Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Dutch American activist, writer, and columnist, best known for her assertion that Islam is elementally incompatible with the democratic values cherished in the West, has penned an article in The Unherd, arguing how the Islamic radicals and those who romanticised the idea of a puritanical version of Islam are radically recalibrating their strategy after the fall of ISIS.
In the article titled ‘Why Islamism became woke’, Ali says Islamists have radically upended their strategy as jihadist militancy has lost its appeal among Muslims. Their revised plan now entails the promotion of Dawa, a concept that refers to the call to Islam, an attempt to draw people towards the Islamic faith. To those who are unaware of the concept, it is a kind of an invitation to join the fold of Islam that many in the west would associate with ubiquitous proselytising missions carried out by the evangelicals.
But in reality, Hirsi Ali contends, Dawa is an elaborately comprehensive propaganda, PR and brainwashing system intended to lure Muslims to accept and adopt an Islamist programme while converting as many non-Muslims as possible.
According to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the objectives of Dawa are not too different from what the militant jihad strives to achieve. With ISIS’s unprecedented barbarity having evoked revulsion among many Muslims, the Islamists, with remarkable dexterity, are exploiting the concept of Dawa to continue to attract the believers towards their extremist beliefs, the article states.
Dawa, a tool that was extensively used by the Muslim Brotherhood in the 20th century, has drawn far less attention than the maximalist concept of militant jihad. However, many western observers and analysts have stressed its “significance” in the supposedly humanitarian activities undertaken by Hamas.
To drive her point home that Dawa and militant jihad are not too fundamentally divergent concepts, Hirsi Ali cites the example of Muslim brotherhood, which she says is far from a moderate organisation as some of the misguided retired CIA officials want to believe. In fact, she quotes a noted observer to assert that Muslim Brotherhood is not a bulwark against jihadism, but a breeding ground for radical ideas.
She further adds that Islamists achieve far more through promoting Dawa than manifesting their jihadist proclivities, which invariably involves the use of barbarity and violence to fulfil their objectives. The threat from Dawa is unsubtle, it is not as conspicuous as militant jihad, Hirsi Ali says. Dawa is about forging networks: international, regional and local, which is what makes it even more dangerous than the menace of violent jihad.
For instance, Saudi Arabia has pumped billions of dollars into Dawa in countries where it plans to expand the influence of Islam. The United States is one of the many countries where these murky and opaque donations have continued unabated. Since these transactions happen under the veneer of charity, spirituality and religion, the western regimes, including the government in the United States, don’t give it much of a thought. As a result, Islamism in western institutions is spreading unchecked and has got a powerful ally for Dawa.
The columnist further explains that the relationship between Islamism and leftism has served to strengthen the rampancy of dawa in the United States. By contrast, in France, Islamo-leftism is likely to be branded as a threat to the model of universal, secular and republic ethos and in the United Kingdom, it remains confined to the fringes, with a few politicians drawing convergence between leftism and Islamism.
However, Ali also highlights the challenges that the unholy nexus of Islamism and ‘wokeism’ face. She cites the clever duality that Al Jazeera practisest. It uploads documentary videos on transgender rights on its website and social media accounts, while at the same time it also broadcasts sermons recommending husbands should beat their wives on its Arabic station.
Nevertheless, Ali still points towards the threat posed by the two movements. She alleges both of them are anti-West and anti-American in nature. Both hold a dim view of “capitalism” based on their respective understanding of individualism. Though ‘wokeism’ is a relatively new concept, the adherents of Islamism have an eager willingness to ally with them to bring about their socio-political objectives.
While the fissures between the two ideologies are already coming out in the open, with many on the left fiercely acknowledging the chasm that exists between universal human rights supported by wokeism and the medieval demands made by the Islamists. However, the opposition is increasingly rare in the United States, Ali laments.
She cites the 2019 Netroots Nation conference — America’s “largest annual conference for progressives” to claim how the United States provided a platform to normalise and rationalise the Islamist agenda. The panel discussions that took place at the conference, Ali says, converged around a critique of Israel while brushing under the carpet the damning role played by Hamas in perpetuating the conflict.
Not just academia, but even the lawmakers in the United States have supported and promoted Islamist propaganda. Ali says Turkish dictator Erdogan’s brutal and repressive measures did not stop Democratic Congresswoman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar from expressing her support for him. The Islamists, on the other hand, including Turkish dictator and rulers of the repressive regime in Iran, have increasingly acquainted themselves with ‘woke’ terminology to provide a cover for their systemic brutality and perpetuate oppression within their own borders.
In her article, Ali states that there is no simple response to the new alliance between Islamism and ‘wokeism’. She adds that Dawa, by its nature, is very difficult to fight as compared to jihad. It is incredibly important that an open, pluralist society be acutely aware of the nature and magnitude of this new challenge. After being afflicted by the scourge of Islamic terrorism for decades, the West has a more pernicious, subtle enemy to contend with.