I have been monitoring the situation in Birmingham and specifically the Birmingham Central Mosque since early last year.
If we recall, Muslim Labour Councillor and Chair of Birmingham Central Mosque, Muhammad Afzal, called PREVENT racist at a crucial period where Muslim communities were issuing statements up and down the country rejecting the policy with similar rhetoric. The media and political spin machine took action and a campaign was launched to discredit the elderly Councillor. Deformist Shaista Gohir and neocon Khalid Mahmood also contributed to the assault.
Bullied by the Charity Commission?
Soon after, I am told, the Charity Commission paid a visit to the masjid. The Commission is run by the controversial anti-Muslim torture apologist William Shawcross, formerly of the hate-financed Henry Jackson Society.
My sources state that the past year has seen a shocking transformation take place in the masjid.
According to locals, some period after Councillor Afzal’s statements, the masjid foyer became littered with PREVENT-related certificates. One set of “safeguarding” certificates have been issued by Faith Associates. Faith Associates is run by Shaukat Warraich who advocates the neocon-shaped, anti-Muslim countering violent extremism agenda. Faith Associates itself has been exposed for receiving PREVENT funding specifically for the purpose of embedding PREVENT into the safeguarding policies of Home Office-specified mosques, despite there being no legal requirement to do so.
Another set of certificates have been issued by Police constable (2881) Mohammed Najib (seen here promoting the controversial CHANNEL deradicalization programme in 2013) of West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) for completing the “Counter Terrorism Workshop Raising Awareness of Prevent”. Interestingly, the dates for the Faith Associates certificates (18/01/2016) and those provided by the CTU (15/01/2016) precede the Councillor Afzal’s pronouncements by a matter of days (his statements were made at masjid on the 21st of January).
Sources also have confirmed that stands near entrances hold magazines entitled “Islam is not Terrorism”. It is as if the Charity Commission has prescribed the masjid some PREVENT-infused scopolamine; from declaring PREVENT racist the masjid is now thoroughly its chief cheerleader.
Speaker Information Shared with CTU
One individual, a person who has regular contacted with the masjid’s officials, has also made some shocking claims. My sources met with the person earlier this year.
The person claims that when attempting to book speakers for an event at the masjid, officials demanded that all relevant details related to the speaker be given to the masjid. The masjid official would then in turn refer these details to the CTU for vetting. This masjid official, whose name I have but for now will refrain from reproducing, then claimed that he had to do this because the Charity Commission had told them to do so.
If this is true, then this takes the Commission’s behaviour to a whole new level of securitisation and policing. It reinforces the charity representative’s concerns that “the government is trying to silence the sector” through a “policing” Charity Commission.
False Claims by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner?
Now seemingly fully aboard the PREVENT juggernaut, the masjid has been taking actions which contribute to the demonizing effect of rendering Muslims a suspect community.
An example of this was seen at a Friday prayer (31st March 2017) where the mosque welcomed the police and crimes commissioner for the West Midlands, David Jamieson. My sources forwarded a recording of the speech given by Jamieson to the congregants. At the end of the Friday congregational prayer, Jamieson swiftly moved to the topic of terrorism and, in relation to the Westminster attack, stated,
“The attacker said his actions were in the name of his adopted faith of Islam. They were not. This was a cruel vicious act of violence which has no place in any religion”.
The commissioner clearly believed that the motivations of the attacker are known and linked to some form of Islam. Up until 31st of May, when the commissioner made the statement, however, it was established that the attacker was “apolitical” with “no interest in radical Islam”. In fact, the police had confirmed that his “motive may never be known”.
This raises the question, where did Jamieson get the information that the attacker said “his actions were in the name of… Islam”? Did the commissioner lie to the Muslims of Birmingham?
Moreover, why did the masjid officials stand by and allow this specious, indirect guilt-tripping of the Muslim community by a man who only seems to address the Muslim community on a Friday when violence occurs? It reinforces the discriminatory notion that Muslims as a community are suspects in relation to any act of violence declared “terrorist” by neocons, unless explicitly stated otherwise. This subtle dynamic helps normalise the securitisation of the Muslim minority.
The aiding of the securitisation of Muslims by the masjid was demonstrated by yet another event (9th of April 2017). In response to a far-right march, the masjid had the great of idea holding a tea party for the community, which was embarrassingly tainted by Orwellian-style messaging on their monitors and their social network that “COMMUNITIES CAN DEFEAT TERRORISM” – all in upper case just in the odd prayer-goer or suspecting non-Muslim missed it.
Militarisation of the Masjid
Whilst declaring “Islam is peace” in its literature and spreading an “Islam gives the lesson of peace” banner across its Facebook page, the masjid’s latest charade involves military presence at the mosque. The masjid is to hold a “Meet your Royal Navy” event on the 18th of April. The event has a specific seminar disturbingly aimed at Muslim youth.
It is important to understand the purpose of this militarisation. For neocons, the use of the military serves the purpose of terraforming Britain into a fascist “closed society” through counter-terrorism and counter-extremism laws and policies. Policies like PREVENT are designed to foster a radical form of British nationalism (explained in detail with references here). Muslims have ardently opposed military intervention in Muslim countries and are stridently opposed to the colonisation of Al-Quds. Making support for the military a condition “to be British” has the effect of indirectly suppressing such opposition – after all, opposition to militarism means one is not “British” enough and therefore somehow an extremist (Defence Secretary Michael Fallon expressly tied “British values” to “serving Queen and country”). Using this nefarious thinking, there has been a concerted effort to brainwash Muslims (including children) using selective history/Islamic theology that whitewashes and/or justifies serving the British empire and contemporary warring.
In short, it is an effort to turn patriotism into conformity to a warmongering neocon state.
Aside from the neocon mind-control gimmicks, the masjid’s selective opposition to particular violence raises profound religious-moral conundrums. The British Navy has been involved in the military campaigns of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now Syria as part of the perpetual War on Terror – a war which has led to a genocidal loss of Muslim life.
Whilst it is understandable that the masjid may have been bullied into pushing this outrageous behaviour (councillor Afzal still stands by his statements), the solution is not to capitulate to the detriment of the Muslim minority, but to reach out for support to organisations like PreventWatch, CAGE and Mend against alleged state bullying and possible misdirection.
Pointed questions need to be raised before the masjid. Does it endorse PREVENT and therefore threaten the relationship of trust between the masjid officials and Imam and the community of Birmingham? Does it approve of risking the lives of young Muslim men in campaigns which may require the shedding of blood of fellow Muslims? Is the masjid content with being a conduit for neocon securitisation agendas which seek to repress Muslim discourse?
Birmingham Central Mosque has much to explain to the Muslim community of Birmingham.