Abdullah al Andalusi writes that Al Shabaab’s “death threats” to “prominent” Muslim figures was intentionally over-exaggerated by the media, police and the government to “capitalise on terrorism” for a publicity stunt.
I attended a “Question Time” event (not hosted by BBC) on the topics of “radicalism”, “extremism”, Muslim national identity within Britain, and other topics. We also covered the issue of Muslims going to Syria to fight, and the women’s driving ban in Saudi Arabia.
The event featured panellists responding to topics that were raised by the organisers, the audience, and also by the presenter, Ajmal Masroor.
The event was set-up by the Annoor Masjid, who kindly invited me to attend, and were professional and good intentioned in the organising of this event, to which I thank them deeply.
Along with me, the panellists were Nazia Matin, a co-ordinator for the UK government’s “anti-extremism” program “PREVENT”, Richard bailey (former British military) who was a former-advisor to the current Somali president, and is now working with the Libyan government, and Professor Danjuma Behari, who is a historian.
I soon discovered that the event’s presenter, Ajmal Masroor was working with UK government’s regional PREVENT co-ordinator (Nazia), and consequently the event seemed hijacked towards a notably government-approved agenda.
The host, Ajmal Masroor, who was meant only to be the moderator, and not a panellist, then became the “5th panellist” who controlled the panel, expressed his own opinions, and challenged me a number of times, asking me that “shouldn’t Muslims be proud of “our” island, it is an island?” (i.e. UK), to which I responded that the argument is absurd due to the fact that it would ignore Northern Ireland which is UK territory on a DIFFERENT ISLAND. He didn’t like my argument for the universal humanitarian equality for all humans regardless of nationality, where all humans are morally of equal concern regardless of borders and artificial lines drawn on a map.
Ajmal then gave his final thoughts at the end of the event where his comments could be said without being contested by the panellists. Under the excuse of summarising the “two or three things that came out very clearly from our discussion today” (sic) he made a number of statements which were NOT what the panellists agreed to, nor were these thoughts “very clearly” coming out from the discussion.
To counter an earlier point I made, that the West falsely and hypocritically accuses Muslims going to Syria to fight for Islam, as being terrorists (a point I made, which the audience agreed with, which included a Syrian sympathetic to the opposition) Ajmal said “I’ve been to Syria myself, and I tell you, Syrians don’t need you and I to go fight for them, we’re a liability on them, you need to do other things” (sic), by which he meant merely contributing financially only to officially sanctioned and government approved aid agencies which supply food to Syrian.
I found this surprising, considering that Ajmal himself said on his Facebook post (https://www.facebook.com/ajmal.masroor.7/posts/10151685461709439) advertising a Huffington Post article (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ajmal-masroor/syrian-conflict-makes-a-m_b_3291393.html) he wrote just after he got back from Syria earlier this year: “Syrians do not need our meagre handouts to defend their lives from the bullets, bombs and chemical weapons used on them by their evil dictator. They either need a political solution championed by the international community or military solution to topple the brutal regime.”
Spot the contradiction…I suppose the only “solution” for Ajmal is Western military solutions or aid (according to whatever is the current mood/benefit in the West’s foreign policy game) – but not an indigenous and Muslim based military solution…
Ajmal also put his spin on the “radical vs. moderate” (false) dichotomy, and urged Muslims to be “moderate” and avoid “extreme politics” (sic).
I exposed the pathetic use of the term “extremism” by Western governments and media, as basically meaning any Muslim that believes and calls to a holistic Islam, but it was what I said next that cause Ajmal to react very strongly.
Al Shabaab “death threats”
Ajmal during the debate made repeated claims about how Muslims need to tackle “extremism”, and then he engaged in shamelessly milking how he got “death threats” from Al Shabaab terrorists (he kept re-iterating it again and again).
We’ve all been told recently, in the media that a number of Muslim speakers who condemned the Woolwich attacks have received death threats from an “Al Shabaab video” publication.
Apparently, in response to the video, the police went to the houses of these individuals and “warned” them of these threats, and gave them a special number to call. One of the individuals was Ajmal Masroor. Of course, some of these speakers have been milking this attention for all its worth, and adopted a “brave” and “fearless” public persona, and have publicly accepted sympathy messages from members of the Muslim and non-Muslim community.
However, the strange thing is, when I saw the video, I SAW NO DEATH THREATS made, or even implied! I checked a number of times – in disbelief! Surely the media, the police and the government couldn’t be trumping up these claims?!
But alas, all I saw was a number of clips of Ajmal, along with many other speakers who denounced the Woolwich attack, with the narrator implying that these Muslims had “sold-out”, but there was not a jot about urging people to kill them.
Check the video for yourself, it’s around the 17 min mark (http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/17/al-qaeda-offshoot-tells-western-muslims-to-emulate-london-terror-attack-fort-hood-shooting-in-new-video/?).
I then put this to Ajmal at the event, that I didn’t see any death threats on that video towards him at all. Suffice to say, he was quite flustered, but then strangely claimed on the spot, that the threat wasn’t in the video, but that Al Shabaab had actually “tweeted” the threat!
Media and police
Wow! The media, police and every public statement that I’m aware of, even those issued by the “threatened” Muslim speakers up to this point, made no mention of a tweet threat that started this at all. I replied to Ajmal that I can only go by what the multiple reports I’ve read, say, and none mentioned Al Shabaab using Twitter to make a threat that the Police responded to.
Of course, it’s rather strange that Ajmal Masroor suddenly claimed that the threat was on a Twitter tweet, when he himself said on his Facebook page:
“As soon as they (the Police) left my house I started digging further and found an Al-Shabab video has been uploaded on the Internet and in it they name me as a Muslim who is an enemy of Islam and should be eliminated. They name a few others in their video message and encourage people to resort to using knives to behead people like me. I spend some time today to verify the threat and it was confirmed to me that it was this video that had spurred our security services to action”.
https://www.facebook.com/ajmal.masroor.7/posts/10151998400964439 – or in case it gets “mysteriously” edited or taken down, you can read the Daily Mail’s screen shot (http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/10/18/article-2465811-18D2ACD400000578-925_634x678.jpg).
I’m thinking of a phrase to describe this, and it ends with “pants on fire”. When the video of the “Question Time” discussion/debate comes out, you’ll see him say that the threat was on twitter. And if for some reason that part of the video is mysteriously edited, I’ve recorded the audio of the full debate – for just such contingencies.
Ajmal’s story aside, this leaves us asking ourselves a question: If the police and Media made a hoo-haa about the “threatened” speakers Ajmal Masroor, Mohammed Ansar, Usama Hasan and Mohammed Shafiq, why didn’t they also turn up to the house of Hamza Tzortzis, who was also featured on the Al Shabaab video, for virtually the same amount of time as Mohammed Ansar (alongside him even!)?
Hamza Tzortzis and Mohammed Ansar were depicted side by side in the Al-Shabaab video. Why does one get police protection, and was described by the media (Daily Mail) as having been “singled out”, yet not the other? Is it something to do with the fact that Hamza is unjustly considered an “extremist” by the media due his “daring” to present Islam as a holistic way of life? Why didn’t the police come to his house and warn him as well?
Why do the media and the police (and presumably the government) want people to sympathise with particular Muslim public personalities, and not others? Why say that they were threatened, when the video clearly didn’t threaten them? Was this a case of capitalising on terrorism for a publicity stunt?
For information, I too was publicly quoted on a number of media outlets, as condemning those participated in the Woolwich attack. And I have also condemned Al Shabaab’s attack on civilians in Kenya, and condemned the use of Terrorism in general – but for some reason, I won’t be expecting an Al Shabaab affiliate to accost me on the street with sharp and pointy things.
The government wants to promote the named particular speakers in both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities, but why not Hamza Tzortzis and the other speakers mentioned in the video?
The answer can surely be found in what the “threatened” speakers Mohammed Shafiq, Usama Hasan, Mohammed Ansar and Ajmal Masroor do, and what does Hamza Tzortzis and others do/don’t do, which merited the police, media and government selectively “protecting” (i.e. promoting) one, and not the other.
I could speculate as to why, but this time round dear readers, I’ll leave it up to you.
Abdullah al Andalusi is an international lecturer, thinker, speaker and debater on Islamic and Muslim issues.
Ajmal Masroor will be given the full opportunity to respond to this article.