Blogger Abdullah Noorrudeen says Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Faith Matters and Tell Mama, is politically inconsistent and wonders whether he supports Prevent or not.
Written in an interestingly critical style, it certainly hit all the high notes from the perspective of the Muslim community. For instance, it drew attention to the current Counter Extremism strategy as having disproportionately focussed on the Muslim community – leading to claims that it renders Muslims a “suspect community.”
It highlighted the problem of the Home Office holding disproportionate power in defining “extremism,” and that the definition should be the “product of scholarly debate.” Even the label “Islamism” comes in for criticism, noting it leads to McCarthyism, and alienation of partners that can “support the fight against violent extremism.”
A superficial reading certainly makes for a promising one.
But then we recall that this is a submission by Faith Matters and Tell Mama’s founder Fiyaz Mughal. And if anything, this submission only further calls into question his politics and the Tell Mama project.
The enemy of my enemy…
Faith Matters’ submission notes that, “A recent report on the Muslim Brotherhood operating in the UK identifies a number of organisations and their potential to be included as ‘non-violent extremists’. According to an article published in the RUSI Journal, such attempts to use ‘Islamism’ as an ideology that leads to terrorism reintroduces a ‘McCarthyism of the past’.”
This is all well and good, except Mughal himself has in my opinion perpetuated these very same problems when it has suited him. Last year, Mughal commented in an article written by the notorious Islamophobic journalist, Andrew Gilligan, after a failed PCC complaint against him. With the article targeting Sayeeda Warsi, naming Muddassar Ahmed an “extremist”, and smearing Iftikhar Awan for having “links with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood,” Fiyaz actively contributed to the formation of the “counter-entryism” element of the counter-extremism strategy. In Gilligan’s article, Mughal stated,
“I was deeply concerned about the kinds of groups some of the members had connections with, and some of the groups they were recommending be brought into government… It seemed to me to be a form of entryism, by people with no track record in delivering projects.”
This article was subsequently referenced by the detested and discredited Quilliam Foundation in their report on counter-extremism as an example of entryism, thus demonstrating how Mughal and Quilliam indirectly reinforce each others’ narratives.
In a further twist, Tell Mama’s co-chair is the pro-Israeli and former head of the Community Security Trust (CST) Richard Benson. This is significant because the Muslim Brotherhood report that the submission makes note of identified the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) as one of the organisations shaped by the Brotherhood. In 2009, the Community Security Trust (CST) in its joint submission to the Prevent inquiry focussed on “Islamists”, and explicitly went onto state:
“In the immediate aftermath of the London bombings, the Government sought to work through Muslim umbrella groups, such as the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Association of Britain, which are led by radical Islamists.”
In other words, the current co-chair of Tell Mama was pursuing the very strategy which Faith Matters highlights as “leading to McCarthyism,” denouncing Muslim organisations as being “radical Islamists.”
Mughal later in the year even helped pro Israel, “anti-Islamist” journalist Nick Cohen with his puff piece attacking – you guessed it – “Islamists.”
The submission further makes a positive mention of STREET, and specifically, its funding being cut. STREET, founded by Abdul Haqq Baker was an outreach project assisting and guiding converts and Muslim gang members. Of relevance is the fact that it was the subject of Gilligan smears in 2012. The article drew on Haras Rafiq, who is currently the managing director of Quilliam Foundation and a friend of Mughal.
Gilligan again targeted Baker two years later in the context of Salafi “radicals” being used in the Channel de-radlicalisation scheme.
Quilliam and HJS
Many will feel that the Faith Matter’s submission could well have been a smokescreen. I personally would hazard a guess that behind closed doors, and in the necessary circles, Mughal is a supporter of Prevent.
On Thursday 3rd of March 2016 – five days before the submission – an event on Tackling Extremism in the UK was held by Westminster Briefing. Mughal was quite emphatically singing a different tune:
“Prevent’ is becoming more problematic especially in the Muslim community – they consider it intrusive in their daily lives – particularly with the new Government duty to report. I disagree – the environment is more complex, but I do think Prevent as a brand has become damaged.”
In other words, for all intents and purposes, Mughal does appear to back Prevent, and does not regard it intrusive or discriminatory. These problems are merely “perceptions” and “myths” that the Muslim community seem to have. It is important to note that this is precisely the same spin adopted by both the Quilliam Foundation and the Henry Jackson Society.
Mughal’s issue seems to be that Prevent as a “brand” is “damaged”, and suggests another medium to persuade the Muslim community into buying into the discredited Countering Violent Extremism discourse:
“Interfaith dialogues can get people around the table… People are more relaxed in interfaith groups – they can discuss stuff that normally they wouldn’t.”
The pertinent question remains however: how can someone who may buy into Prevent – a strategy that has been slammed by hundreds of academics for demonising Muslims – and works with a pro-Israeli and Islamophobic journalists be involved in tackling Islamophobia?
You just can’t work with those who have tried to marginalise mainstream Muslim organisations, and indirectly advocated CVE policies at the expense of the Muslim community.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of 5Pillars.