Monthly Archives: August 2014

The South Wales Argus draws attention to the use of the term “muzzy” in a Facebook post by a councillor in Torfaen suggesting violence is an endemic feature of Islam.

Mike Harris, an Independent councillor elected in 2012 to represent the Pontypool ward on Torfaen Borough council, posted the remark “Once a Muzzy!” alongside an article in the Daily Mail about the reported executions of 11 suspected informers by Hamas.

Harris, who also serves as a chairman of the Safer Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, defended his post by asserting “it is not racist” and denied it was an anti-Muslim slur.

According to South Wales Argus, while referring to the picture accompanying the news article which shows executioners with guns, Harris claimed the post was intended to indicate that “They are executing people so they must be confused and not able to think clearly or muzzy as it says in the dictionary.”

His defence and explanation is questionable when taken alongside previous anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant comments posted on his social media page. In 2012, Harris declared his support for the BNP’s immigration policies and called for “an Act through Parliament to reclassify all immigrants as being illegal immigrants”.

Moreover, he wrote on Facebook that “Towns and cities all over our beautiful country now resemble parts of Asia and Africa” and “Muslim extremism is flourishing on the streets of Britain”.

A council spokesman confirmed that the council had been contacted by members of the public in relation to the latest post. Although concerns have subsequently been referred to the Public Service Ombudsman, the Ombudsman has not received a complaint in relation to the ‘Muzzy’ remark. 

The London Evening Standard and the Times reports that the All Party Parliamentary Group on Beef and Lamb is to trial a new slaughter technique ‘in experiments to satisfy halal meat consumers’.

The Times reports that the APPG “want to persuade Muslims that slaughter techniques in British abattoirs can be consistent with their religious beliefs.”

The experiment, according to The Times, will see animals stunned but not killed by the method so that when a blade is put to the throat of the animal it will still be alive. The trial is an attempt to mediate in the dispute arising from a campaign by the British Veterinarian Association to see all animals stunned before slaughter.

The Times headlines its article ‘Animals to be stunned and revived in halal experiment’ and the Evening Standard goes with ‘MPs want new slaughter ways for halal meat’.

The Times further notes that ‘some Muslims refuse to accept the practice [stunning], resulting in hundreds of thousands of animals a week having their throats cut while conscious’.

In neither article is there any mention that the cutting method is also used by British Jews for kosher meat. The articles display a singular focus on halal meat despite the stunning method being used in the slaughter of the bulk of meat used for halal consumption.

The articles also overlook the fact that the APPG acknowledged in its report on religious slaughter that shechita (or kosher) slaughter is permitted in the United States of America as a humane form of slaughter and research at the University of Hanover in Germany has supported religious slaughter as a humane method.

In its inquiry earlier this year, the APPG made it clear that it was exploring whether pain was experienced by animals without stunning in comparison to stunned animals and whether alternative stunning methods could be used.

Moreover, according to figures published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2012, a survey of slaughterhouses showed that the number of animals not stunned prior to slaughter for both kosher and halal meat only accounted for 3% of cattle, 10% of sheep and goats and 4% of poultry.

The APPG report further recognised the sensationalist media reporting on the issue. It is particularly disappointing to see that the newspapers have paid no heed to these concerns.

British Muslims are used to regular attacks by Islamophobes posing as sub-standard journalists but disgraced Katie Hopkins’ latest outburst has hit a new low and offended thousands of British Muslims.  She made vile and false accusations in a tweet against the Prophet Muhammad (saw), a copy of the screen shot is above. This ’new low’ for Katie comes just weeks after she tweeted messages about cupcakes and guns during Ramadan disparaging Muslims who were fasting through the month and ridiculing Islam.The ‘paedophile’ accusation is one that has been used frequently by the BNP, the EDL and Britain First, to make the actions of a few criminals of south Asian descent a means of attacking the whole Muslim community by bringing religion into it.  Islam has nothing to do with the criminal conduct of those men who plied young girls with alcohol and drugs, raped and abused them and exploited them for monetary gain.

While the right to cause offence is widely accepted as free expression, causing serious offence and deeply insulting what others hold sacred is truly unacceptable in a democratic society. Hopkins would not make similar claims of Jesus or Christianity in light of child sex abuse scandals in Catholic institutions or of white British people following the widely publicised scandals involving Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall, Rolf Harris and a host of other famous faces. Indeed, the vast majority of men on the sex offenders register are white men – would Katie Hopkins tweet comments blaming Britons, or ‘white culture’ of Christianity for their actions?

Holding white people responsible for the criminal behaviour of the few would be indefensibly racist. Why then attack Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad (saw) for the behaviour of some Pakistani men?

The Sun newspaper, the most widely read newspaper in the UK, should not allow the views of bigots to grace its pages. It would not allow individuals who aired racial slurs or anti-Semitic remarks – it must not allow a person whose tweets clearly point to a deep hostility towards Islam and Muslims.

Voice your concerns and write to the editor of the Sun urging him to distance the UK’s most popular paper from this bigot.

Hopkins was sacked from This Morning after 85,000 people signed an online petition calling for her to be banned by ITV and Channel 5.  

It is time for The Sun to follow their lead.
What you can do:

EITHER 

Write to the editor – david.dinsmore@the-sun.co.uk – (and in your own words) tell him that:
  • Many Muslims read the newspaper and are deeply horrified and insulted by her comments.
  • The newspaper would do well to dispense with the services of this racist bigot.
  • The newspaper would not allow people who tweeted bigoted remarks about blacks, Jews or any minority group in Britain, it must not allow someone who takes pleasure in tweeting anti-Muslim comments.
  • The newspaper should follow the example of TV channels which have already acted to take her vile comments off our TV screens. The newspaper must follow suit and get rid of her.
OR 
Simply copy the sample text below and send it to:
david.dinsmore@the-sun.co.ukDear Sir,

I am writing to express my sheer disgust at a recent tweet by your weekly columnist Katie Hopkins. Whilst Ms Hopkins is no stranger to controversy and has rightly been sacked from ‘This Morning’ for offensive comments, her latest outburst is a new low and is deeply insulting to millions of Muslims. To call the Prophet Muhammad a ‘paedophile’ and to imply that Islam condones the rape of ‘young white girls’ is neither factually correct nor defensible as an expression of free speech. No doubt The Sun would sack a journalist who blamed black people for criminal acts committed by people of the same racial group; it would sack a journalist who expressed homophobic views about gay people or indeed anti-semitic views about Jewish people.  It must not tolerate this sort of Islamophobic tripe from a columnist whose outrageous bigotry has already seen her removed from TV. The Sun must not allow her a platform in its newspaper.

I urge you to sack Katie Hopkins like other media companies already have.  Her deep-seated prejudices have no place in our society and you would do well to dispense with the services of this racist bigot.

Yours sincerely,

Your name

Quite a few of the newspapers place the report by Professor Alexis Jay into child sex grooming gangs in Rotherham on the front page.

The report, which covers a range of failings by statutory agencies, from child services and local council officials to police officers, is a serious indictment of the failure to recognise and halt the scale of child exploitation in the city. The incidents reach back 16 years and involve some 1,400 individuals.

The Times, which has devoted considerable coverage to the issue, declares that the year-long inquiry was ordered by Rotherham council ‘in response to a lengthy investigation by The Times’.

Times270814The paper also goes on to state that the inquiry ‘found no definitive explanations for senior professionals’ consistent failure to protect children and hold offenders to account’.

It continues with quotes from the report’s independent author, Professor Alexis Jay, who points out that ‘almost all’ the offenders identified by the victims were men of ‘Pakistani heritage’.

Jay adds that there was a ‘widespread perception’ among frontline officers ‘that some senior people in the council and the police wanted to play down the ethnic dimension’.

Professor Jay went further adding that ‘There was also concern not to bring the ethnic issues out in the open, because it might damage community cohesion’.

The leader of Rotherham Council, Roger Stone, resigned on the report’s release yesterday.

The issue of child sex grooming has surfaced over many months with criminal trials in Oxford, Rochdale and London to name a few. The issue has attracted much media attention and on the back of it, protests and campaigns by far right organisations against ‘Muslim grooming gangs’.

Muslims have been at pains to distance themselves and Islam from the unspeakably wicked conduct of those men who preyed on vulnerable young girls, exploiting and demeaning them for personal interest and monetary gain. ‘Racialising’ the criminal element in child sex exploitation not only stymies efforts to reach all victims, irrespective of racial or religious background, but also puts an unhealthy, essentialising focus on ‘race’ or ‘religion’ as contributing or determining factors. Criminal behaviour should be identified for what it is whatever the racial or religious background of the perpetrator.

Muslim communities are at once hit by accusations of ‘covering up’ abuse while being faulted for the reticence of officials to tackle criminality for fear of ‘causing offence’ or being ‘seen as racist’.

Still, some of today’s coverage of the report treads familiar ground with the Daily Mail reporting on claims the BBC has ‘sanitised’ the news by removing references to the ‘racial identity’ of the men engaged in grooming young girls.

DM280814 Daily Mail reporter Sue Reid takes comfort in the admission of the racial identity of many of the men involved in grooming gangs feeling vindicated for her own reports on the issue for the paper.

Paul Vallely and Randeep Ramesh in The Guardian both highlight the undercurrent of anti-Muslim bigotry often unleashed by the media’s reporting on sex grooming and child exploitation.

Ramesh observes that “there must be an acceptance that perpetrators were criminals rather than Muslims. Surely the crime of a young girl being raped should have led officials to act, whatever the colour of the skin of her assailant?”

Paul Vallely adds a note on the improvements in child services introduced by Rotherham Council since the scandal though he acknowledges little of it “will make headlines the way a bit of sensationalist stereotyping will. But it will do far more to protect children.”

Nowhere has the impact of ‘racialised’ coverage on a wider community been better articulated than in the Guardian by Associate Comment Editor Joseph Harker, who contrasted the media’s coverage of grooming gangs in northern towns and the fact that the majority of men on the child sex offence register are white Britons. As investigations got underway into Stuart Hall, Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris, he wrote:

“If you think the claims about white people are wrong, then so is the stereotyping of Britain’s Muslims, and the widespread questioning of their culture and their religion, because of the perverted actions of a few.”


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The Guardian reports on an investigation launched by the Advertising Standards Agency into Britain First’s use of royal symbols following a complaint.

The far right group’s website features an online shop where supporters can purchase a range of products including an embroidered baseball cap, a beanie hat, a hoodie, a members’ only jacket and three polo shirt designs all of which bear the political party’s logo and an image of the Royal Crown above it. One of the products, also bears the image of the Scottish Royal Arms.

The paper notes the party’s use of its merchandise in campaigns and electioneering particularly in the European election in May. The words “Taking our country back” and “Rule Britannia” also feature on the group’s branded clothing.

Following a complaint from an internet user, the Advertising Standards Authority conducted an investigation into the advertisements promoting the clothing range. The ASA assessed whether the images on the BF website, which show the clothing designs, breached the Committee of Advertising Practice Code (CAP Code Edition 12).

The ASA stated that “We understood from the Cabinet Office that the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, responsible for authorising official use of the Royal Crown and Scottish Arms, had not granted permission for Britain First to use the Royal emblems on their merchandising.”

It concluded “The design on the clothing was clearly visible on the website pages and in the ad on Facebook and, because we had seen no evidence to show that Britain First was entitled to use the emblems, we considered that the images of the Royal Crown and Scottish Arms had been used without prior permission and therefore breach the Code.”

Article 3.52 of the CAP Code states “Marketing communications must not use the Royal Arms or Emblems without prior permission from the Lord Chamberlain’s office. References to a Royal Warrant should be checked with the Royal Warrant Holders’ Association.”

In addition, Britain First failed to respond to the ASA’s enquiries and consequently also breached article 1.7 of the Code.  As a result, the ASA noted Britain’s First “apparent disregard for the Code”.

Disregard which is evident in the reaction of Britain First’s chairman, Paul Golding, who stated “It’s not an official crown, it’s something we’ve designed with a graphic designer”. Golding further described the ASA as a “toothless quango with no power which no one takes any notice of”.

While the ASA has no power to rule on the use of the crown image on the group’s uniform itself and elsewhere, the watchdog has informed Britain First not to use images of the Royal Crown and Scottish Arms in their advertising unless they acquire the appropriate official authorisation that permits them to do so.

The Guardian further reports that the Cabinet Office has consequently written a letter to the far right party asking it to remove all images of the crown from its website, marketing materials, stationary and stock “with immediate effect”. It follows a number of complaints about the party’s use of the official symbol as well as the ASA’s assessment.

A Cabinet Office spokesman stated “It appears that Britain First has not fully complied with our requirements and we are considering the most appropriate next steps.”

Britain First and its motto of ‘Taking Our Country Back’ has seen the far right group engage in a number of controversial and confrontational campaigns including the so-called ‘Christian patrols’. As noted in the Guardian, Britain First also distributed army-issued Bibles to “mega-mosques” in Bradford and Glasgow as part of its “Christian crusade” campaign. The paper reports police in Bradford and Scotland has been investigating into the incident.

In addition, the Electoral Commission launched an investigation into its decision to allow the party to exploit the death of Lee Rigby through the use of the tagline “remember Lee Rigby” in its voting slips for the European elections last May.

ITV News features a short clip on the impact of world events on hate crime in Wales.

Reporter Owain Phillips talks to Sheikh Zane Abdo who tells him about the casual abuse directed at Muslims by drivers and passersby who hurl racial abuse at Muslims. Sheikh Abdo notes that many engaging in such behaviour are usually drunk and that Muslim victims often ‘ignore’ the abuse rather than report it.

South Wales has seen a 20% in hate crime compared to figures for the last year with the majority of hate crime being of a racially biased nature.

Last month a young Muslim woman spoke of her ordeal at being targeted by a man who approached her in Bristol city centre ranting about events in the Middle East before spitting on her.

In the aftermath of Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder last year, race hare crime in South Wales more than doubled compared to the same period the previous year.                                  

The Welsh Government undertook a hate crime consultation in 2013 before publishing Tackling Hate Crimes and Incidents: A Framework for Action earlier this year.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson in his column for the Daily Telegraph on Monday contributed to the reactionary bout of counter-terrorism policy proposals that have been circulating in the aftermath of the beheading of James Foley by a young man suspected to be a British Muslim.

The Independent Reviewers of Terrorism Legislation, past and present, Lord Carlile of Berriew QC and David Anderson QC, have both called for changes to the T-pims regime to bring it closer to the Control Order system it replaced when the Coalition came to power. But as The Guardian notes in an editorial, the control order system was far from perfect with individuals noted to abscond while under Control Orders.

Conservative MP David Davis in the Mail on Sunday argues young Britons found to have travelled to Iraq or Syria should be stripped of their citizenship despite international treaty obligations and legal rulings that deny countries the option to render subjects stateless.

The Mail on Sunday editorial reiterates the same stating “Home Secretary Theresa May’s efforts to strip jihadists of their passports could prove much more effective.”

The paper does acknowledge the legal quagmire this represents but is indifferent to the “obligations under UN and European human rights conventions not to create ‘stateless persons’” arguing that the measure deserves ‘very serious consideration’.

Guardian230814The London Mayor, however, goes further arguing “The law needs a swift and minor change so that there is a “rebuttable presumption” that all those visiting war areas without notifying the authorities have done so for a terrorist purpose.”

The ‘rebuttable presumption’ translates as ‘guilty until proven innocent’. A complete reversal of the legal principle on presuming innocence until guilt is proven. But then Mayor Johnson has in the past advocated taking Muslim children into care to protect them from ‘child abuse’ inflicted by ‘radicalised parents’ who ‘teach them crazy stuff’.

The views advanced by Davis and Johnson were strongly rebutted by former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, who in an interview with the Daily Telegraph and BBC World at One dismissed the suggestions as ‘draconian’. Grieve pointed to the violation of common law principles on which the presumption of innocence rests and, on the question of citizenship stripping, said “If we are about to rip up a UN convention, we need to think through the consequences.”

The kneejerk reactions and calls for legislative changes were also criticised by Richard Barrett, the former global counter-terrorism director of MI6, who in an interview with The Guardian newspaper said in relation to Boris Johnson’s ‘rebuttable presumption’, “This fundamental tenet of British justice should not be changed even in a minor way for this unproven threat – and it is an unproven threat at the moment.”

TIoS240814he Independent wades in too with an editorial in yesterday’s paper denouncing the ‘rhetoric without substance’ of Government and Opposition alike. Criticising the rush to play cavalier with liberty, the editorial today states:

“As for calls to prosecute people who have gone to war zones, irrespective of their motives for going there, or their actions while there, this is grandstanding of the worst kind – grotesque in principle, unworkable in practice.

“Religious extremists are a menace to a democratic society. But combating their ideology will take time and require much patient, hard work. We should not jettison hard-won liberties, or adopt a mirror image of their own totalitarian mindset in the process.”

Several other newspapers ponder the policy dilemmas with The Observer calling for ‘clarity and logic’ from the PM David Cameron as well as candour from the British state on its role in contributing to the forces that are now shaping the region. In an editorial, it stated:

“What is missing is a narrative from Britain’s political leader that is strong on clarity and firm on logic. He is in a position where he could contribute to – and even lead – a meaningful, nuanced and robust discussion about what current events in Iraq tell us about the delicate tribal, economic and religious issues at play and what part Britain played in that narrative over the last 10 years.”

Mary Dejevsky reflects on Theresa May’s short term memory reminding the Home Secretary of the position the UK government took on Syria about a year ago. Dejevsky also ventures to discuss factors that have contributed to the presence of young British Muslims in Iraq and Syria. She writes:

“And if even a minority of British-born Muslims are seduced by the idea of the caliphate, we need to ask how much might that be our fault, and the fault of successive governments: for privileging multiculturalism over integration; for giving unconditional refuge to radical preachers; for pussyfooting around such issues as gender segregation, face veils, rigged elections and school curriculums, before suddenly deciding – with the Trojan Horse investigation – that tolerance has gone too far.”

Dejevsky’s claim that ‘privileging multiculturalism over integration’ has in some way contributed to the alienation experienced by young Muslims flies in the face of empirical evidence which demonstrates the affinity Muslims have to Britishness and British institutions.

The idea that ‘tolerance has gone too far’ and that officials have been ‘pussyfooting around such issues as gender segregation, face veils, rigged elections and school curriculums’ are alarming when one considers the rhetoric of the far right which often argues the same.

Gender segregation and face veils are matters of liberty and agency; where women choose single-sex forums or to veil their faces, are they really contributing variables to radicalisation? And are all women who veil their faces, or men and women who opt for segregated seating, ‘at risk’?

As for the point about ‘rigged elections’, it overlooks the Electoral Commission’s admission that “evidence from police data and prosecutions shows that people accused of electoral fraud and people convicted of fraud come from a range of backgrounds including white British, South Asian and other European backgrounds. It would be a mistake to suggest that electoral fraud only takes place within specific South Asian communities.”

By conflating the issues of multiculturalism, veiling, gender segregation, electoral fraud and the Trojan Horse affair, Dejevsky plays to the stereotype of British Muslims as ‘resisting integration’ even as she thoughtfully concludes her column with a plea against the ill-advised punitive talk of David Davis, Boris Johnson and Theresa May. She writes: “Most British Muslims do not constitute any threat. They, and we, need to hear ministers give that assurance at least as loudly as they sound their alarms.”

Matthew Parris in his column for The Times on Saturday cautioned against the rampant anti- Muslim hostility evident in comments posted to online articles in the mainstream press or reputable blogs.

Following the example of Peter Oborne’s ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Muslim’ documentary, Parris substitutes Jew, Jewish and Judaism in the vile comments posted on a Times thread to illustrate the ‘ferocity’ of the bias and the incomparable language reserved for Muslims that would be inconceivable if used against Jews, blacks or gays.

‘Whichever minority you chose you would think such remarks completely unacceptable. They would shock you. Applied to Muslims, though, they did not shock me. They dismayed me but I found the sentiments almost routine’, he wrote.

Islamophobic sentiments being a ‘routine’ feature of our public discourse is precisely the reason Baroness Warsi warned of Islamophobia passing the ‘dinner table test’. But whether one judges from the point of Oborne’s documentary in 2008 or Warsi’s speech of 2011, it would seem the depth and scale of the prejudice has not been tempered. Far from it judging by the sorts of remarks Parris reproduces.

Parris surveys the comments posted by readers of The Times and the Daily Telegraph, the latter previously attempted by Ava Vidal in her review of the anti-Muslim comments posted by ‘young men’ on publication of her article on Muslim women and hate crime. Highlighting the reaction of readers to a post by a Muslim woman who sought to do that which is periodically demanded of British Muslims when atrocities are committed in the name of Islam by a co-religionist, proclaim that the overwhelming majority of Muslims have no truck with the ‘jihadists’, Parris wonders what choices moderates are left with when spurned by readers whose antipathy for all Muslims is undisguised and palpable?

There has been considerable commentary in the papers recently about the anxiety felt by British Jews since the launch of Israel’s latest offensive against Gaza. Columns and opinion pieces articulating fears, real and perceived, of a resurgent anti-Semitism. And yet, more than a year on from the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby; some months on from the ‘Trojan Horse’ saga and days since the beheading of James Foley, the relentless media coverage about Islam and British Muslims of late has not merited anything comparable in terms of the effects of media output and latent hostility on the security and welfare of British Muslims.

And while Parris is correct to point out the ‘routine’ nature of anti-Muslim hostility and the impact of media output on public attitudes, he misses an important point: Islamophobic sentiment and discourse is ‘routine’ because anti-Muslim prejudice is not yet regarded as every bit as social unacceptable as racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia. Until that changes, comments of the sort Parris identifies won’t just be posted but worse, tolerated.

A number of the national newspapers on Friday led with the story of journalist James Foley’s barbaric beheading by an ISIS fighter strongly suspected of being a Briton; see the Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Times and The Guardian.

Many of the papers, including Thursday’s lead story in the Metro, highlight the exhortations of Muslim leaders to assist in the search to identify the executioner labelled ‘Jihadi John’. Some mention the Muslim Council of Britain’s press release denouncing the ‘psychotic violence’ of ISIS and the ‘jihadi-cool’ subculture which has seduced young Britons to join the ISIS ‘caliphate’.

There is some speculation in the papers about the number of young Muslim Britons who have travelled to Syria with estimates ranging from 400-500 to ‘more than 1500’, a figure attributed to Khalid Mahmood MP. The Times on its front page declares the latter figure reflects ‘Hundreds more UK Muslims choose jihad than army’, a not so subtle suggestion that British Muslims are, in part, not loyal to Britain.

The Guardian notes the imminent publication of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report into the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby last spring and the lessons to be drawn by the security agencies from the affair. The newspaper quotes ISC member, Dr Julian Lewis MP, who said “If we try to be neutral between the arsonist and the fire brigade then we run into problems. We were not neutral in this country between Nazi doctrine and democracy or between Communist doctrine and democracy. We should not be neutral between Islamist totalitarianism and democracy.”

Lewis throws his weight behind the thinking present in the Prime Minister’s speech on ‘muscular liberalism’ and repeated after the Rigby murder, that tackling extremism must move beyond its violent manifestations to extend to ‘non-violent extremism’.

Among counter-terrorism measures floated in the Guardian piece is the return of control orders.

The Daily Mail adds to the discussion about the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy complaining that recommendations proposed by the Taskforce on Tackling Radicalisation, which was set up in the days following Lee Rigby’s murder, have yet to be implemented. Proposals mentioned include the so-called ‘terror ASBOs’ and the removal of incendiary material from websites.

The Daily Mail invites a view from Professor Anthony Glees. He told the paper ‘Why are there Brits there? In my view this is because Islamist extremist ideologies have been able to be spread with relative ease in our country under the cover of religion, free speech and multiculturalism.’

No mention in the quote of foreign policy as a contributing factor. Though this is not near as disturbing as the assumption that ‘Islamist extremist ideologies’ are buttressed by ‘the cover or religion, free speech and multiculturalism’.

While there is some criticism of the Government’s lackadaisical approach to countering extremism there is less rigour on the policies that have adopted to date and their efficacy. As Francis Davis, a former advisor to the Rt. Hon. John Denham MP during the latter’s time as Communities and Local Government Secretary writes in a blog for The Tablet, “Theresa May leans in the same direction as did Tony Blair, Ruth Kelly and Hazel Blears before her. The trouble though is that from the Northern Ireland to South Africa, Jerusalem to Nicaragua and beyond, state-led community interventions to identify ‘moderate’ radicals, or to identify potential agents of political violence in advance have more often than not had a radicalising rather than a moderating impact because of their very bluntness and over emphasis on ideology over evidence.”

The criticism of ‘ideology’ trumping ‘evidence’ was first identified in the Prevent inquiry report by the Communities and Local Government in 2010 which stated: 

‘Regarding the Government’s analysis of the factors which lead people to become involved in violent extremism, we conclude that there has been a pre-occupation with the theological basis of radicalisation, when the evidence seems to indicate that politics, policy and socio-economics may be more important factors in the process.

‘There is a sense that Government has sought to engineer a ‘moderate’ form of Islam, promoting and funding only those groups which conform to this model. We do not think it is the job of Government to intervene in theological matters…’

As the debate about ISIS turns to the question of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy, now would be a good time to address its preoccupation with ideology over evidence.

Douglas Murray in a guest column for the Daily Express on Thursday attempts to transmute popular outrage at Israel’s disproportionate assault on Gaza, in which nearly 2,000 Palestinian civilians have been murdered, into a rallying cry in support of Israel’s military campaign by arguing that she is ‘on the front line’ of the struggle against ISIS.

Murray, in a style reminiscent of the speech given by Tony Blair at the Bloomberg office in London earlier this year, groups Hamas together with Hezbollah, Boko Haram and ISIS suggesting all share ‘the exact same ideology – if not yet the same means’. And in the same vein as Blair, Murray links events in the Middle East and Africa with the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot, as though all were seamlessly linked.

Murray seems oblivious to important qualifiers: Hamas is the democratically elected government in Gaza and Hezbollah possesses both a military and political wing with the latter having a presence in the Lebanese parliament. This lazy classification is symptomatic of the British Government’s inquiry into the Muslim Brotherhood on similarly flawed premises; believing the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt to be a terrorist organisation’ because the military ruler who ousted a democratically elected president in a coup d’etat decreed it so.

Conveniently glossing over these important distinctions, Murray’s article appears to be a call to defend Israel’s brutality against the Palestinians by inferring that Jews, Christians and other religious minorities, the ‘Yazidis, Mandeans’ and ‘other minority faiths in Islamist-dominated countries’ are all at threat if Israel is denied the means, including British arms, to ‘stop the bombarding of its people’.

Murray woefully misrepresents the many factors that have contributed to the latest assault on Gaza focusing solely on Hamas rocket fire into Gaza and omitting other salient factors such as the seven year blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip starving its people of basic necessities such as clean water and sewage drainage; the murder of Palestinian youths by Israeli soldiers before the abduction and murder of the three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, and the murder of 6 further Palestinians children in the ensuing reprisal attacks; no mention of the ongoing illegal settlement building in the West Bank – which pushes the prospect of a two-state solution further into oblivion – nor any mention of the surge in ‘price tag’ attacks which the US government in its 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism defined as ‘acts of terror’.

Murray writes: ‘The extremists of Hamas are the ideological bedfellows of the extremists of IS who are rampaging through Syria and Iraq crucifying and beheading as they go.

‘There are those who think that Israel is somehow the cause of the world’s problems, or that in defending themselves from Islamic extremists Israel is somehow causing Islamic extremism. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

‘They believe that if Israel just gave up fighting and disappeared that the rest of us would be able to live in peace. 

‘Israel is not the cause of the world’s problems. It is simply on the front line of them. 

‘But increasingly so are we all. And if we abandon Israel today then one day – too late – we will realise that in fact what we abandoned was ourselves.’

Murray’s plea is not dissimilar to the argument advanced by former Spanish PM, Jose Maria Aznar, when he wrote, ‘Support Israel: if it goes down, we all go down’.

It is also the line of argument promoted by the Israeli embassy in Ireland with its images of European landmarks emblazoned with the words ‘Israel now, Dublin next’ or ‘Israel now, Paris next’.

Murray is disingenuous in using ISIS’ sectarian bigotry and the horrors inflicted on Muslims and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria as a means of disparaging the concerns harboured by Britons about the possible war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza and the right of Palestinians to live in dignity and security. Raising the spectre of ISIS as the ideological current binding together Boko Haram, free schools in Birmingham and protests outside British supermarkets against products sourced from Israel’s illegal settlements, Murray does his best to preach from The Israel Project’s ‘Global Language Dictionary’ and its advice on how to successfully drip feed pro-Israeli propaganda in the media.