Tag Archives: Extremism

Critique of Government’s Latest ‘Anti-Terror’ Laws

Abdul Wahid here gives a short critique of the latest ‘anti-terror’ laws and it doesn’t take a legal mastermind to see how these new laws are going to be used to ratchet up the pressure on the Muslims of the UK.

Here is a link to a news article on the new laws, I think most of us seeing new laws being proposed nearly every year turn off but these latest ones include some new and frightening powers for the government to use.

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2017/jul/15/law-to-be-changed-so-terror-offenders-jail-terms-can-be-lengthened

He wrote:

“This is a classic example of the ‘injustice’ in the legal system.

Firstly, enacting a law that allow sentences viewed as ‘too lenient’ to be extended by the appeal court for serious and emotive crimes such as murder, rape and the ‘most serious terrorist offences’. (What does that mean? Murder is murder, and implying a political motive in some cases but not others means you have just politicised the law).

Secondly, extending the scope of that law to apply to much more vacuous and politicised acts – such as ‘ supporting extremist organisations, encouraging acts of terror’. What constitutes ‘support’ and ‘encouragement’ in terms of legal thresholds? Who as yet has defined ‘extremist’? Without robust definitions all laws become arbitrary. This classic sign of a politicised legal system, with parallel streams of justice for those who think differently.

This reminds me of security states in other parts of the world, where people could be serving a sentence of a political offence, and they are retried or resentenced years later.

It concerns me that some criminals will get longer sentences than other just by the tabloid press or 24/7 news media whipping up populist sentiment after a trial, whilst current laws prevent media interference in trials.

Of course all secular laws change with the wind. Secularists think of this as a strength, because blatantly unjust laws of the past are now repealed.

But Islam’s strength is that its legal code is not easy to manipulate. It is not public opinion that we seek in justice, but Allah’s Opinion on any given matter.

Speaking about the Islamic Shariah at the trial of Warren Hastings, the political philosopher Edmund Burke spoke of the ‘Mahomedan law, which is binding upon all, from the crowned head to the meanest subject; a law interwoven with a system of the wisest, the most learned, and most enlightened jurisprudence that perhaps ever existed in the world’.

Bukhari narrates from our mother ‘Aisha, may Allah be please with her that Usamah ibn Zaid (may Allah be please with him and his father) approached the Prophet ﷺ on behalf of a woman (from a noble, rich family in her tribe who had committed theft). The Prophet ﷺ said, “The people before you were destroyed because they used to inflict the legal punishments on the poor and forgive the rich. By Him in Whose Hand my soul is! If Fatima (the beloved daughter of the Prophet ﷺ) did that (i.e. stole), I would cut off her hand.” i.e. You do not apply laws selectively – either on the poor and not the rich; nor on the unpopular but let off the popular.”

Glenn Greenwald – Attacks on the West

‘It is always stunning when a country that has brought violence and military force to numerous countries acts shocked and bewildered when someone brings a tiny fraction of that violence back to that country…

The issue here is not justification. The issue is causation. Every time one of these attacks occurs — from 9/11 on down — Western governments pretend that it was just some sort of unprovoked, utterly “senseless” act of violence caused by primitive, irrational, savage religious extremism inexplicably aimed at a country innocently minding its own business. They even invent fairy tales to feed to the population to explain why it happens: they hate us for our freedoms.’

-Glenn Greenwald following the attack on Canadian parliament 2014

5Pillars – CAGE Declines Invitation To Conference Organised By Prevent-Funded Group

CAGE’s Asim Qureishi

 

Taken from the 5Pillars news website – http://5pillarsuk.com/2017/01/04/cage-declines-invitation-to-conference-organised-by-prevent-funded-group/

Asim Qureshi, of the advocacy group CAGE, writes an open letter to Imams Online declining an invitation to appear at an upcoming conference organised by the group which was recently exposed as having received Prevent funding.

The Imams Online Digital Summit in partnership with Google will take place at Google HQ in London on the 11th January 2017.

Speakers include Shaykh Imtiyaz Damiel of the Abu Hanifah Foundation, Mufti Abdur Rahman Mangera of the Rayyan Institute, journalist Remona Aly, Dr Bilal Hassam of British Muslim TV, Imam Qari Muhammad Asim of Leeds Makkah Mosque, Nick Pickles of Twitter UK, Karim Palant of Facebook, Naomi Gummer of Google UK, Shaukat Warraich of Faith Associates, Dr Shiraz Maher, Matt Collins, Director – Prevent Delivery Unit, Akeela Ahmed, Advisor Cross Government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred, Professor Tahir Abbas, Senior Research Fellow – RUSI, Imam Adam Kelwick and Ustadha Khola Hasan.

The following is an abridged version of a letter to one of the organisers that Asim Qureshi published on his Facebook page:

Dear brother Adam Kelwick,

Assalaamualaykum

Jazakallahkhayr for your invitation to join you at the Imams Online Digital Summit at the Google HQ in London. I appreciate you trying to engage with those who take a principled stance, conceptually and practically, against Prevent. My colleague Moazzam Begg met you in the past and mentioned how supportive you were of our work – barakallahfeek…

It is important to acknowledge from the beginning, that CAGE is unwilling to lend support to policies that harm the civil liberties or human rights of a single individual – not matter how distasteful the person may be. This is how rights work: they are either for all, or for none.

Our principled stance against Prevent is not simply situated in our current critique of its ‘science’ and modalities – but rather it comes from learning about the joint experiences of our forebears. When we speak to colleagues who fought for black civil rights in America, they warn us that Prevent/CVE sounds exactly like the US government’s COINTELPRO programme (please read Arun Kundnani’s book ‘The Muslims are Coming’). Our colleagues in South Africa are constantly making their own links between Prevent/CVE and Apartheid – they say that everything that we are seeing in the UK was done to them. The list of historical violations goes on. We find ourselves standing up for a cause that many stood up for previously, and like them, we do not take the excessive castigation of the state or the media as a sign that we are losing the argument – rather it is a sign of their weakness that they only ever rely on ad hominem attacks, rather than engaging directly with the concerns we raise.

imams-online-digital-conference

Dear brother Adam – please understand that the issue with Prevent is not just about a few bad cases here and there, it is about the entire structure from its epistemology to its implementation. Experts from around the world (all of whom are involved in social justice movements with no links to the security industry) tell us that Prevent is wrong in its science. As someone with a legal background myself, the notion that you can have a statutory superstructure that is implemented to operate in a pre-crime space by making public sector workers and the charity sector into the eyes and ears of the state is beyond wrong. You know full well how this becomes a mandate for everyday bigotry to manifest itself on a nationwide level. The government tells us that in 2015, 4000 referrals were made to Channel, 2000 of whom were Muslim – an indicator for them that the policy is evenhanded. Let us be real: that is 2000 out of 3 million Muslims, as opposed to 2000 out of 57 million non-Muslims. A simple calculation will tell us that it means a Muslim is 20 times more likely to be referred to Channel for deradicalisation than a non-Muslim. The degree of policy, legislation and securitisation is completely disproportionate to the threat.

I understand that you have concerns with Prevent, and I very much appreciate you expressing them publicly. I think the two points you made in your Facebook post are well made and need to be teased out further. However, going back to who we as communities choose to work with, it does remain surprising that you would still choose to associate with the event at Google.

Google is not some evil entity set out to systematically harm Muslims and Islam, but when we consider who it works with on the issue of CVE, its perspective becomes all too transparent for communities. They are not simply a neutral venue devoid of politics, but rather have thrown in their lot with a specific narrative of counter-terrorism – one rooted in the epistemology of Prevent/CVE. The issue of whether the event is funded by Prevent becomes meaningless, as in this case if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Google Ideas, recently re-named “Jigsaw”, and the Google Next Foundation have partnered in the past with the Quilliam Foundation (in particular Maajid Nawaz), and supported their work to formulate their own CVE programme known as “Against Violent Extremism” (AVE). AVE is managed by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). Aside from ISD’s worrying links to prominent US neo-conservatives linked to what the Center for American Progress calls the “Islamophobia Network”, senior members of ISD who specifically work on Prevent/CVE issues have come from the Quilliam Foundation (Erin Saltman and Rashad Ali). In the case of Rashad Ali, he has worked for the Henry Jackson Society in the past. The programmes that they have worked on together enunciate Prevent-speak completely, and so they are not neutral voices in this field, but rather regurgitate that there is a significant threat, a narrative that is fear-based and hearkens to a security state.

This is not about non-engagement with the government. CAGE has engaged in multiple forums with them on many occasions, and will continue to seek to do so. This is about how we engage with the politics of those with whom we would not normally partner, such as neo-conservative think tanks. It is worrying that with everything social justice movements have been through, some Muslims still feel it is appropriate to do so. It is perhaps more disconcerting that Ulama would choose to work with such organisations and programmes once neo-conservative links and connections have surfaced.

From what you have mentioned in your post on FaceBook, I think it is genuinely incredible that you are looking to challenge media misrepresentations of Muslims, but make little mention of how this is often led by government narratives on ‘extremism’ such as David Cameron’s Munich speech promoting “muscular liberalism” as a panacea to problems within Muslim communities…

The Imams Online event ultimately does not provide a neutral platform for debate and discussion. A number of those who are involved have some link to Prevent/CVE, or the national security structure of the UK. For that reason, I will refuse your invitation to attend. The people in the room are for the most part not policy makers, they are individuals and organisations who are playing a role in furthering the notion of pre-crime prevention within the parameters of a discredited framework, a position that we find to be wholly unconscionable.

adam-kelwick
Adam Kelwick,

When Imams Online was launched, a number of scholars reached out to me concerned at the response to a question by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. When asked about the sources of funding for the organisation, he mentioned – and this is paraphrased – that government funding should not mean that there are issues with the project. It is important to acknowledge that this is a problem – whether it is Faith Associates or Imams Online – as communities seeking to engage with those speaking in their name, need to know that, as a matter of perception and fact, there are no conflicts of interest. Shaykh Hamza’s unwise words at the recent RIS conference are indicative of how when our scholars speak on matters from a perspective that does not take into account victim/survivor communities, the damage can be great.

Dialogue is not an issue for us at CAGE – we know it is necessary – especially when speaking to our own community. We would welcome sitting with you to discuss what meaningful conference might look like, but cannot engage where the terms of reference are based on the structural and epistemic violence of the state. Hence why the IO conference is not one where simply asking a question or challenging from the floor will produce any real dialogue.

I urge us, as a community, to listen to the voices of the disenfranchised. To seek the betterment of our situation, we need to think about the rights of all, and put into place structures within our own communities that help to engender trust. We cannot do this while the shadow of government funding and its false epistemology hangs in the air.

I appreciate the time you have taken to read this.

Jazakallamullahkhayr, wasalaamualaykum

Asim

THE PROPAGANDA GENIUS OF “WHAT BRITISH MUSLIMS REALLY THINK”

http://www.islam21c.com/politics/the-propaganda-genius-of-what-british-muslims-really-think/

WHAT BRITISH MUSLIMS REALLY THINK

Written by Ayshah Syed, article originally published by Islam21C

On Wednesday night Channel 4 documentaries aired “What British Muslims Really Think”. According to the host, Trevor Phillips, it is a unique new survey [which] reveals how British Muslims really think. And I can honestly say it was a treat. There is so much that can be said about this thinly veiled call to arms against British Muslims and so much to comment on the political implications, criticisms on methodology of collecting findings, problems with sourcing etc. But that can be found in numerous other articles written by a great many political voices across a great many organisations.[1][2]

For me though, as I sat there aghast, watching this appalling and gross abuse of media power, my mind was reeling from the craftsmanship at work here. Maybe because the literary realm and the power of words is my field, or maybe because of my affinity for Tafsīr (the careful analysis of words, meaning and context), or maybe because it was blatantly obvious, I saw before me an artistic piece rich with persuasive conventions, suggestive language, rhetorical techniques, sensory devices and strategic cinematography all efficiently – oh so efficiently, no second to waste; no words allowed that didn’t pull their weight – pushing an agenda of moral panic, fear mongering, and purposeful damage to social and community cohesion, reinforcing stereotypes and prejudices about Muslim communities.[3]

As such, when the editorial team asked if I wanted to write a response to the documentary, I pitched my angle – I asked to go right back to my university days as this should have been shown then, this was exactly what we should have studied. This was a lesson on using language, structure and tone to create a world of pure imagination, persuading the audience it was true, and rallying troops for a daunting end.

Language

On Wednesday night we shared an article from the Guardian newspaper. Its opening lines were:

“What do British Muslims really think? That’s what Trevor Phillips asks in a Channel 4 documentary later this week. It reminds me of the question that I and many other Brits of colour are often asked: “But where are you really from?”

The question here implies that, whatever your Muslim neighbours may tell you, don’t believe them.”

The documentary was littered with such phrases. Under a guise of curiosity or innocent speculation, the constant suggestive statements slowly but persistently nudged the audience into adopting suspicion, fear and even anger over the growing “Mozlem Epidemic”.[4]

It begins.

“Just over 10 years ago … terror struck Britain. None of the bombers survived, but the menace they posed did not perish with them. […] It’s the extremist adherents of one particular faith, Islam, who have created a major fault-line in this country. […] Until now experts, community leaders and politicians of all stripes have tried to reassure the public that extremist views are held only by a tiny minority of British Muslims.”

As the introductory message, riddled with negative, fear-inducing lexis, is set forth, Phillips leaves the viewers with a hankering suspicion that they may be wrong; that the truth of the matter is that this is not in fact the case. Just as we would say ‘You may think it’s easy, but…’ or ‘She seemed really nice on the phone, but…’ or ‘I know the food looks nice, but…’ to begin an alleged expository documentary with a statement such as this sets a standard of expectation to the contrary; that initial beliefs have been flawed; that everyone has ‘tried’ to reassure the public that only a ‘tiny minority’ of British Muslims have extreme views but the fact of the matter is that the ‘terror [that has] struck Britain’ stems from ‘adherents from one particular faith, Islām’. We are now 1 minute into the documentary. Just another 46 minutes of this masterpiece to go.

We then have David Cameron, our Prime Minister, the leader of this nation, in his famous speech offering support to those ‘reforming, moderate voices’ that want to ‘reclaim their religion’. And then Phillips asks:

‘But is David Cameron right to say that most British Muslims share the same values as non-Muslims? And do they reject extremism and violent action in the same way as the whole of British society?’

I would never have thought that to question something David Cameron had said would be to paint Muslims in an even worse light. Apparently I was wrong. Phillips’ leading question here, typical of persuasive and suggestive speech, a question that would be entirely inadmissible as an interrogative question for its implied answer, tells the viewer the answer to expect. “No. Cameron is not right. No. British Muslims do not share the same values. No. They do not reject extremism and violent action. No. They are not the same as the whole of British society.” Already, in 1 minute 30 seconds, Phillips has succinctly and effectively drawn a dividing line between British Muslims and ‘the whole of British society’; he has perpetuated an ‘us and them’ belief.

As if to demonstrate his credentials and the subsequent credibility of the documentary he gives us a touching story of how his work has contributed to the invention of the word ‘Islamophobia’ and how he therefore must be an objective, honest, unbiased, observer, here to deliver facts on ‘the results of a unique new survey [which] reveal how British Muslims themselves answer these questions’.

‘Our findings will shock many’, he says. In other words, in case you couldn’t guess from my leading question: David Cameron is wrong. He suggests that this survey illustrates the ‘looming threat to our very way of life’. A survey on the opinion of British Muslims bears the signs of a looming threat to our very way of life. Looming. Threat. Were a viewer to turn away at any point in this documentary they would have been fed negativity after negativity, fear upon fear, and suspicion against their fellow British Muslims. From the outset, this documentary has a single purpose, and it is committed to fulfilling it. Bear in mind, we do not yet know the findings and we are exactly 2 minutes in.

As much as I would like to, I will not give a second by second account of this documentary. Suffice to say: through use of language and linguistic techniques, through emphasis, through effective pauses, through the very choice of words, Phillips portrays an image of a villainous, threatening band of terrorists living among us.

The best horror film begins on a presumption of normalcy: an ordinary home, a nice street, friendly neighbours. It is when this is inverted and subverted that we feel the most fear. You would expect to find horror at a haunted house, so what you get was coming to you. But the poor unsuspecting citizen going about their daily business who is suddenly ambushed by their butchers, bakers and candlestick makers they had known all their life is all the more pitiable. This is what Phillips ultimately warns the viewers of.

We are quite literally introduced to local butchers in South London while Phillips narrates that this survey gave a true depiction of what Muslims think because most non-Muslims only meet Muslims at work or out shopping. The poor butchers explained how they had been working there for years and always laughed and joked with their multi-racial customers, only to have Phillips swiftly add:

“But this isn’t exactly the encounter where people share their innermost thoughts.”

Read: this survey is true because what your Muslim colleagues or servicemen tell you are lies, the enemy lives among you. These friendly butchers aren’t sharing their innermost thoughts.

‘One place ICM researchers visited is Luton. The 2011 census records some 50,000 Muslims living here.’

The correct, and almost natural, manner in constructing this sentence is as follows:

“One place ICM researchers visited is Luton. The 2011 census records some 50,000 Muslims livingthere.”

His reference to Luton was distanced. It therefore follows that his use of indicative noun should also be the distanced ‘there’. However he opts for ‘here’. Why? As an isolated occasion, this means nothing. But following the ‘looming’ ‘threat’ of deceiving Muslims, the word ‘here’ serves to create a sense of imminence and proximity. They. are. here. Fifty thousand of them. Here. Give no chance to non-residents of Luton feeling safe thinking “at least those terrible people are over there”. No. Wherever you are, if you are watching this, they are ‘here’ in your vicinity.

He assures the viewers he knows ‘good’ British Muslims exist and gives a cursory nod at Nadia Hussain before immediately cutting to a forbidding and terrifying memory of a great tragedy in Britain, the culprits of which came from ‘just fifteen minutes away’. Again, imminence and proximity.

And again, Phillips, almost as if to say ‘Do you see, as I said:’

“The Channel 4 survey explored what Britain’s 3 million Muslims really think on a range of issues.”

Not what they say, not what they claim to be like, but what they really think, what they are really like. Continually drawing parallels with the good exterior and the contrasting evil reality.

Nadia vs. Terrorists.

What British Muslims say vs. What British Muslims think.

Good vs. Evil.

Solely the depiction of statistics on beliefs held by British Muslims regarding homosexuality, suicide bombing, violence, attitudes towards women, perpetuated this notion. Figures such as the 4% of British Muslims who demonstrated some form of sympathy to ‘sensitive matters’ were put on centre stage. The same clip was replayed of Martin Boon, Director of ICM saying

“That implies that just over 100,000 Muslims in the United Kingdom have some form of sympathy with violent acts.”

I wonder what the question was for 100,000 Muslims to have allowed themselves to be depicted as such barbarians.

I would like to focus on what the statistics were. 4% of British Muslims vs. 1% of the rest. That is 99% of the whole population have no sympathy for violent acts and 96% of British Muslims have no sympathy for violent acts. Stop the presses. We have a looming threat. Whereas the 1% of thewhole population is described as ‘just a handful’ the 4% are given a substantive figure of 100,000. If we are talking figures, I would like figures. If we are talking handfuls, then that’s 4 handfuls of British Muslims with dodgy views.

“Britain’s political elite, both left and right, have preferred to believe that only a very small number of Britain’s Muslims sympathise with Islamist terrorism”, Phillips says in an almost mocking tone. Oh these children, believing things again, are we? “The survey suggests otherwise.”

– “Preferred to believe” i.e. blind faith, head in the sand, not facing facts.

– “only a very small number” i.e. “The survey says!” wrong.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

“The survey also suggests that everyone who has pinned their hopes on the rise of liberal and reforming British Muslim voices is in for a disappointment. Those voices are nowhere near as influential or as numerous as they need to be to make an impact.”

Disheartening words. Not just for the non-Muslim viewership but for the Muslims who spend every day working hard to dispel the myth of a brutal Islām, who work hard every day to demonstrate the beauty of Islām, who step outside identifiably Muslim living to be an example of the truth of Islām.

As mentioned earlier. I am not here to contest the accuracy of results or methodology. I write as a viewer and of the destruction this programme caused to a fractured community, of Muslims and non-Muslims alike, which is trying to build a society of cohesion and unity. To trust one another and believe the best in one another. What has happened with the ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude?[5]What has happened to ‘united we stand, divided we fall’? This programme is a shame to those quintessential values made famous by legends. Every word of this documentary fuelled a fire that people toil every day to put out. Every word created fear of the other. Every word created a ‘chasm’ amongst the British.

If you watched this and came away with a negative perception of your British Muslim neighbours, watch it again. This time look out for the narrative being pushed. I have only covered 10 minutes of the documentary. There is so much more to be said.

“Words are powerful forces of nature/ they are destruction/ they are nourishment.”

It is evident which Trevor Phillips chose.

Cinematography

The directors of this documentary must have had fun. They tried their hand at an eerie reconstruction straight out of Watchdog. I can honestly say I feared for the lady’s life and well-being as she walked in a suspect part of the neighbourhood. She is filmed from a shaky-cam perspective as if she were the target of some perversion or murderous intent. She knocks on a door. A man opens it and lets her in. Don’t go in! I want to scream. She walks into a Dickensian setting. It is a dim, unsettling, uninhabited shack of a home. Paint peels off the walls and banisters. He ushers her into the back of the house. She timidly asks if she can ask him some questions. He never speaks. He only ever stares.

This is the only Muslim interviewee the viewers see. Thank you directors, for that choice selection of cast and setting to represent every British Muslim interviewed. Every piece of data you mention will be associated with this gentleman who lives in a bleak house. Even were every word said about Muslims in this documentary positive and comforting or indeed encouraging, it would be shattered by the image of this suspicious man plastered in every person’s mind.

Other spells of genius include a voice over of:

– “underneath these surface attitudes the trends are far less encouraging for those who believe in integration” accompanying an image of said Muslim man.

– “Muslims incorrectly or erroneously conflating what’s happening in Israel-Palestine with Jewish people who have nothing to do with Israel-Palestine or Zionism” accompanying an image of a bearded elder gentleman walking in Britain.

–  “What if that framework (Qur’ānic guidance) collides with the values of wider society?” accompanying an image of a mosque in Britain.

– “the kinds of [terrible, abhorrent, violent, asocial] attitudes revealed by our survey” accompanying an image of men praying in congregation in a mosque.

– “I […] just got the aspirations of British Muslims wrong” accompanying an image of a mosque.

– “There is a problem with this live and let live, laissez faire, approach. Our survey revealed the more people hankered after a separate life the more sympathetic they were to violence and extremism.” following a scene of a Muslim father, mother and children walking on the streets of Britain.

– “Attitudes to violence” accompanying an image of Mr Muslim Man

– “The survey is showing us the emergences of […] a nation within the nation, where many hold different values of behaviour from the majority” accompanying a shot of a marketplace frequented by Muslim shoppers.

Quite unashamedly, the Editors attribute these negative stereotypes to images of the average, every day Muslim. They conflate extreme, violent and intolerant views with what is identifiably Muslim and in so doing push to indoctrinate the minds of the viewers to believe as such too.

Structure

The documentary “What British Muslims Really Think” has proven itself an example of expert movie making. When I was 12 years old learning about Nazi propaganda and its power over the German people, I could not understand how people could be so foolish to be sucked in by what leaflets said, what emissions said, what people said about their fellow citizens and how people could possibly act upon such propaganda to commit heinous acts of ethnic cleansing against the Jewish people. This documentary is exactly that, and the people who are taken in by Trevor Phillips’ words are not as foolish as the 12 year old me thought. They are trusting of what they believe is unbiased reporting for the benefit of their community. Documentaries such as this propagate an ideology of hate and intolerance towards ordinary citizens and they encourage a militia-mentality in British citizens against their fellow Muslim Britons.

After almost an hour of subliminal messages, not-so-subtle discrimination and incessant fear-mongering, Phillips reviews the threat to Britain. “There are now more than 3 million Muslims in Britain […] Britain faces a huge challenge.” He asks: “What are we going to do about it?”

He goes on to say,

“This is not just the responsibility of the government. To stand a chance of success the whole of Britain have to set aside the live and let live philosophy […] and reassert liberal values […We could close our eyes and hope that our problems will vanish] or we could seize the initiative.”

The following words brought a chill to my bones:

‘If anything the Prime Minister’s plans just don’t go far enough. The evidence tells me that we need a much more muscular approach.”

Thank you for encouraging EDL Jack and Racist Jill to take matters into their own hands and do away with the live and let live philosophy. Thank you for pushing out an hour long documentary on the evils of what you believe Muslims think ‘beneath the surface’ and for concluding that our already fearful neighbours need to take a much more muscular approach. For a moment I feared for all my family members and all the innocent and vulnerable Muslims whom your words will have an impact on.

Then I remembered the words of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā),

“Fear not. I am with you; I hear and I see.”[6]

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/12/what-do-muslims-think-skewed-poll-wont-tell-us

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/trevor-phillips-research-on-british-muslims-is-dangerous-and-wrong-no-wonder-islamophobia-is-on-the-a6980331.html

[3]http://www.asianimage.co.uk/feeds/14423403._If_I_d_known_Trevor_Philips_would_be_fronting_the_programme_I_would_have_never_have_taken_part_/?ref=twt

[4] Arun Kundnani’s book entitled The Muslims are coming! explores this fear and the rise in the Islamophobia industry. Cf. http://www.islam21c.com/politics/the-muslims-have-come/

[5] http://www.islam21c.com/politics/manufacturing-islamophobia/

[6] Al-Qur’ān, 20:46

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MOTHER OF ‘COOKER BOMB’ 4 YEAR OLD ‘EXTREMIST’ IN HER OWN WORDS

Original article from Muslim Mamas Facebook page, where the sister shared her initial concerns, sought help and was put in touch with some of the people who aided her in her difficulties.

I must admit, when this first story first came to light I assumed at first it was some sort of parady, a joke over how ridiculous Channel and Prevent activities had become but it was sadly entirely serious.

Start of Article>

Assalamu’alaikum,

Some of you may have heard about the four year old boy, whose nursery wanted to send him to a deradicalisation programme for mispronouncing ‘cucumber’. Well, that was my son. I’ve been a member of Muslim Mamas for a while now and wanted to share my story with you all.

“He told us it was a cooker bomb”

One afternoon back in January 2016, when I dropped my little boy to nursery, the nursery manager and deputy manager called me into a side room and presented me with a document, together with some drawings that my son had drawn. I recognised the drawing straight away, as it was a recent one. It was of a man with a knife. My son had told me it was ‘daddy cutting a cucumber’ so I told the school managers this straight away. They were unconvinced.

“Well, that’s not what he said to us. He told us it was a cooker bomb,” the nursery manager replied.

I was blindsided by this. My son has never talked about bombs at home. I was so confused and upset. At that point, I didn’t immediately associate his pronunciation of cucumber as “cukkabum” with a “cooker bomb”. I’d never even heard of such a thing.

cucumber-bomb-640x384

The school then showed me two other scribbles by my son. They said he talked about “pulling a string in Africa.” I explained that my neighbour’s cat used to visit our home frequently and my children often played with the cat by pulling a string. Sadly, the poor cat got run over and, not wanting upset them by telling them that he had died, I told the kids that the cat had gone to Africa to be with his family.

“Prove yourself innocent”

Again, the nursery manager dismissed my explanation and told me that they were referring me to Channel. I had no idea what Channel was, but assumed it was social services. I asked the manager if this was the case and she told me that yes, they did work together and that they would help me raise my children in the ‘right’ way. By this time I was in tears and pleaded with her not to refer me. But her reply did little to console me.

“Your kids might not be taken off you. You can prove yourself innocent,” she said.

I was distraught! I continued to plead with her. She asked me what he was watching on television and I told her that he liked his superheroes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, but I would put a stop to this immediately if it would help (and I actually did go home and do this!). I even banned their Disney movies, as the nursery manager described one of my son’s drawings as that of a train blowing up. Incidentally, this is the opening scene in Toy Story 3.

Nothing was going to help me that day. She told me I’d already been referred and I had to “sign the referral form”, which I declined to do. I couldn’t – it just felt wrong to sign a document I did not agree with. My son, according to the nursery’s own description is a very ‘gentle’ child. I couldn’t accept the things that they were now suggesting about him.

I left the meeting and went home. My husband was away, so I telephoned him and explained the situation. He told me not to worry and reminded me that our boy always says “cukkabum” when he means “cucumber,” so obviously they’d misheard him. It then became clear to me what had happened.

“Cucumber, not cooker bomb”

I called the nursery manager immediately, with a renewed sense of hope and told her about his mispronunciation of the word “cucumber”. My son was still at the nursery and I told her to go and show him a cucumber so that it all becomes clear. However, the nursery manager was not willing to discuss things any further and told me that my son had already been “referred” and it was out of her hands. She then asked me again about signing the document and I once again refused. She informed me that she would “have to put down a reason”.

I felt really pressured but I’d spoken to my husband and my sister and they both advised me against signing something I am not comfortable with. So I held my ground and I told her firmly I wasn’t going to sign it as I didn’t agree with it. I hung up at the point and felt really worried about how I was going to find someone who could help me. I felt bullied and was ready to ask the police for help. I didn’t realise then what I realise now: this is state supported bullying.

I frantically called people who might be able to help me. I knew the school was wrong. Had I not been a Muslim Asian, I wouldn’t be in this position. I even messaged Tell Mama and was ignored.

Teachers now legally obliged to report concerns around terrorism

In Luton, where we live, you’d think it was easy to find help but there is no local organisation to help our community in situations like this. It’s actually more like the opposite. People don’t want to get involved, even though they know it’s wrong. They’re scared of the repercussions.

Eventually, I was put in touch with Rehana Faisal, who is a local Muslim community activist. She came round to see me and I went through everything with her. She asked me if I knew what Channel was. I told her I didn’t. It was Rehana who told me that Channel was a de-radicalisation programme and that teachers are now legally obliged to report concerns around terrorism. Apparently, this is called the “PREVENT duty”. I was horrified. She called a local solicitor, Attiq Malik of Liberty Law Solicitors, for some advice and the two of us then went to the nursery together for another meeting.

Rehana talked the nursery manager through what had happened and tried to encourage her to apply some common sense and recognise that the referral was misguided. The nursery manager again stated that the referral was a done deal. Rehana asked the manager if there was something else that had triggered this referral because it seemed ridiculous that they had taken such drastic action over a child’s mispronunciation. Did they have any other concerns about the parents? You see, I wasn’t new at this nursery. I had a seven year relationship with them. Thus far, it had always been a positive one. In November 2015, there was a parent-teacher evening and I was told not to bother coming in because my son was so lovely and gentle.

Questioning children appropriately

The manager told Rehana there was nothing else of concern apart from this one picture, to which my son couldn’t mispronounced “cucumber”. To be clear, my son never said the word “bomb”. This whole incident was never about what my child said or drew. It was about their perception of what he said. My son did not say the word bomb, they did. And they repeated it to him in their questioning. As Rehana pointed out to them, had the staff member he was speaking to questioned him appropriately, without leading questions, they would have realised what he was actually saying. In fact, he, according to their own records told them that a ‘cukkabum’ was something you cut!

“Did Jimmy Saville look like a paedophile?”

At this point in our meeting, the nursery manager repeatedly asserted her position that the referral toChannel had already been made. I was really upset at this point and was crying. I asked her, “Do I look like a terrorist to you?!”

The manager, looking directly at me replied, “Well, did Jimmy Saville look like a paedophile?”

I was shocked. Rehana witnessed this exchange and couldn’t believe how unprofessional the nursery manager was. Rehana informed the manager that we had sought legal advice before attending the meeting and if the nursery chose to pursue this, then so would we. We would go to the press if necessary. We then walked out of the meeting.

That evening, Rehana and Attiq came to see me show their support. Attiq then introduced me to someone from an organisation called PREVENTwatch and discussed what could be done next. They helped me draft a very detailed letter, which I gave to the nursery. They also told me to unblock the kiddy channels and assured me it was normal for kids to be into Power Rangers and the like!

The nursery manager on numerous occasions tried to speak to me alone over the next few days but I just didn’t trust her or anyone at the nursery anymore. Speaking to them was the last thing I wanted to do after being treated this way.

Backtracking

Soon after, I was given a letter by the nursery manager that said they had never made a referral but that everything they had said to me was according to government guidelines. This was a blatant lie. I know this because they had, possibly accidentally, given me a document which clearly states that my four year old has been referred. They had clearly backtracked and I strongly believe this was because they realised, I now had support and backing.

The last few weeks have been a steep learning curve for me. I didn’t know much about Channel or Prevent but I do now. Channel is supposed to be a ‘consensual’ programme but my son’s nursery tried to bully me into it. That’s not right. The whole policy isn’t right. It is not only flawed, it is also deeply discriminatory.

Don’t Take It Lying Down

I decided to talk about what happened to me in the hope that it will help others who find themselves in such a position. I want people to know that they must not put up with it. I originally spoke to the BBC Asian network and the story was then picked up by other news outlets. After that I was on the morning program on BBC 3 Counties Radio and Inspire fm. I also gave an interview to Luton on Sunday and the Guardian and was on ITV news Anglia.

I hope that this helps people to understand how flawed PREVENT is. It is a policy which is supposed to be making us safer, but it is hardly doing that. I felt scared, intimidated and discriminated against. It cannot carry on. I hope by speaking up myself, I will encourage others to also speak up.

My son is still at this nursery. Some of you might think that it’s a strange decision to leave him there. To say I feel awkward is an understatement. Everyday, I drop my son off to people that I no longer trust. However, my son loves nursery, his friends and his keyworker, who wasn’t present in any of the meetings that the nursery managers had with me. I’m not sure who flagged my son as a ‘radical’. His keyworker is so lovely and always has pleasant things to say to me. I’ve decided I don’t want to disrupt my sons life due to the incompetence of some prejudiced staff members.

Teachers as Spies

While I’m upset at the way the teachers in my son’s school dealt with this matter, I feel sympathy for the teachers who have been forced to act as “security services” in schools. They are given 1-2 hours training and are expected to spot the very complex signs of “radicalisation”. Unfortunately, too many of these “signs” focus on the Muslim Community.

So that’s my story. I’m still struggling to come to terms with what has happened but I want to keep talking about it, and I pray that this helps others.  I never dreamed I could be treated this way, in my own country, as a British Muslim.

If any of you find yourself in this position – GET HELP. PREVENTwatch is a national organisation who can help. If you are in Luton, you can look up Rehana Faisal and Attiq Malik. Speak to them.

As a community, we all need to speak up. Our “community leaders” and elected representatives need to speak up. Let our teachers teach rather than behave like the police or like spies!

I want to end by expressing gratitude for the help and support I’ve received from family and friends, through this horrid ordeal! As for the nursery, I am yet to receive an apology from them.

MISUSE OF THE EXTREMIST LABEL BY MUSLIM COMMUNITY LEADERS

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Ghulam Esposito Haydar highlights the problems with Muslim leaders and activists parroting labels such as “extremist”, which subsequently legitimises the government’s Islamophobic agenda.

It is rather concerning how many Muslims are willing to use the term “extremist” in the context of challenging beliefs, when the term itself is ill-defined, and indiscriminately used by the government to group an array of normative Islamic beliefs, ranging from the conservative to the political.

Without challenging the arbitrary use of this popular but problematic label, we are merely succumbing to the dominant narrative on terrorism. Muslim activists and leaders who do use this term, should realise that they are legitimising the government’s script that Islam is the problem, and it is a “conveyor belt” to terrorism.

To make it clearer, there are genuine “extremist” views that exist but they need to be explained by Muslim scholars and have been done in the past. The existing Islamic definition of “extremism” is “ghuluw”, i.e. extremism within religion, more specifically, the methodology of the group known as the “Khawarij”. Any intra-Muslim debate about “extremism” need only to refer to the classical orthodox understanding of Islam, and to some degree, a number of Muslims have.  It also needs to be made clear that the ideology in of itself is not the driving factor to terrorism. As Dr Salman Butt recently wrote on Islam21c:

“ISIS is a ‘perversion of Islam’, and those who support their ‘twisted ideology misinterpret the Qur’an’— which is factually correct — it is problematic if they fail to challenge the dangerous myth that the ideology or misreading of the Qur’an they condemn is what takes an otherwise ‘normal’ individual and pushes them towards political violence, in the first place. In other words, they are still blaming ideology instead of the host of actual, empirically-determined, causes of political violence, and perpetuating the same dangerous consequences as the rhetoric of the right-wing bigots.”

It is even more problematic when some Muslims regurgitate these stereotypes about their own identity, such as their religion having the propensity to cause terrorism if merely “misinterpreted”. Indeed, it is often easier to convince a non-Muslim of the fallacy of correlating non-violent “extremism” with terrorism, than it is to overturn some Muslims’ mental conditioning involving the myths surrounding “radicalisation”. Years of Islamophobic battering has taken its toll on the Muslim mind, rendering most of us automatically defensive and apologetic when it comes to “terrorism”, with very few people actually questioning statistical significance.

How can you say ideology doesn’t matter when they use ideology to justify their actions?

Many people may ask variations of the above question, since the overt displays of Islamic identity and practice is highlighted frequently by those wishing to push the fictitious conveyor belt theory. The answer is in the question itself: they use their “ideology to justify their actions”. There is a world of difference between a cause for something and a post-facto justification.

This is precisely why numerous academics have mentioned that ideology is incidental, not causative. If people who have decided to commit an act of political violence happen to be Christian, they will justify it using the language, imagery, metaphors, and ethical framework they are familiar with — Christianity, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, or the other so-called “Christian terrorist” organisations which we never hear of.

If they happen to be Buddhist, such as the militias in Myanmar slaughtering the Rohingya Muslims, then they will use Buddhist justifications. If Hindu terrorism, then Hindu justifications. If secular and non-religious, then separatist terrorism will be worded in neoliberal terminologies. And if they happen to be Muslim, then they will incidentally employ “Islamic justifications”.

This leads me onto my next point; why are Muslims supporting the government’s relentless interference in Muslim affairs through the lens of “extremism” and securitisation?

For example the recent announcement to regulate madrassas, and the £20 million investment into teaching English to “foreign” Muslim mothers because it will “raise the standards of our institutes” and help with “integration”?

Muslims who support this are misinformed, naive or deliberately malicious.

The ideologically neo-con driven government doesn’t care about “raising the standards” or “integration”.

To their credit, they’ve been very open in saying it has everything to do with combating “extremism” and “radicalisation”.

If Muslims are genuinely concerned about raising the standards of our religious institutes and about integration, it is strange that they have failed to raise this matter in the past, and lobbied for some positive action internally. Why does it have to take a neo-con agenda to shape the discourse, and in the process, demonise our legitimate religious beliefs in an attempt to effectively change them for certain Muslims to be concerned about standards and integration all of a sudden?

If certain Muslims believe standards and integration to be an issue independent of it falsely being markers for “extremism” and “radicalisation”, then they shouldn’t allow the government to use them as pawns to legitimise their current crusade against Muslims. They should set out their criteria with praiseworthy intentions and go about doing it in the correct way.

Ghulam Esposito Haydar is a Muslim activist, joint founder of Manchester New Muslim Network and a director of the Myriad Foundation.

@ghulamesposito