“Everything you know about ISLAM is wrong” – The New Statesman special issue on misconceptions of Islam in Britain

The liberal and traditionally secular weekly The New Statesman dedicates its latest issue to prejudices against Islam in Britain. The issue, entitled “Everything you know about ISLAM is wrong”, features articles by ex-extremist Ed Husain, Tariq Ramadan and Ziauddin Sardar. The lead article calls for supporting British Muslims who are being alienated due to terror alerts and sensational reports. Strong prejudices prevail, as the last British Social Attitudes Survey has shown, and the article demands better integration models and ending the negative news coverage about Muslims.

Tariq Ramadan in his article deconstructs the simplistic portrayal of “bad” Muslims versus “good” Muslims, which people turn into visible and invisible Muslims. He explains how it is possible to be a moderate and openly practicing Muslim, who embraces democracy and is capable of giving reasonable political criticism. Ed Husain describes his Islamist past and the difficult journey away from the radical worldview and argues for a secular version of political Islam. Finally, Ziauddin Sardar reflects on the orientalism in Christopher Caldwell’s book on Islamic immigration, while Mehdi Hasan interviews Dalia Mogahed, Obama’s adviser on inter-faith relations.

Stop pandering to Muslims says ‘silent majority’

The government’s attempts to placate Muslims will cause long-term damage to communities, a charity said yesterday. The warning came from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, chair and co-founder of the British Muslims for Secular Democracy, a new organisation claiming to represent the “silent majority who feel no conflict between their faith and democracy”. Speaking before the launch, attended by Baroness Kishwer Faulkner and former Islamist Ed Husain, the journalist said the government was pandering to Muslims by granting too many concessions, fuelling their separation from the rest of society. “The government has found a way of placating Muslims in a way that will only damage us in the long term, Muslims wanting separate schools or different measures. There must be one law for all. “This differential accommodation leads to us being pushed to the edges. How is it that the Sikhs and Hindus can live in democracy but not Muslims?” Riazat Butt reports.

Ex-radicals challenge UK Muslims to shun Islamism

Former Islamist radicals in Britain launched a “counter-extremism think-tank” on Tuesday, saying they wanted to reclaim Islam from the violent ideology of al Qaeda. The Quilliam Foundation, named after a 19th century English convert to Islam who established Britain’s first mosque, says it aims to expose Islamism as a false ideology and help Muslims develop a tolerant modern brand of Western Islam. Its director Maajid Nawaz is a former international recruiter for Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir who spent four years in an Egyptian prison for membership of that organisation. “We need to criticise the Islamist ideology and demonstrate how it’s inconsistent with traditional pluralistic and tolerant Islam,” he told Reuters. “For the first time we have former Islamists, who trained people in the Islamist ideology, who are at the forefront of this movement to say: ‘We can critique this ideology, we understand it and can refute it.'” Ed Husain, Quilliam co-director and a former student radical Islamist, said people tempted by militant ideology could be pulled back from the brink by family and peer pressure and by exposure to new ideas. Mark Trevelyan reports.

Ed Husain justifies UK visa denial to Qaradawi

Former Islamist Ed Husain felt the denial of a visa by the United Kingdom to Dr Yusuf Al Qaradawi, the well-known Islamic scholar based in Doha, was absolutely justified. Speaking to The Peninsula at the Four Seasons Hotel yesterday, Husain said: “He is a man who speaks two languages. There should be no exceptions in condemning the deaths of innocent people. When it comes to Jews, he thinks it is favourable to kill. It was right to refuse him a visa to the UK because his views have an audience there.” Husain, along with Maajid Nawaz, has just launched the Quilliam Foundation. It is named after Sheikh William Henry Abdullah Quilliam, an English solicitor and convert to Islam who founded the UK’s first mosque in Liverpool in the 19th century. The aim of the Foundation is to present Islam’s moderate viewpoint as opposed to the venom spewed out by radical elements. “On Muslim-related issues, it is jihadists and Islamists who dominate the airwaves (in the UK). We will give these a counter-balance,” said Husain. This could be done by use of the scriptures, which presents the true meanings and beliefs.