Monthly Archives: March 2010


    Ruth Gledhill in The Times reports on a paper to be published in the next issue of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations by Nick Chatrath (pictured), a researcher at Oxford’s Faculty of Oriental Studies, in which he argues,  

 ‘…in the face of growing radicalisation in Britain, Muslim leaders are ignoring extremists’ points of view and glossing over some of the more unsavoury parts of Islam’s ancient texts.’ 

Gledhill writes: 

‘In an essay in next month’s Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Mr Chatrath called for a more open engagement by moderate Muslims with the arguments of extremists.

‘Mr Chatrath said: “Moderate Muslim leaders are doing a poor job of tackling extremism in Britain.”

‘He said that extremists such as Mr [Anjem] Choudary, who has argued that democracy should be replaced with obedience to Allah, were using the Koran and other ancient texts to justify their actions. He called on moderate community leaders to do more to counter this.

‘“This attitude must change, as the best way to extinguish extremist arguments is to deal with them out in the open, not just sweep them under the carpet and hope for the best,” he said.

‘“Some recent polls suggest ordinary British Muslims are becoming more sympathetic to extremists, and this could be related to the way moderate Muslims are ignoring the extremist threat.”’

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    The Daily Telegraph prints a comment piece by Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, on the report produced by the CLG select committee on Prevent yesterday. 

Murray reiterates criticisms made by many Muslim organizations of the disbursement of public funds for no discernable Prevent-related return, as well as the problems the programme has yielded in terms of fragmenting communities by disproportionately targeting British Muslims.

Murray contends that the CLG committee came to right conclusions despite ‘listen[ing] to some people who can be alarmingly unhelpful.

‘In fact, it constituted exactly the sort of people who have helped lead Britain into such a fragmenting mess. They included a Khomeinist group, the Islamic Human Rights Commission. They included professional race-relations industry “experts”, who have done so much to deform this country in recent years. And they included groups who gave glowing endorsements to Prevent precisely because they receive huge funding from the pot.’

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  The Committees on Arms Export Controls, comprising the Business, Innovation and Skills, Defence, Foreign Affairs, and International Development Committees, today released the ‘Scrutiny of Arms Export Controls (2010)‘, report in which they call upon Government to:

set out clearly [in its Response to this Report] the longer term lessons learnt post Operation Cast Lead and how they will impact in practice on the issuing of future licences for arms exports to Israel.’ 

The MPs repeat their conclusion from an earlier report, that

‘…it is regrettable that arms exports to Israel were almost certainly used in Operation Cast Lead. This is in direct contravention to the UK Government’s policy that UK arms exports to Israel should not be used in the Occupied Territories. We further conclude that the revoking of five UK arms exports licences to Israel since Cast Lead is welcome, but that broader lessons must be learned from the post conflict review to ensure that UK arms exports to Israel are not used in the Occupied Territories in future.

‘We recommend that the Government, in its Response to this Report, set out clearly the longer term lessons learnt post Operation Cast Lead and how they will impact in practice on the issuing of future licences for arms exports to Israel.’

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  The Communities and Local Government select committee (chair, Dr Phyllis Starkey, pictured)  has today released its report into Prevent. Following a call for evidence last year and oral evidence sessions held earlier this year, the committee has produced its report into the Prevent stream of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy.

Among important critiques of the strategy contained in the report are questions over the allegations of ‘spying’ on Muslims, the problem of housing Prevent under the Communities and Local Government umbrella on social cohesion, the discriminatory and stigmatizing impact of Prevent – with its heavy focus on Muslims, the government’s pre-occupation with theological factors influencing radicalization over the more apposite effects of political, policy and socio-economic factors. And, as well argued elsewhere, the report acknowledges the widespread perception in Muslim communities that ‘Government has sought to engineer a ‘moderate’ form of Islam, promoting and funding only those groups which conform to this model’.

The report in summary states:

‘Our inquiry has shown that the current overall approach to Prevent is contentious and unlikely ever to be fully accepted in its existing form by those it is most important to engage. The current breadth of focus of Prevent—from community work to crime prevention—sits uncomfortably within a counter-terrorism strategy.

‘We also strongly support the need for a clear national strategy which deals with the specific threat from al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism. However, we question the appropriateness of the Department of Communities and Local Government—a Government department which has responsibility for promoting cohesive communities—taking a leading role in counter-terrorism initiatives. We agree with the majority of our witnesses that Prevent risks undermining positive cross-cultural work on cohesion and capacity building to combat exclusion and alienation in many communities. We see a very important role for CLG in continuing such work and acknowledge its contribution to the aims of Prevent. However, we believe that this work can be successful only if untainted by the negative association with a counter-terrorism agenda.

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  ENGAGE have written to Charles Farr, Director-General of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, which funds the Quilliam Foundation, concerning the QF’s latest report, ‘Re-programming British Muslims: a study of the Islam Channel’.

Read the ENGAGE letter here.


  The PCC has upheld a complaint against Rod Liddle (pictured) for a blog he posted on Spectator blogs claiming, ”The overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community.”

The PCC in its adjudication, publicised today, notes:

‘The Commission recognised the magazine’s argument that the nature of a blog post is often provocative and conducive to discussion. The blog in this case – which had been clearly attributed to the columnist – had certainly provoked considerable debate.
 
‘However, the magazine had not been able to demonstrate that the “overwhelming majority” of crime in all of the stated categories had been carried out by members of the African-Caribbean community. It was difficult to argue that the sentence in question represented purely the columnist’s opinion, which might be challenged. Instead, it was a statement of fact. As such, the Commission believed that the onus was on the magazine to ensure that it was corrected authoritatively online. It could not rely merely on the carrying of critical reaction to the piece. The Commission upheld the complaint under Clause 1 of the Code.’

 
Read the complaint and PCC decision here.


  The Quilliam Foundation, unfazed by its pathetic Islam Channel alert in April of last year, has produced a report on the Channel, ‘Re-programming British Muslims: A study of the Islam Channel, accusing it of ‘promoting backward attitudes to women, intolerance towards other sects and religions and promoting extremism’.

Like much of the QF’s steady output of drivel, the report is poorly researched with causal relationships established on the flimsiest of empirical data. What follows is ENGAGE’s critique (not exhaustive) of the report, its many howlers, and some recommendations of our own for the Foreign Office and Home Office, the sources responsible for the QF’s financial viability. The financial and other support of these offices for the QF renders neither impervious to criticisms of complicity in this latest smear campaign.

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  The Muslim News today prints an interview with the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron MP, in which he proclaims that the Conservatives, if they form the next government, ‘won’t do formal things with the Muslim Council of Britain’, citing the Istanbul Declaration as reasons for suspending links.

In an interview with the editor of the Muslim News, Ahmed Versi (AJV), Cameron (DC) answered questions posed on the Conservatives’ approach to dealing with Muslim organizations.

AJV: You have broken off relations with the Muslim Council of Britain, so had the government but then it was patched up. Why did you do that?

DC: We won’t do formal things with the Muslim Council of Britain until either they distance themselves from the individual concerned, or he distances himself from the support for violence that he has set out in the past. Until one or other of those two things happen, we wouldn’t want to have formal meetings with the MCB.

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  After the dreadful Dispatches programme by Andrew Gilligan, ‘Britain’s Islamic Republic’, and as the EDL plans another demonstration in an English town with a large Muslim population, the Guardian prints a letter signed by political activists, trade unionists and anti-fascist campaigners, asserting that ‘Islamophobia is a threat to democracy’.

The letter states that ‘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.’

Read the letter and list of signatories here.


  Adrian Hamilton (pictured) in his column for The Independent yesterday wrote on the diplomatic spats between the UK and Israel and the US and Israel arguing that recent events clearly suggest, if there was ever a doubt, that ‘Israel’s interests are not the same as ours on Palestine’.

He wrote:

‘Israel’s interests are not difficult to define. For it, the name of the game has to be security and that security has always been defined as maintaining a total military dominance in the region and keeping the Palestinians weak and divided nearby.

‘Iran has to be faced down because Tehran threatens its military hegemony. Nor is there any mystery as to why Israel should prove so difficult about the settlements and the status of Jerusalem. Facts on the ground are what counts for security. A prosperous and self-confident Palestinian state represents a potential threat. Hence the Israeli government’s obsessions with process in peace talks, the policies of state assassination to lop off any leadership the Palestinians might develop, the regular clampdowns and military forays into Gaza and the West Bank. Israel’s interest, according to the view of all but a minority on the left in the country, lie in a future despite the Middle East not as part of it.

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