London’s Obama moment!
Though the chief guest at this year’s ‘Awards for Excellence’ annual ceremony organised by The Muslim News was the Rt Hon Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, it was Sadiq Khan, standing for the London Mayoral election on 5th May as the Labour candidate, who stole the show, because, as so well put by the Award judge Wakkas Khan, ‘we are at the cusp of a generational moment’. Sadiq’s wit shone though, ‘for the first time ever you will have a London mayor who is 5′ 6″. It is about time we have a short mayor’.
Sadiq noted that ‘over the next 14 days they [the Tory Party] are going to become more desperate’. This desperation includes gutter politics by Prime Minister Cameron, who has joined the campaign to smear Sadiq Khan as an extremist. For the veteran left wing journalist Polly Toynbee, ‘what Cameron’s attack implies is that no Muslim can ever run for high office, because somewhere along the line he may have rubbed shoulders with some homophobic misogynist of nominally the same religion. Here was Cameron at his most undignified, bullying, thuggish [writing in the Guardian, 21 April 2016].’
Since entering Parliament in 2005, Sadiq Khan MP has garnered much experience: as Transport Secretary in the Gordon Brown government and later in opposition in the shadow roles of Lord Chancellor, Justice Secretaryand Minister for London (the latter to March 2015). He was formerly a human rights lawyer who has pulled himself up by the bootstraps – his father was a bus driver, and father-in-law worked in the London Underground. His Fabian Society essay on British Muslims was aptly entitled ‘Fairness, not favours’, and he correctly asked British Muslims ‘to step up to the plate’ and leave behind a ‘victim mentality’.
London’s next mayor will hold one of the most powerful elected positions in the land, outside government. In Rotterdam, the mayoral position is held by a seasoned politician of Moroccan heritage. Barack Obama at his inauguration remarked how ‘a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath’. In Sadiq Khan there is an opportunity for London’s Obama moment!
Trevor Phillips knocked for Six!
Writing in the Sunday Times on 14th April 2016, Trevor Phillips (who has often featured in this Blog, Fancy That!) stated that
Twenty years ago, when, as chair of the Runnymede Trust, I published the report titled Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All
The claim to have played a decisive role has been knocked out of the ground by veterans of the period. For example Khalida Khan of London’s An-Nisa Society writes,
He may have been chair of Runnymede at that time but it was Robin Richardson, the director of Runnymede and Kaushika Amin, a researcher, who took the report forward. This was following extensive discussions with us at Q-News and articles that were written in Q-News campaigning against anti-Muslim discrimination. Robin Richardson and Kaushika Amin were behind the Report not Trevor Phillips. From the mid 1980’s An-Nisa Society started the campaign against anti-Muslim discrimination and the recognition of ‘religious discrimination’ – it was totally unrecognised then. This was led by myself as the director . . . We campaigned by writing in MuslimWise, which we helped found and in Q-News. This campaign was highly influential in the debate around Islamophobia. These articles came to the attention of Robin and Kaushika. click here.
A leading Muslim legal expert with first hand knowledge of the history and practice of anti-discrimination legislation adds, ‘ [that Trevor Phillips] led the fight for laws against religious discrimination is a huge embellishment’.
Is there life outside politics?
Sarah Teather won many hearts as Brent East’s MP, which she won as a Lib Dem from Labour in 2003. Many were saddened when she decided to stand down in 2015, having served as a reluctant minister in the Coalition Government, at loggerheads over issues such as the Benefits Cap. Among her departing statements was this indictment – that she, ‘no longer feels that Nick Clegg’s party fights sufficiently for social justice and liberal values on immigration’. In a recent interview in The Tablet (27 February 2016), Teather describes the path that has drawn her closer to religion:
I had a constant sense of being conflicted, which made me look seriously at my sense of vocation. I felt I was being invited to leave Parliament and do something else, and I had no idea what that something was.
Invited by whom?
‘Invited by God’ she replies softly’.
The Catholic-Jesuit tradition of the 15th Century mystic Ignatius of Loyola drew her to a sense of the sacred: ‘In the summer of 2013, she spent 30 days in silence at Loyala Hall, Liverpool, following the set of meditations, prayers and contemplative practices designed by the Jesuit’s founder. It was a cross roads of her life in more than one way’.
An inspiring story of a young person seeking more from life than the trappings of prestige and power.
What so discomfits Trevor Phillips about British Muslims?
Now and again, the Anglo-Guyanese race relations pundit Trevor Phillips feels bound to make himself known. As astutely observed by an erstwhile buddy, Ziauddin Sardar, in The Times on 29 January
My old friend and colleague Trevor Phillips seems to be a bit desperate for attention. Why else would someone with his background and knowledge suggest that Muslims are a uniform herd, ‘different from the rest of us’, rushing towards the cliff of perpetual segregation?
This ire was prompted by Phillips’s remark about British Muslims at a think tank event earlier in the month – they behave in a different way, some of which we may not like, is because they haven’t yet seen the light. It may be that they see the world differently to the rest of us. Trevor has the pessimistic view that British Muslims – about half already British-born – will ‘never fit in’. Is it because of halaal meat, hijab – or something else?
Phillips was once a race relations champion (and head of the CRE, Commission for Racial Equality), but then unexpectedly began to attack multiculturalism, instead of celebrating it as a sign of a modern Britain adapting to its ethnic diversity and plurality.
The change began around 2004, when in April that year he observed, ‘the word [multiculturalism] is not useful, it means the wrong things’, and later in September 2005, ‘In recent years we’ve focused far too much on the ‘multi’ and not enough on the common culture. We’ve emphasized what divides us over what unites us. We have allowed tolerance of diversity to harden into the effective isolation of communities, in which some people think special separate values ought to apply’.
This attack on multiculturalism has had devastating consequences because it cast a strategic opportunity in a globalised world as a problem. It is the mind-set that has led to Islamophobia ‘passing the dinner table test’, to use Baroness Warsi’s phrase.
Muslims should not raise their head above the parapet to seek what is fair and due (though Phillips seems to think it is OK to have special booster and segregated classes for Black youth because they were under-achieving, as reported in The Times, 7 March 2005). His hostility for fair treatment of Muslims is apparent in several alarmist and scare-mongering messages:
- January 2005 – Muslim schools are undesirable because they are a threat to the coherence of British society
- February 2006 – ‘Muslims who wish to live under a system of shariah law should leave Britain – we have one set of laws … and that’s the end of the story. If you want to have laws decided in another way, you have to live somewhere else.’
Phillips’s last display of faux-courage – by seeking to be ever so non-PC – was in 2015 when he declared that anti-racism campaigners have fueled the rise of the extreme Right! It earned some insightful remarks from veteran Lee Jasper:
The rise in racism can at be attributed first and foremost to the amplification of racism and racist scapegoating refracted through the the lens of austerity, that has targeted minority communities and your personal political naivety, narcissistic personality and desperate need to be the darling of the right wing media in your role as chief apologist for British racism.
Trevor Phillips would rather we stopped challenging racism and Islamophobia.
The day that The Times published Professor Sardar’s riposte, there was another letter in the paper’s columns – from a Reverend Janet Cook:
Sir, Trevor Phillips challenges us to accept that Muslim communities see the world differently from the rest of us. I recently visited the multi-faith chapel at Heathrow to pray while waiting for a plane. the only other visitors were a regular stream of Muslim airport workers coming to pray during their break. I wish we were more like them.
Perhaps it is this deeper aspect of the British Muslim presence that discomfits Trevor Phillips?
Hoisted by their own petard
The neo-con faction within the Tory Party has been an enthusiastic advocate of joining the dots between the writings of Muslim activist-scholars in the 1940s and political events decades later, arriving at bizarre conclusions. So for Michael Gove, the much-admired ideologue in the Tory Party, “…they (al-Banna, Maududi) exercise a bewitching (sic), and guiding, influence over the ranks of Islamic terrorists conducting the jihad we face today” [in his polemic Celsius 7/7]. Even the recent Muslim Brotherhood report proferred a connection between Maududi and present-day takfirism.
This attitude has led to pressures on British Muslim institutions to conduct their own self-censorship, for example breathing down on publishers: if they published Maududi this ‘would be a breach of extremism guidelines’.
But now when Oliver Letwin’s statements in the 1980s have come to light, the plea is made that one should appreciate the context of the times, and that it was a “historical” document, “written by a policy team whose main task was to challenge orthodox views”.
If the neo-cons see a ‘family resemblance’ between Maududi’s Al Jihad Fi al-Islam – written in the 1930s in a context of the Spanish brutalities during the colonialist invasion of Riff territory in Morocco – why not accept that such writings form one element of a Muslim political discourse expressed in an idiom appropriate for the times?
Surely Letwin’s reference to the ‘bad morality’ of Black Britons that are out of place today was part of the Tory discourse of the times – the Tory big wigs of the 70s and 80s had a contempt for Asians, Blacks and the poor: remember the speech by Sir Richard Dobson, chairman of the Leyland auto company, at the Dorchester, that referred to ‘wogs’ and expounded, ‘You can’t tell me that the ordinary British worker is passionately concerned that a number of blackish (sic) people in north London are being underpaid'; or Keith Joseph’s argument veering towards eugenics – that ‘the balance of our population, our human stock is threatened … a high and rising proportion of children are being born to mothers least fitted to bring children into the world and bring them up’. Shades of Letwin!
Why is ‘contextuality’ a defence for the Tories today, but not for British Muslims, who are asked to repudiate the legacy of past giants? Muslim activists today may or may not agree with everything that Maududi said sixty years or more ago, just as Tories today have the capacity to accomodate their historical intellectual trajectory, however unsavoury.
A Supremo’s valedectory
Charles Farr, the Home Office supremo at the Office for Security & Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) is well-known in Muslim circles; positively, for a style that reflects a readiness to listen, but negatively too, for the way he stood up the Muslim Council of Britain by not turning up last March at the Islamic Cultural Centre for a meeting it had specially convened of prominent Muslims. Mr. Farr was appointed Director General of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in July 2007, but missed the opportunity of becoming head of MI6 some years later – pipped to the post by John Sawers in 2009. Congratulations to him now for appointment as Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee. When looking at past JIC chairs, hopefully his role model will be the independently-minded Sir Rodric Braithwaite rather than the pliant John Scarlett or commercially-inclined Dame Pauline Neville-Jones!
Among Mr. Farr’s valedectory duties was a recent meeting with Muslim community representatives in Manchester, by all accounts a challenging episode – though apparently questions had to be submitted two weeks in advance! At one point he argued that Government did not seek to ‘meddle’ in theological/religious matters or guide adherents on good practice i.e. it was left to Muslims to identify their suitably qualified interlocutors. Mr. Farr was taken aback when a participant pointed out that Government’s own actions – for example the high-handed actions in some of Birmingham’s schools, that conflated religiously-based social conservatism with extremism, or its good Muslim (/political quietist) -bad Muslim(political activist) categorisation championed by the likes of Ruth Kelly and Hazel Blears – belied this. He also made a case for the discredited ‘Prevent’ CT policy, blaming errors in the way it has been implemented at the tactical level. Hopefully as head of JIC, he will have a clearer grasp of the distincition between strategy and operations – things cannot be right at the operational level if the strategic conception is awry.
The Prime Minister’s invitees to discuss British Muslim affairs?
The Prime Minister, in convening the first meeting of the Community Engagement Forum some weeks ago, apparently invited the following: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Minister for Countering Extremism); Theresa May (Home Secretary); Louise Casey (CLG), Max Chambers (Home Office), Camilla Cavendish (No. 10); Brendan Threlfall (No. 10); Arooj Shah (Councillor from Oldham); Sean Harriss (Chief Executive, Lambeth Council); Shaikh Musa Admani (Muslim Chaplain at the City University, London); Fareed Ahmad (Ahmadiyya Muslim Association); Farooq Aftab (General Secretary, Ahmadiyya Muslim Association); Michael Nazir-Ali (former Bishop of Rochester); Khatun Sapnara (judge); Aina Khan (solicitor); Fiyaz Mughal (Tell Mama project & Faith Matters); Sajda Mughal (Jan Trust); Haras Rafiq (Quilliam); Sara Khan (Inspire project); Wahida Shaffi (National Women’s Programme); Faiza Vaid (Muslim Women’s Network); Aysha and Kiran Iqbal Patel (Odara project); Kamal Hanif (Waverley School, Birmingham); Alun Francis (Oldham College).
Refusing to be bamboozled
As part of the 2015 Islamophobia Awareness Month (#IAM2015) the Islamic Society at the School of Oriental & African Societies have invited CAGE’s outreach director, the author and ex-Guantanamo Bay prisoner, to share a platform with Dr David Miller (Bath University) to debate ‘Constructing the “Other”, the framework of Islamophobia in Britain’. The SOAS and London University authorities are to be commended for maintaining their institution as a space where people can air their views, develop critical thinking, ponder … If the neo-cons in Government had their way, only speakers unquestioning of its counter-terrorism and foreign policies would be deemed acceptable! Quite rightly, McCarthyism is not a British value!
Remembering Malcolm Meacher
The veteran MP, Malcolm Meacher, passed away on 21st October 2015. The obituaries have been rightly fulsome, particularly on his consistent record dealing with poverty and environmental issues. However there are interesting lacunae in these appreciations: his membership of the 9/11 Truth Movement, and criticism of Government surveilllance activities. In 2013, he crossed swords with the now-discredited Chair of the Intelligence & Security Committee, Sir Malcolm Rifkind:
It will be said that we should trust the security services, which look after the nation’s safety—a vital role—and let them get on with the job. We did that, of course, and then found out, not from them but from the Snowden files, what the NSA in the US and GCHQ in Britain were really up to, including monitoring the phones of Angela Merkel and 35 other world leaders—one wonders how much else—and that all assurances about privacy were not worth the e-mails that they were written on. The Intelligence and Security Committee never found out or told us. We were assured by its current Chair—whom I greatly respect—that the security services always acted strictly in accordance with the law, that all operations were officially approved and that there was nothing to worry about. It was only later that we discovered that in fact GCHQ, through the Tempora programme, had devised a way of obviating all that. click here.
Charles Darwin’s Gaze
The Natural History Museum in South Kensington last night resounded to recitations from the Qur’an at the start of the gala dinner to raise funds for a Muslim community centre in North West London – ‘an inclusive project, [that] will create dialogue through the use of spaces open to the public such as cafes, exhibition spaces, courtyards and gardens’. Overlooking the proceedings in the Central Hall, amidst the fossils, was the marble statue of Charles Darwin – a happy juxtaposition of a brilliant, enquiring nineteenth century mind with a vigorous and optimistic twenty-first century venture. As hightlighted in a charming speech by Professor Iqbal Asaria on the occasion, Muslims of yesteryear may have been ABBCD (A British-Born Confused Desi), but no more. Also speaking at the event was a political specimen of the anthropocene era, London Mayoral hopeful Sadiq Khan – definitely ABBCM (A British-Born Confident Muslim).
In the run-up to the 2015 General Election, the Tory Party wooed the Hindu vote with assurances that it would not bring in statutory secondary legislation to make caste ‘an aspect of race’ in the Equality Act 2010. The National Council of Hindu Temples lobbied for a Tory vote, its General Secretary Satish K. Sharma advising “The Tories are the only party which will not make caste discrimination a punishable offence.”
The outcome is that Dalits in Britan suffer – though in the employment field an Employment Appeal Tribunal judgment has established that caste discrimination is ‘capable of being unlawful’. There are over 10,000 Ravidassis in England and Wales, which is only one of the smaller groupings of Dalits. Thanks to the employment tribunal ruling, ‘A woman recruited from India to be a domestic servant for a family in the UK and paid 11p an hour has been awarded almost £184,000 in unpaid wages’. click here.
A postive news item, from Calais
It is so infrequent to see Muslims mentioned in a positive light in the media! That is why this item stands out – from the Catholic journal The Tablet – (1 August 2015):
In [Vincent] de Conink’s explanation there are echoes of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, the nineteenth-century former soldier and adventurer, whose passionate Catholocism was sparked by witnessing the piety of Muslims in North Africa. ‘I am really impressed by how they want to keep Ramadan, although things are so hard here,’ de Coninck says. ‘It makes you question your own faith.’
Vincent de Conink is the pastor in charge of Secours Catholique’s migrant mission in Calais.
Shrouded in mystery!
Apparently, a recent assembly of British adherents of the Ahmediyya creed in Hampshire featured a life-sized copy of the Turin shroud – what is claimed to be the Prophet Jesus’s burial cloth. Ahmediyya followers believe that the prophet actually died in Kashmir, and according to spokesperson Mahmood Rafiq, the blood stains on the shroud indicate that Jesus Christ was taken down alive. Many Christians will no doubt now wonder what other beliefs the group may hold? For Pope Francis no less, the shroud is an object of veneration. The Archbishop of Turin says that the Pope “confirms the devotion to the shroud that millions of pilgrims recognise as a sign of the mystery of the passion and death of the Lord” (BBC report).
Conservatives of a different hue
Salaam blogger is no great fan of the late Sir Keith Joseph, but it seems apt to bring to the fore his statement of 1978:
This country has always been and will, I hope, always play a part in being a sanctuary for those fleeing from persecution. It was as refugees from persecution that Jews, in the main, came here. They were not given automatic citizenship. They asked for nothing but the chance to make their own way.
Bedfellows at the Westminster Institute
The Westminster Institute, in its website, presents itself as a body seeking ‘to promote individual dignity and freedom for people throughout the world by sponsoring high-quality research, with a particular focus on the threats from extremism and radical ideologies’. Among its luminaries – with a particular track record in Muslim-bashing rather than ‘high-quality research’ – is Patrick Sookhdeo (described as its Chairman). Another is ‘Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini, Research Fellow’ according to a report in Newsweek on climate change. Now this Shaikh has an axe to grind with British Muslim organisations – none of them is fit for purpose, in his view. According to Al-Hussaini, Muslim organisations get involved in interfaith work, ‘to provide the cloaks of respectability to interests that seek political influence’; and now in Newsweek, ‘it is pure hypocrisy for Muslim scholars ‘ to talk about climate change and they use the issue as ‘political football’. For Dr Sookhdeo – also founder of the Barnabas Fund charity – the refrain is ‘the Muslims are taking over’ – whether it be because of halal meat or minarets. Think tanks like the Westiminster Institute have little to do with either promoting dignity or objective research, but muddy the field with ill-informed prejudices. Sookhdeo was apparently quoted approvingly four times in the 1,500-page “manifesto” of the Norwegian killer Anders Breivik. Surely Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini is not seeking similar recognition!
Sisi’s charm offensive in London
Will he, won’t he? Prime Minister Cameron is due to host Egypt’s putsch leader General Abdel Fateh Al-Sisi – however a petition to Parliament is now underway urging him to desist. Preparing the ground, there is apparently a high-powered delegation arriving in Britain, led by some of Azhar’s compliant ulema. A poorly phrased email sent by its front man, Elsayed Zakaria Abuamer, notes ‘ We would like to take this opportunity to convey to you the greetings of the Muslim Council of Elders, headed by His Eminence the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Prof. Dr. Ahmed El-Tayyeb. As part of the Muslim Council of Elders’ program to promote peace, delegations of al-Azhar scholars will visit 14 countries around the world to promote the culture of peace, and advocate principles of tolerance and mutual cooperation among human beings. As part of the Muslim Council of Elders’ program “Peace Envoys”, a delegation of al-Azhar scholars will be visiting the UK in the period between 12-18 August, 2015 to hold meetings and open dialogues with Muslim and non-Muslim intellectuals and youth to explore ideas and to exchange thoughts on how to promote societal peace and acceptance of the other. Unfortunately, in our modern world, the voice of war, terror and extremism is taking over our lives, safety and stability….’. Hopefully the recipients of this missive will respond by calling on Grand Imam and his entourage to stand up for justice and speak truth to power.
Crabs in the Barrel
In a less than dignified performance, former MP Shahid Malik and Khalid Mahmood MP have sought to discredit Sadiq Khan’s account of the meeting at No. 10 (see below). In a letter to the Guardian, they note that Sadiq seeks to ‘misrepresent the words of a British prime minister’, and he was not as brave as is made out. Is the tiff more to do with the London Mayoral Election selection process – and the fact that these two gentlemen are partisan? This reminds Salaam Blogger of a remark by Lord Bhatia at one of the Muslim Council of Britain’s leadership development course dinners: there are more crabs in the barrel seeking to drag others down, rather than providing a leg-up. Fortunately, the MCB has been consistently supportive of aspiring Muslim-heritage politicians, though they often do not like to admit it once the prize is at hand: Shahid implored the MCB leadership for a good word at the start of his public career (the days he was seeking to be on the NEC), while even the good lady Warsi was given backing when she stood for Dewsbury (2005); as one of the early chairs of the MCB’s Legal Affairs Committee, Sadiq acquired some status within the community too.
Strange Encounters at No.10
Shortly after 9/11, some Muslim community representatives were summoned by Prime Minister Tony Blair. His Rasputin-like Director of Communications, Alistair Campbell, assumed that the Muslim leaders would obediently come ‘on message’ in backing the imminent war in Afghanistan. He sidled up to the Muslim delegation, and breathing down heavily, announced, “You guys have got a selling job to do” (reported in the Daily Telegraph, 19 October 2001). This command-and-control mode was very much No. 10’s style. Sadiq Khan MP, currently in the running for London’s mayoral elections, recalls being summoned to see Blair after 7/7: ‘he called the four MPs of Islamic faith into No 10 and sat us round the table and said – to Mohammad Sarwar, Khalid Mahmood, Shahid Malik and myself – it was our responsibility. I said: “No, it’s not. Why have you called us in? I don’t blame you for the Ku Klux Klan. Why are you blaming me for the four bombers on 7/7?” Which is why, after he called us in, and there were lots of cameras outside waiting to speak to us, my three colleagues spoke to the cameras and I walked away.’
With Cameron, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?
Religion, Politics & Education
Apparently there are quite a few professing Christians in Cabinet – including “Evangelical Christian Nicky Morgan, the (formerly) anti-gay marriage equalities minister now running our schools”. At least so says Guardian columnist Catherine Bennet, who then goes on to remark, ‘when it might affect their objectivity, MPs must declare an interest’. The previous Education Secretary Michel Gove was a neo-Con and this ideological perspective had much to do with destroying decades of hard work by the Muslim educationalist Tahir Alam. An earlier Education Secretary in the 1980s who was an evangelical Christian – Baroness Blatch – sat on the Islamia Primary School’s file for voluntary aided status for years. Now, in the post-Trojan Horse climate, let us pray that Nicky Morgan is fair.
Reading between the lines
Baroness Warsi has made an excellent intervention, noting her former boss’s references to the ‘quiet condoners’ of ISIS actions has served to demoralise and alienate British Muslims. In contrast to her criticism of Cameron, there is praise for Theresa May, who has ‘set the right tone’ in her presentation on such matters. Cameron’s views are shaped by Michael Gove MP, his Secretary of State for Justice and author of an Islamophobic polemic. There has been little love lost between Gove and May, and between Gove and Warsi. After resigning as a government human rights minister in August 2014 – for human rights abuses by Israel in Gaza – she revealed Michael Gove’s role in the Trojan Horse affair that demonised Muslim educational activists. So if there is a Tory leadership rebellion, expect to find May and Warsi on one side of the barricades, and Gove and Osborne on the other. Postscript: Theresa May’s CT supremo, civil servant Charles Farr, has also made his views felt, warning against ‘overstating’ the issue of radicalisation within Muslim communities. Gove also fell out with Farr over the Trojan Horse saga.
A new President at the Board of Deputies
Jonathan Arkush is now the elect-President of the BoD, taking the place of Vivian Wineman. Vivian had a track record of reaching out to other faith communities on matters of shared strategic interest. Will Mr Arkush have same vision? Apparently, one of the questions put to aspirants of the post was their intended approach to interfaith dialogue, perhaps with dealings with Muslim associations in mind. We wait and see who first gets invited for a cup of tea!
United States of America v Babar Ahmad, United States District Court
Statement of the Prosecutor, June 2006: …From in or about sometime in 1997…Specifically, AHMAD provided, through the creation and use of various internet websites, email communication, and other means, expert advice and assistance….designed to recruit and assist the Chechen Mujahideen and the Taliban, and raise funds for violent jihad in Afghanistan, Chechnya and other places. click here.
Statement of President Putin, May 2015: …Putin stated that the terror in Chechnya and in the Russian Caucasus in the early 1990’s was actively backed by the CIA and western Intelligence services to deliberately weaken Russia. He noted that the Russian FSB foreign intelligence had documentation of the US covert role without giving details…Not long after the CIA and Saudi Intelligence-financed Mujahideen had devastated Afghanistan at the end of the 1980’s, forcing the exit of the Soviet Army in 1989, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself some months later, the CIA began to look at possible places in the collapsing Soviet Union where their trained ‘Afghan Arabs’ could be redeployed to further destabilize Russian influence over the post-Soviet Eurasian space. click here.
When British Values are not Cast in iron
[…] Trupti Patel, president of the Hindu Forum of Britain, hasn’t been shy to rally her people to vote for one particular party. In an open letter on the forum’s website, Patel attacks Labour and the Lib Dems for insulting Hinduism by supporting legislation to outlaw caste discrimination. ‘Only the Conservative party has stated that if they are in a majority government, then this piece of unwanted legislation will be repealed,‘ she says, adding:’In these elections, the very honour of your faith is in danger of being undermined.” In short, vote Tory. [Giles Fraser in The Guardian, 15th May 2015]
This highlights the way the Tories courted the Hindu vote in the 2015 General Election. So legitimising the caste system is consistent with British Values?
Has anyone asked British Dalits what they think? It is this: Inequality is at the core of the caste system. click here.
And this is what a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission had to say: “Expert researchers attested to the fact that caste discrimination exists in the UK, whether as bullying in schools, ostracism following inter-caste marriage, in worship, employment and business, and in the rental market (of housing or hired venues)”. click here.
Or for that matter the 12,000 Ravidassia followers – as enumerated in the 2011 Census in England and Wales:
I don’t believe in Caste System – If you are using the term ‘chamar’ the great saint Ravidass Ji said, ‘Kahai Ravidass kalas chamara jo ham shahry so meet humara.’ – I am that ‘kalas’ pure ‘chamar.’ But my religion is Ravidassia. See the posting on http://www.ravidassia.blogspot.co.uk/
Giles Fraser makes another point as well: ‘ Around the same time [as the HFB endorsement for the Conservative Party], another endorsement – written to a Bangladeshi newspaper by 101 imams – was being cited by the election commissioner, Richard Mawrey, as one of the reasons that the 2014 re-election of Lutfur Rahman as mayor of Tower Hamlets should be voided. This letter, argued Mawrey, contravened the law against undue spiritual influence – a law unused and pretty much unheard of since the 19th century. It was first invented to stop the Irish working classes from falling under the influence of the Catholic churchafter the introduction of secret ballots (which meant that landowners could no longer control how their tenants were voting) and was bound up with a racist view of the Irish as stupid and with conspiracy theories about Catholicism as some alien power intent on taking over. So why was the imams’ letter a reason for Rahman’s election being voided but Patel’s letter not a reason for Cameron’s election being voided?’
One rule for the Hindus, another for the Muslims?
If Jimmy Savile was disowned, why not Greville Janner?
Once Savile’s rotten past became known, charities, civil society organisations and businesses were quite quick to disassociate themselves, to name a few: Royal Armouries International in Leeds renamend their Savile’s Hall conference centre and the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board removed a plaque in his honour. The Friends of Israel Educational Foundation, to its credit, no longer names Lord Janner as a patron. Is there going to be further soul-searching? At various points in his career he served as President of the Board of Deputies, trustee of the Holocaust Educational Trust and an office-bearer in the Jewish Leadership Council.
A tale about Bouteflika!
The story goes that when the Algerian President Chadhli Benjadid was in France during his official visit in 1983, he had the urge to go for a stroll in Paris, along with his entourage. The Head of State Francois Mitterand was with them. As they were walking along Avenue des Champs-Elysées towards the Arc de Triomphe, Boumediene spotted the back of a man standing by a bush and responding to a call for nature.
Chadhli: Mr President, I am surprised that you allow such things in your country.
Mitterand: Mr President, you don’t recognise him? He is your foreign minister, Mr Bouteflika.
The Power of the Media Mogul!
However much the talk of democratic values, the reality is that for British politicians, the views and interests of their electorate are not as paramount as we think. The intrepid Seumas Milne explains the long-established Tory agenda to emasculate the BBC: ‘In the autumn of 1986, Thatcher installed Marmaduke Hussey as BBC chairman, a man with impeccable Conservative connections and a fiercely anti-union record. She did so, Seaton reveals, only after first seeking the approval of Murdoch, the BBC’s ‘most committed commercial and political enemy’ . Nick Davis in a recent article in The Guardian writes that ‘Since April 1979, no British government has been elected without the support of Rupert Murdoch.’ Cameron in particular is indebted because Murdoch’s papers zeroed in on Gordon Brown to descredit him in the . Once in office the PM had to deliver. Davis notes, ‘Cameron government’s efforts to help Murdoch buy all of BSkyB very nearly cost his media secretary, Jeremy Hunt, his job when the Leveson inquiry disclosed that while Hunt was supposedly acting in an impartial “quasi-judicial role” he was allowing his special adviser to act as a back channel, supplying confidential information to the Murdoch camp’.
Ed Miliband at the Muslim News Awards
The chief guest at The Muslim News’ annual awards for excellence on 25th March was the Leader of the Opposition, Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP. His address was sincere and direct, referring too to his own experiences as a first-generation Briton – his parents were Polish Jewish immigrants seeking a new, secure life in Britain during World War II. In contrast to the ‘us’ and ‘them’ rhetoric of Tory and UKIP politicians in which being Muslims are lectured about ‘British values’ – a term he did not use – Miliband referred to the Muslim contribution in World War I. He also noted,’the Muslim community is central to our history and a cornerstone to our country’s future’. Ed’s speech was short on specific commitments, perhaps because the Labour Party’s BME manifesto is still awaited, but he did indicate that a Labour government would initiate programmes to tackle Islamophobia in schools. Something to hold him to after May 7?
Disowning Lord Greville Janner?
Respected political leaders of the not-so-recent past are now being exposed for their low life. For the first time, a broadsheet has linked Lord Janner with the current spotlight on Parliamentarians and a rent boy circle of the 1960s and 70s (The Times, 18 March 2015). For example Leon Brittan, son of Joseph and Rebecca Brittan, Tory MP from 1974 to 1988 who held high office in Cabinet (Home Secretary, Secretary for Trade and Industry) before taking over a top portfolio in at the European Commission (1989-1999) has had his various homes recently searched by the Met in connection with its child sex abuse investigation, though their suspect had passed away some months earlier. Various dossiers ‘helpful to enquiries’ possibly kept by Brittan during his stint at the Home Office have been difficult to locate. There was speculation that this was to protect powerful MPs and Peers. Now The Times notes: ‘the police watchdog has ordered Leicestershire police to examine claims of a cover-up involving Greville Jenner, then a Labour MP and now a peer’. Jenner came to wider public attention in 1996, when Home Secretary Michael Howard wrote to him, in his capacity as an office-bearer at the Board of Deputies, as follows:
Thank you for your letter of 5 March.
I am happy to confirm that the Government is determined that this country should not be used as a base for promoting terrorism overseas in any way…In answer to your specific question, there is full co-operation on counter-terrorism between our services and those of Israel…I can assure you that any credible information or intelligence about terrorist activity is investigated. In the case of Hamas, the police and Security Services have seen no proof to support allegations that funds raised by Hamas in the UK are used directly in support of terrorist acts anywhere. Nor have we received any evidence to prove that Hamas members have planned or ordered terrorist operations from the UK. We have asked, and are asking, the Israeli authorities to provide us with any new information they may have. I need hardly add that the vast majority of the Muslim community in the UK are entirely law-abiding.
Where sufficient evidence emerges that individuals are involved in terrorism of any kind, we do not not hesitate to take action against them…I am satisfied that there is no need for a further enquiry into these matters. As I told you on Monday, I am very happy to give these assurances wider currency; I am therefore releasing copies of this letter as you did yours.”
Oh for a good editor!
The OIC, a coordinating organisation of 57 Muslim nation-states with its HQ in Jeddah and a former Saudi information minister, Iyad Madani, as Secretary General, is not short of a bob or two. A recent issue of its house journal has an article by a Talal Al-Daous, a departmental director dealing with Muslim minorities and also adviser to the SG. This contribution, entitled ‘Analysing political decision-makers behaviours’ reflects not just sloppy grammar, but atrocious spelling – note the inability to distinguish between ‘weather’ and ‘whether':
However setting aside these quibbles, other articles do offer some revealing statistics: that the OIC member states’ share of global scientific production in 2013 was 6.1%! Another contribution notes that of the top 400 universities in the world, there are only 18 from OIC member countries – and there is also a 40% illiteracy rate. The OIC may need a sharper-eyed editor but the Muslim world is short of massive Bill Gates-type educational endowments. click here.
Deep state and revolving doors
Perhaps too-little noticed has been the account by the distinguished Guardian columnist, Seamas Milne, on the circumstances that led to Alasdair Milne’s dramatic departure from the BBC in 1986 – it is a tale that reflect’s on Britain’s own ‘deep state':
By the time the BBC’s offices in Glasgow were raided by Special Branch over a film that was never broadcast about a secret British intelligence satellite that was never launched, preparations to sack the director general were far advanced. Such a thing had never happened before. It was a transparently political operation, and was intended to be so. In the autumn of 1986, Thatcher installed Marmaduke Hussey as BBC chairman, a man with impeccable Conservative connections and a fiercely anti-union record. She did so, Seaton reveals [in her book Pinkoes and Traitors], only after first seeking the approval of Murdoch, the BBC’s “most committed commercial and political enemy”. Hussey then consulted Victor Rothschild, a security adviser to Thatcher (and one-time associate of the Cambridge spies). According to Hussey’s memoirs, it was Rothschild who proposed firing the director general. That was finalised over lunch with the home secretary, Douglas Hurd. Within three months, it was done. No explanation was given. And Hussey used a threat to my father’s pension to persuade him to resign for “personal reasons” – and prevent him speaking out in public. click here.
Seamas Milne also reveals the bias in Seaton’s account, illustrating the revolving doors at the heart of the deep state: “The book is littered with inaccuracies and demonstrable distortions: from names and dates to the self-serving spin of those who have survived to tell the tale. In the case of the Thatcher-inspired sacking of the director general, Seaton claims he had been “misleading the governors” over the Maggie’s Militant Tendency libel action and that they had “intended” to sack this “zombie DG” for three years. There is no evidence for either claim. The libel case only started to unravel when Tory pressure led witnesses to withdraw their testimony. And as one surviving governor of the time confirms, dismissal had not been discussed even informally until the last few months. If they had even a half-baked case of professional incompetence to justify decapitation, they would have certainly used it – and they did not. Tellingly, the source of these claims turns out to be Patricia Hodgson, then the BBC company secretary and a long-time Conservative confidante of Thatcher. Three decades later, she is chair of Ofcom, the government’s neoliberal broadcasting and communications regulator whose central purpose is the promotion of “free market” competition. It naturally suits Hodgson to try to depoliticise a destructive assault on the BBC in which she was intimately involved.”
Sara Khan – declare your interests!
The good lady Sara Khan has built a reputation as a severe critic of anything the MCB does, sometimes going overboard in her scorn. Most recently this was in the Guardian’s interview (30 January 2015) with Dr Shuja Shafi, when madam was most obliging in pooh-poohing his organisation’s work: ‘They [the MCB] seem to be very vocal about extremism, condemning the Prevent strategy, but I’ve never seen them really lead on grassroots counter-extremism projects’.
What does ‘really leading’ mean, as opposed to just ‘leading’?
She was similarly hostile during the Trojan Horse saga. In July 2014, the MCB issued this statement on the Trojan Horse saga:
…The evidence Mr Clarke cites, for example of social media conversations exhibiting inappropriate behaviour are indeed very disturbing and may constitute grounds for disciplinary, procedural and legal action. However, we do take issue with Mr Clarke’s approach that chooses to ascribe guilt by association, and by conflating conservative Muslim practises to a supposed ideology and agenda to ‘Islamise’ secular schools….For the avoidance of any doubt, the MCB call for an inclusive education, and we call for fairness, not favours. We do not call for a curriculum that promotes segregation, or an outlook on life that does not accept the pluralism that exists in Britain today. click here for rest of MCB statement.
But Sara Khan’s take was this: “… they [the MCB] complained that Mr Clarke was “conflating conservative Muslim practices to a supposed ideology and agenda to ‘Islamise’ secular schools.” For the record, I’d like to know: what exactly does the MCB define as conservative Muslim practice? Does the MCB believe homophobia, sexism, intolerance and the “inferiority” of other faiths are conservative Muslim practices?”
Why this over-the-top criticism? Is it juvenile establishment-bashing or something else?
Well, it is time for the boot to be in the other foot. From now on, it is only right that when called up by the media to criticise Muslim civil society for ‘not doing enough about extremism/homophobia/sexism/intolerance etc. etc’, there ought to be this declaration of interests – “I have been a Government consultant”. This is because she co-founded Inspire, a body that has been in receipt of Prevent-related funding via work for councils.
Source: The Taxpayers Alliance (2009)
The MCB is not above criticism and neither is Sara Khan. She should declare the financial benefits obtained from HMG’s largesse – the above work in Redbridge may only be a fraction of fees. And does the conflict of interests end there? What about her sister Sabin Khan’s association with the Home Office? Though it must be said, to give Sabin credit, she seems a person of mettle having confronted Theresa May. When such declarations of interest are forthcoming from Sara Khan, we can decide whether madam is a fair and credible commentator on British Muslim matters.
Goalkeepers needed, not Gatekeepers
The Baroness has a particular problem with the Muslim Council of Britain, which surfaces in her recent article in the Observer (24 January 2015): ‘my criticism, which I have on numerous occasions discussed with it, is that it continues to produce a leadership that is neither equipped to represent, nor is genuinely reflective of, the contemporary aspirations of large sections of British Muslim communities’.
Who is to be the objective judge whether an umbrella body is ‘genuinely’ representative of aspirations of large sections’ of British Muslims? It has required considerable struggle and effort to establish the MCB, which though not perfect, is the best thing the community has at present to a responsible, constitutionally-governed, non-sectarian, representative body, running since 1997. It has benefited from the coalition-building skills of community leaders such as Sir Iqbal Sacranie and Dr Abul Bari, the organisational expertise of Dr Akbar Mohamedali and Mrs Unaiza Malik and eminent professionals like Judge Khurshid Drabu and Khalid Sofi who advise on transparency and governance. Its annual general meetings are demanding and lively, and delegates of affiliates hold the leadership to account in no uncertain terms. Today, its deputy secretary general, Harun Khan, represents a British-born generation of talented Muslims willing to give community service. The Baroness has never discussed ways of strengthening and building on this work; the criticism, which she states was offered on ‘numerous occasions’, has more often been along the lines, ‘the MCB needs to grow up’!
Sayeeda Warsi would like an alternative to the MCB: a Muslim Leadership Council, styled on the Jewish Leadership Council. Her Observer article notes, ‘She [Warsi] voices her frustration at the refusal by the coalition to establish a Muslim equivalent of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) which arranges for community figures to share their views directly with the prime minister’. The JLC, launched in 2009, seems to be a mix comprising heads of large Jewish charitable and community service bodies but the key players are individuals (such as mining mogul Mick Davis and other tycoons including Ronald Cohen and Poju Zabludowicz). Warsi would seek to create yet another body, thus asking British Muslims to put aside the MCB and start afresh. The more important lesson to be learned from British Jewry is not the JLC, but the fact that it was able to sustain one representative organisation, the Board of Deputies, for almost 250 years.
Warsi places premium on a forum that would enable ‘community figures’ to share their views ‘directly with the prime minister’. However, if these community figures are to comprise a JLC-type make-up, representing business and politically-partisan interests, what are the safeguards that commitments will not be made on behalf of British Muslims in an arbitrary way? There will always be an inclination in Downing Street to call the shots and expect compliance. This was very much Blair’s style – when some Muslim leaders were called to Downing Street on 27 September 2001 on the eve of the bombing of Afghanistan, Alastair Cambell told them, ‘you guys have a selling job to do’.
The Baroness may think her destiny is to to work for a voice for British Muslims in the corridors of power. Hats off to her for that vision, but there is a way of approaching it in a wise, humble and principled manner – by strengthening existing Muslim civil society institutions.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is no doubt a star in British life who can act on principle. Her response to the letter sent by the Secretary of State for Commmunities and Local Government (CLG) to mosque imams contained much good sense. She resigned as foreign office minister in the Coalition Government in August 2014, because the policy on Gaza was ‘morally indefensible’. In 2011, she memorably remarked, ‘Islamophobia has now passed the dinner-table-test’, the first senior politician to acknowledge this noxious canker in British life. A year earlier, she had called for society that pursued ‘equality and opportunity’, adding ‘let us be sure that in our time British Muslims aren’t entitled to the crumbs from the table but to a stake in the cake’. While a minister at CLG she was instrumental in releasing funds for the ‘Remembering Srebrenica’ campaign, now energetically led by her advisor Dr Waqar Azami. It is a welcome sign that the recent delegation to Bosnia included MCB representatives. Hopefully we are all growing up. The need of the hour is not for gatekeepers to Downing Street, but rather good teamwork with good goalkeepers to defend and strengthen existing Muslim civil society.
Over and out!
This is what Kathrin Oertel, a leader of the German Islamophobe movement Pegida said in January: ‘ … in Germany we have political repression again. Or how would you see it when we are insulted or called racists or Nazis openly by all the political mainstream parties and media….
Well, the link with the Nazis is now apparent: ‘The head of the German anti-Islamisation movement Pegida has stepped down after a picture of him posing as Adolf Hitler went viral… the picture of Bachmann [co-founder of Pegida] posing as Hitler after a session at his hairdresser, complete with a Hitler hairstyle dyed black and parted on the right and a toothbrush moustache, went viral on Wednesday after it was published by a local newspaper, the Dresden Morgenpost.’ click here.
Finally, patience runs out
– Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain and former Chair of Trustees of the East London Mosque Trust Fund is a courteous and mild-mannered gentleman to the bone. He has long suffered the tendentious insinuations of journalist Andrew Gilligan on the dark, illiberal forces within Muslim civil society. This journalist can hardly write a sentence about the MCB, the Islamic Foundation, the East London Mosque or Islamic Forum Europe without adjectives such as ‘entryist’, ‘radical’ or ‘hardline’. For example, an article in the Daily Telegraph in February 2010, there was the ridiculous assertion, ‘The Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) which believes in jihad and sharia law, [and] wants to turn Britain and Europe into an Islamic state…’. . Gilligan was strident at the outset of the ‘Trojan Horse’ saga in March-April 2014, resurrecting an MCB report written 7 years earlier co-authored by Dr Bari, describing it in lurid terms as a ‘detailed blueprint for the radical ‘Islamisation’ of secular state schools’.
It seems that Dr Bari has had enough and it is now time to take off the gloves. Writing in Huffington Post after the Paris atrocity, he observes,
‘Sadly, some on the political Right are not helping by shabbily attacking Muslim individuals in this country for all sorts of issues. There is also a flagrant demand that all individual Muslims take responsibility for the criminal acts of others. When all across Europe are worried about the fallout from the Paris killings this can only be music to the ears of Islamophobic hate mongers.One such columnist, who is known for his destructive obsession with the Muslim community, has once again made a broadside against some Muslims, in an article Paris attacks: Why this could happen in Britain (The Telegraph) …Andrew Gilligan, the Telegraph journalist, targeted two Muslim individuals from around 100 others in the audience for his diatribe. Mr Gilligan’s tirade against many Muslim leaders is not new. Since a Dispatches film he made for Channel 4 in 2010 (‘Britain’s Islamic Republic’), done with shoddy research, he has been using his own brand of regurgitation to ‘prove’ how certain British Muslim individuals and organisations are working to create an ‘Islamic Republic’ in Britain (as if working in the public domain is a no-go area for Muslims)
Well said! For Dr Bari’s complete article, ‘Stoking Fear leads of Britain’s “Islamic Republic” leads to growing intolerance towards Muslims’, click here.
Where are the condemnations now?
The Church Fathers are quick to call on Muslims (even British Muslims far removed from happenings) to condemn violence. Often noticeable in this lineup is the former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, now President of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue, quick to take the high moral ground and discomfit Muslims. He recently called for the need to ‘stem the tide of Islamic militancy’ and even calling on the Pope – not a particularly loyal act for an Anglican – to ‘speak on behalf of persecuted Christians worldwide’. We now await his response to the tragedy unfolding in the Central African Republic: Tens of thousands of Muslims are fleeing to neighboring countries by plane and truck as Christian militias stage brutal attacks, shattering the social fabric of this war-ravaged nation. [Washington Post]. For that matter, what have British evangelical movement’s leaders said about the vicious Lord’s Resistance Army, which aims to rule Uganda according to the 10 commandments?
A Tale of two Cordobas
There is the Cordoba Foundation (TCF) in London, ‘a prominent UK based think tank, with an established and significant track record in conflict resolution, hostage negotiation, and the promotion of dialogue over the last decade.’ Then there is the Cordoba Institute (TCI) in New York, aiming to elevate ‘ the discourse in America on Muslims and presenting a pluralist, tolerant and compassionate vision of Islam’.
Prima facie, the expectation would be of converging points of view, mutual sympathy and unanimity of purpose. But when London’s TCF (CEO Anas Altikriti) was outrageously and irresponsibly labelled a ‘terrorist’ body by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Federal Law No. 7 of November 2014, what did TCI’s head, Faisal Raof have to say?
No words of support for a fellow NGO – but rather this self-protective statement: ‘the similarity in the names of both organizations—or any others bearing the Cordoba name—is purely coincidental. TCI has no position on the UAE Cabinet’s designations.’
So Dr Raof has ‘no position’ to take when a Muslim civil society body is criminalised without any evidence! Presumably Dr Raof, in his concern for his standing as a patriotic and loyal American, will only come off the fence once the US ambassador in London gives Anas Altikriti an approval kite mark!
It brings to mind Mehmood Memdani’s observation in his essay ‘Good Muslim, Bad Muslim‘
.. we are now told to distinguish between good Muslims and bad Muslims. Mind you, not between good and bad persons, nor between criminals and civic citizens, who both happen to be Muslims, but between good Muslims and bad Muslims. We are told that there is a fault line running through Islam, a line that separates moderate Islam, called ‘genuine’ Islam, from extremist political Islam.
Oh for a Foreign Secretary with mettle!
The Secretary of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office is the Rt Hon Philip Hammond – someone with an astute business sense evident in the fortune he has made the care home business. However the need of the hour is for the Foreign Secretary to show some mettle. HMG needs to robust firmly to the UAE and Saudi demands to proscribe dissenting Muslim social and political activists in Britain – an interference in sovereignty to say the least. The latest demands are now to curtail the London-based Cordoba Foundation. Its founder and CEO Anas Altikriti has provided a firm riposte on the 5Pillarz website, in reference to the UAE:
…A regime that made no bones about its instrumental role in supporting the military coup that brought Egypt’s brief encounter with democracy to an end last year, bloodied its hands with a high profile assassination in Tunisia with the hope of creating a popular uprising against the then government led by the Islamist Ennahda party, and several attempts to poison the already chaotic scene in Libya by backing a rogue General from the pre-revolution era to launch air strikes via Egyptian fighters; the UAE is definitely going all out to crush not only its own reformist movement but virtually every reformist pro-democracy movement going throughout the region.
Hence, the absurd list. If The Cordoba Foundation is anything to go by, then it certainly sits on the wrong side of the UAE regime when it comes to supporting radical changes and reforms in a region seen as arguably the most oppressive and tyrannical, with records considered among the worst in the world on human rights and freedoms. And for that we make no apology. Indeed, if that’s the price that needs to be paid to support the transition of the entire region into the light of dignity and freedom, then so be it.
Mr Hammond should take a stand and say ‘hands off’ our civil society! National dignity should come before defence deals and promises of investment in nuclear power stations.
Truly hit for a six!
Pakistan beat Australia by 356 runs in the second and final Test.
Now that is a sporting headline to savour! Pakistan’s cricketing victory on 3rd November against Australia means that it has also won the series. An apt lesson for a cocky nation where racist remarks are commonplace and have emerged on the cricket pitch as well – those with long memories will remember the Dennis Lillee – Javed Miandad bust up, and more recently David Ritchie’s mocking remarks about petty thieves. A nice appreciation from Peter Oborne and Richard Heller in the Telegraph.
Ayad Madani and al-Sisi
Egypt today is facing repression: ‘In a presidential decree, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has rendered all public property – including power stations, universities, roads and bridges – as “equivalent to military facilities”. The decree means that any defendant accused of committing a crime on public property could be tried in a military court, a judicial system that Amnesty International says lacks due process and “cannot be seen as impartial and independent” (Patrick Kingsley in the Guardian, 28 October 2014)’. It is therefore ironical that the OIC feels fit to run such news items (taken from the latest OIC journal) referring to the visit of its Secretary General Ayad Ameen Madani:
So Sisi’s Egypt has a ‘pivotal role in advancing joint Islamic action in all (sic) spheres’!
An evening with the Radicals
It is not often that community organisers and activists, for ever reacting to one or other crisis, have an opportunity to raise their level of political literacy and even think long-term.
The book launch of S.Sayyid’s Recalling the Caliphate, Decolonisation and the World Order was a welcome opportunity for such an audience at the Muslim Council of Britain’s Whitechapel offices. Not only was the author at hand, but the event was compeered by AbdoolKarim Vakil, an equally talented and engaging thinker with the knack of summarising intellectual arguments to convey the kernel. If ‘Bobby’ Sayyid is the Islamicate Pankaj Mishra, then AKV is its Melvyn Bragg.
Much of the discussion was about the meaning and purpose of politics, and some of the problems that have stopped Muslims from ‘developing a vocabulary to talk about politics’. This is because of both internal limitations and external impositions. For S. Sayyid, the trend towards literalism (drawing a straight line from the text to events) has ‘stopped us thinking strategically and politically’; in this literalist and legalist mind-set, things are either good or bad; what we need are ‘resources to deal with the grey’, and to ‘stop reading our past canonically, but as history’. For him, the Caliphate was not a set of clearly laid out arrangements but a metaphor of how Muslims see the world. The Western hegemonic forces have left no room for debate, and Muslims now need to open up the space: ‘Muslims should be able to write their own history, how they want the future to be, to have the conversation’. One of Bobby Sayyid’s remarks left Salaam blogger’s mind buzzing: ‘Muslims should stop thinking of Islam as a religion – a notion permeated by the Western conception of Christianity – but more as a language; a language through which Muslims talk about themselves’.
The concept of ummah – the idea of multitude, ‘the commonality of similarities’ – means that Islam is an alternative globalisation. Muslims share a family resemblance, a comportment. There was a time when a scholar could travel from Djibouti to Djakarta and pray in the mosques along the route without difficulty. Muslims today ‘are too strong to be ignored, and to weak to change the rules of the game’. The War on Terror has become a sign of weakness of Western hegemony, because ‘violence is a sign of weakness’ and deployed ‘when an order is being created, or when an order is falling apart’. He called on the audience of community organisers to release themselves ‘from the grammar of the war on terror’ and become concerned with expressing Muslim agency. The fact that Muslims have played a prominent role in the anti-war marches and causes such as justice for Palestinians highlights their potential as a voice of conscience. A veteran community activist responded to this last observation by sharing an advice he had received from one of his ustads: that Muslims in Britain have a choice – either to live as sheep or lions; but they should remember the fate of sheep is usually the abattoir. Click here for details of S.Sayyid’s Recalling the Caliphate, Decolonisation and the World Order
Failing the litmus test?
A few weeks ago, the Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan put forward a proposal that GCSE religious studies students should learn about two faiths – this would mean making it mandatory, say on an Islamic faith school, to teach Christianity. According to the Daily Mail, the proposal was a response from our Government to the Trojan Horse saga: To ‘stop Islamic extremists from brainwashing children’!
Muslim schools would scarcely object to teaching another faith, particularly another Abrahamic religion. But note who was incensed: ‘…the Chief Rabbi’s office were said to have been “particularly heated in their anger” in their private responses to Mrs Morgan…This proposal will cause immense difficulties, particularly for Orthodox Jewish schools’ (reported in the Jewish Chronicle, 23 September 2014). What was that about shared values?
A London council has removed ‘unacceptable’ posters instructing women which side of the road they should walk down. The signs, which have ‘Women should please walk along this side of the road only’ written in both Yiddish and English, were spotted along Stamford Hill in Hackney. The Shomrim group, whose Jewish volunteers support policing in the area, said they were put up by an orthodox Jewish group during the Torah Procession earlier this week, in order to prevent men and women from the religious sect who are not married or related from touching.” Heather Saul reporting in the Guardian.
Shaikh AbdulQadir – Vote Yes!
Times have moved on since the murabitun squat in Warwick Avenue, the old days of RootJihad and the traumatic moment when the Norwich community disbanded and the illumaniti went on their separate paths. But the Shaikh today retains his sharp and subversive insights: Now that Parliament has been shattered into two fragments, the Commons now committee controlled and the House of Lords, an upper house voided of its function as a senatorial land-owning caretaker of the common folks’ rulings and now merely an extended reward-granted second Commons. The monarchy itself has lost its few remaining powers, its last monarch who fought to preserve a role as final arbiter in the system being George V. George VI and Elizabeth were simply swept aside as the House of Lords and the Royal Prerogative were abolished. At this stage, with Parliament now as voided of power as it had rendered the Monarchy, Scotland is asked if it wants to cede from the Parliamentary Union. All Scottish Muslims in reason must vote YES to be free of English rule. Historically no other position is either honourable or rational. The Shaikh no longer lives in Britain and originally from Ayr, he may well have cast a postal vote.
Yusuf Islam: Finding the Middle Way
The great troubadour has journeyed a long way: from the swinging ’60s to the life-threatening illness in the 70’s which served as a pathway to some serious self-questioning; finding light in Jerusalem and formally embracing Islam in London in 1977…then came his pioneering work setting up an Islamic school in Kilburn, and shortly he was again placed on the pedestal, this time by a new Muslim audience; it was his stricter-than-strict phase and not a particularly happy one, but his talent was irrepressible and shone through in Muslim children’s songs produced by his ‘Mountain of Light’ project. The slog of committee work and collective decision-making did not settle well with him, though his contribution to Muslim Aid, in the settlement of Bosnian refugees, helping Palestinian charities and the launch of the MCB should be on record. It was perhaps these associations that led the US Home Security to place him on a no-flight list, so that in 2004 he was escorted off his flight to Washington and interrogated! Anway, what is past is past. Earlier this year a ceremony in New York saw him join the greats in New York’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He now notes,
The evolvement of the science of Fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence] is a fascinating subject, but it is also not a closed subject. What is halal and what is haram have been stated clearly by Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him) in the Quran and Sunnah [the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed]. But where there are grey areas, there are allowances for different opinions…
Better late than never in appreciating that Islam is the Middle Way.
What’s in a name!
For some time now, George W Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ has been dropped by the US Department of Defense – it is the ‘US Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)’. One vacuous term replaced by another. This is a common wheeze to deflect opprobrium and public disgust. The private mercenary firm Blackwater changed its name to the bizarre Xe, to shake of hostile publicity and reputational damage after its employees killed civilians in Iraq. It rebranded again – Academi.<p>At a much minor level, our own HMG decided to rename Windscale as Seascale, because Windscale became associated in the public mind with radiation leaks and other accidents at the eponymous nuclear plant in Cumbria.
Neo-Con think tank continues to avoid scrutiny
The Henry Jackson Society has irked Lady Flynn Forester de Rothschild. She is sueing HJS for breach of trust over the recent ‘Inclusive Capitalism’ event in London, addressed by Prince Charles and Christine Lagarde. The Lady says that the idea and VVIP contacts was hers, and she only outsourced the logistics to HJS, but its director, Alan Mendoza, is now holding back surplus funds due to her from the conference. As a result the Lady has engaged the solicitors Stewarts Law to pursue a £187,000 High Court claim. It is clearly not a matter of money, but rather righting a perceived misdemeanour. One wonders why she did not undertake a due diligence exercise in the first place? There were enough alarm bells to be picked up!
Some years ago, a former employee, Mr M Hoare, went public on Alan Mendoza’s regime: ‘There is absolutely no internal democracy in the HJS, nor any transparency or rules of procedure […] the organisation operates on the basis of cronyism and intrigue. Sole power is held by one individual – Executive Director Alan Mendoza. He was not elected to the post and is not subject even to formal or technical restraints, nor to performance review and renewal of contract. […] The people who replaced the HJS founders at the head of the organisation were staff members of another think-tank: the Israel-advocacy organisation ‘Just Journalism’, of which Mendoza was a member of the Advisory Board and which shared the HJS’s London office.[…] Two other members of Just Journalism’s Advisory Board (who) joined the HJS’s senior staff: Robin Shepherd as ‘Director of International Affairs’ and Douglas Murray as ‘Associate Director’. Thus, four of the six top posts in the HJS are now held by former managers of Just Journalism. They have ensured that the HJS’s political goals have departed radically to those with which it was founded.’
The Henry Jackson Society incorporates the Centre for Social Cohesion and has had Michael Gove as a trustee. The CSC, for example, was exposed in the 2011 Spinwatch report. The outfit, under Murray, published reports such as Hate on the State: How British Libraries Encourage Extremism, Virtual Caliphate and A Degree of Influence – all attempts to demonise British Muslims. HJS is a registered charity – number 1140489. Are not registered charities required to be of public benefit? It beggars belief to understand how it remains a registered charity escaping scutiny of the regulatory authorities. Earlier action by an even-handed Charity Commissioner could have alerted Lady de Rothschild that there was more than meets the eye in an extremist neo-conservative group banally presenting itself as just another ‘cross-partisan, British-based think-tank’. More sanitation tank than think tank.
Who said this?
Living in Britain kills me. Everything is so safe, so sanitized and regulated, life here feels like being shut into a tiny box
Not some problematic young Muslim male – but rather Aris Roussinos – author of the recently published My Life Behind Enemy Lines with warlords, fanatics, and not so friendly fire
Scoffing David Goodhart
So Demos went ahead and held its seminar dealing with Muslim statistics bang in the middle of the Friday congregational prayer! A fly on the wall notes that the introductory remarks were by David ‘there is no racism anymore’ Goodhart. In self-congratulatory vein, he scoffed, “Look, there are Muslims present”. Zamila Bunglawala, one of those referred to, pulled him up short: Friday prayers were obligatory for Muslim men but not for women. Goodhart rolled his eyes. One more black mark in his book! This is the man who made the awful remark about Ken Livingstone’s diversity-friendly tenure as Mayor of London: that it was a balkanisation of the city. The allusion of course being to white flight – and ethnic cleansing – because of the Muslim virus.
Shame on Demos!
One would have imagined that a well-informed think tank holding a seminar on an issue of great importance to Muslims in Britain would welcome their participation. However note this invitation that has recently gone out from Demos:
As you may be aware, Demos is conducting research into the barriers young Muslims face in progressing into higher level professions / careers. The research is part of our Mapping Integration research strand, which is chaired by Trevor Phillips former Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Research shows that educational attainment rates have dramatically improved in recent years, with young British Muslims showing equal – if not higher – educational attainment than White British pupils. However, data suggests that British Muslims are still under represented in ‘upper professions’ such as finance, banking, media and politics…As part of our research, we are convening a roundtable (with lunch) of experts and stakeholders on Friday 27th June from12.30 – 14.30. …We believe that the research would benefit greatly from your experience and expertise and we very much hope that you will be able to attend.
Are the organisers so unaware (or so indifferent to Muslim practices) that they would time their programme bang in the middle of the weekly jum’a congregational prayer? Must the event be held in Ramadan? Clearly the message must be: Muslims not welcome! Shame.
I love my dog!
Salaam Blogger has been here for half a century but there are aspects of British Values which still baffle him. Apparently – as a mark of affection and friendship – Lady Carla Powell (wife of PR guru Lord Charles Powell, who has served as Tony Blair’s unofficial envoy, and sister in law of Jonathan Powell, TB’s chief of staff) – named one of her dogs, an alsation, “Tony Blair”. No Comment. But it brings to mind Cat Stevens’ first so-Sixties big hit (while blogger was doing his ‘O’ levels):
I love my dog as much as I love you
But you may fade, my dog will always come through.
All he asks from me is the food to give him strength
All he ever needs is love and that he knows he’ll get
So, I love my dog as much as I love you
But you may fade, my dog will always come through.
All the pay I need comes shining through his eyes
I don’t need no cold water to make me realize that
I love my dog as much as I love you
But you may fade, my dog will always come through.
Na, na, na, na, na, na, nana…
But in Lady Carla’s case, Beware my Dog!
Remembering Faiz Ahmed Faiz
These verses from Faiz’s great poem against oppression came to Salaam Blogger’s mind when learning of an event organised by the London Business School recently. The chief guest was the Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal. Among his pearls of wisdom were: “Alhamdu liilah Sisi has won….we will crush the Muslim Brotherhood…Saudi Arabia has allocated $40 billion to tackle terrorism…”. These were totally inappropriate and out-of-place remarks, given the audience. The same gaucherie was exhibited by a gung-ho King Abdullah II of Jordan when invited to a luncheon by the Lord Mayor of London in December 2012 – half of the speech was devoted to demonising the Muslim Brotherhood and calling for Al-Azhar to retain its independence and not be taken under the wing of the new government. No one had a clue what he meant by Al-Azhar. These royal scions are on a clumsy quest for support abroad, because the people are not with them.
Hum Dekhain Gay
We shall see
Lazim Hai ke hum Bhi Dekhain Gay
certainly we, too, will see/ We shall see
Woh Din ke Jis ka Wadah Hai
that day that has been promised us
Jo Loh-e-Azl pe Likha hai
Which is written with God’s ink
Hum Dekhain Gay
We shall see
Jab Zulm-o-Sitam ke Koh-e-garaan
When the mountains of cruelty and torture
Ruii ki Tarah Urd Jain Gay
Will fly like pieces of cotton
Hum Mehkumoon ke Paun Talay
Under the feet of the governed
Yeh Dharti Dhard Dhard Dhardkay gi
this earth shiver, shake and beat
Aur Ehl-e-Hukum ke Sar Uper
And over the head of the ruler
Jab Bijli kard Kard Kardke gi
When lightening will thunder
Hum Dekhain Gay
We shall see
Jab Arz-e-Khuda ke kabay se
When from this God’s earth’s (Kaa’ba)
Sab but Uthwaaiy Jain gay
All the idols will be removed
Hum Ehl-e-Safa Mardood-e-Haram
Then we, of clean hearts–condemned by
zealots those keepers of faith
Masnad pe Bithaaiy jain gay
We, will be invited to that altar to sit and Govern
Sab Taaj Uchalay jain gay
When crowns will be thrown off
Sab Takht Giraaiy Jain gay
and over turned will be thrones
Bas Naam rahay Ga Allah ka
Then only God’s name will remain
[Above extract sourced from http://qausain.wordpress.com/2009/08/06/hum-dekhain-gey/]
Surprising players in Britain’s Islamic Finance Market
Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking at the World Islamic Economic Forum in London in October 2013 seemed quite gung-ho: “…our ambition is to go further still. Because I don’t just want London to be a great capital of Islamic finance in the Western world.I want London to stand alongside Dubai and Kuala Lumpur as one of the great capitals of Islamic finance anywhere in the world”. The market opportunities have been picked up in unexpected quarters, including UK Israel Tech Hub, an enterprise founded by the British Embassy in Tel Aviv in order “to create partnerships in which British companies help Israeli innovation go global, and Israeli innovation gives British companies a global competitive edge”. An event in London on 19th June (2014), sponsored by the corporate law firm Wragge Lawrence Graham has three logos on its publicity flyer: UK Israel Tech Hub, HMG’s UK Trade & Investment and the ‘NewFinance’ network. And the event? ‘Innovations Islamic FinTech, roundtable discussion’. The invitation notes, “the UK is well established as a global player in the Islamic Finance industry…the purpose of this event is to bring together the growing number of interested parties in Islamic FinTech for an exploratory discussion to examine the application of technological innovation to Islamic financial services”. All this begs many questions: is not the technical expertise to be found where Islamic finance is well established, for example enterprises like LembaagaTabung Haji of Malaysia, that has been developing IT systems for Islamic finance for over forty years? Is Israel, a state that denies its Muslim citizens equal rights, a legitimate partner for a discussion to fulfill needs of the Muslim market? Why is HMG promoting Israeli interests, a country in violation of UN resolutions? Is UK Israel Tech Hub’s interest not at odds with the stand taken by anti-Shariah corporate lawyers in the US with Israeli and neo-con connections such as David Yerushalmi?
Bahrain: a betrayal of Christian Liberation Theology?
Bahrain is ruled by a despotic dynasty that is paying out attractive sums of dosh to British and US PR firms to bolster up its image. According to Bahrain Watch these include Bell Pottinger, G3 (Good Goverance Group) and Olton (“leaders in corporate intelligence…that go the extra mile”). Now apparently, Bahrain’s Information Ministry is trying to gain influence in British Muslim civil society (Salaam Blogger has witnessed this first hand – there is no dearth of rentier publicists). It seems the 21st Century despots have gained a new sophistication and skills in camouflaging violence. They are also willing “to go walking on the cat walk” – to use Professor John Keane’s description of the despots. A pity therefore that Church in Need, a Catholic charity, has succumbed to the charm offensive. Impressed that King Isa Al Khalifah has donated land in Awali, south of Manama City, for a cathedral, Bishop Camillo Ballin has thanked Bahrain’s king and ruling family “for their magnanimous gesture of goodwill to the Catholic community of Bahrain in granting 9,000 square meters of land” that will also serve as the vicariate’s apostolic headquarters. What has happened to Christian liberation theology? It was about providing succour to the oppressed rather than solidarity with the oppressor. Remember the words of Gustavo Guterez, its founding figure, in his powerful essay, ‘Notes for a theology of liberation': “What ultimately brings Christians to participate in liberating oppressed people is the conviction that the gospel message is radically incompatible with an unjust, alienated society.They see clearly that they cannot be authentic Christians unless they act”. Is not Bahrain today an unjust, alienated society, whatever the PR charm offensive?
Ex-MP Andrew Dismore and the Londonistan narrative
Some years ago, Mr Dismore, former MP for Hendon and now London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, was among the vociferous voices highlighting the ‘threat’ posed by Abu Hamza. For example, in 2004, he called for Abu Hamza to be “thrown out” of the UK”, asking why “the British people” were tolerating this man “despite his anti-Semitism, holocaust denial and hatred for our country and our society, from Her Majesty the Queen downwards”. Well, now we know, but alas a decade later when the damage to community relations has been done and the British public have become deeply suspicious of Muslims. The reason why Abu Hamza’s activities were not curtailed, according to a report by Philip Sherwell in the Telegraph: “Holding up what he said were reports from Scotland Yard, Joshua Dratel [Abu Hamza’s lawyer in the US trial taking place in May 2014] described the cleric as an ‘intermediary’ who cooperated with MI5 and the police to try to end foreign hostage-takings and defuse tensions with the Muslim community in Britain….Mr Dratel cited specific cases in which he said that the British authorities turned to Hamza for his assistance. After arrests were made in Britain related to the civil war in Algeria, Hamza was asked ‘how the community is reacting and how to keep the community in equilibrium”, he said. “He agreed to do so and made proposals.’ On another occasion, when a British captive was taken in Kashmir, Hamza was reportedly asked to try to intervene as he had connections with the hostage-taking group from his time in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Mr Dratel said his client made “some phone calls” but was unable to help. And the lawyer said that after two suspects in the 1998 US embassy bombings in east Africa were subsequently arrested in Britain, there was a discussion between Hamza and the authorities about ‘cooling the hotheads’.”
So Abu Hamza was a manufactured hothead and a honeytrap. Will Mr Dismore now acknowledge he was rather too eager to pass judgement and is sorry for his role in framing the Londonistan narrative? Telegraph, 7 May 2014
A note for Mr Shawcross
William Shawcross landed the job as Chair of the Charity Commissioners having served on the board of the Henry Jackson Society. It helps to be friends of Michael Gove, a fellow trustee of HJS, an institution that purports to be a think tank but arguably a home from home for Likudniks and holders of a Manichean world view (that ‘Islam is Darkness’) . He now has Muslim charities in the crosshairs. Woe betide them if they send money to groups in Syria! According to him “Islamic extremism is the most deadly threat to charities”. Sounds like hyperbole – the sort of talk one hears from security chiefs seeking to increase their budgets. Don’t expect Shawcross to investigate British registered charities connected to Israeli settler activity in the occupied territories of Palestine. Don’t expect him to finger the many front organisations in the UK that support Hindu fanaticism and have served as a conduit to Modi’s party machinery in the guise of relief funds (as suggested by the fearless Priyamvada Gopal).Oh No!
Perhaps Shawcross was brought to the CC to ensure good governance. We hope the organisation keeps a register of conflicts of interest. Shawcross is partisan – once described as “politically somewhat to the right of Lord Voldemor”. According to the Greater Surbiton blogger he has described Guantanamo Bay as representing ‘model justice’ and as being ‘probably the best-run detention centre in the world and with more habeas corpus rights for detainees than anywhere else’; claimed that ‘Rupert Murdoch has been the bravest and most radical media owner in Britain in the last 40 years’, whose ‘real crime is to have challenged liberal conventions in the US and here.’ Believe that!
Charles Farr’s no-show
Representatives of Muslim charities and other groups were looking forward to meeting the Home Office supremo at the Office for Security & Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) on March 21 at the Baker Street mosque. The organiser was the Muslim Council of Britain and the aim was to seek some explanation from Mr Farr for his frequent briefings to the media about the ‘extremist’ dangers posed by Syrian returnees, rather than raising the matter with Muslim bodies directly. Attendees were disappointed: he did not turn up, but was represented by Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and the PREVENT spokesperson. According to one fly on the wall, Fahy had one message: MUSLIMS, DON’T GO TO SYRIA.How disciplinarian! Those present responded robustly – why is it no concerns are raised when ‘White ethnicity’ doctors and surgeons respond to the humanitarian crisis, but are for ‘people of colour’! Why is it that registered Muslim charities are being viewed with suspicion rather than non-Muslim ones? How come the PM was ready to send in British troops but now criminalising others wishing to go and help? Why are passports being confiscated from aid workers who are Muslim? Finally, a domestic blowback is less likely, because most Muslims accept that the mess has less to do with Western machinations and more with the Saudi vs Iran regional power games. Apparently Mr Farr has scheduled another meeting – watch this space.
Lord Curzon’s Ghosts
Lord Curzon was an imperialist of the old school, who did not think much of the freedom struggle in India, once dismissing the peoples of India for feebleness because they did not indulge in contact sports (like rugger) and dismissing Bengalis as a chattering class of “babus” – during his years of Viceroy of India (1899-1905) he presumably never encountered either kabbadi or Tagore! So like the HMG-philes of Quilliam Foundation appropriating the name of Abdullah Quilliam, so a body called Curzon Education Ltd seems to believe that a quintessential imperialist nabob’s moniker might add a touch of class! Director of CE is retired captain Afzal Amin, also Tory candidate for Dudley North – a Labour marginal – which can turn blue if a 1000 of the constituency’s 5000 Muslims decide to back him. He was recently spotted at Woking Mosque’s WWI commemorations, hobnobbing with Brigadier Mark Abraham, Chief of Staff Headquarters Support Command. But why CE at Woking? Because this company is associated with the Curzon Institute, which apparently has a grant from CLG for talking about the contribution of Commonwealth soldiers in WW1 in British schools. The brief seems to have been extended to include venues like mosques – where Hugo Clarke of the Institue delivered a talk on 4 February.
À la QF, such talks were going to include a counter-terrorism agenda, but thanks to a scoop from Ahmed Versi, editor of The Muslim News, this was scuppered when he declared, “In its latest misguided policy, the British Government is planning to send Muslim soldiers into schools to challenge Muslim children about their patriotism rather than address the abuse, attacks and victimisation suffered following the Woolwich murder.” Lady Macbeth at the CLG has apparently shelled out CE with “£120,000 for 50 talks this year at an average of £2,400 each.”
A justified Anger
Even the mild-mannered, distinguished, interfaith champion Lord Indarjit Singh of the British Sikh community is upset by revelations that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sanctioned British Army advice to Indira Gandhi for the attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984. If Lord Indarjit is upset, what about the others? Note his strong language on Foreign Secretary William Hague’s statement in the Commons (4 Feb 2014) based on a review of documents (some were destroyed) relating to the incident: “smug and condescending”. On the claim that UK advice had a “limited impact” of the Golden Temple attack: “It is like saying that I had only a minimal involvement in a massacre or a holocaust.” He said the language in the documents was “insulting” to Sikhs – suggesting they were all extremists – and the UK’s real motivation in assisting India was keeping its arms contracts. All this is particularly poignant during World War I centenaries – after all 130,000 Sikhs volunteered (and some conscripted) to fight for Empire. Will Indarjit talk of his hurt on his next ‘Thought of the Day’ slot on Radio 4? Tory politicians are rightly worried about the Sikh vote in marginal constituencies – there are 800,000 Sikhs in the UK.
Donkey’s bray, people cringe
The e-mails from the Chairman of Quiliam Foundation, Maajid Nawaz, to senior civil servant Mark Caroll at the Department of Communities & Local Government will long be cited as examples of ingratiation and naivite! In the pursuit of what exactly?
8 October 2013
Due to the nature of this unprecedented news, we have been coordinating this transition [Stephen Yaxley’s apparent defection from the English Defence League] and all costs associated to it
without a budget. Please let us know if you can urgently help us with a direct contribution so that we may fund Stephen’s transition and cut off his previous dependency on EDL donors. Finally, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued support for Quilliam as we make history in this way. Today we hope to make you proud!
11 June 2013
The Prime Minister has indeed been listening to us. Only a week before the Woolwich murder he called upon me to visit him and the Foreign Secretary at Chequers in order to
advise officials on what our governments policy should be towards new Islamist regimes in the Middle-East. However, we believe that much more needs to be done to roll out the Prime Minister’s counter-extremism vision mandated back in 2011…
We at Quilliam believe that the solution lies in the development of grass-roots counter-narrative initiatives, and capacity building within communities. Only by providing civil society with knowledge and tools will we see a decline in the threat of extremism and terrorism in
the UK. In fact, we already have ideas about what such initiatives could look like.
Going for the chops!
The honourable Lord Sheikh of Cornhill has had a bumpy ride in the media recently and he must have spent many a meditative hour at his club, Whites, reflecting on the change from the gentlemanly world of insurance underwriters where he made his mark. It all began when some personal details of his life found their way to the pages of the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail – something to do with a young waitress. Then there were bizarre accounts of a once-confidante being chased by the benign Tory peer, now more a fist-shaking ghostbuster, down the hallowed Peers Corridor. None of this must have impressed the dignified Lady Sheikh, who runs her husband’s office with an iron fist clad in a velvet glove. However two recent interventions have gone some way to restoring our shaikh’s credibility – as the most intellectually well-equipped Muslim peer. The first was in the debate to counter Lord Pearson on the issue of Islamophobia. Then on 16 January 2014 Lord Sheikh made an important intervention in a Lords debate on religious slaughter (dhabiha or schehita):
Islam permits the slaughter of animals for food, but dictates that such slaughter must be exercised humanely. There has never been any conclusive scientific evidence to suggest that religious slaughter is less humane than conventional mechanical methods. The controversy revolves primarily around the issue of stunning. Exemption from stunning is allowed for halal and kosher slaughter. In halal slaughter the animal ceases to feel pain due to the immediate brain starvation of blood and oxygen. For the first few seconds after the incision is made, the animal does not feel any pain. This is followed by a few seconds of deep unconsciousness as large quantities of blood are drained from the body. Thereafter, readings indicate no pain at all. It is important to consider that prohibiting halal meat would have profound social and economic implications. There are now 2.7 million Muslims in the United Kingdom, 4.8% of the population. Halal meat accounts for between 10% and 15% of UK meat sales; some of this meat is, however, pre-stunned. People from all religions and backgrounds now choose halal as an alternatively produced meat. I want to see a rigorous code of conduct and an efficient system of self-regulation. This would reassure non-Muslims that such animals are being respected and standards are being adhered to. I would also like a full and transparent system of labelling for all meats, so that the consumer can make an informed decision about the meat they buy. Labelling should not be confined to religiously slaughtered meat. Finally, Islamic leaders have asked the Jewish community for guidance on this, and I hope they can work together.
The fuss on halal meat has arisen for several reasons: at one level it is Islamophobia – one dim wit peer made a link between the cruelty of FGM and dhabiha. For animal welfare lovers, it is the fact that some meat from animals subject to dhabiha (and hence possibly unstunned) is entering the distribution network. Strangely they think that stunning before dhabiha would be more humane – even though stunning involves harsh regimes such as electrocution or shooting a mechanical bolt into the brain. The noble Lord has made a good stand and will shame the Muslim lobby that seeks to make pre-stunning mandatory (e.g. who have accepted lamb from New Zealand which is stunned and then dhabiha). All this information should be leading to more Muslim vegetarians!
Until recently Fiyaz Moghul, CEO of Faith Matters , was quite ardent about the Lib Dems – in fact a Lib Dem councillor (for Noel Park in Haringey) and even a London mayoral aspirant in 2008. He was advisor to Nick Clegg no less, on “interfaith and preventing radicalism and extremism”. However the talk in the street is that he has become upset with this allegiance and is now a Labour Party man! Has Moghul’s disaffection and defection anything to do with the new darling of the Party – the Quilliam Foundation boss, Mr Majid Nawaaz – recently selected Lib Dem PPC for Hampstead & Kilburn? Was there a fallout between these two ‘Preventing Extremism experts’. Did they draw swords when vying for the same pot of shiny lucre? Maybe Fiyaz is returning home, after all he was quite effusive of Labour’s neo-con sympathising CLG minister Hazel Blears – someone with “a strong grasp on her portfolio… I welcome her vision.”
Lady Macbeth’s boo-boo –
Some gossip late in the telling but which remains amusing. Apparently she who bestrides ministries in both the FCO and CLG ruffled a few feathers in No. 10 in August. One of her favoured gatekeepers arranged for the PM to visit a mosque in North Manchester – deemed to be of the ‘non-extremist variety’, on Eid ul Fitr. However when the time came for the Friday khutbah on the day, the imam lashed out in a most florid speech denouncing his bête noire, “the sharabi wahabbis”. When the evidence of this extremism was brought to No. 10’s attention, the reaction was not sanguine!
In the Corridors of Power
“Whitehall’s most secretive mandarin” – a description attributed to Charles Farr, Home Office’s head of the office of security and counter-terrorism. He was asked to front the security organisations’ response to the Intelligence & Security Committee in July 2012 reviewing the draft communications data bill (aka the ‘snoopers’ charter). He did this in true Civil Service ‘economic with the truth’ style, not mentioning the GCHQ Tempora programme, now public knowledge thanks to Snowden. What do we know of this adroit operator? For a start, he was pipped to the post heading up MI6 when Tony Blair backed John Sawers. His enemies put the story that he was “too gung-ho”. At the Home Office he has been very much his own man, prepared to stand up to the superficial Neville-Jones, and later disagreed with Home Secretary May over the Zakir Naik affair. However, he does have history: according to one report, Farr came to prominence ‘flying round Afghanistan in a helicopter with thousands of dollars in bundles, doing deals with farmers to not grow opium. Bad policy as it turned out, but he did it very well’.
Will she, Wont she? Salma Yaqoob did well in the 2010 General Election, even though losing to Labour’s Roger Godsiff in Birmingham Hall Green, she obtained a swing
of 8%. It seems that Godsiff will stand again in 2015, while Salma now no longer has the Respect Party machinery to back her since her entirely justified resignation over George Galloway’s remarks on women. She lacks the sort of opportunistic ambition that will make her join Labour for a safe seat elsewhere? Most likely, so there is now an opportunity for a conscientious and principled woman to take up a leadership role within Muslim civil society.
Salaam Blogger slams a few wide balls to the boundary…
Much ire from Lady Macbeth
Our lady straddling the FCO and the CLG has apparently not taken kindly to the Muslim News’s scoop
Editor Ahmed Versi forthrightly declared, “In its latest misguided policy, the British Government is planning to send Muslim soldiers into schools to challenge Muslim children about their patriotism rather than address the abuse, attacks and victimisation suffered following the Woolwich murder.”
Soon, as is the lady’s want, one of her lackeys was at the other end of the phone to Mr Versi, making all sorts of high-handed claims and questioning the veteran journalist’s sources. Mr Versi rightly pointed out, the need of the hour was for school visits that raised awareness of Islamophobia.
APPG on Islamophobia
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia has had a chequered history. When first mooted, many Muslims hoped it would be named the APPG on Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism, because these are both manifestations of hatred due to religious prejudice and stereotyping. However there was a strong lobby amongst peers associated with the Board of Deputies to block this – in fact their agenda was to ensure that the APPG looked at anti-semitism amongst Muslims! Then they successfully blocked the Muslim civil society group Engage from providing secretarial services on charges of being critical of Israel. Now, according to academic Chris Allen, “This week (16 July 2013), the APPG on Islamophobia will again being relaunched. Hoping for third time lucky, the APPG will launch with a meeting considering events post-Woolwich. Whilst this presents much food for thought, I am slightly concerned by the potential connotations some will conclude by naming the meeting ‘A Tribute to Drummer Lee Rigby: Lessons from Woolwich’….” So now for the great and the good at Westminster efforts to tackle Islamophobia are to be neutered by viewing it within the counter-terrorism security lens!
No. 10’s tame cats
On the Muslim civil society grapevine is the news that a recent visitor for tea at No.10 was the chairman of Quilliam Foundation, the counter-terrorism think tank that “stands for religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy”. The same gentleman was also in the audience at a recent event when Education Secretary Michael Gove commended Israel’s record ‘on democracy and equal rights for women and Arab Israelis’! Apparently not a contradictory word from the QF chairman. Has no one heard of the discrimination in property laws that only apply to Arab Israelis? Or access to welfare and higher education? In Mr Gove’s book criticism of Israel is extremism – what does QF think? A clear statement is needed from eminent poly wonks at QF.
…Ah yes – the tea at No.10 – that was when our shallow PM said that the gentleman was “his favourite Muslim”. The purring could be heard across the road.
What a travesty that the fiercely independent and pan-Islamist Abdullah Quilliam should have his name associated with an institution devoid of a sense of justice. Education Secretary Gove: Muslims must counter antisemitism
The revelations on Lambert’s infilltration of environmental groups and ‘sleeping with the enemy’ bring to mind another undercover officer – Alexander Wilson – see the brilliant biography by Tim Crook.
Salaam Blogger in his time has attended a few meetings convened to discuss ‘violent extremism’ post 7/7. The well-dressed and dignified Robert Lambert was often present, representing the Muslim Contact Unit in Special Branch and later, on his retirement, as director of the European Muslim Research Centre at Exeter University. Did his colleague at EMRC, Jonathan Githens-Mazer (now Professor), know of his colleague’s history of spying during their joint work on Islamophobia? Why were MEMO and the Cordoba Foundation so trusting and so ready to provide him their platform? Was it a two-way street? Let us hope so!
What about Alexander Wilson? Well, he was inflitrated into Islamia College, Lahore in the mid-1920s and employed by a trusting Abdullah Yusuf Ali!
Saatchi’s ‘playful tiff’!
So domestic violence can be construed as a playful tiff – “About a week ago, we were sitting outside a restaurant having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella’s neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasise my point”. Imagine if instead of powerful personalities with a fleet of PR gurus to handle damage limitation it would have been a Mr and Mrs Siddiqui! There would have been an outcry about Islam’s treatment of women and Muslims not appreciating Britain’s values!
Saatchi: ‘Nigella Lawson Caution Was Best’
Well said, Ed Hussain
“When the London riots broke out two summers ago, the United States government did not call for police restraint, despite 3,100 arrests, nor seek to be involved through its ambassador as police harshness became known. We do not lecture our democratic allies — and Turkey, on balance, is a democratic country and a vital ally. We should support the government and, if anything, understand that the stakes are high….” Supporting Erdogan Helps Democracy
Return of the Living Dead
Quilliam calls for a resurrection of Blair’s neo-cons: “…Quilliam believes that the urgency of the challenge ahead necessitates that any such strategy now devised should be directly coordinated by Downing Street itself, and led by an appointed expert on a non-partisan basis. The UK possesses a number of such experts who have previously served in official senior government capacities, and who would be well suited to filling this role, having the maturity and experience to coordinate issues arising from the Prime Minister’s Task Force..”
Quilliam Policy Document
Henry Jackson Society & our Charity Commission boss
The Charity Commission has been one of the blue-ribbon institutions of Britain. Eyes are now on its new chair, William Shawcross. He has close links with the highly opinionated Henry Jackson Society and nest of neo-cons – a member of its Board, no less. Civil society will be watching the CC closely for any politically-charged policies and initiatives. Someone should challenge the HJS’s public interest status!
David Cameron’s positive intervention
Due acknowledgement should be made of the Prime Minister’s comments in the wake of the Woolwich atrocity: “…This was not just an attack on Britain – and on our British way of life. It was also a betrayal of Islam – and of the Muslim communities who are give so much to our country…Terrorism that has taken more Muslim lives than any other religion….” Statement on Woolwich incident
Lord Patel’s politics
The peerage bestowed on Lord Adam Patel in February 2000 was widely seen in the local Blackburn community as a gift from Jack Straw to mark both access to the Gujarati vote bank for Labour and also a long-standing personal friendship – apparently the young Straw spent his honeymoon in Adam Patel’s village in Bharuj, Gujarat?! The noble Lord’s service in Parliament has been low-key, though some of his Parliamentary Questions have been surprising – for example in 2011 “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they plan to take to reduce the vulnerability of global navigation satellite systems to terrorist attacks…”. Lord Adam Patel was also gifted a position in the until-recently FCO sponsored British Hajj Delegation. Now the noble Lord has raised some eyebrows in his local community by endorsing the butcher of Gujarat,Chief Minister Nerendra Modi. According to the Batley journal ‘Paigham’, Patel stated, “as a Gujarati myself, I consider it to be a gross insult that the CM of my state, hower, wronged (sic) one might feel he is, cannot express his views at a global forum because a few (!) in the audience dislike him”. Paigham also reports that “…in January Patel is said to have met Modi during a visit to Gujarat”.
Source: Paigham Publications, Batley, Issue 241, April 2013
Austen Ivereigh, man of principle
Man to watch – Austen, head of the Catholic Voices group, former media officer to Cardinal Murphy O’Connor and lead campaigner at London Citizens for asylum seekers’ dignity. He is now valiantly fighting the corner to ensure the word ‘marriage’ remains what it should be. But was it right of him to vote UKIP as a sign of disgust with the main political parties?
Baroness Warsi was a keynote speaker at the launch of the exhibition ‘Righteous Muslims’ at the Board of Deputies of British Jews in London in April 2013, an event co-organised by Faith Matters. The accompanying booklet by Fiyaz Mogul of Faith Matters has been a long time in the coming – it was first announced in April 2010!
Mr Mogul has several interfaith bridge-building credentials: board member of European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism (EISCA, chaired by Denis Macshane) and associated with the Community Security Trust through the Islamophobia recording project funded by HMG, Tell Mama. Faith Matters has a remarkably wide range of expertise, having previously published a study, The Tanzimat: Secular Reforms in Ottoman Turkey’. And the Baroness? She apparently made a “frank” speech – hopefully not as cliche ridden as the one to EISCA she delivered in November 2011 – must every politician quote “First they came for the communists…”
Riding High, Riding Low
Let us hope that William Hague is taking steps to unhitch the FCO bandwagon from State Department bunglings…”Karzai has infuriated US officials by accusing Washington of colluding with Taliban insurgents to keep Afghanistan weak…In Baghdad, Kerry confronted the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, for continuing to grant Iran access to its airspace and said Iraq’s behaviour was raising questions about its reliability as a partner”.
John Kerry makes surprise visit to Afghanistan
The Real Twit?
Official Saudi cleric Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheikh says Twitter “a council for jokesters” while dissident cleric Salman al-Odah has 2.5 million followers!
The Dark Side
Glenn Greenwald brilliantly exposes “a separate justice system for Muslims” in the US – the FBI paid one informant $200,000 to infiltrate a local mosque in Lodi, California. It is known that in the UK our agencies have been giving Somali youth a stark choice – join our payroll or life will become unbearable. Similarly the Prevent strategy has fragmented Muslim civil society by creating overnight wealthy groups and ‘King’s Parties’! Just look out for very sophisticated websites or young men with apartments in Dubai….
Remember the Brtish Army/Special Branch informer Stakeknife in the dirty war in Northern Ireland and also Agent Rupert, US-born David Rupert, paid £700,000 to infiltrate dissident Republican groups (Financial Times, 19 June 2003). The dark side of our liberal democratic dispensation.
Saudi Musical Chairs
With the demise of Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Governor of Riyad curiously described by the OIC as “one of the biggest leaders of the Islamic Ummah”, some more shuffling amongst the remaining sons of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud. Room is now being made in the second-tier leadership for his grandsons – the new Governor is Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz. Tipped as a coming monarch is the former intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz – the last of the first generation – currently second deputy prime minister. Incumbent King Abdulllah was born in 1926 – the succession fun and games will come after Mugrin’s departure because then it will be the Abdul Azilz’s grandsons competing for the throne.
Sadiq Khan’s blunder
An analysis of the way Muslim-heritage MPs voted on 5th February 2013 in the successful adoption of the Equal Marriages Bill which allows same-sex civil partnerships to be deemed as marriage:
- Rushanara Ali
- Sadiq Khan
- Shabana Mahmood
- Anas Sarwar
- Sajid Javed
- Rehman Chishti
- Yasmin Qureshi
- Khalid Mahmood
The decision of Sadiq Khan to vote for the Bill – a former chair of MCB Legal Affairs Committee – has prompted derision within community circles! “He could have abstained”, remarked the incandescent head of the Lancashire Council of Mosques
His Master’s Voice
Majed Nawaz of Quilliam: “Cameron has rightly said that efforts to undermine al-Qaida in the Sahel-Saharan region will take decades….”
Voice of Sanity from the Guardian in its editorial, ‘Only Folly lasts for Decades’ (22nd Jan 2013, “Words matter, particularly after the past decade of western intervention in Muslim countries, and particularly when uttered by a British prime minister. After such a history of sustained and repeated failure one would have thought David Cameron would choose his words with care in the aftermath of the attack on the Algerian gas plant.”
Counter-terrorism & Mars
At her trial on the media leaks case to News of the World, Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn offered an insight into the nation’s Counter-Terrorism Centre – “male officers who drank together and played golf together”; she also likened the atmosphere to ‘Life on Mars in the 21st century’. So this is the CTC to whom the State has given such draconian powers.
Hacking: Scotland Yard anti-terrorism officers regarded investigation as ‘bit of a jolly’
Lady Macbeth stalks again!
According to the OIC’s December bulletin – ” United Kingdom’s Senior Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Saiyda Warsi, sent an invitation letter to the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu to join a core group of influential government ministers and policy makers in London on 22 January 2012 in order to brainstorm on building common ground on combating religious intolerence”.
Why is the SG obliging? Something to do with his next assignment once his term finishes in 2013? And who will be invited by the Baroness to the high-table from the Muslim community?
Our distinguished Parliamentarians!
Mr Sajid Javid, Conservative MP for Bromsgrove & newly appointed Treasury minister. December 2012: Mr Javid, who described himself as a ‘proud British-born Muslim’, announced that if he had to leave Britain to live in the Middle East, then he would choose Israel as home. Only there, he said, would his children feel the ‘warm embrace of freedom and liberty”. For him, only Israel shared the democratic values of the UK.
“My own family’s heritage is Muslim. Myself and my four brothers were brought up to believe in God, but I do not practise any religion. My wife is a practising Christian and the only religion practised in my house is Christianity”.Report by Martin Bright, JC, 13th December 2012; http://alturl.com/fcwaa
Baroness Warsi, Conservative Peer, December 2012:”She thinks her background also plays an important part in international relations, and even refers to herself as ‘the minister for Pakistan’.” Interview with Decca Aitkenhead, The Guardian, 9th Dec 2012
Rehman Chishti, the Conservative Muslim MP for Gillingham, after Baroness Warsi’s remarks on growth of Islamophobia: “I dissociate myself from her comments. I’ve never experienced prejudice.”
Fury as Labour ‘smears’ David Cameron after he attacks multiculturalism
It may be a bent bank, but it is our bent bank?
So HSBC has a “pervasively polluted” culture that lasted for years, allowing it “to move billions around the financial system for Mexican drug lords, terrorists and governments on sanctions lists. HSBC’s Mexican operations moved $7bn into the US operations, for instance, which the Senate was told was tied to drug money”. Remember when BCCI was abruptly closed down for misdemeanours that were peanuts in comparison! Because it was a ‘Muslim’ bank?
How The Guardian buckles?
The hardcopy morning edition of the paper on Monday 10th December 2012 had a leading article in the Financial section with the headline- ‘Eurasian mining firm severs ties with Israeli diamond billionaire’ – a story of shady dealings around Dan Gertler – accused of “making most of his $2.5 billion fortune from looting Congo at the expense of its people”. However the online Guardian seems to have been under pressure.
The story’s headline at 8pm the same day was suddenly circumspect: “ENRC ends Congo mining deal with controversial billionaire Dan Gertler”
How to win friends & influence people!
A recent report on JewishNews1 has the title ‘Muslims want to have more more influence on British foreign policy’, adding, “…despite a six-fold increase in the number of Muslims in Britain over the past 30 years it appears, for now that this sizable community has a limited influence over policy making on the Middle East and on Britain’s relationship with Israel”. The question is: will Her Majesty’s Government now run much needed focus groups to see what are our specific gripes? Muslims want to have more influence on British policy
Sir Iqbal’s sixer
Ex-cricketer Sir Iqbal Sacranie executed a neat cover drive and expelled the bumptuous Montgomerie’s website ConservativeHome to the long grass. The website has published a full apology to Sacranie for falsely alleging that he had been rejected as a possible candidate for membership of the Muslim Leadership Council. Well done Adam Tudor of Carter-Ruck – but who would have briefed ConservativeHome in the first place if not Lady Macbeth?
The Double Speak of Jonathan Sacks
The Chief Rabbi told BBC’s Evan Davis that Iran was the real issue behind the crisis in Gaza – probably characteristic of the twisted analysis that is being offered to William Hague to justify Israel’s bombardment. But when he realised the mike was on, the BBC reports: “Lord Sacks then swiftly adopted a more formal broadcasting manner [sic] and suggested the crisis demanded ‘a continued prayer for peace, not only in Gaza but for the whole region’.
Not for the first time the Chief Rabbi has shown two faces: when a respected leader of the Progressive Jewish community, Rabbi Hugo Gryn died in 1996, Sacks attended the memorial service and made an eloquent address – but this did not go down well with the Orthodox rabbis who regarded it a sign of recognition of Reform Judaism. Sacks then wrote a ‘’confessional letter’ in classical Hebrew to the Beth Din judge, Dayan Chanoch Padwa, ‘expressing his pain at having to honour a man he regarded as a destroyer of the faith’.
For earlier postings of this blog, CLICK HERE