Birmingham Brief: Has the UK ignored the threat from the far-right?

The University of Birmingham today published my opinion piece on the threat posed by far-right extremism in response to last week’s atrocities in Norway.

You can read the article on the University website by clicking here.

There is also an online poll connected to the opinion piece. You can vote on this by clicking here.

And if you don’t fancy either of those, you can read the piece below:

Do you agree that the UK has ignored the threat from the far right?
Dr Chris Allen

“As news began to break about the atrocities committed in Oslo and Utøya on 22 July, a number of media outlets began to suggest that Al-Qaeda (AQ) was behind the attacks. Disparate reasons were put forward as to why this might be so: Norway’s involvement in Afghanistan and Libya, a recent decision to deport a Muslim cleric and the decision of a Norwegian newspaper to reprint the Danish ‘Prophet Muhammad cartoons’. The next morning, The Sun newspaper was emblazoned with the headline, “Norway’s 9/11”.

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And so it begins: the moderate, moderate mainstream, and moderate mainstream middle-of-the-road Muslims begin to form an orderly queue

Many of those who have heard me speak or present will have heard me suggest my annoyance at the flurry of Muslim organisations that are willing to ‘apologise’ for every Muslim incident wherever it might occur around the world to appease politicians. In fact, I’ve written about it on this blog a few years ago.

Admittedly, this is not always the fault of Muslim organisations: both the previous New Labour and present Coalition Government are guilty of dangling carrots in front of Muslim organisations asking them to leap through whatever hoops are put in front of them in the hope of eventually securing some of that carrot. In other words, to get a share of Government’s funding.

Not only does this internalise the problem for ordinary, everyday Muslims – the people the organisations allegedly ‘represent’ – but so too does is smack of insincerity. As the queue forms of Muslim organisations lining up to tell government – and indeed anyone else who’s listening – that they are ‘moderate Muslims’ so the next organisation is already preparing to set out their ‘moderate mainstream Muslim’ credentials whilst the next in line has planned to state that how they represent ‘moderate mainstream middle-of-the-road Muslim’. The next in line probably deny they are Muslims at all…!!!

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Against Complacency: new article on the MCB’s Soundings

A revised version of my blog article, Theresa May and Coalition Government accused of ‘complacency’ over re-hashing failed New Labour policies has now been published on the MCB’s Soundings web-page as part of its PREVENT 2011: towards informed responses feature. You can view the revised version, Against Complacency, by clicking here.

As well as my own article, there will soon be responses to the Coalition Government’s review of the Prevent strategy posted from such commentators as Richard Jackson, David Tyrer, Shamim Miah, Alana Lentin, Derek McGhee, Fahid Qurashi, Yahya Birt, Yunis Alam, Katherine E. Brown and Laura Zahra McDonald amongst others. Already published is an article by my colleague Basia Spalek entitled, A Top Down Approach.

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Theresa May and Coalition Government accused of ‘complacency’ over re-hashing failed New Labour policies

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, today pre-empted the publication of the revised Prevent strategy by criticising universities for their apparent “complacency” in tackling radicalisation and Islamic extremism on campus.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, May said:

“I think for too long there’s been complacency around universities. I don’t think they have been sufficiently willing to recognise what can be happening on their campuses and the radicalisation that can take place. I think there is more that universities can do”

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10 out 10 Domestic Terrorists prefer NOT to be Muslim (and other interesting stats…)

prisonEarlier this week, figures released by the Home Office highlighted that since 9/11, just 13% of those arrested under terrorism laws had been convicted of terror or terror related offences.

Of those arrested, 102 were convicted of terror offences and 94 were convicted on terror-related charges. From the total number of arrests 56% were not charged at all (although some have had further action taken against them on matters such as immigration for instance). At present, there are currently 125 terrorist prisoners in England and Wales of which 91% define themselves as Muslim.

But, as the headline suggests, this is not the complete picture. Start to play with these statistics and they make some interesting reading.

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Download Birmingham’s ‘Independent’ Evaluation of its PVE Pathfinder for free

bcc-logoIn my post last week about the ‘Independent’ evaluation of Birmingham’s PVE Pathfinder by Waterhouse Consulting Group, I wrote:

Lacking evidence, robustness, consistency and insight, I doubt whether the report – despite its pretensions to independence – will alleviate the criticisms that have already been posited at Birmingham City Council or answer the many questions that – unfortunately – continue to remain unanswered

If you don’t want to take my word for it, I can now exclusively offer the full and unadulterated ‘independent’ report for free.

Click here to download the ‘independent’ evaluation report for free

Just in case anybody is worried about this – or wants to threaten me (you know who you are…!!!) – I have written clearance from the Equalities Department of Birmingham City Council to share the report given that it is now ‘public’.

Download, disseminate and disagree.

‘Independent’ Evaluation of Birmingham’s PVE Pathfinder Published

bus-carcass

Tonight at the Burlington Hotel in Birmingham around 70 people (including two children and four members of staff from Waterhouse Consulting Group) were presented with the findings from the ‘independent’ evaluation of Birmingham City Council’s Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) Pathfinder programme.

The evaluation report, despite focusing on Birmingham’s PVE Pathfinder was strangely emblazoned with images of the bombed out bus carcass from the 7/7 bombings (see right), a London tube station sign with the phrase ‘We are not afraid’ written across it, and a London Evening Standard poster pronouncing ‘Terrorists attack London – many dead’ (nothing like reinforcing the stereotypes that you’re trying to combat). I hasten to add that there were also images of the bull statue from the Bull Ring as well as the Selfridges building, so at least two from five images had some relevance to the second city. Even more incredibly, the powerpoint presentation by Waterhouse Consulting Group’s Waqar Azmi also had the 7/7 bus carcass image included on every slide.

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“Islamic thinkers”: does the BNP have a point…???

Any regular visitor to this site will readily know that I’m not the BNP’s greatest supporter. In fact, I believe that I might even be on their ‘black-list‘ (if you pardon the pun…!!!). Either way, I do write about them often and you can find some of my posts using the ‘Tag Cloud’ feature in the sidebar to the right. However, I came across an article on the BNP website earlier today that I am in some agreement with…

Writing about the Government’s decision to fund a board of “Islamic thinkers” in an attempt to sideline “violent extremists” (read the BBC News story here…), I have to admit that I think that the BNP have a point. In their article, “Labour is as out of touch with Muslims as it is the public in general“, the party write:

THE Government’s complete lack of understanding of Islam is starkly exposed this morning by the Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, with the announcement that her department is to sponsor a theological board of leading Imams and Muslim women in an attempt to refute the ideology of violent extremists. Blears & Co hope that this committee will hold some sway with Muslims and that its pronouncements on areas such as wearing the hijab and the treatment of wives will help to counter radicalism. How naive can you get? The concept that a British Government sponsored board of hand-picked Western-friendly Muslims will be able to rule on the interpretation of the Koran and promote a moderate strain of Islam amongst Muslims living in Britain is laughable.

I’m not sure, but I think they’re making a fair point…???

The whole ‘Prevent’ strategy (including the Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) agenda) as well as the Government’s approach to Muslim communities of late is frankly laughable and entirely divisive, so to suggest that another group of Muslim ‘Usual Suspects’ thinkers will in any way be able to divert or sideline “violent extremists” – a group whose size, strength and potential is completely unknown and without any substantiation whatsoever – is farcical. Surely, these ‘Islamic thinkers’ were already in existence before 7/7, so if the ‘extremists’ (whoever they might be) didn’t listen then, why would they suddenly start listening now, especially given that they are being funded by the very people they seem to want to be ‘at war’ with or at least have issues with their foreign (and other) policy…???

As the BNP asks: “How naive can you get?”

And it’s not just the BNP that are raising their metaphorical eyebrows. The Muslim Council of Britain’s (MCB) Muhammad Abdul Bari states:

“British Muslims…do not need to be ‘re-programmed’ by a government-approved list of theologians”

Likewise, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Taji Mustafa agrees:

The British government’s interference amongst the Muslim community and matters of Islam, is unprecedented in comparison with any other religion. The government would like nothing more than to have credible figures pronounce that opposition to their foreign policy is tantamount to heretical extremism. Their problem hitherto has been to find credible figures to do their work.

Again, I think that they have a point. Amazing that I agree – in principle at least – with both the BNP and Hizb ut-Tahrir.

So who are the ‘credible figures’ that constitute this group of ‘Islamic thinkers’?

Like the BBC story referred to previously, the Times Online are unable to provide any names. Although we do know that £100,000 of public money will help Cambridge University to create an independent board of twenty leading Muslims academic and theological experts. NOte the subjectivity of the word ‘independent’ here. Elsewhere, it is near impossible to find any names as to who might be one of the ‘Islamic thinkers’ (an overly pretentious distinction if ever there was one). The only names that have been linked – albeit in terms of their vocal support – are as follows:

Imam Irfan Chisti, Asian News

Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, Hindu Times & BBC News

Azzam Tamimi, BBC News

Given that £100,00 of public money is being invested in such a plan, it would seem only reasonable to know who the ‘Islamic thinkers’ are. But as with anecdotal evidence that is available about PVE, it would again appear that the Government is happy to fund and support whichever Muslim organisations and individuals are willing to say and do exactly what they want for the right amount of money. A strategy that does nobody any use whatsoever – except the ‘Usual Suspects’ themselves. Suffice to say, no names need shaming.

So does the BNP have a point…???

Well ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Having stuck my neck out and accepted that they have made a somewhat legitimate point, the rest of the article fails to build on the good argument that they initially put forward, quickly resorting to type:

The British Government, with its invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and unequivocal support for Israel in its suppression of the Palestinians, is a clear-cut enemy of Islam. The idea that a group of Muslims, lured no doubt by a lucrative financial arrangement paid by this very enemy of Islam, will hold any credibility within the mosques of Britain shows that Labour is just as out of touch with the Muslim Community as it is with the aspirations of the public in general…

…There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. When Muslims want advice they go to their local mosque, they certainly won’t be waiting for a Government pronouncement from its Muslim Committee.

The fact that the Government has launched this desperate initiative indicates that Gordon Brown and his cabinet have information that there is a very real threat from Muslim extremists to the public. If this is the case, then it’s not another tame-Muslim committee that is needed but swift action to tackle the problem. We have got to stop this appeasement of Islam that is being spearheaded by our own Archbishop of Canterbury, senior judges and politicians with a vested interest. They are encouraging Muslims living here to believe that one day Britain may well become an Islamic state.

We must make it very clear that this will never be the case by confronting the spread of Islam head on with measures that start immediately to reduce its influence within Britain.

And so all the old BNP adages around Britain becoming an ‘Islamic state’ come to the fore and raise their ugly head once again, as does the suggestion that ALL Muslims are extremists for the very fact that they ARE Muslims and very little else.

Strangely – and thankfully – I’m reassured by their approach in the latter paragraphs as it gives me cause to continue to dislike the BNP. However, what is worrying is that if an ardent voice against the BNP like myself is seeing some ‘sense’ in their rhetoric, how easy are the Government – and let’s not forget some Muslims and their respective organisations also – making it for others to see that same ‘sense’ as well? Is the money that is lining their pockets in colluding with the Government really of benefit to the communities they allege to represent…???

It’s a worrying prospect and one that I fear will not reduce extremism but increase it. Increase it in terms of more extremist views and opinions against Muslims.