London’s mayor had some choice words Friday for Muslims who turn to radicalism, calling them sexually frustrated losers who turn to terrorism out of a deep-seated lack of self-confidence. Johnson further contended that turning to radical Islam was a form of compensation for men with deflated egos and a lack of purpose: “They are just young men in desperate need of self-esteem who do not have a particular mission in life, who feel that they are losers and this thing makes them feel strong — like winners.”
The 50-year-old politician, who reportedly has his eyes on the premiership, went on to criticize elements of the Islamic community for not doing enough to convince young men to turn away from extremism: “I often hear voices from the Muslim intelligentsia who are very quick to accuse people of Islamophobia… But they are not explaining how it can be that this one religion seems to be leading people astray in so many cases.”
“Somebody in a position of responsibility should be making responsible comments,” Mohammed Khaliel, director of the community cohesion organisation Islamix, told the Guardian on Friday. “For somebody allegedly aspiring to be prime minister of the country, is this really the style and level of comments that he should be making?
Charlie Winter from the Quilliam Foundation, an organization set up by ex-Islamists to challenge and counter extremism, called the mayor’s analysis “ludicrous,” stating that many defy the caricature painted by Johnson.
On Tuesday, the coalition government published their updated version of the Prevent Strategy, the Labour government’s counter-extremism and de-radicalization strategy. This update was announced by David Cameron in his speech in Munich earlier this year.
As the Guardian reports, the ‘strategy is based on the so-called “conveyor belt” theory of radicalisation. Developed inside neocon thinktanks in the US, it contends that individuals start off disillusioned and angry, gradually become more religious and politicised, and then turn to violence and terror’. However, according to various studies, this is not necessarily the case, and a leaked memo by government officials confirmed that the government is aware of this misperception. Yet, the new Prevent document does not offer much clarification on the links between marginalization, disillusionment, extremism, and radicalization. Furthermore, despite evidence by the former head of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller, who ‘said that the invasion of Iraq had radicalised a new generation of young British Muslim’ (The Guardian), links between Islamist extremism and foreign policy are not discussed in any detail. The Guardian claims that ‘combating extremism and terrorism requires a nuanced, less confrontational approach’ than Prevent. Similarly, the BBC questions the success of this policy.
In the past, Prevent had been criticized for losing its focus on counter-terrorism. Instead, Prevent programmes (and funding available for preventing extremism) were mixed up with more general integration and cohesion programmes. Therefore, the new strategy separates de-radicalisation from community cohesion programmes. Previously, strong criticism was voiced by several Muslim communities who felt they could only receive funding for local projects if they were attached to the idea of Muslims being terrorists. Through this, they felt they were constructed as a “suspect community”. The new policy made some changes to the funding scheme, which does not base the funding on the size of the Muslim population any more, but the willingness to subscribe to “British values”; decisions then have to be made by local councils and liberal-democratic ministers.
1 December 2010
In this op-ed, Michael Mumisa of the University of Cambridge shares his view on the fragmented situation of the Muslim community in Britain:
“The previous government’s controversial programme for preventing violent extremism is currently being reviewed by the Home Office. How did it happen that programmes which were introduced with the aim of promoting ‘community cohesion’ and preventing the influence of violent extremists ended up achieving the opposite of what they set out to achieve? Since the introduction of such programmes British Muslim communities have been engaged in what is effectively a ‘civil war’ which has left young Muslims (the intended beneficiaries of the programmes) further marginalised and more vulnerable to extremist ideas. (…)”
10 September 2010
After 9/11, and after 7/7, the Ahmadiyya community based in Morden in Surrey invited the news media to film a cross-community condemnation of intolerance and hatred. In light of the furore caused by Pastor Terry Jones in Florida, who had announced to burn Korans on 11 September, the Ahmadiyya community once more invited people of different faiths to a common service condemning extremism. Local religious leaders and councillors “made a stand for reason and tolerance”.
Jewish, Catholic, C of E, Bahaai and other Christian denominations all took part in an event for the cameras, as well as an American Embassy official. They made statements condemning Terry Jones’ threats to burn the Koran. Some quoted the Bible, others referred to Nazi book burnings. The Reverend Andrew Wakefield — well known as a contributor to “Thought for the Day” – acknowledged that in the face of the Florida panic, perhaps faith leaders needed to make more effort to convey through the news media the extent of interfaith community cohesion. At least 8,000 people attended Friday service, discussing how to fight hatred with prayer.
Under the rules, swimmers — including non-Muslims — are barred from entering the pool in normal swimming attire. Instead they are told that they must comply with the “modest” code of dress required by Islamic custom, with women covered from the neck to the ankles and men, who swim separately, covered from the navel to the knees.
The phenomenon runs counter to developments in France, where last week a woman was evicted from a public pool for wearing a burkini — the headscarf, tunic and trouser outfit which allows Muslim women to preserve their modesty in the water.
But across the UK municipal pools are holding swimming sessions specifically aimed at Muslims, in some case imposing strict dress codes. Swimmers were told last week on the centre’s website that “during special Muslim sessions male costumes must cover the body from the navel to the knee and females must be covered from the neck to the ankles and wrists”.
Labour MP Anne Cryer, whose Keighley, West Yorkshire constituency has a large number of Muslims, said: “Unfortunately this kind of thing has a negative impact on community relations. It’s seen as yet another demand for special treatment. I can’t see why special clothing is needed for what is a single-sex session.”
Two sergeants and a community support officer dressed in head-to-foot burkhas and other traditional clothing and went out shopping. Meanwhile a group of Muslim women were invited into police cells, a CCTV control room and shown other daily duties of a police officer.
The move was part of a police initiative dubbed “In Your Shoes” taking place in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. But it has attracted strong criticism from onlookers. Matthew Elliott, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “This is an absurd diversion from real policing. People want the police out catching criminals, not indulging in politically correct gimmicks.”
Sergeant Deb Leonard, who wore some of the clothing, described her experience in a South Yorkshire Police in-house magazine. “I have gained an appreciation and understanding of what Muslim females experience when they walk out in public in clothing appropriate to their beliefs. We are keen to gain a better understanding of issues which our communities face.”
The founder of the British Muslim Forum has said hate-filled Islamic extremists should leave the country. Senior Muslim scholar Sheiykh Allama Shahid Raza Naeemi OBE was speaking at an event to bring Kirklees (West Yorkshire) communities together.
He said: “To those extremists who are using and abusing the name of Islam by making silly ill-thought out statements, my message to you is leave this country if you are not happy. If you hate pork, if you hate other non-Muslims, if you hate the police, if you hate moderate Sufi Muslims, if you hate the British Government, then feel welcome to leave this country. We do not need you here to stir up hatred. There is no place for racism and extremism in Islam.”
A cross-party group of Jewish and Muslim MPs are beginning a tour of English universities to promote better interfaith relations between students. The Coexistence Trust will address tensions created on campuses by the Middle East conflict. It aims to highlight similarities in the histories of the two communities and encourage unity in the face of the prejudice that both have suffered. The tour will visit London, Birmingham, Leeds, Oxford and Cambridge. Led by Labour peer Lord Mitchell and shadow minister for community cohesion Baroness Warsi, the tour begins on Monday at the London School of Economics.
The BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said tensions between Jewish and Muslim students had emerged in the form of hostile message on internet sites and inflammatory posters on campuses. Occasionally, they have escalated into the recruitment of Muslim students by extremist groups, he said. Hostility towards Jewish students intensified during the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006 and led to calls for the police to take tougher action in cases of incitement against them.
Two thirds of newspaper stories in the UK portray British Muslims since 2000 as `a threat` or `problem,` according to new research. A forty-page report, entitled Images of Islam in the UK, showed that the press in the UK increasingly utilize negative and stereotypical imagery about Muslims. The authors, the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, found that British tabloids and broadsheets sought to engage with the “routine, everyday coverage of British Muslims” over and above the coverage which occurred around key events. Coverage of British Muslims was also shown to have increased significantly year on year, and by 2006 had reached a level twelve times higher than that in 2000. The authors describe how such a coverage generated a momentum all of its own, “lasting well beyond and independent of” newsworthy events. At the same time, the report found that the context in which British Muslims were portrayed was of a consistently negative nature. The main focus for a third of stories on British Muslims was either terrorism or the ‘war on terror.’ Eleven per cent of all stories focused on Muslim extremism, while in stark contrast, only 5 per cent covered “attacks on or problems for British Muslims.” The notion of Islamophobia was said to have “scarcely featured as a news topic” in 2001 and 2005. A significant yet subtle shift in stories involved a steady increase in the proportion which focus on religious and cultural differences, to such a degree that by 2008 these stories had overtaken terrorism as the single largest subject matter. It was argued that this change in focus reflects the shift in British government policy, under the cloak of its “community cohesion” framework, which quietly insinuates that ‘British’ and ‘Muslim’ are mutually exclusive identities. The consequence was that coverage about anti-Muslim racism and attacks on British Muslims has vastly reduced from 10 per cent in 2000 to only 1 per cent in 2008.
The Conservative peer who helped negotiate the release of the primary school teacher jailed in Sudan for allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Mohamed attacked her fellow British Muslims today for their “victim culture”. Baroness Warsi, a Conservative spokeswoman on community cohesion, also criticised Labour for its “patronage politics” and for having encouraged the “divisive concept” of multiculturalism. Lady Warsi, 36, born to Pakistani parents in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, is the youngest member of the House of Lords. She came to public notice earlier this month when she was asked by Lord Ahmed, a Labour peer, to accompany him to Sudan to mediate the release of Gillian Gibbons, who had been jailed for insulting Islam. Philippe Naughton reports. The situation in Sudan had been extraordinary and “thankfully” could never happen in the UK, Lady Warsi told a race relations conference in London this morning.