When Government Focus Shifted from British Automotive Engineering to Engineering British Islam

Engineering British Islam

Government is focussing on the wrong engineering industry

Alex Moulton (hyrdagas suspension system), Alec Issigonis (original Mini-designer), Gordon Murray (veteran F1 designer and the brains behind the legendary Mclaren F1) – these are the names of some of the best engineers in the world.  But successive governments over the past few decades have not supported this industry.  From the Rover debacle, to allowing some of the most emotive marques in British history, like the MG, TVR, Triumph, Land Rover, Lotus, and Mini, fall into foreign hands, the British car industry has been let down.

The British government has not completely divorced itself from engineering however.  With the assistance of the extremism “experts” industry, and the highly contentious, neocon-driven Iraq and Afghan invasions, the UK government was able to divert its focus to engineering a government-compliant, government-serving, “British Islam”.

Nick Clegg’s Strategy for “Extremism”

With the seemingly assimilationist comments coming from David Cameron premised on the fabricated, completely rejected Trojan Hoax plot and rooted in the anti-Muslim, neocon Michael Gove’s attack on Islam and Muslims, Nick Clegg has given off his view on the matter of “British values” and Muslims.

Michael Gove’s position has been one of focussing on Islam and conflating increased religiosity with extremism, as Whitehall officials themselves have stated.  He has said that all extremists should be confronted regardless of whether they support violence, and described the Home Office approach to “just beating back the crocodiles that come close to the boat rather than draining the swamp”.

Referring to Islam and Muslims as a “swamp” says a lot about Gove and his thoughts on the Muslim minority.  In contrast Clegg does come off, at first, a lot more nuanced and with less Gove-ian seething hate:

“Muslims in Britain are the best antidote to extremism and much more effective than any number of decisions from Whitehall. The deputy prime minister believes moderate Muslims in Britain are key to safe and happy communities, and should be praised not singled out in an attempt to gain headlines.”

I would like to commend and extend my thanks to Clegg for taking (the delayed) steps to counter to some degree, the narrative of the neocons being pushed down the throats of compromised government bodies, which surely he is aware of, and the Muslim minority of Britain.

The “Moderate Muslim”, Labour’s PREVENT and Radical Middle Way

However, there are some issues I would like to highlight for Mr Clegg and those Muslim individuals and groups who adhere to the “promoting moderate Muslims” strategy.

The last time this was implemented was under the previous Labour government headed by Tony Blair. During that period, the RAND corporation policy document influenced the policy-making in “democratising Islam”; in another words, pushing for a reformation of the faith.  The first version of PREVENT was launched through the Department for Communities and Local Government as “Preventing Violent Extremism Pathfinder Fund” – local authorities were tasked to counter extremism by funding “moderate Muslim” organisations.  What resulted was one group of Muslims being pushed (in line with the RAND policy document guidance), and promoted over and above other Muslim groups.

What ensued was efforts to create a “British Islam”; an Islam which was malleable enough to posit against classical Islam, thereby forcing a reformation, and pacified enough to “prevent” the challenging of disproportionate and failed foreign policies and discriminatory domestic policies.

Radical Middle Way, was a direct creation of the government to fulfil this purpose. A paper written by a neocon charts the development of Radical Middle Way from policy to implementation:

“…FCO dispensed a substantial amount of Prevent funding. For example, in 2008-9 it allocated £127,740 to its own Counter-Terrorism Department for the purpose of “promoting moderate Islam.” The same department also received £220,853 for a project known as “projecting British Islam” and a further £4,588 for “Prevent inward media visits.”

One of the key initiatives in this regard was the Radical Middle Way (RMW) whose stated aims included “empowering voices of mainstream Islam”… The creation of the RMW was one of the key recommendations to emerge from the Preventing Extremism Together report and was launched in late 2005 with support from the Home Office, FCO and DCLG… In its incipient phases, RMW activity was concentrated in areas thought to be especially vulnerable to Islamist extremism within Britain including: London, Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester, Kirklees, Leicester, and Luton. However, the RMW was also tasked with speaking to Muslim communities abroad to promote a better image of the United Kingdom.”

Many at that time were defensive of RMW, perhaps out of admiration of the Ulama who were being seen to be endorsing the organisation but in reality were being abused to fulfil the government agenda: RMW was contributory to a slide of Islamic morality, which was being comprehensively compromised at their “events”, and a suppression of political dissenting voices, all with the perceived approval of the Sufi Ulama. In reality the respected Sufi Ulama, especially amongst the Habaa’ib of Yemen would not have condoned the blatant reformation attempts being made, nor the discriminatory PREVENT policy being pushed.  Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa’s comments on the PREVENT policy and counter-extremism is telling of this.

Much like today, Muslim women were also abused to fulfil the broader agenda. “Empowered” women were utilised and abused to push the Prevent agenda.  The failed National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group (NMWAG), which gave raise to the Shanaz Project later on, was tasked to push a reformation in Islam using women. Elucidating on the function of NMWAG, Allen (2014), writes,

“As critics of the PREVENT programme had already stated, one of its more covert objectives was for Government to prompt a substantive change in the attitudes and beliefs of Muslims; possibly even to prompt the creation of an institutionally approved, ‘mainstream’ and ‘moderate’ expression of Islam that would be dually endorsed by various co-opted ‘liberal’ Muslims as also Government itself. As Allen & Guru (2012) note, it is likely that this was part of the impetus for the NMWAG: to challenge dominant expressions of Islam in Britain via the theology that underpinned it, not just those who were deemed ‘radical’.

For Government, the creation of the NMWAG and its desire to influence and challenge theological interpretations was done as a means through which it sought to appropriate and project its own liberal, communitarian and multicultural logic onto ‘Islam’…”

In terms of the NMWAG as a vehicle through which Government might engineer if not exact power, it was initially conceived that with Governmental support the NMWAG would more widely seek to empower Muslim women to increase their participation in all aspects of civic, political and public life in contemporary Britain.

(Excepts taken from Allen, May 2014, “New Labour’s policies to influence and challenge Islam in contemporary Britain: A case study on the National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group’s Theology Project”, Social Sciences Directory, Vol. 3 No.1, 2-19),

Concluding Remarks

The crux issue was, that those who did not toe the line of government interference of the Islamic faith, were automatically relegated to a catch-all, ambiguously defined “extremism” category, especially if they were not seen promoting “British Islam”, which the UK government was so aggressively architecting.  In short, it was a colonialist policy to divide and conquer; to pacify the “subjects” against the draconian policies being pushed domestically (vis-à-vis the anti-terror legislation) and internationally (Iraq and Afghanistan invasions).

Who is a moderate?  Is it Sufis, whose selected theology and history is exploited to pacify the Muslim minority?  Or is it the progressives and ex-Muslims who are now being utilised to attack the fundamentals of Islam in order to force a reformation and prop the sinister narrative regarding Muslims pushed by the neocons and utilised by Christianist/far-right terrorists?

Ignoring the numerous human rights norms and minority rights which are being violated by such policies, Clegg’s sonorous “Muslim moderate” call, disguises broader, serious flaws. The “extremism” topic is almost exclusively discussed in the Muslim context; it ignores and plays down other threats like the growing Christianist, far-right and neocon “extremisms” (using the PREVENT strategy definition); it glosses over the fact that the Muslim minority is being viewed as a “problem” which requires a solution, be it “draining” the swamp, or propping government darlings.  The definition of “extremism” has its own set of problems, with the discriminatory PREVENT strategy articulating one version and the anti-Muslim Gove and his Quilliam stooges adopting completely another.

The Islamic faith engineering industry is one area the government and officials would do well to leave well alone. The policy needs to be scrapped and re-thought Mr Clegg, not juggled between various versions of PREVENT.


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