An open letter to Sara Khan, the “Queen” of countering Islamist extremism

Deputy editor of 5Pillars, Dilly Hussain, responds to a column written by Sara Khan in The Observer, where she accused him of being a supporter of “jihadi ideologues”.

The following letter is an elaborated version of a letter published The Observer yesterday.


Dear Sara,

Your recent column in The Observer entitled, ‘Stop fretting over religious sensitivities. We must push hard against Islamists’ might have entrenched fear in the hearts and minds of readers, but it did very little to put the horrific attacks in Manchester and London in context of the overall terrorism threat which faces Britain and Europe today.

You seem to be unaware that the safe spaces for young Muslims to air their views, and for Imams to address normative Islamic beliefs have been scrupulously censored by the UK Government’s Prevent strategy. In fact, grassroots activists and mainstream scholars have a key role to play in countering ISIS’s warped interpretation of Islam, but they are prevented from doing so out of fear of being labelled “Islamist extremists,” a mantra which you parrot to perfection.

You also appear to be unbothered about the lack of consistency in the definition of ‘extremism’ – a politicised label which has been used for centuries by authorities to silence those with dissenting views.

In reality, counter-extremism is a very lucrative industry, and your particular conflict of interests are rarely mentioned in the press; like the fact that your sister, Sabin Khan, works for the Office of Security & Counter-Terrorism (OSCT), or that your book ‘Battle for British Islam’ was co-authored by a Home Office consultant, Tony McMahon.

For too long, counter-extremism ‘experts’ like yourself who have little to no influence within British Muslim communities, have dominated the media landscape without being held to account over how taxpayers’ money has been spent. Instead, you have mastered the dark art of repeating buzzwords and propagating flawed theories which the government of the day wants to hear – never telling them what they need to hear.

If you and your ilk persist in ignoring or denigrating what leading academicssecurity officials and police chiefs have argued about the multi-causal nature of ‘Islamist terrorism’ in numerous reports, you will never inspire change where it really matters.

As for your embarrassing attempt to smear me and 5Pillars – it’s very humbling to know that you had the time to rummage through my Facebook page to desperately cite a post where I spoke about sharing a hypothetical boat journey with 20th century Muslim revivalist figures, and equated it with “support for jihadi ideologues”. Clutching at straws much?

And if the 186,177 organic Facebook ‘likes’ on the 5Pillars page is troubling you so much, then know that I am willing to help Inspire’s staggering number of Facebook likes (6,532) reach a respectable number – though, you of all people should know that being ‘liked’ can neither be imposed nor purchased.

Your brother in humanity,

Dilly Hussain

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