Post-War on Terror, the securitised discourse around the need to “reform” (deform) Islam has continued upon a slippery slope. In recent years, this descent has taken its aim at the fundamental aspects of Islam.
The pillars of Islam are referred to as pillars precisely, as the Ulama explain, because they constitute the core of Islam. Certain organisations, however, intentionally or otherwise, are in effect harnessing this powerful act of worship to undermine Islam itself.
One such organisation is the National Zakat Foundation (NZF).
NZF sold itself as a means of assisting the poor in the UK using Zakat money. Initially the organisation was backed by traditional scholars. A Zakat Guide from 2014, shows it being stamped by the Al-Qalam Shari’ah Scholar Panel, comprised of notable scholars.
Last year however, saw a prominent withdrawal of endorsement from Shaykh Abu Eesa Niamatullah and the Al-Qalam Shari’ah Panel. The Shaykh announced that there were “methodological differences” in their understanding of zakat. Reported in the major Muslim news outlet 5PillarsUK, this was a significant rescission.
Accompanying this were rumours from well-placed sources in NZF that the organisation was funding a broad range of activities, using a philosophy which its CEO Iqbal Nasim articulated over last year through various Facebook posts and an interview. Zakat would be used for strategic and “transformative” development of Muslim community and its leadership. In terms of their theological approach, Nasim summarised this as basically picking and choosing opinions to fit an overarching vision, which ironically contravened the perception given in their terms of reference guidance, still available on their website.
Mufti Faraz Adam was commissioned to produce the theological justification to fit Nasim’s vision. The paper was severely critiqued by Mufti Zameelur Rahman who concluded that “NZF adopts an agenda-driven pick-and-choose Fiqh methodology”, misquotes classical scholars and opposes on certain issues the consensus of the scholars.
Mufti Zameel also highlighted how there is a general impression given by the document that zakat, which is ritualistic, is, as a default, something “non-ritualistic”. Broadening of zakat categories is “designed to fit their overall, highly selective, narrative of trying to give all the beneficiaries of Zakāt a more secular, communal, function, rather than a ritual, devotional one.”
The respected Mufti was not wrong. The arbitrary emphasis of the distinction between ritualistic and non-ritualistic reflects the line of thinking usually associated modernists like Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida and their contemporary manifestations (as does their “picking and choosing” epistemology). They are that whereas rituals are determined by Allah and are therefore unchanging, rulings in the mu’amalat (non-ritual/transactional) category are within the purview of human reason, which, reflecting Mu’tazili thought, is elevated to the status of being capable of determining right and wrong on its own. By categorising zakat into a non-ritualistic category, it is easier to subject it to distorted utilitarian principles like maslaha and modify it to suit whatever agenda that needs to be served. More fundamentally (and demonstrating the influence of modernity through colonialism), it replicates the duality of secularism, splitting the faith into the domain of Allah, and the constantly shifting human domain. In this context, Nasim’s status which references the neo-Mu’tazili deformist Khaled Abou el Fadl (commonly referenced by counter-extremist like Sara Khan and Adam Deen) is pertinent, as el Fadl also reflects this distinction in his works.
Understandably, at that time, all this piqued my interest. NZF terms of references were talking about how NZF grants were promoting “greater social cohesion”. The Visit My Mosque initiative was also supported by NZF on the basis that it was “fostering social cohesion”. Social cohesion directly ties into PREVENT theory.
This was followed by disturbing comments by Nasim.
After the unusually positive coverage of NZF in the usually anti-Muslim Times, another article discussed how zakat was being sent back home and how younger Muslims were questioning this. Nasim was quoted as having stated,
“A lot of this is to do with a sense of belonging… If you want a positive future as a community, you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is. This is where we belong.”
The implication was that if you were not “giving zakat locally” then you were unsettled. This disconcerting statement has a further implication: “not belonging” in counter-extremism terms also means you are a potential extremist.
The above, for me, indicated that there was a possibility of counter-extremism-thinking influencing NZF. What would happen if the deformist approach were then used to help justify initiatives that were framed with the counter-extremism ideology and all the nonsense that comes with it?
Once zakat is used to fund “tomorrow’s leaders” and “beneficial projects”, it opens up the question, according to who’s vision are these leaders being forged and these projects being tailored to?
A leaked NZF document helps shed some light on these questions.
Leaders and Projects
NZF began funding “individual leaders and projects” in 2017. There was a shift in the primary intent of NZF from alleviating poverty to giving grants for the “perceived communal benefit” from individuals who provided guidance, inspiration and service to the Muslim community. Nasim personally oversaw the delivery of NZF grants.
Were those donating their zakat aware that their money was going to be used like this?
It should be noted that this was taking place before the 2018 Community Development Grants framework was made public and even then any past efforts to reveal the recipients of money used on dubious grounds of “developing leadership” have been rebuffed by NZF on the basis that they generally do not reveal who receives zakat money. They conveniently ignore that what is not being asked is to expose the poor in receipt of funds, but those who are being “developed” as future leadership of the Muslim community, which is a public, Ummah-wide concern.
According to the document, the money provided by NZF can be broken down into three categories:
- Personal Maintenance Grant reflects the leadership grantee’s personal outgoings.
- Debt Relief relates to debts incurred because of costs related to delivering community projects for the Muslim community and beyond.
- The third category relates to direct project costs.
The document shows how personal maintenance grants have been issued to people supporting and promoting religious institutes and scholars through development of brand identities, Facebook videos, and sharing memes with quotes. Zakat money has been given to raise awareness of the deaf community among Muslims and pushing the Islamic Signs Book and to market research and develop an “Islamic” 3D cartoon about Salah.
Omar Salha (Ramadan Tent Project), for instance, is listed as an NZF beneficiary. The money was used for his Open Iftar project, which, judging by the images on his Twitter feed, hosts iftar gatherings for Muslims and non-Muslims but in a completely mixed gathering. Salha’s theory of the “Islamic swagger” gives a hint at what seems to be happening here, and why NZF saw it fit to fund Salha’s work. In short Salha proposes faith-based diplomacy which would create a favourable image among the public through religious expressions. I understand the idea is to warm non-Muslims to Islam, but if the expression of Islam being invited to looks like an advert for a marriage bureau then the expression is a misleading one.
Some of the recipients are vague with little to no online footprint making it difficult to determine how the money has been used or to whom the money has being given to. For example, £1,698 was given to cover project costs by the “Centre for Muslim Scholars and Thinkers”. What was the project? And who are the members of this organisation? How can we assess the impact of this project on the Muslim community?
Some of these endeavours may be noble. However, the issue remains the zakat which funds these projects.
Were those who entrusted NZF with their zakat money aware that the money was being used in this manner?
This question becomes more forceful when one considers two recipients in particular who received zakat wealth. Between themselves, they have a history of supporting and implementing PREVENT/counter-extremism , possess troubling links, promote the deformation of Islam, and kow-tow to the pro-Israel agenda.
With the year ending 2017, the leaked report posits Luqman Ali as one of the largest recipients of Zakat money totalling £38,565.27. Ali is the co-founder of Khayaal Theatre Company which focusses on interfaith work through theatre plays. One of Khayaal’s stated aims is to
“To assist in developing cultural capital and currency for Muslim communities that will facilitate greater and more inclusive socio-cultural stakeholding and integration and challenge extremism and Islamophobia.”
In other words, it operates in the pre-criminal counter-terrorism intervention sphere under the guise of drama and play. This will be elaborated further below.
Ali’s bio also states that he is also a fellow of the Jewish-Muslim interfaith Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship. Ariane de Rothschild is the Fellowship president, a French/German wife of Benjamin de Rothschild. Fully pro-Israel in her stances, much of her focus is on developing education in Israel.
She has given introductory statements to the Herzliya conference, better known as the “neocon Woodstock” because it happens to form a meeting ground for neocons. Arianne, however, feels the conference is something to be proud of. Moreover, she has no qualms about citing the war criminal Ariel Sharon as an exemplar of having the “courage” to act and “bring change”.
Why would Ali proudly parade the fact that he is a fellow of a network that ultimately serves neocon/Zionist interests?
Countering Violent Extremism/PREVENT
Luqman has been involved with PREVENT from the earliest stages when Sufism was posited by Blair’s New Labour and neocons as the antidote for the Muslim terroristic pathology and key in the formation of what Ruth Kelly would call a “British version of Islam”. As far back as 2005, Khayaal and Luqman were pushing plays that would “help prevent young Muslims who may be susceptible to extremism”.
In the year 2008/9, via the PVE Community Leadership fund, Khayaal received £129,541 to build its organisational capacity in order to deliver between 200-250 performances of two plays in schools across the country over the subsequent three years. According to the government, “both of these plays address the issues of radicalisation and extremism as they manifest themselves in families and communities.”
Luqman’s more recent endeavours also raise questions.
In 2015, Luqman partook in the global counter-extremism complex, attending and contributing to the Youth Against Extremism Conference (see here, here, here and here). The event was managed by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). The ISD Board of Trustees President was the now deceased George Weidenfeld, a Zionist who has no scruples co-signing a neocon/pro-Israeli petition with neocon warmongers and prominent financiers of the Islamophobia industry. Weidenfeld was also the inspiration for Michael Gove’s neocon manifesto of anti-Muslim hatred, Celsius 7/7. ISD has cross-pollinated researchers with Quilliam. Quilliam founder Rashad Ali, and Islam-deformist Dilwar Hussain are also listed as ISD personnel. Hussain is a person to whom we will return to further below.
A year later, Luqman penned a piece arguing that a lack of an “integrated identity” was a reason for people in the West being recruited into ISIS, and an inability to understand “identity paradoxes” affecting Muslim youth were leading to a “greater vulnerability to extremist narratives and influences”. The solution? Muslims should assert their “inclusive humanitarian story and dream” through the type of work he does so that “Muslims can find belonging, purpose and significance in today’s world.”
This identity crisis/unsettled belonging narrative is not exactly ground-breaking. In fact, it sits firmly within PREVENT. The Channel Vulnerability Framework highlights “a need for identity, meaning and belonging” as a risk factor. It is on this basis that neocon policy think-tanks publish reports which talk about “unsettled belonging” of Muslims, effectively questioning the loyalty of Muslims based on their differing beliefs and perceptions from an arbitrarily established “norm”. Pertinently, however, the basis of this approach, ERG22, has been comprehensively questioned and discredited by the academic community.
Last year, Luqman highlighted the “Amal” initiative. In 2017, Amal partnered with Khayaal and Greenbelt – an annual Christian festival – to deliver a Muslim-Christian interfaith initiative called “Amal @ Greenbelt”. Khayaal’s founding member and associate director Eleanor Martin featured in this initiative.
Amal is a project developed by the Said Foundation, which has Charles Powell as a trustee. A former UK diplomatic and foreign policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, Powell happens to be a signatory to the Statement of Principles of the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society.
Other Amal trustees are also linked to Powell. They include the Syrian-born billionaire Wafic Rida Said and Reverend Jonathan Aitken. Powell and Said, are said to have brokered a massive set of corrupt, multi-billion dollar arms for oil deals between BAE, the UK government and the Saudi regime known as al-Yamama which stretched over a 20 year period. Aitken’s connection is to an early part of the Al-Yamama deal. The investigation into the corruption was stopped by Tony Blair.
Other trustees include Rosemary Said, the wife of Wafic Said, a Cameron-era Tory donor, and their children Khaled and Rasha. Catherine Roe, also listed, was previously the director of the Karim Rida Said Foundation.
Why is a family linked to the HJS and corrupted armed deals interested in fostering a “diverse culture”? Is it because there is symbiotic relationship between war, and the behavioural manipulation of a target group through the “arts”?
Pro-Israel activists and neoconservatives ultimately serve to protect the interests of Israel. Among these interests is the obsession of triggering a “reformation” in Islam – after all, a severance with Islam means severance with Al-Quds. Thus whether it is Paul Wolfowitz’s desire for an “Islamic reformation” on the eve of the Iraq war, or Mossad monitoring organisations and scholars that propound “moderate Islam”, or indeed pro-Israel funds supporting deformists here in the UK, pro-Israel activism and the deformist movement, like counter-extremism, often go hand in hand.
Julie Siddiqi’s work seems to dovetail this dynamic.
According to Siddiqi’s own statements in the document, Siddiqi had a personal maintenance grant of £2500 per month put in place for the second half of 2017 after speaking to Iqbal Nasim. A total of £29,442.41 had been paid to her. Again, this money was provided before the Leadership Development fund was formerly established and made public.
The finances have directly helped Siddiqi with her volunteer project called Ansar and enabled her to link it to her Sadaqa Day project.
Sadaqa Day is a “day of social” which has partnerships with Penny Appeal, Nisa-Nashim, Mitvah Day and the Jewish Volunteering Network (JVN). In their 2018 report, Siddiqi gives thanks to Iqbal for “his support and guidance over the past couple of years helping this project develop and grow and for his leadership”. She also thanks the Aziz Foundation and Laura Marks. Of course, what she fails to mention is that NZF has been funding her too. On the 25th of March this year, Theresa May congratulated her on being named UK’s 1151st Point of Light, a government programme which recognises volunteer work.
Marks was the elected Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) from 2012-2015. This is the same BoD which has directed the anti-Muslim neocon Michael Gove to personally intervene and shutdown school workshops celebrating Palestinian literature and human rights and uses intimidation/pressure tactics to censor Palestinian work/academic discussions on Israel. Jonathan Arkush, the previous president of BoD spoke at a rally in 2016 in which JDL activists were present. JDL adheres to the views of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the ultranationalist Kach group outlawed by the Zionist government.
The BoD has also influenced the direction of the PREVENT Strategy, both protecting itself from counter-extremism-based scrutiny, and redirecting focus on Muslims, arguing in the past that the Muslim community is “the target of many radicalising forces”.
It is unsurprising, therefore, to see Marks attacking MCB for “delegitimising Israel” and arguing that the government should not work with them.
The connections get more disturbing as we turn to the second project mentioned in the NZF review.
Siddiqi has modelled the Ansar Volunteering Network on JVN, which Sadaqa day partners with. JVN, in its own words, “works very closely” with Ansar. JVN, however, effectively recruits for the IDF through its promotion of Sar-El – a “national project for Volunteers in Israel”, with goal of helping “the Israel Defence Force to maintain its effectiveness”.
Spying on the Community and Delivering PREVENT Objectives
So, who is Siddiqi beyond these two projects NZF have supported?
Siddiqi was a member of the failed National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group, the organisation which had a “covert objective” of prompting a “substantive change in the attitudes and beliefs of Muslims” and create a liberal, moderate, government-approved Islam.
During the period 2007-8, Siddiqi helped deliver the Slough Against Violent Extremism Action Plan, devised to build community resilience to violent extremism in line with the PREVENT Strategy. These included initiatives to engage Muslim youth and organise events for the PREVENT-funded “Hear My Voice” project and Radical Middle Way, both of which promoted confusion around Islamic issues among youth. She delivered training to teachers, council staff and police to help them “understand issues”. Her work also leveraged community forums, Eid events, parenting programmes, women’s groups, madrassas to help deliver her PREVENT propaganda to the Muslim community.
Disturbingly, Siddiqi was also engaged in the local mapping of the Muslim population and “information sharing”, focussing on people involved in “extremist activities” for the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism.
In simple terms, she was spying on the Muslim community and getting paid for it.
Militarism, constituted of military promotion, Remembrance Day and red poppies as a way of countering extremism has spread in recent years. In 2013, Siddiqi said Muslims should wear the poppy, whilst her organisation, ISB, issued statements selectively glorifying Muslims that died for British imperialism.
Between 2010-14, Siddiqi was the executive director of ISB. Given its deformation project I highlighted some years ago, the ISB directorship explains the network which closely associates with Siddiqi and her views.
New Horizons in British Islam (NHBI) is an organisation primarily run by the aforementioned deformist Dilwar Hussain. NHBI sells itself as “a forward-looking organisation that works for reform in Muslim thought and practice”. It repeatedly hosts a plethora of neocon-linked deformists on discussions about Islam. Their latest, 2019 list of speakers include deformists and “counter-extremists” like the female “Imamah” from Denmark (examined below), ISD researcher and Quilliam Foundation founding snake Rashad Ali, Quilliam’s Usama Hasan, the British Army Imam Asim Hafiz, NHBI co-founder Rabiha Hannan who believes classical interpretations of Qur’an and Hadith are considered “backwards”, and PREVENT/CVE defender Henna Rai.
A recent article published by their project manager articulated a blueprint to deconstruct, Christianise and render into irrelevance “Sunni Islam”.
With such a deformist, CVE-ridden “British Islam” being “marketed”, is it any wonder Hussain was approvingly cited in the shockingly anti-Islam and Muslim, neocon-infused Casey Review?
Siddiqi regularly features in NHBI’s projects and promotes their conferences. In 2017, she and Marks talked at an NHBI conference about how Jewish and Muslim women were “challenging the narrative” on leadership and gender through their organisation, Nisa-Nashim. (For other NHBI/Siddiqi videos see “Ramadan Bites” here, and how she found the #metoo movement “empowering” to her as a feminist here).
As we shall see below, a converging set of ideas may be a reason for why she is hosted by NHBI. But there is a more obvious link. Siddiqi is married to Naved Siddiqi, a tutor at the Woolf Institute who focusses on identity, social change and extremism. He also happens to be a trustee of NHBI.
Siddiqi is a self-described feminist who explains that she was confused (link, 5min) by the relationship between feminism and Islam for some-time and having a read a book on feminism she was able to reconcile them. It’s interesting she never studied Islam in some depth to ascertain whether there was congruence between Islam and feminism; from an epistemological perspective, feminism remains an Islamically incoherent set of ideas irrespective of whether the strand of feminism rests on liberal or “radical” grounds. This incoherence, however, results in her changing Islam to suit her feminist predilections since it can allow faith to be questioned (link, 11.20). For Siddiqi, there is no such thing as a “Muslim woman” (4min), even though there is an entire chapter in the Qur’an literally titled “The Women” and verses explicitly using the words “Muslim women” and “believing women” in the Qur’an. Feminism means mosques which cater for men only must be lambasted as it “has nothing to with faith, it is do with culture”, a flatly false statement.
In a recent Facebook post, Siddiqi seeks to “re-visit” the “women’s voice is awrah line”. Whilst this “line” does not need revisiting as most traditional schools of Islamic jurisprudence do not adhere to this view, Siddiqi in reality seeks to “re-visit” something against which there is a consensus of the scholars.
She shares a quote from Madina Javed, who recited the Qur’an in a Cathedral before a mixed audience. The clip, which is made by NHBI, shows her wearing an apologist head covering whilst declaring that the “female Qur’an recitation tells a different story”. To argue established meanings of texts can change depending on the frequency of the voice may be a difficult sell, but not more than justifying her actions based upon Islamic theology. She argues,
“Umm Waraqah, the famous companion of the Prophet… was one of few people who knew the entire Quran by heart and would teach it to others. Her whole life revolved around it and her recitations were frequent and loud and could be heard by those living near by and passing by her house. In fact when she was killed in her sleep by her servants after the Prophet pbuh death, during the reign of Omar (ra) the caliph who lived nearby her, he realized one morning during fajr that he hadn’t heard her recital of the Quran. Something very odd that alarmed him. So he immediately took a group of men with him to her house to make sure she was ok and found her wrapped in a white cloth. This clearly, had it been impermissible to read aloud for women, so loud the neighborhood could hear, this story claims the very opposite.”
The only issue for Javed here is that even based on her own words, she cannot deduce permissibility for what she is doing, which is reading the Qur’an before a mixed audience intentionally. At most it can be said that Umm Waraqah (may Allah be pleased with her) was reading the Qur’an, and due to the small sizes of the houses, the voice could have been heard outside. But even this is pure conjecture; there is no strong reference from the primary Islamic sources to support her little made up story.
Against fabricated intellectual gymnastics, there is blunt evidence to the contrary in the very book Javed wants to read, and the rulings that are based upon it.
Siddiqi brushes close to perennialism, with overcooked statements of interfaith deference. She regards Justin Welby as her own Archbishop (see here, 8.10). Welby, like neocons, believes that there needs to be “a move away from the argument that… Isis is ‘nothing to do with Islam’”, and, mimicking the far-right, says that Europe should rediscover their mythical “Judaeo Christian” roots of their culture.
Not to exclude Jewish representation, Siddiqi also considers Rabbi Harvey Belovski her “friend and teacher”, which is ironic, given the thoroughly modernist Siddiqi rails against orthodox Islamic positions and its adherents. The Rabbi has said,
“One cannot simply disregard centuries of process and reintegrate marginalised opinions as the basis for practical innovation.”
Recalling Siddiqi’s promotion of Qur’an-reading before a mixed audience, the next quote from Belovski is pertinent:
“there is a rare consensus within the Orthodox rabbinate against this innovation [of women reading the Torah in front of men]”.
If she considers the Rabbi her teacher, she’s not exactly a great student!
And how does the “British Islam” touting Siddiqi reconcile herself with the Rabbi’s “belonging”/integration problems? He questions how a child living outside of Israel can be told that they are meant to live in Israel:
“How does one communicate the sense that the heart of the Jewish people beats not in Golders Green or Brooklyn, but in the Holy City of Jerusalem?”
Most disconcertingly, whilst in Israel during the 2009 massacre in Gaza, Belovski met with the head of a hesder Yeshiva which had students drafted in the IDF. The vision of a hesder Yeshiva is to enable “students to combine Torah learning with military duty.” Given how brutal the 2009 Gaza invasion was, was the Rabbi meeting with Torah-driven potential war criminals? How does Siddiqi feel about her “teacher” meeting students of Judaism who combine their learning with the violence? Is this not “violent extremism”?
Belovski’s wife, Vicki Belovski, who shares Nisa-Nashim tweets, sent tweets after the 2014 Gaza attack praising Monroe Palmer for “giving as strong a defence of Israel in the Lords as you’re ever likely to hear”. Alongside Alan Mendoza, Palmer was on the advisory board of Students Rights, a project of the Islamophobia-industry-funded Henry Jackson Society.
This connection into the world of pro-Israel advocacy neatly brings us to Siddiqi’s Nisa-Nashim project.
Carrying the theme of whitewashing Israel’s violence and occupation against the Palestinians through “engagement” is Nisa-Nashim (NN), founded by Siddiqi and the aforementioned MCB-bashing Laura Marks. From the outset, NN was provided with a healthy £30,000 of funding from the government and BoD backing. The organisation’s purported aims include changing the “tone of the conversation”, fostering leadership skills and feelings of empowerment in women and informing policy about “women and faith-based communities”.
Now, given Siddiqi’s counter-extremist, confused feminism-driven work already outlined above, and Marks’s employment at the BoD, it is not difficult to work out that this is yet another stunt being pulled in order to regulate the narratives and activism on Palestine through the prism of pro-Israel hasbara, and police the beliefs of Muslims towards an eviscerated Islam that complies with liberal and postmodern sensitivities.
Take NN’s trustees.
Hifsa Haroon-Iqbal (seen here next to a Christmas tree promoting NN) is the regional PREVENT lead propagandist for Further and Higher Education. Haroon-Iqbal’s views are slavishly driven by the counter-extremism rhetoric and her defences of PREVENT are shared by the far-right, neoconservative, Islam-hating outlet Clarion Project. She has been a key speaker at counter-extremism symposium, alongside Rupert Sutton, then of the hate-financed, neoconservative Henry Jackson Society project Student Rights. She has declared an article which dragged the veil into the context of terrorism and which imposed Nawaz’s understanding upon women who choose to veil, “excellent” and “spot on”, effectively endorsing the culturalist attack against Islam and Muslims.
Another trustee is Judith Flacks. Her CV includes the following:
- BICOM, the influential pro-Israel lobby which has connections into the Islamophobia industry.
- UJS, the student pro-Israel lobby that effectively subverts the Muslim minority through the vague labelling of “Islamist extremism”, has been caught receiving money from the Israel embassy and attempting to influence the NUS presidency election, to the point of plotting to oust the then NUS president Malia Bouattia following her victory.
- Jewish Leadership Council is another pro-Israel lobby which has Claudia Mendoza as the Director of Policy and Public Affairs. She is the wife of Alan Mendoza, the executive director of HJS. JLC has defended Israeli leaders from the principles of universal jurisdiction and therefore accountability of potential war crimes.
Unsurprisingly, Flacks decries Gaza rocket fire during the 2012 attacks, which killed four Israelis, yet ignoring the 167 Palestinians, 87 of which did not partake in the hostilities that were killed during the same period. Whilst the NUS Black Students Campaign was condemning the attack on Gaza, the UJS supported them, with Flacks busy framing the killings as “defence”.
It is also unsurprising, that NN congratulates UJS award recipients for their contribution to the NN student conference.
NN works with “Solutions Not Sides” (SNS) to deliver workshops presumably in pursuit of its aim to modify the “tone” of the discourse. NN members also encourage their work among children and schools. One questions the perceived neutrality conveyed by the organisation’s name, given that the organisation works with the BoD to organise events on Israel-Palestine.
Its advisory board too, belies this image of neutrality.
- Mohammed Ali Amla is notable for being a PREVENT propagandist, whitewashing the racist policy as “improved”, less “Muslim-centric” and attacking JUST Yorkshire’s critical report of PREVENT. This is important in this context given how PREVENT has been implemented to curtail criticism of Israel.
- Josh Dubell works with UJIA, which has “considerable crossover between BICOM and the UJIA at the level of funding and leadership”.
- Jonny Newton is CST’s Public Affairs and External Relations lead. The CST is a pro-Israel, Mossad-linked Pertinently, the Jewish Chroniclereported in October 2015 that the government consulted CST in formulating the draconian counter-extremism strategy. The widely derided strategy “pleased” CST’s director of communications Mark Gardner.
The “not sides” part of SNS is quite clearly misleading.
These connections inevitably translate into pro-Israel propaganda being regurgitated.
Last year NN put out a statement against the former L’Oreal model Amena Khan for denouncing Israel on Twitter during the 2014 Gaza attack in which 526 children were killed by IDF child-killers.
It is also worth examining Elizabeth Arif-Fear, the co-chair of NN Marylebone.
In 2016, her Tweets were exposing Zionist brutality against Palestinians. Toward the end of 2017 her tune fundamentally changed. Now, no sides should be taken, Palestinians and Zionists in the US love each other, and “we will NOT be divided” through “debates/reactions/campaigning”. Despite present ongoing violence against the Gazans, Arif-fear’s focus has only revolved around bashing Hamas as an aggressor, wholly mimicking the Israeli version of events and regurgitating BoD-style argumentation (see here also). This pro-Israel worship extends to attacking Jeremy Corbyn with the usual anti-Semitism inaction smears.
Promotion of Deformation of Islam
Concordant to Siddiqi’s deformist stances already highlighted, NN works for the deformation of Islam.
Another Tweet by NN shares an article authored by Arif-Fear as “thought-provoking” and “powerful piece”. The piece is incoherent, in that it argues for feminist readings in Islam and propagates feminists whom are “re-interpreting and refreshing Islamic theology, Qur’anic readings”, but somehow this is not “changing Islam”. Arif-fear promotes the feminist Amina Wadud as someone who is “incredible” for leading mixed prayer spaces. Wadud, has spoken of simply ignoring verses which cannot be contorted through hermeneutical gymnastics to her own conception of justice.
Another feminist cited is “Imamah” Sherin Khankan. As is common with most deformists, Khankan is “fighting extremism” through her theological distortions, which includes providing facilities at her “mosque” to carry out marriages of Muslim women with non-Muslim men. “It’s about challenging radical Islam… and it’s about promoting progressive Islamic values” (BBC, 3:30), she says. In 2018, under the spotlight of the United Nations General Assembly’s 73rd session, aimed to create partnerships and resources to tackle “violent extremism”, Khankan was given the convoluted “Heroes against Extremism and Intolerance Award”.
According to her book, it was the activism of Wadud and Asra Nomani’s statements to Al-Jazeera hours before Wadud’s publicity stunt which formed the basis of her feminist awakening. Nomani is a Trump-supporting neocon feminist who advocates Muslim-profiling and tearing out pages from the Qur’an.
In the concluding parts of her book, Khankan’s perennialism becomes clear:
“I embrace a more inclusive reading [of Islam], to the point of integrating elements from various traditions, including non-Muslim ones.”
Arif-Fear assumes this post-modernist, perennialism too. In one blog, she tries to bury theological differences by showing how Ahmadis and Quranists are similar to Sunni and Shia Muslims and therefore are all Muslim. She writes,
“For Muslim readers specifically, I’d also like to highlight this crucial fact: you don’t have to agree on everything for that person to be Muslim. There are many interpretations of our holy text and people have different ways of expressing their faith. Only Allah Almighty can judge us.”
Her perennialism becomes blindsided, however. Ahmadis exclusively believe that “Muslims from all around the world, firmly believe in… Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (AS) to be the awaited Messiah & Mahdi.” By implication, those who do not believe in the “awaited Messiah”, cannot be “true Muslims”. Of course this does not phase the hypocritical deformist or indeed produce hyperventilated expressions of “takfir” and “Islamist” for declaring a set of beliefs the “true teachings”. Indeed, when a person appeared on Arif-Fear’s Twitter feed to explain how the Ahmadis do not allow their members to use the courts of the country without written permission and against the threat of excommunication and abuse, Arif-Fear’s response was to call the person a troll.
Arif-Fear, who calls herself an “ex-hijabi”, frequently talks about the need to reform, referencing NHBI. The nexus with NHBI in the discourse of deform needs to be emphasised here. Several Tweets show her presence and endorsement of NHBI’s events and its deform messages. (see here, here, here, and here for example).
She bemoans how the so-called “far-left” stand in the way of “reform in Muslim communities” and pander to “Islamists”, worryingly sweeping orthodox Muslims into the catch-all securitisation terminology of “Islamism” – a troubling behaviour given she frivolously labels unverified troll accounts “Islamist”.
Arif-Fear, Counter-Extremism and Discrimination against Muslims
Arif-Fear’s operating worldview is the PREVENT theory. In one Tweet, mimicking Tony Blair’s recent blueprint for totalitarian control of thought, she explains that “extremism sits on a slippery scale – not just ISIS… [It] starts with ‘us vs. them’”.
Arif-Fear goes as far as sharing an article which proposes discriminatory treatment of Muslims in the context of extremism, arguing “this is why we should not accept the relativism bought into by so many – that all forms of extremism are ‘just as’ threatening.” Her hypocrisy is acute here, given elsewhere she writes how non-discrimination is a “core human right” for “each and everyone of us”. Everyone except Muslims, it seems.
Given her neocon-scripting of “extremism”, it comes as no surprise that she supports dubious PREVENT proponents like Sara Khan and Fiyaz Mughal (see also here, here and here,) and conducts complimentary interviews with them with nodding-dog approval, whilst simultaneously attacking genuine grass-root organisations like CAGE and Mend (a lot: here, here, and here). And Corbyn, of course.
NZF and New Horizons for British Islam
Through the course of outlining the views and associations of those NZF has funded, NHBI has appeared regularly in both interactions and deformist ideas promulgated.
Last year, however, NHBI featured Lucy Bushill-Matthews, currently Director of Operations at NZF and formerly the Head of Strategy, in their “Ramadan Bites” video. She talks about the “strategic” uses of Zakat through broadly interpreted Zakat categories, before, ironically, warning that if these aspects are neglected, our future progeny will be unaware about their faith.
The question is, why on earth would NZF feel it is acceptable to work with a noxious organisation like NHBI? If the concern is the erasure of Islam then surely defending against and exposing those who work to neutralise the faith through various “reform” efforts should be the focus, not using them as hubs to sell their vision.
Or perhaps NHBI was an appropriate avenue to promote what is modernist theology that gives justification to fund deformists?
Aside from the intellectual weakness of deform theology, such endeavours introduce problems. Deforming theology to pursue an agenda is dangerous; when this occurs at the governmental level it can lead to oppression on a grand-scale, be that orchestrated by the Sisi or ISIS-types of this world.
When NZF set out to deform Islam to fit their own agenda, it exposed the Muslim community to the threat of potential abuse of zakat funds. As the above analysis shows, NZF, Mufti Faraz Adam and his theological stamp of approval have indeed opened a can of worms which are burying themselves into agendas that seek to deconstruct Islam. The funding of the likes of Luqman Ali and Julie Siddiqi and their projects which dovetail counter-extremist, deformist, pro-Israel agendas, should be a wake-up call for the Mufti, and the Muslims that give their zakat money to NZF.
Placing aside the theology for a moment, I would assume NZF’s defence would be that they were not aware of the views and work of Luqman Ali or Julie Siddiqi and they are not funding such individuals anymore. The only problem for NZF is that their sell for centralising zakat money whilst assigning themselves as the gatekeepers for the funds of the Ummah is the delusional belief that they possess a well-informed, birds-eye view of the situation of Muslims in Britain. The CEO of NZF Iqbal Nasim says,
“Decisions on such matters should not be left to individual payers: if they contribute Zakat to organisations directly, this would mean that payers are making decisions without a well-informed, bird’s-eye view of the overall situation facing Islam and Muslims and the result would probably be imbalanced and chaotic. As an independent Zakat institution, NZF is in an ideal position to make well-researched and objective spending decisions. We will ensure, on behalf of Zakat payers, that funds are used in the most impactful way and that outcomes are communicated in a transparent manner.”
By making the excuse that they were unaware, NZF would fundamentally undermine their own claims of making “well-researched”, “objective” decisions to deliver funds in “the most impactful way”. If anything, the opaque way in which NZF went about funding deformists before rolling out their leadership fund and then sought to placate Muslims with post-hoc shoddy theology only proves that not only is NZF not the most ideal option for Muslims, but, based on the current facts, an untrustworthy, dangerous option for the Muslim future.
I am aware that NZF have continued this trend of funding individuals and groups that promote deform and counter-extremism in subsequent years. I also know who some of them are. If Nasim wishes to sincerely address concerns, he would do well as a first step to make “transparent” the list of individuals and organisations NZF have funded under the leadership initiative over the last two years to assess the damage that is being done.
Otherwise, well, watch this space.
Zakat is pillar of the Deen. Do not allow this pillar to become a weapon against the Deen.
 The document, available here, highlights the fatwa methodology and principles and brackets “Rasm al-Mufti”. Given Mufti Faraz Adam (a Hanafi) is highlighted as the researcher, one would reasonably assume the reference her is to the well-known text Rasm al-Mufti of Ibn Abidin. Indeed, he has referenced it for fatwa production in the past.
There are several statements in Sharh Uqud Rasm al-Mufti of Ibn Abidin (pp.8-9) on it being necessary to adopt tarjeeh (seeking out the weightier position) rather than tashahhi (whimsically choosing an opinion). Tarjeeh is done following an objective method which he then details in the book.
Ibn Abidin says “It is obligatory on one who intends to engage in an action himself or give fatwa to another to follow the position that the Ulama of his Madhhab as regarded to be the weightier [position]…They have quoted a consensus on this.”
He quotes Allamah Qasim ibn Qutlubugha who said: “I saw someone who practised on the basis of whim (tashahhi) in the Madhhab of our Imams, to the point that I heard from the speech of a Qadi: ‘Is there anything preventing [this]?’ I say: Of course! Following desires is forbidden, and the weak position in opposition to the weightier position is equivalent to being non-existent.”
He quotes Ibn al-Salah who said: “Realise that someone who suffices with his fatwa or practice being in line with a view or a position in a matter, and practises on whatever he wants from the views and positions without examining which is the weightier [position], he has acted ignorantly and has opposed consensus.”
He relates from al-Baji that a situation arose on which muftis gave a fatwa that would work against him, but when he asked the muftis directly, they said: “We did not realise it was for you,” and they gave him fatwa on a different transmission which accorded with his objective. Al-Baji commented: “There is no disagreement amongst Muslim [scholars] whose views are given consideration within scholarly consensus on this being impermissible.”
 Fadl KA, Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari’iah in the Modern Age, 2014, Rowman & Littlefield: Maryland, p.397
 Qur’an, 33:35
 “O wives of the Prophet! You are not like other women, if you are God-fearing. So do not be soft in speech. Lest in whose heart is disease should be moved with desire.” (Qur’an, 33:32)
Classical scholarship renders singing or reading the Adhan out load as prohibited.
Imam Ibn Abidin quotes Imam Qurtubi: “We consider it permissible for women to converse with non-mahram men at the time of need. We do not consider it permissible that they raise, stretch, and soften their voice in a melodious way.” (Hashiyah Ibn Abidin, 5:482)
Al-Turtushi notes that a woman is not allowed give the call to salah, How can she be allowed to raise her voice in singing. (Kitab Tahrim al-Ghina, no.59, pp.203-4
Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami quotes Imam Qurtubi and says, “The majority of those who declared sama’ (singing) permissible have declared it prohibited to listen to singing by a non-mahram female… there is no difference between listening to poetry or listening to the Qur’an from her…” (Kaff al-Ra’a’, [Types of prohibited ghina] 59)
From the contemporary scholars, Dr Wahba al-Zuhayli states:
“It is impermissible to listen to the voice of a female, which is in a melodious and musical tone even if it is by reciting Qur’an.” (al-Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuhu, 1/755)
 Khankan S., Women are the Future of Islam, 2018, [E-book], 166.6 / 363
 Ibid., 320.4 / 363