Fiyaz Mughal and the State-Approved Regressive “Progressive” Muslims

nickcohenfiyazmughalquilliamtellmamaThe neocon propaganda machine is at full tilt as the government reveals its ultimate legislative weapon to excise active Muslim political activists from civil society under the dissent-suppressing counter-extremism discourse. Andrew Gilligan has already taken a swipe at Muslim organisations through his trademark blend of Muslim “extremists”, spin and lies. Even Peter Oborne could not help but notice that his article contained “a number of unsubstantiated claims” and “a number of factual errors”.

Elsewhere, David Cameron apparently likes Muslims. Well *some* Muslims would be more accurate.  In what must be the most sterile PR stunt ever, he has lent his approval to a head-scarf wearing Muslim contestant of the TV show, the Great British Bake Off.  One can understand why:

  1. Is her politics reflective of a Muslim who needs to prove her “Britishness”? Check.
  2. Does the Muslim belong to a gender group which needs to be saved from Islam? Check.
  3. Does the show have the word “British” as part of its title? Check.
  4. Are the general public supporting her? Check.

It sure is a safe bet. Previously, in Eid messages, Cameron has spoken of the “good Muslims” who fought for “our freedoms” off the back of the brutal colonialism of the Muslim world. Later, in his Birmingham speech, he would go onto proclaim that he was going to “actively encourage the reforming and moderate Muslim voices.  These voices incidentally belong to “progressive Muslims” who also happen to be primed by key neoconservative officials and who support their key policies, from the discourse on Muslims and global democracy-spreading to Trident. Such promotion and support is key to maintaining the neoconservative assumptions around the Muslim context.   The fundamental impediment is garnering legitimacy from the mainstream Muslim community.

“Brave Muslims”

Nick Cohen intervened on this point with his comment in the Guardian, sobbing over the tearful treatment of Fiyaz Mughal, (CEO of Faith Matters, and head of Tell MAMA) and the likes of Maajid Nawaz.  Apparently, they are being “silenced” – a strange description of their treatment given they have the backing of the state and promote agendas concomitant with the government’s.

His terrible piece is littered with hypocrisy and blasé straw man arguments all designed to effectively gloss over legitimate criticism of state sycophants which work to undermine the Muslim minority. Drawing a straw man around MEND, Cohen likes his readers to believe that Mughal’s lack of support is due to those pesky Islamists adopting “new politics” of exclusion. Thus Cohen writes,

“(MEND)… has decided that the worst it can say about Tell MAMA, the best means it can find of turning it into a satanic organisation, is to say that it associates with gays and Jews.”

He further provides a little flesh for this defamatory claim:

“The real reason for the insults Tell MAMA receives, for the accusations that it is friends with “paedophiles”, “Zionists” and what modern anti-semites coyly call the “Israeli lobby”, is more profound, however. Mughal believes that, if it is wrong to attack a Muslim for being a Muslim, then it is equally wrong to attack a gay man or a Jew for being a gay man or a Jew.”

The implication here is that MEND and others who allegedly dismiss Tell MAMA are Muslims who do not believe it is wrong for a gay or Jew to be attacked. This Gilligan-esque spin (which Tell MAMA also repeats) exposes the desperate lengths being traversed to prop subversive individuals. As explained in a detailed blog, Mughal sought to re-write the Islamic position on homosexuality, limiting it to “some Muslims” among the “ultra-orthodox” – a patently disingenuous claim which incidentally contradicts the brand of Islam his neocon-approved friends at Quilliam (Haras Rafiq) were promoting once upon a time in order to “combat violent extremism”. Promoting an agenda to deform Islam fits perfectly in the present neoconservative policies, which has demarcated gender (women) and sexuality issues as a fault line through which “reformation” is being attempted and through which the continuation of cultural imperialism is being crystallised.

To add fuel to the incendiary, incoherent claims, Cohen brings in Peter Tatchell – a patron of Tell MAMA who calls Shari’ah a “clerical form of fascism” – to accentuate the “anti-gay” vibe, even though the quote from MEND’s CEO makes no reference to the individual whatsoever.

Pro-Israel Criticism = Anti-Semitism?

Cohen struggles to maintain his objectivity revealing a tactic commonly seen amongst those who defend the criminal policies and actions of the Zionist entity: conflating criticisms and identification of the pro-Israel lobby with anti-Semitism.  According to Cohen, “modern anti-Semites” identify the “Israeli lobby” as a point of contention, hence the floundering support for Mughal. Presumably the Neturei Karta are also anti-Semitic for being “Jews United Against Zionism” and Israel.

The pro-Israel lobby is a concern for the Muslim minority; especially when one considers that a lot of the hate and anti-Muslim tropes Cohen is incidentally regurgitating, tracks back to the “only democracy in the Middle East”. In 2010 Max Blumenthal traced the source of the “great Islamophobic crusade” to the period of the neocon moment: the inception of the War on Terror. Pro-Israeli groups and financiers targeted growing Palestinian activism, and this rapidly shifted to anti-Muslim campaigns such as coordinating opposition to the building of Islamic centres. With this shift, came the transatlantic alliance with white supremacist movements and the neocon-aligned counter-jihad movement. An investigative piece published last month also found that “a considerable faction of right-wing Zionists, of the sort who have long dominated pro-Israel politics, are often linked to organised Islamophobia promotion”. In Britain, the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), which influences Westminster and seemingly writes their press statements for them, is funded by the pro-Israel Nina Rosenwald, whilst other sources suggest that the HJS “acts in Britain on behalf of Israel’s right-wing Likud Party”.

Community Security Trust (CST)

Cohen notes that Richard Benson, former chief executive of CST, became a co-chair because “shared experiences can help bring communities together”. This noble intent masks the problematic elements of CST. It is pertinent to note that CST has equated “non-violent Islamists” to “Salafi-Jihadis” as having the “same aim”, called on the government to ignore social cohesion efforts in the context of countering radicalisation; and aligns with the conveyor-belt theory of radicalisation and assumptions of the far-right narrative which views the Muslim minority as a suspect community vulnerable to “radicalising forces”:

“The UK Muslim community is therefore the target for many radicalising forces, although only a small number support or engage in terrorism. The focus of Prevent counter terrorism efforts should therefore be to combat non violent radicalisation.

This academically baseless focus on ideology is the precise implementation which is currently discriminatorily targeting the Muslim minority and manifesting inquisitorial child abuse.

MEND has also pointed out that CST has been severely criticised in two different legal judgments where its pro-Israeli advocacy and dossiers on Palestinian affairs/individuals have been proven to be ill-informed.

So yes, the CST will be a concern for Muslims as Muslims are directly and indirectly impacted by the policies promulgated and supported by CST, and no it is not anti-Semitic to question such an association.

“Liberal Muslims” and Hypocrisy

Cohen then brings his attention to the “hounding” of liberal Muslims such as Maryam Namazie and Maajid Nawaz.  And herein lies Cohen’s greatest hypocrisy. Nawaz’s think-tank was created with the likes of Michael Gove listed as an advisor. Gove is also a signatory to the Statement of Principles of the HJS, which in turn cross-pollinates personnel with Quilliam. In other words, those who belong to an ideology which despises liberalism oversaw the launch of Quilliam, which now acts as a validator for neocon policies through the ostensible veneer of liberalism. Nawaz himself has influenced speeches which ostracise mainstream Muslims and their values, whilst propping “progressive Muslims” who promote “reform” such as himself. Quilliam has championed the PREVENT Strategy in its present draconian form, which effectively castigates and suppresses those views incongruent with the state-endorsed politics and state-imposed interpretation of liberalism. Central to this strategy is excommunication or “hounding” based on values (or rather, freedom of belief); if you fall short of the British values standard, you are labelled “extremist”, cast out of civil society and rendered “taboo”. In other words, Quilliam endorses the “new politics” of exclusion Cohen so melancholically writes about. This was exemplified with the shot-gun style attribution of “extremism” to Dilly Hussain by Quilliam “theologian” Usama Hasan in a clear effort delegitimise the cogent arguments made against him. As for Namazie, the fact that Cohen mentions the bigoted commie speaks more about his own view on Islam and Muslims than hers.

The theme of hypocrisy continues with Mughal himself. Mughal has had little support from the Muslim community from the outset because of his historic affiliation with PREVENT and those who work to actively undermine the Muslim minority. Moreover, subsuming the anti-Muslim monitoring operation into the counter-extremism agenda, none other than Quilliam identified Tell MAMA as fulfilling a “soft-end” function for PREVENT’s counter-extremism measures.

Mughal also has no problems using the counter-extremism discourse to “exclude” others from civil society engagement.

In an article in which he provided statements to notorious anti-Muslim propagandist Andrew Gilligan, he stoked the rhetoric of Muslim “entryism”. Gilligan used Mughal to demonstrate that “Islamists” were being given official posts.   Mughal, fully sold into the “entryism” buzzword, said,

“I was deeply concerned about the kinds of groups some of the members had connections with, and some of the groups they were recommending be brought into government… It seemed to me to be a form of entryism, by people with no track record in delivering projects.”

This report was in turn referenced by Quilliam in their review of counter-extremism policies as “evidence” of the dangers of “Islamism” (see report here, p.23). Nawaz has been dog-whistling “entryism” and “gradualism” for some time, whilst Theresa May in a speech earlier this year made it a key component of the new counter-extremism strategy.

Concluding Remarks

The similitude to the above is how colonial Britain dealt with Muslims: the British desire to introduce the “light of Western civilisation” to “backward” and “uncivilised” peoples, in the words of Evelyn Baring, through “persuasion or force”. Those who joined the cultural cleansing were lauded for their efforts with prestigious titles and meetings with government ministers, for what was, effectively treachery against the oppressed and legitimisation of the colonial project. Today the Muslim minority is to be either persuaded by the likes of Nawaz, Hasan, and Sara Khan, or forced by counter-extremism policies they have promoted and implemented.

Mughal and his project have failed to garner support not because politically-aware Muslims pithily “hate Jews and gays”. The reality is that the community demonstrated its faith in him last year when they provided him with a paltry £57 of funding. For similar reasons, rejected too are his associates like Nawaz and the rest of their “progressive” ilk. Far from being “progressive”, they are a regressive poisonous chalice which is legitimising colonial policies from which the world had once moved on from and which now, under the intellectual justifications of neoconservatism, have come full circle. They are constituents of a well-oiled counter-extremism machine which seeks to erode the Islamic identity as part of these justifications.

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