Tom Gallagher

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Tom Gallagher is the chair of East European Studies in the Department of Peace Studies at Bradford University and a research fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington DC.[1] As a 'leading Scots academic on religious affairs'[2] he has repeatedly condemned the Scottish Government for its alleged role in being 'soft' on radical Islam. The roots of Gallagher's attacks on Salmond go back some way though, to the 1990s and the condemnation by the SNP leader of Western military intervention in Kosovo. Gallagher wrote two books on sectarianism in Scotland in the 1980s and then he spent much of the 1990s writing on Eastern Europe including especially on Romania and the Balkans. Gallagher’s criticism of Islam and ‘Islamism’ has a number of origins. The first of these is his scepticism about, not to say hostility towards the Scottish National Party in general and its leader Alex Salmond in particular. The second is his evolving position on the threat posed by ‘Islamism’. Both are linked by his support for Western military intervention in the Balkans in the early 1990s

On the Balkans

On the break up of Yugoslavia

On the break up of Yugoslavia, Gallagher was a partisan of the Bosnian Muslims and advocate of Western military intervention. In 1992 he condemned ‘masterful Western inactivity‘ in relation to ‘a blatant example of modern aggression’ and proposed the ‘simple expedient of sending a few dozen Nato aircraft into the sky to knock out the Serbian irregular positions’[3]

Gallagher also condemned the ‘hands-off’ approach of the British government:

In Europe, it is our Foreign Secretary who has been champion of the hands-off approach. Perhaps he sees himself in the footsteps of Disraeli, who stood idly by when the Turkish sultan ordered the massacre of his Christian subjects in Bulgaria in the 1870s, something from which Disraeli's reputation never recovered. [4]

Criticising the left opposition to NATO intervention, he stated:

Even the British peace movement has vacillated when faced with a war being primarily waged against civilians[5]

Using the Nazi analogy he concluded:

Our response to the Bosnia tragedy convinces me that if Hitler had gassed thousands of German Jews while still at peace with the rest of Europe, not only would nobody have stopped him but few effective representations would have been made in international forums. [6]

On anoher occasion he upbraided members of the ‘Socialist Group’ of MEP’s for criticism of Jean Marie Le Pen of the French Front National while saying little on Milosevic, ‘whose misdeeds make those of a French neo-fascist absolutely puny.’ [7]

On Muslims and Islam in the 1990s

Gallagher’s writing on Bosnia reveals a position on Islam which appears quite different on the surface to his more recent writings on Islam in the UK. He supported the Bosnian Muslims when under attack from Serb nationalism. Not only that, but he specifically stated how ‘decent’ and ‘well-adjusted’ they were:

From what I know of the Muslims of Bosnia, they are a decent, well-adjusted people, and several thousand of them ought to have no trouble in adjusting to life in Mr Hurd's Witney constituency. [8]

In December 1992 Gallagher wrote that he had ‘pondered the numb response towards the ordeal of Bosnia's Muslims’. [9]

He argued that it may be some kind of anti Muslim stereotypes at work:

One conclusion I have come to is that many of our responses are still shaped by stereotypical attitudes to whole peoples or faiths. Thus there is the lingering feeling that the Bosnian Muslims are descendants of the wild, murderous Turks who threatened Europe for centuries. This is despite Europe's oldest Muslim community being Slavs, who were the most peaceable of the peoples in the former Yugoslav federation and whose emphasis on mutual tolerance did not prepare them for the cruelties unleashed by a minority of Serbs. [10]

In 1994 Gallagher attended an Iranian government conference on Bosnia. The Tehran Times reported that:

Dr. Tom Gallagher of Bradford University… believes that the tragedy of Bosnia could in time help to narrow the chasm between Iran and the West as suggested by Bosnia's Foreign Minister, Irfan Ljubljankic.
The reader in peace studies was among some fifty scholars and political and religious leaders from the Islamic world to take part in Tehran's August conference on 'The Future Prospects of Bosnia,' which was also attended by a large delegation from Sarajevo.
At the conference organized by the Iranian Institute for Political and International Studies, Dr. Gallagher presented a paper examining the role of historical stereotypes conditioning the West's limited response to the Bosnian conflict.
He said that the conference was not choreographed to produce an Islamic world view on Bosnia. Instead, he found a wide range of opinions being freely expressed and a diversity of views among Iranian policy-makers.
Dr. Gallagher's visit to Tehran is reviewed in Bradford University's latest peace studies quarterly newsletter, saying that he found officials viewing the West's response to Bosnia both complex and contradictory.
The Iranian government was "determined to assert a role in defending threatened Muslims in the Balkans," but not in the shrill of anti-Western rhetoric that is commonly projected by the Western media in describing Iranian activities abroad.
Policy-makers in Tehran were said to see no contradiction in asserting a European role for Iran given that the "West has refused to uphold ethical principles in its own continent as well as licensing Russian interference in Bosnia."
In conclusion, the newsletter said that Dr. Gallagher believed it would be "unwise" to see Iran's high profile in the Balkans as a cause of danger in the West.[11]

His view was also echoed in a letter to the guardian on Chechnya in November 1994 in which he claimed that ‘Western elite indifference stems partly from the fact that many Bosnians are Muslims, a point unlikely to be lost on those advising Yeltsin in his Caucasian adventure.[12]

In discussing the elections in Ankara, Turkey in 1996 Gallagher gives an account of the rise of radical Islam which does not reduce it simply to religiosity:

Peasants tried to make sense of their lives in the strange big city by increasingly turning to Islam. The Welfare Party, financed by Saudi Arabia and committed to restoring Islamic law and rolling back secularism, captured their loyalties. In 1993, the secular middle-classes received a shock when it won local elections in Istanbul and Ankara. But the lack of any credible alternative, as much as its religious message, explains the success of radical Islam.[13]

On Scotland and Islam

Critic of the SNP and Scottish nationalism

Gallagher's support for the civic nationalism of the SNP evaporated when the SNP opposed Western military intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s. In a letter to the ‘’Sunday Herald’’ in 1999 he specifically referenced this in his argument about the darker side of nationalism.

Salmond was the only leader of a sizeable west European political party to give Belgrade a mighty propaganda boost by calling for peace talks in the first week of the war when Milosevic's goons were doing their worst in Kosovo. [14]

Gallagher argued that ‘recent events concerning the Old Firm’, (meaning sectarian clashes at football matches) show that ‘Yugoslav style-passions are to be found in Scotland and not just in the darkest of corners.’ [15] This, of course is to confuse ethnic tensions in Scotland relating to Irishness/Scottishness with the civic nationalist project of the SNP. While he notes that ‘Home Rule is a marvellous opportunity’, he concludes that ‘Launching a new state … is a mug's game’. Instead Scotland should ‘move decisively along a post-nationalist path.’ [16]

Criticism of 'Islamism'

After 1999, Gallagher seems to make very little public comment on either Scottish nationalism, the SNP or on Islam. He stops writing about Bosnia in the press and it is only in 2006 that he starts to feature again, this time commenting in a negative way about Muslims and Islam. His first foray in this area (at least the first captured on the Lexis Nexis database of English language news) was in an Irish newspaper report by the well known right winger and Irish historical revisionist Ruth Dudley Edwards.

According to Dudley-Edwards account of a London seminar, at which other speakers included Anthony Glees, Gallagher

spoke of how rapidly-expanding higher education and falling academic standards were helping the Islamist cause. Because so many universities are desperate for money, they are prepared to take students of low calibre from home and abroad. Some - in receipt of generous donations from places like Saudi Arabia - are determined at all costs to be Islam-friendly and turn a blind eye to even the dodgiest-looking foreigners. What has emerged is a fifth column undermining our democracy from within, as the fascists did the Weimar Republic.
Easy prey for extremists, said Gallagher, are British students whose talents suit them to be plumbers or carpenters, but whose parents are starry-eyed about their becoming professionals. With poor grades, they end up on a pointless course at a mediocre university and realise that they'll end up in some dead-end job. This makes them perfect recruiting material for those promising to give them a way of making sense of their lives. First, they are offered brotherhood and, through Islamic teaching, clear instructions on how to live each minute of your life. Then comes the indoctrination in the victim culture, the propaganda videos showing the suffering of brothers and sisters in Palestine and Chechnya and Iraq at the hands of Christians and Jews: obviously, no one points out that more Muslims are killed by Muslims than by anyone else. Nor are they told of how the West rescued Kuwait, or saved Muslims in the Balkans. The videoed sermons preaching the extermination of Jews and infidels come next.[17]

The Economist reported similar views from both Glees and Gallagher in October 2006:

Tom Gallagher, who studies ethnic conflict at Bradford University, says that the government's drive to increase the proportion of young people at university to 50% by 2010 has led to poorly educated Muslim students pitching up at universities. Some, confused and struggling, become easy targets for demagogues who enable them to make sense of their lives.[18]

Attack on Alex Salmond

Following the terrorist attack on the Glasgow airport, Gallagher launched a sweeping attack against Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond for his nuanced approach toward Scottish Muslims. Gallagher accused Salmond of pandering to 'minorities' comparing him to 'Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt or the Irish leader Michael Collins', men who he argues were out to harm Britain.[19] Writing on the blog Harry's Place, he has also compared Salmond to Hitler on another occasion.[20]

Islam and 'Culture Talk'

Gallagher has contributed material to Harry's Place. In his writings Gallagher is always at pains to attack what he calls 'Islamism' rather than Muslims, this is not so obvious from the implications of his statements. Following the terrorist attack on the Glasgow airport, Gallagher wrote an article for Open Democracy which reads:

[Osama] Saeed's argument that the Muslim community's moderation is a given might be confirmed by the absence (in those parts of Glasgow where most Scots Muslims reside) of the Islamic bookshops, bitter young men and fully-covered women that are characteristic of parts of London and of other English urban conurbations with large Muslim populations.[21]

Here is he defining 'moderation' by the absence of things he lists: the presence of 'Islamic bookshops, bitter young men and fully-covered women' would presumably be an example of Muslim community's lack of moderation. Of course Glasgow has Islamic bookshops,[22] and many fully covered women. But does a Muslim's strict observance of Islam translate into political immoderation? It is also not unlikely that there are bitter youth in Glasgow. It is not self-evidence however that this is due to Islamic immoderation rather than socio-political reasons. This deliberate blurring of cultural and political categories -- what the noted African scholar Mahmood Mamdani has called 'Culture Talk'[23] -- allows Gallagher to indict all observant Muslims by implication.[24]

On Osama Saeed, a frequent target of his attacks, he writes:

Media outlets which have reported police appeals for vigilance have not raised with Saeed his political track-record; none appears to have approached him in the spirit of sceptical inquiry that animates coverage of other prominent figures (for example, suggesting that there might be a tension between his extravagant condemnation of the Glasgow attack and support for radical Islamism, even that that this combination might be part of an intellectual taqiyya[deception]). A shaken Scotland, it seems, is not in the mood for tough questions.[25]

For Gallagher Saeed's past membership of the Muslim Association of Britain, a mainstream 'Islamist' organization[26], seems to suffice as evidence of his support for 'radical Islamism'. Then he makes the further spurious connection that there is somehow a contradiction between Islamism and condemning terrorism. As Arun Kundani has noted, this has been the general strategy of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists to impute to Islamism an immanent violent essence thereby erasing the 'different discursive strands within Islamism...articulated in specific contexts'. Kundani notes: 'The distinction between Islam and Islamism is important, for it insulates this discourse from the straightforward charge of Islamophobia'. He adds that much of this type of writing 'trades on this ambiguity over who are Islamists and what re their defining beliefs...By collapsing all these different dynamics into a singular threat, "Islamist" becaomes a term that designates any political appropriation of Islamic concepts as dangerous, effectively silencing most democratic forms of Muslim politics in Britain and elsewhere'. [27]

Publications, Resources, Contact, Notes

Books

  • His two most recent books are The Balkans in the New Millennium (Routledge, 2005) and The Balkans After the Cold War: From Tyranny to Tragedy (Routledge, paperback edition, 2005).
  • His Theft of a Nation: Romania since Communism (Hurst & Co, 2005) is published in the United States as Modern Romania.[28]
  • Gallagher, T: Theft of a Nation: Romania Since Communism, London: Hurst & Co, 2005
  • Gallagher, T: The Balkans in the New Millennium, London: Routledge 2005.
  • Gallagher, T: The Balkans After the Cold War: From Tyranny to Tragedy, Routledge, UK, 240 pp., May 2003, ISBN 0-415-27763-9.
  • Gallagher, T: ‘The Balkans Since 1989: The Rocky Road From National Communism’, in Developments in Central and East European Politics 3, edited by Stephen White, Palgrave 2003, pp 74-91.
  • Gallagher, T: 'Minorities in Eastern Europe' in the reference work,Central Europe 2003, Routledge, 2002.
  • Gallagher, T: Nationalism and Romanian Political Culture in the 1990s, Post-Communist Romania: Coming to Terms with Transition, Light D, Phinnemere D (eds) Palgrave, pp 104-126, 2001.
  • Gallagher, T: Outcast Europe: The Balkans, 1789 - 1989, Routledge, London, 2001.
  • Gallagher, T: Democratie Si Nationalisme in Romania, 1989-98, Editura Ali, Bucharest, pp 405, 1999.
  • Gallagher, T: 'Romania', in Eastern Europe and the C.I.S. 1999, 4th Edition, Europa Publications, London, pp 609-612, 1999.
  • Gallagher, T: 'Conflict between East European States and Minorities in an Age of Democracy', Democratization, Vol. 5, No 3, pp 200-224, 1998.
  • Gallagher, T: 'Ceausescu's Legacy', The National Interest, No 56, pp 107-111, Summer 1999.[29]
  • Tom Gallagher (1987) Edinburgh Divided: John Cormack and No Popery in the 1930s Edinburgh: Polygon.
  • Gallagher, Tom 1987, Glasgow The Uneasy Peace: Religious Tension in Modern Scotland, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Articles by Tom Gallagher

Letters by Tom Gallagher

  • Tom Gallagher, The hands-off policy in Yugoslavia, The Independent, 25-May-1992, EDITORIAL PAGE; Page 16
  • Tom Gallagher, 'Humanitarian' aid leaves Bosnia without hope, The Independent, 13-December-1992, EDITORIAL PAGE; Page 23
  • Tom Gallagher, Evil Ways in Europe, The Guardian, 23-June-1993, THE GUARDIAN FEATURES PAGE; Pg. 19
  • Tom Gallagher, Western Lessons, Russian Bombs, The Guardian, 27-December-1994, THE GUARDIAN FEATURES PAGE; Pg. 19
  • Tom Gallagher, Yeltsin encouraged by the West's indifference, Manchester Guaridan Weekly, 8-January-1995 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR; Pg. 2

Further reading

Notes

  1. Tom Gallagher Reckless Alex must be stopped The Sunday Times (London), April 13, 2008 FEATURES; Scotland News; Pg. 19
  2. Richard Elias Terror chiefs recruit more Scots spies, Scotland on Sunday April 13, 2008
  3. Letter: The hands-off policy in Yugoslavia BYLINE: From Dr TOM GALLAGHER The Independent (London) May 25, 1992, Monday EDITORIAL PAGE; Page 16
  4. Letter: The hands-off policy in Yugoslavia BYLINE: From Dr TOM GALLAGHER The Independent (London) May 25, 1992, Monday EDITORIAL PAGE; Page 16
  5. Letter: 'Humanitarian' aid leaves Bosnia without hope BYLINE: From TOM GALLAGHER The Independent (London), December 13, 1992, Sunday SECTION: EDITORIAL PAGE; Page 23
  6. Letter: 'Humanitarian' aid leaves Bosnia without hope BYLINE: From TOM GALLAGHER The Independent (London), December 13, 1992, Sunday SECTION: EDITORIAL PAGE; Page 23
  7. LETTER: EVIL WAYS IN EUROPE, BYLINE: (DR) TOM GALLAGHER. The Guardian (London) June 23, 1993, SECTION: THE GUARDIAN FEATURES PAGE; Pg. 19
  8. Letter: The hands-off policy in Yugoslavia BYLINE: From Dr TOM GALLAGHER The Independent (London) May 25, 1992, Monday EDITORIAL PAGE; Page 16
  9. Letter: 'Humanitarian' aid leaves Bosnia without hope BYLINE: From TOM GALLAGHER The Independent (London), December 13, 1992, Sunday SECTION: EDITORIAL PAGE; Page 23
  10. Letter: 'Humanitarian' aid leaves Bosnia without hope BYLINE: From TOM GALLAGHER The Independent (London), December 13, 1992, Sunday SECTION: EDITORIAL PAGE; Page 23
  11. West 'unwise' to see Iran's high profile of Bosnia as a threat, SOURCE: TEHRAN TIMES, Moneyclips November 10, 1994
  12. ‘LETTER: WESTERN LESSONS, RUSSIAN BOMBS’ BYLINE: (Dr) Tom Gallagher. The Guardian (London) December 27, 1994 SECTION: THE GUARDIAN FEATURES PAGE; Pg. 19
  13. Tom Gallagher ‘Legacy of Ataturk faces challenge in Ankara polls’, The Herald (Glasgow), December 22, 1995, SECTION: Pg. 11
  14. ’’The Herald’’ (Glasgow), June 10, 1999, Kosovo, Europe, and Scotland, SECTION: Pg. 18
  15. ’’The Herald’’ (Glasgow), June 10, 1999, Kosovo, Europe, and Scotland, SECTION: Pg. 18
  16. ’’The Herald’’ (Glasgow), June 10, 1999, Kosovo, Europe, and Scotland, SECTION: Pg. 18
  17. Ruth Dudley-Edwards, ‘FUNDAMENTALIST LESSONS TO BE LEARNT BY IRISH ACADEME’ The ‘’Sunday Independent’’ (Ireland) August 27, 2006 Sunday
  18. Chasing shadows; On-campus extremism ‘’The Economist’’ October 21, 2006 U.S. Edition SECTION: BRITAIN
  19. Eddie Barnes, Salmond response to airport attack 'boost for radical Islam' says academic, Scotland on Sunday, 22 July, 2007
  20. After prefacing his statement with "Salmond is no Hitler and the SNP is not a fascist party", Gallagher procceds to write, "He enjoys elections and the Parliamentary cut and thrust but he is driven by a mixture of deep-seated resentments towards England and (I would contend the West in general) that anyone who has studied the career of the Austrian corporal who swept to power in Germany, might see some parallels."Tom Gallagher, The Scottish Piazza Echoes to the Liberation Beat, Harry's Place, 26 September 2009
  21. Tom Gallagher, Scotland’s nationalist-Muslim embrace, Open Democracy, 9 August 2007
  22. For example: Islamic Book Centre, 221 Albert Drive and Islamic Bookshop, 19 Carrington Street
  23. Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Anthropology, Columbia University, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim - An African Perspective, After September 11, Essays, Social Science Research Council, accessed 16 December 2009
  24. Tom Gallagher, Scotland’s nationalist-Muslim embrace, Open Democracy, 9 August 2007
  25. Tom Gallagher, Scotland’s nationalist-Muslim embrace, Open Democracy, 9 August 2007
  26. Robert Lambert and Jonathan Githens-Mazer, The demonisation of British Islamism, The Guardian, 31 March 2009
  27. Arun Kundani, "Islamism and the roots of liberal rage", Race and Class, October-December 2008, Vol. 50 No.2, pp. 40-68
  28. Open Democracy Tom Gallagher, accessed 23 March 2009
  29. Department of Peace Studies, Bradford University Staff Profile: Prof. Tom Gallagher, accessed 5 August 2009