This November, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) will be holding its course on political Islam and, like the last one, it is not without its controversial speakers.
I don’t have many fans in the SOAS political Islam Course; this is mainly because the think tank for which I work was instrumental in preventing the entry into the UK of one of its prominent invitees, Ibrahim el Moussawi. Moussawi, the head of Hezbollah’s propaganda station al Manar TV, was due to address the same course in March of this year until the Home Secretary refused him an entry visa at the last minute. SOAS, for their part, were more than happy to play host to a man who heads a TV channel which is banned in most of Europe because of its extreme antisemitism and promotion and incitement of violence.
Last week on CIF Martin Bright discussed possible grounds for engagement with non-violent Islamists. This was in response to a suggestion that the FCO needed to engage with non-violent Islamist parties like Hamas. A recent IPPR report also suggested that this type of engagement was the way forward. An important question to ask, however, is what kind of engagement is possible with non-violent Islamists?
It worries me when some commentators call for this kind of engagement. The problem with non-violent Islamists is that although they won’t commit violent actions themselves they believe the use of violence for political goals is justified. And is Hamas really a non-violent organisation? The European Union and United States have classified it as a terrorist organisation. Hamas’s original founding charter called for the destruction of the State of Israel. They have participated in suicide bombings that have killed innocent people, Israeli and Palestinians alike. Bearing all this in mind what kind of engagement can we expect to have with groups like Hamas?
During the last few years, the left-leaning Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank has built up an unenviable reputation on the tricky subject of engaging with Islamists. And for good reason. Previous IPPR papers have argued that hard-line British Islamists from groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood are our best allies against al-Qaeda because ‘shared interests, if not ideologies, are paramount: it is not in our interests or theirs for terrorists to mount another attack.’
The most troubling aspect of IPPR’s previous calls for the empowerment of Islamists has however been IPPR’s underlying argument that, in order to stop jihadists blowing up middle-class white people on planes, trains and buses in western capitals, governments should sell out their own Muslim citizens to religious fascists by empowering Islamists who want to dictate every aspect of ordinary Muslims’ social, political and spiritual lives.
Sheikh Andy (Anjem) Choudary, the self-parodying “emir” of Islam4UK, the latest renaming of Al-Muhajiroun (or Al-Macaroon as we prefer to call them here at the Spittoon), has released a video in which he attacks the critics of the English Defence League!
If ever proof were needed of the phenomenon of one set of extremist nutters requiring the existence of other set of extremist nutters to validate its own existence, it is this video statement from Sheikh Andy, in which he takes full credit for the creation of the EDL, which he says was caused by the provocation by “sincere Muslims” in Luton and Birmingham:
“The EDL and Casuals United who rose solely against the Extremist Muslims, erm Muslims, have a right to object to what we are calling for and engage in public dialogue wand discussion. But we should not allow those people, like the UAF and the Socialists and the Respect Party and the Labour Party to hijack this agenda for their own personal and selfish aims which have nothing to at to do with Islam”
This article (Conversion and Conflict: Muslims in Mexico) by Natascha Gavin was published in the Spring 2005 issue of the ISIM Review journal. ISIM is the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World.
Religious pluralism in Latin America has grown steadily since the second half of the twentieth century. Embedded in a broad spectrum of syncretistic Catholicism which incorporated various Amerindian beliefs and practices, communities first began to join the movement for liberation theology. The second and more diverse trend has been to move away from Catholicism altogether and join a variety of Protestant denominations. In Mexico, and especially in Chiapas, a new facet of religious pluralism is emerging: the spread of Islam. 
Abdullah Hasan, an Islamist preacher based in East London, has recently blogged on the website of the Jamaat-e-Islami front-group Islamic Forum Europe about how he cross he was about seeing adverts for mobile phone companies which encourage people to “gossip”.
For Hasan, who formerly studied in the Muslim Brotherhood-influenced “European Institute of Human Science” in Wales, such “backbiting and gossiping are among the vilest of deeds known to man and are, unfortunately, very prevalent amongst people today” and adverts promoting these acts are indicative of the sorry state of western society:
We live in a time where the very day to day function of many aspect of society is predicated upon elevating these evil and debased actions. There are some who even make a living out of gossiping and backbiting. There are many who write columns on newspapers about people’s private lives, who gossip about other people’s problems, and others who blog about what may or may not have happened to that person or that group.
i read this at asharq al-awsat, the arab daily produced in london (presumably so it’s harder for authoritarian governments to interfere with) and, although i generally don’t tend to see eye-to-eye with their 0pinion page editor mshari al-zaydi, he makes a thoughtful and challenging set of observations about the prevalence of conspiracy theories circulating in the arab and islamic worlds about 9/11:
All these suggestions and scenarios indicate the extent of the control of wishful thinking over us. This is because the common factor among all these ideas is to put the responsibility on the shoulders of a party other than the Arab and Muslim party, i.e. a party that is not us. I remember that there were some who spoke of the involvement of the Colombian drug cartels in these attacks. What is important is that the involved side is someone other than us, even if this one is a blue jinn.
Oxford House in Bethnal Green, east London is a community organisation dating back to 1884. To support its role as a venue for theatre events, drama, dance and the like it receives money from a wide range of organisations including the National Lottery, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and even the EU – see page 14 of their Charity Commission records for more details.(pdf)
It also does a sideline in hosting the nastiest Islamists London has to offer. It has regularly been the location for talks held by “Young Muslim Cooperation”, a blatant front for al-Muhajiroun. Salafi Media (another al-Muhajiroun front) hosts a large number of videos recorded at Oxford House. So unwilling is Oxford House to recognise the unpleasantness of their guests that, when the police stepped in to stop an event being held at Queen Mary’s University of London, al-Muhajiroun were allowed at the last minute to move the festivities to Oxford House. Islam4UK, the most open of al-Muhajiroun’s many fronts, even planned a conference Rise of the Khilafah there back in February.
Bob Pitt, a low-level civil servant who works for Labour’s Murad Qureshi in the London Assembly, has yet again exposed himself on his ‘Islamophobia Watch’ website as an illiterate, ideologically-blinkered buffoon.
In his latest blog posting he attacks, for a change, the secularist Muslims of the Quilliam Foundation.
This time he is calling on the government to “withdraw all state funding from the loathed and despised Quilliam Foundation and redirect it towards organisations that actually have roots in the Muslim communities.”
So from this one should presumably conclude that Bob Pitt thinks that only Muslim organisations that are popular should receive government money?
When the Muslim Brotherhood wannabes of the Scottish Islamic Foundation (SIF) were busted last month for what have been described as “financial irregularities”, this is what Pitt had to say in their defence:
In February 2007, the North London Central Mosque – better known as Finsbury Park Mosque – received a grant of £20,000 for a report “on combating extremism and terrorist propaganda in communities and institutions”. Two years later, one of the then trustees of the mosque, Mohammed Sawalha, would later go on to sign the Istanbul Declaration – as clear an example of “terrorist propaganda” as you are likely to find.
It is not sustainable to build a counter-terrorist strategy on partnerships with people whose opposition to terrorism is entirely contingent on time and place: they will always let you down.
This is a very major failure and a serious scandal.
Mohammed Sawalha was identified by the BBC in 2006 as a fugitive Hamas commander. This fact, and his trusteeship of the mosque, could have been determined by a simple google search. In other words, he is an extremist, a terrorist, and a member of a genocidal antisemitic organisation.