You must be the right type of Muslim with the right type of mindset to be allowed into the political arena. A Sajid Javid/Maajid Nawaz-type whose practice of Islam is non-existent and politically kow-tows to the neocons and pro-Israel lobby, would be ideal.
Are you a confident Muslim who asserts mainstream Islamic and political views that do not pander to the aforementioned circles? Forget democracy and all that British Values nonsense and prepare to have the weight of the establishment bear down on you and your livelihood targeted.
A recent orchestrated furore exemplifies this.
Imam Abdullah Patel was one of several members of the public who were invited to ask the Conservative leadership candidates questions during a BBC televised debate. The eloquent Imam put forth a simple question (“do words have consequences?”) before Tory leadership hopefuls Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Rory Stewart and Jeremy Hunt. What ensued was a shameful dithering on the topic of Islamophobia by the candidates. It was as if robots had been fed instructions in the wrong programming language and were malfunctioning. I wondered then whether a similar attitude and behaviour would have been taken if the topic of concern was anti-Semitism.
Disruption of Anti-Muslim Normalcy
The Imam, however, had clearly disrupted the normalcy of anti-Muslim dispositions. The very same dispositions and narratives which go to the roots of key neocon policies (counter-terrorism/extremism/integration and social cohesion) that are shaping nearly every facet of civil and political life into a closed society and underpin the rising violence and abuse Muslims face daily.
The response following the drama was a spectacle to behold and could be summed as follows: how dare this native Mullah have the mental autonomy to question our natural right to batter Muslims rhetorically. It was colonial in its finest tradition.
The Imam needed to be discredited.
Gone was the concern about how political candidates have elicited views which would never be tolerated concerning other faiths and minorities. The focus of attention of the media became the Imam himself. With narrative shifting to the BBC’s vetting process, the Islamophobe Nicky Campbell saying he was sorry for not checking, and Sajid Javid fulfilling his role as the typically subservient brown-sahib who only knows how to bark downwards and wag his tail looking upwards, the judgement upon the Imam as hypocritical and “controversial” was set in stone.
So, what was allegedly said?
The Daily Mail led the “mainstream” attack using the Imam’s past Tweets claiming he blamed women for rape and was “anti-Israel”.
In typical Daily Mail fashion, it was all demonization and little basis.
Imam Patel stated in a Tweet that men were predators and that women should not be alone with men as there should not be an expectation that men will not “pass the opportunity to take advantage of you”. The choice of wording could have been better. The Imam also said, “it takes two to tango”, which in one meaning implies co-responsibility and blame, however another meaning of the same idiom suggests “certain activities cannot be performed alone” . In this sense, which seems to fit the gist of the Tweet, the Imam is not wrong. Given the dual meaning, understandably the definitive claim that the Imam had “blamed women for rape” changed to “appear to suggest” by the time follow-up articles were published.
Pertinently, the message – that men can be predatory, and women should take precautions and avoid being alone – is hardly controversial.
Media coverage has painted this, though, as problematic, framing it as something exclusive to the Imam.
A couple of points here.
The #Metoo fallout has exposed profound confusion on the etiquettes of male-female interaction. It has also demonstrated that the precautionary approach advised by the Imam is not exactly uncommon. According to a US study, a quarter of men and women polled deemed it inappropriate for colleagues of the opposite sex to have private work meetings. Two-thirds said people should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work.
The Billy Graham rule posits the same – men and women should avoid being alone together. Billy Graham was a Christian evangelical who was close to Martin Luther King (he credited him for his success in the civil rights movement). When he died he was praised and eulogised by Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Justin Welby, among others. He shared a close friendly relationship with the Queen. She even sent condolences to the family. If the Imam should be effectively no-platformed for such “controversial” views, how is the Queen still an integral part of the institution of Parliament when she has close ties with such a man? Where are the hit jobs on Justin Welby who also sits in Parliament as the Lord Archbishop? How dare they befriend Graham and praise this “misogynistic” man… and how dare the Daily Mail publish these tributes!? Hypocrisy much?
The rest of the Tweets criticise Israel during the Gaza invasion of 2014, in which 1391 Palestinians, among whom 526 were children, were killed by the IDF. As expected, social network and media commentaries conflated sentiments critical of Israel, as per the pro-Israel lobby’s spin, with anti-Semitism. One Tweet quotes Noam Chomsky and another shares the satirical “relocate Israel into United States” image which was originally shared by Jewish professor Norman Finkelstein. Another Tweet questions how long Zionists were going to “hide behind the Holocaust cry” at a time when Gaza was being obliterated by Israel. Again, there is hardly any “controversy” here; professor Finkelstein has written an entire book on how the Holocaust is ideologically exploited for political gain and furthering the interests of Israel.
I have more concern about the one who raises these Tweets as evidence of controversy and problematic views. Was being anti-South Africa during its apartheid years “controversial”? The rationale, however, is endemic of right-wing politics today and reflects the moral sterility born of the Zionist psychosis.
Andrew Norfolk’s False Statements
No Muslim-bashing would be complete without articles from either of the two Andrews, Gilligan and Norfolk. This time Norfolk picked up the anti-Muslim baton and published a lengthy article attributing a whole host of statements and allegations against the Imam. The article is currently removed from the website, though it is available in the paper version. Sources state that that his article mainly referenced statements which belonged to someone else. Norfolk is on form then, given his past history of anti-Muslim hatchet-jobs and plain “bad journalism”.
I recommend that the Imam engages in a lawsuit on this one.
The attacks on the Imam are frivolous. Indeed, they pale into insignificance when one considers the anti-Muslim fulminations that have been made by the prime ministerial candidates like the anti-Islam Boris Johnson and the paedophile-apologist Michael Gove. And yet, as I write, the Imam remains suspended from his job. It is a text-book example of what Jules Boycoff terms the “resource depletion” mechanism of state repression as realised through the threat of employment deprivation.
And herein lies the broader agenda.
The Conservatives felt bruised by what had happened and went about “managing perceptions”, with friendly media intimidating a member of the public. The framing sought to protect the state, rather than expose the dark reality of the neocon anti-Muslim animus coursing through Parliament and the laws and policies that are passed off the back of manufactured fear. This raises the question about the autonomy of media itself in limiting dissent, especially when one considers that Gove and Boris have been in the employment of the Times and the Telegraph, respectively, whilst Gove’s wife has been a columnist for the Daily Mail.
All this drama does, though, is make a state and associated media look pathetically insecure about Muslims, whilst reinforcing the externalisation of Muslim power and presence. The only problem for the neocons is that this isn’t the era of the East India Company. And neither are Muslims prepared to give ground to supremacists who wish to kill Muslims abroad and forcibly domesticate them in the UK.
The Muslims need to support people like Imam Abdullah Patel against such systemic abuse, and not to throw him under the bus at the slightest turbulent wind like his place of employment has done.