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  • Technorati: graph / links

    The Foreign Office and radical Islam

    by Sunny on 14th July, 2006 at 4:31 AM    

    Tonight Martin Bright’s much trailed documentary, Who Represents British Muslims? will be on Channel 4 at 7:30pm.

    Bright says that rather than tackling the ideology that breeds extremism, Whitehall has instead embraced it, promoting a narrow, austere version of Islam.

    He told AIM magazine that a series of leaks from the Foreign Office showed the government was very open in their strategy of reaching out to organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic radicals abroad. But that ignores the “huge diversity of people from the Muslim community” the government can deal with he adds, and instead focuses on representing a narrow ideology.

    Unsurprisingly the usual suspects are screaming about it. I will come back to them.

    Sid focuses on the Bangladeshi MP, Delwar Hossein Sayeedi.

    Maulana Delwar Hossain Sayeedi is an MP of the Jamaati Islami party in Bangladesh. He has been implicated in the mass-killing of thousands of Bangladeshis who were deemed pro-Liberation in Bangladesh in 1971. He has made numerous statements defending and legitimising attacks on Hindus as well as Ahmadiyya Muslims.

    He has called for and has legitimised attacks on civilians in the USA and UK for their role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan despite numerous trips to the UK, where he enjoys the hospitality of the East London Mosque. He has, on numerous occassions, called for the Blasphemy Law to be used to ban journalists and writers such as Humayun Azad; and when the writer was stabbed and killed by unknown assailants, the attack was alleged to be inspired by Sayeedi.

    Guess what. Sayeedi is due to speak at Dr Abdul Bari’s East London Mosque tomorrow. Drishtipat and Delwar Hussain have more on the background of the Bangladeshi politics.

    I went to the launch at Policy Exchange earlier in the week. Among many of the Muslims there was Professor Neal Robinson in the panel, who has written numerous guides to Islam. He echoed the same view that the government was very regrettably becoming close to the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat e Islami’s version of Islam.

    You can download the document that Policy Exchange has published to co-incide with the documentary from here.

    There are a few quick points to make on this:

    1) The government engaged with Jamaat and MB in the past as a buffer against communists. Now they’re continuing on the basis that….

    2) They have a very imperialist and racist view of Muslims that says: “they’re all quite loony so I guess we shall have to deal with the loony ones.”

    3) Which brings us to the MCB. The latter have apparently released a hilarious statement. For example:

    …is clearly aimed at campaigning for the imposition of a new Muslim leadership which is pro-Israel…

    Surely, we should be building peaceful ties with the Muslim world, not cutting them off… [How about inviting some peaceful imams over then?]

    Bright wheels out a motley crew of some discredited and some unknown figures to support his ludicrous arguments. One figure, from the so-called Sufi Muslim Council… [I love this - anyone not affiliated to the MCB is apparently discredited or "unknown"]

    surely he should have been questioned about what level of support – if any - he actually had within the Muslim communities across the UK which he is now claiming to represent. [Sure - and how much support does the MCB have?]

    4) The worst offenders are apologists like Islamophobia Watch. Although they know Jamaat are not exactly nice people, because they are being attacked by “Islamophobes”, IW feels obliged to protect them. They’re simply playing into the community politics: “I will defend an idiot because someone more hated is attacking him”. When do they actually stand up for their values of non-racism?

    5) People like also end up playing into the hands of the racists who want to portray Muslims as nutters. Not only that, they end up being part of the colonial policy of playing groups off against each other, to the detriment of the ordinary Muslims. They’re being screwed over in the Middle East and here. All the big boys are too busy playing politics.

    Watch the documentary.

    Filed in: Media, Muslim, Organisations

    • El Cid
      about time this issue was highlighted
    • SajiniW
      I also didn't like the way Muslims were spoken about during Sajid Khan MP's speech last week.

      Whilst the man may be a Muslim himself, he did give the impression that the overwhelming majority were 'backward' - completely untrue since Muslims are doing well at every level - just not in consistent numbers.

    • Sid

      You're right to draw attention to voices who attempt to devalue or even denigrate entire populations of Muslims which is regressive. Even if the intentions are good.

      I'd like to give Sadiq Khan the benefit of the doubt because his FabSoc article you linked to in which he voices some good ideas. I think the danger is that while there are known vile religious supremacist trouble makers such as Maulana Sayeedi whose track record need to be highlighted, there is also the problem that to many he is regarded as a respectable and upright cleric who has their interests at heart: the interests of Muslims. Now this popular regard for Sayeedi and people like him is completely misplaced and horribly unrepresentative - but how do you tackle this misconception.

      Ultimately I think Sadiq Khan has his own career interests at heart as well. The problem of re-education on a value system has to be tackled in the communities and not in the lecture halls of the Fabian Society.
    • Siraj
      How can Bangladeshis invite someone to their mosque who was implicated or justifies the genocidal atrocities of 1971? How can they have forgotten that? I'm not saying Bengalis should fixate over it, or blame Pakistanis endlessly, but how can they support a man who denies and apologises for those atrocities? Is this what 'ummah politics' leads us to?
    • Fe'reeha
      Wonderful analysis Sunny and Sid. The Muslim community indeed is caught sadly between the two ends, one trying its best to depict it as a bunch of nutters who need to change their entire belief system and the other who want to casterate them into believing that the one code of life is the only way of life.
      They are lietrally between the devil and the deep blue see, and I am not sure which one is the bigger evil?
      The racist from outside or the racist from within?
    • seekeroftruth
      Fareeha: why do we have to think that the only choice to be with the racists from inside or racist from outside. There IS a better third option: a pious, decent, modern life without losing our humanity to inward looking religous supremacism and our spirituality/morality to a rootless lifestyle. Moreover, the liberal society here is not stopping any religious person from not observing its religion. All it is asking for is that no one can impose their view on others by force.
    • seekeroftruth
      Sunny: One thing which you should point is that in the recent IslamEmpo festival, many fresh voices were given a chance BUT Qazi Hussain Ahmed was also invited. Now Qazi Hussain AHmed is the president of Jamaat which is well known for being anti-semitic,against participation of women in Pakistan in the social sphere, against arts and entertainment, with ideological support to many of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in Pakistan. Now these stances of being against Music is not just a pious personal policy. Jamaat activists routinely bully
      healhty co-ed activities such as concerts, dramas, debates on campuses. Recently the Jamaat website called Zarqawi a martyr and many Jamaat activists secretly and opnely support alqaeda. Now why the hell was Qazi Sahib invited as a spokesman of 'Islamic revivalsim'. If he was invited they might as well also invite Mulla Omer also!

      Now interesting thing is that Jamaat has never got more than 5% votes in Pakistani elections and Pakistanis have basically discredited the Jamaat as one of the crazy 'Mullas'. However
      due to Jamaat's stance of being against US invasion in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jamaat has got provincial support in NWFP. People like Qazi are part of the 'Islam's 'problem and it is interesting that such a figure was invited by IslamExpo in London especially on 7/7.
    • seekeroftruth
      I don't see a problem with the report. However there is so much Islamophobia in the media, that I'm sure that the majority of the British Muslims will be apologetic or reactionary after seeing the program although most Muslims complain in private about the minority of Muslim extremists getting all the power/attention/funds etc.

      The report calls Rachid Ghannoushi a mad mullah which is a bit too harsh because I think Rachid Ghannoushi is trained in the western philosophies and has made a case for democracy in Muslim countries which is atleast better than some of the nutters being promoted in British Islam.
    • Selena
      There IS a better third option: a pious, decent, modern life without losing our humanity to inward looking religous supremacism and our spirituality/morality to a rootless lifestyle.

      Many other communities face a sense of rootlessness, not just Muslims. Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, and Afro Caribbeans. The point is to not interpret this as a condition that exists unique to you, that is an abyss seeking to destroy you. You give the solution when you say that it is important to stress that the liberal society is not preventing anyone from observing their religion. This point has to be reiterated time and again, because often the dichotomy is framed in a way that it would seem there are liberals with sticks standing outside mosques intimidating them to give up their religion. But this totally misunderstands the reality of a liberal society, and suggests a failure of imagination and understanding of what this society is.
    • David T
      There seems to be a lot of excitement from the Bungalawa camp about a largely descriptive article Bright wrote in 2001 about some historians which had suggested that the Quran was written gradually a few hundred years after the death of Mohammed.

      Having read the article, the suggestion that the Quran wasn't a historical document seems the most inflamatory thing about it. There's some discussion in the article as well of how the historical research had an appeal to Islam bashers, and some discussion of aggressive reactions to the historians work.

      Am I missing something about this article?
    • Selena
      Osama Saeed has got his tartan knickers in a twist about it too! Viva Martin Bright.
    • sonia
      Siraj - good question. the diasporic element is key here. you don't find the jamaat e islami lot are very popular in bangladesh. the fact that these guys have formed a coalition government with the ruling BNP piss loads of people off. of course in bangladesh this plays out as political rivalry. everyone on the Awami League side
      ( the opposition party) says precisely what you say, and plenty more people who don't do party politics think much the same sort of thing about the Jamaat e islami. i remember during trips to dhaka if a few jamaat types were on the street waving pakistani flags shouting pakistan zindabad they would get near the university area ( hotbed of political activists) and they'd run away before getting beaten up by all the other politicos. of course this was b4 they shored up with the BNP and now they get away with a lot more.

      and people in bangladesh do focus on the pakistan thing - the enmity is kept up very strongly for a lot of ordinary people. in a similar way that jewish people feel about Nazis. very similar. none of this 'muslim brotherhood' business of course. obviously not. the nationalist frame of thinking is one that rejected unity with the so-called 'islamic' state of Pakistan - and one that united bengalis against non-bengalis. and of course received help from India. {so much for all this clash of civilization simple straight forward business..}
    • sonia
      this dynamic appears to be different for british bangladeshis and british pakistanis..i'd like to note. a bone of contention between bangladeshi's and british bangladeshis.
    • Sid
      By the way, Bright has asserted, on his blog, that the Foreign Office has put pressure on Channel 4 to excise the references of Delwar Hossein Sayeedi from the program. This of course, begs some awkward questions...
    • sonia
      i'm interested in seeing how the misuse/misinterpretation of the word 'representation' pans out. are we talking about representation of views or representation politically. whichever one you take to mean - will have different consequences. if one is worried about 'states' within states and this talk about islamic state being formed in britain then one would be worried by thoughts of british muslims wanting separate 'representation'..
    • Siraj
      Thanks Sonia for that post. If Abdul Bari of the MCB who is himself Bangladeshi is hosting a man like Sayeed who is an apologist for and ideological kin of the people who carried out a genocide against the Bengali people, you really have to ask what kind of 'moderate' Abdul Bari is. Extraordinary. But this is the same kind of pressure that the 'ummah' put on us in 1971, when we had to toe the Pakistani line, and now in England it seems the Jamaat e Islami types are also telling Bangladeshis to welcome an apologist for their genocide, also in the name of the 'ummah'. The ummah trumps all, we must all bow down to the ummah, and kiss the feet of a monster.

      Bunglwala, Sacranie and Bari are dangerous and insidious men.
    • SeekerofTruth: However there is so much Islamophobia in the media, that I’m sure that the majority of the British Muslims will be apologetic or reactionary after seeing the program although most Muslims complain in private about the minority of Muslim extremists getting all the power/attention/funds etc.

      Heh, you got it in one. Bunglawala and his cronies live in a world of their own where they think they have so much support. I was listening to a debate on Asian Network and the presenter said messages posted on their messageboard indicated that some of those Muslims hadn't even heard of the MCB let alone let them represent.
      The MCB person on the programme said something along the lines of: "They must not be living on this planet then". Haha!

      Now interesting thing is that Jamaat has never got more than 5% votes in Pakistani elections and Pakistanis have basically discredited the Jamaat as one of the crazy ‘Mullas’.

      And this is the crux of the problem isn't it. The Jamaat lot get no traction in Pakistan but here they are bloody all over the place and this idiotic government believes they represent all Muslims. I see it as modern racism.

      Selena - Osama gets his knickers into a twist over everything. No change there.
    • Fe'reeha
      Well Jamaat-e-Islami is not very popular in the elite and high middle class sector of Pakistan either.
      In fact none of the Islamic parties ever did well in any Pakistani election until under Musharraf's regime, and 9/11 again played a major part in helping Mullahs to play the victim card in Pakistan.
      Note-worthy factor is that Pakistan's society remains more or less moderate with very little focus on Jamat-e-Islami type of politics. The fact that Jamat-e-Islami focuses on Universities and Alma Matters speaks volumes of the type of mentality these people have. In colleges and Universities, Jamat-e-Islami has always been notorious in harassing students, in particular female ones. They have always been at the forefront of causing trouble for students.
      If Musharraf had not thrown both the big political parties out of the general election, the so called Mullah alliance would have never made it to the political top. Then again, the past record of PPP and Muslim League, the two major parties of Pakistan shrieks of corruption and hence Musharraf apparently had no choice but to bar the main parties. Ironically however, even though the parties were barred, the same people fought elections from different channels.
      Pakistani politics more or less remains a haven of corruption and massive exploitation.
    • David T - where's the article? I haven't read it..
    • Sonia - Is representation possible? Shouldn't we give up on this mirage?

      I wonder how many people actually expect ever to be politically represented? Even among those who vote for an election winner, how many do so as a lesser evil? How many soon enough feel their expectations are betrayed?

      Representation of views is more realistic, but might best be served by a large variety of voices - and that is precisely what political bureaucracies and mass media do not want. They want to be able to simplify things. The bureaucracies will try to pay for people to do this for them. The media will focus on a few sensational voices owr what it considers makes for a simple symbolic drama of conflicting opinions.

      If we insist in being a multiplicity which resist representation, then there is a possibility - at best - invisibility. But we don't have the power to avoid being represented, which means being misrepresented. Just as we have opinions about other groups, members of those groups will have views about ours.

      If things get hairy, we'll be told we have to represent, otherwise we are misrepresented. As we take clumsy steps to do this, we'll probably be attacked and we will find we are still misrepresented. That's how political discourse seems to play out even in PP! So we'll be told we must represent differently. And then we aren't representing at all - just playing a role that others have decided we should play.

      What are the real dynamics of representation? I don't feel I have any way into it which won't leave me worse off than being ignored. Sorry if this is going off-topic... any more positive views on representation would be appreciated.
    • Leon
      "Is representation possible? Shouldn’t we give up on this mirage?"

      Representation depends on the level of engagement by the citizenry. I don't quite buy into it but there's something to be said about the phrase "we get the politicians we deserve"...
    • sonia
      Arif - i agree with what you're saying. i think what you've raised is precisely at what i'm pointing at.. I think a lot will be revealed from people's reactions to the documentary.

      right -off topic- when are we going to be able to talk about the mad crazy things that are going off right now..the whole beirut situation..
    • What I get are politicians I don't want. And I get told that, in some way I deserve to. And I get told that I must be more engaged. And I get told on what terms and in what manner I should get engaged. And I try to engage.

      And I get politicians I don't want.....

      So I could get all consumed with trying to change them. And find I am no longer living my life, but becoming an operator in a snake-pit.

      So I could try to change the snake-pit dynamics, which then puts me in the extreme margins of political debate, as someone who does not accept the "rules of the game".

      And still make no difference. Get consumed in trying or give up.

      This isn't a counsel of despair. I'm still involved, and I do think it makes a difference, but not in the ways suggested by the mirage of representation.
    • Leon
      right -off topic- when are we going to be able to talk about the mad crazy things that are going off right now..the whole beirut situation..

      When it's posted!? It's because of this post, that and a number of other things floating about today, that I haven't posted. Didn't want to bump this down until we'd all seen the documentary...
    • seekeroftruth
      will a video of the program be available online ?
    • Leon
      No idea, hopefully some bright spark will record it and put it up on YouTube.:)
    • niazmala
      RE: Crimes committed during Bangladesh Independence war

      Whilst I agree strongly with the main conclusion of Martin Bright's pamphlet, I can see 2 areas where critics will lay in - firstly there is a question mark about whether a majority of British Muslims of Indian sub-continent origin would actually self describe as Sufi - I think just Muslim is far more likely (with an acknowledgement that religious practices and historical proselytising 'back home' was definitely very Sufi influenced.)

      Secondly, referring to crimes committed during the Bangladesh war of Independence both sidetracks the debate and opens a can of worms ; Not because there is any doubt about the history of Jammat-i-Islami's role in atrocities and war crimes committed during the 1971 Independence War as these led to religious parties being initially banned in Bangladesh after independence. Sadly however, although key atrocities were well documented at the time, because much of the rhetoric used during never ending internecine feuds perpetrated by the two main (secular) Bangladeshi political parties, (BNP and Awami League) relates to accusation and counter smear about 'who collaborated with whom during the war of independence,' this can be an extraordinarily divisive issue amongst Bangladeshis - made even more complex by the fact that both AL and BNP have at times allied themselves with Jammat in electoral alliances when in oppostion. And most of all legally, by the fact the post Independence AL government of Sheikh Mujib actually gave a blanket amnesty in order to facilitate entry to the UN, making it much harder now for victims' families to seek any form of justice such as a Truth Commission.

      With most Bangladeshis both at home and in the diaspora being well under 35 and distrusting the dynastic elites running the 2 leading parties, (which is why whoever is the incummbent government has been voted out 3 times in succession since the end of military rule) it is not actually that hard for many Bangladeshis to overlook the history and 'move on.' especially because as Delwar Hussain rightly points out in his opendemocracy piece, religous related groups have actually been more effective at reaching out to young men than secualrists who are either too middle aged or middle class cultural/Bengali nationalist to be effective.

      This is regretable from a human rights point of view, - if the Bangladeshi and Vietnamese governments acted the same way as pursuers of General Pinochet and old Nazis, then the human rights tribunals would be clogged with cases from the 70s.

      But on the other hand it reflects pragmatism, forgivness and the less comfortable fact that atrocities committed against Bengalis on behalf of the Pakistan junta during 1971, weren't just by Pakistani soliders.
    • Complain complain complain! Sonia have you heard Arif do anything else?? :P

      Seeker - you can watch the programme online too, Channel 4 streams some programmes online.
    • Sid
      niazmala - agree with you on all counts.
    • Siraj

      I just don't want to open a can of worms, I just don't want a Jamaati accused of war crimes in the 1971 who calls Bangladeshi Hindus 'human excrement' and makes hate speeches against the West to be invited to speak at a Bengali mosque as a guest of Muslim leaders. It is they who are opening a can of worms with their arrogance I think.
    • seekeroftruth
      well forget any chance of countering radical islam after bombings in beirut. I'm sure this will make many pissed off youngsters to be more vulnerable to peddlars of hate and murder.
    • Sunny, I am doing my civic duty to represent the constituency of complainers.

      If Maulana Sayeedi is suspected of war crimes, we should see if any human rights laws (of the kind that detained Pinochet) could be used to arrest him on arrival. Perhaps well-informed people could contact lawyers and then send information to the police.

      Agree with niazmala that most Muslims in the UK probably do not consider themselves Sufi.

      Agree with speakeroftruth that news from Lebanon will make it harder - but we shouldn't forget our chances of countering hate among radical Muslims. We have to encourage them to enlarge their concern beyond Muslim suffering alone.
    • Siraj
      What other suffering do you think we should encourage them to enlarge their concern to Arif? They dont give a damn about anyone but themselves and their concern for Muslims is very selctive too. Personally I am pessimistic, this is like a virus that has taken hold and will not stand to reason. At the very least, the government should stop supporting these people with money and prominence. Unless that happens, you can condemn the future Muslim generations in Britain to increased ghettoisation and extremism and they will be even more of an anomaly in this society. The Open Democracy article makes a good point, they have exploited multiculturalism to force their anti-diversity anti-tolerance agenda.
    • Siraj
      This is the article by Delwar Hussein I was referring to.

      Their local success is in part a consequence of the state-sanctioned ideas of multiculturalism which dominated society during their upbringing. They have been able to use, adapt and extend such ideas by taking them far from their "liberal" origin, and joining very different movements which yet proclaim the same objective of "equality".
      Jamaat and other fundamentalist groups are sowing the seeds of future conflict, as well as obscuring more hopeful and humane pathways to equity and harmony for Bengalis, in both Britain and Bangladesh.
    • seekeroftruth
      Delwar makes a mistake which is repeated too often in the western media. He says

      'most Bengalis wanted a secular society, rooted in Bengali culture rather than in Islam.'

      Now where as it in evidently true that most Bengalis want a society rooted in Bengali culture it appears to be inaccurate to say that most Bengalis want a society which does not have roots from Islam. And it is exactly these kind of statements which give too much power to reactionary, anti-modernity, anti-west, extremist Muslim activists who are then left as the only flag bearers of Islam. It implies that the Islam of Jamaat is the only interpretation of Islam. It would be better to say that Bengalis want a tolerant, liberal Islam which does not ask them to compromise on Bengali culture/language/dress etc.
    • Siraj
      Yeah, but that is a matter of emphasis. The rest of what he says is true, blaming the 'western media' will not do in the face of this.

      So George Galloway is going to share a stage with a war criminal who says Hindus are excrement, what a great socialist.
    • David T
      Well... Galloway might pull out. It will be interesting to see if he does, and what he says about it.

      Either way, he's f*cked up.

      Quelle surprise.
    • Siraj, I understand your despair, because it is hard work. But the tendency to care only about your own causes and to be selective is very human and very widespread. The focus on Muslim anger itself is very selective, just as the focus on Israeli anger is.

      And yet we have to live on this planet. You ask what other suffering they should enlarge their concern to, I would say all the suffering which the radical Muslim groups might appear to justify. It isn't impossible, people want to be consistent and to be recognised as principled. But it isn't easy, because they will usually be paranoid about my agenda.

      The Open Democracy article is a good one, but stopping Government funding isn't going to make any difference in my opinion. The reasons for radicalisation are more to do with consciousness of issues than anything else. I believe they usually merely mix their consciousness with mainstream ideology (seemingly shared by all their opponents) that when reasoning doesn't work, then violence is necessary. And so I'd focus on this ideology.
    • Siraj
      Arif stopping government funding will not cure it but it will remove their veneer of legitimacy, and it must be stopped for the simple reason that they and their message is divisive and menacing.

      They must be rooted out and exposed for what they are. Devolving concern from just Muslim causes to wider society, what is left for them? Do you really think that people who promote Mawdudi's vision ie: the MCB and all their associates who suck up money from the government and go out spreading communalism, do you think they will ever give that up for a message of concern for humanity? To them there is no humanity, only Muslims and non believers. How can you integrate Muslims into wider society when the youth are being peddled this kind of ideology, and it is even being paid for and sanctioned by the government.
    • niazmala
      Arif - Channel 4 did a documentary on the 1971 war crimes issue back in the mid 90s and various human rights groups and people such as GLA member Murad Qurehsi (who is quoted in Martin Bright's pamphlet) have been banging on about this for years - leters to the Home Office in pursuing war crimes trials don't work - in a large part because all Bangladesh governments since Mujib's amnesty have sidelined it (which is strange given the way international human rights law has moved on and the intensity of political rhetoric about the 1971 war, but less so when you note the youth of the Bangladeshi demographic ) - hence my potted history lesson.

      Siraj, Arif, Seeker, Others - I actually agree with most comments above in this panel - My fear is that most people watching the programe will not share your insight - Plus as Bangladeshi groups are so adept at sniping at each other, the likes of MAB /Jammat etc may not even need to try hard to defend themselves if intra-Bengali namecalling does half the job for them .

      It is bad enough in principle that the government and media want to package people via faith groups. The fact that in practice they are so obviously compounding their error by the people they pick is deeply disturbing.

      Unfortunately I don't think most viewers and commentators will share your insight - my worry as someone highly concerned about the politics o
    • Siraj

      I agree with you 100%. The government really is making things worse for us by its policy. This is what is so frustrating. It is actually exacerbating the problem which it thinks it is solving. They are being played like saps and whilst I agree that there are dangers of adding to an atmosphere of misunderstanding when the film goes out, the alternative of not addressing the issues and challenging the government policy of dealing with jamaati types is the greater evil. If they have their success now, I can see nothing but regression into this reflexive attitude by future Muslim generations in Britain and it will be cultivated and celebrated by the MCB and Jamaatees. They want their 'lumpen Muslim mass' to advance their cause. It makes me sick in the pit of my stomach that such people as Sayeedi and others are effectively being given a free ride. Theyt are sowing the seeds of future trouble for everyone.
    • Siraj
      By the way, why are writers like Delwaar Hussein not published in the Guardian, but Faisal Bodi and Bunglawala are? What purchase do they have over the Guardian editors? You would think they would like to help beleagured Muslims find a platform and challenge policies detrimental to integration and progressive causes.
    • Siraj, I don't share your view of the MCB. From my point of view they are an organisation of the establishment. It is in the unenviable position of trying to represent Muslims, which means they have to choose between the rules of the establishment which funds and consults them (being "moderate"), of disciplining Muslims on behalf of the establishment, and of representing the views of Muslims who are often alienated from this establishment. Expending effort to show it isn't "moderate", misses the point for me - that its greatest value would be to provide a means of democratic representation and engagement for alienated Muslims.

      The ideology you refer to is "us" v "them" and it is dangerous because it is supremacist. But if we make out that this is a Muslim problem, then we are using the same ideology ourselves - denying that we are a common humanity in order to justify attacks on those we fear. My message of concern for humanity extends to you, me, New Labour, the MCB, Kadima, Bush and the Muslim radical. I don't think that it is harder to convince the Muslim radical to share this than some of the others on the list. Should I give up on all of them?

      niazmala, thanks for the potted history. Your posts are very informative. I am not a lawyer, but it seems that if Pinochet can be arrested in the UK for what took place in the 1970s despite being given a full amnesty by Chile and representations from the Chilean Government for his release, then any war criminal should. Has Amnesty International been involved? Which law would we need to change to enable the police to arrest him?
    • Siraj
      I dont follow your logic Arif on the issue of 'making out that this is a Muslim problem'. When it deals with combatting the supremacist thought system, it is a Muslim problem in as much as it is Muslims that have to repudiate that from within.
    • Fe'reeha
      MCB indeed has some serious problems in their structure and working procedures.
      To start with, most of the MCB is run by family members and friends. For example, if Mr Bunglawala is the Media Secretary (Head of the Media committee) his wife was working as the Press Officer. Now this post belongs to his sister.
      Similarly, the finance Secretary's daughter also works on a funded project. Another committee of MCB is run by husband, wife and brother-in-law. So the idea of “brother-hood” is quite literally prevalent.
      Most of the things remain in the family.
      They are highly secretive about what exactly they do and also a bit reluctant about welcoming new people.
      They are also extremely arrogant and will not let anyone else tell them what is right and wrong.
      Yet, MCB does hold credibility in one regard. They were always available for a comment on issues related to Muslims and usually their comments represent general majority of Muslims. Unlike the Hindu community where you would be groping to find someone to come out and give one collective response, MCB is usually easily accessible by the foreign media.

      Where people like John Ware and Martin Bright get in trouble is when they expect the MCB to support the Israeli establishment. No Muslim organisation can openly declare truce with Israel no matter how moderate they try to portray themselves, sadly that’s the way Muslim community thinks. I am not commenting if this attitude is right or wrong, but being a representative body, an organisation requires to voice the Muslim opinion of the majority.
      Sadly, I will also have to agree with Bunglawala's statement about Ahmedis as well. Even the most moderate interpretation of Islam will not allow Ahmedis to be called Muslims. Now what these organisations need to do is to make people understand just because someone is non Muslim, you are not to despise them. The sad reality remains that serious misconduct takes place against Ahmedis in Pakistan and no one takes a stance against it.
    • David T
      "By the way, why are writers like Delwaar Hussein not published in the Guardian, but Faisal Bodi and Bunglawala are? What purchase do they have over the Guardian editors? You would think they would like to help beleagured Muslims find a platform and challenge policies detrimental to integration and progressive causes. "

      Seamus Milne is Comment editor, whose political background is the hardline Communist Party of Britain. Milne is a close associate of Galloway - dccording to Galloway's biography, "I'm Not the Only One", the idea for RESPECT was formulated at a dinner party with Milne, Andrew Murray (CPB) and Galloway.

      The British far left sees Islamist groups like Jamaat and the Muslim Brotherhood as the only real opposition to 'imperialism'. That's a pretty rare position in the European far left: few groups have gone as far as the Murray wing of the CPB, the SWP and Galloway in forming an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood.

      What you've been seeing in the Guardian Comment Pages over the last few years is a cultivating and promoting of Muslim Brotherhood figures, to that end.

      There's another aspect to it as well. There's a trend on the Left which is quite attracted to the image of the exotic freedom fighter, full of passion and commitment. People like Bodi fit the stereotype of the 'romantic angry oriental'. Bunting was a key example of this tendency. I remember somebody telling me, at the time of the Aslam/Guardian business, how excited she was when - prior to the Ablution unmasking - she discovered that he was a Hizb activist.

      At the root of this is a strong Rousseauian tendency on the Left. There's a part of Left wing thinking which viscerally believes that we've been corrupted by urbanity and modernity, and that fury and passion represents a turn towards our authentic roots. Of course, the promotion of British asians who conform to the cliche is rank orientalism: but they don't see it that way at all.
    • This is what I'm trying to say Siraj:

      Supremacist1: Kill the infidel oppressors
      Me: Do you mean the Saudi Government oppressing minorities? Or the Sudanese Government oppressing non-Arabs....
      S1: You are a western agent, trying to justify oppression, ignoring the oppression of fellow muslims, lowest of the low etc
      Me: no, this is my view on Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir, etc etc etc
      S1: Then why don't you join our fight?
      Me: Why don't you join mine?

      Supremacist2: Muslims cannot be reasoned with, we need to take drastic action
      Me: Do you mean the terrible Muslims who take part in extraordinary renditions and torture suspected radicals in their prisons? Or the Muslim countries dictatorships who co-operate with US foreign policy regardless of justice and the wishes of their populations?
      S2: You are one of them, an apologist for terror, disgusting moral equivalence, in denial about Islamism.
      Me: No, this is my view of terrorist violence, Wahabbi philosophies, Bin Laden, etc
      S2: Then why don't you join my fight?
      Me: why don't you join mine?

      Supremacism is easy to see in those we fear, but harder to see in ourselves. I see it as something increasingly widespread both among Muslims and those who fear them (eg Neoconservatives) and they both want to be increasingly feared because they do not trust the ability of the other side to be reasonable.

      If I give up on trying to be reasonable, I would be joining them. And it would not matter morally to me whether I joined one side or the other as I think both are supremacists who only believe they are anti-supremacists.
    • raz
      "No Muslim organisation can openly declare truce with Israel no matter how moderate they try to portray themselves"

      That's bullshit. They just need to grow some balls, like these guys:


      "Sadly, I will also have to agree with Bunglawala’s statement about Ahmedis as well. Even the most moderate interpretation of Islam will not allow Ahmedis to be called Muslims"

      Who cares what they call themselves? Whatever theological issues people may have with them, I've never heard of any Ahmedis flying planes into buildings, blowing up tube trains or cutting off peoples heads. Next thing people will argue that Sufis/Shias/etc aren't Muslims either.
    • David T
      "Where people like John Ware and Martin Bright get in trouble is when they expect the MCB to support the Israeli establishment"

      I don't think either of them have done that at all.

      There's a world of difference between

      - "supporting the Israeli establishment" on the one hand (which of course the MCB should not be doing); and

      - showing solidarity with groups that carry out suicide bombings against civilians in Israel.

      Likewise, there's a difference between "supporting the Israeli establishment" and pointedly and repeatedly boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day, not on the basis that it is a stupid idea, but on the (erroneous) grounds that the event commemorated the Armenian genocide and the "so called gay genocide" (as they put it).
      And then continuing to boycott it, even in the year the theme had been broadened to include the Rwandan Genocide, on the basis that it didn't recognise the 'genocides' in Palestine and Kashmir.

      Some of this can be explained by the political orientation of the MCB. The rest is explained by the incredible stupidity of its nepotistic leadership.
    • Fatwadodger
      Fe'reeha, sorry, but nonsense about Ahmadis. According to the MCB not only Ahmadis but Ismailis are also not Muslims. I interviewed Abdul Bari's war criminal buddy Chaudhry Mueen-uddin, co-chairman of East London mosque and he told me so. Incidentally, he was also implicated in a dispatches documentary about Bangladeshi war criminals.

      This sectarian crap has gained too much currency in Pakistan, where it is completely institutionalised, we can't let it get a foothold here. There are loads of Sunnis/Shias who have no problem describing Ahmadis as Muslim, it is a Jamaat instigated thing to say that they are not Muslim (it was Jamaat who pressured Bhutto to declare them non-Muslim) and it is Jamaat and it's spawn (MCB et al), who originate in the sub-continent who have got such a problem with them.

      Plus Raz makes a good point - Ahmadis don't believe in violence - this is used by MCB et al as evidence that they are not proper Muslims but they have never reacted with violence in the face of ongoing persecution in Pakistan and elsewhere. Hence the fact that although you hear of Ahmadis being slaughtered in Pakistan you don't hear about the kind of ongoing sectarian crap that you get between extremist Shia and Sunni groups (before anyone goes mental, I'm not saying that all Shia and Sunni groups are extremist, just that you don't get violent wings of Ahmadis or Ismailis). Anyway, the documentary has started so I'm going to watch it now.
    • raz

      Just a small addition. Ismailis are technically part of the Shia sect, which has numerous subgroupings.
    • Siraj

      How can Abdul Bari as a Bangladeshi consort with someone who carried out, or apologise for, crimes against humanity in Bengal? This is the madness of ummah politics!
    • Siraj
      Arif, you talk in abstracts. On the streets of England where the supremacism isolates Muslims from mainstream British society, and condemns us to the margins, and teaches hatred of non Muslims, and breeds next years suicide bombers, it is the responsibility of Muslims to deal with this unilaterally amongst ourselves. Enough abstracts - positive steps and arguments now.
    • Siraj
      David T

      The Rousseauian tendency is allied to fascist movements too, return to the soil, the threat of cosmopolitanism, when the right (Muslim Brotherhood) and the far Left (Respect) come together they tickle each other pink.
    • Fatwadodger
      Yes Siraj absolutely. That's the thing with Ummah politics, any politics based on exclusion will inevitably turn in on itself as it moves in ever-decreasing circles.

      That's the sad thing about Pakistan, a land that was created as a land where Muslims were supposed to live without fear of persecution from other faiths, has turned into a land where Muslims persecute each other. Like George Bush, as long as the Mullahs have something to define themselves in opposition against (the West, the Hindus, the Jews, the Ahmadis etc) they feel they have something to unite under.

      As soon as they get their mythical 'Sharia state' they turn in on themselves - on women, minorities, critics.

      And in those places where they don't get their way, they continue to blame everything on the 'enemies of Islam'.

      I read the statement from the MCB but just watched the documentary - nothing on Ahmadis so why did Fe'reeha and the MCB feel the need to talk about them? Sunny, where the Ahmadis in a rough cut version of the film or something?

      I'd heard from the producer that Murad Qureishi was going to feature quite heavily in the film too, but he only had one line (about Sayeedi), looks like there may have been some major edits.

      ps Raz, yes, I know Ismailis are a Shia sect but sadly the MCB don't seem to be aware of this. In fact, I saw an article in the New Statesman (of all places) ages ago which said that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown shouldn't speak for Muslims as she is 'not a real Muslim' because she is Ismaili. The writer was an English woman but I wonder where she got her info from.
    • seekeroftruth
      The program was to be honest quite disappointing. Although the basic theme that Jamaat/Muslim Brotherhood inspired minority Muslim are somehow acting as spokespersons of Islam in UK is spot on, the lines of attack were weak:

      1.The program implied that the majority of Muslims are apolitical. However, the majority of Muslims in UK are politically aware and although they sympathize with the Palestinians etc. they want a peaceful solution to all these issues. Moreover the younger generation is increasingly becoming more ideological and political in their approach especially on 'Muslim' issues. However they definitely do not share the Ikhwan/Jamaat/HT aspirations who generally have an eagerness for violence, gradual domination and an exclusive world view.
      2.The program stressed that 80% Muslims follow sufi thought. Now it is true that most Mirpuri's and other Muslims had sufi leanings in their country of origin (many Mirpuris followed an easy going, rustic, spiritual, non-puritan Islam), I wouldn't say that a majority of people follow 'classical Sufi masters' or do 'group invocations'. There has been a tendency among these people to opt in UK for a less 'rustic faith' which can even lead to joining puritan groups. It would be more accurate to say that 80% or more of the Muslims are moderate. This humane, moderate kind of Islam can have different sources and methodologies: traditional, spiritual, liberal, modernist, rational, Sufi, more Quranic.
      3.Moreover there was greater need to explore why MCB has an unsatisfactory representation. MCB gets elected via mosque committees and Muslim student organizations. Only those people who have more unidimensional identities tend to be more proactive in such groups. Therefore the MCB leadership will always tend to be conservative or ideological because the average practicing Muslim goes to the mosque for Friday prayers but does not hang out in the mosque and Muslim only conventions. We need to give the Muslim professionals and women more voice.
      4.Another point is that after decline of Islamic civilization and colonialism, there IS a serious crisis in authentic Islamic scholarship and leadership. Since hardly any educated people go to Imam training etc., the 'official Islam'/Muslim clergy tends to lack in education, intelligence, sophistication. Saudi backed, anti-intellectual, anti-humane, anti-rationality brand of Islam has even affected the orthodox but relatively more sophisticated Madhabs so that sometimes, one can't even know the difference. Jamaat/Ikhwan are even more problematic than the Saudi brand because they have an activist mindset where the Salafis are more intolerant and puritan but more introvert. So when MCB says it represents many mainstream groups, it actually does represent many 'main steam' Muslim clergies but not mainstream Muslims. Although Qaradawi is not perfectly a classically trained scholar and has said many un-Islamic things such as targetting civilians and suicide bombing, he IS one of the respected jurists in 'official orthodox Islam' and actually has relatively more moderate positions on many issues than many Salafi and other 'orthodox' groups. Now this is not giving any credibility to Qaradawi (who should not be give platforms to promote his immoral violent stance), but it just shows the problem that an extremist official group which is extremely reactionary to modernity, sticks to unreasonable medieval opinions but is in fact better versed in Islamic literature than many lay Muslims. Now the challenge for Muslims worldwide and UK is to show why these people like Qaradawi are theologically wrong and not as orthodox as they try to appear. (Many traditional groups, progressive groups are doing just that nowadays). Moreover, we need to tell the govt. they need to talk to the people and not the mosque leaders.
    • Leon
      Yep and it's matter of fact style was off putting as was him going on about having "concerns". Grow a spine mate and confront what a loony those guys and Bliar is...
    • I know seeker, I agree with all your points. I think the problem is that Martin Bright was aiming this at a white audience and at the government in a language they can understand. Muslims will get the gist but feel uncomfortable at some of the "facts".

      I don't believe the 80% Sufi figure either. A stretch of the imagination.

      I also found Michael Gove's usage of the word "medieval" a bit silly too. He could say inhumane etc or opressive or whatever. But the usage of that word suggests he still believes those people (meaning Muslim scholars are from the middle ages).... I wonder if he'd used that for a Christian fanatic or an ultra-orthodox Jew. Don't think so.

      Bunglawala got off too easily. There are so many ways to catch him on the spot but I think Bright didn't question him enough.

      A good point was made though about the govt basically ignoring the recommendations since 7/7.
      The other thing is it definitely made the MCB look like government lackeys, which they pretty much are. They support each other like drunkards. It will reduce their credibility for sure.
    • seekeroftruth
      Sunny: That comment by Grove was ironic because suicide bombing is not medieval but very modern. Unlike many peaceful conservative Muslims who do actually follow medieval traditions, the Jamaat/Ikhwan people are lax in their methodology and sinister in their motives. That is why Hamas (an offshoot of Ikhwan) came up with suicide bombing which intill then was considered a big sin and heretical by orthodox Muslims. In many ways Ikhwan and Jamaat are a product of modernity and less rooted in tradition because of their 'ends justify the means theology'.
    • naqshi
      Sunny: 'sufi' is their stupid shorthand for barelwi, and there is no question at all barelwis are the overwhelming majority of asian muslims in uk, and 80 pc would really not be surprising imo
    • majority of peole being SUfi? hah what a laugh. as if majority of people know anything about gnosis! there may have been Sufis in areas where immigrants come from - what the hell does that mean - nothing.
    • Naqshi - Are the Mirpuris and Kashmiris mostly Barelwis? That can't be right. Indian Muslims are a minority aren't they? Man, I need a Venn diagram for all this. My head hurts :(

      Seeker - thanks for that.
    • Opinionated Voice
      I didnt watch the show, but the main problem is that we have peole at each end of the spectrum. On one hand there are the well to do moderate muslims that want to ignore the opression and suffering muslims face, on the other hand there are the radical elements that shout "infidels" at every given chance. More muslims in the middle is needed. Let it be noted that this is where the majority currently lie, but the non-muslim bigots want to ignore this as it crushes their arguements, just as the government want to ignore this as it exposes their shallow policies and failure to address the realities of their current failings of the terror situation.
    • 'want to ignore the suffering and oppression muslims face' - why only non-muslims? if you're going to be a humane sort of person you'd jolly well be interested in everyone's suffering and oppression. do you think you're only meant to worry about 'muslim' suffering?! what a parochial and selfish triabl sort of idea. not at all universalistic sort of thinking.

      what on earth is a barelwi>
    • Sid
      I was wholly disappointed and also slightly appalled at the lack of the research that went into the show. I agree with the feedback made so far.

      There were some dodgy interviewees. How he managed to get it so wrong on the penetration of Sufism among Muslims and then get a "Sufi" to back that claim up was a bit comical.

      Naqshi is right that they confused with Sufi with Barelvi because of its roots in the initiatic orders of the Sufis.
    • Fe'reeha
      I was wholly disappointed and also slightly appalled at the lack of the research that went into the show.

      I agree!
    • seekeroftruth
      Barelwi is relatively more 'sufi infused' in the sense that there seems to be more spirituality in it, it is more easy going (they are fine with traditional music, qawali etc whereas hardline orthodox want to stop music). Barelwi Islam is considered more 'superstitious' by puritans because many Barelwis revere their saints and claim that the Prophet was made of 'light' etc. Barelwis tend to be more tolerant than salafis but many people from orthodox madhabs consider Barelwis not as 'orthodox'.
    • seekeroftruth
      For a cogent and unapologetic analysis of the present huge divide between the 'extremists' and the 'moderates', please read this:


      It doesn't seem at all that both parties are following the same religion.
    • soru
      Barelwi: traditionalist Indo-Pakistani Sunnis
      Deobandi: revivalist Indo-Pakistani Sunnis
      Wahhabi: revivalist Arab Sunnis
    • Sid
      The good news is that Sayeedi was denied entry into the UK this morning. Don't have full details so don't know if his visa has been permanently revoked. :-)

    • Martin Bright
      My modest programme seems to have caused something of a stir. Sorry some of you found it disappointing, but it was only 30 minutes long - I couldn't cover everything and it had to make sense for a wider audience. The word "Sufi" was always going to be a problem and was clearly shorthand. But it was also the shorthand used by the interviewees. Possibly we should have used "Barelwi" but that is a more specific term.

      The programme was always intended by me as an intervention in the deabte and seems to have done the trick in raising some important issues. I can't help people who didn't like the tone.

      I am happy to engage with anyone who wants to email me at the New Statesman. My email address is not hard to find.

      And yes, it seems that Sayeedi has left the country.

      I can only hope that the government begins to wise up. Their strange love-affair with the Islamist politics of Jamaat-e-Islami and the Ikhwan needs to be scrutinised further.
    • Sayeedi was denied entry? Woohoo! The fucking FCO and even Dr Abdul Bari should be ashamed of themselves. The latter should be ashamed of betraying Bengalis.

      Martin - Glad to see you were reading the thread. I think it is tricky to please mainstream and Muslim audiences. If it achieves the intended effect of forcing a change in government policy, then it's great news. It's time they wisened up.

      But Muslim audiences need a bit more of a refined message. To be honest I don't think Michael Gove helped. There are plenty of Muslim people who dislike him for other reasons than being "medievil".

      I am glad of one thing - it did not demonise the British Muslim population.

      It would have been good to get Neal Robinson on there too. He was quite articulate and knowledgable at the policy exchange launch.
    • Roger
      "the idea for RESPECT was formulated at a dinner party with Milne, Andrew Murray (CPB) and Galloway. "
      One dinner party I'm glad to have missed!
    • Roger
      As a matter of interest, why do- or should- muslims need any organisations that "speak" for them? After all, the PM doesn't call in the Archbishop of Canterbury to learn what the views of christians are and- if he did- he'd know that it was only the opinions of anglicans he'd get. Muslims in the UK probably have much more in common with other non-muslims than they do with other muslims in fact.
    • Siraj, I think I've worked out where you misunderstand me. What I do (challenge other Muslims) and how I do it (without pretending that Muslims are more worse than other people). We agree on the first bit, but maybe not the second.

      I do think challenging supremacism is primarily a Muslim problem when it comes to my contact with fellow Muslims, and when there is any debate about our identity as Muslims. I'm not particularly concerned about the isolation and marginalisation you mention - I am coming at it more from the perspective of challenging hatred. And whether you believe it or not, I take this as one of my responsibilities.

      I don't think that challenging hatred is a specifically Muslim issue, however. You may think it is. Or you may think that arguing against supremacism is too abstract to make sense to people in the real world.

      I think focusing only on Muslims' ideological shortcomings will add to their sense of injustice and paranoia, hence make it impossible to make a difference in the real world. I think this is so obvious it makes me suspicious when people insist not only that dealing with the hatred of other Muslims is my responsibility, but also that I have to do so in an unjust and ineffective way, otherwise I am somehow one of them, an apologist, etc. etc.

      I understand such people probably want to vent their anger, but if I'm going to make a genuine difference, I have to ignore their advice. Perhaps this is analogous to how the MCB is positioned. To make a real difference they need to have credibility. And what makes them credible to Sunny and Martin Bright, will probably be the opposite of what makes them credible to radicalised supremacists. The question is whether they seek a particular kind of credibility in order to represent that group's opinions or to change them.

      We can only speculate.
    • sonia
      Roger has a good point in no. 74. it's part of treating muslims as a 'separate' crew which is obviously part of the problem in the first place.
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