On the 8th of March, Fiyaz Mughal’s Faith Matters submitted written evidence to the Home Affairs Committee’s countering extremism inquiry. Written in an interestingly critical style, it certainly hit all the high notes from the perspective of the Muslim community.
For instance, it drew attention to the current Counter Extremism Strategy as having disproportionately focussed on the Muslim community “leading to claims that it renders Muslims a ‘suspect community’.” It highlights the problem of Home Office holding disproportionate power in defining “extremism” and that the definition should be the “product of scholarly debate”. Even the label “Islamism” comes in for criticism, noting it leads to McCarythism and alienation of partners that can “support the fight against violent extremism”.
A superficial reading certainly makes for a promising one.
But then we recall that this is a submission by Faith Matters, whose head is Fiyaz Mughal. If anything, this submission only further exposes his hypocrisy, political opportunism and the complete discrediting of his pet project Tell MAMA.
The Enemy of my Enemy
The submission notes that,
“A recent report on the Muslim Brotherhood operating in the UK identifies a number of organisations and their potential to be included as ‘non-violent extremists’. According to an article published in the RUSI Journal, such attempts to use ‘Islamism’ as an ideology that leads to terrorism reintroduces a ‘McCarthyism of the past’.”
This is all well and good except Mughal himself has perpetuated these very problems when it has suited him. In fact, Mughal last year joined ranks with notorious, discredited spin-doctor, the PREVENT-mouthpiece, anti-Muslimjournalist, Andrew Gilligan, after a failed PCC complaint against him. With the article targeting Sayeeda Warsi, naming Muddassar Ahmed an “extremist”, and smearing Iftikhar Awan for having “links with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood”, Fiyaz actively contributed to the formation of the “counter-entryism” element of the counter-extremism strategy. In Gilligan’s article, Mughal stated,
“I was deeply concerned about the kinds of groups some of the members had connections with, and some of the groups they were recommending be brought into government… It seemed to me to be a form of entryism, by people with no track record in delivering projects.”
This article was subsequently referenced by the Quilliam Foundation in their report on counter-extremism as an example of entryism, in the process demonstrating how Mughal and Quilliam reinforce each other’s narratives.
In a further twist, Tell MAMA’s co-chair is the pro-Israeli Richard Benson. This is significant because the Muslim Brotherhood report that the submission makes note of, identified the Muslim Council of Britain as one of the organisations shaped by the Brotherhood. In 2009, the Community Security Trust in its joint submission to the PREVENT inquiry focussed on “Islamists”, and explicitly went onto state:
“In the immediate aftermath of the London bombings, the Government sought to work through Muslim umbrella groups, such as the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Association of Britain, which are led byradical Islamists.”
In other words, the current co-chair of Tell MAMA was pursuing the very strategy which Faith Matters highlights as leading to McCarythism, denouncing Muslim organisations as being “radical Islamists”.
Mughal later in the year even turned to neocon-co-opted Nick Cohen to produce a puff piece attacking – you guessed it – “Islamists”.
The submission further makes a positive mention of STREET, and specifically, its funding being cut. STREET, founded by Abdul Haqq Baker was an outreach project assisting and guiding converts and Muslim gang members. Of relevance is the fact that it was the subject of Gilligan smears in 2012. The article drew on the neoconchoice Muslim Haras Rafiq, the failed businessman who is currently the managing director of Quilliam. And a friend of Mughal.
Gilligan again targeted Baker two years later in the context of Salafi “radicals” being used in the Channel deradlicalisation scheme.
No Different to Quilliam/HJS
This confusing submission however, is a smokescreen. It seems, behind closed doors, and in the right circles, Mughal is a PREVENT-supporter.
On the 3rd of March – five days before the submission – an event on Tackling Extremism in the UK was held by Westminster Briefing. Mughal was quite emphatically singing a different tune:
‘Prevent’ is becoming more problematic especially in the Muslim Community – they consider it intrusive in their daily lives – particularly with the new Govt. duty to report. I disagree – the environment is more complex, but I do think Prevent as a brand has become damaged.
In other words, for all intents and purposes, Mughal does back PREVENT, and does not regard it intrusive, nor discriminatory. These problems are merely “perceptions” and “myths” that the Muslim community seem to have. Note here that this is precisely the same spin adopted by both the Quilliam Foundation and the Henry Jackson Society.
His issue is that PREVENT as a “brand” is “damaged” and suggests another medium to trick the Muslim community into buying into the discredited Countering Violent Extremism discourse:
“Interfaith dialogues can get people around the table… People are more relaxed in interfaith groups – they can discuss stuff that normally they wouldn’t.”
The deceptive strategies to effect CVE agendas never cease to amaze.
With Tell MAMA aimed at the “soft-end” of counter-extremism, and his Faith Matters interfaith organisation operating further up the scale, his interfaith proposition makes for a lucrative opportunity.
The pertinent question remains however: how can someone who secretly buys into PREVENT – a strategy that has been slammed by hundreds of academics for demonizing Muslims – and colludes with neocons and anti-Muslim journalists, be involved in tackling Islamophobia?
Faith Matters, Tell MAMA and Fiyaz Mughal thoroughly devoid of credibility, are in no position, having collaborated with those who have tried unsuccessfully to marginalise mainstream organisations, and secretly advocated CVE policies, to pontificate from the side-lines at the expense of the Muslim minority.
The above discussion is important because increasingly, Mughal and Tell MAMA have moved into the role of controlling the discussion among Muslims. This function, as we shall see in the next piece, involves protecting those central to the enabling of political Islamophobia, and smearing genuine Muslim figures.