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Archive for the ‘Islamism’ Category

Last week, the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based counter-extremist think tank, published a report on the output of the Islam Channel based on viewing three months of its content.  The report concludes that the Islam Channel is responsible for proliferating extremism, chauvinism and anti-Semitism as well as giving platforms to known supporters of terrorism and members of the Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The Islam Channel has promoted speeches by the Yemeni cleric, Anwar al Awlaki, whom US officials have linked to an airliner bombing attempt and shootings at an army base.  The CEO of the Islam Channel is Mohammed Ali Harrath – a man for whom Interpol have issued a Red Notice for offences involving “the use of weapons/explosives, and terrorism.”  Tunisia, his country of birth, has already convicted him in absentia on terror charges.

From Quilliam’s press release:

Promotion of backward attitudes to women.  The Islam Channel’s presenters and preferred guests repeatedly promote socially conservative, Wahhabi-influenced views of women, which see female freedom as a threat to social harmony.

Intolerance towards other sects and religions.  Religious preachers featured on Islam Channel programmes such as IslamiQA repeatedly make derogatory remarks to the followers of other forms of religious expression and urge viewers to reject the practices of non-Muslims and non-Wahhabi Muslims alike.

Promotion of extremism.  The Islam Channel has also promoted extremist individuals and groups, for instance, by advertising recorded lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, the pro-al-Qaeda preacher, on the channel and allowing members and supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir to host religious programmes.  The Channel also uses the phrase ‘human bombs’ to describe suicide bombers.

Quilliam calls on Ofcom, the UK broadcasting regulator, to hold a full investigation into the Islam Channel’s recent output.

Talal Rajab, the report’s author, says:

Islam Channel is the most watched Muslim TV channel in the UK. Unfortunately during the three-month period that we monitored its output, it repeatedly promoted bigoted and reactionary views towards women, non-Muslims and other Muslims who follow different versions of Islam. Although the channel does not directly call for terrorist violence, it clearly helps to create an atmosphere in which religiously-sanctioned intolerance and even hatred might be seen as acceptable.

By promoting a single narrow version of Islam – namely Saudi Wahhabism – at the expense of more diverse and tolerant schools of Islamic thought, the Islam Channel is wasting an enormous opportunity to positively shaping British Islam.  Young British Muslims need real answers on how to live as citizens in a pluralist, secular and diverse society.  Unfortunately instead of providing useful guidance the Channel promotes an intolerant rigid and out-of-date form of Islam that is of no benefit to either Muslims or society as whole.

Executive summary (download PDF)

Full report (download PDF)

The Islam Channel has responded with this press release, largely attacking the Quilliam Foundation in an ad hominem fashion without refuting the substance of the report:

Within the Muslim community, the Quillam [sic] Foundation is regarded with disdain and broadly with very limited or no credibility.  It is an organization with no community support, depending for its existence on government funding including the PVE scheme.

(…)

It should be of no surprise that an institution such as the Quilliam Foundation is not taken at all seriously across the Muslim community in Britain.  In contrast, the Islam Channel is a community funded and community centred channel covering a wide range of opinions and subjects that has been broadcasting for over 6 years and enjoys unparalleled support across the many sections of the Muslim community.

As a matter of principal, Islam Channel does not accept discrimination and rejects all forms of racism, islamophobia and anti-Semitism.  Islam Channel believes that the Jews should not be held responsible for the acts of the state of Israel and the criticism of the Israeli brutality should not be seen as anti-Semitism.

Islam Channel promotes the role of women in society and that is why almost half of those working at Islam Channel are women.  The channel encourages the Muslim community to take an active role in civic society and to take part in the social and democratic process. We strongly reject all forms of extremism including such extremist views displayed by the Quilliam Foundation.  We condemn unreservedly all forms of violence and the killing of innocent people regardless of their faith and ethnicity.

As Quilliam’s Maajid Nawaz puts it:

Regulatory bodies such as Ofcom must step up their game in monitoring and bringing to task the channel for repetitive violations of their broadcast guidelines; a full investigation is needed.  Finally, other media must not shy away from scrutinising the content of the channel, to continue to hold it and its CEO to account.  Freedom of speech carries with it freedom to scrutinise.  Let that scrutiny begin.

I’ll second that.

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Below are the YouTube videos to Andrew Gilligan’s report on the influence of the Islamist group Islamic Forum Europe, “Britain’s Islamic Republic”, Dispatches, Channel 4, 1 March 2010.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Further reading

Andrew Gilligan’s accompanying article in The Sunday Telegraph:

The mosque calls the IFE a “social welfare organisation” and the IFE presents itself as committed to “community cohesion” and “tolerance”.

But the undercover reporters discovered that it was also a sophisticated political group with a structured rank system and hardline goals.

Prospective recruits must attend training.  One undercover reporter was told that she would have to take an exam and swear an oath of allegiance and ordered to keep her membership of the IFE a secret.

The reading list for the recruits’ training course consists of the key works of the revolutionary political creed known as Islamism, which advocates the overthrow of secular democratic government and its replacement by Islamic government.

The key text, Let Us Be Muslims, by Syed Mawdudi, a high priest of Islamism, instructs recruits: “The sacred duty of Muslims … wherever you are, in whichever country you live, you must strive to change the wrong basis of government, and seize all powers to rule and make laws from those who do not fear God.”

Douglas Murray:

Andrew Gilligan’s programme will be shocking even for those of you who, like me, thought they couldn’t be shocked by this sort of thing any more…

Though there has been a lot of press coverage of the documentary, there has been far too little outrage about the opening sequences showing the East London Mosque (yes, that one, favoured by Boris Johnson and Prince Charles) as the venue for events at which the most virulent anti-gay and anti-women perverts preach.

Harry’s Place:

Apologists will of course point out that both mainstream Christianity and Judaism have their fare share of homophobes.  This is indisputably true.  The Alpha Course started at Holy Trinity Brompton, for example, has come under heavy fire for its homophobic components.  But I doubt even they would be so crass as to play a game of “Spot The Fag”.

Gilligan again:

The IFE, based at the hardline East London mosque, claims to be an “open and tolerant” social welfare institution.  In fact, as undercover reporters for Channel 4’s Dispatches found, it is working, in its own words, to change the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed… from ignorance to Islam”.  It may not manage that – but it has already won significant political power over a multiracial community through democratic, secular parties whose values are diametrically opposed to its own.

For the sake of balance, here’s what Musleh Faradhi of the IFE had to say in response to the programme (IFE website / Guardian Comment is free):

The IFE, and indeed the Muslim community, do not seek special treatment.  Nor will we settle for mistreatment. We seek justice and equality for everyone, and reject artificial attempts to be pigeonholed or silenced.

The portrayal on Monday’s Dispatches and the related newspaper articles was a complete distortion of reality.  We have already refuted the allegations on our website, but we also recognise we are not perfect, and have room for improvement.  These bigoted and scurrilous reports will not change our aim to work for the common good, just as the message of extremists will never divert us.

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