Who cares about Muslims in Britain?

Britain First outside East London Mosque

Jahangir Mohammed explains the double standards and hypocrisy of labelling Muslims as “extremists” in comparison to other political faith groups.

Imagine if a Muslim group decided to protest outside a Church, Synagogue, or even an Ahmadi place of worship, denouncing Christianity, Judaism, or Ahmadi beliefs and bearing black flags with Arabic inscriptions of the kalima.

Would such an event even be allowed to take place anywhere in Europe? If it did, we would expect; media headlines of hate preachers and “Islamic Extremism”; news stories about radicalisation and extremism; discussions about Islamic beliefs and the “Islamist” threat; denunciations and promises of action by politicians. We might even get some prosecutions for terrorism.

The threat from “Christian” Extremism?

Yet this is exactly what has occurred over the last few years. However, the culprits have not been a Muslim group but a “Christian” one.  That group and others (also self-identifying as Christian) have regularly marched through Muslim areas, sometimes in military clothing and vehicles. Imagine if Muslims had done that!

One group in particular, has marched into mosques with boots on, demonstrated outside them, distributes Bibles, carries crosses, and talks of crusade. Its language and symbolism make it clear it self identifies as a “Christian” organisation. Despite this it is still referred to as right wing not even extremist. If the media were being consistent, such a group should be called “Christian“ extremists.

Demonstrations or provocation?

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For the last few weeks, at Friday prayer time, a holy day and the most significant weekly event for Muslims; members of Britain First have demonstrated outside East London Mosque (ELM) with crosses and Union Jacks. I am not against holding the odd demonstration even if some wish to make anti-Islamic points; but every week, that no longer is about the right to demonstrate, it is intimidation and provocation of a community trying to fulfil its religious obligation. It would not be tolerated against any other religious community.

Last week, some scuffles took place outside the mosque. That is exactly what Britain First wants, so it can claim Muslims and their religion are violent. It is the old Nazi tactic of marching through Jewish areas to provoke a reaction which would lead to further political reaction. It’s exactly what happened in Oldham over a decade ago, when the BNP provoked a reaction and the riots.

Selective outrage and extremism.

It’s astonishing that at a time when everyone is talking about hatred and “extremism”  in the Muslim community (where even the most innocuous Tweet, Facebook comment or speech by a Muslim is scrutinised and reported as evidence of extremism ad nauseam); there is hardly any public reaction or outrage at the demonstrations outside ELM.

Britain First have 1.1 million followers on its Facebook, that’s a lot of people who seem to be endorsing its message of “Christian” extremism. Is the Governments counter-extremism policy Prevent watching and identifying who all these people are, and referring them to Channel for de-radicalisation?

British politicians have been discussing new extremism laws (to be announced soon). When it comes to this kind of extremism there is silence. Nothing from Theresa May condemning Britain First, no talk of banning these groups or issuing extremism orders against its leaders (not that I support these proposals).

I would expect organisations which are supposed to monitor anti- Muslim hate to have made a major issue of this type of extremism and the current demonstrations outside ELM, but there appears to be silence. What of Mak Chisti Commander of Police in London, quick enough to round on Muslims who believe celebrating Christmas is sinful. I would have expected a public statement from him on how he intends to ensure the Muslim community are protected from such extremism.

Elections and voting

In May, there will be elections for London Mayor. Both front runners in the race, Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith have been at pains to prove their anti-Muslim extremism credentials.  Khan in particular has gone out of his way to distance himself from “Islamic” extremism and how he plans to tackle anti-Semitism, never at any time questioning dominant narratives or policies.

In courting the Jewish vote he has even expressed remorse and shame at anti –Semitism within his own Party, and voiced opposition to the BDS movement against Israel. However, he like his rival  Goldsmith appear to have said nothing publicly about the demonstrations by Britain First outside East London Mosque and what they plan to do to protect Muslim communities from the rising tide of hate directed against them if elected. If such an event took place outside any other religious building by Muslims what would their reactions be?

Many prominent members of the Muslim community in London are urging people to vote for Khan, but what are they requesting from him in return? If the Muslim community are being urged to vote for Khan, don’t they have a right to know what he will do for them in return, and publicly, just like he makes clear to the Jewish community.

Power and politics

The fact is, a vote on its own means nothing and does not give you power or influence. Muslims have been voting for decades, it has made them less powerful and more divided. Khan and Goldsmith both court the Jewish vote because the Jewish vote and community matters, and they know this. Behind the Jewish vote is an organised and influential community with its own goals. I have no problem with that, and understand it. Muslims should learn from that. The Muslim community is disorganised, powerless, with no clear goals of its own, as long as they remain like that they cannot have any expectations from politicians. Britain’s political system responds primarily to the goals of the rich and the powerful, not weak and powerless minorities.

Of course the Muslim community does have friends and allies and many British people do recognise what it is going through and we must work with them. Many in civil society have rallied against the rise in anti-Muslim/Islamic sentiments and hate. However the fact remains that being a powerless minority in Britain effectively means you don’t matter, you are at the mercy of politicians and the political system rather than an influencer of it.

Unless we generate independent political muscle with our own goals don’t expect much change in condition anytime soon.  The first step is to recognise simply voting does not equate to influence or power.

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