Anti-Semitism among UK Muslims 
I have been an active anti-racist campaigner all my adult life, on the streets against the National Front in the 1970s, on the ground in Apartheid South Africa, and right up to now. Since I entered Islam well over three decades ago, one thing that has stuck in my craw is the fact that anti-semitism is rife, endemic, in the Muslim community and is never challenged by Muslims. It exists among old Muslim men and among Muslim school children, among multi-generation families and recent migrants. It exists in every part of the country, but curiously, the more pernicious, caricature, racist forms of anti-semitism are to be found among the communities with least proximity to Jewish communities: Asian more than Arab and far more than Somali, for example; and less marked in parts of North London near well-established Jewish neighbourhoods where Muslim and Jewish institutions share the same streets. Many Muslims are not anti-semitic, but not a single Muslim will stand up and condemn this deep-rooted racism.

Are my experiences the exception? I don't think so. The directory provides from a certain perspective, arguably the most complete and accurate record of the impact of the Muslim religion on the UK, and you will see from it many hundreds of masjids where I personally have been, sometimes just passing, but many where I have stayed in the neighbourhood for weeks or months, or visited repeatedly. There is not a single place among them where if any conversation among Muslims turns to obstructions in the way of Muslim progress, be it somebody's career, plans for some new school or mosque project, depiction of Muslims in the media, or obstacles to Muslims getting their way on the world stage, then, if the conversation is among Muslims alone, there will be somebody, old or young, sycophantically moderate or firebrand radical, endowed with postnymical letters like PhD or on first name terms with the local street gangs, someone, who will chip in about how the Jews stitched the matter up, or some similar pejorative reference to the racist caricature of the devious Jew. This is not about masjids especially - the same applies whether it is in the masjid, in a dinner party, at home among relatives, among Muslim students on campus, or most pernicious of all, among pupils in or from a Muslim school. All of these and many more are my and my family's first-hand experience - and as I stated, that experience straddles the country. Lord Nazir Ahmed's outburst about Jews “who own newspapers and TV channels" in connection with his life-terminating mobile phone / driving technique may be among the most crass, but only because it was a prominent "community leader" and rendered on Pakistan TV. The enthusiasm with which Muslims embrace "theories" of Jewish conspiracies - 9/11 an inside job in which 'all the Jews stayed at home that day' (so the long list of Jewish victims is presumably fabricated as well), is simply the grossest example of Muslim dereliction of the powers of reason.

There are a few examples of positive relations, such as the Jamia Shan-e-Islam and its assistance to its neighbour in the street, the Bradford Reformed Synagogue, or the Muswell Hill Synagogue opening its doors to the jama'at of the firebombed Somali Bravanese Al-Rahma masjid. But these are isolated examples, newsworthy because they are so remarkably different to the norm. Fortunately thusfar, there have been no (attributable) direct attacks on Jews by UK Muslims, unlike say, an assault on a Shi'a by a convert "Sunni" in Edgware Road last year (to my knowledge the only reported example of Sunni-Shi'a conflict within the UK so far); or the vigilante-style assaults against women and gays, by convert Muslims again, around Whitechapel. And it is not for want of trying, and synagogues were certainly on the Crawley weedkiller bombers' agenda. Meanwhile, it is only a matter of time before either ISIS or Al Qaeda engineer a violent attack against Jews in the UK, or a local operator performs something similar while looking for kudos among fellow militants. Such an act will use the widespread anti-semitism among Muslims to compromise Muslim condemnation and add more fuel to the bonfire of Muslim aspirations in the West.

The persistence of anti-semitism in the Muslim community shows a profound failure by Muslims on two levels. Firstly, anti-semitism is naked racism. It cannot be excused by any political reference - Israel/Palestine is not a matter that British Jews are responsible for, or able to resolve, any more than British Muslims or British Arabs are. (Yet if Muslims were able to overcome their anti-semitic racism, the scope for dialogue between UK Jews and Muslims to influence Israel/Palestine could be profound.) It cannot be excused by theological arguments: the Messenger of Allah went to the Jews of Yathrib and other towns on the same basis as he went to the Christians and everyone else, "An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, except in taqwa (awe of Allah)" [Bukhari 4:538]. Instead, the historic and the millenarian hadeeth refering to Jews, have been appropriated by militant extremists for their purposes because our inability to challenge anti-semitic racism among ourselves has made us unwilling to teach the theological contexts for these hadeeth.

Anti-semitism is the most toxic of many facets of our racism. I have written in various places about the pervasiveness of racism among Muslims: in broad terms, Arab racism towards Asians, Asian racism towards Africans and African-Caribbeans, tribal exclusiveness among Asian Muslim clans, and selective racism towards converts - when the convert agrees with you, mashallah she is very learned, and when the convert wants to marry your daughter, 'but what will happen when he converts back again?' (when you had her red passport reserved, in your mind, for a second-cousin's son with a green one!). Not long after I myself converted to Islam, among the numerous pamphlets and books passed on to me was a pamphlet about Leopold Weiss, a Jew who converted to Islam as Muhammad Asad and who wrote an exegesis, "The Message of the Qur'an": the pamphlet made derogatory claims about that book, the principle complaint being that its author had been Jewish and was therefore suspect. Anti-semitism is no different to any other form of racism - it is racism and it corrodes the mind of the perpetrator.

The second level in which anti-semitism demonstrates western Muslims' failure is in countering extremism. The Paris supermarket murders brought that into sharp focus. I wrote at the time that ISIS (the supermarket murderer Amédy Coulibaly claimed allegiance to ISIS, the Hebdo attack was claimed by Al Qaeda) cynically and deliberately used the attack to play on Muslim anti-semitism in order to exacerbate tensions between Muslims in the West and non-Muslims: both Al Qaeda and ISIS require Muslims to become disaffected from the West. Because anti-semitism is rife among Muslims, it is a powerful weapon for Al Qaeda and ISIS alike to manipulate; powerful because Muslims have almost no defence against it, and because for anyone not of the neo-fascist and neo-Nazi backside of the European Right, it is an unforgiveable throwback to Europe's most inglorious decade. And, probably not surprisingly, not only do we find "Holocaust deniers" among Muslims in Europe and elsewhere, but we also find a small number of converts to Islam who brought with them and still cling to, the same views of Jews as would have given them comfort in the ranks of the National Front as exposed in Maurice Ludmer's day in Searchlight.

Because anti-semitism is so widespread among the Muslim community, when the media do an exposé of some apparent extremist preacher in some very mainstream mosque in a decaying industrial town, the Muslim community look at each other in perplexity. Management committee shrugs its shoulders and say, 'well we didn't invite him' or 'extremism isn't allowed in our mosque', but among themselves they murmer that they really don't see anything extreme there, it must be a media conspiracy - they were tricked - the words were out of context. When in certain very prominent masjids, the pre-Jumu'ah bayaan, wa'az/wyaaz, non-ceremonial sermon, is delivered by an equally prominent 'alim in Urdu, surely someone must notice how gratuitously derogatory references to the Jews are rendered in the English translation as the 'iniquities of the non-Muslims', or some even more bland version. Yes, someone has noticed, else I would not be able to write this. But is it challenged? Not for a moment; on the contrary, the message plays to an audience who would not accept it any other way. So if Muslims cannot identify and challenge anti-semitic comments among our own, how will we ever be able to isolate and counter those who go further and take our children with them into fitna and violent extremism? The recent BBC/ComRes poll states, "Acts of violence against those who publish images of the Prophet Muhammad (S) can never be justified" yielded between 22 and 27% who disagreed, and 26 to 30% of Muslims who, "have some sympathy for the motives behind the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris", and 42 to 47% who do not believe that, "Muslim clerics who preach that violence against the West can be justified are out of touch with mainstream Muslim opinion." None of the questions on the questionaire explicitly addressed the Jewish supermarket killings, which undermines the value of the questionaire. But it is not unreasonable for anyone reading the results and knowing the extent of Muslim anti-semitism, to extend the possibility of between 220 and 470 Muslims in this poll alone, and potentially therefore a large six-figure number of UK Muslims, to include a significant number of Muslims who would fail to recognise an exhortation to racist violence against Jews as being extreme. This is not the Daily Mail, nor is it Quilliam's partisan agenda. It is the considered opinion of someone who knows the Muslim community intimately across the country, who understands how extremism works, whose only agenda is to promote tolerance and an end to sectarianism between Muslims, not the interests of any particular sect or interpretation. I know very well that the propensity for violence that the cartoon publications stirred, is huge and cuts across generations, including especially the ashiks, lovers of the Prophet (S), who would be the first to condemn extremism, yet whose fury would be deep-throated against those who mock him. Not many people appreciate that difference, so cannot be blamed for interpreting the poll's quantity of tacit support for violence as including the murders of Jews shopping. That is a problem of epic proportions.

What happens when someone does challenge anti-semitism? "Evidence" is produced. Evidence takes the form of earnest recounting of the complex and obscure conspiracies that allowed 9/11 to happen, 7/7 to happen, even the sub-prime banking collapse to happen. Two days after the Paris attacks, the web-board gossip was about those attacks as a 'false flag operation'. I guess that's what happens when reading Al Qaeda's own house-journal's admissions is a criminal offence! But the credulousness of the Muslim community, especially the Asian Muslim community, beggars belief. To allow the 9/11 attacks to take place, half of the entire infrastructure management of the US eastern seaboard must have worked overtime on the conspiracy, and Bin Laden's revelling in his success is so obviously a fake!

Enough of complaining. This website is all about practical action. Two things are required, the same two things as I promoted in my "Problems and Practical Solutions" document (PDF, pages 15 and 23) and my Guide a decade ago:

One: UK Muslims and Jews including those of the most robust and contradictory viewpoints must sit down together and speak their minds frankly; this is not the time for gentle Interfaith or liberal pleasantries.

Why not follow the more normal route of simply ostracising and outlawing the extreme points of view, ridiculing their adherents and demonstrating that they are out of touch with the mainstream? Because these views, which are almost entirely about the status of Israel and Palestine, never have been confined to the margins. Simply labelling them as extremist positions doesn't alter the fact that there are very many people who hold them - the problem is that the viewpoints have never been seriously challenged within their respective communities: at least, among Muslims, there are plenty who justify Palestinian violence by reference to the enormous scale of Israeli-inflicted violence rather than decrying all of it; yet the same people would claim that they don't support political violence, terrorism etc. So instead of marginalising that kind of opinion, it is essential to challenge it in a way that forces all positions to recognise the implications of what they advocate.

There are hard conversations to be had, and it requires people with the bravery to argue in respectful dialogue with their counterparts through reasoned debate, challenging the counter-arguments, rebut and accept rebuttal, until the arguments have been exhausted. People of either side with less polarised views must also be part of the debate, who can test the strengths and validity of their own side's position as much as provide mediation with the counter-view. Polemical argument by its nature usually only succeeds in reinforcing the opinions of each advocate, and his followers go away convinced that they have won the arguments. This must be different - there must be no going away until every strongly held view has been either countered completely and withdrawn, or when both sides understand the substance and validity of the others' position. Recognition of this has to be in public. This is not something to happen in the rarified forum of supposed national leadership. It is something that has to be repeated up and down the land, in places where both parties are numerous and where one party is scarce, until it has touched every masjid, school or gathering of Muslims, and the equivalent for Jews. The debate will cover the politics of Israel and Palestine, the hard issues including people who challenge the very existence of Israel and of Palestine, and the role of support for either side within the UK and elsewhere. It will cover the theology, Jews in the Qur'an, Hadeeth and Muslim history, and Muslims interpretation of these, and corresponding controversial matters from the other side. It will also cover racism and the prevalence of old European anti-semitism tropes among new Muslim anti-semites, forced out until racism is separated from theology and politics, the racism binned and intelligent debate can begin on the politics and the theology. If we can achieve that, the politics and the theology will promise to be stimulating.

Two: Racism among Muslims must be stamped out. There must begin a concerted and co-ordinated campaign against all kinds of racism within the Muslim community and by Muslims against others. Racism is the enemy of Deen. Attacking racism in the past, has been about the isolation and ridicule of groups of people adhering to a specific doctrine such as fascism, or political party which harnesses racism to drive xenophobia and exclusiveness. Muslims are often guilty of exclusiveness, and racism is the product of that, rather than its engine. An anti-racist campaign must be mounted among Muslims, that challenges racist expression whether open or closeted in meeting rooms. And the racism that must be challenged, emphatically must include anti-semitism along with other combinations of supposed racial attributes.

There is much work to be done. It is urgent. Which Muslims are brave enough to stand up against racism among ourselves, and which are prepared to stand up against racist anti-semites?


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An important article about ISIS 
What ISIS Really Wants by Graeme Wood emphasises the millenarian worldview that ISIS has and its belief that it is positioned to precipitate apocalyptic events that very many Muslims will be familiar with. The article also gives examples of how ISIS uses methods of justifying its actions that will also be very familiar methods to the street-corner preachers of many of the UK's urban Muslim neighbourhoods.

Graeme Wood's article is extraordinarily important for tackling extremism in the UK. It, and another similar article, The secret world of Isis training camps by Hassan Hassan, describe the minhaj, the methods, by which ISIS propagates and justifies its actions in a theological context. Apart from the violent subject matter, the method itself is very familiar to anyone involved with the Salafi awakening that has taken place in the UK over the past three decades. Most UK Muslims will be very familiar with the methods as they have been applied to relatively trivial matters such as the wearing of gold or the number of units of salaah in tarawih in Ramadhaan. Usually they have been deployed by Salafis exhorting others to join them, by challenging traditional practices rooted in orthodox Sunni fiqh, Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki, Hambali, etc., and providing coherently argued alternatives that undermine the authority of orthodoxy in the mind of the potential recruit. Over those three decades, orthodox UK Asian Muslim imams and alims have completely failed to provide coherent counter arguments, due mainly to them being utterly ensconced in the century old Deobandi-Bareilvi argument. As a consequence, Salafi-ism has spread to become ordinary across the UK. While my statistics are not specific enough to demonstrate this, I believe that half of all new mosque projects in the UK in the last few years, are Salafi inspired.

There is nothing wrong with Salafi-ism per se, most Salafi jama'ats are many times better at community engagement and community responsibility than Deobandi, Bareilvi and Jama'at Islami (Maudoodi-ist, Islamic Movement) jama'ats and their organisers. But the method, the minhaj, has been one of antagonistic confrontation, using interpretations of source material intended to undermine the arguments of orthodoxy. ISIS use the same methods. Orthodox imams and alims will continue to fail to provide counter-instruction because, as I have said very publicly, they are completely unequipped to provide it - they simply do not have the knowledge.

For the last two decades, both individual and organised militants of the kind that have found their way into terrorism, have co-opted Salafi methods and twisted them to their own ends. Usually this has been done by individuals and small groups without the patience to analyse sophisticated tracts by advanced Al Qaeda theoreticians. ISIS, however, have as everyone has seen, packaged the mesasge up into very contemporary media, and are sitting in the very place where apocalypse-aware Muslims have been told to look. The more that comfortable westernised Muslim intellectuals decry ISIS without answering the specific theological challenges that ISIS makes, the more they look like the munafiqeen ('hypocrites' - traitors) that ISIS paint them as and that the apocalyptic prophecies foretold.

At this crucial point, Salafis have a vital job to do. They have to move from being the (mostly unintending) instruments of ISIS's rapid uptake, to being pivotal in undermining it. Shaikh Abdullaah al-Bukhaaree's fatwa is a start, but doesn't address the potency of the counter-claim that ISIS themselves are the force to end fitna. And it doesn't have much impact on the street corners of Whitechapel or Sparkbrook.

Countering ISIS's major impact on UK Muslims requires the following:

1. Salafis need to renounce the antagonistic methods they have used to garner support until now. They must replace it with tolerance and respect for different practices, which for them means, respect for the religious scholarship and authority that supports those practices. They must exhort their followers to do the same. They have a lot of burnt bridges to rebuild.

2. Proper, informed, educated debate has to take place across the Muslim community among its scholars and leaders, that puts aside sectarian differences and focuses on a corpus of argument that provides a sound, religiously based counter argument to the extremists. Bareilvis, Deobandis, etc, must recognise that their previous preoccupation with exclusive adherence to their own sect, has failed. They too must learn mutual tolerance and respect.

3. Salafis must produce, urgently, an emphatic and agreed document that clearly separates and opposes their doctrines to those of ISIS.

4. Government, security advisors and the media, must allow the Muslim community the space to debate extremist issues openly and fully without fear of being demonised or prosecuted. The theological debates that need to be had are complex and expose deep and controversial issues. Unless they are discussed with clarity and comprehensively, they will remain sources that ISIS and its ilk can exploit.

5. All masjids must end sectarian intolerance and exclusiveness. The Muslim community is plural, and that pluralism must be reflected in the way masjids are run, with full respect for differences and the masjid's resources shared between them. Sectarian exclusivity and sly briefing or rampant polemics against other sects creates the shadows which are used by extremists to nurture their beliefs and cultivate followers.


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Visit My Mosque: The unintended consequences of journalists’ power and influence. 
[I have updated this slightly, following news of Cathy Newman's apology and the revised understanding of events following publication of sequences of Streatham masjid's security video today, 12th February. I am pleased to say that little of the substance of my first entry requires change, and the concluding paragraph especially, stands its ground well. Changes are in bold italics.]

A single tweet by Cathy Newman scuppered the most substantial effort so far that UK Muslims have made to respond to the Charlie Hebdo murders. In hindsight it was quite predictable, but that is the unique feature of hindsight. Nevertheless there are valuable lessons to learn.

Firstly beleagured Streatham Mosque. I know this masjid very well, and for several decades. It does have facilities for women: in the past there was a partition across the main hall, and around the turn of the century they tore down a redundant workshop and built a women's hall from new. (At 1 minute 13 seconds into the video, there is actually a lady coming in to worship at the masjid.) It is also an affiliate of the MCB, and has a management committee with many members that are close to the MCB's supposed prevailing "Islamic Movement" ethos - an ethos which, incidentally, in the UK is quite strong on the involvement of women in its affairs. But it wasn't a knowing participant in the "Visit My Mosque" initiative. It is nevertheless a very busy masjid, with a wide range of activities hosted there. On the unfortunate Sunday noon morning, it was receiving a trickle of visitors for early afternoon salaah hosting a Somali children's supplementary school I believe (not even an Islamic madrassah class, but regular schooling from volunteer teachers), though I have not had that confirmed. Most mosques, masjids, have nothing so adventurous. Almost all mosques will actually be locked up and deserted between the pre-sunrise Fajr salaah and some time around noon, so had the Channel Four journo picked almost any other (non-participating) masjid, there would have been, not a surprised and suspicious man to turn her away, but the more traditional locked door and unanswered doorbell, and no story.

Secondly, Streatham Masjid's committee member and the unlucky fellow who intercepted Ms Newman. Tact and public relations skills are not part of the usual prerequisites for a seat on a masjid management committee, and certainly didn't feature here. The committee member was quoted as saying:

“There was nobody from the management or committee at the mosque that morning […] The person who turned the journalist away must have been someone with no authority - a worshipper. About 60% of our group is Somali, many of whom do not speak any English, so I think there was confusion. I intend to take action and find out what exactly happened, but I would like to apologise to Cathy Newman for what happened",

which, if true, betrays a not uncommon level of disdain that far too many management committees have for the riff-raff that trouble to worship in the average masjid. It is certainly a quote worth holding on to when I repeatedly make the case that masjid management committees are widely recognised as inept, unaccountable, intolerant and obstructive. A whiff of racism also hangs on the air, and there is a back-story here concerning Streatham masjid and its Sahel incomers. As for the ability to use appropriate English, another issue I have, then one has to ask who has more to improve on between Cathy Newman’s interceptor and the committee member. I have elsewhere highlighted the difficulties faced by anyone intending to drop in on their local mosque: locked up, or unable to converse in English, or rather twee notions of what the visitor’s religious belief might comprise, the absence of any sensible reception facility, the expectation that the imam will in faltering English, run through the “five pillars” of Islam without being able to explain anything about what Muslims do or think or believe. Even, and I have seen this, through ignorance of conversational English, the supposition that the visitor has come to make shahadah, i.e. become Muslim. (There is no record of any conversation in the video, so nothing to suggest any inappropriate words by anyone speaking with Ms Newman. However the committee member's reported response therefore sounds even more inept.)

Thirdly, the MCB and the “Visit My Mosque” idea. Very laudable, lots of good intentions. Very telling, however, that of the 1600 or 1700 masjids in the UK (depending on how I count them), only 20 were able to actually participate. The MCB should have been well aware of the consequences of widespread publicity, with puff pieces in all the major newspapers, yet minimal explanation of what to expect and where to expect it, or explanation of what would happen if the visitors turned up at any of the one thousand, six hundred and eighty or so non-participants. The MCB gets a lot of flak, some of it justified, some of it not, and much of it simply the unmoderated projections of fears and prejudices that permeate the UK's Muslim community. It is not the representative body of all UK mosques, and should desist from its claims about 500 affiliated organisations without much more careful explanation of what they are and what their affiliation means. 199 are masjids, mosques, by my counting. Others are schools, welfare groups and pressure groups. When I last collated the data, no less than 79 affiliates were incarnations of the various elements of the UK’s Jama’at Islami (‘Islamic Movement’) institutions, e.g. UK Islamic Mission (South Birmingham), UK Islamic Mission Midland Zone, Islamic Forum Europe (West Midland Branch), etc., which it would not be unreasonable to suppose, adds up to a single person! (In the laborious work I have done to identify masjids around the UK, I took the UK Islamic Mission’s list of branches, which is at face value a list of mosques, and discovered that a considerable number of them are private family homes – no doubt enthusiastic supporters, but hardly branches. Another point to take issue with about the MCB is just how current its affiliate list is. How many of the entities have paid their fairly minimal membership dues this year, compared with the numbers of lapsed affiliates, for whom it is not in the MCB’s interest to delete? My count added up 19 that by my reckoning no longer even exist. I will re do my statistics, because the MCB’s affiliates list has changed since I last did this, but a brief glance at it still looks very familiar to me. The MCB is very much less than the sum of its parts.

I was amused and flattered by the BBC’s report on the Visit My Mosque initiative. Juxtaposed to a link stating, “More than 20 mosques were expected to take part.” linking to the MCB’s list, was a link to my statistics report, covered by the text “The figure is a small proportion of the total number of mosques in Britain, which is estimated to be 1,750.” followed by the jewel in the crown, “The MCB said only 55-60% of mosques were affiliated to it, and the total includes small establishments such as prayer rooms in schools and offices.”! I have often taken issue with our glorious leaders’ innovative use of English, but Mathematics is my home ground. And 199 out of 1750 does not equal 55 or 60%! 11% may be nearer the mark. (And the first aid room in my office right now, is definitely not an MCB affiliate, even though it is where I and my colleagues make salaah in office hours.) Contrary to most criticism, the MCB genuinely tries to be inclusive of sectarian interests, and my statistics demonstrate that, except for the caveat about the currency of many affiliates’ status. However it will never be more than a fairly self-referential small group of enthusiasts in its current form. There is no representative body of Muslim interest in the UK. The MCB, for all its failings, is the only one that has tried and that has not been driven entirely by exclusive sectarian interests, and should be given credit for that. The problem for such a limited body, though, is that sectarian interests dominate the UK Muslim community, and a small group of enthusiasts at the heart of the MCB must be honest about what limited interest they wield, must be honest about their affiliates, must look for better ways to be inclusive, and must thereby avoid setting grand expectations about important initiatives like “Visit My Mosque”.

Here’s a suggestion. is a one-man-band. (It never, ever claimed to be the voice of UK Muslims, just a well-travelled harpie on the side!) Notwithstanding that, if you want to organise a similar event with lots of publicity etc., give me enough warning and share your plans. I may be able to set up map and collateral information that would help make it easy for intending visitors to find participating masjids and set expectations more appropriately.

The Visit My Mosque event itself was low key and trivial, but nonetheless important as part of the process of engagement. A single faux pas by a person totally unconnected with the event, received more, and damaging, publicity than the entire effort. Cathy Newman, you aren’t naïve to the influence you yourself wield. A moment’s thought before your tweet, and a little background work, not only to find which mosques were participating, but also to understand that mosques are not 24 x 7 drop in centres. They don’t even keep office hours. And the people who use them do not have degrees in public relations or catering. Your tweet was revealing: its response showed up failings in local mosque management and ability to engage, it showed up the limited role the MCB has in guiding UK Muslims. But it also showed just how precariously positioned the Muslim community is, to an impetuous rejoinder by a prominent media player. You and other journalists, and your counterpoint alter egos, the politicians, have grave responsibilities towards community cohesion. Take your responsibilities seriously please!


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Al Qaeda sit back and gloat 
Now that a little time has passed on which to reflect on the Paris attacks, it seems clear to me that AQ have achieved, at minimal cost to themselves, one of their worst successes in a decade; indeed they achieved far more than they probably hoped for, confirmed by the massed rallies in Paris. This is not the message you would believe if you follow the reaction in the media, no matter how sombre its tone, as they do AQ’s bidding and flood the media with reproductions of cheap jibe cartoons that only hurt ordinary, peace-hungry, western Muslims, cartoons that in other circumstances would justify criminal incitement charges.

Firstly the cartoons. AQ and its cronies have not the slightest concern about the ethics of westerners ridiculing the Messenger of Allah (S). Cynicism alone is their currency. They have always known that the response of western media to even to the threat of vengeance would be defiantly to publish more. On this occasion, the response has been overwhelming, with even the BBC throwing aside its own editorial guidelines and the Guardian its inclusive principles in the race to show how they would not be cowed. So what does this matter if AQ has no concern? AQ and ISIS, in slightly different ways, are playing the long game. They want power, not over the west, in which they have no interest, but over Muslims, all Muslims. Their aim is to construct the hitherto theoretical notion of Dar-ul Harb and its corollary, Dar-ul-Islam: a binary world view, the havens of "War" and "Peace" respectively. But there is no way such a thing can come about when patently ordinary Muslims in the west have no inclination at all to jump to the edicts of their self-proclaimed khalifas. Nor is it going to happen when many, many other Muslims would very much like to live by western values. to western standards of living, preferably also in western countries. Why should cartoons matter? In their own way, they matter just as much as the slaughter at the twin towers. Everything, big or small, that AQ can achieve that makes ordinary life for ordinary Muslims more unpleasant, and their aspirations for life in the west more unobtainable, brings AQ (or ISIS, or any other pretenders to the khilafa), significant steps closer to their goal. It is not simply a rhetorical point that places ISIS on the extreme edge of the political spectrum shared by neo-fascists - they want the west de-populated of Muslims just as much as does the BNP, EDL, Pegida and the Front National.

The people most affected will be those with the most to lose, the intellectuals, professionals, engineers and scientists, whose careers are blighted by association with a religion as violent and irrational as AQ can force it to appear to be. The more conscientious and sincere the Muslim, the more undermined he is by AQ. The more susceptible he is to explanations of his frustrations that can demonstrate western behaviour that is hostile to his creed, the more the balance shifts in AQ's favour. It only takes a tiny trickle of frustrated zealots to set the chain reaction in motion - a few dozen to Bosnia, a few scores to Afghanistan, a few hundreds to Syria ... All AQ has to do is to engineer western behaviour into hostility to ordinary Muslims, and the cycle begins. 9/11 was a starting pistol in a way that the Kenyan embassy bombings never could be. Cartoons supposedly depicting the Messenger of Allah, whether in a scurrilous context or not, don't offend AQ for a moment, it is what they want. When those cartoons appear at the margins, in semi-underground satires like Charlie Hebdo or overtly racist productions like Jyllands-Posten, they are merely true to type. When the mainstream media defend the liberal western value of freedom of speech and plaster the offending pictures all over their pages, no matter under what twisted justification of bad taste, AQ are dancing in the streets! The only ones whose sensibilities are offended are the ordinary Muslims living peacefully in the west, who now have demonstrable evidence that their feelings are valued at nothing by media and politicians. This is not an argument for appeasement of ordinary Muslims sensibilities, it is merely to point out that supposed defiance of AQ by the press is achieved by dumping the western value of tolerance and mutual respect. Would it be appropriate to counter the challenge of a latter-day Black Panther movement by re-instating "Little Black Sambo" to the place where I first remember it, as a standard primary school reading book?

AQ also play to the mob in the Muslim heartlands. Their Rambo-style murderous "revenge" on Charlie H delights the masses in Pakistan who nurture a self-righteous indignation over the antics of a far-away super-power. Among them will be many who see AQ as the renewed champion of their grievances and some who will be jump at the chance to join the cause, and a body blow to the reasonable people who call for patience and tolerance. That super-power's antics in their own lands only redoubles their enthusiasm to score against it. Among those, no doubt there will be a few who have already swapped their green passports for red or blue ones, and the cycle can turn around again.

Having watched AQ rub its hands with glee at the "punishment" of Charlie Hebdo, they will be over the moon with the execution of a Muslim police officer. There are few things that can undermine the cycle of violence and oppression, the standard model for assymetric warfare that we understand as terrorism. One of those few things is for the people under subjection, to take it on themselves to oppose the terrorists directly, not by co-option, not by tokenism, but by individual choice. They are the very symbols of the possibility of normality of Muslim life in the west, and AQ cannot permit that symbolism to endure. So while decent people praise the heroism of Ahmed Merabet, sacrificed doing nothing more or less than what his profession required, AQ will crow with delight at the bonus achievement of one of its recently avowed aims, the assassination of those Muslims who uphold law and public safety. In rhetoric they can and do denounce such people as murtads, heretics, but that is an empty rhetoric that speaks only to their converts. To actually achieve the execution of one such, and by evil chance circumstance, was something they could hardly have hoped for. So celebrate Ahmed Merabet's life and mourn his death, and remember that there are others who willingly take his place, for the sake of their religion and for the sake of your society and the place of Muslims within it, and be mindful that AQ, ISIS and the like, have a desperate need to single them out as targets. As long as such people continue to adhere to the principles of their religion, and are not driven to hide it, the rhetoric from AQ's sea-lawyers will sound hollow.

Now to the murders of Jews. Amedy Coulibaly clearly hadn't planned his murder of a traffic policewoman, it was probably a cold-blooded expedient to allow him to continue his mission. His apparent statement to a bystander that "we don't kill civilians" is however revealing, not simply on account of the officer's death, but for what followed. It was probably intended as a rehearsed ironic phrase, with propaganda value to offset against the technological slaughter of innocents by western military tools. It is also a standard trope of militant anti-Israeli extremists that men, women and children are all "military" targets because of the militarisation of Israeli society, regardless of even the most primitive of human decency to spare those who are not at war with you. Coulibaly demonstrated this in his execution of his Jewish hostages. In doing so, AQ/ISIS achieved the most public and cold-blooded execution of Jews since their campaign began. They have prised the lid off the powder keg of anti-semitism and the fear of it and its backlash, and tipped the full barrel on the floor, scattering the explosive across Europe.

Coulibaly was a convert. Not only that, he was from Senegalese parents. His culture and background gave him nothing at all of the gratuitous anti-semitism that pervades much of the Muslim community. It was something he learned as part of a discourse through his introduction to Islam, which appears to have been in the course of a prison sentence. This website has a theme that runs through all its counter-extremism narrative, which is the special place that converts have taken up in the ranks of Muslim-perpetrated political violence. The conventional view is that they (we, because I am also a Muslim convert) are easily led into extremism through their naivety and suggestibility, driven by their zeal. My argument is very much the opposite, that they are the drivers, catalysts or leaders of extremist actions, whose presence in a group of potential militants motivates the remainder to show their own commitment to a warped cause; catalysts because the group tries to show the convert, who has many options to pick, that they are the most committed and therefore most sincere and true to the faith, simply by willingness to sacrifice the most. The Paris attacks demonstrated rivalry between an ISIS affiliate and some AQ affiliates, and, for the sake of the mutually desired carnage, willingness nevertheless to co-operate. This shows the convert as instigator, who twisted the cartoon grievance premise into something with very wide, painful resonance, the murder of Jews for being Jewish.

It is difficult for many people among those outside of Islam who have regular relations with Muslims, to understand just how pervasive anti-semitism is among Muslims. Tacit assumption of shared liberal values blocks off the opportunity to recognise it. But as a long-time anti-racist, anti-fascist campaigner, I am astonished, myself, at the things I hear among Muslims who believe they are free to speak openly, internally among themselves. The problem is so ingrained that it is not sufficient simply to brand anti-semite Muslims as extremist: they include large numbers of people who are otherwise considered to be worthy members of the UK's Muslim establishment. Over the last decade I have made several attempts to push this problem into the open. Because of its pervasiveness I do not believe it is capable of being addressed through the usual ultra-tolerant, mutually supportive but essentially tame forums such as Inter-Faith. It needs the willingness for holders of strong-minded views from either side, Muslims and Jews, to force themselves and their counterparts to talk frankly through the tough subjects that divide them, deeply enough to be able to recognise each others' issues and digest them, in public. This is an absolutely vital task, yet whenever I have tried to raise even the suggestion (most recently in public in a Guardian-hosted event between Jonathan Freedland and Mehdi Hasan, when I was immediately sidelined), there has been a uniform blanking from either side. Until the anti-semitic currency among Muslims has been grossly debunked, it will remain as potent a narrative for extremists, especially for converts, as it has been for particular generations in modern European history.

Coulibaly carried out his callous executions of Jews, and in doing so put into perspective the only moment of grace this whole episode achieved. The French Malian Muslim Lassana Bathily did what any decent human being would do, and saved the lives of a number of the presumably Jewish customers from the predations of Coulibaly, probably not because he was a Muslim, or because they were Jewish, but because he was a decent human being. Therein lies the point however - most Muslims are decent human beings. His simple act of humanity undermined the AQ or ISIS strategy. Celebrate his brave and selfless act loudly, and celebrate his Muslim-ness publicly, because his was the one and only element of the whole scheme that thwarted AQ/ISIS and his Muslim-ness is what will stick hard in AQ/ISIS's craw. Look after him well, because they will resent what ordinary Muslims can achieve against them, when circumstances allow it to be made so.

Finally, Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers achieved their anticipated denouments in showers of bullets, just as they hoped, exiting like the Sun Dance Kid, swift and dramatic. That allowed them to remain transfixed in their zealotrous determination to fulfil their mission, with no remaining lifetime to fill them with thoughts of the possibility of being mistaken, regretful or simply hounded into enduring misery, unlike Adebolajo and Adebowale in the killing of Lee Rigby, who undoubtedly also believed that they could be mown down Hollywood-style in a stream of police bullets. It is again exactly what AQ and ISIS wanted, an assurance for other recruits to their nihilistic cause, that they too could avoid facing up to the consequences of their actions. I guess they probably did believe they would be shaheed in a noble cause and not pawns in a sordid one. Their selfishness will merely haunt their families dreadfully for the rest of their surviving lives.


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Charlie Hebdo, Security and the MCB 
It is a self-evident fact that the twelve murders at the offices of 'Charlie Hebdo' today are an act of mind-numbing barbarity. It is awkward for the MCB that news of the attack coincided with the MCB's press release "Confront terrorism by backing freedom: ... re-think the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill." Nevertheless, this message from the MCB is right, and the attack on Charlie Hebdo is an attack on freedom, which must be countered by endorsing freedom.

Firstly, on the murders: Throughout the period of his life in Makkah following the first revelations of the Qur'an when he was forty, through to the divine command for him to flee Makkah a dozen years later, the Messenger of Allah (S) sustained continual abuse, defamation, ridicule, violence against him and his followers, isolation and deprivation that caused the death of his deeply loved first wife Khadija (R) in the 'year of sorrows'. Yet in all that time he never allowed any of his followers to raise their hand against the enemies of Islam. Even later, in Madinah, no move was taken against the torture and murder of Muslims held captive remaining in Makkah, instead insisting that the Muslims of Madinah would stand rigidly by the horribly one-sided treaty they agreed with the Makkans. The battles that took place between them were all exclusively in the defence of Madinah, and the final victory over Makkah was a bloodless and overwhelming victory brought about by the Makkans' own machinations.

The point is, simply, that whatever satirists do to mock Muslims, the Qur'an, or the Messenger of Allah (S), we should be content that they are free to do so. One juvenile mocked the Messenger's mannerisms to his face. He gently placed his finger on the boy's chest over his heart, said a few words to him, and left him. The boy in due course became a great Sahabah, his heart constantly in the dhikr of Allah. If no one learns anything else from the cartoons saga, they will at least be aware that the Messenger of Allah was distinguished by his preference for white clothes, his full beard and his habitual imamah, turban. It really does take harpies to remind us Muslims of these basic sunnahs!

Now back to the MCB and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill. The MCB's press release quite rightly ridicules the government's proposed measures to require providers of public services to monitor and detect signs of extremism and potential terrorism: something that politicians themselves are completely incapable of doing, and for which the security authorities have only achieved through applying mind-boggling resources. However, none of this should be necessary in the first place if it were not for the fact that Muslims themselves, and especially Muslim institutions, have so far utterly failed to tackle the problem. Today a dozen people in Paris have paid with their lives. But over the last fifteen years, so have hundreds of people in or from Britain have too, our own neighbours, friends and relatives, in the 9/11 catastrophe, the 7/7 disaster, and elsewhere overseas. Hundreds of members of UK Muslim families are incarcerated on terrorism offences. Yet there is barely a ripple of change in UK masjids - the same divisive, sectarian rhetoric or vacuous homilies from imams; the same impenetrably exclusive management committees, and the same ranks of dissatisfied dissenters. The same stories of unfulfilled converts to Islam, and returning youth, drawn in frustration to the margins where they find extremist notions meshing with their own experiences. The same selfish, incompetent and inept dealings by Muslims with their neighbours, around masjids and everywhere else. Not a single indigenous imam in a single UK masjid after three amply supplied generations - even where the imam speaks some English, it is embarrassing to listen to. There is hardly a single imam who is even capable of explaining intellectually what is wrong with ISIS or Al Qaida. The MCB has done nothing to change any of this, nor has MINAB, nor has any other umbrella body.

All the same, Muslims are not alone in the blame for this failure to tackle extremism. They have been rendered into a state of fear by sensationalist media and by draconian criminal sanctions - even against those such as the Nottingham University academics legitimately studying the material - so there are real government obstacles to actually confronting extremists, compounded by ignorance by security operatives, politicians and the media of what actually constitutes extremism. But until Muslim institutions pull their collective heads out of the sand, confront their own internal, sectarian and exclusivist problems, and actually start to tackle extremism and its causes (intolerance) within the Muslim community, they cannot expect anything different from a government that cannot indulge liberal thinking and liberal values.

Muslims should expect ridicule, expect satire, it is part of the currency of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. We should not be in the least fazed by it, nor do we need to repay its cruel barbs. What we have to do, to blunt its point, is to render it meaningless through our own exemplary conduct according to the Sunnah. Ironically, to be mocked and ridiculed, is itself a sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (S). The murderers of "Charlie Hebdo" have less understanding of the Sunnah, indeed of Islam, than the cartoonists who caricatured the Messenger of Allah (S) in his own Sunnah.

Wa'al akhir ud-dawana an-alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen


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