On Saturday, Green Lane Mosque and the University of Birmingham hosted a discussion on Islamophobia and Racism at Edgbaston Cricket Stadium, where speakers billed included Conservative peer Baroness Warsi, and Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West.
The organisers said: “In light of the recent incidents of Islamophobia from cricketer Azeem Rafiq, the talk aims to educate the community on how they can tackle and overcome issues like Islamophobia and racism in our society.”
Warsi and Shah are Treasurer and Vice Chair, respectively, of the APPG on British Muslims, which in 2018 produced a definition of ‘islamophobia’ that failed to draw a distinction between hatred of Muslims and fear of Islamism – a religio-political ideology which seeks for all humankind to live in a global sharia governed caliphate where non-Muslims would be relegated to second class citizens.
Polls show that most Britons, including most Muslims, are unsupportive of this project, and want to live in a plural, secular democracy. Yet in its catch-all definition of ‘Islamophobia’, the APPG failed to distinguish between hatred of Muslims and opposition to the totalitarian political project of Islamism.
It is a supreme irony that Green Lane Mosque is hosting an event to educate the local community on tolerance.
The mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham is the headquarters of the Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, an influential umbrella body within the Muslim Council of Britain promoting Sunni fundamentalist Salafi Islam, with over 45 mosques, educational and charitable associations affiliated to it.
Yet in the 2007 Dispatches documentary for Channel 4 Undercover Mosque, its imam Abu Usamah, who is still Green Lane mosque’s ‘religious advisor’, was filmed teaching that a ‘jihad’ was coming against the unbelievers.
In the sermon Usamah referred to non-Muslims as ‘Kuffaar’ and stated: “No one loves the kuffaar, no one loves the kuffaar! Not a single person here from the Muslims loves the kuffaar, whether those kuffaar are from the UK or the US we love the people of Islam and we hate the people of kufr. Muslims should not be satisfied is living in other than the total Islamic state”.
“Allah is going to bring a group of people that he loves and they love him, these people will who will be soft and kind to the believers and they will be rough and tough against the kuffaar, they will fight in the cause of Allah. I encourage all of you to be from amongst them, to begin to cultivate ourselves for the time that is fast approaching where the tables are going to turn and the Muslims are going to be in the position of being uppermost in strength, and when that happens, people won’t get killed – unjustly.”
Elsewhere in the Undercover Mosque documentary ,Dr Ijaz Mian preached at the Ahl-e-Hadith Mosque in Derby:
“King, Queen, House of commons….if you accept it, you are a part of it. If you don’t accept it, you have to dismantle it. So you being a Muslim, you have to fix a target. There will be no House of Commons. From that White House to this Black House, we know we have to dismantle it. Muslims must grown (sic) in strength…then take over. You are in a situation in which you have to live like a state within a state, until you take over. But until this happens, you have to preach, until you become such a force that the people just submit to you.”
Muslim group the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) condemned the Channel 4 documentary as “another example of anti-Muslim hostility,” stating that it “exemplifies the problems of inherent Islamophobia and racism within the mainstream media”.
Yet the makers of Undercover Mosque, Hardcash Productions, in May 2008 won a public apology and six figure libel settlement from West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service after Ofcom threw out their complaint that the material in the documentary was unfairly edited and distorted preachers’ comments. Ofcom also did not uphold complaints from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, from the Islamic Cultural Centre, and from the London Central Mosque.
On 24 November, a Westminster Hall debate was called by Labour MP for Manchester Gorton Azfal Khan, a former deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, to mark Islamophobia Awareness Month. It heard that, according to Home Office figures, Muslims were the victims of 45 per cent of recorded hate crime in the past year.
Chillingly hostile and abusive messages read out by MPs in Westminster Hall included the following to Apsana Begum, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse:
“Muslims should be banned from public office…we can’t trust their allegiances”;
“Muslims are the masters of lying. They are the bane of our Christian society. They do not belong and should be deported”.
During the debate, Labour MP for Bradford West Naz Shah also cited as an example of ‘Islamophobia’ in public life a comment made by broadcaster Trevor Phillips that Muslims are “becoming a nation within a nation”, an observation he made on the results of a 2016 ICM poll for Channel 4 on British Muslim attitudes.
Yet the connection between the hostile narratives being preached to British Muslims in ‘Undercover Mosque’ and the suspicions directed at Begum seems unmistakable. And the comment made by Philips, the former chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, who drafted much of the equalities legislation that protects Muslims from discrimination, far from bigotry, seems a reverberation of the preaching of Dr Ijaz Mian to his congregation “you have to live like a state within a state’.
If Warsi and Shah seriously believe the views of Trevor Philips are a danger to social cohesion, they are in denial about the views of the Abu Usamah ‘religious advisor’ to Green Lane Mosque, their host on Saturday, who as well as the hate speech about non-Muslims above, said on Undercover Mosque:
“If I were to call homosexuals perverted, dirty, filthy dogs who should be murdered, that’s , my freedom of speech, isn’t it? But they’ll say no, I’m not tolerant, but they feel that it’s OK to say something about the Prophet?”
In a curious double standard, while demanding zero tolerance on ‘Islamophobia’, Baroness Warsi argued in a debate on the government’s Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill in the House of Lords in October 2018, that the government’s widespread “non-engagement with a wide range of Muslim community organisations and activists”, must end and many who are seen as extreme must be forgiven. Muslims who may have said perceivably extreme things in their “youth or heady days of activism” on issues including “politics, faith, women, minorities, homosexuality” were treated too harshly, she claimed, saying that the UK must not “become a country that polices thought”.
The 2019 report by Commission for Countering Extremism Challenging Hateful Extremism drew a clear distinction between Islam and Islamism, noting that the latter is “a separate political ideology based on a binary worldview that pits the Muslim nation (or ummah), which is deserving of the loyalty of all Muslims, against non-Islam and non-Muslims, towards which Muslims must show enmity. Islamists see the division as necessary so that the ummah can strive towards the establishment of an Islamic state (Caliphate) that implements a literalist interpretation of Sharia law.”
In so doing, it demonstrated the fatal flaw in the APPG’s definition of ‘Islamophobia’ promoted by Baroness Warsi and Naz Shah. While most islamists seek to achieve sharia governance over time by means of proselytising and political evolution, while supporting islamist causes abroad, those on its far right fringes seek to impose a caliphate by force, seeing jihad and martyrdom as the greatest acts of faith.
The messages sent to Apsana Begum demonstrated a clear symbiosis between the Islamist Far Right and the British Nationalist Far Right. For the problem of ‘Islamophobia’ to be effectively tackled, both the Muslim community and the wider British community must challenge those pushing narratives hostile to the identities of others, which as have seen, include a preacher endorsed by Green Lane Mosque, co-host of British MPs at Saturday’s event.
Until MPs acknowledge this ‘bigotry blind spot’ in the national debate, and resolve to challenge it where they find it in schools, universities, mosques and town halls in their constituencies– then any debate on ‘islamophobia’ is an exercise in futility, and attempts to stamp it out are doomed to fail.