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).
Recent weeks have seen a sustained campaign of repressive bullying tactics against a Muslim doctor and vocal anti-racism, pro-Palestinian voice Dr Siema Iqbal by pro-Israel activist organisation North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI). The retweets by Dr Iqbal, which were contested as “anti-Semitic”, were clarified three years ago.
Despite this, NWFOI has resumed its harassment.
Recently, Dr Iqbal was invited to read a statement on racism at the Assembly of Greater Manchester Citizens UK. Seemingly unable to stomach a Muslim woman with strong pro-Palestinian views, NWFOI restarted its harassment, this time led by the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), an organisation which Alastair Sloan highlights has defended Israeli leaders from the principles of universal jurisdiction and therefore accountability of potential war crimes. Declaring Dr Iqbal’s tweets/retweets anti-Semitic despite being political in nature and directed in response to the Israeli government’s aggression against Palestinians in Gaza, the JLC seems to have pressured Citizens UK into distancing itself from Dr Iqbal. These statements were then circulated in the Jewish Telegraph (complete with a statement from the NWFOI), Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish News, and shared by the far-right-linked Quilliam Foundation’s Haras Rafiq.
So what do we know about the NFWOI?
Muslims have been understandably expressing consternation at Theresa May becoming prime minister. Whilst the sacking of Michael Gove has brought delight, her appointment of Amber Rudd as Home Secretary is being seen as deeply worrying given Rudd’s policy council membership of the notorious hate-funded Henry Jackson Society. No doubt we will be seeing a continuation of closed society, illiberal security policies in the name of liberalism and freedom, as Muslims remain the punch bag for anti-Muslim rhetoric. May is no friend of Muslims, with animosity towards Islam articulated through counter-extremism rhetoric.
As the Conservative prospective candidates demonstrated their reality by stabbing each other in the back, dropping low-blows about not having children, and employing Machiavellian tactics against each other for once, as the leadership came to a head, it was interesting to note the prominent voices which fell into line behind May.
Pro-Israel activists have been gathering momentum in their concerted effort to conflate Zionism with Judaism/Jewish identity and therefore censor particular references and discourses.
Based on dubious and deceptive conflation, several Labour MPs have been suspended. Notable organisations fronting these efforts are “feeder” groups which often forward information onto other Israel lobby groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council. These grassroots organisations are linked to other organisations which have been, for instance, directly responsible for the eventual suspension of Jackie Walker – a Jewish anti-racism activist who made the “mistake” of saying “millions more Africans were killed in the African Holocaust”. Similar conflations by these organisations have been made about NUS President Malia Bouattia (see here and here, for instance).
A brief peruse down the social media timelines shows that some of their campaigns have targeted (I would argue legitimately) those instances which genuinely constitute anti-Semitism. This, however is insidiously supplemented by a concerted campaign to confuse anti-Israel views and political activism with anti-Semitism. Bullying and intimidation tactics, like in the case of Walker, are adopted to force this conflation. In doing so, boundaries on what can and cannot be articulated about Israel are redrawn and free speech – the favoured neocon invocation for anti-Islam hate – is assaulted. The organisations also profess views which are often aired from the Zionist far-right.
In my previous set of blogs (here and here), we saw how those groups connected to “foreign influences” – the sophisticated pro-Israel lobby and neoconservative “think-tanks” – have bullied through unethical policies and laws which have deteriorated civil liberties. Characteristic amongst these lobby groups which have unquestioned loyalties to a foreign belligerent state is the use of threat and intimidation; not toeing the pro-Israel line means no “donations”, as accurately demonstrated by Ed Miliband’s condemnation of the 2014 Gaza massacre. And no donations means a lesser likelihood of attaining power. It is similar to how these behavioural traits manifest in other areas of politics. In place of diplomacy, neocon like to utilise “Hard Wilsonianism” urging the benevolent bombing of “peace” and “freedom” into the hearts of (mainly) Muslim communities throughout the Middle East in concert with Zionist strategic interests. At home, bullying has been used effectively against those who politically dissent against government policies by being hounded by a press using strategies devised by neocons. There is also, of course, using the law to force compliance to state ideology and policies through PREVENT. In the words of Machiavelli, approvingly quoted by the “godfather of neoconservatism” Irving Kristol:
“for neither conscious nor shame ought to have any influence upon you… those who obtain great power do so either by force or fraud, and having got them they conceal under some honest name the foulness of their deeds”.
There is a darker side to this bullying and intimidation. Wrongdoing over the years, like donation scandals and buying or selling influence, which would result in a cacophony of press coverage accompanied by vigorous laws and regulation if the perpetrators were Muslim, barely attracts a slap on the wrist where individuals involved have been linked to pro-Israel lobby groups.
This is a continuation of a previous article which can be found here. David Cameron demanded that if people “walk our streets, learn our schools, benefit from our society, you sign up to our values. Freedom. Tolerance. Responsibility. Loyalty.” The question is, who indeed is Cameron and his neoconservative syndicate “loyal” to?
Some of the biggest backers of Cameron’s party are also linked to neoconservative/pro-Israeli lobbying and activism.
David Harding, for instance, who has donated £600,000 has spoken at the neoconservative Policy Exchange and has also financially contributed to fundraisers for ARK – the notorious charity backed by neocon Michael Gove, and linked to Michael Wilshaw. It has aggressively taken over schools in Muslim majority schools which Ofsted (headed by Wilshaw) placed into special measures in the aftermath of the Trojan Hoax lies.
Crosspost: Media Lens
The sudden cancellation of an academic conference on Israel, as well as the lack of outcry from ‘mainstream’ media, demonstrates once again the skewed limits to ‘free speech’ in ‘advanced’ Western democracies. ‘Je suis Charlie’ already feels like ancient history. It certainly does not apply when it comes to scrutiny of the state of Israel.
The conference, titled ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’, was to be held at the University of Southampton from 15-17 April 2015. Planned speakers included Richard Falk, the former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, Gabi Piterberg, a historian at the University of California at Los Angeles, Israeli academic Ilan Pappé and Palestinian historian Nur Musalha.
The meeting was billed as the ‘first of its kind and constitutes a ground-breaking historical event on the road towards justice and enduring peace in historic Palestine.’ The approach would be scholarly with ‘multidisciplinary debate reflecting diverse perspectives, and thus genuine disagreements’. Rather than being a coven of political extremists and violent hotheads, this was to be a serious gathering of respected and authoritative academics with in-depth knowledge of Israel and Palestine.
But intense pressure from the Israel lobby about the airing of ‘anti-Semitic views’ has torpedoed the University of Southampton’s earlier stated commitment to uphold ‘freedom of speech within the law’. In a classic piece of bureaucratic hand-wringing, the university issued a corporate-style statement on 1 April that leaned heavily on the pretext of ‘health and safety’ to kill off the conference. This happened a mere two weeks before the conference, planned months earlier in consultation with the university, was due to begin.