A series of blogs analysing the recent Channel 4 documentary titled, “What British Muslims Really Think”
Part 1: An Orchestrated Attack on Islam
In the previous article, we saw how the latest of phase of a neoconservative agenda to deconstruct Islam had resulted in a relentless assault in political and media circles on the faith.
This reach its zenith with the much discussed Channel 4 documentary hosted by Trevor Phillips.
In this article, we will focus on Phillips himself, and attempt to understand his peculiar set of statements made at the beginning of the documentary.
Jumping at the Chance to Spin
Towards the beginning of the documentary, Phillips almost justifies the rise in Islamophobia. Whilst acknowledging that some Islamophobic incidents are to do with “sheer blind prejudice”, he explains the spikes in Islamophobic attacks as being a response to other terrorist attacks. In other words, the violence of white non-Muslims against Muslims and their places of worship is placed within a political context. For Trevor, aside from a few loons, white terrorism is not a manifestation of individualism, liberalism, or nationalism. It is political. However, terrorism perpetrated by Muslims is purely ideological and in fact, as we shall explore in subsequent parts, is claimed by Trevor to accentuate Muslim propensity towards violence as adherence to the Islamic faith increases. To put it another way, white/Christian violence is an aberration from the norm; Muslim violence is caused by Islam itself. A neoconservative, culturalist account no less.
Having set the tone of the documentary by concatenating various terrorist atrocities, and having rationalised away the trivial issue of Islamophobia, Phillips declares that when he was offered the chance to analyse the survey of British Muslim opinion he “jumped at the chance”. Thus, Muslim viewpoints and beliefs were viewed through the terrorism prism. Interestingly, this is a perspective shared with neocons like Michael Gove.
Indeed the entire analysis is purely based on assumptions about Islam and Muslims drawn from white supremacist, fascist neocons. To understand this connection and the content of the documentary, one need only to examine his connections and past statements.
“New Labour” Neocons
Phillips represents the subversive Blairite, “New Labour” mutation of the Left. He is an ally of Tony Blair and a long-time friend of Peter Mandelson who introduced him to the New Labour project in the early nineties. The New Labour party in turn favoured him for the position of chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality as well has his failed run as a London mayor candidate. In a hard-hitting expose by renowned journalist Greg Palast, it was revealed that Mandelson was one of the key architects of a programme to “seize the Labour Party, yank it to the right, and rename it ‘New’ Labour”, suffocating the party of its core principles.
Around the inception of PREVENT and the focus on ideology as a root-cause of terrorism, Phillips was reported to be a member of British American Project, an outfit linked to US neoconservatives (like Iraq war architect Paul Wolfowitz and Norman Podhoretz) which acts as a Trojan horse for US influence. BAP by Phillips’ own admission has influenced his outlook in the context of “progressive politics” and “wealth creation”. Listed among its members was notorious right-wing neoconservative Charles Moore, former editor of the Telegraph and current head of neoconservative think-tank founded by Michael Gove: Policy Exchange. An American BAP organiser describes the BAP network as committed to “grooming leaders” while promoting “the leading global role that [the US and Britain] continue to play”.
Interestingly, also present in the documentary to portray the liberal Muslim sob story was another BAP member; the anti-Muslim Yasmin Alibahi Brown.
Returning to Phillips, it is unsurprising therefore, that in order to provide the “coloured” justification for a resurgence of colonialist polices, hate-preachers like Douglas Murray have invoked his name (e.g., see here, on the failure of multiculturalism and here on the “anti-racists”).
An Old Spin
As far back as 2004, Phillips had been dog-whistling what would become the staple neocon policies of subsequent governments. Thus, even then, in response to provocative protestations against the Iraq war, he argued multiculturalism should be scrapped, Muslims were being “indoctrinated by extremists” and that a “core Britishness” should be promoted – mimicking his most recent call for a “base set of values” which Muslims must comply with. The abysmal foreign policy, just like now, was completely ignored. It was noted by the papers at that time,
“Mr Phillips is a new Labour ally of the Prime Minister and his views are understood to chime with those within Downing Street, which has become increasingly alarmed by the radicalisation of a small section of Muslim youth.”
When it came to attacking Islam, in 2006 he stated that there was a need for free speech to “allow people to offend each other”. This very same free speech today has become limited as Muslim views are being forced to conform to what Phillips calls in the documentary “the rest of society”. Phillips wants people to be able to offend Muslims, but does not want Muslims to “offend” Britain and her “base values”.
Interestingly, he further suggested that Muslims who wanted a system of Shari’ah law “should leave the UK” – a demand he has never made of the Jewish community, who have their own community “policing”, and have been running a “parallel” halachic legal system since the 1700s.
It is little wonder then, that some years later, when Phillips was appointed the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, commissioners began resigning. Ironically, commissioners complained he was alienating people.
Phillips, then, is consistent with his rhetoric of discriminatory demands and duplicitous standards when it comes to Muslims. He “jumped at the chance” to spin a survey of Muslim opinion precisely to push a neoconservative narrative which he has been advocating, in line with British neocons, for years.
This narrative will be the subject of analysis in the following blog.