Twitter talk and feverish Facebook frenzy over the newly announced Commission for Counter Extremism (CCE) has continued for the past few days, but perhaps disproportionately for the wrong reasons. The government’s announcement of the Commission came alongside the announcement of the lead commissioner Sara Khan of Inspire, a self-styled feminist who counters “extremism” has triggered vociferous responses in the media. MEND led a petition against her appointment and whilst it opens with a question as to why the Commission is necessary, it goes onto attack Khan on the condition of it existing, rendering the opening statement somewhat incidental. Mend CEO Shazad Amin also centred on Khan, reinforcing this perception.
There are certainly problems with Khan (these will be elaborated upon in a subsequent, detailed piece), however, they are an extension of far more important concerns that need to be raised.
On the 25th of August, Hurricane Harvey struck areas in and around the US leaving 71 confirmed deaths and an estimated economic loss approaching $180 billion dollars – eclipsing Katrina – in its wake. Five days later a tropical cyclone developed into the category 5 “Hurricane Irma”, hitting the Atlantic basin and unleashing destruction. With Irma now weakening as I write, its carnage has taken at least 24 lives, with a further five people perishing in the US. Major cities including Jacksonville, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina have been flooded, leaving millions without power.
The 22nd May Manchester Arena bombing has etched a particularly traumatic experience into the people of Britain. The attack in Manchester has claimed the lives of young teenagers, including an eight-year old. My sympathies go out to the victims of this atrocity.
I delayed writing on this topic for two reasons; the first being in respect of the lives lost; the second because so little had been established concerning the motive. With the Westminster attack, if we recall, there was a significant internalisation of blame by the Muslim minority without establishment of key facts – a dynamic that was fully exploited by neocons. Indeed, once the motive was established, it pointed to an uncomfortable motive, which is increasingly being marginalised in the discourses that seek to analyse the “causes” of terrorism: Western violence.
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?
Neocons relish a good tragedy. In a screed published prior to the 9/11 attacks, a cabal of neocons argued that the US Armed Forces could only be made resurgent through “some catastrophic and catalyzing event – a new Pearl Harbor”. Soon after the 9/11 attack the neocon David Brooks noted how the attack was positive for cultivating “an unconsummated desire for sacrifice and service”. Unsurprisingly, soon after the Westminster attack, the Times took the opportunity to milk the event and direct all narratives towards Islam and Muslims.
Niall Ferguson, a neocon, penned a particularly vitriolic piece, relying on three reports. The opinion piece has also been published in the Boston Globe.
Sara Khan in her contribution to the Hope Not Hate report, State of Hate 2017, dedicates a whole page for Imam Shakeel Begg to prove both “Islamist extremism” and her subservient utility before neocons. Imam Shakeel Begg of Lewisham Islamic Centre took the BBC to court after Andrew Neil labelled the Imam an “extremist”. Against numerous positive character references, the court held that the Imam was a “Jekyll and Hyde” character who was in reality an “extremist”.
Scrutinising the case is important. Like PREVENT, a bogus theoretical model to determine whether Islamic beliefs are “extreme” is used to label the Imam an “extremist”. Such cases enable an ideological state to pick and choose “extremist” beliefs based on the prevailing climate of prejudice against the Muslim minority.
The judgment is already being paraded in the neocon media and think-tanks run by hate preachers. It is being used in an McCarthyistic fashion to bully charities that choose to share a platform with the Imam. This sets a dangerous precedent for Islamic scholars of all mainstream persuasions.
The last piece analysing Hope not Hate’s (HnH) report State of Hate 2017, engaged the question of Sara Khan’s circles of influence. Her links to notorious members of the counter-Jihad movement would, at the very least, cast doubt on what was produced in the report. One of the structural flaws noted in my last piece was that Khan’s operating framework was the highly discredited PREVENT policy. The policy is based on neoconservative assumptions and promoted by those who intermingle with the worst of the far-right counter-Jihad movements.
This piece will take an epistemological account of Khan’s writing and elaborate the way in which destructive neoconservative assumptions permeate it, leading to the perpetuation of structural prejudice against the Muslim minority and control of Muslim discourse.