Malcolm X once said “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
Recent misinformation and press coverage concerning well known Muslim spokespeople forces us to ask the question: Who is driving a wedge between the Muslim community and the rest of society? Why is there such a concerted effort to turn orthodox Muslims into social outcasts?
The Times newspaper made claims recently that extremist Islamist speakers were being allowed to offer public lectures in British universities through the resident student Islamic societies. Evidence for their claim of extremism was produced through regurgitation of a trumped-up report produced by an organisation called ‘student rights’. ‘Student rights’ claims to be the brainchild of an individual called Raheem Kassam who purports to be a student studying at Westminster University. Supposedly the organisation was setup to oppose extremism on campus by concerned individuals. However, the rabbit hole seems to go deeper than this. An article on the Institute of race relations website mentions:
“Student Rights was set up in 2009 as a student representative body, but people are questioning how many students it represents. ‘Where is their legitimacy to be pressuring SUs without any significant student membership to speak of?’ asks an NUS officer. Student Rights has denied links with other organisations, however payments made in Student Rights’ name in 2010 were found to be made from a HJS (Henry Jackson Society) bank account”
Kassam is also a former director of communications for the right wing think tank the Henry Jackson society (HJS). HJS absorbed into it another think tank called the centre for social cohesion in 2011 (CSC). CSC was born of another think tank called Civitas in 2007. Both CSC and yet another well-known right wing think tank called ‘Policy Exchange’ were exposed in a report produced by ‘Spinwatch’ in September 2011. The thorough report concluded that fear and anti-Muslim sentiment was being manufactured with such think tanks acting as the acceptable face of this intellectualised hatred. The report exposed that through the seeming credible facade of these right wing think tanks that a ‘Cold War’ was being fought against British Muslims.
The report’s co-author, Professor David Miller of Strathclyde University, said: ‘The policies advocated by the Centre for Social Cohesion and Policy Exchange detailed in the report inevitably mean the curtailment of civil liberties and the narrowing of political debate. The consequences for British Muslims though will be even more serious.’”
It is of notable concern that Douglas Murray is an associate director of HJS and also the now defunct CSC. In a speech delivered in 2006 Murray said: “Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition. We in Europe owe – after all – no special dues to Islam. We owe them no religious holidays, special rights or privileges.
He also said: “From long before we were first attacked it should have been made plain that people who come into Europe are here under our rules and not theirs…If…some Muslims don’t have a mosque to go to, then they’ll just have to realise that they aren’t owed one.”
Douglas Murray himself is a committed neoconservative. The dangerous ideologue that he is means he believes his version of ‘liberal’ values should be pursued with force if necessary across the globe and at home. Murray and his neoconservative ilk perceive Islam and Muslims as a threat to this pursuit. As such the policy of the neocons has been a physical war on Muslims abroad to create friendly client states and a cold-war on Muslims at home. In Murray’s worldview the proliferation of the symbols of Islam in the form of Mosques and Hijabs are a sight so alarming that manufacturing fear and laying the ground for public opinion to support draconian government policy against Muslims is the only way. The government’s prevent strategy is now explicit that ‘non-violent extremism’ is a conveyor belt to violent extremism, and so oppressive application of extradition laws or security enforcement orders for Muslims has enjoyed public support and met little resistance. Extremism is being equated with orthodox or conservative Islam and as such both public opinion and public policy are being shaped disadvantageously against Muslims.
More troublingly is that this worldview is held by those who hold political authority. Murray in an interview in America described the former prime minister Tony Blair as a neoconservative – and thus one can understand Blair’s eagerness for war in Iraq. He also described the now education secretary Michael Gove as ‘very neoconservative’, a man whom Ken Livingstone (former mayor of London) described as ‘stridently Islamophobic’. He also said “Just look at [Gove’s] writings and the general tone he takes is to depict Islam as genuinely a threat. He’s at the extreme end of this.” Michael Gove is currently a trustee of HJS and also acted as chairman of Policy Exchange. Being a neoconservative is inextricably linked with support for the state of Israel. Liam Fox, former defence secretary and ultra neo-conservative demonstrated this well in 2006 when he said, “Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together or we will all fall divided.” According to the UKIP party group ‘Friends of Israel’ a number of Murray’s neoconservative policies have been adopted by UKIP, including opposing multiculturalism.
The spinwatch report also states that it:
“…reveals for the first time the network of individuals and foundations that are bankrolling both think-tanks (CSC and Policy Exchange). Donors identified in the report include the neoconservative Rosenkranz Foundation in the United States, and hardline Zionists like Lord Kalms and the late Cyril Stein in the UK. It reveals that both think-tanks share major donors with a number of controversial organisations including the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers, the Israel-Diaspora Trust (an organisation founded by the late Rabbi Sidney Brichto, a passionate supporter of Israel and scourge of its critics inside and outside the UK Jewish community) and the Anglo-Israel Association (founded in 1949 by the Christian Zionist Sir Wyndham Deedes). ”
Concrete evidence is emerging that we here in Britain have what could be described as an Islamophobia industry, much similar to the networks exposed by the Centre of American Progress Report (CAP) in the US. Built and funded to manufacture hate and fear against Muslims. MJ Rosenberg who is a former employee of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee commented on the report in an article on Al-Jazeera “The amazing thing about the CAP report is that it exposes people who try very hard to cover their tracks.”
He also said:
“A small group of foundations and wealthy donors are the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America, providing critical funding to a clutch of right-wing think tanks that peddle hate and fear of Muslims and Islam-in the form of books, reports, websites, blogs, and carefully crafted talking points that anti-Islam grassroots organizations and some right-wing religious groups use as propaganda for their constituency.”
How low they will stoop is beyond belief. The London student newspaper had a front page splash exposing ‘student rights’. Whilst claiming to oppose extremism on campus they questioned the banning of the BNP from LSE’s student union in 2009 as an infringement of free speech. Why would ‘student rights’ an organisation setup to deal with extremism on campus feel the need to defend the right of the BNP?
Slovenian-born philosopher Slavoj Zizek also mentioned something of great interest in an interview with Al-Jazeera. He expressed his fear of a new type of fascism taking root in Europe. He also stated that he didn’t fear the Muslims of Europe but the false protectors of a Judaeo-Christian legacy. He said, “be aware Brevic (meaning Anders Brevic who recently went on a killing spree in Norway) is the clear case of something paradoxical emerging now – anti-semitic Zionists.” He went on to say that Brevic was not a lone madman, rather he had the basic attitude of many American conservative Christian fundamentalists today. More interestingly he went on to say, “Are the representatives of the state of Israel aware of what they are doing? They sold their soul to the devil – they made a deal with those political forces in the west which are by definition anti-semitic. They told them you can play your racial games there so long as you let us do the same with the Palestinians. ”
The institute of race relations article says:
“Student Rights has unwittingly provided Casuals United (a right wing racist group) with information about Muslim students’ activity around universities, which is then used by them to harass and intimidate the venues and societies hosting the events.”
One has to wonder how accidental such information sharing really is! It is more than evident that ‘student rights’ are mere tentacles of higher level organisations that are pushing a very dangerous agenda, wherein coalitions of the most absurd nature will exist. Again this is commented on by Rosenberg
“CAP followed the money, went behind the innocent-sounding foundation names, and cross-referenced them. And now we have it: the hate network exposed. It’s pretty ugly. Jews whose main concern is Israel align themselves with Christian rightists who don’t like Jews. There are even a few Muslims who are dispatched by the network to tell audiences at churches and synagogues just how bad their people are. It’s weird.”
Islamophobia is, in its most simple terms, the mainstreaming of fear of Islam and Muslims. It is this fear that leads to hatred, hostility and discrimination. The Islamophobia industry has whipped up a fear so toxic that it spilled out into its only logical conclusion: violence. Whilst the right wing extremist groups are very useful to achieving the end goal for people like Murray i.e. ‘Life being made more difficult for Muslims’ it also goes to demonstrate the shallowness of their own values and the danger in the reckless rhetoric they are willing to employ.
Natahan Lean mentions in his book exposing the US Islamophobia industry
“As it turns out, the decade-long spasm of Islamophobia that rattled through the American public is the product of a tight-knit and interconnected confederation of right wing fear merchants. They have labored since the day the planes hit the towers to convince their compatriots that Muslims are gaining dangerous influence in the west. Biggoted bloggers, racist politicians, fundamentalist religious leaders, Fox news pundits, and religious Zionists, theirs is an industry of hate: The Islamophobia industry”
In the UK we have our own well organised Islamophobia industry, and as such it has its own inroads and outreach to its sympathisers within mainstream media outlets who are of a similar mindset. One should not be surprised to learn that Daily Mail columnists like Melanie Philips were referenced in the mass murderer’s Ander’s Brevic manifesto as evidence for his actions. He holds deep seated concerns that Muslims will soon reveal their true face and usurp Europe. This constant drip feeding of poison to the public is self-validating this horrendous outlook on geopolitics and brainwashing the likes of Brevic to dangerous ends. It also feeds into the negative narrative about Muslims that currently presides. The great irony in all of this is that they whip up hysteria by falsely claiming to act in the interests of preserving the integrity of liberal values – the reality however is far different. Even if they don’t realise it themselves, the truth of what they pursue is in essence a new type of fascism that camouflages itself in the language of protection of liberal values.
The natural result of the climate of hostility has led the Muslim community to suffer either: hyper assimilationist tendencies wherein people wish to distance themselves from the images and the labels by declaring allegiances, blending in and appropriating wholesale the language of the dominant narrative, or it has led to hyper isolationist tendencies resulting from feelings of powerlessness, being unable to respond to how one is being defined. However, as is becoming ever more evident, being resentful and shutting one’s eyes and ears will not make the problems go away. Rejectionism through incendiary language is also a position of isolationism. Whilst one may justify their methods by claiming it to be a religious imperative, the truth is that it is a mere mechanism for venting frustration that further distances you from society, and thus you achieve the isolation you seek.
Muslims cannot shy away from being conscientious objectors of the status quo. In fact they have to be more than this, since they are stakeholders in society, shouting from the periphery is not enough. Muslims have to break through the mental barriers, and through grassroots civic engagement play an active role, with selfless acts of goodness and giving. By demonstrating dedication towards the betterment of society, will come the imparting of a guiding hand in the direction of society. To be assimilationist or isolationist does not fulfil this religious duty.
Muslims must also serve their duty as being people who deliver the message of Islam in its pristine form and therefore it is important for Muslims to remain principle-rich and in a measured way, explain the failings of modern society and stay firm collectively in their right to express themselves even if others attempt to use this to stoke up hostilities and brow beat them into silence.
By Adam Belaon