Is The Islam Channel Being Defamed?

This is a cross-post by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens

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CEO of Islam Channel

The Quilliam Foundation announced yesterday that they will soon be releasing a report on the UK’s Islam Channel. Quilliam co-director, Maajid Nawas, has sent around a text message publicising the upcoming release, claiming that the channel is a portal for ‘extremism, bias, sexism, sectarianism and attacks on mainstream Muslim practices.’ In response, the Islam Channel has issued Quilliam with a pre emptive libel threat, claiming that the report they haven’t seen yet is defamatory.

As anyone who has followed the Islam Channel knows, its CEO is Mohammed Ali Harrath – a man for whom Interpol have issued a Red Notice for offences involving ‘the use of weapons/explosives, and terrorism.’ Tunisia, his country of birth, has already convicted him in absentia on terror charges.

In November, Quilliam released a short briefing which identified the Islam Channel as one of the UK based groups that promotes al-Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki (for more on the UK Awlaki support network click here). Islam Channel has also threatened to sue because of this, claiming in their letter that ‘the accusation that the channel distributes Awlaki material is also untrue. The material does not feature on our website and no audio or video is either accessible or downloadable from the website’. This is technically true as they have now wiped all of the Awlaki material from their site. But the press release was accurate at the time (see below picture for screenshot from 12 November 2009 of Islam Channel’s website providing links and downloads to Awlaki lectures), and Islam Channel made no effort to remove the material until two months later when the story was picked up by the Observer.

Downloading Awlaki from the Islam Channel

The letter also points out that among other organisations, Amazon also provide links to Awlaki material. This is a weak defence: Amazon is not an Islamic organisation, and it sells books by writers of all shades, including Hitler and Sayyid Qutb. Islam Channel is, as its name suggests, Islamically orientated, and should therefore bare more responsibility for distributing extremist Islamic material.

Awlaki and Harrath are not the only questionable elements of the channel. It also produces talk shows presented by members of Islamist revolutionary group, Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT). HT employees of Islam Channel include Sajid Varda, Ibtihal Ismail Bsis, Aamna Durrani and Basharat Ali.

The channel also has a regular news bulletin, and when reporting on suicide attacks presenters make a specific effort to refer to these as ‘human bombs’. At first, this may seem an innocuous phrase, but there is more to it. One of the Islam Channel’s favoured preachers is Bilal Philips, a well-known American Salafi. They regularly broadcast question and answer sessions with him and recommend his scholarship. In one of his lecture series (see below video), he touches upon the issue of suicide bombings and gives a typical Salafi-jihadi justification for it. He explains that this type of attack is not an act of suicide, which is forbidden, but instead a ‘military act’ of shuhada (martyrdom). This type of theological justification is how Salafi-jihadis are able to carry out suicide attacks without the fear of being cast into the depths of hellfire. The fact that Islam Channel refuse to refer to these attacks as acts of suicide suggests that the production staff have adopted at least some of Philips’ extreme Salafi interpretations.

The concerns raised by Quilliam are based around Islam Channel’s high number of Muslim viewers and its attempts to present Salafist Islam as part of the mainstream. The content of both its website and programming does suggest that these concerns are, to some extent at least, justified.

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11 Comments

  1. Yaseen
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 11:47 AM | Permalink

    I guess this ‘expose’ by the poster boy and chief of the Munafiqs Majid ‘No more soverignty to Allah’ Nawaz on the Islam Channel is no different…as always it is iether the Sufi way or the highway. Don’t worry Majid you and Ed’s attentive audience is diminishing by the day…you’ll have you begging bowl out in a couple of years when the money dries up :)

    Islamophobia is a threat to democracy
    The Guardian, Thursday 25 March 2010

    We are concerned by the rise of Islamophobia, the negative coverage of Muslims in the media, the violent street mobilisations of extreme rightwing organisations like the English Defence League, and the rising electoral support for the British National party (The battle for Barking, Weekend, 13 March). Following Channel 4′s recent inflammatory documentary, Britain’s Islamic Republic, which saw concentrated attacks on the East London Mosque, the English Defence League marched through central London with placards including the demand “Close the East London Mosque now”.

    The East End of London is not new to having its communities attacked by fascists and the media. The 1930s saw the Battle of Cable Street when Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts attempted to march into the Jewish community in the area. We cannot allow this terrible history to repeat itself. Further, the documentary, and articles since, have attacked the participation in politics by the Muslim community. We cannot stand by and watch this continue without remark or action.

    In the runup to the general election, all parts of the population should be actively encouraged to exercise their votes. That is democracy. We welcome the work of organisations who work to this end. We call for solidarity and support for those organisations that work to encourage political participation from all sections of society, including Muslims, and condemn those who seek to undermine it.

    Ken Livingstone
    Bonnie Greer
    Dr Abdul Bari Secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain
    Brendan Barber General secretary, TUC
    Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC
    Dr. Edie Friedman Executive director, Jewish Council for Racial Equality
    Diane Abbott MP
    Neil Jameson Executive director, London Citizens
    Jagtar Singh Sikh Secretariat
    Tony Woodley Joint general secretary, Unite the Union
    Bruce Kent
    Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
    Professor Eric Hobsbawm
    Louise Christian Christian Khan solicitors
    Billy Hayes General secretary, Communication Workers Union
    Rabbi Lee Wax
    Anas Altikriti Spokesperson, British Muslim Initiative
    Caroline Lucas MEP
    Professor Avi Shlaim
    Lord Nazir Ahmed
    Kate Hudson Chair, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
    Andrew Stunell MP
    Ismail Patel Co-ordinator, YouElect.org.uk
    Claude Moraes MEP
    Rev. Alan Green Chair, Tower Hamlets Interfaith forum
    George Galloway MP
    Musleh Faradhi Central president, Islamic Forum Europe
    Jean Lambert MEP
    Salma Yaqoob Leader, Respect party
    Jenny Jones AM
    Steve Hart Regional secretary, Unite London Region
    Andrew Murray Chair, Stop the War
    Bell Ribeiro-Addy NUS black students officer
    Sabby Dhalu Joint secretary, Unite Against Fascism

  2. dawood
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 2:19 PM | Permalink

    Re: “Islamophobia is a threat to democracy” by Livinstone, Galloway and the Islamist Massive.

    It’s the “Guardian Consensus” in da house!

    This one spearheaded by Livingstone & Galloway and the usual Islamists. With a smattering of dupes and credulous liberals carted in to lend “non-stakeholder” credibility. Electioneering at its worst.

    A complete pack of lies by a pack of liars and fools.

  3. Engine No. 9
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 3:06 PM | Permalink

    Great article.

  4. Yaseen
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 3:06 PM | Permalink

    ‘A complete pack of lies by a pack of liars and fools.’ Dawood you two faced Munafiq, as though the Spittoon is a haven of the truth and fact….

  5. dawood
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 3:13 PM | Permalink

    Yaseen

    Opposing Islamist extremism is not Islamophobia. In the same way that opposing the Catholic Church of allowing the rape of young boys is not Christophobia.

    So yes, the Galloway-Livingstone letter is a complete pack of lies by a pack of liars and fools.

  6. Abu Faris
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 4:26 PM | Permalink

    “A complete pack of lies by a pack of liars and fools.”

    In which case it is not a consensus, by definition.

  7. dawood
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 4:43 PM | Permalink

    Depends on your point of view, I guess. You could say that the Daily Express is tabloid with a virulently anti-Muslim bias by consensus, or you could say they’re a disorganised group of gifted amateurs who make it up as they go along. The same applies to the Guardian, but with a whole different set of politics, of course.

  8. Abu Faris
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 10:08 PM | Permalink

    So, Dawood, you see the Guardian as the tip of a massive iceberg of liberal-left conspiracy, then.

    No, the Daily Mail is a virulently anti-Muslim yellow press rag that determines its editorial line as a result of the interests of its share-holders and not the truth. Please show me a newspaper that does otherwise.

    An editorial line is not a consensus. Newspapers do not work by the editor and assorted hacks sitting round and persuading each other of the merits of this or that approach to copy.

    Either you do not understand what an editor does, or how they work, or who they work for – or you still do not grasp what the word “consensus” means. Possibly both.

  9. Abu Faris
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 10:09 PM | Permalink

    “Nobody but a fool writes for anything but money” – Jonson.

  10. dawood
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 10:23 PM | Permalink

    So, Dawood, you see the Guardian as the tip of a massive iceberg of liberal-left conspiracy, then.

    No I see the Guardian as a newspaper which feeds a certain liberal-left consensus in the same way the Daily Express has a virulently anti-muslim consensus. If a newspaper panders to the interests of its shareholders or to a particular shade of opinion of its readership, that would be a good definition of its consensus.

  11. mansur
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 7:17 PM | Permalink

    “Tunisia, his country of birth, has already convicted him in absentia on terror charges.”

    Ah yes that cradle of democracy and justice Tunisia, whose leader is so popular he regularly wins “elections” with 99% of the vote. Any trial of a political opponent of the leader must have been truly free and fair.

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