‘There is a massive paranoia’: UK Muslims on life after Paris

Omar Raza was walking near his home in Glasgow’s south side when he was confronted by three men hurling racist abuse, calling him a “fucking Paki” and accusing him of funding Islamic State.

“It was three against one, so I tried to defuse the situation and walk past them. But I was suddenly attacked from behind and put in a head lock.” Raza was kicked to the ground and the bag he was carrying upturned and its contents strewn across the pavement, before his attackers ran off.

He has been unimpressed by media coverage of the Paris attacks. “The destruction in Paris was awful but unfortunately the media has created a brand of what is safe to support, so they romanticise a city like Paris, but with Syria or Palestine there are darker aspects that people don’t want to embrace.

“On social media it’s about how you project who you support. People are doing that by very hollow means like changing their photo to a flag.”

Mohammed Nawaz Ali, 23, a Glasgow grocer, agreed: “On the news apps, you see the first six or seven stories are on Paris, someone who survived, someone who was caught, but there’s a lot happening in other countries, the same number of deaths every single day.”

Leaving the mosque after prayers, he reflected a similar sense of frustration. “We’ve not done anything but now Muslims are being attacked. There was the fire at the mosque in Bishopbriggs [in east Dunbartonshire] and there was something near here. It’s serious.”

The Edinburgh-based campaigner, Talat Yaqoob, echoed this sense of disproportion: “Because I’m Muslim, I feel that I have to condemn quickly, and on behalf of an entire community. No other religious group has that asked of them.”

After reports of an incident in London when a woman wearing a hijab was allegedly pushed towards an oncoming tube train, Yaqoob, 30, said Muslim women were tagging her on Facebook telling her to be careful in public. “It’s interesting to see the creation of fear and how it travels,” she said. “The same thing happens every time there’s a terrorist attack.”

“For the last 15 years we’ve been condemning attacks, we’ve been saying Islam is a religion of peace, Islam is this, Islam is that, but I’ve just come to the point where I don’t even bother making a status [update] about it. It’s like, what is the point? You should know where I stand.”

Jack Khan, a teacher from south London, said most incidences of anti-Muslim prejudice he faced came through Facebook. Hostility was rarely direct, and often came from people he would otherwise regard as friends. “They forget that you’re a Muslim when they post things that are quite Islamophobic like ‘no more Muslims in this country’, ‘close down mosques’,” he said.

Muslim Council of Britain takes out advert condemning terrorists

The Muslim Council of Britain has taken out an advert in a national newspaper to condemn the Paris attacks – and reaffirm that terrorists do not represent in Islam. The council, which represents more than 500 mosques and community groups across the nation, used a full-page ad in the Telegraph on Thursday to denounce so-called Islamic State and the “barbaric” attacks in the French capital which killed 129 people.

The group also sought to reiterate its commitment to “the values of pluralism and tolerance” and insist that the terrorists must not succeed in turning communities against each other.

The advert, which is headlined Terror in Paris and accompanied by an image of the Eiffel Tower, spells out that acts of terrorism and murder are not “sanctioned” by Islam.

It also sought to highlight the actions of a Muslim security guard who reportedly risked his life to stop a suicide bomber from entering the Stade de France.

It reads: “With one voice, British Muslims condemn the Paris attacks unreservedly.

“We offer our condolences to the victims and their families.

“The barbaric acts of Daesh (or ISIS, as they are sometimes known) have no sanction in the religion of Islam, which forbids terrorism and the targeting of terrorists.”

“Muslims have held vigils and donated blood for the victims. It is not the terrorists who represent our faith but brave individuals like Stade de France security guard Zouheir, who risked his life to stop the attackers.

“We re-affirm our commitment to the values of pluralism and tolerance as the best defence against those who seek to create division and fear.

“The aim of attacks like those inflicted on Paris and other cities across the world is to turn communities against each other.

“As Muslims, Britons and Europeans, we must stand together to make sure they do not succeed.”

The advert was published amid fears of a potential rise in Islamophobic hate crimes following the attacks. Police in Scotland said there had been a spike since Friday. The organisation has already publicly condemned the attacks and helped to organise the vigil for the victims which was held in Trafalgar Square on Saturday and attended by thousands.

Far-right falling for ISIS narrative? Paris attacks being used to target Islam, refugees

Far right groups across Europe are seizing upon the Paris attacks to condemn Islam and vilify refugees. Opponents are concerned the language being used reinforces Islamic State’s own narrative of an epic clash of civilizations.

From Britain First and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) to France’s National Front and Germany’s Pegida, right-wing groups across Europe have used last Friday’s terror attacks to aid their anti-Islam, anti-immigration agendas.

In doing so, several groups have characterized recent events as an ongoing conflict between the West and Islam. Analysts argue this is exactly what Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) wants.

According to retired Foreign Office diplomat Oliver Miles, the terror group aims to incite a Western response they can later define as a ‘crusade.’

“If they can provoke the west into what they will call a crusade they can count on growing support from marginalized Muslims both in the Middle East and in countries such as Britain and France,” he wrote in the Guardian last year.

Since the group began making headlines in 2014, pundits have clashed over the extent to which Islam as a religion can be held responsible for the violence of a fanatical minority.

The Daily Mail

The Daily Mail British tabloid printed a cartoon on Tuesday which many have compared to Nazi propaganda due to its suggestion that refugees entering Europe from the war-torn Middle East are rat-like. The illustration depicts Muslim men and women crossing the border into Europe, some of them carrying guns, with rats scurrying along the ground at their feet. Nazi literature often drew on similar imagery. As Hitler’s minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, wrote in 1940: “Just like rats, the Jews 2,000 years ago moved from the Middle East to Egypt, at that time a flourishing land … In large hordes they migrated from there to the ‘Promised Land,’ flooded the entire Mediterranean region, broke into Spain, France, and Southern Germany.

UKIP

UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage has led the charge of Britain’s right-wing political establishment by accusing some British Muslims of being “conflicted in their loyalties” between the UK and elements within their religion. Speaking to UKIP supporters on Monday, Farage blamed the failure of multiculturalism for the Paris attacks, arguing that mass immigration has created divisions within the UK, France and “much of the rest of Europe.”

Britain First

Other groups have been less nuanced in their attack on Muslims. Far-right group Britain First has ramped up its Islamophobia in the wake of the Paris attacks. At least two Facebook posts published since Friday’s atrocities in Paris question the idea that Islam is a “religion of peace” by drawing comparisons with other ‘genuinely peaceful’ religions like Christianity and Judaism.

Founded by disillusioned members of the British National Party (BNP) in 2011, Britain First is notable for its slick social media campaigns, often using internet memes to spread disingenuous and hateful messages.

Six Britons arrested in Belgium as UK hate preachers linked to Paris attacks mastermind

Six Pakistani-born British men have been arrested in Belgium after being spotted in old ambulances near Brussels while the capital was in lock down amid fears of a Paris-style terror attack.

A heavily-armed anti-terror unit swooped on the group near a petrol station which is regularly used by Salah Abdeslam – the fugitive terrorist still at large eight days after 130 people were killed in the French capital. Six armoured trucks and a police car rushed in after the old ambulances were parked in a rest area beside the E411 highway in Bierges, south-east of Brussels, at around 2pm local time on Saturday. One of the men is understood to be known to British police who are assisting Belgian authorities.

Police are investigating any link to Islamic State (ISIS) after it was revealed using old ambulances was a hallmark cover tactic used by the terror group.

The British men were said to be co-operating with detectives and have been fingerprinted to check for possible matching.  The arrests came as it was revealed the alleged mastermind behind the Paris attacks was part of an extremist network linked to at least six hate preachers from Britain.

Paris ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud – who was killed in an anti-terror raid by French authorities in Saint-Denis after the atrocities in the French capital on November 13 – was associated with a banned terrorist group called Sharia4Belgium.  The militant group, which has sent more than 50 Belgian fighters to join ISIS in Syria, was founded by in 2010 by Fouad Belkacem after he travelled to London to seek inspiration from a radical British cleric. Members of the group also approached Omar Bakri Muhammad, the former London-based hate preacher who was banned from Britain in 2005, while he was living in exile in Lebanon to help gain access to jihadis in Syria.

Zahid: UK wants to learn from Malaysia’s successful rehab model for militants

The United Kingdom has shown interest in tapping into Malaysia’s model for the deradicalisation of militants and religious groups, which has a 95 per cent success rate, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has said.

Zahid, who is also the home minister, was reported saying by local daily Utusan Malaysia that the UK also plans to send its officers to visit Malaysia’s militant rehabilitation centre.

“The UK has different backgrounds and they are interested in our model because as an Islamic country, we have more experience and knowledge in facing these militant and radical groups,” he was quoted saying yesterday in London during a four-day working visit focusing on security, terrorism and immigration issues.

Zahid said Malaysia’s deradicalisation programme, which was carried out since 1948 to counter the threats posed by communists then, has been further refined following new counter-terrorism experiences to its current mode with 18 fields.

This programme involves the police, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim), the Prisons Department of Malaysia, Muslim non-governmental organisations, Islamic scholars from institutions of higher learning and pondok (Islamic schools) that have the skill “to correct wrong faith”, Zahid said.

The deputy prime minister said the US, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and all Asean member countries have also expressed commitment to learn from Malaysia’s model of rehabilitating militants.

Zahid was also reported saying that he had agreed with the UK security agency to use the word Daesh instead of Islamic State (IS) to describe the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq, as the IS term gave the wrong impression of Islam which does not carry teachings for its followers to be terrorists.

“I also ask the media to use the Daesh term to replace IS terrorists,” he said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was recently reported telling the United Nations in New York that Malaysia was leading the Asian region in combating terrorism, including the spreading of IS beliefs.

Anti-terrorism policies will need to be revisited after Paris attacks

Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officials were monitoring events in Paris after the co-ordinated attacks left scores of people across the city dead and injured.

While officially there was no intelligence indicating that the UK was at greater risk of attack, the scale and nature of the atrocities in the French capital are of a kind that British officials have long feared may happen in the UK.

As the severity of the situation became clear, the prime minister, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police and senior security officials at MI5 were being updated. Britain was already on a high state of terrorist alert, with counter-terrorism experts fearing the risk of an attack on the UK is severe.

Already this year, police in London have held an exercise to test how they would respond to marauding gun attacks in the centre of the capital. The last exercise followed the January attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices.

Proximity to France will lead UK officials to review border security. But the emerging detail points to the attacks being the nightmare of every western security official: determined, armed attackers, marauding through a city and shaking a major western country to its core.

Scotland Yard has created a special forces-style unit of armed officers to counter the threat of a terrorist gun attack in Britain. The 130 counter-terrorism specialist firearms officers who make up the elite unit have been equipped with new weapons and retrained in new tactics, such as fast-roping from helicopters and storming burning buildings to rescue hostages and shoot or arrest terrorist gun attackers.

They have been issued with SIG 516 weapons and trained to shoot to the head if necessary. Armed officers are traditionally trained to shoot towards the centre of the chest.

Any hopes that the dangers were merely theoretical or exaggerated were dashed by attacks in Sydney, New York city and Ottawa in late 2014 and then Paris in January 2015, which demonstrated terrorists had the ability and intention to strike the west on its home soil.

Those attacks ranged from an individual seemingly acting alone to a group coordinating their efforts and carrying out an attack involving a degree of sophistication.

The danger from so called leaderless jihad, where jihadi propaganda incites “lone wolves” was added to the threat from more directed and sophisticated plots. In the event of gun attacks in the UK, police would lead the response with the army in reserve.

The Paris attacks are an act of war – against Islam itself

The appalling attacks in Paris last night were, as Francois Hollande said, an act of war. They were Islamism’s declaration of war on free society – but, crucially, they represented something else. An act of war, by Islamists, upon Islam itself.

As Douglas Murray says, it is lazy and wrong to argue that these attacks had nothing to do with Islam. The repugnant creed of the Islamic State is certainly related to Islam – but it is also inimical to Islam. The scenes in Paris will shock Muslims world over; indeed, when we Muslims hear of gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar” before committing the very acts of murder explicitly prohibited by the Koran, our repugnance is joined with a sense of desecration.

To assert that this Islamism is un-Islamic is not a kneejerk response to the atrocities we saw last night, and so many times around the world.

So this is a new ideology, a form of totalitarianism – and one that has its ideological source not in medieval Islam but 20th century fascism. They dress in the robes of ancient Islam, but the methods and the ideology are terrifyingly modern. The Islamic State, with is easy control of social media, is the most modern incarnation yet.

The Islamic State’s brutality against anyone it encounters – Egyptians, Jordanians, Iraqis or Syrians – has been a reminder to the Muslim world that Islamism is not just directed at westerners. It’s also a reminder of why the animus against Islamism is rising — holding out the prospect of real reform. Crucially, the jihadis are losing the argument. Ten years ago, a Pew poll found that 41 per cent of Pakistani Muslims said that suicide bombings were sometimes justified. Now, it’s down to 3 per cent.

This is the moment for the Islamic world to expose Islamism — but loosening its hold upon our faith falls upon those Muslims who value pluralism and pursue a civilised, enlightened Islam. The reformation many are calling for isn’t needed of Islam, but rather of Muslims — and specifically of Muslim leadership.