Crosspost: Abdullah Andalusi
I noticed that the proudly Secular Liberal Maajid Nawaz, who describes himself as ‘a reforming liberal’ [sic] who founded the ironically titled Secular-Liberal campaign group, ‘Quilliam Foundation’ has recently taken umbrage at an event that is due to happen on 13th November 2015 called ‘Quiz a Muslim’, because it has on the panel Muslim speakers Maajid presumably doesn’t approve of (i.e. Muslims who are not Secular Liberals like himself). He described the panel as ‘all-male Islamist Rogues’.
Maajid’s argument on this, is that all the panellists (of which I am one) are ‘Caliphate-advocating Islamists’. His argument is ‘they believe in every core principle ISIS believes in, and they reject ISIS merely because they made their move for a Caliphate ‘too soon & too fast’.
As usual, Maajid not only uses strawman arguments, but also absurdly fallacious ones. Muslims already know this, so the rest of this article is mostly intended for non-Muslims who may not be so clear about Islamic teachings, and may not be able to detect Maajid’s misrepresentations (although Muslims may benefit from the arguments too).
When George Bush infamously announced to the world that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”, it set policies in motion which have detrimentally impacted the landscape of Western politics and law. The thinking representing the group of men who advised disastrous foreign policies and civil liberties-eroding domestic policies, slowly but surely permeated across the Atlantic to Britain through Tony Blair and later, Michael Gove under the auspices of neocon/pro-Israel advocates. That original, reductionist, warring “us and them” narrative, courtesy of neoconservatism, has since become the normalised discourse around Islam, Muslims and foreign wars.
There is a little-known but important indication to the type of politics being played upon hearing the terms “violent and non-violent extremism”. Indeed these terms have crystallises under the previous and current British neocon regimes. The terms can be traced to the rhetoric of zealous neoconservatives. During Bush’s second term, neocon architect of the Iraq war Donald Rumsfeld promoted a change in wording from War on Terror to “global struggle against violent extremism” or GSAVE. Those familiar with the neocon-linked, pro-Israel global counter-extremism complex will recognise the “AVE” acronym often employed to denote this politicised, agenda-driven, hegemonic effort.
The neocon propaganda machine is at full tilt as the government reveals its ultimate legislative weapon to excise active Muslim political activists from civil society under the dissent-suppressing counter-extremism discourse. Andrew Gilligan has already taken a swipe at Muslim organisations through his trademark blend of Muslim “extremists”, spin and lies. Even Peter Oborne could not help but notice that his article contained “a number of unsubstantiated claims” and “a number of factual errors”.
Elsewhere, David Cameron apparently likes Muslims. Well *some* Muslims would be more accurate. In what must be the most sterile PR stunt ever, he has lent his approval to a head-scarf wearing Muslim contestant of the TV show, the Great British Bake Off. One can understand why:
- Is her politics reflective of a Muslim who needs to prove her “Britishness”? Check.
- Does the Muslim belong to a gender group which needs to be saved from Islam? Check.
- Does the show have the word “British” as part of its title? Check.
- Are the general public supporting her? Check.
It sure is a safe bet. Previously, in Eid messages, Cameron has spoken of the “good Muslims” who fought for “our freedoms” off the back of the brutal colonialism of the Muslim world. Later, in his Birmingham speech, he would go onto proclaim that he was going to “actively encourage the reforming and moderate Muslim voices.” These voices incidentally belong to “progressive Muslims” who also happen to be primed by key neoconservative officials and who support their key policies, from the discourse on Muslims and global democracy-spreading to Trident. Such promotion and support is key to maintaining the neoconservative assumptions around the Muslim context. The fundamental impediment is garnering legitimacy from the mainstream Muslim community.
The debate above, titled “The Big Cambridge Debate: Is the West to Blame for Islamic Extremism (Terrorism)?” demonstrated the superficiality of Robin Simcox’s, and by extension the bigoted Henry Jackson Society’s neocon narrative. Usama Hasan from the infamously notorious Quilliam Foundation proceeded to, well, just waffle. The contributions from Abdullah Andalusi were as informative as always.
So much so in fact that it made it in the papers. The local paper, Cambridge News, picked up Andalusi’s argument, with the headline, “Osama bin Laden ‘was a modernist not an Islamist’ Cambridge Union is told”.
The Independent had also reported it with the same headline at this link. However, clicking on it reveals that the link redirects to the Independent homepage.
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.
Peter Oborne, former chief political commentator at the Daily Telegraph, in a sequence of articles for Open Democracy has shed significant light on the demise of standards at the Telegraph titles drawing attention to the paper’s refusal to publish his investigative pieces on the behaviour of the Charity Commission towards British Muslim charities and the paper’s woeful neglect in coverage of the banking scandal engulfing HSBC allegedly to avoid losing valuable advertising revenue.
In our view, Andrew Gilligan and his derisory brand of ‘investigative’ journalism is further evidence of the “fraud” by the Telegraph titles on its readers who are fed a regular diet of shoddy journalism. Gilligan’s mudslinging at British Muslim organisations is well known. Lesser attention, however, has been paid to the number of times his ‘investigative’ pieces have been shown to be lacking in substance. Unfortunately, British Muslim organisations do not possess the kind of financial clout that large business corporations may be able to exercise over the Telegraph’s print output and so spurious allegations and unfounded accusations continue to be printed.
Gilligan’s form of non-violent extremism takes the curious shape of paradox peppered with paranoia. For example, in light of the Education select committee’s report this week on the so called ‘Trojan horse plot’ in Birmingham schools, it is useful to reflect on the number of articles Gilligan wrote elaborating on the ‘extremism‘ present in the schools, the actors involved and how the Sunday Telegraph “revealed the truth behind the plot”. Contrast this to the important finding by the select committee, and affirmed by the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, in an interview with The Muslim News last year, that “ No evidence of extremism or radicalisation, apart from a single isolated incident, was found by any of the inquiries and there was no evidence of a sustained plot nor of a similar situation pertaining elsewhere in the country.” Have we seen a retraction of the specious allegations Gilligan made in relation to the schools? Of course not. Have we seen an apology from the Telegraph for allowing articles without substance to be published and thereby committing a “fraud” on its readers? Of course not.
The fundamental aspect which stood out from the Iraq war debacle was that a war was waged on the basis of lies which were held up to the world by neocons as legitimate reasons to kill and torture. Deceit, is a central to neoconservative thinking. As the war progressed, embedded journalists portraying one aspect of the war, the neoconservative side, diffused their biased reporting to nurture the patriotism of people: our men were fighting a noble war based on a “noble lie”.
Another war on a smaller scale was waged against the Muslim community of Birmingham. It was triggered by a fabricated letter, allegedly drawn by a group of evangelical teachers with an anti-Muslim bias, and nurtured by further lies, exaggerations and spin pumped primarily by propagandist Andrew Gilligan. Muslim teachers were smeared across national papers, thanks to untested and unverifiable information which was used to construct allegations to paint a picture of a “threat” posed by “Islamist extremists” who were taking over schools. This was coupled with the fact that a biased Ofsted, which had become by then a politicised tool of the neocons, placed a number schools, previously outstanding in Muslim majority areas, into special measures.
Indeed, the recent findings of the Education Select Committee inquiry into the Trojan Hoax allegations, supports my postulations. It concluded that,
“Either Ofsted did not dig deep enough on previous occasions . . . or it could be that inspectors lost objectivity and came to some overly negative conclusions because of the surrounding political and media storm.”