The Elephant in the Room: The Christian Conversion of Vulnerable Muslim Refugees

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Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

The question needs to be raised. Muslim organisations have generally been silent. Scholars and Imams also seem to be mute on the issue.  And Muslim civil society, bar a few examples, has generally been inert in its response. It seems the continuous abstraction of Muslims into the counter-terrorism discourse is taking its toll and numbing the minds to the elephant in the room.

The question relates to Muslim refugees entering Europe and subsequently converting to Christianity.

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Muslim Prison Chaplains and the Neoconservative Attack on Islam

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A couple of years ago, I noted that the substantive content in the campaign of attacks against Shaykh Haytham al-Haddad designed to smear him as “extremist” were in fact normative Islamic beliefs which cut across the theological spectrum. Shaykh al-Haddad was the proxy for the attack on Islam.

Since then, David Cameron himself has interfered with religion, attacking Islamic beliefs and practices, promoting deformists as the face of Islam, all the while employing doublespeak and urging the Muslim minority to shun the “conspiracy theories” that Islam is under attack. Looking from the colonialist, Eurocentric lens, all manner of denigration has been hurled at Islam, as “mutual tolerance” and “respect” is simultaneously preached to the Muslim community.

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Abdullah-X or Abdul-Neocon?

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One of the recurring themes of “counter-extremism” groups – be it the latent Radical Middle Way (RMW) and ISB, or the more overt Quilliam Foundation, and the puppeteered Humza Arshad – is that it always tracks back to an agenda to undermine Islam, “reform” it, crush dissent and deflect Western foreign policy critique. This is one of the reasons why, I believe, that our “transparent” public bodies are more resilient in disclosing the organisations they are funding from the counter-extremism pot. A link to PREVENT is all that is needed to expose the soul-destroying efforts of whichever organisation is acting as a conduit for neoconservative, anti-Islam agendas.

With the counter-extremism industry growing over the years, a cross-pollination of those neoconservative-based ideas has occurred, primarily between US, UK and Europe. The ideal for the neocons is to mount an ethnocentric, culturalist attack on Islam. History shows us two ways of doing this, as exemplified by Britain’s evolution of the PREVENT Strategy. The current strategy is one of secularisation of Islam through the “British values” social engineering programme. The previous strategy, also designed by the “sophist” (or rather supremacist) minds of neocons is one where apolitical, pacifist readings, usually through the abuse of Sufi Ulama, is posited as the “ideal” Islam. This is a temporary measure only, of course, until the next phase of the neocon agenda of aggressively promoting “progressive Muslims” and “ex-Muslims” is entered, as per the current strategy.

This strategy of promoting “moderate Islam” seems to be returning into vogue, as can be seen by Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah and Imam Hamza Yusuf-endorsed ImamsOnline initiative. Another recurrent theme is the Zionist interest and involvement in influencing the counter-extremism discourse, with the likes of Mossad internationally monitoring “moderate”, pacifist Muslim movements, and domestically, organisations like the Board of deputies of Jews contributing to the counter-extremism policy.

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Jumping on the deradicalisation VW Camper Van is “Abdullah-X”, a character of a graphic novel aimed at providing the “counter-narrative”. The character in the initial episodes experiences some sort of divine unveiling, all on the topic of “extremism”. He then possesses a “mind of a scholar” and the “heart of a warrior” who proceeds to provide the counter-narrative to the “extremist” discourse. Not exactly Frank Miller’s Dark Knight then.

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The Quilliam-Linked Hand in the Trojan Hoax Fiasco

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The Trojan Hoax fiasco had a number of parties involved to pull it off. Some were merely pawns in the “Great Game”, whilst others were the ones moving the chess pieces. The sledgehammer which the neocon, anti-Islam Michael Gove smashed onto the Muslim minority of Birmingham was casted some years ago by the infamous and much discredited Quilliam Foundation.  In a leaked 2010 memo addressed to Charles Farr of the OSCT, and signed off by Ed Husain and Maajid Nawaz, Quilliam outlined its plan in “dealing” with the terror threat.  The contents despite it being made public, has been remarkable in its implementation and achieving the resultant targeted discrimination the Muslim minority now faces.

In the context of the education of the sphere,

“With the appointment of Michael Gove MP, who has previously spoken out on topics related to the Prevent agenda and has shown a good understanding of the issues relating to it, to the position of Secretary of State for Education, it looks as though Prevent at DfE will continue to develop and focus on the vital counter-ideological work necessary to prevent terrorism.”

Of course, in November 2009, this “good understanding” presumably referred to an embarrassing series of blunders, when Gove helped David Cameron set up a question to the Prime Minister on “Islamic extremism”, making false claims regarding funding and inspection of Islamic schools.

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Decaffeinated Coffee and the “Islam-Deforming” Season

Malcolm X some decades ago described, in his usually deft and eloquent style, the infiltration of a mass black protest movement thusly,

 “It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep.”

Continuing this analogy, the “Uncle Toms” of the Muslim minority, the decaffeinated Muslims, are out in full swing.  By decaffeinated, I mean possessing the outward likeness, but thoroughly stripped of its essence, much like the “British Islam” which is now being opportunistically promoted post-France attacks.  Like the wedding season is a lucrative time for the Asian wedding caterers during the summer, so too are the tragedies in the West for the counter-extremism industry, where the perpetrators are allegedly Muslims.  The parasitic decaffeinated coffee cups of Britain come out to prove their credentials to the neocon “cream” in order to justify and receive more funding.

The first piece which caught my eye was Tarek Fatah’s hilarious (business) call for people to support him and others like him to first “reclaim” their Islamic faith, and then reform Islam. Maajid Nawaz on his Twitter feed made a similar call, hence it is fitting to see him and Usama Hasan amongst the undersigned. A cursory glance at Fatah’s Twitter feed shows his obsession with portraying Muslim negatively while blaming “Islamism”.  He also has supported bans on veils, brushes with ultra-Zionist, anti-Muslims including Robert Spencer and supported the NYPD surveillance programme set-up to target Muslims.  It’s no surprise the likes of Nawaz and Hasan are supporting his garbage; their morally bankrupt conscious’ have no qualms in receiving funding from extremists, whilst trying to tackle “extremism”.

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ISB’s Dangerous Liasons and Usama Hasan’s Neocon Clique-Endorsed Fatwa

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My previous articles (here and here) on ISB and the deconstruction of Islam project highlighted the dangers of organisations like ISB which propagate a dumbed-down version of Islam suitably fitting a neocon narrative.

The ISB “luminaries” and others platformed by them who have an agenda to serve their neocon paymasters at the expense of the Muslim minority of Britain has led to an Islam re-engineering industry which seeks to undermine classical scholarship and Islamic orthodoxy through promotion of confusion, selective textual analyses and rendering of sources of Islamic law “weak” or “ambiguous”.

It was highlighted in the previous piece on ISB that perhaps it was the monochromatising of the Colour of Allah producing an insipid Islam tainted with post-modernist deconstructionism which prevented them from issuing a supportive position on the brutal massacre of Palestinians in Gaza.  The articulation of usual excuses of “not in our remit” rhetoric by reformationists like Dilwar Hussain and others as their consciousness struggled to reconcile themselves with the catastrophe in Gaza, came forth. A simple position on Palestine and Gaza against the Zionist entity was tip-toed around and even a drafting of a statement was kicked about by ISB members.

It is perhaps the same “flavour” (to use ISB lingo) of British Islam which has now freely allowed ISB to take a formal stance on the admittedly insane, neocon policy-pretext-perfect ISIS. In a letter drafted by the continually devolving Usama Hasan, the dime-a-piece “scholar” at Quilliam Foundation, key individuals and organisations put their names to calls to ISIS leader for him to desist from his actions.

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Is ISB Living Islam or Reforming Islam?

livingIslamReformationIt is interesting to note that those who compromise normative Islam or demonstrate a modernist tendency suddenly become “leading Sunni” Imams. The epithet was applied by the Times to former ISB President Ahtsham Ali who spoke at ISB’s Living Islam event, presumably because his statements fit in with neocon policy of attacking normative Islamic stances.

Claiming that the separation of the sexes is absent in the Quran, he iterated a statement which I would expect to see from modernist reformationists of the Usama Hasan variety,

“Stay in your houses and do not display yourselves like [women used to] in the time of ignorance [before Islam],” was intended specifically to the prophet’s wives, Ali said.

Aside from the obvious irrationality of ignoring principles of exegesis, like where a command is addressed to the wives it is for all women unless specifically stated otherwise, the validity of this statement can be determined by a perusal of a multitude of exegeses written on this verse which clearly indicate that the application of this verse is ‘aam (generic, to all Muslim women) as opposed to khass (specific).  The preceding verse which states that the mothers of the believers are “unlike other women” indicates to their special, raised status over other women by virtue of being the blessed wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him), not towards the specificity of the command (as claimed by proponents of Ali’s position).  (Tafsir Ibn Kathir – specifically states that these verses are an example for other women, Tafsir Alusi – also quoted supporting this view is Zamakhshari, Tafsir BaydawiTafsir Ma’ariful Qur’an).

There are more problems with Ali’s words.  By focussing solely on the Qur’an to unsuccessfully refute a mainstream understanding in Islam, he side-steps an entire corpus of hadith and usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence) which is also used, in addition to the Qur’an, to extrapolate rulings.  It smacks of a Taj Hargey statement who uses similar reductionist diatribe to give justification to strange, un-Islamic views. One wonders how Ali would reconcile is position with the following hadith:

 Aisha (RadiyAllahu ‘anha) says that a woman from behind a curtain gestured a letter to the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Prophet (peace be upon him) withheld his hand. The woman said, “O Prophet of Allah, I extended my hand to you with a letter and you did not take it?” He said, “I could not know if this is a man’s hand or a woman’s”. She said, “It is a woman’s hand.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “If you were a woman you ought to have changed your fingernails with henna.” (Sunan An-Nasa’i)

The attack however continues with the emulation of the Prophet with his incredibly misleading statement:

“You don’t emulate except what [the Prophet] asked us to emulate. Wasn’t he allowed to have the culture of his time in 7th century Arabia?”

This is a grossly incorrect, reductionist statement. Emulation without an express command formed the basis of many rulings. Furthermore, emulation without exhortation was an expectation:

‘Aisha said, “The Messenger of Allah did something as an example in order to make things easier for people but some people still refrained from doing it. When the Prophet heard about that, he praised Allah and said, ‘what do you think of people who refrain from anything that I myself do? By Allah I am the greatest of them in knowledge of Allah and the strongest of them in fear of Allah”. (Bukhari wa Muslim)

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