In many ways, the launch of QF reminds me of the reception that my own initiative, New Generation Network, and then Independent Jewish Voices got. There are entrenched interests and people hate the consensus being shaken up.
What riles Muslims here is that Ed Husain goes on TV and openly talks about Muslims being seduced by extremist ideology and becoming terrorists. Its easy to ignore or criticise someone like Melanie Phillips when she does it. Ed adds credibility to the argument that there are active terror cells in this country looking to recruit, brainwash and persuade more Muslims to blow themselves up. He does go overboard in blaming Muslims and ‘liberals’, but the fact that he says it really riles fellow Muslims.
Are they in denial? Yes and no.
No, because most Muslims they interact with and know (and this applies to me) may be angry at government hypocrisy and foreign policy but they’d never blow themselves up and have little sympathy for al-Qaeda. They’re simply extrapolating from the community they know and see.
But there’s also an element of denial because there are active terror cells who are trying to organise themselves. They may be incredibly incompetent, like the boys who wanted to blow up the planes in the sky, but they were kind enough to make videos telling us that they were at war with all non-Muslims.
These kind of people aren’t easily persuaded by the MCB or MAB types because they denounce them as turncoats anyway. Even al-Muhajiroun and Anjem Choudhury hates and denounces the MCB all the time, despite their grass-roots links. So who is going to convince them and the more radicalised kids?
An anti-terrorism strategy
So this brings me to my main point. There is little in the way of a coherent anti-terrorism strategy. There are groups like Radical Middle Way doing their roadshows, and there are other attempts to fund local community groups in the hope this will somehow dissuade young Muslims becoming radical, but its not any targetted or measured in any meaningful way. That is what’s lacking here – a very specifically targetted anti-terrorism strategy that is British Muslim driven.
The MCB cannot be part of it because their line is that Iraq is to blame and once we pull out everything will be fine. Obviously, that’s not the case. What has the MCB done on this over the past years? Nothing.
Zia Sardar’s article
Zia and I agree on most things but I didn’t agree with the basic jist of his article.
Maajid Nawaz has written a reply in today’s Guardian which points out some inconsistencies:
It is amazing that the foundation, which includes advisers such as Paddy Ashdown, Sheikh BaBikr Ahmed BaBikr, the Rev Giles Fraser, Catherine Fieschi and Professor Timothy Garton Ash, can be reduced to “neocon ex-extremists”. Sardar goes even further: Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Bukhari, a great man of peace who spoke at our launch, is described as a “neocon Sufi” despite his dedication to campaigning for cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis and his anti-war message. I wonder whether Sardar would describe his friend Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, another adviser, as a neocon?
The word neocon really is being abused by Zia here. Soon people will be calling me a neocon as well. Catherine Fieschi, one of the advisors, is about as far as you can get from being a neocon. She is a fantastic thinker and definitely on the left. Ed Husain, for all his initial mistake that we should ban HuT, isn’t a neocon either. He opposed the war in Iraq and still does. He signed the letter against extending 42 days detention without hesitation. He’s not a fan of the Bush administration. How did he become a neocon ex-extremist?
There’s no doubt that Muslims are angry about the war in Iraq. But the question no one wants to address is: How did someone angry about the war (most Muslims, and myself included) go from being angry to blowing themselves up?
That’s not an issue about poverty. That is down to brainwashing and using the religious texts to convince someone they’re doing the right thing by strapping on a bomb. If the MCB and their ilk can’t do anything to change that then we need someone new to step up.
The criticism that QF have little grassroots support is irrelevant. Neither do the MCB – their affiliates do. The Quilliam Foundation is specifically focused on anti-terrorism, not “representing British Muslims” – this is an important distinction to understand. In effect, all it has to do is come up with some good and much-needed ideas, get government funding to go into that direction, and hopefully see an impact. That will be good for Muslims and non-Muslims.
When NGN and IJV launched, we didn’t necessarily need grass-roots support. That requires a ton of money and investment. What’s needed in some cases is a strong argument, compelling ideas and the start of an intellectual movement. That alone can shift the consensus.
NGN and IJV both shifted the consensus by the force of our arguments alone. Now, no one argues for community leaders. Its become a dirty word. For that to happen, people needed to speak out.
If the QF can help re-direct the ton of govt money that is sloshing around into something more productive in dealing with terrorism, it will have done its job. (Note: I’m not saying all the money going into combating extremism is crap, but I’m worried a significant proportion is being wasted on silly projects and I’ve heard enough bad examples). The amount of controversy it has raised simply signals to non-Muslims that Muslims don’t actually want to sort out terrorism.
|Post to del.icio.us|
Filed in: Muslim,Organisations,Terrorism