A Response to Andrew Gilligan’s Disingenuous Distortion of my Views
Journalist Andrew Gilligan has written an article against me misrepresenting some of my work, and challenged my right to work in employment within the public sector. Instead of focusing on a discussion of my ideas, Gilligan goes to attack me personally, with use of conveniently anonymous sources to avoid being sued for gross slander, reporting wild claims about my views – despite the fact that my actual views are widely known, consistent and all in the public domain.
Gilligan has a reported history of doubted impartiality, with doubts raised about his ‘ability to present his material in a subtle way’ and his ‘slip[s] of the tongue’ by his former colleagues at the BBC. Gilligan, who is known for his baiting of many British Muslim activists and speakers, was slammed for his double standards against British Muslims by Mehdi Hasan as being a former employee of the Iran backed ‘Press TV’, with Mehdi remarking:
‘Gilligan is a journalist who makes lots of money from “outing” as many British Muslims as he can as “Islamists” or “extremists”, often on deeply dubious grounds, and with the aid of selective quotation, yet at the same time also makes lots and lots of money working for a foreign country [Iran] that is explicitly, openly and proudly Islamist and based on the rule of the clerics and a version of sharia law’
I will not humour the spurious personal attacks which are common gutter tactics used by some journalists, especially from ‘anonymous sources’ which give Gilligan the freedom to publish unsubstantiated and patently false claims that I had access to ‘top secret files’, or that I worked in counter-terrorism! This has been also refuted by more reputable sources in the public sector. I have never worked in any government Counter-terrorism work, team or department, and the claim that I did seems deliberately designed to further government objectives of ‘rooting out extremists from the public sector’ by claiming scary stories of ‘they may have access to counter-terrorism work! (which also is an indirect way of saying Muslims with dissenting opinions cannot be trusted for potentially ANY employment). Instead I’ll respond to the points about my position and views, to refute. Gilligan’s article has misrepresented my views by his typical style of using isolated out-of-context quotes, which can be easily refuted when anyone reads the full articles (and paragraphs they were taken from).
Do I support ISIS by comparing them to Western armies?
Absolutely not! Gilligan appears to have done a deliberate hatchet job on an intellectually objective article I wrote actually about the correct way to refute ISIS propaganda. Why didn’t Gilligan quote the part of the article that said ‘IS[IS] is not a State, if they were they were would not be recognisably Islamic when compared to the mercy and wisdom of the Prophet’s (saaw) example. Lastly, they are not a Caliphate‘, and this: ‘I.S. have adopted patently unIslamic practices and strategies, like blowing up civilians in market places (e.g. Baghdad), kidnapping of innocents for ransom, and execution of those from other Islamic groups who voice criticism and political dissent…If I.S. committed these crimes, but had disavowed their use, then whilst that would still be inexcusable, at least they would have admitted their wrongdoing against Islamic commandments/distanced their actions from Islamic commandments. However, the justification of targeting civilians IS KUFR (disbelief)…It is I.S’s JUSTIFICATION of their practices that are against the Islamic rules in warfare and treatment of civilians, that alone, immediately renders false any claim to being Islamic’, but Gilligan didn’t quote that, as it would be not sensational enough, nor would I look like the crazed fanatic he’d probably like to depict me as. The article, when originally posted was very popular and was used as an almost textbook response systematically destroying ISIS’s propaganda. Gilligan’s use of the article to make it seem like I support ISIS is the height of disingenuity on his part, and a further affirmation of the judgements of his erstwhile colleagues at the BBC about him. Gilligan took an article refuting and condemning ISIS and ‘turned’ it into an article ‘supporting ISIS’ – what’s Gilligan’s next trick? Turning water into wine?
Gilligan quoted me saying that ISIS behave no different to Western armies, but that wasn’t praise of ISIS, but a condemnation. Because as anyone who reads the full article (and my many other works refuting Al Qaeda’s methodology of terrorism), I explained that Western history is replete with horrific atrocities perpetrated by British, American and French armies against natives of other lands, and German (and Japanese) civilians in world war two.
Is my description outlandish? But perhaps words are not as effective as pictures, do you think the following is something that resembles ISIS in any way?
Of course, I’m not the only critic of Western foreign policy throughout history, but I am a vocal Muslim critiquing foreign policy – which may be why Gilligan takes issue. For example, Kevin McDonald wrote an article saying ‘Isis jihadis aren’t medieval – they are shaped by modern western philosophy’, why didn’t anyone call him an ‘extremist’? Is it because he isn’t a Muslim? Can you see why such discriminatory (and arbitrary) labels of ‘extremist’ for views equally expressed by others, make Muslims feel that they are given second class treatment and denied the right to dissent along with their fellow non-Muslim citizens?
When Gilligan quoted me saying that denying anyone’s claim to a legitimate Islamic State is wrong if is based upon their school of thought , I was not claiming that ISIS follow a school of thought of Islam, but rather telling the reader that when condemning such groups we must use the correct grounding and not use sectarian arguments. ISIS do not follow a school of thought of Islam, and as it happens I’ve said many times on TV and in the very article that Gilligan misquoted, that ISIS’s methodology is unIslamic (since they justify something expressly forbidden in Islam). I even blast Anjem Choudary on a TV debate for daring to suggest the absurdity that ISIS and Al Qaeda have a legitimate difference of opinion within Islam!
Did I say ‘non-Muslims would be punished in hell’?
Answer is: nowhere. Andrew Gilligan is slyly taking an article where I talk about theodicy and justice in the hereafter, where I talk about the Quran’s theological concept of ‘Kafir’ (which means someone who is insincere and rejects the truth once they have recognised it), and I discuss how insincerity to the truth behind existence is punished in the afterlife. Gilligan plays non-Muslim reader’s ignorance on Islamic theological concepts to portray the word as meaning ‘non-Muslim’, when in actual fact, the Arabic word for ‘non-Muslim’ is ‘ghayr-Muslim’. Someone who never labeled themselves a ‘Muslim’ but were sincere to whatever truth they were aware of, and be saved in the hereafter (they are called ‘hunafa’). Whereas there are people who may call themselves ‘Muslim’, but are insincere to the truth, and cause oppression and cruelty in the earth, these people are called ‘Munafiqeen’, and are a type of Kafir. So being a Kafir and being a non-Muslim are not coterminous.
Read the full article Gilligan misquoted, here.
Is it hypocritical of a Muslim to vocalise critique of government policies, yet work in the public sector or civil service?
No, it is not. Working in the public sector and the CIVIL SERVICE, is SERVICE to the CIVITAS (or society). As Muslims, we must serve our communities, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, help the poor, our neighbours, and provide for our fellow human beings (sons and daughters of Adam). As Muslims we must also bear witness to the truth, whatever position in any society we hold. To say that a Muslim cannot vocalise a right that every other citizen has, and can do, even as civil servants, is to deny Muslims equality. I have written extensively about the injustice of the UK government’s arbitrary and vague definition of ‘extremism’ (the modern word for ‘heretic’) and their dictating to a minority religious group, what is or isn’t acceptable theology for them to hold – all this from a supposedly Secular government! I guess Secularism doesn’t ‘protect‘ after all.
Read my full detailed article about UK government’s problem with Muslims in the civil service.
Am I an extremist for arguing that UK shouldn’t criminalise Muslims going to fight with (non-terror) Syrian opposition groups?
Gilligan appeared to suggest that I was an extremist because I argued against criminalising Muslims going tojoin non-proscribed groups in Syria, and that we should adopt Denmark’s approach. Does that make me extremist? Will the government declare Denmark extremist now? The renowned journalists George Monbiot and Boyd Tonkin also criticised the criminalisation of people going to Syria, why did no one accuse them of extremism? Is it because they are not Muslim? If there is no witch hunt of vocal Muslim activism, then the government and some people in the media are doing an abysmally poor job of portraying it otherwise.
Am I affiliated with either Cage or Hizb ul Tahrir?
Gilligan attempted to portray in the article that I am (vaguely) connected to Cage and Hizb ul Tahrir, both peaceful and (currently) legal groups in the UK. I have appeared on platforms with them for common causes that I feel are moral and speaking the truth. However I haven’t only appeared alongside those groups, but also appeared alongside Peter Tatchell, for example, arguing against patriotism, and advocating universal humanitarianism. Why didn’t Gilligan report that I have ‘links’ to Tatchell too? Is Gilligan picking and choosing groups and people I’ve spoken alongside to maximise the sensationalism of his article? I leave that to you to decide.
Do I support the re-establishment of a Caliphate?
Of course, because a Caliphate is a part of Islamic belief, so integral is it to Islam that Sunnis and Shias originally split merely due to the question of who should be the Caliph. Caliphate is not a totalitarian theocratic dictatorship, but an open pluralist, elected and accountable government under rule of law. It allowed non-Muslims to have autonomy from aspects of Sharia law, and implement their own law systems under their own law courts (which is more than can be said for anything Western countries allow). David Cameron is wrong to dictate to Muslims what aspects of Islam are legitimate or not, especially considering the UK professes itself to be a ‘Secular’ government. At the beginning of the 20th century, Britain had diplomatic relations with the Ottoman Caliphate – were British ambassadors extremist for doing so? Suffice to say, ISIS are not a Caliphate, far from it, they are formed of ex-baathists, who are so desperate to get legitimacy for their cause, that they will (falsely) claim to represent something they know Muslims in the region respect and dearly want. ISIS are anti-Islamic in their methodology and have done incredible harm to the image of Islam and the esteemed concept of Caliphate, which they too fail to understand.
Is belief in the Caliphate fringe? Not according to the World Public Opinion poll (pg 15), that polled Muslims in Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia and Pakistan, and revealed that 65% of respondents desired the unification of the Muslim world and the re-establishment of the Caliphate. Are they all extremists too? If so, is the minority ‘mainstream’?!
What do I mean by ‘war on Islam’?
If the Caliphate has been a mainstream Islamic concept for 1,400 years, taught by the Prophet Muhammed (saaw), then when David Cameron declared that the Caliphate was an extremist concept , after he declared that they will fight extremism like ‘world wars’, when you add these things together, can you blame Muslims for perceiving his rhetoric as a war against Islamic theological beliefs (undesirable to them), and therefore Islam? Perhaps the government should take a leaf out of the book of South America or South Africa, and not interfere or dictate to Muslims what their theology entails, then there wouldn’t be a ‘war on Islam’. If using the rhetoric of ‘war’ makes someone an extremist, then is David Cameron an extremist too?
Do I ‘Despise Britain’?
Gilligan claimed from his ‘anonymous source’ that I somehow despise Britain, despite the fact that I’ve never expressed anything remotely like that. Sure, I criticise the government, and talk about the West, but discussing politicians and ruling elites is different from talking about the land, culture and the people. The British people are humans, like me, whom I grew up amongst and experienced much goodness, love and warmth, I have no enmity to the people – quite the contrary. I’d challenge Gilligan or any journalist to trawl through my work and prove otherwise. Of course, if Gilligan claimed this himself, I’d consider suing, but with his ‘anonymous source’, he has carte blanche to make any claims he wants without legal challenge.
In conclusion, it appears that Gilligan’s article is more about sensationalism and baiting Muslims who are vocal about their beliefs. The article written by Gilligan will be used to ‘further highlight the need to remove extremists from the public sector’, which sinisterly perpetuates the Orwellian tool that the undefinable and arbitrary label ‘extremism’ is, as well as creating an under-class of people unable to be given employment and always being suspected and untrusted. This was aptly highlighted in Mehdi Hasan recent article, and Gilligan’s work further vindicates it.
Read my full detailed article about UK government’s problem with Muslims in the civil service.
I’d like to pose a challenge to the government, the ‘counter-extremism’ pundits, and Andrew Gilligan. If you’re so confident about your ideas, then debate them rather than banning people, ‘rooting them out’ or churlish smear campaigns. The age old institution of debate is where bad ideas are refuted, and good ideas are made manifest. Why not debate, if you truly possess the courage of your convictions?
 “We need to recognise that we’re not just fighting terrorism here, we’re also fighting extremism…there are many extremists who fall short of actually condoning terrorism, but they buy into a lot of the narrative of the terrorists [e.g.] they support [belief in a] Caliphate…we have to say in our country, those views while they fall short of condoning terrorism, they’re not acceptable either…We need to do more to help integrate people into our country…there are some organisations and some people…to those people we have got to say, that is not an acceptable view, and we’re not going to engage with people who believe that their ought to be a Caliphate” David Cameron, 29th June 2015, BBC Radio 4
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