During the period of colonial devastation, there was an extensive use of PR to spin harmful schemes and sell them to Muslims with objectives which ultimately served colonial ends.
After the Gulhane Edict, and a series of concessions to European powers embodied in the Humayun Decree of 1856, a process had begun where traditional Ulamā, their juridical institutions, as well as the Shari’ spheres of influence were slowly stratified and then eroded into an increasingly centralised state structure. Scholars became appointed by the government, jurisprudence was codified through talfiq (mixing juristic opinions) to suit “modern times” and modelled on the French Code Napoleon. Reformist scholars helped usher a new legal system along with supporting colleges that produced a new class of legists trained on this reformed law. In terms of their use, legists were co-opted to partake in treaty negotiations and “peace conferences” designating a sense of importance to their positions. However, as time went on, their inclusion became useful “in order to make them share the responsibility of grave and unpopular decisions and to prevent them from subsequently critiquing the government’s policy either openly or secretly.” (426)
Indeed, they were critical in selling the Western-based “reforms”, which entailed a deformation of Islam, under the concept of Darura or necessity. And since the defence of Islam was a necessity, anything that necessitated it, such as the reforms and co-optation, would be backed. A number of Ulamā and state-trained legists had been homogenised to compromise upon the very faith which produced their civilisation and contributed to its eventual demise.
One can reflect on some important lessons from the brief elucidation of this period.
- It is important to determine the source of demands and discussions related to Islam and Muslims.
- Sometimes these demands which target Islam and Muslims are situated beneath layers of process and structure.
- There is a pressing need to take heed of the Prophetic narrations which warn of the pitfalls that come with Ulamā drawing a close nexus to power.
- Caution is needed in the deployment of short-sighted arguments which posit the preservation of Islam through means that are designed to dismantle the faith.
Faith Associates and Shaukat Warraich
With the above in mind, it is worth once again examining Faith Associates (FA), an organisation which has over the years fostered relations with traditional Ulamā, masājid and madrassas. It has set up accreditation services for madrassas and masājid, embedding certain values, which in isolation may even be good, but become questionable given FA’s involvement with particular agendas.
FA’s recent endeavour is the Beacon Mosque initiative. This sees masājid competing to a set of standards which are defined by FA and its CEO Shaukat Warraich. Its “About Us” page contains the following:
“Following the review of 1000’s of Mosques all over the globe for the past 20 years, our CEO Shaukat Warraich believed in the establishment of a global bench mark of quality for Mosques, hence the establishment of the global Beacon Mosque Standards.”
It offers accreditation services with three different ratings that have the effect of encouraging Beacon standards.
So, what is the issue with FA trying to raise the standards of masājid and madrassas?
To understand this, we need to journey through FA’s slightly more ulterior work.
Early Support of PREVENT
In 2009/10, FA submitted evidence to the Communities and Local Government Committee on Preventing Violent Extremism. The read seems like a resume for FA’s activities which, as we shall see, have not change much over time.
The submission explains that PREVENT delivery has improved since it has gone “multi-agency”:
“…this now provides a good structure on which the aims of the Prevent strategy can be realised.”
It advises the committee that parents, faith leaders, teachers and youth workers should be trained in how to identify “those who may be or are becoming vulnerable to violent extremism”. Note that this statement was made six years prior to PREVENT becoming a “duty” on public bodies and educational/health institutions.
His approach to addressing “early signs of vulnerability” is to support the “development of skills and confidence” and enable access to “culturally sensitive advice and support”. This culturally “sensitive advice and support” can come from masājid which can inspire and direct “spiritual zeal” into “positive currency”.
The rest of the submission gives further context to how FA has currently positioned itself in the Muslim community. The submission,
- Confirms its support for PREVENT, its aims, and that activity being funded has potential to “build resilience” and “reduce the risk of alienation and radicalisation”.
- Advises that the key to success is to “build trust and confidence” and staff need to have knowledge of “cultural complexity”.
- Urges more personal engagements before exploiting the trust that has been built for better roll out PREVENT to the target audience:
“from engagement on a one-to-one basis with leaders of local faith institutions and community organisations and then the opportunity to present and engage in discussion with community members across the spectrum of local Muslim communities in each locality… Effective local and national work on community cohesion and inclusion will identify opportunities for targeted Prevent work based on the assessment of need in each locality.”
Warraich ends his submission with the following recommendations:
“targeting resources to develop expertise and specialism’s to increase community resilience and help to strengthen community institutions… Institutionalising standards based community development which fosters greater inclusiveness.”
In other words, fulfil PREVENT objectives by exploiting trust under the cover of “standards”.
In 2016, CAGE revealed that Home Office propaganda department RICU was using Breakthrough Media (BM), a PR company, to cultivate fake “grass-roots” organisations to promote government “messaging” and “counter-narratives” to Muslims. The report identified Warraich and FA as being involved in “a number of projects in order to build capacity for mosques and faith groups to safeguard against ‘extremism’.” BM employees had worked with the FA project, Imams Online.
CAGE also explained that as part of the PREVENT Strategy, FA had initiated training for communities for their masājid and madrassas to be compliant towards policy and statutory requirements. FA did this whilst claiming it was “independent”.
2017 – Targeting Masājid and Madrassas with PREVENT
This secret PREVENT work was exposed with evidence the following year. FA was named in the leaked “Prevent Strategy – Local Delivery Best Practice Catalogue” as a PREVENT best practice organisation. Having received £43,000, it had been tasked with “mosque engagement and capacity building”. This “capacity” being “built” was for recognising and challenging “vulnerability to extremist propaganda and activity” among targeted “mosques identified as vulnerable to extremism”:
“This project delivered an improved governance structure and madrassah system and enabled the mosque leadership to become more resilient to the threat from extremists as well as being able to manage their services (for young people and women) more effectively.”
All this was done despite madrassas not being governed by the Department for Education or the PREVENT Duty.
There is evidence to suggest that FA is still engaged in this work. According to a 2018-2019 Performance Report available on the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham website, a series of objectives are listed under different headings along with the activities supporting them. Under Community Leadership and Engagement, there is a task to “Implement the Connected Communities Fund and the Counter Extremism Programmes”. For its update, the document notes,
“Ongoing programme supporting Madrassah’s with Faith Associates continues, with funding secured t for 2019/20.”
This confirms that FA is still receiving financial benefit to inject “Counter Extremism Programmes” under the rubric of “support”.
Tech Company Financing of Counter-Extremism
Counter-extremism is no longer only driven and financed by the state, but private tech companies also. This is due to states placing pressure on these tech companies (for example, here) which now must be seen to be doing “their bit” in the fight against terrorism. In doing so, they have turned to the vacuous counter-extremism industry and its “experts” that have already been erected and groomed by the state. Thus, the understanding of terrorism and “extremism” is framed no differently to the state’s convenient narrative which obviates itself and its own policies from critical scrutiny.
FA has been ingratiating itself with – and financially benefiting from – such tech companies.
Pro-Israel Neocon “Experts”, Tech Firms and the Deformation of Islam
FA and its Imāms Online project came to the fore around 2014/5. It was dredged up on the classic “community approach” to “extremism” model. Its strategy was (and still is) to project the ideal “moderate Islam”. It was ostensibly led by Ulamā and in particular, the CVE-supporting Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah. Thereafter, FA began organising “Digital Summits” with tech conglomerates. It is worth deliberating on the framework these tech conglomerates operate from to better understand FA/Imām Online’s role.
2017 saw Facebook, Google-owned YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter come together to form the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). In a September 2019 GIFCT update, it was announced that GIFCT would become an independent organisation led by an Executive Director and supported by dedicated technology, counterterrorism and operations teams.
The GIFCT seeks to prevent terrorism-promotion by engaging counter violent extremism (CVE) “experts”. It does this by using research it funds into understanding radicalisation. The research panel is led by the UK-based think-tank RUSI. RUSI receives input from counter-terrorism organisations around the world, including International Institute for Counter Terrorism (IICT) in Israel.
It is worth examining the IICT closely to understand the ideological balderdash that is being regurgitated as research.
The IICT is located within the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) in Herzliya. It employs Noor Dahri, a dubious pro-Israel, British-Pakistani who is the founder of Pakistan-Israel Alliance. He also happens to be a member of the Islamophobia-funded Henry Jackson Society (HJS) as well an honorary member of the Zionist Federation-UK and the Zionist Central Council. Danny Rothschild is the director of Institute for Policy and Strategy at the IDC and the Chairman of the Herzliya Conferences series 2009-13. The Herzliya Conference is known as “the place where the neocons get together to pat themselves on the back about being right about everything.” Unsurprisingly, Rothschild has not only previously spoken at IICT’s 12th Annual Conference, but also at a 2013 HJS event titled “Challenges in the Middle East for the Coming Year”.
The output from the IICT reheats the same basic assumption of counter-extremism and focusses on ideology. Take for example, a 2015 IICT paper titled, “’Soft’ Approaches to Counter-Terrorism: An Exploration of the Benefits of Deradicalization Programs”. After praising Saudi Arabia’s “deradicalization” efforts, it highlights the dubious Active Change Foundation and the Quilliam Foundation in the UK context before concluding that “it may be beneficial for both governments and partner organizations to be less open about their ties”. It cites Bangladeshi counter-terrorism efforts as an example of this. It further adds that killing in order to eliminate the “threat” as part of the “Global War on Terrorism” is not enough, “draining the swamp” is also required. The implication is that the Muslim community and their faith constitute a “swamp” that needs to be “drained” through counter extremism strategies.
Predictably, the rubbish churned out of the GIFCT is planted in the same faulty frame. It has produced a “cross-platform counter-violent extremism toolkit”. The GIFCT claims that the toolkit will “assist civil society organizations in developing online campaigns to challenge extremist ideologies”.
Pertinently, it has been jointly developed with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). The ISD Board of Trustees President was the late 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 the inspiration for Michael Gove’s Muslim-bashing Celsius 7/7. ISD has cross-pollinated researchers with the Quilliam Foundation such as Erin Saltman and Quilliam founder and former Henry Jackson Society employee Rashad Ali. Dilwar Hussain of the Islam-distorting New Horizons for British Islam (NHBI) is also listed on the ISD website.
In 2017, significant consternation was expressed when FA collaborated with Google for the “Imams Online Digital Summit”. Google has been pushing neocon-framed counter-extremism projects for a number of years, having its projects (Against Violent Extremism for example) managed and influenced by the aforementioned ISD, Quilliam Foundation and the Quilliam-linked Gen Next Foundation – all of which are linked to the Islamophobia industry.
Imams Online hosted the head of UK Public policy for Twitter, Nick Pickles, at its Digital Summit. Twitter at that time was also supporting NHBI and its deformist “British Islam Conference”, which solidifies the neocon assumption that Islam is the problem and cause of political violence.
Despite this public knowledge, FA and Shaukat Warraich have persisted in showboating their partnership with Twitter, hosting the 5th Imāms Online Digital Summit at Twitter headquarters earlier this year.
Worryingly, it was recently revealed that the Middle East executive and editor for Twitter, was a British Army, 77th Brigade psychological warfare officer. The 77th Brigade uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as podcasts, data analysis and audience research to wage what the head of the UK military, General Nick Carter, describes as “information warfare”. A component of this warfare is “counter-radicalisation”.
Could it be that such collaborations are being used to project soft power and encourage dubious conferences – which premise their existence on the need to tackle “extremism” – among Ulamā and Imāms in the Middle East? Have FA and the Imāms and scholars it has swindled become conduits for behavioural change efforts in the Middle East?
To understand the impact of collaborating with tech organisations handled by neocons, it is worth taking a closer look at FA’s recent project targeting Muslims.
Muslim Digital Citizenship – Google, ISD and “Programming” Muslims
In February 2019, with finances from Google, oversight by the ISD, and exploitation of contacts developed through its Imams Online network, FA launched the “Muslim Digital Citizen’s Guide”. The guide is aimed at Muslim youth and contains Islamic messages about how to conduct oneself online. There is nothing ground-breaking about the guide – adab of human engagement remains the same whether offline or online.
So, how does this pamphlet fit into the Islam-deprecating counter-extremism agenda?
In line with the global CVE/GIFCT agenda, the fund itself was set up to support “innovative projects, online and offline, that seek to disrupt, undermine, counter, or provide positive alternatives to hate and extremism.” According to the ISD Innovation Report, this model, where “new community voices” are moulded into promoted counter-extremism under the cover tech and process, is known as the “Theory of Change”.
In articulating its own role in this venture, the report states,
“The private sector… plays an important role in supporting local capacity, primarily by enabling local level actors to access previously inaccessible resources for targeted community interventions”.
Treating Muslims like some outdated software that can be refactored, the report explains how it sees “grassroots organisations” operating after it has “supported” them:
“Grassroots organisations will need to be at the heart of this sector-wide effort to design effective and responsive tools, and approaches for measuring impact of their programming. By understanding local contexts of programming, and applying iterative design principles for impact measurement, organisations can enhance their measurement and evaluation practices.”
What next? Measuring the cyclomatic complexity of Muslim expression before and after “targeted interventions” and “programming”? The dehumanisation of Muslims reeks throughout the report.
Pertinently, such exercises form data gathering mechanisms and produce important information. The quality of data produced is only as good as the evaluatory frameworks employed. Given how aggressively ISD and Google are trying to force through metrics capturing and monitoring against objectives, this data would be incredibly useful “intelligence” to understand and better subvert a community. There are further developments also taking place in the field of AI and automating the detection and pre-emption of “extremism”. Rich data on communities would help facilitate these dangerous, Orwellian projects.
As for FA’s project, the report makes clear that it sits in the sphere of leveraging education to counter “extremism” and that FA’s Online Citizenship project “recognises the key role that mosques, madrassas and Islamic centres play in providing guidance.”
In other words, this is another project to clandestinely implement counter-extremism objectives into the community beneath the façade of “Islamic guidance”, and syphon off intelligence and data to counter-extremism organisations that closely work with governments.
The gravity of the issue becomes even more apparent when one considers the people hovering over this initiative. The report thanks the following ISD people for their “input, guidance and support” of the programme:
- Sasha Havlicek – CEO of ISD. She held senior posts in inter-related projects of aforementioned George Weidenfeld. The CAGE report on the Commission for Counter Extremism notes: “based around the shared project of European geo-strategic collaboration and defence of European values. ISD retains a close relationship with Weidenfeld’s charity The Weidenfeld-Hoff man Trust, with which it exchanges funding. As of 2016, ISD operates all the counter-extremism work of this trifecta of projects. Weidenfeld was former political for the first President of Israel Chaim Weizmann as well as being President of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Britain-Israel. He believed that “even the so-called moderate Muslims have this goal in mind to Islamise Europe…when it comes to the entirety of Islam…they must make it finally clear where they stand in relation to our civilisation.”
- Natasha Hanckel-Spice – According to her ISD profile, Hanckel-Spice worked with the Home Office on “marketing strategy and developing social enterprise and youth campaigns”. Her LinkedIn profile states that she joined ISD in 2016 “to lead the team delivering youth and digital focused projects and programmes countering hate speech and violent extremism.”
The following are a list of “independent experts” used by ISD to assess the projects:
- Sasha Havlicek
- Nazir Afzal – a former chief prosecutor who has a predilection to beat the Muslim minority under a façade of nuance and balance. He has woefully defended PREVENT, confusing precrime with risk frames, ignoring the shift from detecting conduct to identifying foes and effectively justifying discrimination of Muslims in the process. He has further perpetuated identity-based demonization of Muslims by claiming without evidence that “grooming gangs” were the “biggest recruiter for far-right in UK”.
- Humza Arshad – a “comedian” famed for his vapidly cringeworthy “Dairy of a Badman” YouTube series. In 2014, he was co-opted into PREVENT to produce a video designed to dissuade Muslims from being involved in terrorism. Since then he has been working with London’s Metropolitan Police Unit, speaking to young Muslims about radicalisation and has been working with YouTube as an “ambassador” to fight “extremism”.
- Peter Neumann – is the Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR). The ISCR has links with anti-Muslim, neoconservative pro-Israel networks, including Policy Exchange and the Gatestone Institute.
- Baroness Joanna Shields – is a tech magnate who was the CEO of Tech City UK, Minister for Internet Safety and Security and then later PM’s Special Representative on Internet Crime and Harms. Shields is quoted in the Home Affairs Select Committee report on radicalisation calling for the internet industry to “match the efforts made by the Government to tackle online extremism” and for companies to “automate the identification and removal of dangerous extremist content”.
In 2013, celebrating “two years of success”, the UK-Israel tech hub had Shields travel to Israel “to highlight technological cooperation between the two countries”. She also had no qualms about a racist prime minister of Israel coming to Britain a year later to “celebrate UK-Israel Tech Hub/Tech City UK”. The founder of the UK-Israel tech hub, Matthew Gould, was once the British ambassador to Israel.
- Miriam Estrin – is the policy manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Google. She has previously worked at the U.S. Department of State as Policy Director in the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.
The other organisations funded by ISD/Google include:
- British Future – British Future collaborates with NHBI to fracture the Muslim identity and reconstitute it in a new nationalist form in line with the PREVENT agenda, where Muslim history is reduced to serving colonialism. Qari Asim, the editor for FA’s Imāms Online and proponent of joining the British Army, is listed among the trustees.
- NHBI – Dilwar Hussain’s organisation, which expressly touts its objective as deforming Islam for the “modern times and the modern context”. It involves deconstructing and Christianising Islam, mythologising the idea of an Ummah, promoting the notion that experiences and culture modify religious beliefs and “recognising” heterodoxic groups. It is worth noting here that Hussain happens to also be a researcher for ISD, exposing the nepotism within the ranks of the counter-extremism industry and the resulting reciprocal reinforcement of faulty counter-extremism assumptions.
- JAN Trust – has previously received funding from PREVENT. Its past projects have included “Web Guardians”, which, through exploitation of trust built with the community, promoted a spying culture within families. The Trust has been funded by ISD/Google to “tackle extremism” by “educating” young girls “at risk of radicalisation”.
This is quite the milieu FA and Warraich are finding themselves in.
Beacon Mosque – Raising Standards?
Returning to the Beacon Mosque initiative, the agenda becomes clearer: do something the government could not do and inject PREVENT and counter extremism ideology by using a “trusted” face and the façade of Islam and “raising standards”.
One need only to look at Beacon Mosque’s Resources page to see that it replete with FA material and documentation from the government website on “safeguarding” – a euphemism deployed for its counter-extremism spying framework. Rules and regulations are set in place which for now are aspirational, but given FA’s ingratiation with the government and like-minded private tech companies, raises the question, at what point will not subscribing to the benchmarks become a marker for “extremism”?
The question is pressing given the various guidance documents found on the website contain remnants of counter-extremism aims.
Under the management and governance section on the website, it stipulates involvement of youth and women in “decision-making”, conflating Shura (consultation) and ad-hoc engagement in the masjid with management structures themselves. It should be noted that this is not an issue at all, provided the Shari’ mannerisms are maintained in the process, however, it is not a coincidence that this is being mandated as a benchmark, against a backdrop where counter-extremism efforts are targeting the same groups for “interventions”.
In the “Mosques and Youth Engagement Guidelines and Toolkit” available on the website, Qari Asim proposes that a think-tank be formed which prioritises topics like identity and “extremism”.
Deformist Sleight of Hand
Its “Women in the Mosque Management” guidance document exposes deformist fingerprints, which is intrinsic to the counter-extremism world. Among the authors of the document is Julie Siddiqi. Siddiqi, as explicated in detail before, is involved with pro-Israel outfits, has spied for the Home Office, delivered PREVENT objectives, promotes British militarism, features at NHBI deformist conferences, and promotes deformist/feminist distortions of Islam.
In the acknowledgements section, FA/Warraich thanks Kulsoom Bashir of the deformist counter-extremism organisation Inspire. It was through Bashir that FA was able use the works of one of the contributors, Ruqqaiya Waris Maqsood.
Sections of the content unsurprisingly reflect deformist tendencies. An entire chapter authored by Maqsood is dedicated to refuting the view that women are not permitted to attend the masjid. The focus here is the methodology that has been adopted in this section. Its decontructionist, feminist reading dismisses traditional scholarship on the issue which does not accord with her sensibilities in the following manner:
“However, early on men began to use this to marginalise women, thus distancing them and making them feel different from the men as worshippers. They placed women behind a screen, veil, barrier, wall or balcony. However, this was not the original practice of the Prophet.”
Conclusions are based on words like “presumably”, and “surely”, without reference to traditional authorities. She calls on people to simply “bring the Muslim faith and practice back to its roots”. And herein lies the irony, for this is precisely what the traditional Ulamā, as well as the noble Companions (may Allāh be pleased with them) were doing. In this regard, the view which preconditions permissibility is a legitimate opinion in Islam.
The framing of the discourse requires attention here. The traditional Ulamā have not forbidden that which the Prophet (peace be upon him) had made permissible but have highlighted the conditions which existed during the time of the Prophet, that constituted the permissibility. For example, the hadith used to argue seeming unfettered permissibility also demonstrates that the permissibility is conditional:
“Do not prevent the female slaves of Allāh from the masjids… They must not come out except without fragrance.” (Musannaf Abd al-Razzaq)
In another narration the Prophet peace be upon him was more emphatic:
“Any woman that has applied fragrance must not attend the ‘Ishā ṣalāh with us.” (Muslim)
There are other conditions that have been deduced, such as absence of adornments, attending the night prayers only and no intermingling of the sexes. These were observed during the Prophet’s time. When calls are made to “simply bring the Islamic faith back to its roots”, the question must be raised, why is there selective focus on the key conditions which existed at that time?
‘Aisha (may Allāh be pleased with her), presents a further conundrum for the deform/feminist crowd. In a well-known narration, she is reported to have said,
“Had the Messenger of Allāh (peace be upon him) seen what women had begun, he would have forbidden them from the masjid.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Again, the focus here is Maqsood’s use of baseless conjecture to explain this away:
“The distance of women from the Mosque’s main activities may have also changed the attitudes and behaviours of women, causing Aisha (ra) to utter the following statement long after the Prophet’s passing, that ‘if he had seen the way women behaved then, he would not have let them in to the Mosque.”
There is no reference provided for this theory. It is apparent from traditional works that this is a reference to the absence of conditions which enabled the permissibility. Most of the authors of these traditional works are men and, of course, such men of towering learning and piety (such as Imāms Abu Hanifa, Mālik, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Tahāwi, al-Kasāni, Qādi ‘Iyād, al-Juwayni, al-Mawardi, al-Ghazāli, Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, Ibn Qudāma al-Maqdisi and many more – May Allāh’s Mercy be upon them all), were out to marginalise women in the world of Maqsood.
Placing these “men” aside for a moment, in the Musnad of Imām Ahmad, ‘Aisha (may Allāh be pleased with her) first relates the Prophetic hadith “Do not prevent Allāh’s female slaves from the masājid, but they should emerge without fragrance”, and then adds, “had he seen their condition today, he would have prevented them.”
The narration clearly links the prevention of women to the condition that premises permissibility that was outlined by Prophet (peace be upon him). How do the likes of Maqsood twist this?
It seems Warraich courts the traditional scholars with gentle words and uses them for opportunist photo-ops but keeps them at arm’s length when it comes to his benchmarks. Au contraire, the “guidance” documents rubbishes classical scholars whilst dovetailing global agendas to deconstruct Islam. What happened to engaging these very scholars on this issue? Did they not quite fit Warraich’s counter-extremism objectives?
The spectrum of legitimate Islamic opinion must be defended; one need only to see how the niqāb was attacked as Islamically baseless before being subjected to media demonization and banning attempts. The hijāb then followed suit. Given Warraich is creating “standards” for Muslims, its effect is the restriction of certain views over others to effect a particular version of Islam. This is a textbook example of how Islam is constrained through governance structures and standards.
Normalising Engagement with Pro-Israel Organisations
A spate of attacks on masājid last year saw FA delivering conferences about security training. Though ostensibly this may be a good endeavour, there are a couple of issues which raise questions about FA as a means to deliver this training.
FA chose to partner with the pro-Israel outfit, Community Security Trust (CST) to deliver training at Hayes Muslim Centre. Warraich said,
“We brought together partners from the Metropolitan Police and the Jewish Community, the CST, to share knowledge and experience in securing religious intuitions”.
FA persisted with the partnership again this year, this time with money from the Home Office. The conference was held with masjid leaders, the Home Office, security experts, Metropolitan Police and CST. The FA is delivering twelve security workshops nationally and is circulating leaflets about security to masājid.
The Mossad-linked CST conflates the political ideology of Zionism with anti-Semitism and attacks Muslims and Muslim organisations like Mend through the use of the “Islamist” label. Pertinently, CST, adhering to the widely discredited conveyor-belt theory of radicalisation, views Muslims as a suspect community that is vulnerable to “radicalising forces”. The government consulted CST in formulating the draconian 2015 Counter-Extremism Strategy. The widely derided strategy “pleased” CST’s director of communications Mark Gardner.
Incidentally, the CST has been severely criticised in two different legal judgments where its pro-Israeli advocacy and dossiers on Palestinian affairs/individuals have been proven to be ill-informed.
Did FA consider that the CST has contributed to policies which reinforce structural Islamophobia, and premises itself on a racist ideology that has caused unmeasurable suffering to the Palestinian people?
As things stand, it seems FA is normalising cooperation with a pro-Israel outfit before an unsuspecting Muslim audience under yet another cover of virtue.
It needs to be recalled that there have previously been government attempts to assert its dominance of Muslim places of learning. In 2014, the neocon Michael Gove proposed a code of conduct for madrassas which pushed the PREVENT strategy as part of the madrassa curriculum. A year later, a consultation document was published that sought to govern madrassas, enforcing the British Values-based PREVENT strategy on teachers, their teaching and monitoring of students.
These attempts stalled.
What better way of achieving the Gove-agenda clandestinely through a more palatable Warraich-face and promises of improvements and protection? We are witnessing the roll-out of the counter-extremism framework and the normalising of pro-Israel groups beneath the façade of management guidance, improvement and process.
FA’s close association with the government and tech companies mirroring their agenda needs to be viewed with caution. According to the ISD report on FA’s Digital Citizenship project, thirty Imāms had worked on developing the guidance. They then professed the guidance in their sermons. This is a catastrophic failure in identifying the overarching anti-Islam agenda.
It is for the custodians of our precious places of worship and learning to become more cognisant of the sources of demands, programmes and agendas that are being transfused through them. This transfusion is reciprocal, with propaganda being normalised to Muslims and data being collected upwards to dubious organisations and tech companies that literally feed off data.
As Muslims, there are a set of questions which we need to ask as we regain control over our discourses:
- Are the concerns being addressed by Imāms, scholars and Muslim activists driven by genuine grassroot concern, or fears manufactured in neoconservative think-tanks who ultimately seek to deconstruct and efface Islam?
- Are Ulamā and Imāms inadvertently being co-opted into harmful state agendas and solidifying standards which fix the Deen into a selective, deformist slant?
- Are Ulamā and Imāms considering the possibility that their presence and cooperation, irrespective of their critique and rationalisation that they are trying to protect their institutions, is being used to legitimise harmful strategies?
- Is the perceived short-term benefit adequately balanced against the long-term self-cannibalisation of Islamic institutions?
Reflection is needed, and actions drawn before the last bastions of Islamic learning and worship that ought to be free from external interference become absorbed into a bureaucratic structure of self-cannibalisation and then slowly finished off.