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Tuesday 14th December 2010
Engaging the anonymous IEngage


IEngage, once Inayat Bunglawala's vanity project, has written about my piece in the Wall Street Journal from a few weeks ago.

In my piece I condemned the London Muslim Centre, inter alia, for hosting Khalid Yasin who has described the beliefs of Christian and Jews as ‘filth'. IEngage replies:

...note that Khalid Yasin should now be added to the long line of Muslim speakers to whom certain views are attributed without any indication of when they expressed those views, what the subject matter was and in what context those views were expressed

For the sake of clarity, here are the details.

Khalid Yasin makes his comments in his lecture, ‘Changing the world through Da'wah' which is part of his ‘Purpose of life' series. The publisher was IBC Ltd/1Islam Productions.

The blurb advertising this talk says:

The misfortunes [sic] occuring to the Muslims is simply due to the fact that Muslims are moving away from the true teachings of Islam, as taught by Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him). The world will be a better place if Islam is revived back into the Muslims' lives and ultimately, spread to the rest of the world.

And here's a picture of the front cover to the video:

Yasin's comments first came to light in the Channel 4 documentary, Undercover Mosque, which you can see here. The relevant bit comes at 28.48.

The transcript of Undercover Mosque is also hosted very helpfully by MPAC on their website so you can read what Khalid Yasin was saying:

We don't need to go to the Christians or the Jews debating with them about the filth which they believe. We Muslims have been ordered to do brainwashing because the kuffaar they are doing brain defiling. You are watching the kaffir TV and your wife is watching it right now and your children are watching it and they are being polluted and they are being penetrated and they are being infected, so that you come out of the house and your children come out of the house as Muslims and come back as kaffirs.

IEngage also speak about ‘context'. How does one respond to this? I'm afraid the only response can be to turn the question on them — what is the context in which it's acceptable to describe the beliefs of other faith groups as ‘filth'?

Then IEngage helpfully point out:

Perhaps we may be bold enough to highlight to Maher that the Prevent review was announced before the ambassador's visit. A quick glance at a calendar may have helped.

My ‘bold' brethren at IEngage have misread or failed to understand the paragraph in question. I was not suggesting that David Cameron's review of Prevent was caused by Ambassador Susman's visit to the East London Mosque. The point I was making is that Susman has effectively pre-empted and undermined the government's review at a time when he should be awaiting its outcome. That is a gross error on his part.

Not before time, IEngage get to the nub of the matter:

Presumably, Maher is the right type of Muslim for the US ambassador and the British government to be engaging — someone who has zero credibility within the Muslim community...

I have no interest in playing this game. I don't claim to represent a Muslim constituency nor do I want one. I left the arrogance of thinking I spoke for Islam and Muslims when I left Islamist politics behind.

By contrast groups like the East London Mosque are the ones claiming suzerainty over British Muslims.

Of course, when writing my piece for the Wall Street Journal (and in this reply too) I have extended IEngage a courtesy they deny me: that is, to have written in my own name.

This makes it hard to judge whether their intervention in this debate is that of a dispassionate observer or an invested party.

Here's what we know about IEngage from the group's Memorandum of Association (which you can download here). Its stated aims are:

1.       To harmonise the Muslim image in the media

2.       To respond speedily to national and local media coverage about the UK Muslim community and Islamic affairs.

3.       To help equip and train local Muslim communities around the UK with the knowledge and skills necessary to engage with local politicians and the media.

4.       To foster key ties with key journalists.

5.       To work with non-Muslim bodies including the TUC and Islamophobia Watch on common issues to ensure that Islamophobia is regarded as being just as unacceptable as anti-Semitism and other forms of xenophobia.

6.       To carry out grass roots campaigns to demonstrate the importance of voter registration in the UK Muslim community and maintaining regular contact with local councillors and MPs.

These aims match those of the IEngage strategy document which was leaked to us a while ago (and which you can download in full here).

That document also gives us this rather helpful flowchart showing IEngage's management structure:

Official company documents reveal that these trustees remain in place.

You can download the following documents here to confirm this is the case:

Iqbal Sacranie's director details here and here.

Mohammed Ali's director details here.

Sufyan Ismail's director details here.

These are all public documents and are readily available. However any files revealing personal details have not been made available here.

Of course, two of IEngage's directors are men with a long background in Islamist politics.

Iqbal Sacranie was General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) until June 2006 after which time Mohammed Abdul-Bari took over — he is, of course, also the current chairman of the East London Mosque.

The MCB's commitment to reactionary politics is well known. Under Sacranie's stewardship the group also boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day regularly and opposed the ‘glorification of terrorism' clause in the Terrorism Act 2006.

IEngage's other trustee, Mohammed Ali, clarified his politics to The Times in 2008 saying:

There is nothing wrong or criminal in trying to establish an Islamic state as that was the nature of the Tunisian state for 1,200 years prior to the French brutal occupation.

And yet this group tries to pass itself off as an independent and dispassionate observer. Why do they resist having this debate transparently?

Duplicity is an area where IEngage has form. In March I revealed how they were seeking to deceive the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism with sleights of hand.

In truth, these guys are desperate. They know they're beaten.

Their politics is miserable and failed. It has been routed across the world.

Despite parsing my article in detail, IEngage did not attempt to address one of my central points about the decimation of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh. That its members are now being investigated for war crimes there only heaps disgrace upon humiliation.

But it is not just in Bangladesh that Islamists have failed.

Even in Pakistan's highly conservative North-West Frontier Province the Islamist alliance, the Muttahida Majlis Amal, was thrown from office a few years ago. In Iraq, too, the Islamist parties were decisively rejected in the last election.

Where, then, are Islamists winning when ordinary Muslims have a choice to vote for them? Where is the groundswell of support they claim to represent?

Just as Muslims in the Middle East and South Asia have rejected the rote rhetoric of reactionary Islam, so too are British Muslims.

Iqbal Sacranie, Mohammed Ali and their friends in the East London Mosque know this very well — and they are fighting hard to resist it.

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J. Bro
December 21st, 2010
2:12 PM
Great reposte from someone: As a former extremist, Maher and his fellow travellers from Hizb ut-Tahrir (who spent many moons lambasting British mosques for kow-towing to the 'establishment'), do not seem to have left the past behind. Rather than disentangle themselves from the so-called world of 'Islamism' from which they continue to make a living (attacking, rather than supporting now), they have refused to move on and I would contend are expounding a McCarthyite agenda that inflates the power and threat of the 'Islamists' to ridiculous levels. And they should know it.

Why? Because anyone who has travelled through British masjids (mosques) knows how hopelessly divided they are. In cities such as Blackburn, for example (once the most divided city in the UK, according to UK government report) there are some 37 or so mosques, which lean towards various Pakistani or Bangladeshi origins. You can't easily enter one if you belong to another. There is bitter tribalism and divisions within British Islam, and Muslims, which makes a mockery of this so-called "evil plan" to take over the world and turn it into a one-world theocratic order, ruled over by "mad mullahs". The truth is laughably the opposite: if the 'Islamists' were so clever, so devious, so cunning, how come they have publicly failed so spectacularly?

No, my rather cynical view is that Maher, Hussain, Najad et al make rather a nice living -- particularly in Neo-Conservative circles, and among the Fox News-ites of the world -- in drawing up this 1950s-esque "monster" which apparently threatens us all.

Common to many of their reports and critiques are: selective quoting; retro-engineering of historical facts, ignoring context, ignoring or deliberately leaving out political and factional battles which explain a lot of so-called "extreme" comments (e.g. a secular Bangladeshi faction in east London loses out political power in the local council; it then smears its ascendant opponents as "linked" to a radical party back in Bangladesh, which is then duly repeated and picked up by hysterical right-wing columnists). 

One only has to look at the comments following frequent crowing from Andrew Gilligan, Nick Cohen, Shiraz Maher and others to know that their following among the Far Right (English Defense League in particular) eagerly awaits the next assault on their fellow Muslims.

Yes, Muslims like those at East London Mosque have made mistakes. Yes, they have had their hotheads. But the accusations are now all historical (2+ years old) and they deserve a chance to bed down into the bedrock of this society, just as thousands of Jews, Irish, Somalis, French Huguenots and others have done before them. Otherwise what else are we to do: tear their mosques down and hound them from our very shores? I think not.

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About Focus on Islamism

Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.

Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London.  He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon. 

To contact the authors, click here

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