One of the recurring themes of “counter-extremism” groups – be it the latent Radical Middle Way (RMW) and ISB, or the more overt Quilliam Foundation, and the puppeteered Humza Arshad – is that it always tracks back to an agenda to undermine Islam, “reform” it, crush dissent and deflect Western foreign policy critique. This is one of the reasons why, I believe, that our “transparent” public bodies are more resilient in disclosing the organisations they are funding from the counter-extremism pot. A link to PREVENT is all that is needed to expose the soul-destroying efforts of whichever organisation is acting as a conduit for neoconservative, anti-Islam agendas.
With the counter-extremism industry growing over the years, a cross-pollination of those neoconservative-based ideas has occurred, primarily between US, UK and Europe. The ideal for the neocons is to mount an ethnocentric, culturalist attack on Islam. History shows us two ways of doing this, as exemplified by Britain’s evolution of the PREVENT Strategy. The current strategy is one of secularisation of Islam through the “British values” social engineering programme. The previous strategy, also designed by the “sophist” (or rather supremacist) minds of neocons is one where apolitical, pacifist readings, usually through the abuse of Sufi Ulama, is posited as the “ideal” Islam. This is a temporary measure only, of course, until the next phase of the neocon agenda of aggressively promoting “progressive Muslims” and “ex-Muslims” is entered, as per the current strategy.
This strategy of promoting “moderate Islam” seems to be returning into vogue, as can be seen by Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah and Imam Hamza Yusuf-endorsed ImamsOnline initiative. Another recurrent theme is the Zionist interest and involvement in influencing the counter-extremism discourse, with the likes of Mossad internationally monitoring “moderate”, pacifist Muslim movements, and domestically, organisations like the Board of deputies of Jews contributing to the counter-extremism policy.
Jumping on the deradicalisation VW Camper Van is “Abdullah-X”, a character of a graphic novel aimed at providing the “counter-narrative”. The character in the initial episodes experiences some sort of divine unveiling, all on the topic of “extremism”. He then possesses a “mind of a scholar” and the “heart of a warrior” who proceeds to provide the counter-narrative to the “extremist” discourse. Not exactly Frank Miller’s Dark Knight then.
Having viewed the videos and finding them distinctly crass, possessing the hallmarks of the first version of PREVENT, I ignored it. However, the recent addition of a female character, the very distinctly-named “Muslimah-X”, reignited my interest in the work.
The comic has attracted media attention, having been posited as a model method of countering radicalisation. According to one report, the creator of the cartoons is a “former extremist” who once upon a time followed Omar Bakri. Much like the narratives of the comic, the “origin story” of the cartoonist is far from original. Individuals coming from this clan of caricatures also include Maajid Nawaz and Anjem Choudhry, both of whom currently provide narratives to either justify government policy or reinforce it. The creator’s aim is to “take some of that ground back online” from “extremist groups” who have access to the internet.
The government, primed by “former-extremists” at Quilliam, has typically endorsed the comics. The Home Office Affairs Committee identifies the Against Violent Extremism (AVE) network which is made up of a number of former extremists and survivors of terrorism. The Committee also mentions the fact that AVE receives funding from private sector—the Gen Next Foundations and Google Ideas. The Committee then notes that “Abdullah-X” has received private funding, though whether these organisations are linked to this project is not made clear.
I endured the pain of watching all of the videos. As always, much like ImamsOnline, RMW and others, there are elements of classical authority in them to lend legitimacy. And like RMW, the narratives suffer from selective memory syndrome.
I was actually humoured by the first video, with all its Islamic textual narrations about not rebelling against the ruler; I will explain why in a moment. In further videos, Abdullah-X ponders over Gaza:
“I wonder, is all my plaque waving and shouting in anger to others a Sunnah. I mean in truth, will my ‘peaceful protest’ for Gaza truly aid the Palestinian people or does it aid my ego… What is the bigger picture?”
We are then told that the “the chessboard that is the Arab world is silent on Gaza… why? Because they live in the shadow of their paymasters… sadly their paymasters are not those who follow the Sunnah.”
At this point I was at the edge of my seat. Who are the paymasters!? To an anti-climactic continuation, the focus remained on the rulers with Abdullah-X telling us that a true Muslim wouldn’t end up in this mess and a true Muslim ruler wouldn’t “ever resort to terrorism” or “selling out”.
What we aren’t told is that British colonialist supremacism treated the world as its “chessboard”. The omission of particular details in the counter-extremism discourse seems to be a remnant of the deceptive British colonialist past, which instigated the Arab revolt, handed Palestine to the Jews through trickery, and manipulated proposed Caliphs to the tune of their selfish interests. For instance, in January 1918 when King Sherif Hussain started thinking of proclaiming himself Caliph (after having the idea sown into his mind by Lord Kitchener three years earlier), the British moved to stall such an action as it was detrimental to their designs. David Fromkin in his seminal work documenting that period wrote,
“Kitchener’s followers found it inconvenient to remember that once they and their chief had encouraged Hussein to claim the caliphate; erasing it from their minds, they would later ignore it in their books and edit it out of official documents. In memoir s published three decades later, Sir Ronald Storrs deleted the caliphate section from Kitchener’s historic cable in 1914 to Hussein. T. E. Lawrence wrote that Kitchener and his followers had believed in Arab nationalism from the beginning—when in fact they did not believe in it at all. They believed instead in the potency of the caliphate”
Rebellion against the government was used as an effective tool to dismantle the Caliphate. Ever since then, Western foreign policy has ensured the suppression in the most brutal fashion, through their placed despots, of any organisation or group which has kept the light of the Shari’ah alive (and yes, “Sunnah” is a constituent of the Shari’ah). This is not the usage of this narrative, I envisage, the creator(s), or the various MPs endorsing these videos (see here and here), had in mind, hence the simplistic narrative.
With regards to venting anger, frustration and sadness through protestation, we are asked, is this “Sunnah”? Protests, with the Islamic etiquette in mind has much benefit: awareness, increasing charity, demonstrating and strengthening solidarity with fellow Muslims and instantiating measures to economically assist the Palestinians in order to alleviate their suffering. Indeed the global outrage at the Gaza offensive has ensured negative impact on the reputation of the Zionist entity. The fact that Muslims are being discouraged from protesting against Zionist atrocities in Gaza speaks of the political leanings being pumped through the video.
One can also see hints of deconstructionism and “intolerance” of dominant views in classical Islamic tradition. In one video, “fatwa-bots” are shown to add to the poor character’s confusion. Among the examples being impermissible or “bad” are listening to music and having girl-friends. These examples are then lumped in with other hypocritical views and then labelled extreme. The video, by positioning itself as the “moderate” and using music in the videos subtly reinforces the position that mainstream positions are “extreme”.
Once again, the music-listening, politically inactive Muslim is being touted as the “moderate”. Such demarcations of “moderate” and “extreme” without giving much definition is in tune with the globally prevalent Muslim “peace initiatives”. The similarity is not incidental; the Twitter account, @TheAbdullahX, shared the video interview of Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah by ImamsOnline’s Shaukat Warraich. I commented on this video in my piece here. The Tweet was an approving one: “This is it… this is real”.
We are repeatedly asked by the comic in the various videos about whether the actions of ISIS, or even protesting for Palestinians is from the Sunnah. Indeed “the mind of a scholar”, seemingly possessive of an agenda in line with Mossad and neoconservative aims, needs to be asked the same question. Is working with private organisations which have the tentacles of the Zionist anti-Muslim, fear-mongering industry as well deformists from the Quilliam Foundation in them, also “from the Sunnah”?
Networking with Zionists and Neocons?
A “mind of scholar” would no doubt be reaching out to the grassroots in order to effect change. Generally, the Ulama would do this without much of a show, unless of course the aim was to encourage others. Even this would be done amongst the milieu of those concerned. Yet the creators of Abdullah-X seem very keen to get the attention of the media and counter-extremism organisation. It seems to be “marketing” (or selling out?) itself.
When the Muslimah-X social network accounts were set up, an intriguing set of organisations and individuals were “followed” immediately. They included the Home Office, House of Lords, Against Violent Extremism, Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), and Hedaya CVE (Countering Violent Extremism). Perhaps Muslimah-X was astute and realised that the UK Government needs some deradicalisation, especially given the neoconservative impulse running through the Westminster. Nope. With further research one realises that the connections of the “Abdullah-X” project reaches into the global counter-radicalisation industry which promotes neoconservative, Zionist aims.
On the 3rd of April 2012, the UK and the UAE co-chaired the Global Counterterrorism Forum Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Working Group Inaugural Meeting in Abu Dhabi. From the outset, UK’s contribution has focussed on ideology:
“The UK opened the session by underscoring the belief common to many GCTF members: that countering violent extremism is a battle of ideas; in such a battle, altering the grounds of debate and countering radical messages are vital.”
This battle of ideas in Britain culminated in the attempt at creating a form of radical nationalism which asserted “British values”, with those not subscribing to them being excommunicated from the new state religion as “extremists”. Here, it was agreed that “harnessing strategic communications across several media – from social networking to traditional print and radio media – is critical in dissuading people from taking a path toward violence”. Born from the GCTF was Abu Dhabi’s “Center of Excellence”: Hedayah.
Subsequent CVE seminars encouraged narratives of “ex-extremists” and victims of political violence. Women also come in for special mention in their various publications. One, summarising a meeting held in Washington, 2013, notes that “women are an effective entry point” for a given community being CVE-targeted. I’ll let the feminists mull over the meaning of that. In March 2015, the gender slant took a more meaningful purpose. Influencing the discussion among other organisations was the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD).
The London-based ISD has been involved in other meetings too. In May last year, ISD, along with the Waltham Forest Council PREVENT Team attended an “expert” meeting on “Foreign Terrorist Fighters”, where they extolled the virtues of countering “extremist” narratives, without of course mentioning that in the process, Islam was being criminalised.
What ISD also failed to mention is that its Board of Trustees President, George Weidenfeld, is a Zionist who has not scruples co-signing a pro-Zionist petition which states that, “Israeli land concessions, will never bring peace”. It further continues using distinctly neoconservative, culturalist argument, laden with a supremacist assumption that Arabs are culturally violent:
“Only a cultural revolution in the Arab world can achieve [peace].”
Amongst the list of first signatures are neocon extremists like war-mongering Norman Podhoretz, Michael Ledeen, and the Zionist Nina Rosenwald, financier of the multimillion dollar Islam-hating industry. To rubber stamp the collection of anti-Muslim bigotry, the petition is published by the vile neoconservative outfit Gatestone Institute.
Quilliam Fingerprints: ISD
“Although she has built up a portfolio of policy papers, she has not authored a single peer-reviewed publication relating to Islamist terrorism, and her PhD thesis itself has nothing to with this subject, focusing instead on “the contemporary political socialisation of Hungarian youth”. Hmm”
Rashad Zaman Ali – the founder of Quilliam known to subvert Muslim communities – also makes an appearance on ISD as a Senior Fellow. Ali was recently added to the Muslimah-X Twitter account.
Interestingly, deformist and “British Islam” architect Dilwar Hussain is also present amongst the ISD personnel.
Quilliam Fingerprints: AVE
This is where things now start to get interesting. AVE is the other account followed by “Muslimah-X”. AVE brings together a “global force” of former “extremists” to counter the “extremist” narrative. A video detailing the story of AVE shows images and sound bites of Maajid Nawaz and JIMAS CEO Abu Muntasir. Muntasir, if we recall, brushes with neocon bigots, props the PREVENT narrative and has spoken at events promoting deformist views.
According to their website, AVE,
“…is managed by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and is a unique private sector partnership between ISD, Google Ideas, the Gen Next Foundation and rehabstudio.”
An investigatory report by Dr. Nafeez Ahmed reveals an incestuous relationship between ISD, Gen Next, Quilliam and Google Ideas. Corporate filings show that the US arm of the Quilliam Foundation is registered at the same address Gen Next Inc. in Newport, California. Furthermore, the director of the US version of Quilliam at that time, Michael P. Davidson, is also the CEO of Gen Next and has provided the London-based Quilliam think-tank with $813,000, up until the end of 2013. There were two other directors in 2011: Ed Husain – the founder of Quilliam, and Chad Sweet, who was also on Quilliam’s US board of directors. Sweet is currently campaigning for a racist, anti-Muslim, neocon war-mongering bigot, who has spoken alongside far-right, terrorist-inspiring hate-preacher, Robert Spencer.
Sweet’s neocon link doesn’t end there. Sweet has also co-founded the Chertoff Group, chaired by Michael Chertoff. Chertoff is listed as an International Patron of none other than the Nina Rosenwald-funded, bigoted Henry Jackson Society.
Quilliam Fingerprints: Google
And the Google Ideas connection? Nafeez informs us that, towards the end of 2009, Quilliam had contributed to a feasibility study for the creation of European network of “former extremists”. The US State Department had sponsored the project. One of the state officials involved at that time was Jared Cohen, an individual personally thanked by Maajid Nawaz in his published autobiography, and with whom he has shared platforms with in the past. Cohen is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), where he specialises in terrorism, radicalisation, and Iran. Ed Husain it should be noted, is also an adjunct senior fellow there. Cohen founded, and is currently the director of, Google Ideas.
Sure, it can be argued that “following” such organisations does not mean one agrees with them. After all, I follow Quilliam and Maajid Nawaz on Twitter. However, Abdullah-X’s creator’s connection is deeper. Discussing the Counter-Terror Bill, Keith Vaz addressing counter-narratives states that, “we commended the work of Google and its work with Abdullah-X”.
The creator of the cartoon is one of the “former extremists” part of the AVE project. The former US Quilliam director and current CEO of Gen Next, Davidson, in an interview reveals that,
“AVE has been involved in “Abdullah X,” a cartoon created by one of the network’s members, a former extremist, to draw Muslim youth away from extremism. Initially it reached random people online. But with the right upgrades and help from the private sector, they were able to send “Abdullah X” messages to social media accounts that were being targeted by ISIS.”
Highlighting the “paymasters” of the Arab world whilst remaining silent about his own “paymasters” reveals the reality of the creator of this insipid graphic novel. This is not exactly “Sunnah”. And indeed in line with Abdullah-X’s exhortations, the “bigger picture” is understood.
Born from the global, unholy union of neocons, Zionists and Quilliamites, Abdullah-X is, in the Great Game, Abdul Neocon.
 Fromkin, D., A Peace to End All Peace The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, Henry Hold and Company: New York, 1989, p.327
 Countering Violent Extremism Working Group Inaugural Meeting, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 3-4 April 2012
 Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Working Group, CVE through Communications Work Stream, Practical Seminar on Monitoring and Evaluation Techniques for CVE Communication Programs, 10-11 February 2013, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
 Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Working Group, Community Engagement Practitioners’ Workshop, 19-21 March 2013, Unites States Institute of Peace, Washington