A boost for radical Islam

Prospect Magazine

A boost for radical Islam

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The government’s decision to ban Islam4UK will only strengthen hardline Islamists—and drown out moderate Muslim voices

Pictured: Anjem Choudary


Here is a quote: “Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns. Why should we let them have ideas?”

It’s a question worth asking now that the government has banned Islam4UK, a secondary offshoot of the radical Islamic group Al Muhajiroun, and the same organisation that wanted to march through Wootton Bassett to remember the Muslim dead. Al Muhajiroun is also due be proscribed, 14 years after its inception in Britain.

On one hand, the home secretary’s move could be viewed as good housekeeping. In the aftermath of the 7th July bombings, Tony Blair warned that “the rules of the game are changing.” One of his first public acts was to proscribe the Saviour Sect and Al Ghurabaa—other incarnations of Al Muhajiroun. There was plenty of justification for such a ban. For many years Al Muhajiroun’s leader Omar Bakri Mohammed, his deputy, Anjem Choudary and the rest of his lackeys were thought to be nothing more than attention-seeking clowns who lived off the dole. The real problems were thought to be elsewhere—at the Four Feathers youth club where Abu Qatada sermonised, and at the Finsbury Park Mosque, where the hook-handed Abu Hamza held court. However, after the arrest of the Crawley bombers cell in the spring of 2004, it became startlingly apparent just how much Al Muhajiroun’s network of support, mainly through its offices in Pakistan, had helped create and train homegrown terrorists. The most pertinent example is that of Mohammed Siddique Khan, the leader of the 7th July plot. He had learned how to make explosives in an ad-hoc camp set up by Al Muhajiroun’s British and American members in the hills of Pakistan.

But now Islam4UK—run by Choudary in London and Bakri from Lebanon — no longer poses a threat in the way that Al Muhajiroun once did. Islam4UK has been whittled down to a few members, it no longer recruits en masse, and its ideas are no longer fresh. Also, given the broader rise of the post 9/11, English-speaking radical Islamic preacher, aspiring young jihadis no longer rate Omar Bakri’s theological standing in the way that they once did. Rather like a Trojan horse, Al Muhajiroun/Islam4UK served its primary purpose years ago. To proscribe the organisation now seems akin to attacking the wooden horse after its contents have already ambushed you. It’s not just futile, it’s dangerous.

The first danger is the most obvious: Choudary and his followers will thrive on their newly-acquired victim status and draw even more publicity than before (as evidenced by Choudary’s appearance on Newsnight immediately after the ban was announced). There is also the possibility that in a few weeks Choudary will simply create another group with a different name but the same ideas, and the process will begin all over again. In that respect, if the home office has specific criminal concerns relating to Islam4UK, they would be better to prosecute its members for such offences rather than try to impose a blanket proscription. After all you can’t ban Choudary from being Choudary.

The second danger is of a broader concern. Through its Prevent strategy, the government has decided to promote one set of ideas over another: moderate Islam over radical Islam. With vast financial grants, they have empowered groups such as the Quilliam and Lokahi foundations to fight “our” corner. However, the ban on Islam4UK sends out a worrying message about the rules: in this battle of ideas we will help our friends but we will also lock up our enemies for espousing ideas we don’t like. (The punishment for membership of a proscribed organisation is ten years.) This sounds like dictatorship. Should the British government continue down this path—the Tories say they will ban the avowedly non-violent Hizb ut-Tahrir—it would represent a huge erosion of freedom and democracy. The rules of the game really will have changed.

The third danger is that the government has (again) become an agent for immigrant paternalism. In a radio debate with Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, I was told that one of the reasons that Islam4UK was banned was because “the Muslim community has been complaining about this for ages.” He then reminded listeners that Al Muhajiroun was banned in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. When I suggested that these were examples of authoritarian countries whose law enforcement methods should not be emulated he replied: “How dare you.”

In a sense Mahmood is representative of a first generation who still thinks of themselves as guests of this country. Naturally they regard the second generation as their own children—who can be disciplined and dealt with as they see fit—rather than citizens of Britain in their own right. It is this same attitude that makes community-specific crimes such as honour killings so much harder to prevent.

And so if the government banned Isalm4UK because of pressure from Muslim community leaders suffering from “embarrassment” then they will have played right into the hands of the radicals, because such advice is based upon the very elements of separatism and anti-cohesion that the government so strenuously seeks to avoid. Interestingly, Patrick Mercer, the Consevative spokesman on security issues, was one of the few who recognised that Choudary is a British citizen before anything else, and his treatment should be primarily framed within that context.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, jihadis like Abu Qatada and, to a far lesser extent, Bakri and Choudary, present Muslims with theological arguments in much the same way that the BNP presents whites with arguments about race. By proscribing groups like Isalm4UK, and locking up radical preachers without charge, you deny moderate Muslims the chance to debate with these people and devalue the credibility of those moderate Muslims in the eyes of the wider community. Ideas are indeed more powerful than guns, but when it comes to engaging Islamic theology, our armoury of ideas is pretty empty. Strangling the development of intelligent counter arguments is possibly the worst thing we can do. Oh, and if you were wondering where that quote comes from, it was Stalin.

  1. January 14, 2010

    Amanda Craig

    How does banning a hardline organisation drown out moderate Muslim ones, pray?

    (Via Prospect Facebook)

  2. January 14, 2010

    John Kemp

    It won’t. Just gives the left-liberal consensus something to agonise over.

    (Via Prospect Facebook)

  3. January 14, 2010

    Azzam Tamimi

    Islam’s message is to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the Earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a state on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which nation assumes the role of the standard bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic state. It must be evident that the objective of Islamic ‘Jihad’ (armed struggle) is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule. Islam does not intend to confine this revolution to a single state or a few countries; the aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution.” (Dr. Azzam Tamimi, Director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought/London/United Kingdom.(info@ii-pt.com)

  4. January 14, 2010

    Jenni Corner

    If they were expressing their ideas by marching with empty coffins to the House of Commons it would seem to be preventing freedom of ideas but somehow marching to Wooten Bassett has echoes of Northern Ireland marching and incitement to violence. Personally I think we should all be paying our respects to the innocent muslims caught up in this war – but fundamentally that’s not the issue in this case.

    (Via Prospect Facebook)

  5. January 14, 2010

    Errol Flynn

    The headline of the article is misleading! There is no “radical” Islam; instead, Islam already promotes “moderation”. How would a Christian or Jew feel if one describes him as a radical Christian or a radical Jew? Please try to not offend any religion…

  6. January 14, 2010

    Salamantis

    So Choudary is a British citizen before everything else? I sincerely doubt that he considers himself that way; a perusal of their words and actions leads one inescapably to the conclusion that he and Bakri and Hamza and Qatada all consider themselves to be, first and foremost, soldiers of Allah, about the jihadic business of establishing the Ummah’s Dar El Islam Caliphate.

    And there is a big difference between the degree of appeal of the BNP to their main target, caucasian Christians, and these radical Islamic groups’ degree of appeal to their target audience (Muslims of any race). Christians do not seriously believe any more that Christianity requires racist views; that debate was waged and won, at terrible cost, in both Britain and the US more than a century ago. But many Muslims still consider jihad, in whatever way they can practice it, to be a religious duty incumbent upon any observant Muslim; in fact, jihad is widely considered in the Muslim community to be the Sixth Pillar of Islam.

    And as far as there being no such thing as Radical Islam, what do you call the Wahhab/Qutb mutation practiced by Al Qaeda, or the Luddite version practiced by the Taliban? Surely if the dead from the WTC atrocity were asked if the terror flyers who murdered them were radical (they most certainly were Muslim), they would answer yes, as would the victims of the Beslan school slaughter, the Bali nightclub massacre, the Madrid train bombings, the London subway attacks, the Mumbai bloodletting, and so many vicious actions worldwide committed with the cry of Allahu Ackbar on their perpetrators’ lips.

  7. January 15, 2010

    Barry Larking

    This is a difficult problem and highlights a paradox: How does a liberal society asset its values? It has been said that liberal democracy could not come into being in this present climate since it would lack the means to defend itself. Perhaps this paradox more than anything else has aided the ambition of many various Islamist sects and cults, this and the uses and abuses of post-modernism and the drowning pool of multicultural relativism.

    None of this is however, new. I read Islamic flyers and posters on lamp posts and walls in a northern city when Michael Howard was Home Secretary and before anyone had heard of Blair or G.W. Bush. The language and ideas have remained constant: Islam is the only path and no compromise with Modernism and the west is possible. They must be destroyed. Strict adherence to the faith must form the basis of this new society – Moslem and non-Moslem alike (“kuffar’ in the literature) and eventually the world – ‘Planet Islam’ was the goal.

    Temporising (‘they will calm down one day, it’s just student politics’) produced bombs on the London transport system and is now costing tens of millions of pounds annually to police. World transport has had to be radically re-organised because of what has happened in mosques and meeting places in the suburbs of the United Kingdom. People are being herded for hours in air ports far from Britain because of ‘toleration and dialogue’ with fanatics here.

    Arguments within Moslem immigrant communities which Mr Malik describes are beside the point. Secular state schools would go further than any initiative I have heard described thus far. Additionally, a policy for managed return to assist those decedents of immigrants who are diametrically opposed to the open society and values to leave the United Kingdom.

  8. January 16, 2010

    Michelle Graham

    This issue is so complex I hesitate to comment at all in such a limited arena, but while I’m wholly undecided about proscribing extremist religious/political organisations, this piece has a few glaring holes in my view.

    ‘…in this battle of ideas we will help our friends but we will also lock up our enemies for espousing ideas we don’t like’
    Islam4UK has been banned on legal grounds, not just because Alan Johnson doesn’t like them. You might want to argue that the law is unjust, but to put it this way is just simplistic.

    ‘…Choudary is a British citizen before anything else, and his treatment should be primarily framed within that context’
    This confuses the treatment of Choudary with the treatment of Islam4UK.

    ‘…you deny moderate Muslims the chance to debate with these people and devalue the credibility of those moderate Muslims in the eyes of the wider community’
    This seems to imply that the extremist debate is restricted to only Muslims. Why?

    As for comments exhorting me not to ‘offend’ religion, I will continue to do so while trying to be polite to that religion’s followers if you don’t mind. Most religions teach separatism, which is part of the root of the problem, and deserve to be offended. If a religion can’t stand up to criticism, it can’t claim to be worth listening to. If you can’t critically analyse your own, you should give it up – like I did.

    World transport has *not* had to be radically re-organised because of what has happened – it’s scaremongering and an overreaction to something that should be tackled with proper intelligence. The last attempted attack is a case in point and the Chilcot inquiry seems to be showing that the Iraq war had no legitimate foundation as a response to 9/11. I wonder whether there’s an argument that the West itself created the narrative of the Christian/Muslim divide.

    And why do people insist on deciding what every Muslim in the world believes and lumping them all together as jihadists? The Bible and the history of Christianity contain many examples of pro-violence but it’s hardly ever cited as proof that all Christians are bloodthirsty lunatics – because it’s not. Religious apologists who also support violence are not evidence that all adherents of that religion support the extremists’ other views. This kind of convoluted logic means that all Christians could be labelled Nazis because the Wehrmacht slogan was Gott mit uns!

    As for ‘managed return’ – OMFG, as Stephen Fry might say! What century do you live in? We are open precisely because we don’t live in the kind of totalitarian state you advocate. I don’t see why anyone opposed to your blanket description of this country should not be entitled to live here or to try to change it as long as it’s within the parameters of the law. That’s what democracy is! And are all our ex-pats going to have to ‘come home’ from ‘Islamic’ countries?

    There are parallels to be drawn between the BNP and Islam4UK, part of the reason I’m undecided about proscription, but as far as I’m aware the crucial difference is in the so-called glorification of terrorism. This makes the BNP far more dangerous than Islam4UK because of its covert tactics to legitimise itself.

    If we’re going to proscribe ideas or beliefs, we should radically rethink the fundamental basis for doing so.

  9. January 17, 2010

    Barry Larking

    “World transport has *not* had to be radically re-organised because of what has happened – it’s scaremongering and an overreaction to something that should be tackled with proper intelligence.” Michelle Graham.

    Ms Graham has not been to an airport recently. I spent a foot numbing hour queuing to have myself and my possessions thoroughly examined at a European airport and this scene is to be replicated around the world. Beside me were the shuffling elderly ‘kuffars’ and other travellers with small children. Push chairs were screened. A sixty year old white male European with a weight problem was frisked and frisked again in clear view. All this is as a result of both U.K. Islamic terrorism and a consequence of deluded ‘relativism’ on the part of the U.K. government’s over many years. Scenes such as I have described occur at airports around the world. See for yourself. Another great British export.

  10. January 17, 2010

    musa khan jalalzai

    This is a good article because extremist have captured the UK and want to wage a war in near future.

  11. January 18, 2010

    Mossytoddler

    There are no messages kaffirs can send that the majority of Muslims will hear. We are not part of their communication networks, for the most part. The message of banning religionofpeace, or whatever Choudary is calling his boy band this week, is aimed at reassuring the native population. It doesn’t.

  12. January 18, 2010

    Dave1001

    Dr. Azzam Tamimi, Director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought/London/United Kingdom.writes:

    “Islam’s message is to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the Earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the nation which rules it.”

    And what is Islam position if that nation doesn’t want its ideology or programme. Forced conversion?

    —————————
    He also writes:

    “The purpose of Islam is to set up a state on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which nation assumes the role of the standard bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic state.”

    True, undermining nations, peoples and lives is not a matter that Islam has ever concerned itself with
    ————————————-
    He still adds:

    “It must be evident that the objective of Islamic ‘Jihad’ (armed struggle) is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule.”

    Eliminate peoples, destroy nations, and undermine systems. And why should we put up with all that? Why Britain, with its history of rising up against fascism, should tolerate an ideology that unashamedly declares such aims and confess to such methods?

    ————————————

    And Dr Tamimi reassures us:

    “Islam does not intend to confine this revolution to a single state or a few countries; the aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution.”

    A collective punishment, a leap backwards, a revolt against progress, But not a revolution.

  13. January 18, 2010

    Dave1001

    1. Michelle Graham says:
    January 16, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    “I wonder whether there’s an argument that the West itself created the narrative of the Christian/Muslim divide”.

    That narrative started 1400 years ago. It began with the Muslims invading Syria, Palestine, Iraq and Egypt. Countries, which at the time, had more Christians than the whole of Europe. That narrative continued with the occupation of the whole on North Africa, Sicily and the Spain. It continued further with attempts on France and even Rome itself.

    When Christian Europe finally woke up to this naked aggression from the new “religion of peace” which supposedly is not hostile to Christianity, the “Crusades” came to pass. These may have not achieved their goals but they managed to stop the Muslim aggression. It was only through the huge gap in science and technological progress (including advanced weaponry) that Christian Europe managed to achieve in comparison with the Islamic World that Muslims were dissuaded from persevering with their project as Mr Tamimi above volunteers to explain.

    It is the West’s lack of resolve, complacency and lack of the will to fight, that are tantalizing present day Islamists to try again despite the continuing gap in power and might..

    With the degree of ignorance which, persists in the West about Islam and its aims and methods, with the degree of complacency, decadency and spiritual vacuum, the Islamists see themselves able to continue the narrative.
    ———————————————————————————–
    “And why do people insist on deciding what every Muslim in the world believes and lumping them all together as jihadists?”

    Unlike other World religions Muslims believe that their book is the direct and literal word of god. The Koran is meant to be literally understood. It is supposed to be a miracle in its clarity and it came to dispel any misconceptions that prior books and prophets could not elucidate. Also the Koranic text is supposed to be good for everywhere and for all times.

    But perhaps the surest way to have an excellent insight of what Muslims believe in is to look at the life, actions and sayings of the Prophet. There is no better example to elucidate the central messages of Islam.

    Once you familiarise your self with all that it will not be difficult to deduce what Muslims believe in. However, Muslims, like any other people, vary in their degree of commitment to religion. A fully committed Muslim will have, in one way or another, to subscribe to the Jihadi cause, by violence, money, word or prayer.
    —————————–

    “The Bible and the history of Christianity contain many examples of pro-violence but it’s hardly ever cited as proof that all Christians are bloodthirsty lunatics – because it’s not.”

    The history, and present day actions, of Christians? I agree! No argument about this.

    However, when we say the Bible we really need to be fair. I know this is not the forum where there is likely any sympathy for anything Christian, but a degree of objectivity can hopefully be expected.
    I know people will be quick to refer me to Isaiah and King David among many others, but there are a number of points that any objective person needs also to consider:

    - Christianity is defined by the New Testament not the Old
    - The Old Testament does not ask Christians (or Jews) to follow the example of Isaiah and the Jewish king
    - Jesus started a new covenant which is best exemplified by: They tell you (in the Old Testament) — But I say to you —. This is hardly an endorsement for the violence in the Old Testament.

    When it comes to the life of Jesus,- as an illustration of the Christian message- I am not sure you will find “many examples of pro-violence”. Please let us know if you do.

    ———————————-

    “Religious apologists who also support violence are not evidence that all adherents of that religion support the extremists’ other views. This kind of convoluted logic means that all Christians could be labeled Nazis because the Wehrmacht slogan was Gott mit uns!”

    The Fascists, Nazis, Americans in Vietnam, In Iraq or anywhere else and all other hate figures that people want to force on Christianity did not declare that they were fighting to please their god, or as part, and an important one for that matter, of worshiping god. Nor the Bible and the life of Jesus can be seen as a clear inspiration for their actions.

  14. January 20, 2010

    Lawrence

    I fully concur with Dave1001. Malik’s article is confused and contradictory, politically correct and standard liberal dhimmified prattle. As if one could expect anything else. If you don’t know what a dhimmi is you don’t know anything at all about the topic of Islam and jihadism.

    In any debate between Muslim moderates and Muslim radicals, the radicals win, since the radicals have their prophet’s life example and teachings on their side, they have the Qu’ran and Hadith on their side. Get a clue. Where do you think all this radicalism and jihadism is coming from anyway? The blue sky?

    It’s cluelessness and cultural relativism about Islam that only makes things so bad in the West in the first place – and this article and the Western media as a whole is part of the problem.

  15. March 3, 2010

    mahar_maratandi

    Radicalism always happened in most religion.Radicalism has been present since early islamic time.Radicalism is cancer to Islam.Since early time up to present islamic scholars battled to abolish radicalism.Although most of the battle won by the scholars.It is time for Islamic authorities and scholars to fight against radicalism.Thank you

  16. June 8, 2010

    Musa Khan Jalalzai

    Dear Editor, I read this article, very interesting, but I must say these people are terrorist and the enemy of this country. their religion is violence and killing.

  17. September 29, 2010

    Subir Ghosh

    An ideology can only be fought ideologically. The problem with banning something is that it goes underground, and then it becomes futile and frustrating to tackle it. And virtually impossible.

  18. October 7, 2013

    SEOPressor V5

    May I simply just say what a relief to find somebody that genuinely understands what they are talking about on the net.

    You certainly know how to bring a problem to light and
    make it important. A lot more people have to look at this and understand this side of the story.
    It’s surprising you are not more popular
    because you definitely have the gift.

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Shiv Malik

Shiv Malik
Shiv Malik is the co-author of "Jilted Generation: how Britain has bankrupted its youth" (Icon) 


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