It has long been argued and implied that the threat posed by radical Muslims to our continent takes the form of terrorism. The New Statesman’s Daniel Trilling, in his analysis of the “counter-Jihad” movement, granted that there was a “tiny grain of truth” to their beliefs: “the existence of Islamist terror”. Bob Lambert, an ex-undercover policeman who was briefly taken seriously as a counter-terrorism expert, even argued that we should not criticise doctrinaire Islamists as they are valuable allies against Al Qaeda.
We have all heard of berobed firebrands proclaiming that the flag of Allah will be raised above 10 Downing Street but they are dismissed as fringe lunatics. The failure to treat the underlying ideas with any seriousness is an error. In mosques and universities across the nation they are being expressed and adopted in all seriousness.
Islamic totalism poses a different but nonetheless grave threat to that of Islamic terrorism. This is the idea that Islam offers not merely a religion but a complete sociopolitical order; one that Muslims are commanded to impose across the globe. This is quite a widespread opinion among Muslims but one that most believers have little enthusiasm for pursuing. If hudud punishments are established they might be pleased but if they are not they are liable to be too wrapped up with their jobs and families to care. Many clerics, though, and like-minded activists, are far more inspired by this theocratic dogma and seek to talk other believers into sharing their conviction.
A heterogeneous but nonetheless coherent class of theocrats has been pursuing this goal in Britain; with great energy and largely unopposed. I have been observing it over the past couple of years and write this in the hope of emphasising that if we are going to avoid social conflict it is necessary to wise up and to start talking back.
Islamic totalists are always keen to tell you that they oppose Al Qaeda. In most cases, I do not believe they are being dishonest. Why they oppose Al Qaeda, though, is another question and an interesting one.
There are two main forms of violent jihadism: defensive jihad and offensive jihad. The former entails the protection of Muslim communities from attack and oppression. Islamic totalists almost unanimously argue that this is a duty on all Muslims. The standards they expect from supposed defenders, one must note, are disturbingly low, and the Muslim communities they argue require defence tend to be those most infused with their oppressive ideology. Murtaza Khan, head of the Islamic Da’wah Centre, then, has said that “all respect goes to” the Taliban; a movement that has little support among the common Muslims of Afghanistan, presumably because of their fondness for killing them.
Offensive jihad, meanwhile, is violence intended to further Islam. Islamic totalists often uphold the righteousness of this endeavour, yet argue that the conditions of the modern West are such that it is not applicable to our circumstances. Haitham al-Haddad, for example, has claimed that only an Islamic state could justly take such action. Others have argued that the fighting of Muslims in the West would be legitimate but that they are so weak they would have little chance of success. In the words of Abdur Raheem Green, such a conflict would “cause only harm and no benefit”. It is good that such people do not intend to launch into conflict with us but it remains palling that they think it would be legitimate nay virtuous to fight us merely to propagate their faith. A man who said that he would fight me if it was not raining and he was dressed in different clothes would still be my opponent, and people who cleave to these opinions remain our enemies.
“Muslims,” Abu Usamah, an American born Imam, has said, “Shouldn’t be satisfied with living in other than the total Islamic State.” He and his comrades are unsatisfied, and they have designs on our nation. Murtaza Khan has insisted that “the hudud of Allah [will] be implemented in the twenty first century”, and Haitham al-Haddad speaks fondly of the “the Islamic Republic of Britain”.
What might such a nation be like? Islam would reign supreme and all whose opinions diverge from it would be oppressed. “The Jew and the Christian,” in Abdur Raheem Green’s words, “[Would] know that they are inferior and subjugated”. Apostates and heretics would be killed. Atheists can only imagine their treatment.
Brutal puritanism would be enforced. Adulterers and gays would face “slow, painful death by stoning”. Gays, of course, or “sodomites” as Green has called them, are a predictable object of fear for these people. (“Not even animals behave in that manner!” Murtaza Khan has claimed. Actually, many do.) Musical instruments would be prohibited, and women would not be allowed to sing. This, in the words of Bilal Philips, who was a favourite of several British mosques until he was barred from entering the nation, would “keep the sensual atmosphere of the society to a minimum”.
These clerics fear sensuality like arachnophobes fear spiders. Free mixing between the sexes, Alomgir Ali of the Tayyibun Institute has said, should be “prohibited…out of the fear that it will lead to haram”. While the opinions of these men can be misogynistic their lack of faith in male restraint is downright misandrous. So worried is Ali by the sexual urges of men that women “must not be perfumed and scented”. Indeed, they should “stay quietly in [their] homes in order to prevent those who have a sickness in their heart from being lustful”.
In the home, in the view of Sheikh Assim al-Hakeem, “the man is in charge of the woman” and “disciplines her if she goes astray” because “men are superior to women”. In this Sheikh’s opinion, as in that of Haitham al-Haddad, who says “the earlier is the better”, “it is permissible to marry a child”. These men both feel that such young girls should have already undergone genital mutilation. When Al-Hakeem was invited to Leyton Mosque it was to speak on “Harmony in Marriage” and when Al-Haddad spoke at Leyton Sixth Form College it was on the question “Does Islam Oppress Women?” That, friends, is black comedy.
The state that these clerics hope to establish, then, is one that serves the purposes of joyless, brutal male Muslims. This would be convenient for them but no fun for anybody else.
As is heavily implied by their enthusiasm for killing and oppressing people who disagree with them, Islamic theocrats tend to hold non-Muslims and, indeed, Muslims with different interpretations of Islam from their own in disdain at best and hateful contempt at worst. Assim al-Hakeem tells his followers to feel “enmity and hatred of the kaafirs” and Abdur Raheem Green has gone so far as to proclaim his indifference to their deaths.
Resembling non-Muslims in their behaviour is a grave fear of theirs. Murtaza Khan, for example, warned his followers that Muslims have become “Jews in our clothing, Jews in our eating and Jews in everything”. The shame of being like a Jew is, it seems, great to him. Separation from the kaafir is the policy they uphold. Al-Hakeem insists that Muslims should “not befriend them” and Khan warns “not [to] greet them”. If they feel such hostility towards us they are allowed nay welcome to leave.
There are, of course, lamentable features of our culture and the only thing that I could say in its defence is that it beats a culture where music is banned and heresy criminalised. These men, though, exaggerate its worst features for effect. Green has claimed in apparent seriousness that most British girls have lost their virginities by the age of thirteen. There are only a few places in the world where the defilement of young girls would be expected and they do not tend to be secular.
Some of the most fervid bigotry of these preachers is reserved for particular ethnic and religious groups. As Khan’s paranoid proclamations might have suggested, Islamic totalists tend to have low opinions of the Jewish people. Abu Usamah, for example, thinks that they, along with Christians, are “enemies of Islam”. Abdur Raheem Green agrees, saying that “the Jews” are “terrorists”. Hussain Ye, a one-time adviser to Green’s Islamic Education and Research Academy, has ranted that Jews are “the extremists of the world” and “kill because they are the chosen people”. The fate of the Jews in Malmö is evidence of the danger of this bigotry.
These men can reserve their greatest anger for Muslims whose beliefs diverge from their own. Khalid Fikry, an Egyptian cleric who is named as the author of a gushing tribute to Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Blind Sheikh, has given talks that rail against Shia Muslims. They are, he says, an “ignorant kaafir sect” and “the greatest allies with the Americans, as well as with the Jew”. This makes them “one of the worst and greatest enemies against our Ummah”. When the Islamic Society of London Metropolitan University invited Fikry to give a talk they prepared themselves for him by “liking” the Facebook page “The Reality of Shia”, on which one is told that Shia Muslims are an “evil cult” that “feed off…blood”. Considering the rate at which Shia Muslims are killed in nations like Pakistan and Iraq this sectarian demagoguery is a grave matter.
I shall now discuss the various platforms that Islamic totalists have used in their energetic efforts to advance their ideologies.
The Mosque is, of course, the centre of religious activity for Muslims. Many British Mosques might host speakers with noxious opinions but what is more disturbing is when Mosques are effectively turned into castles from which the propagation of unpleasant and dangerous opinions can be overseen. This has been achieved on notable occasions.
Abu Usamah is the Imam of Green Lane Mosque. In 2007 Channel 4 documentary Undercover Mosque recorded Usamah preaching supremacist theocratic dogma. He insisted that his words were taken out of context but his deeds as imam of the Mosque, among other things, belie this claim. In 2010 it invited two Saudi clerics, Sheikh Faisal Al-Jassim and Sheikh Abdul Aziz As-Sadhan, to preach despite the fact that the former had said Muslims should “fight all kafirs” and “make governance in the earth according to the sharia of Allah” and the latter had blamed “the Jews” for “every disorder and fierce war”. These men’s opinions were pointed out to the officials of the Mosque who shrugged and invited them back again. The “visiting scholars” that they boast of on their website still include Al-Jassim and As-Sadhan, as well as Abdur Raheem Green, Murtaza Khan, Assim al-Hakim and Bilal Phillips.
Leyton’s Masjid-al-Tawhid, meanwhile, is effectively a base camp for the sort of men that I have been describing. When Islamia Village, a conference featuring such clerics as Abdur Raheem Green, Abu Usamah and Asim al-Hakeem, was cancelled the mosque flung open its doors. Its upcoming winter conference, held on 25th, will feature Murtaza Khan and Hamza Tzortzis of the Islamic Education and Research Academy. I can think of few places I’d less like to be on Christmas.
There are alleged to be dozens of sharia councils at work in the U.K.. These, which arbitrate on marriages, divorces and disputes regarding children, offer clerics the sense of being in an Islamic state.
If this sounds unfair, consider the officialdom of the Islamic Sharia Council, the largest Sharia body operating in Britain. Maulana Abu Sayeed, the President of the Council and a man who’s been charged with involvement in war crimes in his homeland of Bangladesh, has claimed that rape is “impossible” within marriage. Suhaib Hasan, Secretary of the Council, was recorded by Undercover Mosque preaching that “the Khilaafah” will have “political dominance”; institute “the chopping of the hands of the thieves, the flogging of the adulterers and flogging of the drunkards” and wage “jihad against the non-Muslims”. Haitham al-Haddad, the man who represents it in the media, is familiar by now.
The courts allow Muslims to live at least somewhat independently of the state. Hundreds if not thousands of marriages are conducted in such institutions without being legally registered. What makes this especially problematic is the fact that the judges often discriminate against women. Suhaib Hasan was recorded by the Guardian discussing an at least somewhat abusive marriage with a wife. “He has hit me in the past,” she said, “He hit me once.” “Only once?” He asked with an unpleasant chuckle. “So it’s not a very serious matter.”
Stories of abusive discrimination abound. Charlotte Proudman, a barrister and blogger, wrote of talking to a Muslim woman who was trying to escape a forced marriage. “Despite countless emails, letters and telephone calls to the Sharia council,” Proudman wrote, “[It] refuse[d] to provide Nasrin with an Islamic divorce”. The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation have alleged that sharia courts in some mosques have officiated marriages involving underage girls.
“There is no reason to be in this country,” a British-born cleric Abu Abdissalam has asserted, “Except for dawah.” It is important not to think that there need be something baleful about evangelism. Yet there can be. Some of these preachers have openly cast their work as a propaganda campaign. Abdur Raheem Green suggests that as a younger man he went to fight with the mujahideen in Afghanistan but was told by the men who would become the Taliban that, “If you want to help us go back to England and give da’wah and call people to Islam”.
Green, if this is true, has proved himself worthy of their hopes. He is chairman of the Islamic Research and Education Academy, which is an ambitious dawah organisation that I have written of before. As well as touring the Islamic societies of British universities, and even cropping up in the odd school, they have offered retreats and evangelised at public events. Their ideas might be archaic but their presentation is modern. They have even grasped the virtues of shameless self-promotion: issuing press releases; goading big-name bloggers and even piggy-backing on the success of the Olympics. Their ambitions are international as well. They have a branch in Canada; have been to nations as far-flung as Norway and Qatar and recently completed a tour of Africa that took them to Uganda, Mozambique and Malawi.
Their work is designed as much to promote Islam as political ideology as personal faith. Hamza Tzortzis, a young, enthusiastic and articulate colleague of Green’s, often rails against the ills of secular society in what a critic observed was “worthy of the Daily Mail”. In its place, he promotes the “Islamic view of human rights”. This entails a system of sharia law and hudud punishments, though the canny Tztorzis skirts around discussion of its gravest implications. Their advisers are further proof of the crudeness of the ideas that lurk behind sophisticated presentation: they have included Al-Haddad, Bilal Philips, Hussain Ye and Abu Abdissalam.
In 2011 Malcolm Grant, Provost and President of University College London, insisted that campus extremism is a “non-issue”; something that “doesn’t exist”. This, as I have written previously, is a myth. The watchdog Student Rights – a useful source on this issue if, given their association with the warmongering Henry Jackson Society, a somewhat unreliable one – has long been documenting the enthusiasm Islamic societies have for preachers such as those mentioned in this essay, most of whom are regular features of British campuses.
Whole societies can be devoted to theocratic propagandising. The ISOC of City University, for example, was analysed for a report by the Quillam Foundation, which alleged that it had been “an incubator for extremist, intolerant and potentially violent” ideas and behaviour. The ISOC of London South Bank University, which has given a platform to men like Abdur Raheem Green and Murtaza Khan, was found to have uploaded videos of the sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki nine times in a three month period between this year and the last.
Islamic Societies are overseen on a national level by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies. FOSIS, as it is known, has been described in the media as “anything but radical” yet it has worked closely with Haitham al-Haddad and Abdur Raheem Green and his colleagues at iERA. Its London Chair is a man who surreptitiously attends extremist conferences; seeks guidance from totalists like Bilal Philips and has promoted the words of Muhammad Al-Munajjid. It is not a monolithic organisation but it is clear that its officialdom are at best apathetic in the face of theocrats and at worst supportive of them.
While I suspect that none of you have made a habit of watching the God Channel or Ramadan TV between the football and Peep Show on a Sunday evening, there exists a thriving media industry that serves the faithful. Muslims are no different, and can choose from a range of television channels and radio stations. Some of these, regrettably, have offered platforms to the worst theocratic propagandists.
The Islam Channel is perhaps the most extraordinary feat of religious programming, in that it is said to attract almost a million British Muslims. It was censured by Ofcom in 2010 on five grounds, among which was the fact that a presenter employed by the channel justified marital rape. The host that cheerfully proclaimed that she saw no bring problem with “the man feel[ing] he has to force himself upon the woman” was, incidentally, the Women’s Media Representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Elsewhere in the schedules of the Islam channel one can find Abu Usamah, who has enjoyed a platform there for years. Criticism of some of its decision making has inspired little reflection. When the charges that prompted the Ofcom inquiry were raised the Muslim Council of Britain replied that critics were demonising “social conservatism”. Apologetics for rape and the promotion of anti-semitic, homophobic and misogynistic advocates of jihad represent social conservatism? Who knew!
The makers of Ramadan TV, meanwhile, proudly claim that eight out of ten British Muslim homes have viewed their channel at one time or another. It is effectively a partner to the Islamic Education and Research Academy, broadcasting their documentaries, talks and charity appeals. Hamza Tzortzis hosts The Dawah Show while Abdur Raheem Green and his colleague Yusuf Chambers present The Green and Chambers Show. (No, it isn’t quite Morecambe and Wise, is it.)
Human Rights Organisations
The Islamic Human Rights Commission claims to work “for justice for all”, but has a funny way of showing it. They organise the Al Quds Day Demonstration, and adorn their adverts with quotes from “Imam Khomeini”. Justice, it seems, is not due to the thousands the Ayatollah had killed. The resources they’ve offered to mark the occasion inform the reader that “the greatest evil facing…mankind today is not AIDS, Pollution, or Nuclear War [but] international Zionism”. “It is the Zionist greed for wealth, lust for perverted sex, greed for power [and] domination”, one is told, “That is causing AIDS, POLLUTION as well as threatening NUCLEAR WAR”. Justice, then, is not thought fit for Jews. Or, indeed, the English language.
Cageprisoners, meanwhile, campaigns to “to raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror”. There is nothing wrong with campaigning on behalf of suspected terrorists or, indeed, actual terrorists if their treatment is unjust. There is, however, something wrong with sympathising with them. Asim Qureshi, the executive director of Cageprisoners, stood outside the US embassy in London and roared that it was “incumbent upon [Muslims] to support the jihad” in “Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan”. To declare such absolute support for Hamas, the Taliban, the IIPB and Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia is to squeeze a lot of unpleasantness into a short speech.
The attitude of Cageprisoners towards the men that they support has been peculiar. They – as, I regret, did I – wrote on behalf of a man named Abu Rideh, who lived in Britain under a control order. Moazzam Begg, the director of the organisation and a former convict of Guantanamo Bay, even claimed that he had worked alongside him in Afghanistan before they fell under suspicion. He was allowed to leave Britain in 2009 but was then claimed to have died in Afghanistan while fighting alongside militants. This was on the less than wholly reliable basis of the chatter on “jihadi web forums” yet Rideh’s friends and supporters did not dispute the claims. They failed to do as much as mention them. Since then, the man has been referenced only once by the organisation, in a piece by the journalist Victoria Brittain that claimed he was “spurred by a burning sense of injustice” and known for his “acts of kindness and generosity to others” yet did not pass mention of the apparent nature of his death.
Cageprisoners have worked alongside the Tayyibun Institute, which is an institution staffed by, among other clerics, Haitham al-Haddad, Suhaib Hasan and a Saudi duo: Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak and Salih al Munajjid. The former is notorious for demanding the execution of heretical Saudi newspaper columnists, and the latter is best known for Islam QA, a website that offers such pearls of wisdom as that “waging jihad against [people] if they do not accept Islam or accept paying the jizyah, is obligatory”. Cageprisoners held a meeting with a representative of the institute: Murtaza Khan. They liked him so much that they invited him to address their next annual dinner.
It is important to stress that there is nothing inherently suspicious or disreputable about campaigning against Western human rights abuses. Indeed, when it is done right it can be as admirable as any human deed. Yet there are people who hijack human rights causes in an effort to promote their own agendas. In recent times, it seems, these have included Islamic supremacism.
The opinions that I have discussed in this essay are unpleasant, of course, but one might ask how they are actually harmful. I suspect that the idea that their designs for this nation will be realised is, while not preposterous still less impossible, one that belongs to the realm of futurology. As long as downward trends in non-EU migration and birth rates among Muslims continue followers of Muhammad are not likely to outnumber their kafir compatriots in the near future. Even then, a lot of Muslims would be unlikely to want to establish an Islamic state.
It is a temptation of people who criticise Muslim demagogues to attempt to separate them from authentic Islam. I am not going to do this. It would be monstrously arrogant of me to claim that I have a more sophisticated understanding of Haitham al-Haddad’s faith than he does. These men are neither idiots nor conscious scoundrels. (Though it would not surprise me if they included the odd spook.) Their ideas are rooted in age-old traditions of Islam, and, in many cases, are shared by millions of Muslims abroad and in the U.K.. It is simply true that Islam has remained far more open to totalistic interpretations than other faiths, and I do not think Muslims would dispute this.
It is also true, however, that people can interpret the faith in a different manner. British commentators have often observed that British Muslims are depressingly liable to endorse theocratic measures. It is also true, however, that many do not. Policy Exchange questioned members of this demographic in 2007 and while they found that awful views were awfully popular some of their findings would appall the clerics I have been discussing. 61% of Muslims said they had as much in common with their non-Muslim compatriots as with believers; 59% claimed to prefer British law to the sharia; 49% even endorsed “a major reinterpretation of sharia law to reflect modern ideas about human rights, equality for women and tolerance of religious conversion”. Whether Islam could be shaped thusly is a question that I am not fit to judge but the aspiration, shared by so many people, is heartening.
It is also proof of the especial urgency of opposing these propagandists. A depressing fact that Policy Exchange revealed is that Muslim youths tend to have worse opinions than their elders. While 28% of British Muslims said they would prefer to live under sharia law than British law, 37% of 16 to 24 year-old’s held that opinion. While 49% of Muslims would support the reform of the sharia, 37% of 16 to 24 year-olds agreed. It is no coincidence, then, that theocrats have made such efforts to appeal to the young. They hope to shape the minds of a new generation.
A significant minority of people who share the opinions and attitudes of these men could do a great deal of harm. Let’s face it: people who believe they are surrounded by enemies and evildoers, who deserve to be conquered and, in many cases, killed are not going to do wonders for community relations. They are not merely averse to integration but make their detachment a point of pride. The more people who join them in their camp, the more unbridgeable the gap will become.
To avoid social conflict and cultural stagnation it is important that young Muslims explore their beliefs and, when they are found wanting, adjust them. They must have the freedom to encounter critical perspectives. Theocrats justly fear that education will expand the intellectual horizons of young people as that poses a threat to their narrow beliefs. Heretical notions, then, must be suppressed. This month, a conference on Islam and evolution at Imperial College London had to be cancelled after opposition from members of its Islamic Society. Usama Hasan, a British Imam, was ousted last year after a campaign against him on the basis of his endorsement of Darwinian evolution. When Channel 4 broadcast Tom Holland’s documentary on the origins of Islam he was forced to endure a storm of online abuse from aggrieved Islamists and one Muslim organisation went so far as to demand that the film be withdrawn and apologised for.
These men rarely advocate crime but this does not mean they cannot inspire it. When they speak of executing apostates, remember Sophie Allam being forced from her home. When they speak of killing heretics, remember Gary Smith being knifed for teaching religious education. When they insult Christians think of Aslam Parvez being attacked because his daughter married one. When they sneer at women think of Shiria Khatun being abused for wearing trousers. Remember that children are being married off and mutilated; that Jews have been treated as enemies and attacked and that blasphemers often live in fear and sometimes, indeed, die.
It is true that the preachers would not recommend at least some of these deeds, under our current circumstances at least, but if you declare that something is a grave sin and that those who are guilty of it deserve shocking punishments you cannot be surprised if people decide to enact them. If a neo-Nazi claimed that abusing black people would be legitimate under an aryan state we would not think them innocent if their followers did it anyway.
This can make their persistent and, perhaps, sincere disavowals of terrorists hard to stomach. Their endorsement of Islamic armies in foreign wars from Somalia to Afghanistan could evidently motivate Britons to trot off and join them. Yet their hateful attacks on our culture, recommendations of “enmity and hatred” towards our people and insistence that we are deserving of subjugation could also inspire a young hothead to attack us. I do not have evidence that this has happened but I would not be surprised if it did. Say you told somebody that a colleague was a child abuser that you would have jailed or hung if you were in the judiciary. If they went on to attack him you could not evade responsibility by telling your employers that you had told them it would be immoral to punch him. Violence was a plausible consequence of such extraordinary and unmerited demonisation and while you might escape some of the blame if it was unintended you would not be irreproachable.
British institutions have completely failed to oppose these men. Indeed, they have been more liable to elevate or excuse them. The Al-Muntada Trust, which employs and hosts numerous people who hate our guts and wish to subordinate us, has been praised by our elected officials, parliamentarians and peers. When Channel 4 broadcast Undercover Mosque the West Midlands Police, in coordination with the Crown Prosecution Service, took action not against the men featured in the programme but against its creators. They investigated them for evidence of incitement to racial hatred and, finding none, referred them Ofcom. The watchdog rejected complaints against the programme and the police were forced to open their pockets after being sued by Channel 4.
I suspect this has a lot to do with a blinkered universalism that blinds commentators and officials to the cultural differences between different peoples. The panicked and unrehearsed reactions to such unpleasant societal phenomena as kindoki and genital mutilation were evidence of what I’ve informally terms cultural whatthehellavitism – outright ignorance of the fact that people can think and behave in very different ways. Many people doubtless think these men are just eccentric social conservatives.
Another obscurant has been the excessive fear of “Islamophobia”. It must be said that bigotry against Muslims is a dangerous feature of Britain, and that we must strive to oppose its worst manifestations. This is often denied by critics of Islam and its adherents but if a nation was marked, within the space of a year, by assaults on multiple churches or synagogues and violence directed towards numerous Christians or Jews they would not hesitate before describing them as homes of anti-Christian or anti-semitic bigotry. If your attitude is different when targets are Mosques and Muslims you are either blind to facts that contradict your worldview or think that someone’s faith legitimises violence against them.
Yet people have become oversensitive to causing offence or inciting abuse, and their fear of perpetrating such sins of commission have led them to commit a sin of omission in ignoring the phenomena I have described. Others, myself included, have been prejudiced against the notion that the right wing folk they perceive as embodying most of the things are lamentable in politics might be onto something.
The far left have generally been at the forefront of anti-racist activities and have led the organised attempts to fight Islamophobia. Their work has proceeded from the notion that their enemies’ enemy is their friend. Fascists oppose Muslims and imperialists often struggle with them so they are held to be allies in the fight against both. This blinds activists to the vile ideas that they can embody. Chris Nineham, for example, a founding member of the Enough Coalition against Islamophobia, was interviewed last year on the “prejudices about Muslims [and] Islam”. And by whom? The Islamic Republic News Agency.
In 2011 Unite Against Fascism published a book titled Defending Multiculturalism. One of its chapters took the form of an interview with Dilowar Khan, Executive Director of the East London Mosque. “In June 2010,” he said, the EDL “singled out an Islamic conference and mounted a campaign calling for it to be banned for having so-called “radical” speakers”. “This wasn’t true,” he said, “A fact that both the police and the local council confirmed”. The conference featured Abu Usamah, Bilal Phillips, Haitham al-Haddad, Murtaza Khan and Hussain Ye. This essay has hopefully proved that anyone who thinks that these men are not “radical” is either lying or has a hideous definition of the term. To imagine how I feel about UAF allowing Khan spread this claim in their publication, imagine an anti-Islamist group allowing a contributor to one of its books to claim that David Irving, Don Black and Varg Vikernes are not far right.
These people revile efforts to oppose the ideas and practices they have ignored or excused. An enduring feature of the anti-racist Left has been Islamophobia Watch. The site links to news reports, and sometimes adds commentary, and it is true that many of its items feature evidence of disturbing and disgusting hatred towards Muslims. Islamophobia Watch extends its critique, however, to people who have made substantive criticisms of Islam and, indeed, of some of its worst representatives. When Green Lane Mosque invited As-Sadhan and Al-Jassim they were criticised by the Quilliam Foundation and British Muslims for Secular Democracy. Bob Pitt, the man behind Islamophobia Watch, described this as evidence of “malicious sectarianism”. That’s right: opposing people who, according to unchallenged quotes, promote war against people who do not share their faith and blame the Jews for the Holocaust represents “malicious sectarianism”. Such rhetorical intimidation should be laughed back to the 1920s.
A materialisic concern of official apologists is, I suspect, an aversion to irritating our friends the Saudis. Sod the Saudis. It is Saudi training that equips the worst of these aspiring traitors. It is Saudi clerics who are shipped in to spread the darkness that clouds that sorry nation. It was Saudi textbooks that brought anti-Christian and anti-semitic propaganda into weekend clubs and schools. I know this is as futile as advising two schoolboys not to hang out with each other but we really have to stop pretending that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a friend to us. If different oil-rich nations were funding terrorism and promoting extremism Western governments would invade them. I am not promoting this as a strategy, of course, but as far as possible we should be disassociating ourselves from the place.
I have often wondered how the foreign born among these clerics ever got into the nation. At least some of them, it seems, were ungrateful beneficiaries of assistance. Khalid Fikry, now inciting sectarian hatred in our public and private spaces, was granted political asylum. So was Abu Qatada. So was Anas al-Liby. So was Mohammad al-Massari, Omar Bakri Mohammad and Yasser al-Siri. Such people should not be allowed in. If, as 99% of us believe, it is just to deny someone entrance to a country because they are ill-educated or otherwise unemployable it is fair to refuse them if they are unfriendly and dangerous. If people want to establish an Islamic state I urge them to stay in nations where such opinions find favour or, if they live elsewhere, move.
Others, though, will stay here and others will mature. As Green and others have proved, even bourgeois Englishmen turn into Islamists. Their activities should be opposed. Where it is within the jurisdiction of officials to obstruct their propagandising this should be achieved. Otherwise it is our job. It was good to see a protest greet Abu Usamah when he spoke at Brunel University and such activism should be more widespread. People never seem to have trouble mobilising demonstrations against nationalists and Nazis whose audiences are considerably smaller so there is no good excuse for not taking action here.
This is a matter of pride, not just self-preservation. If a lodger strode into your flat and started deriding the furniture; making plans to replace it with their own and speculating about forcing you to cook their meals and wash their pants you would take it as an affront. The behaviour of these clerics is similarly insulting, and our acceptance of it has demeaned us. Asserting the worth of our culture; the barbarity of their ideas and, crucially, our right to speak about them as we wish should be done with an assurance that proves we are not chumps or chickens.
It is also a matter of basic decency. I write as I listen to Anne Briggs and think of finishing a book that I have been enjoying. Later, I will venture out to help preparations for a Nativity play with a very nice group of men and women. It strikes me that all of these activities would be difficult, dangerous or impossible to achieve nations in like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. I’ll be damned if people in my vicinity get away with applauding the fact.