so you probably don’t know about it.

      Kenan Malik was the etitor of the weekly RCP sheet The Next Step for a time. This was just a simple A4 sheet with a few stories on it when Living Marxism had taken over as the main publication for them. But shows he was definitely quite involved.

      For all their ”contrarianism” at least they never backed the wars in Iraq like some did. And they’re absolutely right about the terrible state of censorship that exists at universities today. That censoriousness seems like a logical consequence of many mainstream left positions from the 1980s – with no-platform rules etc.
      And where else will you have heard any criticism of gay/equal marriage from people who always supported gay rights?
      I suppose it does sound contrarian – but it just isn’t.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: