As a working class Muslim, I know what causes radicalisation. So why don’t these rich white men believe me?

Last week, the BBC invited me to discuss the causes of radicalisation on its politics show, This Week, with Andrew Neil, Alan Johnson and Michael Portillo – three white men who have never faced Islamophobia in their lives. I can only apologise to all the young, disaffected British Muslims I was representing.

Though I take full responsibility for my poor performance, the discussion itself was unproductive and represents everything that is wrong with the British discourse on radicalisation: the tendency is to generalise, filter our nuance and prioritise academic opinion over Muslims’ feelings – the sentiment on the street.

I was hoping to explain that there is no one, as Alan Johnson put it, “fundamental” cause of radicalisation. The Isis narrative has been planted on fertile soil: it is allowed to flourish because of Islamophobia, socio-economic deprivation, intrusive British foreign policy and, of course, the politicisation of Islam by a power-hungry terrorist organisation.

David Cameron Says Muslims Will ‘Despair’ At BBC Use Of Term ‘Islamic State’

Last week, the BBC invited me to discuss the causes of radicalisation on its politics show, This Week, with Andrew Neil, Alan Johnson and Michael Portillo – three white men who have never faced Islamophobia in their lives. I can only apologise to all the young, disaffected British Muslims I was representing.

Though I take full responsibility for my poor performance, the discussion itself was unproductive and represents everything that is wrong with the British discourse on radicalisation: the tendency is to generalise, filter our nuance and prioritise academic opinion over Muslims’ feelings – the sentiment on the street.

I was hoping to explain that there is no one, as Alan Johnson put it, “fundamental” cause of radicalisation. The Isis narrative has been planted on fertile soil: it is allowed to flourish because of Islamophobia, socio-economic deprivation, intrusive British foreign policy and, of course, the politicisation of Islam by a power-hungry terrorist organisation.

 

‘Racist’ far-right party Britain First horrifies in BBC documentary

Far Right political party Britain First has been attacked as racist, Islamophobic and fascist after a BBC documentary on the group aired last night. We Want Our Country Back followed the “patriotic” organisation as it fought to have Islam banned in the UK. In one scene, deputy leader Jayda Fransen says, “Where there are Muslims there is radicalisation”, and in another, members shout, “Go back to the desert” from a car.

Horrified viewers in Britain denounced the Christian group as “xenophobic”, “bigots” and “uneducated”, distancing themselves from the anti-Muslim message. “If it walks like a fascist and talks like a fascist, it’s a fascist,” wrote Twitter user Mozes. “The people who divide our communities aren’t migrants or people of Islamic faith, they are Britain First,” tweeted Liam Beattie.

But the organisation hit back hard against the BBC, with leader Paul Golding calling the broadcaster “heavily left-wing and biased” and dismissing the documentary as a “hatchet-job”.

“Even by BBC standards it was a shocking display of tax payers money financing a piece of extreme anti-British-Anti-Christian propaganda,” read the Britain First Facebook page, which has almost one million likes. “We will not rest until every traitor is punished for their crimes against our country. And by punished, I mean good old fashioned British justice at the end of a rope!”

BBC Current Affairs Programmes failing to address radical Islam

The BBC is failing to address the “awesomely difficult questions” facing Britain, including the economy and the threat of radical Islam, according to the corporation’s former chief.
The BBC is failing to address the “awesomely difficult questions” facing Britain, including the economy and the threat of radical Islam, according to the corporation’s former chief.

The BBC is failing to address the “awesomely difficult questions” facing Britain, including the economy and the threat of radical Islam, according to the corporation’s former chief.

John Birt, director-general of the BBC from 1992-2000, said its current affairs analysis was falling short. He was not referring to Newsnight, which he described as “a programme of the day, about issues of the moment.” But he said he was “talking about a much more strategic need on all the big questions we face. Every economy bar one in the G7 is more productive than the UK – these are the big issues that go undiscussed,” he told a media conference at London’s City University.

Digital journalism is giving people access to more information than before. “What it is not creating is more quality journalism,” Lord Birt said. “We get more knowledge of things happening around the world but pulling it all together and addressing the big policy questions – what should we be doing in respect of radical Islam, the National Health Service – that’s what we’re not doing very well and nobody’s doing very much.”

He added that the BBC must “get back to those very high purposes which are appropriate to a publicly funded broadcaster”.

 

 

Caliphate? What an Islamic state means to British Muslims

August 14, 2014

When the extremist group Isis (now known as Islamic State or IS) declared a caliphate taking in parts of Syria and Iraq it reignited a debate over the role of an Islamic state. For many a caliphate is a political leadership, others a spiritual figurehead, and for some a combination of the two.

“What we’re seeing being carried out against helpless civilians like the Yazidis and other groups isn’t what an Islamic state is about,” says Yasmin Khatun, a journalist from London.

  • The institution of a caliphate (khilafah in Arabic) is how Muslims were led for centuries after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • The last widely recognised one was the Ottoman Empire which was abolished in Istanbul in 1924.
  • Caliph or khalifa – which means “successor” – is deemed by certain strands of Islam to be a leader destined to unite the Muslim “ummah” or community.
  • The position of caliph is often likened to that of a pope, a king, or head of state.
  • Many of those who want a caliphate today compare it to having an Islamic superpower – “an America for Muslims”.
  • It would also be a place to live that would be governed by Sharia law, the Islamic legal system.

Yasmin Khatun, 26, a journalist from London is a Sunni Muslim, Mina Topia, 29, a business development manager from Birmingham, is a Sunni Muslim, Joy Ahmed, 27, works in banking, lives in south London and is a Sunni Muslim, Zahra Abdeali, 31, is a recent graduate and a Shia Muslim, Fida Ul Haque, 23, is studying accounting and is an Ahmadi Muslim, Saif Ul Islam, 31, is self-employed and was born Hindu but converted to Sunni Islam offer their various opinions on what the Caliphate means to them.

The British Muslim is truly one among us – and proud to be so

April 3, 2014

Those who believe in a clash of civilisations, in which British values are pitted against those of the Muslim world, have not been short of examples in the past few days. The BBC reports on an “Islamic takeover plot” by hardliners to seize control of several Birmingham state schools. Two Morrisons workers are suing the supermarket for not being able to take holiday during Ramadan, after being told that they submitted their applications too late. Such stories do make the blood boil, and may lead the less charitable to ask if such people should move to a country that better reflects their prejudices.

But one hears such complaints rarely, and this is what marks us out in a Europe that is paranoid about Islam and identity. Britain is, through empire, the original multi-ethnic state. When Churchill was writing for The Daily Telegraph as a war correspondent, his criticism of the Afghan tribesmen was that their behaviour was un-Islamic. “Their religion – fanatic though they are – is only respected when it incites to bloodshed and murder,” he wrote in December 1897. Then, the Queen had tens of millions of Islamic subjects and her ministers boasted of running the greatest Muslim power on earth. The integration of Muslims can now be seen as one of the great success stories of modern Britain. While the Dutch and the French have huge troubles with integration, and are caught in agonised struggles about their national identities, Britain is marked out by the trouble that we are not having. Dig a little deeper, and the real story is the striking amount of harmony.

Last year, for example, the Jews of Bradford were facing the closure of their synagogue. Its roof was leaking, and the few dozen remaining regulars could not afford the repairs. Its chairman, Rudi Leavor, made the decision to sell the building and face up to it being transformed into luxury flats. As things turned out, the synagogue was saved after a fundraising campaign led by a local mosque. Zulfi Karim, the secretary of Bradford’s Council of Mosques, now refers to Leavor – who fled the Nazis – as his “newfound brother”. He gave his support, he says, to protect the diversity of Bradford.

Such stories can be found the length and breadth of Britain, for those with an eye to see them. St John’s Episcopal Church in Aberdeen last year agreed to accommodate neighbouring Muslims, who had outgrown their mosque and had taken to worshipping outside it. The Rev Isaac Poobalan said that allowing Muslims to pray in the wind and rain would mean abandoning “what the Bible teaches us about how we should treat our neighbours”. He argued that his church was empty on a Friday lunchtime, when Muslims needed to pray.

Anyone serious about either religion will know that they both worship the same God – and their stronger ties are, in part, forged by the knowledge that they have a common enemy in secularism. The kind of secularism that would stop people wearing crucifixes and skullcaps in public, as well as the niqab. When the Council of Europe came out against religious circumcision, it was natural that Manchester’s sizeable Jewish community would protest. But less expected for Manchester’s Muslims to join them.

The attempts by extremists to speak for Muslims in Britain is made a lot easier by the lack of an Islamic hierarchy, it’s also made easier by the understandable reluctance of ordinary British Muslims to get involved in the political side of their religion. When Channel 4 said that its 2006 Christmas message would be given by a Muslim in a full-face veil, it fitted the BNP narrative of a clash of civilisations. This is all the more surprising given the serious problems that Britain still faces with integration. British Muslims don’t really feel a sense of otherness. In fact, polls show they’re much more likely to identify with Britishness than the general population. The Citizenship Survey found that most Muslims agree with two propositions: that Islam is the most important thing in their life, and that their primary loyalty lies with the British state. Most are baffled by the idea of a tension between the two.

Mosque leader compares being gay to paedophilia and murder

March 20, 2014

 

The chairman of a mosque at the centre of a BBC censorship row over the issue of being both Muslim and gay has compared homosexuality to being “a compulsive murderer, gambler, or paedophile”.

Free Speech, the BBC 3 debate show, deliberately dropped the question “When will it be right to be Muslim and gay?” on its March 12 episode at the request of the Birmingham Central Mosque where it was being filmed. The live programme, which featured a panel including government minister and Lib Dem peer Susan Kramer, broadcast a pre-recorded question by Asifa Lahore, who bills himself as Britain’s “first and only gay Muslim drag queen”.

A week later Dr Mohammad Naseem, the mosque’s long-time chairman, defended his decision in a letter sent to Huffington Post UK.

He wrote: “There are people with homosexual tendency in Muslim countries but they respect the law and control their desire as others do.” Human beings do have weaknesses and tendencies which are not socially acceptable and so they try to have a control over them and do not give in. “A compulsive murderer, gambler, paedophile etc. could present the same logic and ask for accommodation by the society. Are we going to accept on the basis of freedom of action?”

Dr Naseem said Lahore “does not know his religion and has not got much links with it. He would have, otherwise, known that it is prohibited in Islam. If he wants to pursue [sic] his inclination then he is free to leave Islam and follow any ideology that suits him.”

Dr Naseem said the subject of homosexuality was not the topic for a TV discussion show but something that should be investigated by specialists and added that “Not being able to accept them in religion should not be confused with denying them their human rights such as their right to have education, employment, housing and respect.”

Free Speech said in a statement: “The Birmingham Mosque had offered the venue as a location for an episode. When asked if there were any issues for discussion that would be off limits, no concerns were raised. As a result the production company, together with the BBC and the mosque, made the decision to postpone the debate of the topic homosexuality and Islam until March 25th but agreed to show the pre-recorded segment.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/10710750/Mosque-leader-compares-being-gay-to-paedophilia-and-murder.html

The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/19/gay-muslim_n_4993241.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-26576673

The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/mar/14/bbc3-free-speech-debate-gay-muslim

 

New imam promises improved links with community

March 13, 2014

 

Nine months after two men tried to set fire to a mosque in Gloucester, a new imam has promised to improve links with the local community. Imam Hassan is among a growing number who were born in Britain, and teach Islam in the English language.

 

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-wiltshire-26557453

Halal, shechita and the politics of animal slaughter

March 6, 2014

 

The practice of slaughtering animals by slitting their throats (The traditional practice in Judaism and Islam) and draining the blood in line with religious custom should be adapted to prevent suffering, the leader of Britain’s vets has said. John Blackwell, head of the British Veterinary Association, said animals should be “stunned” before slaughter.

Mr Blackwell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that animals should be “stunned at the time of death”, which would render them “insensible to pain until death supervenes”.

“It’s important at the time of death for the animals’ welfare not to be compromised,” he said, while adding that he “respected the beliefs of religious sects”.

He said that sheep could remain conscious for up to seven seconds after having their throat cut, while for cattle it was two minutes and said there was “good evidence” that showed that animals could perceive pain at the point of having their throats slit, but he conceded that this research was not conclusive.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also disagreed with the views of Mr Blackwell .stating that stopping this type of slaughter would “remove the right of Jewish communities in this country, Muslim communities in this country, to stick to their religious beliefs about how they prepare food and how animals are slaughtered”.

UK legislation allows halal (Muslim) or shechita (Jewish) “non-stun” slaughter as long as it does not cause “unnecessary suffering”. Ritual slaughter is lawful in the UK and the EU to satisfy the dietary requirements of Jews and Muslims.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is a voice for the UK veterinary profession and has over 14,000 members.

Mr Arkush, who is the vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the Jewish slaughtering practice was a “humane act designed to bring about the animals’ end very quickly” and that Mr Blackwell’s comments were “misleading”.

 

BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-26463064

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/06/halal-shechita-politics-animal-slaughter

Muslims criticise BBC interview with preacher linked to soldier’s killer

Muslim organisations are to ask the director general of the BBC to explain the decision to broadcast an interview with an extremist preacher with close links to one of Lee Rigby’s killers. In the latest criticism of the decision to give a prominent slot to Anjem Choudary on Radio 4’s Today programme, the organisations are to demand a meeting with Tony Hall to discuss the BBC’s editorial policies. The groups are furious that Choudary was interviewed the day after guilty verdicts were returned on Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale for the Woolwich soldier’s murder. They will be sentenced in January.

Shunned by the Muslim community, Choudary’s views are condemned by all of its leading organisations. Despite his extremist views, he was given the most high-profile slot on Today, shortly after the 8 o’clock news on Thursday morning. “It was a massive error of judgment and it does so much damage,” said Julie Siddiqui, vice-president of the Islamic Society of Britain. “Why him? He has no legitimacy in the Muslim community.” She said Choudary’s views would foster negative views that would harm faith relations and, as a result, a number of Muslim groups would be writing to the corporation in a bid to understand why it gave the preacher such prominence. “He’s not going to radicalise young Muslims, but what he is doing is reinforcing prejudices that are out there,” Siddiqui said.

Choudary pulled out of an interview with Panorama, which had gathered evidence of his close and recent links to Adebolajo. But he was not asked about this on Today. “We need to understand how this was allowed to happen,” Siddiqui said. “We need to articulate to the BBC the anger and disappointment that he was given this platform.” Sunder Katwala, director of the British Future think-tank, said: “The BBC has an editorial responsibility to explain the choices it makes.”

A BBC spokeswoman said: “We believe it is important to reflect that such opinions exist and feel Choudary’s comments may offer some insight into how this crime came about.”

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/dec/22/bbc-interview-preacher-muslims

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/radical-preacher-anjem-choudary-not-deserving-of-bbc-time-9018878.html

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/10529802/BBC-criticised-for-giving-extremist-preacher-Anjem-Choudary-airtime.html

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/10530865/Weve-heard-enough-from-Anjem-Choudary.html