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Focus on Islamism
Tuesday 19th April 2011
Help JIMAS

ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS 

Help JIMAS win a £5000 Co-Operative grant to continue its community work by signing up here and giving them your vote — it won't cost you a thing.

On March 7 2011, extremists burned down a large section of St. Michael's Church in Ipswich, which was in the process of an uninsured £300,000 renovation. The product of over 30 years of savings and donations from the local community, it was being turned into a community centre headed by Sheikh Muhammed Manwar Ali (also known as Abu Muntasir), the chief executive of JIMAS. It is unclear whether the arsonists were of the far-right or Islamist persuasion, though both have good reason to dislike him and his ideas.

Originally founded in the late 1980s, JIMAS (an acronym of Arabic words which translate to ‘The Association to Revive the Way of the Messenger') is a very different organisation from what it was then. During its earlier years, it acted as one of the primary conduits of hardcore Salafi and Islamist thought in Britain, introducing a generation of young Muslims to the ideas of modern jihadi thinkers, including Sayyid Qutb and Abdullah Azzam. It organised regular lectures and classes with some of the main Western contemporary Salafi ideologues, and within the milieu it created could be found household names of the Western Salafi movement including Omar Bakri Mohammed, Abdullah al-Faisal and Anwar al-Awlaki. As Manwar himself would admit, JIMAS undoubtedly helped to form a pool of angry young Muslims who resented Britain and the West, and injected within them an Islamist zeal the consequences of which we are experiencing to this day.

Manwar has long since changed his ways, and the message of his group. JIMAS is now an organisation that, while remaining Islamic, goes far beyond sectarian and religious boundaries and promotes an integrationist, anti-Islamist agenda. Above all, the Sheikh expounds the importance of a truly national, rather than sectarian, identity with a liberal outlook reminiscent of medieval Islamic humanism (for more on this, see Lenn Goodman's Islamic Humanism). Through his planned community project at the Church, he wants to revive a piece of the local area's Victorian heritage and provide believers and atheists with a neutral discussion forum which will help people learn more about and, it is hoped, reject many of the ideas which create bigots and terrorists.

Having worked with numerous extremist Salafis and Islamists in the past, he is under no illusions about the harm they have done to British society, and has taken it upon himself to help reverse this damage. On the face of it, he may seem the perfect candidate to benefit from a Government Prevent grant, but he has refused to apply for it, though not for the reasons one might think. Whereas many Muslim groups reject the fund either because they don't trust the Government, or are concerned about losing legitimacy among the local Muslim community, Manwar has a novel (and noble) take on it: "People like me should not take taxpayer money to do a job that is our duty", he told me over coffee in early February.   

No single individual or group will succeed in defeating Islamic extremism in Britain; success requires the patience of many dedicated people who understand and believe in the values of this country. I have no doubt that Manwar should be counted among this group. Many on this blog may read this with more than a tinge of scepticism: the East London Mosque and its sectarian and extremist cohorts, for example, are often described in similar terms by naive reporters and politicians. JIMAS is not the same — it is now the real deal.

Help JIMAS win a £5000 Co-Operative grant to continue its community work by signing up here and giving them your vote — it won't cost you a thing. They are currently in 3rd place out of a total of 152 organisations, and need at least 200-300 more votes.

 
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Yusuf Tadros
April 19th, 2011
2:04 PM
On March 7 2011, extremists burned down a large section of St. Michael’s Church in Ipswich, which was in the process of an uninsured £300,000 renovation. 'Extremists'? No-one knows who set the fire - the investigation is ongoing. Upper Orwell St. has been rundown for some time and the church, both from the entrance off St Helens and the back at Upper Orwell has been a magnet for the terminally sozzled. Setting fire to what was a beautiful church is certainly 'extreme', but it's still unclear what the motive was. The product of over 30 years of savings and donations from the local community Manwar and his brothers are long-time adherents of Wahhabism, travelled to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan throughout the 80's and, in their previous incarnation as HISAM (Harakat Islaah Shabaab il-Muslimeen - Movement for the Reform of Muslim Youth) at Surrey Poly (ask Usama Hasan) were given to Talibanesque demonstrations and protests that Anjem and co. would be proud of. Manwar also travelled to Bosnia during the war and personally handed over wads of cash to the mujahideen there on behalf of Saudi financiers. Until recently, Muslims in Ipswich were mostly poor Sylheti immigrants with large families, so Manwar's story about collecting this money from the 'local community' seems highly dubious to me. it was being turned into a community centre This is the lie that Manwar's been peddling to the press (see the Star's article). However, having been party to discussions on this (indeed it was confirmed in an email from Manwar/JIMAS received just yesterday), I can confirm that it was to have been a mosque and da'wah centre. The community centre shtick is just PR. It is unclear whether the arsonists were of the far-right or Islamist persuasion, though both have good reason to dislike him and his ideas. It is unclear because nobody knows who the arsonist[s] were. Manwar is an Islamist himself, though disliked by some of his fellow Wahhabists for his supposedly Ikhwani leanings. Originally founded in the late 1980s...[the whole parag.] Alex. Do some research mate. A cursory glance through the internet should tell you that long after HISAM split, Manwar continued to peddle extremism and consort with extremists. JIMAS only stopped distributing al-Awlaqi CDs when contacted by Quilliam last year and hosted him at Masjid ut-Tawheed in Leyton when he came here to peddle his hatred in 03. Look at some of the other fellows invited to the annual JIMAS hate-fest in Leicester (Dhafir, Ali al-Tamimi, Khalid Yasin and Quick/Bilal Philips of HP fame etc.); listen to the audio found all over the place. JIMAS continue to publish and distribute extremist tracts (though not as overtly as before I'll grant you), many authored by or with a forward written by Manwar Ali or his Wahhabi dad. Manwar has long since changed his ways, and the message of his group. JIMAS is now an organisation that, while remaining Islamic, goes far beyond sectarian and religious boundaries and promotes an integrationist, anti-Islamist agenda. You really haven't looked all that closely, have you? JIMAS continue to uphold the puritanical tenets of Wahhabism and point unwitting Muslims/non-Muslims in the direction of islaam.com (a website run by a Bosnian Wahhabi) as a 'source of information on authentic Islam'. Manwar is a charming dissembler, only too happy to pose in flat cap, suit and tie for the camera...and he's an engaging chap; well-spoken, articulate and intelligent. But he's also an extremist who peddles extreme ideas that include the establishment of an Islamic state and the institution of the entire gamut of shari'ah-inspired injustice here in the UK. Don't trust him. Above all, the Sheikh expounds the importance of a truly national, rather than sectarian, identity with a liberal outlook reminiscent of medieval Islamic humanism (for more on this, see Lenn Goodman’s Islamic Humanism). Through his planned community project at the Church, he wants to revive a piece of the local area’s Victorian heritage and provide believers and atheists with a neutral discussion forum which will help people learn more about and, it is hoped, reject many of the ideas which create bigots and terrorists. Jesus wept! If this is truly what he believes, why then does he not regale Muslim (and non-Muslim-less) audiences with these ideas? Why, only yesterday, was he playing up the Islamic character of the proposed da'wah centre/mosque with nary a mention of this interfaith utopia? Why does JIMAS continue to promote and distribute extremist texts and speakers? Why does JIMAS continue to point people, via its website, to a Wahhabist-authored site containing racist/anti-Semitic materials as a source on 'authentic' Islam? On the face of it, he may seem the perfect candidate to benefit from a Government Prevent grant, but he has refused to apply for it, though not for the reasons one might think. Whereas many Muslim groups reject the fund either because they don’t trust the Government, or are concerned about losing legitimacy among the local Muslim community, Manwar has a novel (and noble) take on it: ‘People like me should not take taxpayer money to do a job that is our duty’, he told me over coffee in early February. Funny, because that's not what he wrote in yesterday's email. There was no mention of 'duty'. Prevent funding ('no PREVENT or Police or Intelligence finances') was mentioned in the same context as usury and other streams of funding forbidden under certain interpretations of the shari'ah; i.e. they are un-Islamic and that just wouldn't do (cf. the lack of insurance on St Michael's). I have no doubt that Manwar should be counted among this group. Many on this blog may read this with more than a tinge of scepticism I wouldn't touch JIMAS or Manwar Ali with a bargepole. Do some more research Alex or I'll be happy to pass on a dossier containing all you need to know.

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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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