Deputy Editor of 5Pillarz, Dilly Hussain goes over some of the biggest news stories of 2013 relating to Muslims in the UK.
2013 has been a year with not so much good, a fair amount of bad and a lot of ugly events that has affected Muslims.
After the Woolwich murder, we witnessed an unprecedented wave of Islamophobic violence by extreme far-right groups, bomb plots on our mosques, and normative Islamic practices being attacked by the mainstream media and politicians.
When I was going through all the big headlines of 2013, there were hardly any positive ones, and the articles that did show Muslims in a good light was never as a community, but individual actions unrelated to our faith…but to be honest I was hardly surprised.
If my selection of stories seem mundane and negative, there is no doubt that these events have shaped and influenced non Muslim perception of us as a community.
On a positive note, most if not all of these events have brought Muslims together, and made ever so clear the ongoing campaign against Islam and Muslims.
Top 5 news stories relating to Muslims in Britain
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1. Woolwich murder (22 May)
This unexpected attack on off-duty British soldier, Lee Rigby, by two Muslim converts on the streets of London shocked everyone. Images of Michael Adebolajo holding a machete and a knife with blood on his hands is what stuck in people’s minds. However, his motive and grievance is one shared by most Muslims, and that was British foreign policy.
Whilst the majority of Muslims and our “representative” organisations/leaders rightfully condemned the attack as unIslamic, the apologies for a crime which had nothing to do with Islam was never-ending. As expected, Muslim organisations who were chummy with the government went a step further and bent over backwards to say that Rigby was “one of us” (Dr Farooq Murad, MCB) and his murderers “wouldn’t even smell Paradise” (Ajmal Masroor).
The mainstream media (the left and the right) totally ignored British foreign policy in Afghanistan and Iraq as the main reason for Woolwich. Prime Minister David Cameron, Mayor Boris Johnson and even the war criminal Tony Blair all refused to acknowledge Britain’s meddling in the Muslim world as the motive for “domestic terrorism”. Instead, PM Cameron called an emergency COBRA meeting, established the new Extremism Task Force and blamed fundamental concepts of Islam as being “radical” and “extreme”.
What followed was a brutal wave of Islamophobia. Mosques were firebombed on the evening of the Woolwich attack (a dozen at least up to now), Muslim women who wore the hijab/niqab/burqa were violently attacked in public, bombs planted in or next to mosques, Islamic websites shut down, Muslim scholars banned from speaking at universities and now possibly silenced with “anti-terror” ASBO’s.
No doubt, Muslims living in Britain will face the repercussions of Woolwich for years to come.
2. Birmingham Metropolitan College niqab ban, and then overturn (10 September)
BMC’s decision to ban the niqab under its security policy outraged Muslims across the UK. But surprisingly, it was the pressure mounted by Muslims at grassroots level rather than your conventional “umbrella organisations” that made BMC change their decision.
Online pressure group “Muslimah Pride” and the NUS Black Students’ Campaign played a pivotal role in BMC’s U-turn. However, this was merely the beginning of what followed a few months later when Channel 4 aired a niqab debate and reignited the topic which for decades was never an issue in Britain.
3. University gender segregation debate (9 March – ongoing)
The issue of gender segregation at British university Islamic Society (ISOC) events was triggered when Professor Lawrence Krauss refused to debate Hamza Tzortzis (iERA) in a segregated seated area at University of College London (UCL).
Since then, Richard Dawkins, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), National Secular Society, Maryum Namazie of “One Law for All”, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Daily Mail, The Sun, Henry Jackson Society and its front organisation Student Rights, politicians including PM Cameron all jumped on the bandwagon in support of banning gender segregation at ISOC events, laughably under the banner of “gender apartheid” and human rights.
Of course, none of the above mentioned had the decency to actually ask how Muslim women who organised and attended these events actually felt. Instead, news anchors and presenters bullied and rudely dominated air time when the likes of Omar Ali (President of FOSIS) and Dr Nazreen Nawaz (Media Representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir) were invited to their shows. Alhamdulillah, like the niqab ban debate, this united Muslims from all walks of life, groups and organisations to defend what they believed to be an orthodox Islamic practice.
4. Terrorist bomb plots on Midlands mosques and murder of Mohammed Saleem by Pavlo Lapshyn (April 29 – July 12)
Though the murder of 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem from Birmingham happened before Woolwich, the bomb plots that took place at Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton mosques occurred a month later (21 June – 12 July). The perpetrator targeted mosques on Friday after Jummah prayers.
Ukrainian student, Pavlo Lapshyn pleaded guilty to the murder of grandfather Mr Saleem and for the explosions, he was charged under section 2 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883 and section 5 (1) of the Terrorism Act 2006. He pleaded guilty to all charges on 21 October 2013 and was jailed for life with a minimum of 40 years.
As expected, the mainstream media did not give the case of Lapshyn who was found in possession of white supremacist literature and video games as much limelight as they did with Woolwich, even though his crimes could have killed hundreds of innocent Muslims and politically motivated. This was another fine example of the British media’s disproportionate and double standard coverage of white non-Muslim crime.
5. Tommy Robinson leaves the English Defence League to join Quillium Foundation (8 October)
I was hesitant to put this story on the top 5 simply because neither Tommy Robinson nor the QF are worthy of the air time that the British media intentionally rewards them with.
But the main reason why I did go ahead with this story was because of the BBC’s “When Tommy met Mo” documentary. In a nutshell, Robinson leaving the anti-Muslim EDL for the government funded Islamophobic QF was the first open transition of far-right extremism into the mainstream. From this point onward, Robinson the Islamophobe and QF led by the much-despised Maajid Nawaz were given a breath of life just as they were approaching decline.
I personally believe this move was an intentional ploy that our much-entrusted politicians expected and was indirectly accommodated by the Muslim friendly media.
Promising shift towards a unified Muslim voice
There were two events in particular that stood out this year, which indicated a promising shift towards unity in response to the attacks against Islam and Muslims in the media and by politicians.
The event titled “Freedom of Speech – Are Muslims Excluded?” was organised by non-profit organisation ENGAGE who work to help empower and encourage British Muslims within local communities to be more actively involved in media and politics.
The event was chaired by Yusuf Chambers and Azad Ali of Islam Channel. Guest speakers included Sheikh Abdul Raheem Green (iERA), Sheikh Shams Ad Duha (Ebrahim College), Sheikh Shakeel Begg (Imam of Lewisham Mosque and Kent Islamic Centre), Sheikh Haitham al Haddad (Islamic Shariah Council of Britain and MRDF), Dr Abdul Wahid (Chairman of Hizb ut-Tahrir, Britain), Omar Ali (President of FOSIS) and Abdullah al Andalusi (founder of Muslim Debate Initiative).
You can read 5Pillarz report on the above event here: https://5pillarsuk.com/2013/11/22/freedom-of-speech-are-muslims-excluded/
The second event entitled “Muslim women united against attack on gender segregation” was organised by Islamic political party, Hizb ut-Tahrir. Panelists included Yvonne Ridley (journalist), Islamic female scholar Fatima Barakatullah (iERA), Zara Faris (MDI), Shohana Khan (Hizb ut-Tahrir) and Aisha Azri (Head of a London ISOC).
You can read 5Pillarz report on the above event here: https://5pillarsuk.com/2013/12/24/muslim-women-united-against-attack-on-gender-segregation/
Both events demonstrated that genuine Muslims leaders from different organisations are capable of coming together in defence of Islam when it’s under attack, instead of continuously apologising and appeasing.
Another promising event is scheduled for Saturday 4 January entitled “Is Islam being criminalised? Response to UK government report – Tackling Extremism in the UK”. Guest speakers include Abdullah al Andalusi (MDI), Sheikh Haitham al Haddad (MRDF), Dr Reza Pankhurst (Hizb ut-Tahrir), Sheikh Sulaiman Ghani (Islam Channel) and Moazzam Begg (CagePrisoners).