Tell MAMA’s PREVENT Control of Muslim Discourse


In the previous piece, we saw how despite an ostensible opposition furnished against PREVENT, the likes of Fiyaz Mughal has no qualms with the Muslim-demonizing policy of PREVENT aside from its “brand” being damaged.  It is therefore even more of a concern that Mughal is increasingly operating Tell MAMA as vehicle to establish neocon government-compliant “norms” for Muslims. Further, there are indications which suggest that Mughal is using Tell MAMA as a screen to protect those who are advocating the securitisation of the Muslim minority through the rhetoric of Islamophobia and racism.

Blind MAMA and “House Muslims” Spin

In a piece published on its website September last year, Tell MAMA moved beyond its remit to judge what are acceptable labels used by Muslims, ironically, chastising the “moral guardians of the internet”. I say ironically because firstly, Mughal, as already highlighted, perpetuates the CVE (Countering Violent Extremi) agenda that is all about labels (Islamism, extremism etc.), and secondly, the piece was published in favour of someone who hyperventilates litanies of “extremist”, “Islamist” and “regressive-Left” at any given opportunity (see below).

The article first reduces the meaning of “house Muslim” to simply refer to those with “divergent views”, and those who take a “contrary view” on PREVENT. It then further explains the connotations of “house Muslim” as being someone who keeps the “machinery of oppression” going. In a spectacular display of spin, Tell MAMA then turns to blame those who use such descriptors as people who “reinforce the power structure”. Those using such terms “have no mandate since tackling racism and prejudice, speaks to power” and these individuals “do not speak to power”.

Despite Tell MAMA’s spin, fundamental here is the type of power being “spoken” to.  As Professor Shlomo Sands explains,

“I think today – and this is important – that the Islamophobia has replaced the Judeophobia, and Islamophobia is one of the ways to construct Europe. There is a political Islamophobia in Europe. There is not a political Judeophobia in Europe. I think the Cameron [Munich] speech is a part of this way of defining a new identity [to] face the Arab or the Islamic world… There is a political hate of Arab and Muslims in the Western world including Britain.”

In other words, those using such terminology are hurling it at hierarchical political “power” that is architecting its identity upon the foundations built from the hatred of Islam and Muslims.

With this in mind, the hypocrisy is shocking; the likes of Maajid Nawaz, for whom the Tell MAMA piece was seemingly drafted for last year, have the ear of the government, and advise already aggressive neocon statesmen, alongside other neocons from the Henry Jackson Society on policies that have to date of only increased in the persecution of the Muslim minority.  Further, by partaking in privileged, culturalist attacks on Islam and Muslims, such individuals and organisations exasperate the perpetuation of what Professor Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls “colour-blind racism” via “semantic moves”.

Tell MAMA is a blind MAMA when it comes to this type of racism advanced – most dangerously – by the state.

To liken those who use such terms in response to structurally discriminatory policies (that are premised upon dubious, anti-Islam pseudo-philosophies), to those who perpetuate far-right narratives on Islam and Muslims (as Tell MAMA claims) is wholly and utterly twisted. Even the CIA understands this dynamic well, and has used people from a community to discredit that very same community. In fact, neocons Dean Godson and Charles Moore themselves regard Quilliam as part of a counter-subversion strategy to discredit the “extremist” Muslim minority!

But then how would Mughal understand this given he himself organises for the profiling of the views of Muslim youth.

Mughal and Tell MAMA are part of the problem.

Controlling Narratives Via PREVENT: Smearing of Assed Baig

The above discussion is pertinent as Mughal intervened again last week to control the narrative, again on the topic of “house Muslims”.

Sources state that another opportunist, Shaista Gohir and Sunny Hundal allegedly colluded in smearing the Muslim journalist Assed Baig. This is not exactly far-fetched; Gohir, over the past weeks, has attempted to undermine Baig’s employment on the most spurious grounds (see for instance, this Tweet here, subsequently retweeted by Hundal). It is further alleged that material on Baig was collated with involvement from Gohir and then passed on to a right-wing blog before being published by the Daily Mail.

The thrust of the contention was the use of the terms, “house Muslims” and “Uncle Tom” to describe those who grant credence to state neoconservative ideologues and narratives in the oppression of the Muslim minority (painted as “moderate Muslims”).  Hundal took to the Twitter-sphere to gloat over the hatchet-job against Baig, arguing racism.  This is unsurprising, given that Hundal in the past has ignored the political context such labels are invoked in.

He further argued it was an attempt to “police others”, which implies that minorities cannot have differences.  The hypocrisy is self-evident; Hundal’s argument itself has the effect of “policing” others on using labels which he disagrees with, thus, in his own words, implying that “minorities cannot have differences”.  It is also somewhat rich coming from someone who calls his opponents “Islamist” and “Islamist-apologist” – labels which implicate the suppressive security-apparatus – during exchanges on Twitter (see herehere and here for instance). His own position changed from the label “Uncle Tom” being “bigoted” when Baig was revealed to have used it, (and hence Malcolm X is also bigoted), to being reminded of his own past Tweet saying it is in fact not racist within a racial group, to then claiming his position had now changed. However, with this last statement Hundal’s contention fell apart.  Significantly, Baig’s use of “Uncle Tom” in 2012, would have been perfectly fine with Hundal at that time. In fact Hundal only changed his position “several months earlier”, therefore, Baig’s usage in 2011, 2012, and 2014 (as per the Daily Mail article), would not have been problematic.  To raise it now in this manner devoid of timeframe and to the exclusion of his own “changes of position” reeks of an ulterior motive. Moreover, one wonders whether such unstable mood swings can form the basis of credible moral judgements against other individuals.

Of pertinence is Tell MAMA’s contribution to the Daily Mail hit job.

In the piece, Mughal reiterated his smokescreen “policing” argument and further refined it by adding that those who use such terms are in fact potential extremists:

‘It really reinforces a “them and us” regarding the racial connotations around the term. So actually it’s a deeply problematic term and one we’ve actually been saying should not be used.’” 

According to the PREVENT Strategy, “them and us” is central to the narrative of “extremists”.  In linking this PREVENT element to “calling out” people like Mughal, Nawaz et al, albeit with epithets like house Muslim, the narrative against them has been constructed as “extremist”.   It is a subtle discursive subterfuge designed to coercively shutdown critique of those ingratiated with neocon elites who propound structural discrimination of the Muslim minority. And to cap it off, Mughal makes himself the authority of what statements can or cannot be used by Muslims, with potential implications with the security apparatus if there is a lack of conformance with his view.

Concluding Remarks

It is interesting to note that the Quilliam Foundation and the Henry Jackson Society have postulated a strategy which suggests that in order to inhibit criticism of PREVENT, it should be linked to “extremism”. Indeed, this strategy has subsequently seen light in various reports targeting those campaigning against PREVENT (see herehere and here).  Mughal, it seems, through his Tell MAMA project has gone a step further and has couched the confrontation of those propounding failed, anti-Muslim policies as a constituent of “extremism”.

Like the neocon method of suppressing dissent against PREVENT, though, Mughal’s attempt to protect his friends and control the narrative among Muslims will also fail.  As the failure ensues, any miniscule shred of credibility among the Muslim minority that perhaps did exist has been incinerated by his own hypocritical, clandestine securitised stances.

One thought on “Tell MAMA’s PREVENT Control of Muslim Discourse

  1. Thank you for articulating my concerns about TELL MAMA this subterfuge and controlling of language has been an underlying concern for a a long time , although I am not surprised by their change in tactics and those who they are targeting it smacks of collusion and complicity in the discrimination of a minority group of people who are the current scapegoats in society.

    House muslim and Uncle Tom are terms that I think are euro orientalist terms to describe those who uphold existing power structures. However in the case of the people you have described i think these terms don’t adequately describe their nature. These are terms they don’t like because it hits a nerve for them. So they try to silence discussion and debate before it becomes constructive dissent.

    My view is they are better described under the principles of ‘nifaq’ and ‘munafiqueen’ depending if their acts are based on creed or deed.

    I am myself in no position to be a judge of that -that is only in Allah’s judgement. However if the shoes fits…..

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