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Sun 20 April 2014
20 Jumaada al-Thaanee 1435 AH  

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Sane Voices & Responses


The London bombings of 7th July and the shadow of further outrages have affected Muslims in Britain like no other episode since the Rushdie affair of 1988-91. The shock has traumatised the entire country - as Andrew Rawnsley (see below) observes, "This is going to be with us for the rest of our lives".

The following trends stand out in a review of how society is responding to these momentous events:

  • The saga of the Home Office's Working Groups, projects & largesse - including 'Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE)

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  • 'Sane voices' offering explanations and standing up for Muslims and their values and institutions facing blanket condemnations
  • The campaign for a judicial enquiry into the root causes why young Muslims turn to violence and extremism
  • Exemplary Gestures - Nottinghamshire Constabulary
  • The media blitz - who represents British Muslims?
  • Hate crimes & other responses

    Sane Voices
    Inayat Bunglawala, 6th April 2006
    Paul Vallely, 18th November 2005
    Lord Steyn, 19th October 2005
    A. Sivanandan, 16th October 2005
    Seamus Milne, 13th October 2005
    Lee Jasper, 11th October 2005
    Madeleine Bunting, 10th October 2005
    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, 10th October 2005
    Soumaya Ghannoushi, 5th October 2005
    Salim Lone, 22nd September 2005
    Polly Toynbee, 20th September 2005
    Madeline Bunting, 12th September 2005
    Kenneth Clarke, 1st September 2005
    Brendan Barber, 24th August 2005
    New York Times (unsigned), 20th August 2005
    Richard Norton-Taylor, 19th August 2005
    Camila Cavendish, 18th August 2005
    Robert Beckford, 16th August 2005
    Asghar Ali Engineer, 16th August 2005
    Tariq Ali, 12th August 2005
    Roy Hattersley, 12th August 2005
    Dr Abdul Bari, 12th August 2005
    Naomi Klein, 11th August 2005
    Karen Armstrong, 11th August 2005
    Saad al-Fagih, 11th August 2005
    David Clark, 9th August 2005
    George Monbiot, 9th August 2005
    Charles Kennedy, 5th August 2005
    Ken Livingstone, 4th August 2005
    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, 2nd August 2005
    David Clark, 1st August 2005
    Jonathan Glover, 27th July 2005
    Andrew Murray, 27th July 2005
    Simon Tisdall, 26th July 2005
    David Clark, 25th July 2005
    Andrew Rawnsley, 24th July 2005
    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, 24th July 2005
    Josie Appleton, 21st July 2005
    William Dalrymple, 20th July 2005
    Hanif Qureshi, 19th July 2005
    Salma Yaqoob, 15th July 2005
    Madeline Bunting, 14th July 2005
    John Pilger, 14th July 2005
    Seamus Milne, 14th July 2005
    John Gray, 10th July 2005
    Karen Armstrong, 10th July 2005
    David Clarke, 9th July 2005
    Robert Fisk, 9th 2005
    Tariq Ramadan, 9th July 2005
    Robin Cook, 8th July 2005

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    Robin Cook, 8th July 2005

    Osama bin Laden is no more a true representative of Islam than General Mladic, who commanded the Serbian forces, could be held up as an example of Christianity. After all, it is written in the Qur'an that we were made into different peoples not that we might despise each other, but that we might understand each other.

    Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally "the database", was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians. Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden's organisation would turn its attention to the west.

    The danger now is that the west's current response to the terrorist threat compounds that original error. So long as the struggle against terrorism is conceived as a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed to fail. The more the west emphasises confrontation, the more it silences moderate voices in the Muslim world who want to speak up for cooperation. Success will only come from isolating the terrorists and denying them support, funds and recruits, which means focusing more on our common ground with the Muslim world than on what divides us. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1523682,00.html

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    Robert Fisk, 8th July 2005

    It is easy for Tony Blair to call yesterdays bombings "barbaric" - of course they were - but what were the civilian deaths of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the children torn apart by cluster bombs, the countless innocent Iraqis gunned down at American military checkpoints? When they die, it is "collateral damage"; when "we" die, it is "barbaric terrorism".

    If we are fighting insurgency in Iraq, what makes us believe insurgency won't come to us? One thing is certain: if Tony Blair really believes that by "fighting terrorism" in Iraq we could more efficiently protect Britain - fight them there rather than let them come here, as Bush constantly says - this argument is no longer valid.

    To time these bombs with the G8 summit, when the world was concentrating on Britain, was not a stroke of genius. You don't need a PhD to choose another Bush-Blair handshake to close down a capital city with explosives and massacre more than 30 of its citizens. The G8 summit was announced so far in advance as to give the bombers all the time they needed to prepare.

    A co-ordinated system of attacks of the kind we saw yesterday would have taken months to plan - to choose safe houses, prepare explosives, identify targets, ensure security, choose the bombers, the hour, the minute, to plan the communications (mobile phones are giveaways). Co-ordination and sophisticated planning - and the usual utter ruthlessness with regard to the lives of the innocent - are characteristic of al-Qa'ida. And let us not use - as our television colleagues did yesterday - "hallmarks", a word identified with quality silver rather than base metal.

    And now let us reflect on the fact that yesterday, the opening of the G8, so critical a day, so bloody a day, represented a total failure of our security services - the same intelligence "experts" who claim there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when there were none, but who utterly failed to uncover a months-long plot to kill Londoners …. And then come the Muslims of Britain, who have long been awaiting this nightmare. Now every one of our Muslims becomes the "usual suspect", the man or woman with brown eyes, the man with the beard, the woman in the scarf, the boy with the worry beads, the girl who says she's been racially abused.

    I remember, crossing the Atlantic on 11 September 2001 - my plane turned round off Ireland when the US closed its airspace - how the aircraft purser and I toured the cabins to see if we could identify any suspicious passengers. I found about a dozen, of course, totally innocent men who had brown eyes or long beards or who looked at me with "hostility". And sure enough, in just a few seconds, Osama bin Laden turned nice, liberal, friendly Robert into an anti-Arab racist.

    And this is part of the point of yesterday's bombings: to divide British Muslims from British non-Muslims (let us not mention the name Christians), to encourage the very kind of racism that Tony Blair claims to resent.

    But here's the problem. To go on pretending that Britain's enemies want to destroy "what we hold dear" encourages racism; what we are confronting here is a specific, direct, centralised attack on London as a result of a "war on terror" which Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara has locked us into. [extract]

    The Independent, Friday, 8th July 2005,

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    Tariq Ramadan, 9th July 2005

    On Wednesday Londoners were united in joy. Now we face the risk that fear will build walls of doubt and misunderstanding between them. All could come to feel that they are potential victims: of Muslim extremists on the one hand; of rejection and racism on the other. The proponents of the "clash of civilisations" theory will have won if we allow ourselves to become suspicious towards people of other faiths and cultures.

    Where does and where shall our strength lie? First, we must condemn these attacks with the strongest energy; Muslims in unison with wider British society. But to condemn is not enough. Our values, our societies, our common future require that we become aware of our shared responsibilities. Yes, London is a multicultural society but - in common with the rest of Europe - it will preserve its pluralistic equilibrium only through the personal engagement of every individual in their daily life, within their own neighbourhood.

    Muslims must speak out and explain who they are, what they believe in, what they stand for, what is the meaning of their life. They must have the courage to denounce what is said and done by certain Muslims in the name of their religion. They will not reassure their fellow citizens by pretending to be "like them", saying only what they want to hear and becoming invisible. They have to assert their identities, refuse simplistic discourses, promote critical and self-critical understanding and get out from their intellectual, religious and social ghettos. European societies need to see European Muslims involved in the society's questions of the day: citizenship, school, unemployment. Their strength must lie in refusing to be victims and in becoming active citizens, politically engaged both domestically and internationally.

    I n the name of the rule of law, democracy and human rights, we cannot accept that the rights of individuals (Arab or Muslim) be trampled upon, or that populations are targeted and discriminated against in the name of the war against terrorism. The strength of democratic societies relies on their capacity to know how to stand firm against extremism while respecting justice in the means used to fight terrorism.

    We shall achieve this balance only if every citizen, after the shock of this attack, makes the effort to get to know his neighbour better - his difference, his complexity, his values and hopes. It is not enough for progressive, open-minded people to say, "This is not Islam!" It is urgent that such people meet and act alongside Muslims - practically, concretely, daily. More and more Europeans are becoming passive, comforting themselves with pious vows and idealistic discourses: they want concrete measures against terror but think that "living together" will happen with no effort, as if by magic.

    Terror will crash down on us if we fail to understand that a pluralistic society requires the personal and daily commitment of every citizen. Criminals, no doubt, will continue to kill, but we shall be able to respond to them by demonstrating that our experience of human brotherhood and mutual respect is stronger than their message of hate. Our lives are fragile, but our commitment to our ideals is strong. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1524754,00.html

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    David Clarke, 9th July 2005

    The political dimensions of this problem mean that there can be no hope of defeating terrorism until we are ready to take legitimate Arab grievances seriously. We must start by acknowledging that their long history of engagement with the west is one that has left many Arabs feeling humiliated and used. There is more to this than finding a way of bringing the occupation of Iraq to an end. We cannot seriously claim to care for the rights of Arabs living in Iraq when it is obvious that we care so little for Arabs living in Palestine. The Palestinians need a viable state, but all the indications suggest that the Bush administration is preparing to bounce the Palestinians into accepting a truncated entity that will lack the basic characteristics of either viability or statehood. That must not be allowed to succeed.

    At its inception post-9/11, the war on terror was shaped by the fact that it was American blood that had been shed. This gave President Bush the moral authority to tell the world "you're either with us or against us". Having stood with America, and paid a terrible price for doing so, it is now time to turn that demand back on Bush. We have a vital national interest in defeating terrorism and we must have a greater say in how that is done. The current approach is failing and it's time for a change. If Tony Blair cannot bring himself to say this, he owes it to his country to make way for someone who can. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1524756,00.html

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    John Gray, 10th July 2005

    The 'war on terror' suggests terrorism is a global phenomenon but, actually, it remains almost entirely national or regional in its scope and goals. The Tamil Tigers do not operate worldwide any more than the IRA or Eta. Only al-Qaeda has a genuinely global reach, and it has been strengthened by American policies that have turned Iraq into a terrorist training ground. Western governments have helped make al-Qaeda what it is today, but it would be folly to imagine that any shift in their policies can neutralise the threat it now poses. No longer the semi-centralised organisation it was before the destruction of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda has mutated into a brand name that covers an amorphous network of groups that are linked together mainly by their adherence to an apocalyptic version of Islamist ideology. This network is the vehicle of a movement that has more in common with Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult whose members planted sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo underground, than it does with any version of traditional Islam. [extract]
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,1525183,00.html

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    Karen Armstrong, 11th July 2005

    Rhetoric is a powerful weapon in any conflict. We cannot hope to convert Osama bin Laden from his vicious ideology; our priority must be to stem the flow of young people into organisations such as al-Qaida, instead of alienating them by routinely coupling their religion with immoral violence. Incorrect statements about Islam have convinced too many in the Muslim world that the west is an implacable enemy. Yet, as we found at the conference, it is not easy to find an alternative for referring to this terrorism; however, the attempt can be a salutary exercise that reveals the complexity of what we are up against.

    We need a phrase that is more exact than "Islamic terror". These acts may be committed by people who call themselves Muslims, but they violate essential Islamic principles. The Qur'an prohibits aggressive warfare, permits war only in self-defence and insists that the true Islamic values are peace, reconciliation and forgiveness. It also states firmly that there must be no coercion in religious matters, and for centuries Islam had a much better record of religious tolerance than Christianity.

    Like the Bible, the Qur'an has its share of aggressive texts, but like all the great religions, its main thrust is towards kindliness and compassion. Islamic law outlaws war against any country in which Muslims are allowed to practice their religion freely, and forbids the use of fire, the destruction of buildings and the killing of innocent civilians in a military campaign. So although Muslims, like Christians or Jews, have all too often failed to live up to their ideals, it is not because of the religion per se. We rarely, if ever, called the IRA bombings "Catholic" terrorism because we knew enough to realise that this was not essentially a religious campaign. Indeed, like the Irish republican movement, many fundamentalist movements worldwide are simply new forms of nationalism in a highly unorthodox religious guise. This is obviously the case with Zionist fundamentalism in Israel and the fervently patriotic Christian right in the US.

    In the Muslim world, too, where the European nationalist ideology has always seemed an alien import, fundamentalisms are often more about a search for social identity and national self-definition than religion. They represent a widespread desire to return to the roots of the culture, before it was invaded and weakened by the colonial powers.

    Because it is increasingly recognised that the terrorists in no way represent mainstream Islam, some prefer to call them jihadists, but this is not very satisfactory. Extremists and unscrupulous politicians have purloined the word for their own purposes, but the real meaning of jihad is not "holy war" but "struggle" or "effort." Muslims are commanded to make a massive attempt on all fronts - social, economic, intellectual, ethical and spiritual - to put the will of God into practice.

    Sometimes a military effort may be a regrettable necessity in order to defend decent values, but an oft-quoted tradition has the Prophet Muhammad saying after a military victory: "We are coming back from the Lesser Jihad [ie the battle] and returning to the Greater Jihad" - the far more important, difficult and momentous struggle to reform our own society and our own hearts. Jihad is thus a cherished spiritual value that, for most Muslims, has no connection with violence. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1525714,00.html

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    Seamus Milne, 14th July 2005

    We can't of course be sure of the exact balance of motivations that drove four young suicide bombers to strike last Thursday, but we can be certain that the bloodbath unleashed by Bush and Blair in Iraq - where a 7/7 takes place every day - was at the very least one of them. What they did was not "home grown", but driven by a worldwide anger at US-led domination and occupation of Muslim countries. The London bombers were to blame for attacks on civilians that are neither morally nor politically defensible. But the prime minister - who was warned by British intelligence of the risks in the run-up to the war - is also responsible for knowingly putting his own people at risk in the service of a foreign power. The security crackdowns and campaign to uproot an "evil ideology" the government announced yesterday will not extinguish the threat. Only a British commitment to end its role in the bloody occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is likely to do that. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1528014,00.html

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    John Pilger, 14th July 2005

    In all the coverage of last week's bombing of London, a basic truth struggled to be heard. It has been said quietly, politely, guardedly, as if it might somehow dishonor the dead, instead of speaking truth to the cause. While not doubting the atrocious inhumanity of those who planted the bombs (as if anyone could), no one should doubt that these were "Blair's bombs"; and he ought not be allowed to evade culpability with yet another unctuous Bush-inspired speech about "our way of life." The bombers struck because he and Bush attacked Iraq, having been warned by the Joint Intelligence Committee that the "by far the greatest terrorist threat" to this country would be "heightened by military action against Iraq." [extract]
    http://dissidentvoice.org/July05/Pilger0714.htm

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    Madeline Bunting, 14th July 2005

    The Muslim community is being charged with a near impossible task; as one Muslim said to me: "If even the mother of one of these suicide bombers did not know what her son was doing, how can the rest of the community be expected to know?" As another Muslim added bitterly: "It's no longer enough that we condemn terrorists, we've now got to flush them out." The perception is that Muslims are being offered a deal: the price of being trusted again is to periodically deliver some scalps. Does that go as far as shopping co-religionists for any indication of heightened religiosity? If your nephew grows a beard and visits the mosque more often, will you now be expected to let the police know?

    The second painful process that the Muslim community has already embarked on is desperate soul-searching. As one imam put it to me: "Why has the Muslim community failed in reigning in their own youth and shaping their future? Why have the mosques failed to provide rigorous leadership? We must acknowledge our failure." Again and again in conversations, the subject which kept cropping up was what one described as "shoddy Islamic theology".

    As one anguished Muslim put it: "What is it about Islam that makes people suicidal? Plenty of people are really angry about Iraq, but they don't give up their life at 19. There's a missing link here - what makes a boy commit suicide? It can only be if he thinks that what lies in store for him is better than life - and that's got to be Islamic theology.

    "It will have to change. In particular, the references to violence in the Qur'an have to be contextualised; in a global village, this has to be reinterpreted and that has to be done by our Islamic scholars. New thinking is desperately needed." But alongside the heartfelt self-criticism, another issue repeatedly cited is just as important; British foreign policy is a cancer in our community, corroding trust in the British political system and poisoning our youth: "You cannot ask us to contain the anger within our community caused by this country's foreign policy." The honesty and new thinking required by us, say Muslims, must be mirrored by the government; it cannot pretend Iraq and Palestine are irrelevant.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1528012,00.html

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    Salma Yaqoob, 15th July 2005

    When Tony Blair describes the London bombings as a perversion of Islam, I agree. The shoddy theology that endorses the killing of innocent people must be challenged. The chilling calculation peddled by some fanatics legitimises innocent deaths as collateral damage for the higher cause of shattering the complacency of western governments and getting western troops out of Muslim lands. To sacrifice your life, on the battlefield or in a suicide bombing, is to achieve the high status of martyr. And the innocent people killed will go to heaven anyway, so their suffering and that of their loved ones is worth the political aim.

    Clearly this is a convoluted equation, but one we must pay attention to if we are to get to grips with the threat that faces all of us in Britain today. What is regrettable is that the more simplistic version offered by Tony Blair is setting the parameters of debate. According to him the "perversion of Islam" driving a minority of Muslims boils down to this: hatred of the western way of life and freedom means that Muslims (wherever they live) should kill and bomb people to force them to be Islamic.

    This formulation ensures that any contextualisation will remain absent. The suffocating consensus already achieved may well protect Blair (how can he permit any linkage to the Middle East without implying his own guilt) - but it does not protect ordinary British people.

    Moreover, as British Muslims we must brace ourselves for a backlash - coming not from ordinary people, but from the need of politicians to deflect attention from their own role in this tragedy.

    Because what is undeniable is that the shoddy theology - no matter how "unIslamic" and easily condemned by most Muslims - is driven by political injustices. It is the boiling anger and hurt that is shaping the interpretation of religious texts into such grotesque distortions. Such extreme interpretations exist only in specific political circumstances - they certainly do not predate them, and the religious/political equation breaks down if there is no injustice to drive it. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1528949,00.html

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    William Dalrymple, 20th July 2005

    …Since the revelation this week that no less than three of the suicide bombers visited Pakistan in the year preceding the attack, the British press has been quick to follow the US line: last weekend the Sunday Telegraph was helpfully translating the Arabic word madrasa as terrorist "training school" (it actually means merely "place of education"), while yesterday's Daily Mirror confidently asserted over a double-page spread that three of the bombers had all enrolled at Pakistani "terror schools".

    In fact, it is still uncertain whether the three visited any madrasa in Pakistan - intelligence sources have yet to confirm this. More important, the link between madrasas and international terrorism is far from clearcut, and new research has poured cold water on the much-repeated theory of madrasas being little more than al-Qaida training schools.

    … It is true that there were good reasons for people jumping to the assumption of the madrasas' culpability. The terrifyingly ultra-conservative Taliban regime was unquestionably the product of Pakistan's madrasas. Many madrasas are indeed fundamentalist in their approach to the scriptures and many subscribe to the most hardline strains of Islamic thought. It is also true that some madrasas can be directly linked to Islamist radicalism and occasionally to outright civil violence. It is estimated that as many as 15% of Pakistan's madrasas preach violent jihad, while a few have even been known to provide covert military training.

    But it is now becoming very clear that producing cannon-fodder for the Taliban and graduating local sectarian thugs is not at all the same as producing the kind of technically literate al-Qaida terrorist who carried out the horrifyingly sophisticated attacks on the World Trade Centre. Indeed, there is an important and fundamental distinction to be made between most madrasa graduates - who tend to be pious villagers from impoverished economic backgrounds, possessing little technical sophistication - and the sort of middle-class, politically literate, global Salafi jihadis who plan al-Qaida operations around the world. Most of these turn out to have secular scientific or technical backgrounds and very few actually turn out to be madrasa graduates. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1532004,00.html

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    Hanif Qureshi, 19th July 2005

    We no longer know what it is to be religious, and haven't for a while. During the past 200 years sensible people in the west have contested our religions until they lack significant content and force. These religions now ask little of anyone and, quite rightly, play little part in our politics. The truly religious, following the logic of submission to political and moral ideals, and to the arbitrary will of God, are terrifying to us and almost incomprehensible. To us "belief" is dangerous and we don't like to think we have much of it.

    Confronted by this, it takes a while for our "liberalism" to organise itself into opposition and for us to consider the price we might have to pay for it. We also have little idea of what it is to burn with a sense of injustice and oppression, and what it is to give our lives for a cause, to be so desperate or earnest. We think of these acts as mad, random and criminal, rather than as part of a recognisable exchange of violences.

    The burning sense of injustice that many young people feel as they enter the adult world of double standards and dishonesty shock those of us who are more knowing and cynical. We find this commendable in young people but also embarrassing. Consumer society has already traded its moral ideals for other satisfactions, and one of the things we wish to export, masquerading as "freedom and democracy" is that very consumerism, though we keep silent about its consequences: addiction, alienation, fragmentation.

    We like to believe we are free to speak about everything, but we are reluctant to consider our own deaths, as well as the meaning of murder. Terrible acts of violence in our own neighbourhood - not unlike terrible acts of violence which are "outsourced", usually taking place in the poorest parts of the third world - disrupt the smooth idea of "virtual" war that we have adopted to conquer the consideration of death.

    'Virtual" wars are conflicts in which one can kill others without either witnessing their deaths or having to take moral responsibility for them. The Iraq war, we were told, would be quick and few people would die. It is as though we believed that by pressing a button and eliminating others far away we would not experience any guilt or suffering - on our side....

    ...We were dragged into this illegal and depressing war by many lies and much dissembling. A substantial proportion of us were opposed to it. During wars ordinary citizens feel they lack information and moral orientation while governments act decisively and with brutality. Governments may be representative but they and the people are not the same. In our disillusionment, it is crucial that we remind ourselves of this. States behave in ways that would shame an individual. Governments persuade individuals to behave in ways that individuals know are morally wrong. Therefore governments do not speak for us; we have our own voices, however muffled they may seem. If communities are not to be corrupted by the government, the only patriotism possible is one that refuses the banality of taking either side, and continues the arduous conversation. That is why we have literature, the theatre, newspapers - a culture, in other words.[extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1531301,00.html

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    Josie Appleton, 21st July 2005

    Blair's order for Muslim organisations to keep their youth in line is a prime example of the British elite's gutlessness. It just won't face up to the source of the problem: that young Muslims feel alienated from mainstream British institutions. Instead, the issue is written off as a theological confusion, which only mosques can sort out. 'Go on - tell them that Mohammed didn't say that!', is Blair's message to the Imams. Passing the buck from the government of Britain to the Muslim Council of Britain is likely to increase young Muslims' sense of grievance. Outside Finsbury Park mosque last night, one young man complained: 'Everything is blamed on Muslims. But you can't just point the finger; you have to try and understand.' [extract]
    http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CACA2.htm

    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, 24 July 2005

    British Muslims feel too that the present delicate situation is being exploited by the pro-Israeli lobby. Interviewers regularly push Muslim spokespeople into an admittance that Palestinian suicide bombs are an exact equivalent of the London blasts. The suffering is the same but the two situations cannot be compared. Israel wants to cleanse itself of any culpability. To kill innocent Jewish people in clubs and at bus stops is indeed horrific but so is the shooting of young Palestinian boys and other citizens by Israeli soldiers.

    Haggai Matar, an Israeli activist, writing in a new book Refusenik! (published by Zed Books), understands: "Today militarisation and racism among the Jewish population have reached a fascist level. The repression of critical thinking, the total acceptance of the occupation's crimes, the idolisation of the army and the gradual acceptance of 'ethnic cleansing' - all of these constitute only a part of our society's collapse."

    There is a deletion of history too among the ultra-Zionists who today demand Muslim compliance with their versions of the truth. After 1946, the Irgun movement led by Menachem Begin and other Jewish terrorists, were as merciless as the Palestinian terrorists today. Both were and are fighting for the same cause, a homeland. The Irgun attacked King David Hotel leaving 91 dead; an Arab village was razed - 254 dead. Tax offices, immigration offices, British administration buildings were bombed. British officials and soldiers were kidnapped, sometimes strung up.

    Finally, Muslims of all classes, even those who feel irrevocably British, are increasingly dismayed by the slimy words of British politicians eager to talk about the "ideology" of evil Islamicists and not at all about their own malevolent machinations and duplicitous politics. This global threat was born when corrupted Islam mated with the corrupt foreign policies of the West and the USSR. It started in Afghanistan under Soviet occupation, in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt and Algeria where the US, UK, France and other European countries play their immoral, self-serving games.

    Muslims, rightly, have been asked to wake up and act to redeem their faith and rescue the young faithful from the temptations of glory offered by murderous Islamicist warriors. But our young will not look our way if they see a duff deal, if Western governments avoid any blame for the state we are in. Their interventions in the world have made it easier for terrorism to flourish. We have yet to hear a single member of our government accept that responsibility.

    British Muslims are again being made to feel that they are not entitled to the rights and respect given to others. You don't want this resentment growing just when the country needs to come together in trust and co-operation to face the next attack, which will surely come soon. [extract]

    The Independent, 24 July 2005

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    Andrew Rawnsley, July 24, 2005

    The second wave of attacks may have been non-deadly copycats of the first, but they have greatly increased the fear that we are only at the beginning of an open-ended struggle of attrition with homegrown suicide bombers. One of the younger members of the cabinet grimly forecasts: 'This is going to be with us for the rest of our lives.'

    As this sinks in with both the public and in government, it will change the psychological contours of the politics of terror. When he was told about the first wave of attacks a fortnight ago, at least a sliver of the Prime Minister must have shivered over the possibility that this could be the event that finally did for his premiership. Many of his friends certainly worried that a public backlash could sweep him away. As it turned out, and to gusts of relief within Number 10, rather the reverse happened. He enjoyed his best media since 9/11 for his response to the atrocities.

    The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, anxious to look statesmanlike and worried about being branded as soft on terrorism, were eager to be supportive. In the immediate aftermath of the first bombings, most of the opponents of the war in Iraq judged it prudent to keep heads down and mouths zipped.

    That unity is beginning to peel apart, thrusting forward questions which make the government feel very uncomfortable. First came the report from the Royal Institute of International Affairs, hardly a hotbed of Gallowayism, contending that 'riding pillion' with America into Iraq had 'given a boost' to al-Qaeda in 'propaganda, recruitment and fundraising'.

    More awkward for the government was a leak of a threat assessment by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre which concluded that the invasion of Iraq had created 'a motivation and a focus for a range of terrorist-related activity in the UK'. This was based on the pooled findings of the government's own intelligence agencies. They can hardly be damned as apologists for terrorism. [extract]
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,1535129,00.html

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    David Clark, July 25, 2005

    The last three weeks have witnessed the rise of one of the biggest and broadest political coalitions Britain has ever seen. It includes everyone from the intelligence services and Chatham House to Ken Livingstone and George Galloway, and is supported by two-thirds of the British public representing all shades of opinion in between. It is the biggest of big tents, and yet Tony Blair isn't in it. I am, of course, referring to the "useful idiots" who see a connection between western foreign policy and the rising terrorist threat.

    It was by no means inevitable that Blair would find himself as the leader of an isolated minority insisting that nothing must change. His initial response after 9/11 was a model of the sort of approach many of his critics are now demanding, including, as he put it to the Labour conference in Brighton two weeks after, "justice and prosperity for the poor and dispossessed". If he were to deliver that speech today, he would be denounced as a "root causer" and an apologist for terrorism.

    The turning point was Blair's realisation that President Bush wanted nothing to do with his vision of a just world order in which the rights and opinions of ordinary Muslims would receive the same consideration as those of everyone else. Forced to choose, he put obedience to Washington before his own humanitarian principles. It has been downhill for him ever since.

    The argument of post-Brighton Blair and his supporters is that the bombers are simply evil and any attempt to understand them in a different context leads us to conclusions that reward terrorism and thus encourage further violence. This is the theme developed at some length by Alan Dershowitz in his book Why Terrorism Works. In it, he argues that "the real root cause of terrorism is that it is successful". If only we would stop giving in and stick to a purely punitive response, the terrorists would eventually get the message and give up.

    In fact, the evidence for this is pretty thin - and that's putting it kindly. The examples of terrorist organisations that have succeeded in attaining their strategic goals are few and far between. What the "terrorism works" argument refers to is the willingness of governments to address popular grievances that terrorists exploit to recruit and mobilise support. Far from rewarding terrorism, political reform has usually played an essential role in defeating it.

    The Malayan Communist party failed to establish a "dictatorship of the proletariat" in the 1950s, but only because Britain was willing to promote land reform and independence. Northern Irish Catholics have the civil and political rights they should never have been denied, but the IRA has no united Ireland to show for three decades of bloodshed. The Basques have regional autonomy within Spain, but Eta has collapsed with its ambition for an independent state unfulfilled. In each case, the terrorists failed in their objective and the authorities conceded no more than was just and right.

    There have been exceptions to this rule. One of the most obvious, as Dershowitz himself notes, was the Zionist terror campaign that helped to drive Britain out of Palestine in 1948. Should we therefore dismantle the state of Israel and restore the British mandate in order to prove that terrorism doesn't pay? However logical this may be as an extension of their argument, it is a conclusion too far for Dershowitz and those who think like him. It would seem that some rewards for terrorism are more acceptable than others. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1535425,00.html

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    Simon Tisdall, July 26, 2005

    Political leaders in the Arab and Muslim spheres may also be privately disinclined to go out of their way to help a British government whose policies they deplore and whose wounds they regard as partly self-inflicted. The Anglo-American occupation of Iraq is one obvious cause of such reluctance, just as it is a prime motivator for the terrorists themselves.

    But a suddenly needful Britain may also be beginning to pay the price for a range of heedless, subservient or self-defeating overseas policies that extend beyond Baghdad to Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Chechnya and back to Bosnia. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1535897,00.html

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    Andrew Murray, July 27, 2005

    The government's refusal to associate cause and consequence, which would be child-like were it not so obviously self-serving, is sustained only by hysterical warnings against the new evil of "root-causism" from the residual pro-empire liberals. This attempt to close down debate as to why Britain - London above all - is now fighting the misbegotten "war on terror" on its own streets, is doubly dangerous. Not only does it block the necessary re-evaluation of foreign policy, it also places the onus for preventing any repetition of July 7 on the "Muslim community", which - in a form of collective responsibility - is accused of breeding an "evil ideology" in its midst. This approach risks reaping a different whirlwind in anti-Muslim attacks, physical and verbal. It also creates the climate in which Brazilians allegedly wearing coats on a hot day can become targets for a shoot-to-kill policy imported from Israel. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1536779,00.html

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    Jonathan Glover, July 27, 2005

    The London bombings pose a dilemma. It is hard to believe that the right response to terrorism is to make concessions. But the terrorism also seems part of a cycle of violence in which we too are involved, a cycle of potential war between Islam and the west that threatens to spin out of control. Should we do nothing, leaving the violence to accelerate? Or should we make concessions that may encourage terrorism?

    Political violence is often a resentful backlash to a group's sense of being insulted or humiliated. The rhetoric of 1990s nationalism in the former Yugoslavia was filled with remembered defeats and humiliations by rival groups. The anger that blazes through Mein Kampf was a backlash against the humiliations of the 1918 defeat and subsequent peace. Al-Qaida rhetoric before 9/11 has the same tone: "The people of Islam have suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustices ... Muslims' blood has become the cheapest in the eyes of the world." 9/11 was fuelled by this resentment, as the horrifying pictures of cheering Palestinians showed.

    The terrorist attacks appal us because of the loss of life, but even more because the killing is deliberate. In London, traffic kills far more people than bombs. But we are outraged by what the bombings express. The bombers want us - any of us - dead, or at least are prepared to kill us to make a political point. It is this that arouses the resentful backlash. In the climate after 9/11, with 3,000 murdered in the symbolic heart of America, any president might have found retaliation imperative. Some of the bombs dropped on Afghanistan carried the initials of the New York Police Department. But the 20,000 killed in Afghanistan fed Islamic resentment in turn. So too did the attack on Iraq. (Some rightly say Iraq was not the cause of the London bombings. But surely it was a cause?)

    ....Tackling the deep psychology of conflict involves persuading groups to listen to each other's stories and to look for the possibility of a narrative that does justice to the truths in both. Sometimes this happens after conflicts, with truth and reconciliation commissions. The urgent need is for it to happen before further conflict between the Islamic and "western" views in Britain. What is needed is not a one-sided dialogue in which "we" undermine "their" fanaticism. There are indeed questions to ask about settling political issues by murder or about settling moral issues by appeals to the supposed authority of texts claimed to be the word of God. But there are also questions about "our" morality. We allowed Falluja to be destroyed like Guernica. And there are questions about the supposed moral difference between bombs in the underground and cluster-bombing civilians in an illegal war. In genuine dialogue both sides have positions at risk. Paradoxically, this can start a virtuous circle. One side admitting intellectual vulnerability may make the other side less defensive too.[extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1536779,00.html

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    David Clark, 1st August, 2005

    When Tony Blair says we should not "give one inch" to the terrorists, what he really means is that he isn't prepared to give one inch to those who say he blundered by invading Iraq. It's difficult to respect a prime minister who is prepared to put his own hunger for vindication before a serious attempt to understand where the war on terror is going wrong, but it's hard to see what else he could do. To admit an error of such magnitude would leave him in an untenable position. If we are stuck with Blair we are stuck with his policies, however detrimental they may be to our security...The invasion of Iraq has frequently been described as the biggest diplomatic blunder since Suez. This already looks like a considerable understatement. On a worst-case scenario that now seems possible, it could very well come to be seen as one of the greatest foreign-policy own goals of all time. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1540028,00.html

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    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, 2nd August, 2005

    ...I am revolted by the political sanctimony and the casual demonization of all Muslims, all Asians and blacks, all immigrants, all asylum-seekers - all under the false pretext of national interest. Leading white commentators, left and right, are exploiting this moment to push retro-jingoism, as if the bombers will vanish as soon as Muslim Britons are forced to kiss the Union Flag and sing God Save the Queen in Urdu.

    Blood did run down the streets in London - more probably will - but our citizenry must grow closer in joint cause to beat the murderers who would divide us. The protests against the war in Iraq brought us together; this crisis must deepen the bonds. We Britons of color, Muslims in particular, understand our responsibilities. Do white Britons understand theirs? Sir Max Hastings, the former editor of The Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard is one the few prepared to ask that question and to answer it truthfully: "I acknowledge an embarrassing truth. In the course of my life I have entertained only perhaps a dozen black guests at parties and never had a Muslim to dinner in my house. The same must be true for many British middle-class people. Until interracial experience finds a path into our own lives, it remains hard to boast that we are contributing much to the assimilation we deem vital to our future. This is a two way street." Amen I say. And yes, Sir Max, do ask me to that next shooting party. I like pheasant.

    Research by the Commission for Racial Equality bears this out. Mixed race and mixed faith love is blooming; much less so is friendship between the tribes of Britons. Without socializing, real and virtual ghettoes soon form blotting out the common humanity we all share.

    The reason so many young Muslim and black men feel and behave like outsiders in the UK is because they have been made to feel outsiders from the time they were children. This does not make criminality inevitable, but it does make their integration impossibly difficult. This Friday, a young black man's life was brutally ended. He was 18-year-old Anthony Walker, a black A-level student walking with his white girlfriend. Police believe the killing was racist - and racism is, in itself, a rejection of integration.

    These days, some of the most vile, racist e-mails arrive when I describe myself as British. You can never be one of us, they say, you "Paki", "Black Bitch" and so on. How integrated do I need to be to be accepted? Some middle-class acquaintances are getting bolder about confessing their distance from people like me. I can talk like them, think like them, dress like them, but this Muslim thing makes them uneasy, they say. I return the compliment by telling them I worry about them too and don't trust them not to turn treacherous.

    Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister whose hard certainties scare me, is about to start a nationwide tour to meet Muslims. I understand the need for this. Only with wide-scale Muslim cooperation can the bombers be discovered and stopped. But is she also going to meet with Muslim professionals outside the "representative" circuit - the doctors, lawyers, teachers, writers, artists, journalists and others not part of the bearded and hijabi great and good, but people who have ease and modern, multiple identities? This outreach work is of no use if the government doggedly refuses to take seriously the anxieties and anger of Muslims who detest the war in Iraq and our blind loyalty to the neocons in the US. How dare Tony Blair lecture Muslims on the dangers of fundamentalism while remaining blindly insistent of the special relationship with the US? If integration means having to consent to that fundamentalist foreign policy, I'll have none of it. If it requires of me acquiescence in human rights violations, you can count me out. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1540028,00.html

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    Ken Livingstone, 4th August, 2005

    It is four weeks since bombers indiscriminately killed and maimed ordinary Londoners. Protecting London from terrorists requires the best possible policing - which, in turn, needs the greatest possible flow of information from all communities. It also demands that we shrink the pool of the alienated that bombers draw on by treating all communities as equal parts of British society - not only theoretically, but in reality. And it means withdrawing from Iraq. All are interrelated.

    Acceptance that the invasion of Iraq increased the likelihood of a terrorist attack on London now extends far beyond the usual suspects - from Guardian writers to MI5, Douglas Hurd, the Daily Mail, the Spectator, and a majority of the British public. Jack Straw has also acknowledged this debate. If the invasion of Iraq had been justified, it would be possible to argue that we must bear the sacrifices necessary to achieve a just outcome. However, it is evident that the war in Iraq was not justified. It has made the situation worse. The illusions with which it was launched are collapsing.

    ...Nevertheless, I want to make the point to some opponents of the war. It is not a policy simply to explain to people: "You are dying because Britain is in Iraq." The bombers came to kill indiscriminately. As one Londoner put it to me: "I am a Muslim and scared - and my first fear is being blown up." I supported action against the Iraq war and I support measures to stop Londoners being bombed.

    Right now, only the police can stop bombers. Anyone who tries to avoid this is not dealing with what are literally life and death matters. But the police can only be effective if they get community cooperation. Opponents of the war should continue to oppose it. But they also have to say to London's communities: "Cooperate with the police to catch terrorists" - and explain that the quality of information the police get will be decisively affected by the degree to which communities are treated with respect....The London bombings, demand clear thinking, not rhetoric. People's lives depend on the decisions made. These must be for every community to aid the police in preventing attacks; to treat Britain's Muslim community with respect, both because it is right and to shrink the pools terrorists operate in; and for Britain to withdraw from Iraq. [extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1540028,00.html

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    Charles Kennedy, 5th August 2005

    The public mood has certainly shifted on the question of whether we should allow foreign nationals who incite violence to enter or stay in the UK. It is time for a more proactive approach. However, today's list of announcements has put the cross-party consensus under serious strain. The government agreed to properly consult opposition parties on their proposals, but this agreement seems to have broken down. No mention was made of the proposals during a briefing the Liberal Democrats received from the Home Office yesterday, and it appears that even they may not have been aware of the Prime Minister's plans. The Prime Minister intends to ban Muslim organisations, seek powers to close down mosques, and deport people who visit particular bookshops or websites. He is running the risk of inflaming tensions and alienating Muslims at the very time we need the different communities of Britain to pull together. The Liberal Democrats will examine the detail of these measures, but the Prime Minister should not count on our support. We shall reserve our position until we have consulted properly ourselves - albeit against a constrained August timetable.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1540028,00.html

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    George Monbiot, 9th August 2005

    Two weeks ago, the Telegraph published a list of "10 core values of the British identity" whose adoption, it argued, would help to prevent another terrorist attack. These were not values we might choose to embrace, but "non-negotiable components of our identity". Among them were "the sovereignty of the crown in parliament" ("the Lords, the Commons and the monarch constitute the supreme authority in the land"), "private property", "the family", "history" ("British children inherit ... a stupendous series of national achievements") and "the English-speaking world" ("the atrocities of September 11 2001 were not simply an attack on a foreign nation; they were an attack on the Anglosphere"). These non-negotiable demands are not so different to those of the terrorists. Instead of an eternal caliphate, an eternal monarchy. Instead of an Islamic vision of history, an Etonian one. Instead of the Ummah, the Anglosphere.

    If there is one thing that could make me hate this country, it is the Telegraph and its "non-negotiable component"s.....I don't hate Britain, and I am not ashamed of my nationality, but I have no idea why I should love this country more than any other. There are some things I like about it and some things I don't, and the same goes for everywhere else I've visited. To become a patriot is to lie to yourself, to tell yourself that whatever good you might perceive abroad, your own country is, on balance, better than the others. It is impossible to reconcile this with either the evidence of your own eyes or a belief in the equality of humankind. Patriotism of the kind Orwell demanded in 1940 is necessary only to confront the patriotism of other people: the second world war, which demanded that the British close ranks, could not have happened if Hitler hadn't exploited the national allegiance of the Germans. The world will be a happier and safer place when we stop putting our own countries first. [Extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1545289,00.html

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    David Clark, 9th August 2005

    ...Much the same could also be said about his [Robin Cook's] attitude to Tony Blair. Here his overwhelming emotion was one of disappointment that Blair's immense talents could not be allied to a more progressive purpose. When I last saw Robin, 10 days before his death, the prime minister had just called on judges to respond to the public's desire to get tough on terrorism and he was shaking his head in disbelief that a trained barrister could be so contemptuous of judicial independence. Yet there was no personal animus, even after the bitter disappointment of his demotion. Robin's lack of rancour was one of the things I admired about him most.

    ...In February 2003, when Robin first told me that he might have to quit the government over Iraq, I urged caution. We both agreed that the threat from Iraq had been grossly inflated and that Saddam was being effectively contained. But I said that the invading troops would probably unearth some rusting stockpiles of chemical weapons left over from the first Gulf war and that Blair would be able to claim vindication. His allies were already briefing that those who opposed the war would put themselves "on the wrong side of history".

    Robin agreed with my assessment, but dismissed it as a consideration: "This war is wrong and I will oppose it in any case." Those who knew him well will agree that by putting his intellectual reputation on the line he risked losing something far dearer to him than his ministerial limousine. That was the true measure of his courage.

    Robin Cook was never allowed to realise his full potential as a politician, but he did meet that one essential standard of greatness. History is made by those prepared to risk being on the wrong side of it. Those content to go with its flow may achieve high office as a result, but they will never be anything more than passengers. In this, he set an example that others would do well to follow. [Extract]
    http://http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1545291,00.html

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    Saad al-Fagih, 11th August 2005

    ...One of the wonders of the confrontation with al-Qaida is that the British decision-making institutions are running, cogs and wheels, in tandem with those of the Americans, feeding on sensationalism and appeasement of prejudice. The British political establishment is abandoning its traditional reliance on careful thinking, sound knowledge of current factors and a determination not to endanger historical commitments.

    Is this an inevitable result of the magnitude of the challenge mounted by al-Qaida - or is it the product of attempts by politicians such as Blair to mislead public opinion, which is largely ignorant of the historical dimension of these complex issues?

    Were we to look at Blair's speech a few days after the attacks in London, we might be able to answer this question. Blair acknowledged that al-Qaida poses a big strategic challenge; that it possesses a clear objective and a determined plan; that it is able to launch attacks in 26 countries; and that it is present in all countries of significance worldwide. In short, Blair admits that al-Qaida has been growing into an international force threatening those who stand with the US.

    Yet Blair did not follow his acknowledgements to their logical conclusions. He did not say that this growth of al-Qaida occurred during his and Bush's colossal war against it, using all the military, political and intelligence powers at their disposal. The logical conclusion must be that the so-called war on terror in its present form, including the invasion of Iraq, is yielding precisely the opposite results to those intended.

    If I were British, I would have been proud of my people's reaction to the bombings in London in the first few days after the event. I saw calm, collectedness and self-control. This was the authentic British people's reaction before their political leaders got to work.

    I thought this composure would translate into alarm at Blair's subservience to the Americans. Then the political machinery started to run, using the American method of turning the smallest of prejudices, suppressed by centuries of civilisation, into fires stoked by politicians and the media. I have been surprised at the ease with which hard-won hallmarks of civilisation, historical and ethical commitments, have been dismissed so lightly. A daily diet of sensationalism and soundbites has been presented as food for thought for the nation.

    It is not for me to tell others how to run their affairs. But Britain will now have to decide whether to relinquish its time-honoured traditions and values in response to demagogic speeches and proclamations - or to look carefully at its so-called war on terror strategy and resolve to change tack. [Extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1546605,00.html

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    Naomi Klein, 11th August 2005

    Hussain Osman, one of the men alleged to have participated in London's failed bombings on July 21, recently told Italian investigators that they prepared for the attacks by watching "films on the war in Iraq," La Repubblica reported. "Especially those where women and children were being killed and exterminated by British and American soldiers...of widows, mothers and daughters that cry."

    It has become an article of faith that Britain was vulnerable to terror because of its politically correct antiracism. Yet Osman's comments suggest that what propelled at least some of the bombers was rage at what they saw as extreme racism. And what else can we call the belief--so prevalent we barely notice it--that American and European lives are worth more than the lives of Arabs and Muslims, so much more that their deaths in Iraq are not even counted? It's not the first time that this kind of raw inequality has bred extremism....

    ...The Islamic Human Rights Commission received 320 complaints of racist attacks in the wake of the bombings; the Monitoring Group has received eighty-three emergency calls; Scotland Yard says hate crimes are up 600 percent from this time last year. Not that pre-July 7 was anything to brag about: "One in five of Britain's ethnic minority voters say that they considered leaving Britain because of racial intolerance," according to a Guardian poll in March.

    This last statistic shows that the brand of multiculturalism practiced in Britain (and France, Germany, Canada...) has little to do with genuine equality. It is instead a Faustian bargain, struck between vote-seeking politicians and self-appointed community leaders, one that keeps ethnic minorities tucked away in state-funded peripheral ghettos while the centers of public life remain largely unaffected by the seismic shifts in the national ethnic makeup. Nothing exposes the shallowness of this alleged tolerance more than the speed with which Muslim communities are now being told to "get out" (to quote Tory MP Gerald Howarth) in the name of core national values.

    The real problem is not too much multiculturalism but too little. If the diversity now ghettoized on the margins of Western societies--geographically and psychologically--were truly allowed to migrate to the centers, it might infuse public life in the West with a powerful new humanism. If we had deeply multi-ethnic societies, rather than shallow multicultural ones, it would be much more difficult for politicians to sign deportation orders sending Algerian asylum-seekers to torture, or to wage wars in which only the invaders' dead are counted. A society that truly lived its values of equality and human rights, at home and abroad, would have another benefit too. It would rob terrorists of what has always been their greatest recruitment tool: our racism. [Extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1546558,00.html

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    Karen Armstrong, 11th August 2005

    ...The last thing anyone should attempt is to read the Qur'an straight through from cover to cover, because it was designed to be recited aloud. Indeed, the word qur'an means "recitation". Much of the meaning is derived from sound patterns that link one passage with another, so that Muslims who hear extracts chanted aloud thousands of times in the course of a lifetime acquire a tacit understanding that one teaching is always qualified and supplemented by other texts, and cannot be seen in isolation. The words that they hear again and again are not "holy war", but "kindness", "courtesy", "peace", "justice", and "compassion"....

    Solitary reading also enables people to read their scriptures too selectively, focusing on isolated texts that they read out of context, and ignoring others that do not chime with their own predilections. Religious militants who read their scriptures in this way often distort the tradition they are trying to defend. Christian fundamentalists concentrate on the aggressive Book of Revelation and pay no attention to the Sermon on the Mount, while Muslim extremists rely on the more belligerent passages of the Qur'an and overlook its oft-repeated instructions to leave vengeance to God and make peace with the enemy.

    We cannot turn the clock back. Most of us are accustomed to acquiring information instantly at the click of a mouse, and have neither the talent nor the patience for the disciplines that characterised pre-modern interpretation. But we can counter the dangerous tendency to selective reading of sacred texts. The Qur'an insists that its teaching must be understood "in full" (20:114), an important principle that religious teachers must impart to the disaffected young.

    Muslim extremists have given the jihad (which they interpret reductively as "holy war") a centrality that it never had before and have thus redefined the meaning of Islam for many non-Muslims. But in this they are often unwittingly aided by the media, who also concentrate obsessively on the more aggressive verses of the Qur'an, without fully appreciating how these are qualified by the text as a whole. We must all - the religious and the sceptics alike - become aware that there is more to scripture than meets the cursory eye. [Extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1546558,00.html

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    Dr Abdul Bari, 12th August 2005

    Sir,

    The idea of rebranding our identity (letters, August 10) is ill-advised and shows the confusion within the Government. The issue is not that British Muslims cannot identify with their homeland Britain, rather that they feel excluded by a host of reasons, especially the Government’s foreign policy.

    It took much campaigning to get the Government to record faith in the 2001 Census; even then it was optional. One of the key arguments used to convince the Government was that the vast majority of Muslims (and other people) identify with their faith rather than their ethnicity. Many surveys have already established that Muslims prefer the term British Muslim.

    To discover what has caused disaffection in minority communities, we should look at the root causes of our current predicaments and find innovative and deliverable ways of creating a more inclusive environment.

    Rebranding of identity would turn the clock back and open the door for further divisions in society.

    Muhammad Abdul Bari

    (Author, Race, Religion and Muslim Identity in Britain, Awakening Publishers, 2004)

    Whitechapel, London


    'Letter to the Editor', The Times, 12th August 2005

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    Roy Hattersley, 12th August 2005

    The best thing that can be said for the critics of multiculturalism is that they are confused. Their muddled thinking was perfectly illustrated last week by David Davis, the shadow home secretary, when he denounced the concept and then added that he welcomed "the mainstream version of Islam as part of British society". That is as good a definition of multiculturalism as we are likely to get.

    The charitable explanation of the confusion is ignorance - an inability to distinguish between integration and assimilation. The alternative interpretation is more sinister. Muslims are accepted in Britain - but only if they cease to behave like Muslims.

    At one level, the attack on multiculturalism is no more than a refined, middle-class version of "Paki-bashing". Yet people who ought to know better have joined in the chorus of intolerance. To demand that Muslims abandon their way of life - what they eat, how they dress, which way they choose their husbands and wives - is to make a frontal assault upon their faith. Islam is a total religion. People who go to church on Christmas Eve and think that makes them Christians may not realise that devout Muslims believe that the Qur'an should inform their whole lives.

    Britain has to decide if the freedom that we so value is consistent with attempts to suppress the religious practices of the country's fastest-growing faith. The fact that most of us do not share their beliefs (and some of us have no beliefs at all) is irrelevant. Only primitive people want to destroy everything they do not like or understand. The civilised, and sensible, approach is to welcome diversity as a stimulus to renewed vitality.

    It is important for Muslim women born elsewhere to learn English and far better for their children to attend state schools. And it goes without saying that Muslims should - as most of them do - reject the violence of suicide bombers. But invitations to enjoy the benefits of British society are, like insistence on obedience to the rule of British law, quite different from the demand that they abandon a whole culture.

    The excuse for demanding Muslim conformity - Catholic and Quaker schools being acceptable when Islamic schools are not - is the fear of something that, for want of a decent definition, the ignorant call fundamentalism.

    But it is the assault on Islam - its culture as well as its theology - that has alienated some Muslim youths to the point at which they will not condemn anyone who champions their religion. Social disadvantage (high levels of unemployment and poor housing) combines with attacks on their favoured causes (UN resolutions must be resspected in Iraq but not in Israel or Kashmir) to make them feel rejected. Assaults on their habits as well as their faith will alienate them still further. [Extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1547594,00.html

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    Tariq Ali, 12th August 2005

    In the face of terror attacks Anglo-Saxon politicians mouth the same rhetoric. One sentence in particular--shrouded in layers of untruth--is constantly repeated: 'We shall not permit these attacks to change our way of life.' It is a multi-purpose mantra. The first aim is to convince the public that the terrorists are crazed Muslims who are bombing modernity/democracy/freedom/ 'our values', etc.

    This is the first lie. The terror attacks, however misguided and criminal, are a result of the Western military presence in the Arab world. If all the foreign troops and bases were withdrawn, the attacks would cease. This is essentially a post-First Gulf war syndrome.

    Israel/Palestine is another issue, but that has been simmering for fifty years and was not the main reason for the bombings in New York, Madrid and London. It has now been added to the repertoire, but the struggle to force Israel back to the 1967 frontiers is one waged by the Palestinians themselves. They have received little support from elsewhere.

    The sentence itself is a falsehood, because the attacks have changed 'our way of life'. The Patriot Act in the United States and the measures being proposed by Tony Blair in Britain demonstrate this quite clearly. What is being proposed in Britain is the indefinite suspension of habeas corpus. Worried by the recent judicial activism with senior Judges in Britain expressing a real concern at the growing attack on civil liberties, Tony Blair warned them in public that he would brook no dissent: "Should legal obstacles arise, we will legislate further, including, if necessary amending the Human Rights Act, in respect of the interpretation of the ECHR. In any event, we will consult on legislating specifically for a non-suspensive appeal process in respect of deportations. One other point on deportations. Once the new grounds take effect, there will be a list drawn up of specific extremist websites, bookshops, centres, networks and particular organisations of concern. Active engagement with any of these will be a trigger for the home secretary to consider the deportation of any foreign national. As has been stated already, there will be new anti-terrorism legislation in the autumn. This will include an offence of condoning or glorifying terrorism. The sort of remarks made in recent days should be covered by such laws. But this will also be applied to justifying or glorifying terrorism anywhere, not just in the UK."

    Will the British Parliament accept this view and legislate in favour of the new authoritarianism? Probably. It is a parliament dominated by cons and neo-cons. If Blair is a second-rate politician with a third-rate mind, his Conservative opponent, Michael Howard is a third-rate politician with a second-rate mind.

    ...it is now obvious that there will be no peace in Britain or Iraq as long as Blair remains Prime Minister. He is part of the problem, not the solution. His departure has become an important prerequisite to a safe Britain, which could detach itself from the Pentagon and acquire a tiny measure of independence.[Extract]
    http://www.counterpunch.org/tariq08122005.html

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    Robert Beckford, 16th August 2005

    ...The Jamaican origins of Jermaine Lindsay, one of the July 7 suicide bombers, has prompted some to ask why a disproportionate number of black males are attracted to extremism. Lindsay, 19, had spent the vast proportion of his life in England, which made tenuous the tabloid obsession with his place of birth. Intriguingly there was less of a clamour over the ethnicity of Richard Reid, the notorious "shoe bomber", who had a white mother and a black father. In the case of David Copeland, the white, racist, homophobic nail-bomber, there was no analysis of a potential relationship between ethnicity, extremism and terror.

    Black men converting to Islam should be placed within the religious context of their communities, where religion still matters. African-Caribbean men and women continue to turn out in large numbers for religious activities. But Islam is able to do what the black church cannot - attract black men.

    I have spent most of my working life in conversation with African-Caribbean converts to Islam. Two relationships stand out. I have an ongoing dialogue with an artist who converted in the mid-90s. His journey began when he listened to tapes of African-American Muslim preachers while at graduate school in America. The tapes made a clearcut link between a commitment to Allah and black liberation from poverty, drugs, gangs and meaninglessness. His first visit to a predominantly African-American mosque was life-changing. Hundreds of smartly dressed black men full of self-belief, black pride, purpose and respect immediately became role models.

    This is still the case today. Many black men, including Reid and Lindsay, were impressed by Islam's African-centred preaching and positive association with blackness. After all, one of the most powerful icons of the 20th century, Malcolm X, made the journey from Christianity to Islam in search of black redemption. My artist friend says mainstream Islam provides him with a social awareness and commitment to justice that is mostly ignored in black churches.

    I have a nephew who recently converted while serving a prison sentence. Spending an inordinate amount of time alone in his cell, he took to reading the Bible and the Qur'an to pass the time. Intrigued by the notion that Islam was the last testament, God's final revelation, he pursued his interest by attending lessons with the imam assigned to the prison chaplaincy. Convinced, he became a devotee.

    It was clear to me that the daily regime of Islam provided him with the tools for personal discipline and an interest in intellectual thought. He gained qualifications while inside and, most importantly, became completely dissociated from criminal activity. Having left prison, he continues to live devoutly, and is employed in a management position.

    Most African-Caribbean men converting to Islam do so because it is a religion with a capacity to give their lives hope and meaning. This is not a new idea. As long ago as 1888, the Caribbean educator Edward Wilmot Blyden argued that Islam was more respectful of black culture and easier to translate into Caribbean culture than Christianity.

    There will always be a few captivated by extremist versions of Islam that exploit the continued disaffection and marginalisation of working-class black youth. After all, with as little potential for social mobility as their migrant grandparents, it is difficult to sell them the New Labour dream of living in a meritocratic "stakeholder" society....[Extract]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1549821,00.htmll

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    Asghar Ali Engineer, 16th August 2005

    ...those who bombed London underground or those involved in 9/11 attacks in New York were all educated in the US or UK in modern institutions of learning. And that is why they were far more aware of injustices and hence got motivated to involve themselves in the revengeful acts killing innocent people. It was not hatred of the west but hatred towards its policies. One must distinguish between the two. Also, just because they hail from Saudi Arabia or Pakistan should not mislead us.

    As pointed out above very complex factors determine human behaviour. The terrorist suicide bombers are no exception. There is no conclusive evidence available to show that in their case only religion or religious hatred towards the west motivated them to kill others as well as themselves. In case of London bombing on 7/7 it is being pointed out by some scholars and journalists like Amy Waldman of New York Times that “A life of total alienation led to a burst of rage in Leeds.”

    These young men are motivated by both injustices at home and abroad. Their alienation and frustration play no lesser role than the sense of injustices by the western rulers against Muslims abroad. One should not discount these factors, which many often do. The young Shi’ah Muslims of Iran in seventies of last century before Islamic revolution gravitated towards revolutionary ideology not because of their fanaticism but because of Shah’s policies, which were seen as pro-US. In fact he was seen as nothing more than the US stooge.

    Those who flocked around Khomeini were all modern educated young shi’ah Muslims and not products of institutions of religious learning in Qoum from where Khomeini hailed. Ali Shari’ati, the most respected intellectual of Islamic revolution was product of a French university who held doctorate from Soborne, Paris and who kept young Iranian Muslims spellbound by his speeches.

    If the USA had not used the Shah for their own political gains in Middle East, Khomeini would not have succeeded in making an Islamic revolution. One can say it was not so much love of Islam but intense opposition towards US policies in Iran that inspired the youth to flock around the revolutionary cause. Also, the economic policies of the Shah was favouring the western world and causing inflation and unemployment among the Iranian youths forcing them to support Islamic revolution. People often look for desperate remedies in desperate situation.

    Terrorism cannot be fought through slogans like war on terror. Such war on terror is likely to intensify terrorism. One will have to honestly examine the deeper causes and wrest the Muslim youth away from such desperate measures. I am afraid even fatwas by Muslim intellectuals against terrorist bombers will not de-motivate them unless suitable policies are adopted towards Middle Eastern policies including Palestine and Iraq. Let us also remember that terrorism has also become an industry with powerful vested interests in sustaining it. We may have to put up with it for a long time to come even after suitable policies are adopted by western countries. For the west too, it may not be possible to extricate from the complex situation so easily. The given political situation has its own dynamics and vested interests. ...[Extract]


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    Richard Norton-Taylor, 19th August 2005

    ...There is a real danger that the prime minister's 12-point outburst will be counterproductive, alienating the very people that the government - and not least these agencies - need on their side.

    The domestic security service, MI5, has recognised for years that it needs the help of ethnic minorities, notably Muslims, and now the secret intelligence service, MI6, whose spies operate abroad, has come to understand that too. MI6 wants to recruit what counterterrorist sources call a "different kind of person", a reference to people who understand the causes as well as the symptoms of the problem.

    The most senior ministerial advisers appear to have identified the problem more than a year ago. Internal Whitehall correspondence leaked earlier this year shows that in April 2004 Sir Andrew Turnbull, the cabinet secretary, wrote a letter marked "restricted policy" to the top official at the Home Office, Sir John Gieve.

    "Are we listening enough to the Muslim communities (here and overseas) and understanding what we hear (even where we do not agree with it)?" he asked. "Are we communicating the right messages to the right parts of the Muslim community effectively?"

    Sir Andrew did not shy away from addressing the government's foreign policy. "Should our stance (eg on the Middle East peace process or Kashmir) be influenced more by these concerns?" he asked. "How do we communicate our foreign policy to the Muslim community? Where are they getting their information and opinion from?"

    Sir John wrote back to the cabinet secretary a month later. It was a long letter identifying the problems, including issues of identity, the threat of terrorism, and how to overcome disaffection, of which "extremism" was a symptom. He also referred to "anger" - a word he emphasised - among many young British Muslims borne out of a perception of double standards in British foreign policy, where democracy is preached but oppression of the Ummah (one nation of believers) is practised or tolerated.

    Sir John described a "perceived western bias in Israel's favour over the Israel/Palestine conflict" as a "key long-term grievance of the international Muslim community which probably influences British Muslims". That perception, he added, seems to have become more acute since the 9/11 attacks.

    "The perception is," wrote the permanent secretary at the Home Office, "that passive 'oppression', as demonstrated in British foreign policy, eg non-action on Kashmir and Chechnya, has given way to 'active oppression' - the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan are all seen by a section of the British Muslims as having been acts against Islam."

    Sir John referred to the lack of any tangible "pressure valve" to vent frustrations or dissent - leading to a desire for what he called a simple "Islamic" solution to the perceived oppression. [Extract]


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1552197,00.html

    Camilla Cavendish, 18th August 2005

    As we grope our way around the next corner of history, it would be nice to feel that we had an accurate picture of the past. But while politicians, judges and police are variously blamed for their struggle to get to grips with terror after July 7, the most guilty part of the Establishment is still lurking in the shadows offstage.

    The intelligence services bear considerable responsibility for letting in many of the extremists who have done so much damage in this country since the early 1990s and for doing so little to curtail their activities. It is distinctly ironic that those whose complacency helped to create the problem are now overreacting by pressing for unnecessarily draconian powers. Especially when some of these will make it harder to encourage British Muslims to inform on extremists — which must surely now be the intelligence services’ best hope.

    I have long pondered which would be worse: spooks living in blissful ignorance of the extremists living here, warnings from France and Algeria languishing in their in-trays while they recruited more good-looking blondes; or spooks blithely assuming that Britain would be safe if they kept a few preachers in view. Planning to assassinate Musharraf? Fine. Funding camps in Afghanistan? OK, doesn’t really affect Blighty, at least we know where they are.

    The latter, it seems, is closer to the truth. The security services were still focusing heavily on the IRA in the 1990s; they thought the Muslim clerics were clowns; and having failed to infiltrate many Muslim groups, they tried to get these clerics to inform on each other. In doing so they may well have prolonged their stay. When Abu Qatada’s leave to remain expired in 1998, the Home Office dawdled over his application for indefinite leave to remain despite warnings from six countries about his links with terror. Why?

    This is a man who was convicted in Jordan of involvement in two terrorist attacks, who was visited in London by the chief suspect in the Madrid train bombings and by Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. Who came to Britain in 1993 on a forged United Arab Emirates passport, and was not arrested until 2002. Who met MI5 officers on at least three occasions.

    How provincial, how complacent, how staggeringly arrogant, to think that he was better left free to build what the Special Immigration Appeals Commission last year described as “the centre of terrorist activities associated with al-Qaeda”. Abu Qatada is one of the ten men that the Government is now struggling to deport. If he reveals as part of his appeal that MI5 tried to recruit him, the service will be highly embarrassed. And he may not be the only one to do so. The whispers are that several of these characters have as much on the intelligence services as they have on them.

    In the 1990s Britain made a fatal decision, against the advice of other governments, to try to use these people rather than shut them down. But we weren’t even serious about using them. We thought they looked too much like pantomime villains to be the real thing. In 2001, when investigators discovered links between the 9/11 hijackers and the Finsbury Park Mosque, the Government began to put powers in place to try to convict men such as Abu Hamza, the Finsbury cleric. Even then, the Americans were often ahead of us in bringing charges.

    It is possible that MI5 was partially right. In an astonishing interview in Prospect magazine carried out shortly before the bombings, a British recruiter for the Taleban stated that attacks in London were extremely unlikely because they would endanger the radical Muslim networks that work from here. Anyone involved in such an attack would be an “utterly loose cannon”, he said, on the fringes of the main terror networks. If there is any truth in that, the men now in custody may be the smallest of small fry, who will lead us nowhere.

    But it makes the “Londonistan” strategy look no less irresponsible. Providing a home for a terror network can never guarantee you protection: it can only foment evil against you and your allies.

    When Mr Blair returns from holiday, he must start to marshal the weapons of the State more effectively. If MI5 and MI6 are to plaster their recruitment ads over the newspapers, we must be sure they have got better at telling friend from foe. If the police are to keep up the old-fashioned detective work that led them to the suspected July 21 bombers, we must not alienate potential informants with unnecessary laws. Those men were caught partly because the parents of Muktar Said Ibrahim looked at the CCTV images of the suspects, recognised their son and called the police. That good deed is not best repaid by threats to close mosques and ban organisations that will only go underground. Nor by interning people for 90 days without trial: that was what gave succour to the IRA. Nor by creating vague laws of “indirect incitement to commit a terrorist act”, which could, a Home Office spokesman has pretty much admitted, criminalise a tone of voice.

    Mr Blair will have to resist the temptation to get tough where it is easiest for him to do so, by chalking up a bevy of new offences when he has already enacted three anti-terrorism laws since 2000. And he must get toughest where he is weakest. To deport the ten suspects he will eventually have to sacrifice his Human Rights Act: he will not get round the European Convention either by derogating or by waving memos of understanding at judges who will never believe that Algeria has thrown away its thumbscrews.

    He will also need to ask some tough questions of his intelligence services. Who authorised the appeasement strategy? Is it still in place? Did it produce any useful leads or is it, like information given under torture, severely compromised? And how do we now get the brothers, the fathers, the wives, on the right side? For make no mistake: the wrong side is far more dangerous than our clever spies ever realised.


    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1072-1739731,00.html

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    New York Times, 20th August 2005

    Britain's latest package of antiterrorism measures is still being refined. But the basic thrust of the new approach was announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier this month. Some of the contemplated steps seem sensible and appropriate, like developing sterner rules to exclude foreign supporters of terrorism from entering Britain.

    Others, however, are seriously troubling, like Blair's plan to criminalize not just direct incitement to terrorism in Britain but anything the government may categorize as "condoning," "glorifying" or "justifying" terrorism anywhere in the world. Words like that are far too vague, elastic and subject to diplomatic selectivity. Similarly troubling is the government's plan to expand its list of deportable offenses to include the expression of "what the government considers to be extreme views." And the idea of making naturalized, but not native-born, British citizens deportable for "extremism" is inherently divisive and should not be pursued.

    Considering the costly damage the Bush administration has done to America's reputation and liberties through its abuse of similar authority, Blair should have known better than to open himself up to a repeat of the same mistakes. Of course, he expects the British people, and Parliament, which will be called on to approve most of these changes, to trust his government to use such new powers carefully and wisely. But that is never a responsible basis for enacting laws that could be around longer than today's government officials.[Extract]


    http://www.iht.com/bin/print_ipub.php?file=/articles/2005/08/19/opinion/edterror.php

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    Brendan Barber, 24th August 2005

    There has been much debate about the future of our multicultural society once we learnt that the London bombers were from the UK. Trade unions were quick to call for support for Muslim communities, who were as horrified by these attacks as anyone else, but have been subject to racist attacks and far right abuse.

    Of course social deprivation and poverty is no excuse for criminality, but it can be a breeding ground for poisonous beliefs of all kinds. And even if there had been no bomb attacks, a civilised country should not tolerate such high levels of poverty and deprivation.

    We have had too many cheap calls for Muslims to integrate - some of which have come close to asking people to give up crucial parts of their identity. Building a tolerant liberal society where we are all free to express all the different sides that make up anyone's identity will be that much harder when some groups suffer from such extreme levels of deprivation and poverty.


    http://www.tuc.org.uk/equality/tuc-10401-f0.cfm

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    Madeline Bunting,12th September 2005

    Why is it that a significant section of liberal and left-leaning opinion has signed up with such relish to the "clash of civilisations" argument? Its champions in the media may not phrase it as such, but you can hear the creak of the drawbridge being pulled up: they believe they are surrounded by enemies - Muslims and their dastardly non-Muslim apologists - and must defend to the last man the checklist of universal Enlightenment values that sustain their mission...

    Faced with such a bleak landscape, is it any wonder that erstwhile leftwing liberals have floundered - what cause is there left to believe in? - and then pounced with glee on the project that has taken shape since 9/11 and been successively sharpened by the Iraq war and 7/7. Scruples about the unsavoury rightwing company they are now uncomfortably lodged with - such as the American neocons - have been easily squashed. With curious macho posturing, they are "muscular" or "hard" liberals: enough is enough, we can no longer tolerate the intolerant, is the battle cry. They raise their standard on Enlightenment values - their universality, the supremacy of reason and a belief in progress. The west represents the apogee of civilisation and all countries can be measured up against its yardstick (and are, of course, found wanting). It is an ideology of superiority that is profoundly old-fashioned - reminiscent of Victorian liberalism and just as imperialistic....

    This muscular liberal project is dangerous. We live in a shrunken world and millions of people are on the move; one of our biggest challenges is how we learn to live in proximity to difference - different skin colours, different beliefs, different ways of life. How do we talk peacefully with people with whom we might violently disagree? Not easy, but essential. Ken Livingstone's engagement with the Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi has proved a thorn in the side of the muscular liberals. But the idea of submitting all potential interlocutors to an ideological approval rating will mean we end up talking only to ourselves. Is a reminder necessary that this is a symptom of insanity?[Extract].


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1567603,00.html

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    Kenneth Clarke,1st September 2005

    The disastrous decision to invade Iraq has made Britain a more dangerous place. The war did not create the danger of Islamic terrorism in this country, which had been growing internationally even before the tragedy of the attacks on 9/11. However the decision by the UK Government to become the leading ally of President Bush in the Iraq debacle has made Britain one of the foremost targets for Islamic extremists. Personally I would have accepted that increased risk as the price of going to war if I had believed that we were driven to go to war for a just cause and a British national interest that could be pursued in no other way.

    I reject the notion that fear of terrorist reprisals should ever deter a British Government from pursuing an honourable and necessary cause. I had previously supported every war embarked upon by a British Government of whatever party throughout my Parliamentary career. This was not such a case. The reasons given to Parliament for joining the invasion were bogus. Bush's real purpose of installing quite quickly a pro-Western democracy in Baghdad, with the support of a grateful liberated population, has proved to be a sad illusion. The dangers of the invasion providing recruits and impetus to terrorist extremists were clear before the war....

    The disastrous decision to invade Iraq has made Britain a more dangerous place. The war did not create the danger of Islamic terrorism in this country, which had been growing internationally even before the tragedy of the attacks on 9/11. However the decision by the UK Government to become the leading ally of President Bush in the Iraq debacle has made Britain one of the foremost targets for Islamic extremists. Personally I would have accepted that increased risk as the price of going to war if I had believed that we were driven to go to war for a just cause and a British national interest that could be pursued in no other way. I reject the notion that fear of terrorist reprisals should ever deter a British Government from pursuing an honourable and necessary cause. I had previously supported every war embarked upon by a British Government of whatever party throughout my Parliamentary career. This was not such a case. The reasons given to Parliament for joining the invasion were bogus. Bush's real purpose of installing quite quickly a pro-Western democracy in Baghdad, with the support of a grateful liberated population, has proved to be a sad illusion. The dangers of the invasion providing recruits and impetus to terrorist extremists were clear before the war....

    The roots of our present terrorism lie in the Middle East and in a series of conflicts around the world. We cannot solve these problems on our own but Britain does have a role to play in seeking peaceful resolutions to them. Our role partly derives from being a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a prominent member of the European Union. But we have many historic links with the Middle East and a close relationship with Saudi Arabia. We maintain close relationships with several Muslim countries through the Commonwealth. I believe that there is a distinctive contribution for Britain to make in addressing the underlying causes of international terrorism [Extract].


    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4205256.stm

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    Salim Lone, 22nd September 2005

    ....Blair's campaign began right after July 7 with an astonishing attempt to silence those exploring any link between British policies in the Middle East and the growth of domestic Muslim militancy. Scholars and commentators followed the lead of Manchester University's Professor Norman Geras and condemned as "fellow travellers" those who sought to understand how British-born and -educated men could turn to terror. Such explanations imparted some legitimacy to terrorist acts, they argued.

    In the US this campaign took a more ominous turn. Tom Friedman, a columnist for the New York Times, wrote that the "primary terrorism problem we face today can effectively be addressed only by a war of ideas within Islam". His solution was to support "life-affirming Muslims" through a new US state department "quarterly 'War of Ideas Report', which would focus on those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence". Quoting James Rubin, the former US state department spokesman, Friedman wrote that the list should also include "the excuse-makers ... who come out after every major terrorist incident ... to explain why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explain why the terrorists acted. [The excuse-makers] are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists."

    Few dispute the need to outlaw incitement to terrorism. But judging from the nature of the support Blair's initiative has received, it may threaten free speech, the bedrock of democracy and the rule of law. Terms such as "potential" and "indirect" incitement could include any advocacy of armed resistance. All mainstream British Muslim leaders stood with Blair in condemning domestic Muslim extremism in July, but many now worry about where this campaign and the proposed laws will lead.

    In any event, the world has not yet agreed what constitutes "terrorism". the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, tried to simplify matters by asserting that the killing of civilians was a terrorist act, but that was rightly rejected by the general assembly. The word "innocent", contained in the original draft, was left out. What about the US security firm Blackwater's security guards? What about armed Israeli civilians who create settlements on occupied Palestinian land? The kind of language proposed in the British legislation could easily characterise a call to resist allied occupation soldiers in Iraq as incitement. Is force now to be the preserve of the powerful?

    The threat posed to freedom of expression aside, it is alarming that Blair seems to be focusing only on Muslim actions. Indeed, writers such as Friedman explicitly state that it is religious figures advocating violence who should be exposed. The many western scholars and writers who incite their countries to undertake wars of aggression are not to be affected by anti-incitement legislation. Such incitement is more deadly due to the awesome destructive power of the states that are being urged, invariably, to attack a much weaker country.

    [Extract].


    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/10/19/nsteyn19.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/10/19/ixhome.html

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    Polly Toynbee,20th September 2005

    The political season opens in an air of bizarre unreality. This is a country at war and yet that war hardly features, even among Liberal Democrats. Political outrage or simple horror is lacking. Last week hundreds were massacred in one bloodbath after another. British military dead now number 95, not quite enough to get army mothers camped outside Downing Street - but 70,000 British soldiers have endured a heart-sinking tour in Iraq, seeing the blood, brains, guts and limbs daily littering the streets. Because no one knows what to do next, there is a remarkable absence of political recrimination.

    But if Iraq is all but absent, the war on terror is hot politics. Charles Clarke's new proposals emanate from the increasingly unreal planet of No 10, which still insists on no connection between Iraq and July 7. No one else believes it; most ministers have trouble speaking the words. But double-think and double-speak are leading us into a disastrous clash of civilisations.

    Once deep in a bomb crater, stop digging. It is time to learn the lessons of Iraq - and remember those of tackling the IRA. It is all about proportionality and unintended consequences. Even if the intention is good - ridding the world of Saddam or trying to stop bombers murdering tube travellers - any action that makes the threat worse is a mistake. Labour is keen on what works; Iraq has made the world more dangerous and these anti-terror laws risk the same.

    Bad responses to IRA bombs prolonged that terror. Mass internment on the flimsiest of evidence radicalised a generation, seriously limiting intelligence from informants. Most attempts to quell terror made things worse by disproportionate action taken in anger. Islamist killers took terror to a new level on 9/11, but catching and deterring perpetrators needs the same techniques. Never forget the IRA murdered publoads of ordinary people and came within a splinter of slaughtering the prime minister and cabinet. Ordinary Muslims may detect an elemental horror of dark-skinned bombers that strikes a deeper fear than Irish Catholics. Why else yet more draconian action? Clarke's move to jail for up to five years anyone who "glorifies, exalts or celebrates" terrorist attacks is as daft as it is dangerous....Similarly, why is it only when confronting the Islamist threat in the 2000 Terrorism Act that it became a legal duty to inform on possible terrorists? Under this law the brother of the British suicide terrorist who murdered many in Israel is this week being retried after a trial where the jury couldn't decide whether to convict. But the law never forced the Irish to inform. Perhaps it was recognised that any Irish family informer would be tarred and feathered, kneecapped or killed. But why are we putting a higher expectation on Muslim families, equally in fear? It seems as if we fear these new terrorists as more alarmingly alien, less one of us, though Catholic and Islamist bombs have the same effect. The IRA was undoubtedly the more organised enemy, so probably more lethal. Or is it just that politicians need to be seen taking "new" action, despite perfectly good existing laws? [Extract].


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1573756,00.html

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    Soumaya Ghannoushi, 5th October 2005

    Islamism, like socialism, is not a uniform entity. It is a colourful sociopolitical phenomenon with many strategies and discourses. This enormously diverse movement ranges from liberal to conservative, from modern to traditional, from moderate to radical, from democratic to theocratic, and from peaceful to violent. What these trends have in common is that they derive their source of legitimacy from Islam, just as Latin American anarchist guerrillas, communists, social democrats and third-way Blairites base theirs on socialism. To view such a broad canvas through the lens of Bin Laden or Zarqawi is absurd.

    Faced with this dynamic and multifaceted force across the Muslim world, the west has two options. It can deal with it peacefully, allowing it to express itself freely and opening a dialogue with it, or it can channel its energies towards violence and destructiveness. [Extract].


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1585000,00.html

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    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, 10th October 2005

    ...I completely accept that intelligence has to be gathered and it will be essential to get sharper, smarter policing and spying which may well require exceptional temporary powers granted by an independent judge. At times I even find myself applauding when some fanatic Muslim preacher is put away without due process, a burst of populism which is unbecoming and immoral. But I do not wish to live in a police state which uses democracy as a clever disguise to encroach on our liberties.

    Every day men and women in this country are being hauled into custody as nameless suspects. They may or may not be guilty. It doesn’t really matter any more. They are Muslims. Dogs have better safeguards than these presumed terrorists. The rules of the game have changed, Blair tells us. But, as the newly retired, immensely wise judge Lord Steyn says in an interview in this newspaper: “This is not a game, this is a deathly serious and earnest matter.”

    Blair and his gang, imbued with granite Christian certainties, claim our acquiescence to keep us safe, they say, in a dangerous world. Are we really living in more perilous times than during the two world wars or the Cold War when weapons of mass destruction were in the hands of war-makers on both sides? Charles Clarke, the home secretary, has capitulated on the pernicious proposed legislation which would have outlawed the “glorification” of terrorism, whatever that meant or was meant to mean. But he still wants the right to hold for 90 days people who have not been explicitly charged and to pack them off to their old countries so they don’t bother us. It is a double whammy. If you are marked out as a “terrorist” you can be incarcerated and deported, all in the silence imposed by the new anti-terrorism measures.

    All too soon, this cowboy justice begins to apply to others. Internment, exiling human beings, curtailing freedom of expression, have become responses to a range of difficult problems. The duffing up of the Labor Conference heckler Walter Wolfgang illustrated the point perfectly. (I do wonder though whether there would have been such a fuss around the country if the victim had not been an elderly refugee who fled Nazism, but, say, a young Asian or Afro-Caribbean man?) Countless more people, including children seeking asylum are being cruelly deported. Every day campaigners get e-mails about these wretched people, the latest I have had is from Jessica Levy, a desperate English woman whose husband Hossain is being sent back to Iran where torture is a gadget liberally used by the state to inflict docility and compliance. Even Middle Englanders in some places are rising in protest when they witness obvious miscarriages of natural justice in such cases.

    Blair has, in effect, torn up the Geneva Convention on refugees, and disdains the substance and spirit of the European Convention on Human Rights. [Extract].


    The Independent, 10th October 2005

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    Madeleine Bunting, 10th October 2005

    ...Capacity-building in the Muslim community can't be done quickly, and combating extremism is a project for the long haul. It requires models of community development and conflict resolution. It will certainly require a huge amount of hard local work of doggedly building relations across communities, and its success will always be vulnerable to the outcome of international events such as those in Iraq. But it has started to happen - there are plenty of local success stories.

    The danger is that these local initiatives get sabotaged by an undertow of increasing irritability at the national level. The Commission for Racial Equality is in danger of losing patience with the Muslim community. In part, this is a turf war for government attention: should the focus be faith or race? But it is also an increasingly ideological position about a push to define common values - and the definitions used privately range widely to include tolerance of homosexuality, even participating in the social life of the pub.

    The CRE's push for this integration debate is in line with government thinking and the proposed commission on integration. The problem is that to Muslims feeling increasingly beleaguered and burdened with explaining themselves, the cosy huddle of integration begins to sound more like a smothering bear hug, designed to expose them to a whole new set of tests of whether they belong in the UK.

    The irritability is most evident in government. Strip away the sweet talk and Paul Goggins, the minister on faith and community cohesion, has given British Muslims a nigh-on-impossible task. He tells me that over the summer, in a series of public meetings across the country, he has managed to establish that it is Muslims' responsibility to deal with extremism. The government will help, but basically it's down to Muslims to sort themselves out. One can hear the faux-innocent pleading of "It's nothing to do with us, guv". If that wasn't a tall enough order in a country whose foreign policy incenses the Muslim community, Goggins says he'd like Muslims to speak with a more "united voice": the internecine factionalism of minority community politics is confusing. The irony of course is that when Muslims do speak with one voice - on British foreign policy - Goggins and his government colleagues refuse to listen.

    The kind of delicacy and patience required to combat Islamist extremism in Britain seems, disturbingly, to be beyond the timetables of politics. What we get instead is some posturing - a bit of finger-pointing and plenty of washing of hands.[Extract].


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1588422,00.html

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    Lee Jasper, 11th October 2005

    ...There is now a concerted attempt in Britain to shift the debate about race from taking on and confronting racism and racial inequality to blaming black and Asian communities for the problems that many face. The buzzword is "integration", now often counterposed, falsely, to multiculturalism.

    Culturally distinct communities can be hugely positive and beneficial. We have many such examples of people choosing to live in an area where they are able to worship, shop and bring up their children within the context of their culture. But opponents of multiculturalism have used the post-9/11, post-London bombings climate to push their agenda. Multiculturalism, it is argued, elevates difference and therefore enhances segregation. The Trojan horse for this argument is the debate about Britain's Muslim communities, much of which is simply Islamophobic. The rightwing press is now rampant with the argument that multiculturalism intensifies segregation.

    In the real world, this onslaught translates into an approach that says: "Assimilate, accept the majority's norms - because if you don't, your failure to integrate, not racism, is the problem." Counterposing integration to multiculturalism is bound to lead to castigation of black communities for supposed failings.

    It is, of course, nonsense. Multiculturalism is a fact of life. Everyone is entitled to celebrate their own culture as long as they do not prevent others from doing so. In fact, researchers have found that Britain is becoming less, not more, segregated. The real problem is not the absence of integration, but that we still do not carry through multiculturalism's lessons adequately. Black and Asian people pay their taxes too. But our police services under-represent black and Asian people. We want black boys to do better in school to break out of cycles of underachievement, but where are the black teachers to act as role models?

    The celebration of diversity is what won us the Olympic games. This model values difference and requires strong commitment and political leadership. It helped to build the kind of unified response we had in the aftermath of the London bombings. This is what we put at risk when we lightly dismiss multiculturalism - a model that actually works.

    None the less, the cloak of integration is being used to push aggressively what is really an assimilationist agenda. Fascists and racists swim in the pool of racism. How this manifests itself - concretely - is an onslaught on British Muslims, using the religion of Islam as a battering ram. Islam is promoted as uniquely evil, or uniquely backward. The most explicit example is the British National party, which issued thousands of anti-Muslim leaflets after the London bombings with a graphic illustration of the devastated No 30 bus. According to the BNP, multiculturalism was to blame. The BNP is feeding on the mainstream onslaught against the Muslim communities and multiculturalism.

    Effective anti-racism starts from the view that we refuse to accept the onslaught, to go along with distortions and generalisations about Islam. In these circumstances, the provocative, headline-grabbing speeches by Trevor Phillips, the chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, are counterproductive and generate many of the most unapologetic headlines in the rightwing press, giving succour to those who want to push back anti-racism.

    Asked whether the word multiculturalism should be killed off, he replied: "Yes, let's do that. Multiculturalism suggests separateness." Confronted by the Spectator's Rod Liddle and asked if Islam was an issue for the CRE - in particular if it was "merely a matter of culture" rather than race - Phillips's response spoke volumes. "Well privately I would go quite a long way down the route you're taking. It is not primarily an issue of race." Hence the emphasis on segregation rather than racism. But the truth is that vile anti-Muslim prejudice, using the religion of a community to attempt to sideline and blame it for many of society's ills, is the cutting edge of racism in British society. Those who consider themselves anti-racists need to wake up to this fact. [Extract].


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1585000,00.html

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    Seamus Milne, 13th October 2005

    ...But, as publication of the terrorism bill yesterday confirmed, the most dangerous and inflammatory elements in Blair's August package are still there: not only the effective internment power, but deportation to countries that routinely torture; banning of non-violent political parties; state control of mosques and the outlawing of any statement that might be seen as inciting or glorifying terrorist acts (including in history).

    ... In fact, under the terms of the bill, anyone who voices support for armed resistance to any state or occupation, however repressive or illegitimate, will be committing a criminal offence carrying a seven-year prison sentence - so long as members of the public might reasonably regard it as direct or indirect encouragement. Terrorism is not defined in the bill as, say, indiscriminate attacks on civilians, let alone an assault on civilian targets by states - but as any politically motivated violence against people, property or electronic systems anywhere in the world. This is not only an assault on freedom of speech and debate about the most contentious subject in global politics. It also makes a criminal offence out of a belief shared by almost every society, religion or philosophy throughout history: namely, that people have the right to take up arms against tyranny and foreign occupation. Clarke made clear on Tuesday that this was exactly his intention. He could not, he said, think of any situation in the world where "violence would be justified to bring about change".

    Clearly, that did not apply to the invasion of Iraq or the bomb attacks on street markets carried out in Baghdad by US and British-backed opposition groups before 2003. But, as the mayor of London pointed out yesterday, support for Nelson Mandela, the wartime resistance and any number of anti-colonial liberation movements would all have been crimes under this bill. In practice, of course, the law is intended to be used selectively: it is aimed not just at those who praise bomb attacks on the London tube, but at Muslims and others who believe that Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans and others have a right to resist occupation.

    The home secretary's remarks in Washington last week that in dealing with global Islamism "there can be no negotiation about the recreation of the caliphateno negotiation about the imposition of sharia law" (when support for the latter in particular, variously interpreted, is widespread in the Muslim world) heightens the perception that the war on terror is also a war on Islam. Blair's August announcement was designed to show the government was taking tough action to protect the country from any repetition of the London bombings - and offset the majority view that he had put his own people in danger by invading Iraq. But if the terrorism bill in its current form becomes law, the likelihood is that instead of reducing the terror threat, it will increase it.

    Any operational benefit to the police is bound to be more than offset by the further alienation of exactly those sections of the Muslim community whose cooperation is needed to prevent more atrocities. If peaceful organisations are banned, Muslims are routinely locked up without charge and support for mainstream Muslim causes is criminalised, some will certainly be intimidated and keep their heads down. But others will conclude that participation in politics is pointless, that the tolerance and liberal democracy proclaimed by the political establishment is a fraud - and go underground. It is in everybody's interests that parliament resists a panic measure which threatens us all.[Extract].


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1585000,00.html

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    A. Sivanandan, 16th October 2005

    ...The more Blair denies his complicity in the destruction of Iraq and its part in the terrorist cause, the more he has to find other reasons for 7 July, and the more he engages in the politics of fear to erode democratic rights and civil liberties. Conversely, the sooner he owns up to the Iraq debacle, the sooner he will be able to address the most important element in apprehending terrorists: intelligence, intelligence, intelligence.

    Instead, his government substitutes authoritarian measures. The September 2005 anti-terrorist bill was the fourth counterterrorist measure in five years, expanding the definition of terrorism and creating new terrorist offences. The Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, hurried through parliament after 11 September, effectively abolished habeas corpus for foreign nationals. When the law lords ruled against this, the government merely replaced detention without trial with control orders. Now it has signalled it will extend them to British nationals, while the proposal to hold suspects for three months without trial is internment by another name.

    Blair argues that 'the rules of the game have changed'. But the game is democracy, and one part of it cannot be changed without starting a chain reaction that damages the whole and debases British values.

    And yet Blair exhorts ethnic minorities to live up to these British values. When our rulers ask us old colonials, new refugees, desperate asylum seekers - the sub-homines - to live up to British values, they are not referring to the values that they themselves exhibit, but those of the Enlightenment which they have betrayed. We, the sub-homines, in our struggle for basic human rights, not only uphold basic human values, but challenge Britain to return to them.

    [Extract].


    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1593282,00.html

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    Lord Steyn, 19th October 2005

    The Government was "driven to scrape the bottom of the legal barrel" to justify its invasion of Iraq, a senior judge said last night. Lord Steyn, who retired last month as a law lord although he continues to sit part-time, said some support could be "dredged up" for the Attorney General's view that the war was lawful.

    But Lord Alexander, QC, the former chairman of the human rights group Justice who stepped down last night, had been right to conclude that none of the Government's grounds for intervention had any plausibility.

    Extrication from Iraq would prove difficult unless the Government was now prepared to show humility, "which involves accepting the folly of the military invasion of Iraq".

    Speaking at a Justice debate after his election as Lord Alexander's successor, Lord Steyn said: "After the recent dreadful bombings in London we were asked to believe that the Iraq war did not make London and the world a more dangerous place. Surely, on top of everything else, we do not have to listen to a fairy tale.".

    [Extract].


    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/10/19/nsteyn19.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/10/19/ixhome.html

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    Paul Vallely, 18th November 2005

    It was not what we expected. A fascinating biography of Mohammad Sidique Khan on Radio 4 last night revealed that the leader of the group which planted the London bombs on 7 July was called Sid at school, had more white friends than Asian ones, and aged 16 was so besotted with America he wore cowboy boots.

    He had never been made to go to Koranic classes. He was not interested in religion. He ignored debates about the plight of Muslims abroad. When it came to cricket he didn't even support Pakistan. "Apart from the colour of his skin, he was just an English lad," one friend said....

    So what radicalised Sid Khan? There were none of the baleful influences usually trotted out by commentators. There was no radical mosque or firebrand preacher. He did not go to a segregated Muslim school or live in a ghetto. There was no lack of integration or multicultural separatism. What turned secular Sid into a pathological religious fanatic was watching videos of the mutilation of Muslims when he was in his twenties.

    The man who killed the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh last year had a similar background. Mohammed Bouyeri was born in the Netherlands to a quiet moderate Moroccan family, went to an academic high school and worked as a youth councillor. Like Sid Khan, he also became radicalised only a couple of years before his desperate act.....The usual assumption is that men like Khan and Bouyeri have overdosed on their religion. But perhaps that is wrong. Maybe they had too little, rather than too much; perhaps if they had learnt more about mainstream Islam at school they wouldn't have embraced such a destructive version of it later in life. [Extract].


    The Independent, 18th November 2005, page 43

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    Inayat Bunglawala, 6th April 2006

    In August 2005 I was appointed as the convenor of a Home Office working group on "tackling extremism". It was one of seven Muslim working groups the Home Office had set up to help come up with workable recommendations on how best to prevent extremism. It was a sensible initiative with a very diverse group of British Muslims included and the final report from these working groups can be read from here.

    You will notice that on page 98 of the above report - the section contributed by the working group of which I was convenor - it said:
    British foreign policy - especially in the Middle East - cannot be left unconsidered as a factor in the motivations of criminal radical extremists. We believe it is a key contributory factor.

    So, a question arises. Will the government "narrative" finally admit what I suspect most of us already believe: that the Iraq war, far from dealing a blow to global terrorism, has instead added to its ranks and undermined our national security? Or will the "narrative" merely quote another report and observe that "some Muslims" believe this to be the case?

    All of us have a stake in ensuring that the terror threat to this country is comprehensively defeated. It does not help our cause if our own government refuses to ask itself relevant questions [Extract].


    http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/inayat_bunglawala/2006/04/public_inquiry_vs_the_governme.html

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    Campaign for a judicial enquiry

    Attendees at meetings convened by the Prime Minister (19th July 2005) and the Home Secretary (20th July) report that a number of Muslim leaders called on the Government to establish a judicial enquiry - with the authority and remit of what Lord Scarman undertook after the 1981 Brixton riots - to throw light on how and why the events of 7th & 21 July took place, and what should be done to address the root causes. However it is believed that the Home Office is considering a less high-powered 'task group' - the legitimacy and relevance of such a task group remains a moot point in community circles. The Muslim Council of Britain has published its arguments in support of a Judicial Inquiry. August 2005: MCB case for an Inquiry

    In September 2005 there appeared some hint of compromise from the Home Office. The Home Secretary observed that "the issue is the nature of the inquiry. We have not ruled out a public inquiry. We are ready to look at it." He acknowledged that there was controversy between the government and the Muslim community working groups over the role of the Iraq war and other foreign policy issues in tackling extremism and said there was no direct link between Iraq and the tube bombings. The Guardian, 23rd September 2005

    A Government 'narrative' on 7/7, leaked in The Observer (9th April 2006) indicated that "tThe official inquiry into the 7 July London bombings will say the attack was planned on a shoestring budget from information on the internet, that there was no 'fifth-bomber' and no direct support from al-Qaeda, although two of the bombers had visited Pakistan....Patrick Mercer, shadow homeland security spokesman, said the official narrative's findings would only lead to calls for an independent inquiry to answer further questions surrounding 7 July. He said: 'A series of reports such as this narrative simply does not answer questions such as the reduced terror alert before the attack, the apparent involvement of al-Qaeda and links to earlier or later terrorist plots'.2 The Observer, 9th April 2006

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    The saga of the Home Office Working Groups & its projects

  • PET Working Groups
  • MINAB, Road Shows and the 'Theology' Board
  • PVE - Preventing Violent Extremism Programme

    PET Working Groups
    In August 2005, the Home Office invited members of the Muslim community to participate in a working group 'Working together to prevent extremism'. A number of task/working groups were set up, chaired either by civil servants or Muslim participants - these groups were: Education, Engaging with Women, Imams and the role of mosques, Regional and local initiatives, Security and policing, Tackling Extremism and Radicalisation. The invitees were drawn from a broad cross-section including academics, community activists and community organisation representatives, and members of Parliament (both MPs and peers)

    On 10-11th September 2005 the participants together with select civil servants convened in a conference centre near Windsor. The proceedings were organised around seven working groups. Among participants were Dr Tariq Ramadan, who has recently taken up a post at the University of Oxford, and the veteran Dr Salim Al-Hassani. With one important exception, the senior civil servants present did not seek to constrain the discussion and listened and observed. The underlying question was 'what makes British Muslims tick?'.

    Each group submitted its recommendations and were asked to identify the top two or three. Exercising its independence, at least one group tackled the issue of foreign policy: "The working group... after summer-long consultations in the wake of the July 7 bombings, criticises British foreign policy as being a 'key contributory factor' to the terrorist threat. It says plans to ban certain Islamic organisations could send them underground and make them "more problematic in the future", and queries the need for an offence of "acts preparatory to terrorism" and the power to close down mosques". The Guardian, 10th November 2005

    Two participants - Shaukat Warraich and Ifath Nawaz - collated the notes of the week-end discussions and other submissions, and prepared a draft report that was presented to the Home Secretary Charles Clarke on 22nd September. On 10th November, 2005 the Home Office published the 100 page report - click here for Working Groups Report (pdf). Madeliene Bunting observed at the time "worryingly, the whole project bears the hallmark of New Labour government - something had to be seen to be done, and quickly. So the participants were told to come up with concrete proposals that would have an immediate or short-term impact on extremism and radicalisation, and they had just two meetings to do so. Sometimes they had only a day's notice for meetings or deadlines for draft documents. Very few had a background in policy, even fewer had a research background". Bunting also noted the chasm between the participants' concern with the effects of foreign policy, and the Government's denial that this was an issue: "Strip away the sweet talk and Paul Goggins, the minister on faith and community cohesion, has given British Muslims a nigh-on-impossible task. He tells me that over the summer, in a series of public meetings across the country, he has managed to establish that it is Muslims' responsibility to deal with extremism. The government will help, but basically it's down to Muslims to sort themselves out. One can hear the faux-innocent pleading of 'It's nothing to do with us, guv'. If that wasn't a tall enough order in a country whose foreign policy incenses the Muslim community, Goggins says he'd like Muslims to speak with a more 'united voice': the internecine factionalism of minority community politics is confusing. The irony of course is that when Muslims do speak with one voice - on British foreign policy - Goggins and his government colleagues refuse to listen." The Guardian, 10th November 2005

    Updates

  • MINAB & 'Theology Board'
  • Road Shows

    MINAB - autonomy or acquiescence?

    click here for 'Theology Board' updates - 18th July 2008

    In the aftermath of the 7th July bombings, the Prime Minister of the day, Tony Blair, declared at his No.10 press conference, “Over the past two weeks there have been intensive meetings and discussions across government to set a comprehensive framework for action in dealing with the terrorist threat in Britain, and today I want to give our preliminary assessment of the measures we need urgently to examine” (5th August 2007).

    The first of these proposals relating to mosques and imams concerned powers to close down 'places of worship’. A second emerged from the ‘Preventing Extremism Together’ Working Groups convened by the Home Office in August-October 2005. One of the working groups, chaired by Lord Nazir Ahmed, had as its theme 'Imam Training and accreditation and the role of mosques as a resource for the whole community’ – specified by the then Director of Race, Cohesion and Faith at the Home Office, Mr Mark Caroll.

    Participants in Lord Ahmed's group noted the zeal with which Home Office civil servants present in their discussions pressed for a recommendation that was inevitably adopted: for setting up "a new national advisory body/council of mosques and imams. This body would be inclusive and representative of the many traditions practices in the UK, independent and lead by the institutions it serves" (Working Groups report, p.63).

    A number of participants present in Lord Ahmed's group, recognising an opportunity for combining consultancy work with community service, established Faith Associates to assist Lord Ahmed in conducting a consultation exercise on the proposal - now recast as MINAB, the Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board - with mosque imams in February-May 2006. A report prepared by the consultancy noted that Lord Ahmed "felt it incumbent upon himself to take the [PET] recommendations forward" and it also thanked members of the Faith Cohesion team at the Home Office, "in particular Mark Caroll" (Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board – Consultation findings & conclusions', Faith Associates, July 2006).

    On 9th March 2006, Faith Associates issued a press notice on behalf of Lord Ahmed, headed "Lord Ahmed and leaders of the Muslim community embark on a nationwide consultation exercise for national Muslim advisory body". It noted that "the process of consultation has already started with a questionnaire being sent to mosques, Islamic centres and women and youth organisations...to gather as much information as possible on the role that MINAB could play". The press notice included a quote from a Home Office Minister, "the Government welcomes the launch [sic] of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Body (MINAB). It demonstrates real progress by the Muslim commnity towards delivering one of the key recommendations of the Preventing Extremism Together Working Groups report published in November 2005".

    Two controversies emerged: firstly, a key Government ally for the PET initiative, Khurshid Ahmed of the British Muslim Forum, distanced himself from Lord Nazir's questionnaire. The Muslim News (10th March 2006) reported that "reservations about the way the initiative has been handled were raised by the Khurshid Ahmed of the British Muslim Forum. [Khurshid] Ahmed boycotted the meeting as he expressed concern about lack of consultation in drafting the questionnaire that was sent to 1,100 mosques by Lord Ahmed. No Muslim organisation, even those who were part of the task force, was consulted about the questionnaire". Secondly, the use of the word ‘launch’ in the press release was contested by the MCB.

    The press release was received with bemusement by most imams, particularly after the MCB indicated that there had not been sufficient consultation on the whole exercise. Oddly, Lord Nazir himself attempted to distance himself from the Questionnaire, observing that he himself had not seen it and that it had been prepared by Faith Associates. However it strains credulity to believe that a consultancy would have sent out a questionnaire without first clearing it with the client. Notwithstanding Khurshid Ahmed’s reservations, the BMF’s affiliates attended the meetings of imams and ulama organised under the leadership of Lord Nazir.

    The MCB too conducted a grass-roots survey of services delivered by mosques and on imams' training and expectations. The findings were presented and discussed at a meeting of imams and ulama it convened in Manchester in May 2006. These indicated awareness for improvement in mosques, while also recognising the important services provided. The MCB’s Secretary General at the time, Iqbal Sacranie, sought approval for a policy based on continued engagement with the MINAB scheme so long as it was community, rather than Government, led.

    Empowerment not control

    "... A range of opinions were expressed about the government's proposed Mosque and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB). Some felt that the MINAB initiative was too closely associated with the government and hence would be rejected by the Muslim community. Another view expressed strongly by some younger imams was that the MCB Mosque and Community Affairs Committee should take the lead in this area. Others expressed the view in favour of MCB and its affiliates continuing their engagement with MINAB as long as its independence was made clear and ensured. The MCB Secretary General, Iqbal Sacranie alerted the scholars and imams present of attempts to divide the community and sideline its main representative body. He noted, 'We assure the Muslim community that the MCB will continue to engage with all other Muslim organisations to preserve the total independence of Islamic institutions. While there was much scope for improvement and development in our mosques, there were excellent local examples of good practice that can be emulated more widely. This will lead to an improvement of standards and also increase awareness of the positive role of mosques in society'. The consensus that emerged from the meeting was that a steering group led by community organisations which would include the MCB as well as others, must work together to establish an independent inclusive advisory board to deal with specific issues related to mosques and imams in the UK.."

    MCB Press release, 15th May 2006

    Ignoring these types of community sentiments, the newly founded Department for Communities & Local Government pressed ahead with its own vision of a 'launch'. Thus on 27 June 2006, Lord Ahmed chaired a meeting to mark the publication of a ‘Mosques Good Practice Guide’ - published by 'MINAB' with the help of Dr Tahir Abbas at the University of Birmingham.

    The groundswell from ulama was soon to make Lord Nazir’s position untenable and he withdrew from a lead role in MINAB. The so-called ‘Good Practice Guide’ was also largely unused.

    The Home Office then called on the MCB, BMF, Al-Khoie Foundation and the Muslim Association of Britain to constitute a steering committee. There was considerable pressure on individual bodies and individuals to rush through with the work - HMG's desire to be seen to be doing something 'to stop mosques becoming centres of extremism'. So a Home Office minister stood up in Parliament in December 2006 to state, "the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) has been established as an independent national body. It launched on 27 June 2006 following a national consultation with Muslim communities led by Lord Ahmed....The members of the steering group have met informally on a number of occasions since the creation of MINAB. The steering group are currently developing proposals on the five main areas that MINAB will focus on, these are as follows: the accreditation of Imams; the development of leadership skills for imams and mosque officials; progress in the inclusion of young people and women; improvement in the governance of mosques; supporting mosques to contribute to community cohesion and to combating extremism (this will include considering the idea of establishing beacon centres)."

    HMG's insistence that MINAB had been 'launched' even though the body had yet to agree on its governing instruments was bizarre. Representing different constituencies and schools of thought, the steering committee was able to resist inducements and pressures for a premature launch and worked together in a constructive manner - perhaps to the surprise of the powers that be – and prepare a draft MINAB constitution and draft standards.

    To her credit, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears MP, has acknowledged the work done noting in her speech at the 'Preventing Extremism Together Conference' held in London on 31st October 2007 - where her officials had hoped to 'launch' MINAB yet again - that "...The third area where we need to accelerate what we're doing is empowering the community to show a lead everywhere. The commitment of Muslim communities to this work is absolutely vital and I welcome the whole range of ways that you have already shown this - from getting involved in pathfinder projects, to talking constructively to government, to taking steps to strengthen institutions like mosques. Take for example the publication last week of the draft constitution of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board. I'm pleased to see real practical progress on this body that could do so much for communities to bring the same high standards we see in some places brought to every area...".

    The draft MINAB governing instruments presented at a public meeting of imams and ulama on 29th November 2007 at the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre envisage a body that will be independent and advisory, staying clear of contentious issues such as imams accreditation as originally envisaged by HMG, or the neo-con agenda of bringing about new religious leadership for a 'reformation of Islam'. What has been at stake is a faith community's right to preserve the autonomy of its religious institutions and practice.

    Extracts from the MINAB Draft Constitution

    ARTICLE 1

    INTENT

    As founding members of the MINAB we hereby adopt this Constitution and we pledge to abide by its provisions intending the MINAB to be: a) An independent body b) Non Sectarian in its outlook c) Representing the diversity of Islam d) Broad based with an accountable system of representation

    ARTICLE 2

    AIMS & OBJECTIVES

    The MINAB is an advisory body which will facilitate good practice in the governance of Mosques and improvement in the performance of Imams. Its advisory function will be discharged through provision of guidance. Its facilitatory function will be discharged through consensus on Standards and Good Practice. OBJECTIVES

    a) Assist in building capacity of Mosques to function as community hubs. b) Assist Mosques in matters of governance. c) Advise on improved access and involvement of women and youth to Mosques. d) Spread best practice through the development of standards. e) Advise relevant bodies on training requirements/needs for Imams. f) Advice on the skills and competencies for appointment of Imams. g) Advise members on legal compliance. h) Provide information to members on access to resources and/ or make better use of resources for achievement of standards. i) Facilitate harmonisation of standards in relation to religious education in Mosques and Madresahs. j) Encourage mosques to become centres of community cohesion, citizenship and dialogue. k) Advise on the suitability of Imams and scholars coming to the UK from abroad. l) Co-operate and engage with other regulatory and non regulatory bodies in the UK and abroad to enable MINAB to achieve its aims and objectives.

    ARTICLE 3

    MEMBERSHIP

    a) A Mosque or Islamic Centre which functions as place of worship for persons who believe in no God but Allah and Muhammad (PBUH) as His last Prophet and to whom the Qur’an the true Word of Allah was revealed, is eligible for membership of the MINAB provided it is located in the United Kingdom and it subscribes to the Aims & Objectives and adheres to the provisions set out in the Constitution, or b) An institution or establishment which is engaged or involved in the training - vocational or academic - of persons aspiring to become Imam or Islamic Teacher shall also be eligible for membership of the MINAB provided it is located in the United Kingdom and it subscribes to the Aims & Objectives and adheres to the principles set out in the Constitution, and c) Pays such fees as is set by the Executive Board.

    Click here for full text

    The notion of a genuinely grass-roots MINAB is already a cause for concern in some neo-Con circles. For example the Policy Exchange document 'The hijacking of British Islam' published in October 2007 sounded an ominous note: “Though the instincts behind its creation were laubable, MINAB has, to date, failed to live up to expectations; in the year of its existence there has been insufficient evidence of a determination to take on all forms of extremist ideology and drive these doctrines out of the mosque. It must now be considered whether a fresh approach is required – and whether the Government should involve itself more vigorously in the process of regulating the UK’s mosques" (p.172).

    The neo-Cons would like to see an acqueiscent Muslim community; Muslims in Britain seek to preserve their religious dignity and autonomy. MINAB will be the arena where these two agendas are contested.

    Government seeks to sideline MINAB? The proposed 'Theological Board'

    In June 2008, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith launched the Government's 'delivery plan' for 'Preventing Violent Extremism'. Amongst the "key activities" to "support mainstream voices" were the following:

  • "Supporting the Radical Middle Way project and similar initiatives to bring together authoritative voices to speak to communities in the UK and around the world"
  • "Supporting the establishment of a board of leading Muslim scholars to help articulate an understanding of Islam in Britain."

    While the Radical Middle Way has been subject to some scrutiny, the genesis and rationale of the second idea, of a "board' of scholars or imams" are less well-known. The Muslim community had assumed that given the MINAB initiative - where mosques and imams themselves are addressing issues of service delivery and communication - the tradition of religious communities managing their own religious affairs would be preserved.

    Further revelations on the Government's bizarre scheme were made by the Sunday Times on 14th July 2008:

    "The government is to sponsor a theological board of leading imams and Muslim women in an attempt to refute the ideology of violent extremists. The committee, to be announced this week, will issue pronouncements on areas such as wearing the hijab and the treatment of wives and is part of a government strategy to counter radicalism. It will rule on interpretation of the Koran and promote the moderate strain of Islam practised by most British Muslims. It will also comment on controversial issues affecting Muslims living in Britain, including whether or not they should serve in the armed forces. Its members have been recommended by leading moderates in the Muslim community and will be technically independent, although the government is expected to provide civil service support, a secretariat and members’ expenses. Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, will announce the committee as part of an anti-extremism strategy called Prevent, devised following the 2005 London bombings. It tries to foster close contacts between Muslims and the rest of society to combat the glorification of terrorism." Marie Woolf, 13th July 2008

    The Muslim Council of Britain's community survey conducted in 2007 established that among the top priorities at the grass-roots level was "ensuring mosque, madrassa and dar ul-uloom independence". The idea of a board of approved imams will thus serve only to increase scepticism and distrust. The signal from Government is that as far as Muslims are concerned, the agenda is one of control and patronage, not empowerment and independence.

  • 18th July 2008
    "The British government is to fund a board of Islamic theologians in an attempt to sideline violent extremists. The move will see Oxford and Cambridge Universities host a group of scholars who will lead debate on key issues such as women and loyalty to the UK...Under the plans, the two universities will bring together about 20 leading thinkers, yet to be named, to debate critical issues affecting Muslims in the UK. The Department for Communities is responsible for the government's strategy to combat violent extremism, known as 'Prevent'... The board's work will focus on examining issues relating to Islam's place in Britain and obligations as a citizen. Ministers say the board's membership will 'reflect the diversity of Islam and Muslim communities in the UK' and the work will include seminars around the country."BBC report, 18th July 2008

    First responses from the community organisations was to await further details and enquire whether this type of oversight also applies to other faith communities in the land.

    The Muslim Council of Britain placed on record its "deep reservations", adding "Initiatives aimed at improving community cohesion are laudable, but coming as it does as a top-down initiative from sections of government who have been seeking to marginalise large segments of the British Muslim community means that the latest project will almost certainly lack the credibility required for it to succeed. We are told that such an initiative comes after a request from the Muslim community; scepticism for such an idea will resonate not only amongst Muslims, but wider British society". Dr Bari, MCB Secretary General, noted that "In a country where the State is largely neutral on theological matters, and where no other similar arrangement exists for other minority faiths, such an initiative will inevitably be met with scepticism and mistrust. For too long now, British Muslims have been viewed by this government through the narrow prism of security. British Muslims - like all citizens - have every right to peacefully disagree with government policies if they wish and they do not need to be 're-programmed' by a government-approved list of theologians..."Click here for full text, MCB Press release, 18th July 2008

    The community newspaper 'The Muslim News' also reacted with coolness: "If the British government is attempting to interfere in the Muslim community on matters of Islam by funding a board of theologians, it is being wrong-headed as such a panel would have no credibility... Other governments have tried to impose their views to control Islam and have failed. It has been counter-productive and divisive... It will be perceived that the whole strategy of the UK Government on tackling extremism is to target not just extremists but Islam itself... Speaking from the inter-faith conference in Madrid, he [Editor Ahmed Versi] said that there was unanimous agreement among Jewish, Christian and Muslim delegates that religion does not breed extremism but there are a variety of complex issues that is the problem."

    It has also not gone unnoticed that the Government announcement follows a day after Communities & Local Government Minister Hazel Blears was a guest speaker at Policy Exchange. Effectively the Minister asks for a silencing of Muslim opinion when it seeks even-handedness in Palestine, criticizes the misadventures of Iraq and Afghanistan or other aspects of our foreign policy:"When my predecessor Ruth Kelly became Secretary of State, she made it clear that the Government would not do business with any groups who weren't serious about standing up to violence and upholding shared values, and that has been our approach ever since.

    Take the Islam Expo at the weekend. I was clear that because of the views of some of the organisers, and because of the nature of some of the exhibitors, this was an event that no Minister should attend. Organisers like Anas Altikriti, who believes in boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day. Or speakers like Azzam Tamimi, who has sought to justify suicide bombing. Or exhibitors like the Government of Iran.

    Not because the vast majority of Muslims at the event were not decent citizens; they were. But because the organisers were trying to influence the audience in certain directions. And by refusing to legitimise the event for these specific reasons, we would hope to isolate and expose the extremists and ensure they were not part of the event next year. Our policy is designed to change behaviour."

    A Labour Minister speaking from a right-wing platform is a measure of the policy disarray in the Brown Cabinet - how many of her colleagues subscribe to her diagonosis of the problems and the prescriptions?




  • Road Shows
    The Radical Middle Way project was brought to public attention in the New Statesman in July 2006, which at the time judged that "it is too early to judge the success of the scholars roadshow, which began touring Britain in December with events in London, Leeds and Manchester (under the apparently unironic, new Labour-ish banner 'The Radical Middle Way'). Although the events are branded with the logos of the three 'grass-roots' organisations that form Mahabba Unlimited, it is an open secret that the tour is funded by the Foreign Office."

    Shane Brighton noted, "The Radical Middle Way grew from the findings of the PET working group as a means to 'empower voices of mainstream Islam'…..the reality of 'Preventing Extremism together' centres upon integration not simply as an acceptance of the legitimacy of certain British social norms, but also of those upon which current foreign policy is founded and seeks to introduce." (International Affairs, 2007)

    Answering a question in the Commons in November 2007, Minister Kim Howells also indicated that "according to the organisers, the cost for the Radical Middle Way website for 2007-08 is £26,400. The total cost for website development from the Radical Middle Way's launch in February 2006 to its completion in March 2007 was £35,000". Further funding to this venture has come from thhe Preventing Violent Extremism Pathfinder Fund 2007/2008: allocations for Radical Middle Way shows in Wycombe (a collaboration of the local district council, and the central goverment departments Communities & Local Government and the FCO) and the London Borouth of Southwark.

    The continuing role of the Radical Middle Way roadshows has been affirmed in the Government's 'delivery plan' for 'Preventing Violent Extremism':"Supporting the Radical Middle Way project and similar initiatives to bring together authoritative voices to speak to communities in the UK and around the world". (June 2008)

    A separate series of roadshows with the theme 'Roles and Responsibilities of Muslims in Britain' was launched by a broad-based independent consortium of bodies drawing on community-based scholars and activists - 6 cities were targeted in May-June 2006. Click here for details

    PVE - Preventing Violent Extremism Programme

    PVE Watch

  • Institute of Race Relations Report "the Prevent programme has been used to establish one of the most elaborate systems of surveillance ever seen in Britain."- posted 19th October 2009
  • Communities Secretary John Denham & Home Secretary Alan Johnson's letter to local authorities "The Prevent strategy has had real successes...but...." - Denham vs Sir Humphreys!- posted 8th September 2009
  • Tax-Payers Alliance on Prevent"...There has been insufficient monitoring of how Prevent money is spent, with the Government unsure of what groups Councils have disbursed money to."- September 2009
  • JUST West Yorkshire's response to Inquiry on Prevent"...it has led to the disproportionate criminalisation of BME and particularly Muslim communities"- August 2009
  • Anna Turley's report - Stronger Together - A new approach to preventing violent extremism"... the Prevent approach alienates many within the community - August 2009
  • Parliamentary question on Radical Middle Way funding Minister Shahid Malik responds- July 2009
  • Report of the Reading Muslim PVE Crisis Group"... it would appear that out of 20 Mosques and Muslim organisations there is now only one Muslim organisation that is 'on board' with the PVE agenda- June 2009
  • Parliamentary question on PVE Way funding Baroness Andrews responds- April 2009
  • Report of the Redbridge Faith Forum"PVE deals with the issues, not the root causes - April 2009
  • Declaration by Northampton community bodies Northampton Muslims Reject Funding to Link Islam with Terrorism - April 2009
  • An-Nisa Society's disillusionment Report: 'Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) & PREVENT – a response from the Muslim community'- March 2009
  • Good Muslim, West Muslim 'I Am the West'- February 2009
  • Further revelations on Quilliam Foundation funding "Almost £1 million of public money is being given to a think-tank run by two former Islamic extremists .... " 20 January 2009
  • Quilliam Foundation own up to Government funding "In reality, we have received £514,000 for this and .... " 12 January 2009
  • Home Secretary's speech "I am delighted to announce we have just granted a further £5.8 million to Prevent", 10th December 2008
  • Birmingham City Council manager - more royalist than the king? - 12th November 2008
  • Flavour of the month - Azeem Ibrahim PVE advice shrouded in gobbeldy goop - 2nd November 2008
  • Government-funding recipients - Zubeida Malik's investigation: Councillor's "Gravy Train" remark - 24th October 2008 ..."
  • Government-funding recipients - Community leadership Fund aimed at supporting Muslim communities to unlock the potential of local people to take a lead on tackling violent extremism. ..."
  • Bradford Conservative Councillor Kris Hopkins - Council's job is not to monitor...
  • Respect Councillor Salma Yaqoob calling for greater openness in the way both central and local government are managing projects relating to the Muslim community. However it is a long-drawn story that requires some background.

    PVE Time line

    On 5th April 2007, Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government announced a "new action plan to step-up work with Muslim communities to isolate, prevent and defeat violent extremism", in a document entitled 'Preventing violent extremism - Winning hearts and minds'.

    A Home Office fund for community cohesion, in place since the Northern cities disturbances of Summer 2001, was transformed into a PVE 'Pathfinder fund'. Confusingly, the Communities & Local Government website states that a Preventing Violent Extremism Pathfinder Fund was launched in October 2006 - six months prior to Ruth Kelly's announcement - "to support priority local authorities in developing programmes of activity to tackle violent extremism at the local level". A signal of the on-going turf war between two departments.

    In February 2007, CLG announced "The Government is making available £5m in 2007-8 to support priority local authorities in their work to tackle violent extremism in their communities. This guidance explains the objectives of the fund and how it will be rolled out. It also offers practical guidance on working with communities to develop community-based and community-led initiatives to tackle radicalisation."

    Details of some of the funded projects were placed in the public domain in April 2007, which included: Tottenham Hotspur Youth Forum; Barking & Dagenham Islamic Awareness; Black Country Imams; Kirklees Webspace & Radio activity; Birmingham City Council's projects to "support the development of a series of community-led study circles to help young people to deliver a better understanding of Islam" and also to support Young Muslim Leadership Programmes "to hold workshops on issues such as civic engagement and how to respond to signs of radicalisation amongst young people"; Calderdale Authority to work with the local education authority on "developing citizenship education resources"; outreach work with the Hounslow Asian and African Youth Group; support for the Southwark Parents Forum. CLG also listed over a hundred local authority districts deemed to be priority areas - broadly reflecting the geographical distribution of the Muslim population.

    In June 2008, the Home Office (again, confusingly, not the CLG!) announced the availability of new funding to "local authorities, schools, community groups and police tackle violent extremism. The funds will be targeted at institutions working to counter terrorism, and at those most vulnerable to radicalisation. Part of the government's 'Prevent' strategy, the funds are designed to prevent the spread of extremism. New guidelines released with the funding offer advice on how agencies and organisations can work to prevent the spread of radicalisation, support mainstream voices and help communities resist violent extremists." The document 'Preventing Violent Extremism - A strategy for Delivery' noted "over the last year we have funded over 200 projects in 70 local authority areas as part of the Preventing Violent Extremism Pathfinder Fund. We have doubled this investment for 2008-09...". The report also provides some specific project details, for example "supporting the Radical Middle Way project and similar initiatives to bring together authoritative voices to speak in the UK and around the world".

    Paul Goodman MP, Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, raised some pertinent concerns in the Commons in June 2008: "Some non-Muslims, and in my experience particularly some black church groups, say for that reason that the scheme is unfair. At the same time, some Muslims, particularly many young Muslims, say that the branding of the scheme is offensive. Why, they argue, are they uniquely singled out? Furthermore, there is no evidence as yet that the programme as a whole is preventing violent extremism, despite the admirable schemes to which I referred in my introductory remarks. In our view, Ministers should allow local councils more discretion in the use of the fund for other community cohesion purposes. Since the targeting of taxpayers' money at one religious group is always problematic, should not Ministers be looking more closely at utilising the energy, flair and dynamism of the private, independent and voluntary sectors?"

    Vernon Coaker MP, responding for the Government noted, "I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the need to support communities. The Government have, as he knows, committed £45 million over next three years through the Preventing Violent Extremism programme, the money being given through the DCLG. However, let us be clear that this is difficult territory. If we are to win the battle for hearts and minds, there will have to be robust debate and engagement. Of course, we have to ensure that we do not inadvertently support or fund the wrong people, individuals or groups."

    With these level of monies sloshing around in the system, there have been no shortage of opportunistic takers and the emergence of companies and registered charities with remarkable expertise in spotting and curing radicals! The critiques of PVE funding have been mounting, in terms of the use being made of tax payers money, methodology and fears of social engineering. A particular bone of contention has been the Government's use of a quantitative measure of 'resilience' to so-called violent extremism - termed IN35! Some local authorities have resented to this reporting requirement, because it makes them an arm of the police or of the security services (e.g. refuse collection workers checking bins for incriminating material). One local authority - High Wycombe - Paul Goodman's consitutency - which has been allocated more than £400,000 to run anti-terrorism projects is having to confront concerns of local Muslims: Zahid Jawed, for the Wycombe Islamic Society, warned of a plan to target five-year-olds as part of the anti-extremism drive!

    Another devastating critique has come from Councillor Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham. The Birmingham City Council was awarded £500,000 as part of PVE Pathfinder, and has now been given an additional £2.4 million for the next three years! At a Council meeting she raised the issue of "many projects have taken place in wards without the consultation and participation of ward members and without accountability to the local communities through the ward structures...How will the existing structures which bring transparency and accountability … be utilised in any planning for this programme?". As a response, one City official threatened that he would "report her"!

    She objected to an event being organised by one 'Waterhouse' management consultancy that planned to invite 'The Islamist' author Ed Hussain, observing "He is somebody who doesn't want dialogue, he wants to close down dialogue". British politics needs more courageous whistle-blowers like this councillor - who does not fear being 'reported'.

    Local government heavyweight - leader of Bradford Council and leader of the Conservative Group Kris Hopkins- too raised his disquiet with the PVE campaign when responding to questions from Channel 4 reporter Darsha Soni (10th September 2008).

    DS lead in: Bradford in West Yorkshire, identified as Number 2 in the Security 'Heat Map' - Councillors here were worried that the Government's approach risked alienating Muslim communities...

    KH: What they said was that if we were willing to go out and monitor the Muslim community and use the resources of the local council to do that they would release an amount of money to us. The local council should be there to promote education, caring for elderly people, making sure they are in a safe place and not become a wing of the security services.

    DS voice over: All 70 Authorities were told that they would have to sign up to targets - performance indicators called NI35 - that would assess and measure how well they were tackling extremism. But we understand that two-thirds of the Councils refused to sign.

    DS: What was the response when you said to Government you were not prepared to sign up to NI35?

    KH: We have had an enormous amount of pressure, both officers and politicians. A whole procession of people have come to Bradford to tell us that we are wrong and I think to try to suggest tht we are soft on terroism, which is completely wrong.

    Links

    DCLG Report, 'Preventing violent extremism - Winning hearts and minds'
    DCLG, October 2006 fund launch detail
    Home Office Community Cohesion Pathfinder programme, 2003
    CLG, Feb 2007 fund details
    CLG, April 2007 case studies
    June 2008 new funding announcement
    'Preventing Violent Extremism - A strategy for Delivery'
    Paul Goodman MP's contribution to counter-terrorism debate, June 2008
    Wycombe Muslims' fears
    Salma Yaqoob's disquiet

    ============================================================

    "the Prevent programme has been used to establish one of the most elaborate systems of surveillance ever seen in Britain."

    "...there are strong reasons for thinking that the Prevent progamme, in effect, constructs the Muslim population as a 'suspect community', fosters social divisions among Muslims themselves and between Muslims and others, encourages tokenism, facilitates violations of privacy and professional norms of confidentiality, discourages local democracy and is counter-productive in reducing the risk of political violence.

    The result of a six-month research project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the report draws on existing policy and academic work, freedom of information requests, a roundtable discussion and thirty-two interviews with Prevent programme workers and managers in local authorities, members of local Prevent boards, voluntary sector workers engaged in Prevent work and community workers familiar with local Prevent work.

    The government describes its Preventing Violent Extremism programme (known simply as 'Prevent') as 'a community-led approach to tackling violent extremism'. It believes that by selectively directing resources at 'moderate' Muslim organisations to carry out community development and 'anti-radicalisation' work, it can empower them to unite around 'shared British values' to isolate the 'extremists'. With hundreds of millions of pounds of funding, the Prevent programme has come to redefine the relationship between government and around two million British citizens who are Muslim.

    The report's key findings are that:

  • Prevent-funded voluntary sector organisations and workers in local authorities are becoming increasingly wary of the expectations on them to provide the police with information on young Muslims and their religious and political opinions.
  • The atmosphere promoted by Prevent is one in which to make radical criticisms of the government is to risk losing funding and facing isolation as an 'extremist', while those organisations which support the government are rewarded.
  • Local authorities have been pressured to accept Prevent funding in direct proportion to the numbers of Muslims in their area - in effect, constructing the Muslim population as a 'suspect community'.
  • Prevent decision-making lacks transparency and local accountability.
  • Prevent has undermined progressive elements within the earlier community cohesion agenda and absorbed from it those parts which are most problematic.
  • The current emphasis of Prevent on depoliticising young people and restricting radical dissent is actually counter-productive because it strengthens the hands of those who say democracy is pointless.

    Author of the report, Arun Kundnani, says that: 'The stated aim of the government's counter-terrorist strategy is to enable people to "go about their lives freely and with confidence". The question we pose in this report is whether freedom and confidence for the majority can be enabled by imposing a lack of freedom and confidence on a minority - in this case, the Muslim population of Britain.'

    Click here for IPR report - 'Spooked, how not to prevent extremism'
    ============================================================

    "The Prevent strategy has had real successes...but...." - Denham vs Sir Humphreys!

    In August 2009 the newly appointed Secretary of State responsible for CLG (Communities & Local Government), John Denham, co-signed a letter with Home Secretary Alan Johnson which opened possibilities of dialogue in sensitive policy areas. It was a welcome change from their predecessors' inclination of engagement by diktat.

    The Government's Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) programme has sown mistrust by ramming down an anti-terrorism agenda into every aspect of community work, from hospital chaplaincy to the teaching of children with learning disabilities. It now needs to be swept away if this trust is to be rebuilt. The criticisms from civil society can no longer be ignored, but it is probably easier to change direction of a cargo-laden tanker than expect a redirection within a government department! Clearly the 'Yes, Minister' types are pointing out to Mr Denham that 'it might be best to avoid giving the impression that a redirection of overall Prevent policy is needed'. Thus the Johnson/Denham letter contains classic examples of Sir Humphreys Whitehall-speak cloaking the policy problems:

  • Our Prevent work is vital, but the Government is very much aware that we do not want terrorism to define, or be perceived as defining, the relationship between Government and Muslim communities. We need constantly to reflect and make clear in our public statements that the vast majority in our Muslim communities are against violent extremism. We otherwise create difficulties for ourselves in our work with local communities and community organisations
  • ... it is clear that the label 'Preventing Violent Extremism' attached to the local Prevent funding stream has on occasion been a barrier to promoting good, community-based work
  • Although the most significant terrorist threat comes from al-Qaida groups or AQ inspired ideology, there is a perception that government is only interested in violent extremism of one kind. This is not true. Government is working to address all forms of extremism, including violent far right groups"

    PREVENT will not survive with mere re-labelling; the whole premise of conflating anti-terrorism and community development needs to be jettisoned.

    An important and constructive point made in the letter is about 'shared values' - "We also want to promote cohesion and shared values more clearly and strongly right across society. We want to see a wider public debate about the values that communities share and the role values - including the value of understanding and respecting difference - can play in creating the safe, fair and empowered communities in which we all want to live." The recognition that shared values need to emerge through dialogue - and not by top-down diktat - offers a basis for improved community relations under John Denham's watch. If "respecting difference" is code-speak for bringing 'multiculturalism' back on track as progressive Labour policy - then even more excellent news! Sir Humphreys, know your place.

    Click here for text of letter ============================================================

    The TaxPayers’ Alliance's (TPA) findings on Prevent

    "Aimed at stopping people from becoming terrorists, the Government has given Local Authorities money to fund projects administered by community groups, as well as giving out grants themselves directly. However, there have been ongoing concerns about the groups receiving funding and it has not been clear how taxpayers’ money has been spent...

  • Over £12 million has so far been given out by local authorities to fund community groups through Prevent projects.
  • There has been insufficient monitoring of how Prevent money is spent, with the Government unsure of what groups Councils have disbursed money to.
  • This paper managed to get more detailed information on local authorities’ Preventing Violent Extremism grants than that obtained by Paul Goodman MP through parliamentary questions.
  • The TPA has been able to ascertain how much each organisation received, rather than the total amount each local authority received – an itemised account of PVE expenditure. " ===========================================================

    Parliamentary question on Radical Middle Way funding - Minister Shahid Malik responds, July 2009

    "From October 2007 to June 2008 the RMW held a total of 34 road show events and a number of other formal and informal meetings with domestic and international scholars and speakers in the following locations:
    London; Luton; Leicester; Birmingham; Liverpool; Bradford; Peterborough; Milton Keynes; Woking; and Manchester.

    CLG and FCO provided funding of £250,000 to the project in 2007-08 to support the programme of events including support for the RMW website (£12,000) and external evaluation.

    From June 2008 to May 2009 the RMW held a total of 48 road show events and a number of formal and informal meetings with domestic and international scholars and speakers in the following locations:
    Blackburn; Bradford; Cambridge; London; Birmingham; Peterborough; Hounslow; High Wycombe; Leicester; Manchester; Milton Keynes; Slough; Derby; Bristol; Rochdale.

    CLG has provided funding of £350,000 to the project to support the programme of events. This also included support for the RMW website and an external evaluation.

    RMW held their first international road show to Sudan in April 2009, reaching an estimated 25,000 people through six large public events. The FCO provided £70,000 to support this road show and the RMW are planning further pilot road shows in Sudan, Indonesia and Pakistan by end October. The pilot phase of the international project will be evaluated by an independent company.

    ============================================================

    JUST West Yorkshire's response to Inquiry on Prevent

    "JUST has long been campaigning against the government's Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) agenda which is part of The UK's 'CONTEST 2' strategy for Combating International Terrorism.

    JUST's objections to the Prevent programme are based on the following grounds:

  • It has led to the disproportionate criminalisation of BME and particularly Muslim communities
  • It locates the burden for fighting terrorism on the Muslim community despite the fact that the majority are peace-loving citizens of the UK.
  • The current usage of the terminology of violent extremism is discriminatory as it ignores the very real threats from far-right and other forms of extremism.
  • It has drawn statutory bodies into the 'securitisation' agenda thereby dismantling the traditional relationships of trust and confidence between public bodies and service users.
  • It has led to the abandonment of funding for traditional community development, capacity building and empowerment work with BME communities, replacing it instead with community cohesion, anti-extremism and anti-terrorism approaches which have put Muslim communities under the intense spotlight of the far right and the press and media.
  • It reinforces negative stereotypes and associations of Islam with terrorism and views the British Muslim community through the single issue of terrorism...."

    ===========================================================

    Report of the Reading Muslim PVE Crisis Group

    "... it would appear that out of 20 Mosques and Muslim organisations there is now only one Muslim organisation that is 'on board' with the PVE agenda- June 2009

    "Contrary to media reports regarding the state of PVE in Reading, it would appear that out of 20 Mosques and Muslim organisations there is now only one Muslim organisation that is ‘on board’ with the PVE agenda. However there is no evidence that this organisation has consulted the community it claims to represent before it joined the PVE steering group.

    At a recent meeting in the Town Hall it was confirmed that the Local Authority in Reading are not distancing themselves from the national PVE agenda, this despite the huge concerns that have been caused by the Governments revised CONTEST2 strategy within which PVE sits.

    The Reading Muslim PVE Crisis Group was a short term initiative aimed to communicate the change in position of the Muslim community in Reading from the initial RFAE pathfinder work in 2007. It was felt that the discussions in numerous community meetings and community workshops concluded that the overwhelming majority of the 7 PVE objectives were ‘unworkable’. Consultations with the Local Authority were being ignored and the PVE agenda was spiralling dangerously out of control."

    Salaam comment: The new Minister responsible for Communities & Local Government CLG, John Denham MP, would do well to take on board such comments and abandon the ill-conceived and ill-advised policies of his predecessors that have conflated community development and regeneration with the security agenda, and moreover, deliberately sought out to fragment Muslim civil society (e.g. See the Redbridge report below). =================================================================

    A report prepared by Redbridge Faith Forum for Redbridge Safer Communities Partnership, based on interviews conducted in February - March 2009 notes:

  • PVE is widely seen as a problem of the Muslim community, not least in the government’s own policy documents and it was hoped that RFF might be able to offer a sympathetic but not uncritical accompaniment with the Muslim community around this Project from which useful lessons could be learnt
  • The Gaza War also meant that a situation, which was thought to be ‘in hand’ prior to the war, suddenly became inflamed. Experienced Muslim PVE workers reported difficulty in keeping down the sheer frustration being experienced by the Muslim community.
  • "We don’t like the involvement of outside bodies. We want to drive our own agenda. Through PVE, there is a danger that we get seen to be funded to do other’s ‘dirty work’. (Dirty = becoming an agent informer?) The Muslim community can be seen to be agents for the police . We need to be very careful about the way we are perceived".
  • "Are needs being addressed by PVE? Not 100% to be honest. Some aspects of PVE are seen as ‘cosmetic’, others as ‘political’. There is a feeling of discrimination penetrating PVE, in the way the funds are being dispersed. Organisations close to the government get the benefit [of funding]- These are the high fliers with their glossy reports; the grass roots don’t benefit"
  • "There is about 50% trust in the PVE project. But there is a lack of trust in the police presence, because it is very sensitive giving this personal information. I think it is too personal what they are asking - ‘Requests for data bases with contacts' –all their names, addresses and telephone numbers. People are not willing to give it...The general feeling of the Muslim community is that PVE is treated with suspicion. The vast majority of people denounced 7/7 but there is real scepticism about the intelligence led nature of PVE. Also PVE gives Muslims a negative viewpoint..... “Other faith communities will say ‘They get money because they are trouble-makers.... As Muslims, we want money for our communities to come through the mainstream, not through PVE. I am a voluntary sector type person. We do things through the mainstream, without the negative connotations..."
  • "About PVE, some Muslims are uncritically for the government; others are more distant from the mainstream. But there is big scepticism towards the Quilliam Foundation, with its staff on £80,000 salaries."
  • The above negative view towards the Quilliam Foundation was held almost universally by all participants and corroborated by attending meetings including Understanding Redbridge Communities (URC) meeting....Criticism of the Quilliam Foundation was felt quite unanimously in the interviews held as shown above.
  • "Representative grass roots organisations should be at the forefront of all this (consultative work with the government). The MCB (Muslim Council of Britain) were isolated by the government and the Sufi Council was promoted in their place. But people don’t accept the Sufi Council. The MCB should be representing Muslims nationally. We accept MCB at our Mosque. MCB say Holocaust Day should be for everybody and renamed the International Genocide Day and was disliked for saying this. The MCB does not go against the grain of the community. We work to consensus"

    ===========================================================

    Parliamentary Question on PVE funding Baroness Andrews responds - April 2009

    The list of all projects that received funding through the Preventing Violent Extremism Community Leadership Fund (CLF) in 2007-08 has been placed in the House Library. Funding allocations for each project in 07-08 have been provided in the answer to a previous Parliamentary Question (DCLG Ref: 1446 08/09).

    The full list of projects receiving CLF funding between 2008-09 and 2010-11 is set out below. This includes all projects that were awarded funding in 2008. Funding will also be subject to organisations providing sufficient evidence that projects are making satisfactory progress and organisations are complying with grant terms and conditions. [click link for funding details of British Muslim Forum, Mosaic Muslim Media Network, GW Theatre Company, Khayaal Theatre Company, Muslim Youth Helpline, Association of Muslim Chaplains in Education (AMCED), Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), Ashram Housing Limited, Dervish Arts, Faith Matters, Henna Foundation, Islamic Society of Britain, Muslim Women’s Network UK, Sufi Muslim Council, The Somali Messenger, Ulfah Arts] ================================================================

    'Government gives £1m to anti-extremist think-tank Quilliam Foundation' by Richard Kerbaj, 20th January 2009:

    "Almost £1 million of public money is being given to a think-tank run by two former Islamic extremists, despite reservations being expressed by members of the Government and the Opposition. The funding is for the Quilliam Foundation — a counter-extremism think-tank set up nine months ago by Ed Husain, a bestselling author, and Maajid Nawaz, a former political prisoner in Egypt — as part of the Government’s strategy to combat the radicalisation of British Muslims. The scale of the funding has aroused concerns that the Government is relying too heavily on a relatively unknown organisation in its desperation to counter extremism. The Times understands that the foundation, which has 18 full-time staff, is paying about £110,000 a year to rent offices at one of Central London’s most prestigious addresses, which, for security reasons, have no name plate or sign outside. Inside, the offices are expensively furnished with state-of-the-art computers and plasma screen televisions. "

    Quilliam Foundation own up to Government funding "In reality, we have received £514,000 for this and .... " 12 January 2009

    'Government gives £1m to anti-extremist think-tank Quilliam Foundation' by Richard Kerbaj, 20th January 2009: "For months, our detractors have accused us of receiving tens of millions of taxpayers' money. In reality, we have received £514,000 for this and last year from the Home Office; and £139,000 from the Foreign Office for the work we do in countering extremism in Muslim-majority countries. Much of this is used to support 18 full-time staff across three continents to tackle radicalisation. To put this firmly in perspective, central government has allocated a total £79.3m so far for the Prevent agenda. "

    ========================================================================================= Home Secretary's speech, 10th December 2008: I am delighted to announce we have just granted a further £5.8 million to Prevent

    "...There are extremists out there who suggest that these [Mumbai] attacks can somehow be justified by some twisted interpretation of Islam. They cannot. Indeed, many of the victims of these attacks were themselves Muslim.....

    The Police have recognised that the community needs to be at the heart of their strategy in tackling this threat. They have prioritised a partnership approach that includes working closely with schools, colleges, universities, and across communities.

    This marks real progress and to support these activities even further, we are funding more than 300 new Prevent police posts over three years.

    £16 million will be spent this year creating new posts across 24 priority forces, as well as funding several other initiatives such as the Channel programme, which is currently up and running in 6 forces.

    I’ll just say a little bit about Channel since it is an excellent example of partnership in practice. This scheme identifies individuals that may be vulnerable to getting swept up in violent extremism and refers them toward multi-agency support.

    Since it started in April 2007, the two pilot sites in London and the North West have received over 100 referrals. We are going to expand this further and the aim is that by the end of the financial year, we will bring the total number of sites up to approximately 25 operating across 12 police forces.

    Prevent is still a relatively new strategic programme and I think the successes we’ve seen to date show that it is effective. But as always, there is more to do.

    I am determined to make sure that we continue to support your efforts and, to that end, I am delighted to announce we have just granted a further £5.8 million to Prevent. This funding comes in addition to the £12.5 million we announced in June this year and the extra money will be used at local level to fund a wide range of projects to disrupt radicalisers, strengthen institutions and support vulnerable individuals.

    Future projects

    One project we have in mind is a scheme to develop a Pan-London Somali Youth forum that will operate across 16 boroughs and work with Somali youths who may be vulnerable to radicalisation.

    Another programme we’ve identified involves boosting the Prevent capacity and capability in universities.

    We are not stopping there though. A further £5 million will be made available this financial year for local authorities, government offices and the police in support of our work in schools and colleges. Focusing on younger age groups is important and these funds will help local schools and colleges put into practice the advice in the DCSF toolkit that Ed Balls published in October."

    Kris Hopkins on Channel 4, 10th September 2008

    Birmingham City Council manager - more royalist than the king?

    "In his eagerness to defend 10 council projects to prevent terrorism, including spending £63,000 on lessons in 'spiritual well-being' for Muslims, Dr Ally rather over-egged the pudding.
    He certainly has some front. Having roundly condemned the media for 'stereotyping' the Muslim community with misleading and sensational headlines, Dr Ally went on to fall into exactly the same trap.
    In the space of a few minutes he claimed that:
    a) Some 95 per cent of Muslim women in Birmingham don't have a clue about what is going on in Muslim society or wider society.
    b) That cannabis-smoking Muslims are coming under pressure from radical groups who make them feel guilty about their lifestyle and 'seduce' them into taking part in extremist activities."
    Birmingham Post's blogger John Dale, 12 November 2008

    Zubeida Malik's investigation - BBC Radio 4 'Today Programme', 24th October 2008: Councillor's 'Gravy Train' remark - 24th October 2008

    "PVE monies, says the Government, should be used by the local authorities to tackle violent extremism...there is disquiet in the city on some of the projects that have been funded...

    Interview with anonymous PVE funding recipient 'Shaheen': I did feel at the time the amount of money I was being offered was rather large for the kind of work I was involved with. It made me concerned as to who is deciding who gets the money and how much money they were going to get - who was deciding how these monies are effectively used by ourselves as community organisations. It was either 'take the money or refuse it'. I made the decision to take the money as I could use it in a useful way....I am aware that there were large sums given to a number of organisations. Whether or not the tax payers or community organisations got their value for money is hard to say. Naturally the whole concept for me is problematic. There seems to be a blurring between community development and preventing extremism. I think there is a general need to rething where money is going and whether it is effective. And if it is for general community development then it should be going to everyone."

    Interview with Birmingham Respect Councillor Salma Yaqoob, who has asked the Council's Audit Office to look into how PVE monies have been spent:"No councillors in Birmingham for example were consulted about how this money should be spent. Even getting a list of projects that were funded has proven very difficult. What is clear to me is that private consultants who have close links with New Labour have been receiving money without a tendering process. It seems the PVE agenda is being viewed very much as a gravy train where money is to be made by those willing to echo the Government line regardless of any real effectiveness on the ground..."

    "Community leadership Fund aimed at supporting Muslim communities to unlock the potential of local people to take a lead on tackling violent extremism..."

    On 7th October 2008, the Government department 'Communities & Local Government' [Secretary of State Hazel Blears MP] announced the allocation of a £1.3 million tranche of funding bestowed on select organisations for what are increasingly being viewed as social engineering projects within Muslim communities and the fragmentation of Muslim civil society by the patronage of 'King's Parties'. The recipients in the latest funding round include:

  • the British Muslim Forum - "BMF will develop their own capacity and sustainability by recruiting to four posts. This will enable them to work with local Muslim organisations across the country to develop their own working arrangements and governance structures. £75,000 (08/09) £50,000 (09/10)"

  • Karimia Institute, Nottingham - "Develop the work of the Muslim Youth Development Partnership, funded by CLG in 07/08 to train and support 150 volunteer Muslim Youth Leaders over three years. £67,180 (08/09) £50,000 (09/10) £50,000 (10/11)"

  • OneVoice Europe - "Engagement of young Muslim and Jewish students in a youth leadership development training course to build and promote a consensus for a peaceful resolution to conflicts in the Middle East. £35,000 (08/09)"

  • Changemakers Foundation - "Continuation of 2007-08 CLG funded project to deliver a youth leadership programme to develop young leaders to become 'Changemakers' and develop and deliver projects in their own communities. £80,000 (08/09)"

  • Faith Matters (i) - "UK tour of Muslim women role models from the US. Women will be drawn from careers such as T.V presenters, researchers, civil servants, business entrepreneurs, civil society organisational heads. £29,775 (08/09) £29,775 (09/10)"

  • Faith Matters (ii) - "The purpose of this project is to compile a directory of the 100 leading mosques that provide the best access to women. Each mosque will be awarded a rating out of five stars based on criteria developed through womens focus groups. The ultimate aim is to incentivise mosques to improve their engagement with and inclusion of women in all aspects of their work through greater access to recognition and resources from the public sector. £75,350 (08/09)"

  • Luqman Institute - "Extension of the pilot Imam training programme funded in 2007-08 to develop training materials and deliver courses to 20 senior imams over an 8 month period £80,006 (08/09)

  • Psychology and Religion Research Group, University of Cambridge - " Imam Training Course to equip young, newly qualified Imams to engage with British culture and humanitarian values, and to find parallel values within the Qur'an. £60,000 from CLG (08/09) £60,000 from DIUS (08/09)"

  • Demos - "Futures thinking workshops for Muslim young people and Imams to explore the 'future' of their interaction in the mosque. The workshops will be delivered in partnership with MINAB. £65,624 (08/09)"
    Links
    CLG Announcement, Strengthening community leadership, 7th October 2008

    "I Am the West' - February 2009

    Based on a proposal "to the Foreign Office", Deen International, an organisation set up specifically for the project and headed by Khurshid Ahmed, former chair of the British Muslim Forum [BMF] has embarked on a venture called 'I Am the West', consisting of "television commercials and high-profile events in regions such as Peshawar and Mirpur. It is being funded by the Foreign Office which is paying up to £400,000 for a pilot project. Starring in the first three adverts are Sadiq Khan, the communities minister, English cricketer Moeen Ali and the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Chaudry Abdul Rashid", reports Riazut Butt in The Guardian (10th Feb 2009). However, given the lead role of Mr Khurshid Ahmed it is more likely that the largesse owes considerably to the Department for Communities & Local Government and its top minister, Hazel Blears - for example see its allocations to BMF reported above.

    Riazat Butt herself has a word or two to say about the project: "I was asked to star in one of the nine 30-second TV adverts, to be shown on three major Pakistani channels. Famous for 30 seconds! I could have been a star, heck I could have found a husband. I would have acquired the status of a bona fide Muslim, instead of being viewed as a feckless journalist with a wayward wardrobe and a loose tongue. I could have had my own chat show. I knew I couldn't do the advert. So I turned it down, on the not-entirely serious grounds that I have a strong jawline and look a bit chunky right now. I wonder what defines Britishness, success and integration and whether these qualities are enough persuade young Pakistanis not to engage in extremist activity. The government's £86m PREVENT programme continues, distributing funds to groups and organisations around the UK, in an attempt to build resilience against radical and extremist ideology. It is too soon to say whether this initiative, or the one in Pakistan, will work. Besides, in the case of preventing violent extremism, how do you measure success? Fewer explosions?"

    So credit to Ms Butt - and any other Pakistani origin Britons who may have been approached and took the honourable course by not demeaning themselves. Were Irish role models in Britain ever called on to promote Britain in Ireland with the message - 'please don't hate us'. Was Van Morrison ever featured on Irish TV? Was the venerable Eamonn Andrews aired on Dublin Radio? Hardly.

    It seems that funding from DCLG is becoming a matter of 'who you know' rather than value for money - see Zubeida Malik's reports on this theme. All that seems to be needed is a project brief with choice words "...challenging an ideology of Islamism....building resilience...confronting violent extremism....", a track record of loyalty and presto, the cheques are signed. It is believed that the proposal 'I am the West, Western life, Muslim values' was put to the Secretary of State in May 2008, and approved in an incredibly short time period. Don't project proposals have to go through some sort of evaluation and cost-benefit analysis? Let us await for the first request for disclosure of the decision-making process under the Freedom of Information Act!

    And what next - given the Somali origins of the 21/7 fantasists, is Rageh Omar soon to appear on Mogadishu bill boards? Audiences in Pakistan seeing Sadiq Khan MP or others are worldy-wise enough to know a PR and marketing campaign when they see one. What is of equal interest are issues such as the Paki-bashing on first cousin marriages (ref Minister Phil Woolas), of Islamophobia in the British media fears over the stop and search regime (Section 44), justifications of the so-called 'just war' in Afghanistan, and allegations of collusion in torture.

    And who is the brains behind 'I am the West' and so keen to beat the drum? Khurshid Ahmed has worked up the ranks in the 'race relations industry', serving as Head of Race Relations & Equal Opportunities at Birmingham City Counciland later as a commissioner at the CRE. He received an honorory doctorate from the University of Aston in July 2007 "in recognition of his services to community relations in the West Midlands" and the CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 2008. He is regarded with bemusement within British Pakistani circles: for example in June 2008, prior to receipt of the CBE, he came out in favour of 42 day detention - and faced a grilling at Sparkbrook Mosque as a result; in December 2006, there was further scratching of the heads when "a BMF caseworker" offered the view that Muslim soldiers killed in action while fighting in a Muslim country could be regarded as relgious martyr - 'shaheed'(report by Abul Taher, in the Sunday Times,10th December 2006); and in July 2006 he appeared on the 30 Minutes TV programme by Martin Bright contending something along the lines that the Muslim Council of Britain spoke for a minority view within the community because "80% of Muslims are sufi and were not represented". The gentleman is not to be confused with the distinguished Professor Khurshid Ahmed of the Islamic Foundation, Leicester.

    The 'I am the West' proposal hints at other quixotic ventures, "this relatively short 'media blitz' is designed to provoke debate and lead onto discussions with a broad range of organisations, students, religious and youth leaders, women's groups and grass-roots organisations. These discussions will be formalised within a wider PR strategy, where the focus will be on engagement and interaction with these key audiences. This long-term ambition isthe bedrock of this proposal; crystallised by the establishment of a Centre for East-West collaboration and co-operation that will sustain and further develop the positive outcomes achieved by the project".

    So there are now 'bad' Muslims, 'Good' Muslim and 'West Muslims'.

    Links
    Please don't hate us: UK ad campaign to target extremism, 10th February 2009

    Famous for 30 seconds, 10th February 2009

    Flavour of the month - Azeem Ibrahim, PVE advice shrouded in gobbledy goop - 2nd November 2008"

    According to the Sunday Times, 32-year old businessman Tariq Azeem has "caused quite a stir" by his speech at the 'Leaders' Summit on Security and Cohesion' at Portcullis House, Westminster, London, on 'how to deal with Muslim radicalisation'. Reading between the lines there are various veiled criticisms of the PVE programme - but is there a hint of sour grapes? Azeem leads an initiative of the Waterhouse Consulting Group. He observes, enigmatically:

    Policymakers must ensure that the generation of leaders which gets the 'Preventing Violent Extremism' (PVE) funding are equipped to understand the generation they want to reach....In Britain, there should be some independent oversight of the effect of "Preventing Violent Extremism" funding to ensure that it does not exacerbate communal divisions or cause other perverse incentives....In Britain, government must be sensitive about when to make its involvement with the recipients of PVE funding high-profile, so they do not compromise the perceived authenticity of the moderate Muslim leadership they seek to support.

    Translations of this gobbledy goop are invited!

    Links
    Reducing Terrorism over the Long Term Policy Memo, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard, October 27, 2008
    More about Azeem Ibrahim, The Sunday Times, 2nd November 2008

    Report: 'Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) & PREVENT – a response from the Muslim community'- March 2009

    The An-Nisa Society report provides a critique of PVE, written with an insider's knowledge. The group itself was recipient of some funding, for a project on self-development work with Muslim boys in the London Borough of Brent. Its first-hand interaction with young Muslim boys led it to conclude that "the government needs to take on board that it is not possible to deliver 'security led' initiatives through Muslim community groups as (a) it damages trust and credibility in frontline grassroots work and (b) it does not address the wider issues that have created the problems in the first place. Security needs to be addressed separately by experts in this field" (project report 'British Muslim or Wot?', March 2008).

    Links
    An-Nisa Society Report

    Declaration: Northampton Muslims Reject Funding to Link Islam with Terrorism - April 2009

    "Northampton Borough Council has called on the diverse Muslim communities in the town to talk about ways to “prevent terrorist extremism”. This was instigated as a result of the authority being awarded £315,000 by the Government.

    As Muslims in the town, we strongly protest against anyone associating Islam with terrorism. We equally deplore anyone who harms people in the name of Islam. We are fortunate that different communities co-exist peacefully in Northampton due to the tireless work of many individuals and agencies.

    The awarding of this money assumes that “there is a problem in the town” when it doesn’t exist.

    Muslims in the town are part and parcel of everything that goes on here. They are concerned about all the issues that affect the wider community. Concerns around education, health, housing, youth provision etc. are mainstream issues that need to be addressed by statutory agencies.

    That said, Muslims do tend to come from communities that are identified as hard to reach and experiencing barriers to key services. However, these inequalities have to be addressed in the mainstream, not by the use of one-off money, with a specific agenda that could be divisive and a cause for resentment at a time when the country is going through a financial crisis.

    We therefore urge the authorities to use the money for the benefit of the whole town. We would be happy to sit with other people as part of the Northampton community to look at worthy projects that would bring long term benefits."

    Links
    Signed letter from Northampton Muslims

    Exemplary Gestures

    Nottinghamshire Constabulary 14th August, 2005

    The Chief Constable of the Nottinghamshire Constabulary, Mr Steven Green, responding to the increase in race and religiously motivated hate crimes in his region, has initiated a scheme of a "Good Faith" ribbon, that is being made available to all his staff and constables to wear. The aim is to show support for the local Muslim communities in the wake of the london bombings. It has the full backing of the local Muslim community. The director of the Karimia Institute, Nottingham has stated, "I've seen some young people, who don't want to walk on certain roads and back streets now, which is quite strange, and I think it's that sort of fear that will be allayed and confidence will be built through this initiative."

    click here for details

    The media blitz - who represents British Muslims?

  • The Observer & other press reports
  • John Ware's desolate Panorama 'A question of leadership'

    Among the questions facing the Muslim community after the July 7 bombings, and the attempted bombings a fortnight later, was whether its institutions were genuinely representative. Experts, and the not-so experts, were quick to point to a failure of mosques, or of the community's main representative body, the Muslim Council of Britain. The fires of a new culture war have been stoked from the embers of the London bombings.

    The Muslim man or woman on the proverbial Clapham omnibus would be amongst the first to argue that many mosques were not welcoming enough and lacked imaginative activities to reach out to young people. However this was a matter to be dealt with by the community itself, through the introduction of imam training schemes (which are now in place, for example at the Islamic Foundation, Leicester) or the emergence of beacon institutions (of which there are now several, such as the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel, the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, West London and the Al-Muath Centre, Birmingham). In some circles of government, it appeared as if mosques were seen as 'part of the problem'. The reality is that the small minority of young Muslims who have resorted to the criminality of bombings are unlikely to be regular members of any mosque congregations. They inhabit a sub-culture outside mosques with quasi-scholars - repudiated by the mainstream imams - serving as role models and guides. Mosques represent the community's most important investment and, whether the pundits like it or not, the Friday congregational sermon remains the most potent means of getting a message across to the community. Marginalising mosques and imams will not help in improving outreach to alienated sections.

    A second equally misguided attempt has been the attempt to marginalize the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). Various forces are at work on this agenda, from interest groups within government to the glitterati. There is a race for Muslim leadership, a natural target for neglected and aspiring persons.

    The MCB is an organization that represents an immense amount of creative hardwork since 1997. Ehsan Masood, writing in Prospect notes that the MCB presents "as far as possible, a single Muslim voice at least at a political level". It makes no sense whatsoever to throw it out with the bath water because of the events of July 2005. On 19th July The Guardian reported that "Privately, ministers are concerned that the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) speaks mainly for an older generation and is not fully respected in Muslim communities". It has also been reported that after a meeting convened by Downing Street with Muslim representatives on 19th July, a senior minister remarked to the MCB team, "you have to decide which side you are on". Also typical of the petty minded comments directed against the MCB is this: "traditional Muslim organisations -whether mosques, community or political groups -are run by obscurantist leaders. These people came to the fore in the 1960s and Seventies; many have been made 'life presidents'. The archaic language of tradition and authority they speak is quite incomprehensible to the young. Even the so-called 'democratic' Muslim bodies, such as the Muslim Council of Britain, are run by ageing cliques, working behind the scenes. The situation is made worse by the arrival of government-sponsored leaders the peers and MPs -who are seen as agents of new Labour; the Muslim "Task Force" consists largely of such people "(The Times, 25th July 2005).

    Prominent in the campaign of vilification of the MCB and some of its major affiliates was the charge of anti-semitism, which in reality was a reference to pro-Palestinian sympathies. This vilification appears as an attempt to close the debate in the UK on injustices to Palestinians. Could it reflects a concern in the pro-Israel lobby that Muslim electoral participation - which is so important for Muslims to become stakeholders and engaged - will make British foreign policy in the ME more even-handed? Perhaps the time had come to cut Muslims down to size, starting with a campaign to discredit its leadership. The big guns in the media are also rounding up on the MCB:

  • The Observer & other press
  • John Ware's desolate Panorama 'A question of leadership'

    The Observer& other press

    The Observer on Sunday 13th August 2005 carried no less than three pieces critical of the MCB, including a grilling on the front page and editorial. Journalist Martin Bright associated the MCB with an 'extremist' stand, "Britain's most powerful Islamic organisation was accused last night of failing mainstream Muslim Britain after it complained of a 'pro-Israel agenda' at the BBC in a Panorama programme on the faith to be aired next week". Dredging up past episodes,the paper also stated , "There is a tendency whenever there is an incident or an issue which could conceivably be viewed through a prism of ethnic or religious identity for the media or politicians to seek out 'community leaders'. In the rush to talk, few stop to think how representative these people might be. But we should. Everyone agrees that many British Muslims feel alienated and disenfranchised. Their voices, 1.5 million of them, need to be heard. It is not right that the Muslim Council of Britain, a group that boycotts a ceremony to honour the multi-faith victims of the Holocaust and often supports hardline views that are far from universally accepted by all Muslims, should monopolise that function".

    click here for the MCB response to The Observer: "British Muslims are judged by 'Israel test'

    The appropriately named Robert Blitz of the Financial Times continued with this agenda against the MCB, writing on 19th August, "The MCB is regarded by large sections of Muslims as being too weak, too moderate and out of touch with many Muslims many of whom feel alienated in Britain and resent the role of Britain in the Iraq war".

    Neither Martin Bright or Roger Blitz reveal on what research or briefings their conclusion on MCB's "failure" and "weakness" is based. Why are their sources so keen to remain anonymous?

    Interestingly, much like the Rushdie affair of fifteen years ago, these unsubstantiated assertions have only served to strengthen Muslim ranks. This display of unity has tremendous implications for the longer-term - the silver lining in the cloud.

    The prominent Muslim organizations attacking The Observer's coverage and standing up for the MCB include both stalwarth affiliates such as Islamic Forum Europe and also non-affiliates like the Islamic Commission for Human Rights.

     

    MAB Stands firm with MCB and Islamic Foundation 15th August, 2005

    The Muslim Association of Britain rejects Martin Bright’s attack on the Muslim Council of Britain and the Islamic Foundation in a leading article in today’s The Observer.
    With this attack on the official umbrella Muslim organisation and one of the most respectable and reputable Muslim educational organisations in the West, Muslims in Britain would be excused for believing that we are witnessing an all-out attack on Muslim organisations.

    The Muslim Council of Britain has demonstrated many an admirable stand against violence and extremism of all sorts, and has spoken well for the Muslim community on a number of platforms before governmental and non-governmental parties, whilst Sir Iqbal Sacranie continues to be a well-respected figure in representing Islam and Muslims in the best of manners. This attack on both him and MCB clearly wishes to undermine the achievements British Muslims have attained as a result of concerted efforts on a number of fronts for over a decade.

    The Islamic Foundation (IF) is also known to work according to the highest professional and academic standards and has gained an excellent reputation for not only its academic contribution, but its remarkable work on the inter-faith dialogue platform and research on British Muslims’ positive and constructive engagement with British society. It is surprising to read Martin Bright’s own admission that the Jamaat-i-Islami Party, which he alleges the IF has links with, is a non-violent political party, which incidentally has members in Pakistan’s democratically elected parliament. One cannot help but wonder whether Mr. Bright would have preferred them to have links with a pro-violence group that boycotts the democratic process in their home country?!!

    Anas Altikriti, speaking on behalf of the Muslim Association of Britain earlier stated: “We stand in support of the MCB and the Islamic Foundation against this unwarranted attack, which only goes to undermine the excellent work these organisations and many more are doing at this incredibly sensitive time to bring the Muslim youth to an effort that is constructive, positive and non-violent. Attacks like this, which MAB has been the target of in the past, will neither break nor divide us, but will make us stronger and more determined to deliver on our principles of peaceful dialogue, positive interaction and engagement with all sectors of society and prosperity for our country. It seems that some wish to see all Muslims radicalised rather than brought to the mainstream effort to unite our country and its people, all its people”.

     

    Islamic Human Rights Commission 15th August, 2005

    IHRC denounces yesterday's vitriolic attack by Martin Bright in the Observer on the Muslim Council of Britain and its affiliates Jamiat-ahl-I-Hadith and the Islamic Foundation. IHRC strongly urges all campaigners to contact the Observer to complain about its shocking attack on both the MCB and on Islamic beliefs and values.

    Recent attacks by both media and the government on Islamic beliefs held by the Muslim Association of Britain, Hizb-ut-Tahrir and now the Muslim Council of Britain have shown that it is not any individual group under attack but Islam and Muslims.

    In the article,'Radical links of UK's moderate group', Islamic teachings such as coming into contact with dogs, free-mixing and shaking hands with members of the opposite sex are attacked as "extremist". These views and values are equally held by the Orthodox Jewish community who are not consequently labelled as 'extremists'. The article is written in a way which depicts leading Islamic intellectuals such as Maulana Maududi and Sayyid Qutb, whose teachings are followed by a substantial number of law-abiding Muslims, as extreme and subversive.

    The MCB's condition on supporting the upcoming Festival of Muslim Cultures provided its activities do not contradict the teachings of Islam is wholly reasonable and only to be expected of any Muslim organisation. Yet the MCB Secretary General_s position on this is viewed by the Observer as extreme and regressive.

    MCB is also condemned in the Observer's editorial for refusing to attend the Holocaust Memorial Day and for allegedly differentiating between suicide attacks in Britain and in Occupied Palestine. Boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day is in line with the vast majority of Muslim groups who have called for a Genocide Memorial Day which will commemorate all victims of genocide both in the Holocaust and in other parts of the world since World War II. As for differentiating between attacks in London and in Occupied Palestine, even the Pope has made this distinction condemning attacks in London, New York, Madrid and Bali but explicitly leaving out Palestine due to the specific circumstances of that situation. If Muslims are to be condemned for this, then so must the Vatican and indeed other activists and scholars from different faith and non-faith backgrounds who make other, sometimes more controversial claims.

    The aims of this article seem to be to stigmatize Muslims and vilify Islam and to force MCB to abandon these principles. IHRC calls upon all campaigners to contact the Observer to express your outrage at such demonisation of Muslims for values held by many other religious and secular communities.

    John Ware's desolate Panorama 'A Question of Leadership'

    BBC's flagship investigative programme Panorama on Sunday 21st August 2005 broadcast an hour long documentary fronted by reporter John Ware, acting less the investigative journalist and more member of the Spanish inquisition out to show Islam and Muslims as intolerant, archaic and deceptive. Ware's underlying concerns were the religious vision held by Muslims of bringing about social and political change (and hence ready to challenge the existing world order), the spirit of ummah or world-wide community, and the strictures in the Qur'an on other faiths. It was a galling display of condescending self-righteousness. The programme portrayed the Muslim Council of Britain as a problem organisation contributing to 'extremism' in the country. Actions of its Secretary General, such as attendance at a memorial service for the founder of the Palestinian movement Hamas, and non-attendance in the 2005 Holocaust Memorial Day, were 'failures in leadership'. Prominent affiliates such as the Islamic Foundation, Leicester, and the Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-hadith Muslim Association of Britain, were also maligned. The MCB deputy Secretary General Dr Abdul Bari and Professor Khurshid Ahmed of the Islamic Foundation were also interviewed as 'extremists', the latter questioned on the late Maulana Mawdudi (see box below). The Panoroma programme impuned the character of the imam of the Ka'aba, and presented a number of Muslim apologists with little grass-roots support to back up its agenda.

    Click here for MCB letter to the editor of BBC Panorama

    Extracts from transcript

    John Ware: With the Rushdie protests, a new ideology burst into the British arena: Islamism - the fusion of a politics and faith. Where had this come from? I'm on my way to the organisation that mobilised the Rushdie protests.... The Islamic Foundation was set up in 1974 by leading figures in an Islamist opposition party from Pakistan. The Jamma'at Islami wants Pakistan to become an Islamic state governed by Sharia holy law. Chairman and Rector of the Islamic Foundation here in Leicester is also the Vice President of Jamaat Islami - Professor Khurshid Ahmad. For the professor, Islam is not only a religion but a political manifesto for changing the world.

    Professor Khurshid Ahmad: Islam is a revolutionary message. Islam wants the whole of mankind to accept God as creator and to live in God's presence, in his grace....

    John Ware: You don't think the idea of Islam being a revolutionary ideology is potentially a dangerous one for young Muslims living in a secular country?

    Khurshid Ahmad: Not at all, not at all. It's a blessing.

    John Ware: It's a blessing?

    Khurshid Ahmad: It's a blessing because what is a revolutionary idea? A revolutionary idea means that let people try to change the world on the basis of values of faith in Allah, justice, service to humanity, peace and solidarity. So revolution is not something to be afraid of."

    ...

    John Ware: You're very contemptuous of secularism, put it like that.

    Khurshid Ahmad: Exactly. So what I say is.

    John Ware: But this is a secular country.

    Khurshid Ahmad: ... I am concerned about secular issues but when I criticise secularism is that approach where we tried to resolve human issues by denying the relevance of religion and divine guidance and values. So Mawdudi has tried to emphasise the moral, the spiritual, the religious approach to life and all its problems, and from that viewpoint his thoughts are relevant to the people in Pakistan, in the Arab world, in Europe, in America, everywhere."

    Click here for full transcript

    :

     

    Sane comments on the Panorama affair

    Madeline Bunting,'Throwing mud at Muslims', The Guardian, 22nd August

    "A campaign is being orchestrated through the media to destroy the credibility of many of the most important Muslim institutions in Britain, including the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). The impact of this campaign - in the Observer and particularly in John Ware's Panorama documentary last night - will be a powerful boost for the increasingly widespread view that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim: underneath, "they" are all extremists who are racist, contemptuous of the west, and intent on a political agenda. A legitimate and much-needed debate among British Muslims about a distinctive expression of Islam in a non-Muslim country has been hijacked and poisonously distorted. Journalists need to be very careful: we are entering a new era of McCarthyism and, if we are not to be complicit, we need to be scrupulously responsible and conscientious in unravelling the complexity of Islam in its many spiritual and political interpretations in recent decades.."

    Faisal Bodi, 'Panorama was a hatchet job on Muslims', The Independent, 23rd August'

    Being in denial has much in common with living a lie. The distorted picture in your mind becomes ever more detached from reality as it is challenged, to the extent that the two eventually bear no resemblance at all.

    That's an apt description of the political and media reaction to the July bombings. Instead of directing the heat at politicians whose neo-colonial and Islamophobic motives led Britain into a quagmire in Iraq, the chattering classes have been digging the nation into an ever bigger hole by pointing the finger at its Muslim minority. Notwithstanding fitful spurts of interest in foreign policy, "the problem with Islam" has become the dominant narrative. Whether it's Salman Rushdie arguing for an Islamic reformation or the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair asking the community to get on side in the war against terrorism, a determined effort is afoot to keep Muslims and their faith in the blame frame, and our politicians out....

    The policy appears to have been taken up with a vengeance by the makers of BBC's Panorama programme, the latest instalment of which sought to expose the Muslim Council of Britain as a wolf in sheep's clothing. It accused the umbrella group of speaking with a forked tongue, saying it was opposed to terrorism while its affilates encouraged it from the pulpits and in their publications.

    ...the inference most Muslims will have drawn from a programme savaging orthodox Islamic positions is that it is not so much the MCB but Islam itself that is being put on trial (when did we ever see a documentary grilling rabbis on some of the vile beliefs some rabbis have historically held about gentiles?)

    ...the programme makers had decided the standard they wanted Islam to meet and anybody who didn't was an extremist. The strongest example came when the head of the MCB, Iqbal Sacranie, was challenged about his organisation's "extremist" refusal to attend the national Holocaust remembrance service earlier this year. The MCB's stated reason foor declining was the exclusivist nature of the ceremony, focusing as it did on simply Jewish victims - it had argued for the event to mark all genocidal campaigns and victims of occupation, especially those in the Muslim world. Leaving aside the exploitatin of the Holocaust by Israel and its supporters to perpetuate Palestinian suffering, the MCB's more inclusive position is onte that is held by Muslims and non-Muslims alike..."

    A 'Letter to the Editor' (Independent, 25th August 2005)

    Sir: Like Faisal Bodi ("Panorama was a hatchet job on Muslims", 23 August), I found the Panorama programme inadequate, unscholarly and disturbing. John Ware, the reporter, was judgemental and appeared to be ignorant of the most of the basic demands which religious faith makes upon disciples.

    He appeared, for example, to invite his viewers to hold up their hands in horror that a Muslim would assert that his loyalty to Islam overrides that to his nation. Is it not just the same for a Christian? All my Christian life I have heard and taught that Christ is the way, the truth and the life and that we should love God and neighbour, first, foremost and above all else. Again, Mr Ware showed deep distaste that a Muslim should assert that he wishes to change the world; but I, for one Christian, deeply yearn for a changed world, and urge others in the same direction. What's the difference?

    In holding these views, I certainly do not consider myself a fundamentalist, and I have much time for relative, contextual moral and religious thinking. The danger of fundamentalism, however, is equally sinister from whatever source it comes, whether religious or secular. John Ware's approach led to a most unfortunately shallow and unbalanced programme, and a badly missed opportunity.

    The Rev Ben Hopkinson, Northumberland

    Hate crimes & other responses

  • Hate Crimes
  • Community & other responses

    Hate crimes

    There have been a very large number of low-level harassments e.g. bus drivers refusing Muslim women with head covering on board, abuse etc, including verbal displays of hostility.

    The Observer (31st July 2005) reports "The number of faith hate crimes has risen fivefold in the fortnight since the London bombings...The Metropolitan Police has recorded 800 race and faith hate crimes since the July 7 attacks. The number of faith hate crimes, predominantly directed at British Muslims, has passed the 200 mark. In the same fortnight last year, 30 faith hate incidents were reported by the Met. Nationally, the figure for hate incidents directed at Muslims has passed 1,200 as a backlash continues".

    The Financial Times (3rd August 2005) quoted Police sources, "Crimes prompted by religious hatred have risen nearly sevenfold in London in the 3½ weeks since the July 7 attacks, police said on Tuesday. Scotland Yard has recorded 269 incidents, mostly low-level abuse, minor assaults and damage to property, including mosques, compared with 40 in the same period last year".

    Mosques suffering criminal damage include:

    Acton Mosque, London - graffiti paint spray (25th July)
    Mazhirul Uloom Mosque, Mile End, London - 19 windows broken
    Incidents also reported by mosques in Leeds, Bristol, Telford and Birkenhead

    Persons and property subject to serious attacks include:

    Nottingham (12th July) Fatal stabbing, currently under investigation

    Edinburgh (29th July) Two men attacked by a gang of ten "who made it clear they were seeking revenge for the bombings. The gang kicked their car and threw a hammer through the window" (Metro, 3rd August 2005)

    South London (16th July) Physical attack on an imam outside Southwark mosque, causing serious injuries to the head.

    Sutton Common, London (29th July) Four Asian teenagers, aged between 16 and 19, required hospital treatment after assaults at Sutton Common Recreation Ground by a gathering of white youths who blamed them for the London terrorist attacks. One victim was left with a broken jaw and another needed six stitches to his lip and the possibility of plastic surgery. Two others received cuts and bruises from punches and kicks to their heads and bodies (http://www.suttonguardian.co.uk/news/localnews/display.var.620087.0.race_hate_attack.php).

    Carlisle (30th July) Take-away owner Liakoth Ali Khondoker, has shop windows smashed; in recent weeks, stickers displaying the logo of the ultra-right-wing National Front were plastered on the takeaway’s windows and doors and on nearby lampposts and buildings (http://www.cumbria-online.co.uk/viewarticle.asp?id=268788).

    Clacton (1st August) An Asian mother and her children were kicked, spat at and taunted about the terrorist attacks in London. She became concerned by a man pulling faces at her two-year-old daughter, who then started swearing at her and shouted racial insults making reference to the suicide bombings in London. Another woman - believed to be the man's girlfriend – then joined in and challenged the mother, who was also with her nine-month-old daughter, to a fight before spitting and kicking her in the leg (reported in the East Anglian Daily Times, 4th August, www.eadt.co.uk)

    Portsmouth (8th August) Four men shouted at an Asian man as he walked down the street and then two of the men walked over to him and punched him in the face. The man needed hospital treatment after he suffered a cracked cheek bone and substantial bruising to his face (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/4130900.stm).

    Cardiff (BBC Online report, 10th August) A Muslim woman, who did not want to be identified, told BBC Wales how her home had been attacked last week. She said: 'We were sitting in our living room when we heard this man shouting outside our door. He was throwing things, picking up stones from our front garden and throwing them at our door and our window. And then he smashed a section of our double-glazed window" (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/4136472.stm).

    Mile End, London (reported in blackbritain.co.uk, 11th August) A worshipper was nearly run down outside the [Al-Huda Mosque, Mile End] mosque as a motorist, described as a white man, had deliberately sped his car towards the walking worshipper. Describing the incident, the imam says: “When he [the worshipper] asked the driver why he was speeding towards him, the driver just replied ‘because I just don’t like you.’” He added, “it could be racism it could be religion.”

    Watford, 13/14 August - 67-year old Muslim man subject to a violent hate attack

    Other problems faced:
    Muslim employees on MoD or related security projects have had their security clearances withdrawn.

    The Muslim Council of Britain has launched an 'incident monitoring service' telephone line 0800 376 3939
    http://www.mcb.org.uk/mcbdirect

    EUMC Director Beate Winkler 10th November, 2005

    EUMC Director Beate Winkler said the attacks in London made many British Muslims feel vulnerable. "The strong lead given by UK ministers, police and community leaders, both in condemning the attacks and in insisting that any acts against the wider Muslim community would be dealt with firmly, has had the right result... We welcome the decisiveness of political leadership against anti-Muslim incidents, the positive engagement with Muslim communities and the support of the police services".

    The report also found that other EU governments helped prevent a wider backlash against Muslims by making a clear the distinction between the acts of the bombers and the Muslim faith. Figures for London show a surge in faith hate crimes from 15 for the week before the attacks to 68 and 92 in the weeks of and after the bombings. By 10 October, the figure had dropped to 20.

    click here for details


    Community & other responses
    8th August, 2005 - Oldham: The Young Muslim Organisation & Islamic Forum Europe's community event was attended by over 600 young persons and addressed by Dr Zakir Naik from the Islamic Research Foundation in India and Dr Abdul Bari, assistant general secretary from the Muslim Council of Britain. Other guests include Chief Superintendent Keith Bentley - Oldham Police,Mayor Kay Knox, Rev. Andrew Dawson and Shazia Azzam from the Oldham Interfaith Forum. The organisers report "the message was clear that acts of terrorism was carried out by criminals and not Islamic terrorists; we need to work together to combat these deseases and Muslims need to strive to convey the real message of Islam and clarify any misconceptions". The broad-based participation, attendance and open and frank discussion, contrasted with a meeting organised in the city by the Home Office on 2nd August, attended by minister Hazel Blears

    6th August, 2005 - Leeds: The Muslim Council of Britain convened a special meeting of its Central Working Committee at the Leeds Grand Mosque. Representatives from the MCB's national, regional and local community leaders were consulted on a number of pressing matters affecting British Muslims and the wider community. Foremost among these were the need for unity, peace and security. MCB Secretary General Iqbal Sacranie noted, "As British Muslims it is our duty to earnestly uphold the noble teachings of Islam and maintain unity to ensure public safety. We must all rise together to the challenges of our times and cooperate in all that is upright and just for the common good of Britain. We recognise that some of our youth have become disaffected in recent years and believe that all of us - Muslim and non-Muslim - must work together to address the causes behind this in an honest and transparent manner".

    15th July, 2005 - Leeds: An MCB delegation met individuals affected by the 7th July bombing and representatives of Leeds-based groups at the Baab-ul-Ilm Centre, in Shadwell. Iqbal Sacranie and Khurshid Drabu also attended the Juma prayers at Leeds Grand Mosque and held further consultations.

    3rd September, 2005 - Manchester: The MCB convened a day-long meeting of representatives of youth groups across the UK. Delegates presented their recent activities and projects and later were briefed on the initial findings from the MCB's Muslim Voices project. Two workshops were organised on the themes of 'Identifying gaps between services and needs' and 'Topics requiring further research'.

    [Watch this space for other independent, community-led initiatives]

    Other community responses
    Dr Zaki Badawi, Principal of the Muslim College, London, was reported on Asharq alawsat (28th July) as saying, "I have advised women not to wear the veil because it might harm them. A woman should not wear the veil if she has sufficient reason to believe it may engender her safety". http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=1&id=964

    Dr M Naseem, Chair of trustees of the Birmingham Central Mosque, Belgrave Middleway, Birmingham, writing in the mosque's newsletter issued in August 2005 notes, "...we at the Birmingham Central Mosque have long before it became fashionable to condemn suicide bombing have condemned it outright because we hold such acts to be against the clear teachings of Islam and against the practice of the Prophet (peace be on him). We are aware that Cheri Blair, Lady Tomb and many others have expressed an understanding of why some people in Palestine are led to such acts of desperation. This, however, has not changed our opinion. We believe that no amount of suffering, no degree of injustice, justifies breaking one's own principles. We have not considered such people as martyrs of Islam but as those who acted under the Codes of Nationalism and guided by nationalistic precedents....over the period of time we and other Muslim representatives have openly and clearly condemned every act of killing innocent people. It has been reported inthe media but strangely some in high places remained oblivious of such reports. They deemed Muslims to have not spoken against such atrocities and kept on demanding more from Muslims. We feel so helpless in not being able to redress such somnolence and amnesia. In the wake of the recent atrocity, the deep rooted prejudice has suddenly manifested itself as never before and Muslim bashing seems to be more earnest than the need for the national unity and harmony...." (click here for full text).

    A Statement from the Somali Community in the UK.

    Following the terrible events of 7/7 and 21/7, the Somali community having mobilised and deliberated, re-affirm our unanimous condemnation of these terrorist atrocities. We are indeed deeply shocked and deeply concerned for the safety and well being of our community. We re-affirm that Islam condemns such acts of violence and we totally dissociates ourselves from the culprits who carried out these attacks These attacks targeted all sections of London's communities; people of every race, faith and creed have been affected including Muslims and Somalis. As much as we share the frustration and hurt of Muslims worldwide feel as a result of the British Government's foreign policy, we believe that there is no justification, whatsoever, for the indiscriminate killing of innocent people....The Somali community is aware that only the alleged Warren Street would-be-bomber is rumoured to be an ethnic Somali. Yet no one in the Somali community seems to have known him personally for the past 5 to 10 years; this in a community where clan links are very strong. It is also now clear that he was in fact raised in this country from the age of 12 by British foster parents. The Somali community has no reason to believe any other detainee is of Somali origin. We strongly oppose the manner in which these terrible crimes are being sensationalized. We are being victimized and made scapegoats for the actions of one individual. Neither the Somali Community nor any other community should be blamed for the criminal actions of the few. The Somali community has suffered a great deal in the backlash that has followed the attacks. This is a community that is already suffering from racism, discrimination, Islamophobia ...

    (click here for full text).

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