The embrace of former extremists is a slap in the face for Muslims who have worked tirelessly to build a British Muslim identity and foster inclusion by constructive community activity. It’s another attempt at the marginalisation of the overwhelming majority who never had a moment’s doubt that Islam gives no sanction for such murderous and misguided perversion of belief.
I am troubled by the fact that former extremists are seen as the only people who know how to deal with extremism. Just because you have been an inmate of a mental hospital does not mean you are an expert in clinical psychology. But former extremists are being lionised because they confirm the basic tabloid prejudice that violence is a natural part of being a Muslim. So whose ignorance is being vindicated? Certainly the potential of an open, unapologetic belief in Islam as a valuable part of British society is not on the agenda.
At every stage of dealing with extremism, the government has made the wrong choice. First, only British-trained imams were to be promoted, though how and what they were trained in was not examined. Then there were to be roadshows at which religious scholars selected for their moderation and tractability, rather than an understanding of the problems of young British Muslims, would explain the error of extremist ways. Then Sufism was touted as the solution, and the Sufi Muslim Council was created as the voice of moderation. Now the way forward is with sinners who were once mouthpieces for jihadi propaganda and advocated the violent rejection of all things western.
Archive for the 'Celebrity Ex-Extremists' Category
Ahead of their official launch later today (1pm in the UK), I decided to take another look at the Quilliam Foundation website and noticed some of the (Muslim) names on their board of advisors had been removed.
Here was a list of Muslim advisors when the website first went up:
Shaikh BaBikr Ahmed BaBikr
Shaikh Abdal-Aziz Al-Bukhari
Shaikh Dr Usama Hassan
Shaikh Ali al-Saleh al-Najafi
Mufti Abu Laith al-Maliki
Imam Dr Musharraf Hussain al-Azhari
Shaikh Abdus Subhan
Professor Yahya Michot
Three of these names have been removed: Yahya Michot, Abdus Subhan and Abu Laith al-Maliki. I couldn’t find anything on why they have been removed, other than some speculation on MPACUK’s forums.
Are we witnessing a convergence of interests and causes between Celebrity Ex-Extremists and British ‘muscular liberals’ (neoconservative types, decent leftists or pro-war liberals)?
Look at the evidence (not proof I hasten to add) so far:
– Shiraz Maher is listed as a member of Policy Exchange on their Facebook profile (this is a closed group which is open to people who have worked for the institute or by invite from the Facebook group administrator only). Policy Exchange, you may remember, was involved in a row with BBC’s Newsnight over a report they released on the availability of extremist literature in British mosques and Islamic centres. Their ‘expert’ on terrorism is Dean Godson, an advocate of ‘political warfare’ and an interventionist foreign policy. Godson’s father (Joseph Godson) and brother (Roy Godson) are noted figures who have helped ‘massage’ American intelligence to achieve certain policy goals (Godson senior appears to have been a Cold War Liberal, the intellectual predecessors of those known as ‘neocons’). Policy Exchange was also Michael Gove’s platform for lauching his political career. And Martin Bright, political editor for the left-wing political magazine The New Statesman, also received sponsorship for his pamphlet on the Islamist connections of promiment British Muslim organisations from Policy Exchange.
– The Quilliam Foundation (home of ex-Hizbis) announce Michael Gove as one of their advisors. Gove’s ‘neoconservative’ views are widely known (he is a member of the neocon Henry Jackson Society), as are his fanatical attacks on Palestinians from the pages of The Times.
– Hassan Butt, who once boasted about his jihadi credentials (funny how he never offered his own services), is given a boost by Nick Cohen, one of the founders of the Euston Manifesto and foremost member of the pro-war left in Britain. Butt, it turns out is writing Leaving Al-Qaeda with the journalist Shiv Malik, a proponent of the ‘conveyor belt’ theory of Islamist activity and terrorism.
An investigation by the Centre for Social Cohesion found that just under half of the letter’s signatories represented just two pressure groups: the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB).
Aside from the fact that Maher is relying on Centre for Social Cohesion (which is headed up by the dubious Douglas Murray), I am not sure Maher’s point about the signatories to this letter being affiliated to the MCB is anything noteworthy. Inayat Bungalawa points out in his defence of the open letter and Linvingstone, the MCB is an umbrella body which has hundreds of affiliates. If Maher really wants to criticise the influence of the MCB, he needs to consider how this of umbrella body is also the outcome of both Tory and Labour government policy towards Muslim demands on the state.
Where I do agree with Maher is in his broader point: the letter has needlessly ‘communalised’ the up coming election for mayor, and overlooked the everyday concerns that people living in London have.
The signatories to the letter suggest it is in the “best interests” of Muslims and other Londoners to vote for Livingstone — but they don’t really explain why, other than appealing to Livingstone’s stand on Iraq and the Palestinians. Although, I have no objection to Muslim organisations supporting one or other candidate (albeit they should be careful about politicising their institutions), the language of the letter is careless and paints Livingstone as some kind of ‘candidate for Muslims’. This is not helpful when you consider his main rival, Boris Johnson, is hardly weak-willed when it comes to using the “Muslim card”. The letter does little to dispel the myth of ‘Muslim separatism’.
I feel the organisations have missed an opportunity here. Instead of telling everyone how great Livingstone has been for Muslims, they should have rested their support for any mayoral candidate on terms which could have had cross-cultural, multiethnic and interreligious support. The upcoming election for the Mayor of London should be an evaluation on whether or not the different candidates can improve the capital’s transport network, help to reduce crime on the streets, regenerate dilapidated areas, improve the uneven economic spread in the city, or just everyday concerns like keeping the streets clean and ensuring the rubbish is collected on time. Issues of national importance, such as support for civil liberties, the stance on schooling and housing, and principled opposition to discrimination should be considered too. But none of these issues are highlighted in the open letter or by Bunglawala (who is also a signatory).
Although one may or may not agree with Livingstone’s views on Iraq, Palestine and American foreign policy, like it or not they do not form part of his job description as Mayor of London. At best, someone of his stature can bring them to the front of the news cycle.
In this interview, Nawaz discusses his attempt to sue Egypt for torture through the British courts and about the ideas of Hizb al-Tahrir in general. Nawaz and two other British Muslims were arrested back in 2002 for being members of HT, which is banned in Egypt. Nawaz claims they were tortured by the Egyptian “security” services (which is really not hard to believe).
In contrast to his recent Newsnight interview, Nawaz was unabashed about his membership of the Party and its ideological stances in the HARDtalk interview. The blogger Salman Al claims to know Nawaz in person, and says the Newsnight interview is a complete turn around from when he last met him:
Since his return from Egypt, [Nawaz] has been an even bigger supporter of the Hizb and the rule of Islam in Muslim countries. It was as if the suffering and torture he endured in Mubarak’s torture chambers “recharged his batteries” and made him a better Muslim. At least that was the impression I got when I spoke to him on numerous occasions at SOAS where he was finishing his interrupted degree studies. Also, the TV interviews he participated in since his return from Egypt show no sign of any ideological retreat. He was still calling for the rule of Islam in Muslim countries.
Of course, it is not beyond the bounds of reason that he has changed his views since that interview; but it will cast certain doubts (rightly or wrongly) about the personal narrative given in Newsnight.
One thing does become clearer though: Muslim middle-classes run the Islamic agenda in Britain, whether they be Islamists, celebrity ex-Islamists, conservatives, progressives, media pundits or bloggers.
Ed’s back with another article. This time he is defending Maajid Nawaz, another ex-Hizb operative who worked out what a lot of Muslims did many years ago: how to use one’s brain to defeat the vacuous blatherings of the Party. For those interested, Nawaz will appear on Newsnight tonght.
Ed’s also getting tooled by the commentators as people are working out he doesn’t have anything to say. Someone close to Ed should advise him the game’s up; he’s had his fifteen minutes.
Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with knocking the feet from underneath The Party of Liberation [from Reason, Text, Faith and Heart]. Let’s see what Nawaz says tonight (or tomorrow for those of us who will watch the programme on the web).