David Cameron’s doublespeaking speech was incessant in its assertion that there is no conspiracy to “destroy Islam”.
Increasingly, it seems that practically any argument, however well referenced, even academically-backed, is to be rapidly brought into the sphere of “extremism” or “Islamism” and suppressed through State apparatus. They have become the terms through which the government is censoring counter-narratives.
For neocons, “active opposition” to their civic religion of secular liberalism and its symbols – “British values” of democracy, rule of law and human rights – is equivalent to “undermining” it. It is “an attack” no less. To protect it, the state has effectively deployed the counter-extremism and terrorism industry. However, the double-standards applied by neocons means that any effort to undermine Islam, as understood from the time of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and explained and refined through the past fourteen centuries by thousands of Ulama – scholars of impeccable learning and piety – cannot be seen as an “attack on Islam”. Nay, for David Cameron and his colonialist brown-sahibs, it is part of the “Islamist” narrative. Presumably the “extremism” policy, which imposes an extreme interpretation of secular liberalism on Muslims and an opposition to it seen as “undermining our values”, is also part of the “Islamist” narrative.
“Reforming” Islam: A Neocon Obsession
The efforts to deconstruct Islam led by neoconservatives accelerated with the onset of the Iraq war. Leading neocon and architect of the 2003 Iraq war, the then US defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz stated on the eve of the Iraq war,
“We need an Islamic reformation and I think there is a real hope for one”.
The neocons of that time who were busying themselves in creating the mess in the Middle East we have today, attacked the foundations of Islamic learning. In a speech at Georgetown University on the 30th of October 2003, Wolfowitz described madrassahs as “schools that teach hatred, schools that teach terrorism” while providing free “theologically extremist teaching to ‘millions’” of Muslim children.
Around the same timeframe, the American think-tank RAND published its document providing a blueprint for deconstructing Islam, which is clearly manifesting itself today. This conveyor-belt to disbelief, ethnocentrically entitled “Civil Democratic Islam”,
“seeks to strengthen and foster the development of civil, democratic Islam and of modernization and development.”
The author, Cheryl Bernard, boxed Muslims into various categories and encouraged the prevention of unity between different Islamic theological groups and urged states to “discriminate between different sectors of traditionalism… Encourage those with a greater affinity to modernism”. Bernard sought to promote modernists over and above her other categories as modernists and progressives regard Islamic laws and the Sunnah as being inapplicable today. They are her benchmark due to their greater propensity to destroy the contemporary applicability of Islam:
“They [modernists] further believe in the historicity of Islam, i.e., that Islam as it was practiced in the days of the Prophet reflected eternal truths as well as historical circumstances that were appropriate to that time but are no longer valid.”
We are witnessing the manifestation of this through the PREVENT Strategy. In a critique of the earlier versions of PREVENT, the sociologist Chris Allen noted,
“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’.
The National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group, which was set up under PREVENT, was conceived to “engineer if not exact power”.
The present Strategy is filtering theological positions within Islam through the PREVENT’s definition of “extremism”. The manifestation of this policy has already realised discrimination based upon religious beliefs.
If this is not an “attack” on Islam, because of which Muslims are being effectively castigated from public life, then what is? Imagine Jews being told they cannot engage with civil society, that their “extremist” organisations will be hounded for believing that their women are not allowed to drive? Or Christians being told that they are extremists for believing homosexuality is a sin? No, we know that the opposite is true; that the Jewish Beth Din court, for instance, is protected from investigations by the anti-Islam Home Office, and the label of “extremism” is mainly applied to Islam. The quixotic Cameron wants to only save British Muslim girls from “cultural practices that can run directly counter to these vital values”, not British/Israeli Jewish girls.
Cameron’s Own Statements
For a person claiming that there is no conspiracy against Islam, Cameron fails miserably to convince the listener.
He states that extremists pedal “conspiracy theories”, that, “the world is not conspiring against Islam,” and that Western powers are not “deliberately humiliating Muslims, because they aim to destroy Islam.”
However, later on he sets up his speech to suggest otherwise:
“But simply denying any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists doesn’t work, because these extremists are self-identifying as Muslims.”
Of course, this is a stupid argument from the Etonian. The KKK (and the BNP/Britain First) “self-identify” as Christians also. This does not necessarily mean it has anything to do with Christianity, except that the faith is being abused by those who wish to exploit the faith. You wouldn’t for instance, state your desire to change the religion on this basis, because those who wish to exploit it will continue to do so. Oh, wait:
“Now it is an exercise in futility to deny that. And more than that, it can be dangerous. To deny it has anything to do with Islam means you disempower the critical reforming voices; the voices that are challenging the fusing of religion and politics; the voices that want to challenge the scriptural basis which extremists claim to be acting on…”
From here Cameron states his policy towards Islam and Muslims:
“We’re now going to actively encourage the reforming and moderate Muslim voices.”
Cameron’s policy on Islam will be to thus encourage the deconstruction of the faith it into something representing deformists like Maajid Nawaz and Usama Hasan. Nawaz has clearly stated that “we’ve got a serious, serious problem” with mainstream Islam, (not “Islamism”) that needs to be “tackled head one”. His scholastically pathetic solution is to “reform the way Islam is read today”.
Mainstream Islam is therefore “under attack” from the head of the British State who is courted by individuals who were set up to fulfil a neocon function by Michael Gove no less; who have no credentials acceptable in the Islamic scholarly milieu, no expertise in counter-terrorism; and who are frankly despised in the broader Muslim community. The implication of Cameron’s own statements is that he will be pushing a state-backed version of a religion, picking and choosing a minority over another minority – ironically contrary to international human rights norms.
Colonialist Cameron – Al-Azhar
Cameron’s statements epitomise the colonial discourse in more ways than one. Colonialism posited Western values above all others. As the British consul-general, Evelyn Baring, 1st Earl of Cromer (d. 1917) stated some century ago, Europeans were needed to introduce the “light of Western civilisations”. “Extremist”, thus replaces “backward” and “uncivilised”, yet the underlying colonial dynamic remains.
Cameron’s disturbing words strike a resemblance with Cromer who argued at that time that,
“It is absurd to suppose Europe will look on as a passive spectator whilst the retrograde government based on purely Muhammadan principles and oriental ideas, is established in Egypt… the new generation of Egyptians has to be persuaded or forced into imbibing the true spirit of Western civilisation”.
Cromer’s interference with Islam is well-known. Reforms at Al-Azhar University, Islam’s prestigious seat of learning, were often at the “instigation” of the British. Cromer recognised the sway of a Mufti stating that,
“The Englishman… could not make the Egyptian horse drink at waters of civilisation, albeit the most limpid streams of social and juridicial reform were turned into the trough before him, if the Mufti condemned the act of drinking as impious.”
Cromer therefore promoted the neo-Mu’tazili Freemason Muhammad Abduh (d.1905). The British recognised that “Abduh tried to break through the rigidities of scholastic interpretation” (something Maajid Nawaz is encouraging). They also revered him for his “liberal judgments” and as the “chief architect of the modern reformation of Islām.” In 1899, with British help, he became Mufti of Egypt against Al-Azhar, which was “hostile to him”.
The Muslims of Asia were subjected to similar British colonial interferences. George Curzon (d.1925), the Viceroy of India, defined his intentions with utmost clarity:
“Turkestan, Afghanistan, Transcaspia, Persia—to many these names breathe only a sense of utter remoteness . .. To me , I confess, they are the pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for the dominion of the world.”
And indeed, chess was played with Islam as a major piece on the board. The troublesome “Musalmans” were subjected to colonial tactics in which those who sided with the British were given preference, and decorated with various titles, whilst those who criticised the British were labelled “Wahaabi”, fuelling sectarian hatred. This label was used with amazing deception. As I have mentioned before, those who resisted the colonialism, and who issued decrees of war against the British were in fact jurisprudentially Hanafi. William Hunter (d.1900) dedicated an entire chapter in his analysis of Indian Muslims (the Indian Musalmans) to show how in accordance with the “highest authority” Imam Abu Hanifa (the founder of the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence) the land had become a place of war due to Imperial rule. Hunter, after his analysis of the rulings, states that the view which declares India a place of peace provided by the “Muhammadan Society of Calcutta” is in fact incorrect. However, he goes onto state,
“…the Muhammadan Society of Calcutta has deserved well of its countrymen and of ourselves; and Maulavi Abd-ul-Latif Khan Bahadur, its Secretary, merits especial thanks. Whatever view a Sunni Musalman may take as to the religious status of India under our Rule, he will find that according to that view he is not compelled to rebel against our Government.
Having helped found an Islamic opinion which suppressed the revolutionary sentiments of the Indian Muslims, the British predictably honoured Abd-ul-Latif Khan Bahadur with various titles.
When Britain Tried to Create a Caliphate
As the British were busy breaking up Muslims using terms like “Wahhabi” for freedom fighting Hanafis in India, the very same Indian government was busy backing as a matter of policy and financially so-called “Wahhabis” in Arabia, and specifically, Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud.
On 17th November 1915 the High Commission Reginald Winsgate, had according to the historian David Fromkin, “induced an Arab religious leader to tell Hussein” that he was,
“the right man to take over his rightful heritage and verify the hopes of his people—the Mohammedans and Arabs to recover their stolen Khalifate” and calling upon the Hashemite leader to establish “the Hashemite Arabian Khalifate.”
In other words British policy was both backing the House of Ibn Saud, and Sharif Hussain, who opposed each, at the same time. Moreover, British intrigues interfered with Islam and exploited a minor difference of opinion within Islamic jurisprudence, which professed that only an Arab from the family of Hashim (Quraish) could become a Caliph. The purpose was to split the Arabs from the Ottoman Caliphate thereby weakening it.
Yes, what Cameron regards as “extreme” now (the creation of Caliphate), was an active policy implemented by the British government a century ago as part of their “game of chess”.
Sadly such games it seems are being played now. Cameron’s speech has been lambasted especially by concerned individuals from amongst the Muslim community who feel targeted. The level of measures taken, to the glee of the Quilliam Foundation (which is clearly going to benefit from the proposals, as can be seen from their review of the counter-extremism policy), is set to have a censorious impact on human rights (ah, there is that “British value” again). It is also incredibly discriminatory.
Yet as I have demonstrated above, Muslims have faced these colonial tactics in the past. By colluding with the likes of the neocon puppets at Quilliam to produce a speech that talks of “reforming” a global faith beating in the hearts of over a billion Muslims, Cameron has made his stance clear: he has joined the ranks of those who assisted in attempts to destroy the Muslim world and its Islamic epistemology. It is with poetic timing that this month the other secular leader who has interfered with Islam is the mass murdering Bashar al-Assad.
As long as Cameron lends his ear to toxic, disreputable individuals, perpetuates neoconservatism from the pulpit of Parliament, and speaks to Muslims as the colonial master did to his subjects, his policies will resoundingly fail.
My message to David Cameron, the neocons and their enablers ostensibly from the Muslim community who wish to deform Islam is, we have been here before. We are cognizant of your designs. We will resist your plans. You may plot, but we maintain an unshaking belief in the Plan of Allah. And indeed, without an atoms worth of doubt, Allah is the best of planners.
“Verily those who wish to distort our Revelation, they are not hidden from Us.” (Qur’an, 41:40)
 Riaz A., Faithful Education: Madrassahs in South Asia, Rutgers University Press, 2004, Cht. 6 Fn.1 p.252
 Ibid. p.21
 Allen, C., 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
 Cromer, E.B., Modern Egypt, Macmillan: London, 1908, vol.2, p.110
 Ibid. p.538
 Sedgwick, M., Muhammad Abduh, Chtp6, Section “Appointment as Mufti”, One World Publications: London, 2013 (ebook)
 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.27
 Hunter W.W. The Indian Musalmans, 1876, p.123
 See Fn. 8 p.327