Is demonising the Muslim community the way forward in tackling extremism?

PM Cameron has vowed to crack down on "non-violent extremists"

Salim Bhorat questions whether some Muslim organisations and community leaders are serious about tackling extremism or exacerbating it.

There were two statements recently issued, one which appeared in the Guardian (1) titled “United, we can protect our young people from extremists” with a website campaign called fightbackstartshere (2), a few days apart from another statement under the banner protectingthought (3) which was mentioned in the Independent newspaper article titled “Government deradicalisation plan will brand Muslims with beards as terrorists, say academics” in the Independent. The first statement (a Pro Prevent statement) was fairly loose and mentioned Protecting young from radicalisation and extremist ideology and called out for signatories to join the fightback. The latter statement expressedly rejected Prevent for the way that it conceptualises radicalisation and extremism based on the unsubstantiated view that religious ideology is the primary driving factor for terrorism.

So in essence we had two statements, one pro-Prevent (Fight back starts here), and one very strongly rejecting Prevent (Protecting thought).

The stark contrast between the two statements lay in two areas:-

1) The pro-Prevent statement was going to back the Government viewpoint about religious ideology being a driving factor for terrorism. The Anti Prevent statement was the complete opposite.

2) The pro-Prevent statement signatories were a list of many of the prominent organisations on the Prevent circuit, organisations who had made a good living out of demonising Muslims by backing the prevent strategy. (most prominently Inspire, Active Change Foundation, Jan Trust, JIMAS) alongside a few Muslim organisation names and some “interfaith” type signatories as well as the those who have silently backed the Government and an Islamophobic Media agenda such as ISB and Adam Deen.

My first thoughts were to assume this was an initiative by Sara Khan of Inspire (The female Majid Nawaaz equivalent) or an Active Change Foundation initiative which had conveniently placed a Muslim organisation at the top of the list, namely Suleman Nagdi of the Federation of Muslim Organisations (FMO) in Leicester.   Investigating further it became clear that Suleman Nagdi, FMO had actually led on this. The anger and annoyance felt by many Muslims was around “Why decent Muslims would line up alongside such people like Sara Khan and the other prominent prevent cash guzzling organisations?” and why had some of the organisations on the list signed up to it?

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I spoke to people that had become involved in this and learnt the following:

  1. a) A request had been made to Muslim organisations (such as The Bolton Council of Mosques) to sign the statement (which is very loose and general) and it seemed credible as it was led by a Muslim organisation (Federation of Muslim Organisations), so they had considered it in this way and had decided to sign it but on learning about the co-signatories and of FMOs Prevent background, have since stated “We didn’t know who else was going to be on the list or who they were working with otherwise we wouldn’t have signed the statement”. This embarrassment seemed like the equivalent of putting ones name down for helping out in the community and then learning the list drafted was for the role of “village idiot”.   It seemed they had been hoodwinked and were not impressed. Their organisation’s name had been used solely to give this poorly backed initiative a veneer of credibility.   This article considers those organisations as innocently “duped” and not willing participants.
  2. b) This initiative was also pushed through in a very undemocratic way as other prominent members of FMO were not consulted; this in effect seemed to be Mr Suleman Nagdi acting with the FMO label but without membership consensus – people involved were not happy. Many of the FMO signatories are merely relatives of Mr Nagdi and hold no positions of note.

One only needs to look at Organisations such as Inspire and Active Change Foundation to learn that they are fully in step with the Governments line, which is currently on course to tackling “non violent” extremists. Non violent extremists in the firing line are the very organisations which have been standing against the demonisation of Muslims and are standing up for orthodox/normative Islamic values; these organisations include Cage, MeND and Hizb ut Tahrir as well as many other mainstream Muslim speakers.   If the Government succeeds in silencing these organisations then that paves the way clear for Government reformation of Islamic values and beliefs.

Taking the above into account, how does an Organisation named Federation of Muslim Organisations from Leicester get into bed on such an initiative with these Prevent organisations whose sole raison d’etre is funding from Prevent work?

Some additional questions need to be asked of Mr Nagdi:

  • Was this initiative fronted by you to give the statement some credibility, merely to hoodwink other Muslim organisations to sign this?
  • Does this initiative have Government backing?
  • Why were organisations who were asked to sign, not informed who you would be working with? Namely people who are causing Islamophobia and who – over the years – have helped to demonise the UK Muslim community by laying the blame at their feet and by blaming religious ideology?
  • Why was something this important not discussed with other prominent members of FMO?
  • What do you hope to sincerely achieve by working with the likes of Inspire and Active Change Foundation? Had you sincerely wished to take action and make a difference then wouldn’t one of the pre-conditions have been to exclude those who have their own agendas linked to monetary gains by unquestioningly toeing the Government line?
  • Do you accept that the majority of Muslims in the UK would back the statement and not your one?
  • If you really wanted to make a difference, wouldn’t the honest and honourable thing to do would be to get behind protectingthought and have FMO work on that instead?

Ever since the inception of Prevent, there have been two sides; the Government’s Prevent (plus those following the Government line with Prevent) and those calling it dishonest, disingenuous and a danger to society.

So would you get behind Mr Nagdi’s statement (and its backers) which will demonise the Muslim community further, and silent non-violent dissenting voices; or try to make Britain safer by backing those at who call to address the issue of radicalisation and terrorism honestly and who by comparison work without any financial gain as they have for many years.





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