British Muslims respond to London terrorist attack

Muslims in the UK are condemning Wednesday’s terrorist attack.

A Muslim convert, Khalid Masood, killed 4 people on and near Westminster Bridge in London. Police believe that Masood was inspired by international terrorist organizations; Daesh (the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant) has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Muslim Council of Britain was one of the first organisations to issue a response to the attack on Wednesday, offering condolences for the victims’ families and condemning the attack. The organisation issued an extended statement on Thursday.

Muslim leaders also participated in a conversation with other faith leaders to discuss responses to the attack. Specific mosques, such as Finsbury Park, have added their strong condemnations of the attack.

London’s Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, spoke about how Londoners should not allow the attack to divide them and spread hatred.

Muslim Members of Parliament, Naz Shah and Yasmin Qureshi, and a community leader who was in Parliament at the time of the attack, Muddassar Ahmed, have also launched a campaign to support victims and their families financially. The project, Muslims Unite for London, has already raised about £18,000.

 

British diplomats, Muslim figures condemn Trump’s travel ban

Diplomats and prominent Muslims in Britain have condemned US President Donald Trump’s decision to temporarily ban all refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Their criticisms come awkwardly just two days after UK Prime Minister Theresa May officially met with Trump, the first foreign leader to do so, touting the two countries’ “special relationship.”
Trump on Friday signed an executive order banning citizens from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan from entering the United States for the next 90 days and suspending the admission of all refugees for 120 days.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson described Trump’s ban as “divisive and wrong,” while London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the move was “shameful and cruel.”
But Prime Minister May refused to condemn the ban. Under pressure from British MPs, she later said the government does “not agree” with the executive order.
May also ordered Johnson and Home Secretary Amber Rudd to contact their US counterparts “to protect the rights of British nationals,” the Prime Minister’s office said.
When she had hoped to reap the benefits of rushing to America to shore up support ahead of a bruising Brexit battle, she’s being slammed to the ropes by the United Kingdom’s main opposition party.

Sadiq Khan speaks for peaceful Islam at Trafalgar Square Eid festival

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/davehillblog/2016/jul/10/sadiq-khan-speaks-for-peaceful-islam-at-trafalgar-square-eid-festival

Just a few months ago, before the EU referendum triggered earthquakes across the UK political landscape, the Conservative party and its press allies were seeking, unsuccessfully, to portray Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, and at that time Labour’s candidate to become London mayor, as having questionable “links” with Islamist fanatics in one of the most poisonous election campaigns the country had ever seen.

 

On Saturday, Mayor Khan addressed an audience of thousands at London’s 11th annual Eid al-Fitr celebration in Trafalgar Square for the first time since taking office. He called for peace, unity and an embrace of religious freedom and diversity, describing this as one of London’s great strengths. He pledged zero tolerance of hate crimes, reports of which have risen in the wake of the EU leave vote, and he denounced “criminals who do bad things and use the name of Islam to justify what they do”.

 

The whole event received positive and rather lavish coverage from the Daily Mail – a far cry from April when Mail columnist and BBC Sunday Politics regular Isabel Oakeshott was recycling “troubling” stories of exceptional flimsiness to question Khan’s suitability for City Hall and her venerable colleague Max Hastings was declaring, absurdly, that Khan “represents a brand of socialism that is out of fashion even in Cuba”.

 

In reality, of course, Khan in office is turning to be nothing like what the Mail’s pundits predicted and has been putting campaign pledges to be “a Mayor for all Londoners” and a Muslim mayor who’d “take the fight to the extremists” into early effect. Only three weeks ago, he addressed the Pride in London festival from the same stage.

Defence secretary Michael Fallon to pay damages to Imam at centre of ‘Isis claims’

Defence secretary Michael Fallon will pay undisclosed damages to a Muslim

cleric for falsely claiming he supported Islamic State (Isis). Imam Suliman Gani

was dubbed an Isis sympathiser by Prime Minister David Cameron in the Houses

of Commons as the London mayoral elections heated up between Khan and the

Conservatives' Zac Goldsmith in April 2016.

Khan was criticised by the PM for sharing a platform with extremists, like Gani,

and a few days later a similar claim was made on the BBC during the London

Mayoral Debate. Presenter Andrew Neil again described Suliman Gani as being a

supporter of Islamic State, rather than a supporter of an Islamic state, that he

says he intended.

Then, Fallon repeated the claims on 7 May, during BBC Radio Four's Today

programme. Unlike Cameron, Fallon was not protected by parliamentary

privilege and Gani brought legal proceedings.

Cameron and the BBC have subsequently apologised for their mistakes and on

Thursday (23 June), Fallon published a letter on his website that the claims

about the Tooting imam where "entirely untrue".

Fallon wrote: "I was made aware of the BBC's correction and apology a few hours

after the broadcast and immediately issued a statement in an effort to put the

record straight. I accept that you are entirely opposed to Daesh/Islamic State,

that you regard it as incompatible with your religious and moral beliefs, and that

you have spoken out publicly against it."
Source: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/defence-secretary- michael-fallon- pay-damages-imam-centre-isis-claims- 1567147

Muslim charity to put ‘Allah is great’ posters on buses to portray Islam in a positive light

Hundreds of British buses will carry adverts praising Allah as part of a campaign launched by the country’s biggest Muslim charity to help victims of Syria’s civil war. Islamic Relief hopes the posters, which bear the words “Subhan Allah”, meaning “Glory be to God” in Arabic, will portray Islam and international aid in a positive light.

Buses will carry the advertisements in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester and Bradford. These cities have large Muslim populations and the charity hopes it will encourage people to donate generously ahead of the start of Ramadan on 7 June.

Imran Madden, the UK director of Islamic Relief, said: “In a sense this could be called a climate change campaign because we want to change the negative climate around international aid and around the Muslim community in this country.

“International aid has helped halve the number of people living in extreme poverty in the past 15 years, and British Muslims are an incredibly generous community who give over £100 million to international aid charities in Ramadan.”

The new campaign will appear on buses from 23 May on 640 buses around the country. The adverts will have a special resonance in London as the city elected its first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, on Thursday – despite a Conservative campaign, which repeatedly accused him of having connections to extremists.

Why Zac Goldsmith’s “extremism” attacks on Sadiq Khan were wrong

As the dust settles on Sadiq Khan’s victory in London’s mayoral election, attentions are turning to Zac Goldsmith’s campaign and his aggressive focus on his rival’s past encounters with Muslim hardliners. A Guardian op-ed under the headline “Forgive and forget Zac Goldsmith’s racist campaign? No chance” has been shared some 25,000 times. In the Spectator, Toby Young argued: “Zac Goldsmith has nothing to be ashamed of”. Both pieces make some good and some bad points. But I sympathise more with the first. Here is why.

To begin, some concessions. Elections are a rough-and-tumble business. Candidates should expect their characters and suitability for office to be challenged; their weaknesses to be daubed in primary colours on 10-meter high billboards. And within reason, that is good. It flushes out bad ideas and unsuitable candidates for the benefit of an electorate that has better things to do than worry about the nuances of their every policy.

The themes on which Mr Goldsmith so contentiously challenged Mr Khan are hardly irrelevant. In the past year Islamist terror attacks have hit the two European capitals closest to London. Labour clearly has ingrained problems of anti-Semitism and has form when it comes to tolerating conservative practices (like gender-segregated civic events) among its British Muslim supporters. And it is true that Mr Khan has links to certain reactionary Muslims, some of whom have expressed extremist views. His new role gives him influence over London’s schools, the front-line of the government’s anti-radicalisation “Prevent” strategy. It also gives him oversight of the Met police, as well as powers of patronage and discretionary spending which Ken Livingstone, his Labour predecessor, deployed in part to the benefit of conservative Muslims.

Yet to be valid and responsible, Tory “questions” about Mr Khan’s connections needed to do three things. Given the tensions surrounding the subject, each had to kill any suggestion that Labour’s candidate sympathised with extremism. Each needed to specify in clear and concrete terms how his past encounters affected his suitability to be mayor. And each needed an appropriate degree of prominence in a Conservative campaign that had, itself, big questions to answer about its man’s plans for transport, housing and policing.

Mr Goldsmith failed each one of these tests. First, he played up ambiguities as to what, precisely, his rival had done wrong. When pushed, he insisted that he was not trying to portray Britain’s most prominent Muslim politician as an extremist. Yet his campaign seemed to imply as much. By routinely calling Mr Khan a “radical” it blurred the Labour candidate’s support for Jeremy Corbyn, his party’s far-left leader, with his links in British Islam. A spoof Tory leaflet published in the Private Eye, a satirical magazine, captured the “I’m not racist, but…” character of these insinuations: “Think about it. Funny name, Khan, isn’t it?” The Conservative candidate was surely too worldly not to have realised how reckless this was, at a time when political outfits from the Trump campaign to the AfD in Germany were questioning Muslims’ basic compatibility with Western democracies and societies.

Second, the Goldsmith campaign failed to pin down what this had to do with Mr Khan’s suitability to be mayor. The claims it raised publicly (and the more lurid ones it quietly briefed to journalists) fall into three categories. Some had to do with his background as a civil liberties lawyer; like his links to Suliman Gani, a radical imam, his “association” with whom included angry clashes over gay marriage and Mr Khan’s involvement in a bid to boot Mr Gani out of his mosque. Other crimes like having a sibling-in-law who had flirted with conservative Islam—a transgression of which Tony Blair is also guilty—pointed to Mr Khan’s Muslim family background. The third category involved his characteristic blend, hardly unique among politicians, of naiveté and electoral opportunism. Into this final basket can be counted his role on the not-impeccable Muslim Council of Britain, his defence of Recep Ergodan’s Turkey and even those unproven suggestions that he played up his Liberal Democrat opponent’s Ahmadi (a persecuted minority within Sunni Islam) identity when fighting to keep his south-London parliamentary seat in 2010. Instead of differentiating between examples, or offering their own additional categories, Mr Goldsmith’s campaigners ground them together into a rough paste of “unanswered questions” and “extremist associations” that that they smeared all over Mr Khan.

Third, Mr Goldsmith gave such observations an undue prominence in his campaign, especially towards the end. London house-prices are on track to hit £1m by 2030 and are wrecking the capital’s social mix. On this, the Tory candidate had nothing substantive to say. On transport and policing his offer was almost as inadequate. But he seemed obsessed with Mr Khan’s relationship with his co-religionists; devoting his giant op-ed in the last Mail on Sunday before the election not to any of the bread-and-butter problems affecting Londoners but to a garbled mess of an argument that smudged together Mr Corbyn’s economic leftism, Labour’s anti-Semitism problem (of which the party’s candidate for the London mayoralty had been perhaps the foremost critic) and Mr Khan’s background, faith and personal traits.

There is a broader point here. Politicians are human and thus possess hinterlands, blind spots and inconsistencies. By definition they have an overdeveloped appetite for approval that prompts them to feign sympathy, delve into parts of society where they would not otherwise venture and humour certain audiences when they ought to avoid or upbraid them. How many Conservative or Labour candidates, confronted on the doorstep by an elderly voter ranting about “the coloureds”, would call him what he is—a racist—to his face? Moreover, no politician can exist in a hermetically sealed vacuum. Britons broadly accept that in their rulers. Some politicians have wealthy backgrounds that might inhibit their understanding of material insecurity, or religious backgrounds that make them intolerant of alternative lifestyles. Many are closer than is politic—or at least reflective of the median voter’s experiences—to bankers, strikers, bible-bashers, imams, die-hard environmentalists or other representatives of esoteric social segments.

Yet as a rule we tolerate, indeed often welcome, such florae in Britain’s civic life because their tendrils extend deep into its society. Mr Goldsmith, who has links to plenty of people unsuited to setting the agenda in City Hall, exemplifies this. His father was a hardline Eurosceptic accused of being corporate raider. His former brother-in-law, Imran Khan, has all sorts of links to Islamism through his political career in Pakistan. The magazine Mr Goldsmith edited, the Ecologist, carries articles opposing economic growth, cheering on activists who break the law and looking approvingly on third-world insurrectionists. Such connections are among the factors cited when journalists describe him, approvingly, as an “independent minded” MP.

None of this compares directly to Mr Khan’s links to Muslim radicals. But while that subject is more troubling than, say, ecological extremism, should it be treated so differently? I venture (as I did in a column in January) that the very problems of British Islam make it all the more pressing to draw its representatives into the country’s politics. Can Britain combat the self-exclusion of some of its Muslims, the anti-Semitism that infects their politics and the radicalisation of the most naive among them without prominent Muslims in public life who have first-hand experience of these problems and their causes? Can the establishment support a new generation of moderates—including the liberal, telegenic imams to whose rise Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Jewish Board of Deputies, drew my attention only last week—while dismissing Mr Khan?

It is hard to imagine a successful, liberal Muslim politician who, as she advanced from her neighbourhood to the national stage, never crossed paths with the sort of reactionary that so dominated Mr Goldsmith’s criticisms of Mr Khan. And who, given British politicians’ inclination to indulge their audiences, publicly challenged every last Islamic conservative that she encountered. Which poses the question: if London’s new mayor is the “wrong” sort of Muslim to hold a major public office, what does the “right” one look like?

Sadiq Khan: British dream now a reality for London’s first Muslim mayor

In Pakistan, the chances that the son of a bus or rickshaw driver could secure a high-ranking political position in the country’s capital city are minuscule. But now, the people of London have elected Sadiq Khan – the son of an immigrant Pakistani bus driver – to be their first Muslim mayor.

While unable to influence the nation’s foreign or economic policy, Khan will have responsibility for key areas in London, such as transport, housing, policing and the environment. And being directly elected gives the London mayor a personal mandate which no other parliamentarian in Westminster – including those in the cabinet – enjoy.

Now, at the age of 45, he is mayor of London: the economic and cultural heart of the UK, the largest city in western Europe and one of the most important cities in the world. He is the immigrant success story – for him, the British dream has become a reality.

Khan’s Islamic faith catapulted the city’s mayoral contest into the international limelight, at a time when Muslims are facing growing hostility in the West. In the US, presidential hopeful Donald Trump has said that he will ban Muslims from entering the country; while in Europe, the far right is gaining traction by campaigning on explicitly anti-Muslim platforms.

During the mayoral campaign, Khan’s “Muslimness” was viewed as a liability by some – including members of his own party. His Conservative rival, Zac Goldsmith, accused Khan of sharing platforms with Islamic extremists – the implication was clear: that the public should be wary of his “radical” views. Goldsmith’s highly controversial campaign has been heavily criticised – notably by senior Conservative Andrew Boff – for its divisive “dog-whistle” politics.

Khan’s victory supports what a number of Muslim commentators have argued all along: that having a Muslim mayor could help defeat Islamist ideology, by showing that the West is not anti-Islam – and that Muslims can “make it” there. Khan himself has spoken about the symbolic value of becoming the first Muslim mayor of a city which experienced terrorist attacks in 2005, perpetrated in the name of Islam.

But Khan’s victory says as much about social mobility as it does about race and religion. Had Khan’s father stayed in Pakistan, it is inconceivable that his son would have succeeded in that country’s political system, where privilege and connections win elections. By contrast, many Pakistanis who migrated to the UK in the post-war era were subsistence farmers and manual labourers. In many cases, they were illiterate in their own mother tongue. They took up positions in the service industries of the south, the factories and foundries of the Midlands and the mills of northern England. And while some succeeded in pulling themselves out of poverty, the UK’s Pakistani community still has some of the highest levels of unemployment and underachievement in the UK. Many British Pakistanis live in some of the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods.

And of course, British politics is also now dominated by an “old boys’ network”: the cliques of Etonions and Bullingdon club members, personified by the prime minister, David Cameron, the chancellor, George Osborne – and indeed London’s outgoing mayor, Boris Johnson. Yet the working-class Khan managed to win out against a Conservative rival with family pedigree, wealth and friends in powerful political, media and business circles.

For many, this is a triumph of meritocracy over privilege – a sign that the political establishment is becoming more inclusive and representative of the ethnic, religious and socioeconomic diversity of the wider population.

And Khan is not the only second-generation Pakistani to have entered high political office in the UK. Sajid Javid, the current secretary of state for Business, Innovation and Skills, is the son of a Pakistani immigrant who worked in the mills of the north before becoming a bus driver. So too did the father of Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who rose to become a member of David Cameron’s cabinet, and was the first Muslim woman to sit at the highest table in the land. In the 2015 general election alone, ten individuals of Pakistani heritage were elected to the British parliament.

And now, in London, the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver is in charge. He has become Europe’s most powerful Muslim politician. Khan’s victory has shown us that the British dream can become a reality.

Global press reaction to Sadiq Khan a mix of curiosity and ignorance

In London, the religion of the Labour candidate for the city’s mayor became an issue only when his Conservative opponent made it one, by attempting to link his rival to Islamist extremism in a campaign criticised as divisive and racist.

Abroad, however, it seems the faith and family background of Sadiq Khan is seen through a somewhat different prism: in much foreign media coverage of the elections, it was more important than his politics.

“Sadiq Khan likely to become the first Muslim mayor of London,” was the headline in France’s leading left leaning news weekly L’Obs. The country’s largest commercial broadcaster, TF1, went for: “Sadiq Khan: Muslim, immigrant’s son, self-made man – and future mayor”? The Metronews freesheet went further, saying a Khan victory would make the Tooting MP “the first Muslim mayor of a European capital”.

Le Monde went out of its way to note that Khan, “the son of an immigrant bus driver from Pakistan”, described his moderate Islamic faith as “part of my identity” – adding that his opponent Zac Goldsmith was “the son of a Franco-British billionaire of Jewish origin”.

Khan’s religion was prominent in media coverage of the election in the Netherlands, where Ahmed Aboutaleb has been the Muslim mayor of the country’s second largest city, Rotterdam, since 2009. The headline of the authoritative NRC Handsblad was: “The green millionaire v the leftwing Muslim”, while the right leaning De Telegraaf chose simply: “London could get its first Muslim mayor”.

In Germany, Süddeutsche Zeitung remarked – although not in its headline – that London seemed on course for its first Muslim mayor, while Switzerland’s Le Temps noted that the duel between the sons of “a billionaire, and a bus driver” could see the city becoming “the first European capital to be run by a Muslim”.

Different perceptions of Islam and integration were compounded in some countries by a wildly different continental view of Pakistan. “Is Khan’s Pakistani origin not an obstacle?” asked a journalist on the Swiss radio station RTS. “Is Pakistan not associated with fundamentalism and terror?”

The station’s interviewee replied that in a city in which almost 40% of residents were born outside the UK, and whose Muslim population makes up 12% of the total (and more than 30% in some boroughs), the popular image of Pakistan was more usually to do with corner shops and academic excellence.

But perhaps the most striking example of how differently much of the world sees London – and the importance of religion – from the way the city plainly sees itself came from the US, where Donald Trump caused uproar with a call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.

“DEVELOPING: FIRST MUSLIM MAYOR OF LONDONISTAN” was the top headline on the popular news aggregator site The Drudge Report, followed closely by: “Jewish leaders express concern over voting problems” and “FLASHBACK: Parts of city 50% Islamic”.

Sadiq Khan is Labour’s London mayoral candidate

Sadiq Khan has just been announced as Labour’s London mayoral candidate. At an event at the Royal Festival Hall, the MP for Tooting was announced as the surprising winner by 59 per cent. Turnout in the primary was 77 per cent.

Tessa Jowell was the bookies’ favourite and the frontrunner throughout this contest, but Khan may have benefited from the tens of thousands of new members who have joined Labour to back Jeremy Corbyn for leader. The result wasn’t even close — Jowell came second with 41 per cent. Khan’s camp were confident throughout the contest that the new members would be unlikely to back Blairite Jowell and it appears they are proved right.

Conservatives will be delighted that Labour has chosen Khan as their mayoral candidate. They felt that beating Jowell would be difficult but Khan is a much weaker prospect. His close ties to Ed Miliband is something that will definitely be used against him. Tory strategists are confident that if Zac Goldsmith is chosen as their candidate, a Zac vs. Sadiq contest is one they can definitely win. The London Mayoral contest is going to be very interesting.

Why Charles Moore is wrong about British Muslims by Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan is the MP for Tooting, Shadow Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor and Shadow Minister for London

 

Much has been written in the past month in the aftermath of the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. One unifying message has been the importance of communities standing together, in the face of the threats posed by those claiming to follow a particularly violent political version of Islam, and from far-right groups such as the EDL and BNP. One recent contribution to the debate came from the esteemed journalist Charles Moore, whose recent biography of Margaret Thatcher is a mighty tome of diligence and detail. In contrast, his words in last Saturday’s Telegraph were a clumsy foray into a territory about which he appears to know very little.

 

In his piece, Moore states that “the EDL is merely reactive” as if that’s OK. It’s far from OK. Many of the darkest chapters in recent human history have sprung from reactionary movements gaining a foothold in society. But to go on and equate the EDL with groups like Tell Mama, the charity that records incidents against the Muslim community as well as providing advice and support on how to deal with Islamophobia, as Charles Moore’s piece does, is ridiculous. I don’t recall seeing those running Tell Mama flicking fascist salutes while standing next to memorials for the war dead.

 

For decades, the British Jewish community has had to contend with the belittling of anti-Semitic attacks, whether they be on headstones in cemeteries or to Synagogues or schools. While we cannot be complacent, there is, rightly, a zero tolerance to anti-Semitism whether it be oral, viral or physical. Would we be comfortable with a respected journalist writing about the Community Security Trust the way Tell Mama has been written about? Or aspersions being cast on a politician due to their Jewish faith? Would we accept the Jewish community being talked about the way the Muslim community are? The piece would be roundly criticised, and rightly so. And that’s the point – in a tolerant society that won’t stand for division and hatred, attacks on any particular part of our society are an attack on all of our society. I don’t meet “young people taught to detest the freedom in which they live”, as Charles Moore claims. I meet British Muslims proud to be both British and Muslim, in many cases living their lives freer of the shackles of prejudice and social inequality than did their parents, or their parents before them. That is a real positive that living in Britain has fostered.

 

As a British Muslim, I understand that “Islam” and “Britishness” are not incompatible and, according to polling, 83 per cent of my fellow Muslims would agree – they are “proud” to be British, compared to 79 per cent of the wider public. And who could fail to be heartened by the custard cream diplomacy of the mosque in York when faced by an EDL protest, a very British response to a difficult situation. Like “Britishness”, Islam is about respect, tolerance and understanding.