IFE: Not Harmless Democrats

(Andrew Gilligan) – WHEN WE AT CHANNEL 4 set out to make our Dispatches programme on the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe, we could almost have written the complaints in advance. And that, it turns out, is precisely what our new friends in the IFE did.

As early as 22 February, according to emails kindly leaked to us by our IFE snouts, they were circulating sizzling, oven-ready template letters (“I write to express my disgust and disappointment at Channel 4’s wholly inaccurate and defamatory accusations … The documentary is Islamophobic in nature … uses emotive and provocative language … is part of a series of organised, vindictive and orchestrated witch-hunts”) about a programme still nearly a week from air.

Fascinatingly, the IFE’s response since the actual broadcast has been much more muted. Perhaps the unequivocal statement by the local Labour MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, that they have infiltrated his party; or the squirming refusal of the local Labour council leader, Lutfur Rahman, to deny it; or the 110% growth in Labour members in the area in two years, many of them with the same names as people we can link to the IFE – perhaps these have silenced a few of those concerns about “inaccuracy.”

Perhaps our unemotive, factual quotation from original IFE documents has helped still those complaints about “defamation” and “vindictiveness”. Such as, for instance, the transcript of a 2009 recruit training course where the organisation tells its new members: “Our goal is not simply to invite people and give da’wah [call to the faith]. Our goal is to create the True Believer, to then mobilise those believers into an organised force for change who will carry out da’wah, hisbah [enforcement of Islamic law] and jihad [struggle]. This will lead to social change and iqamatud-Deen [an Islamic social, economic and political order].”

Or the leaflet where the IFE tells us that it is dedicated to changing the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.” Or the document where the IFE says it “strives for the establishment of a global [my italics] society, the Khilafah … comprised of individuals who live by the principles of … the Shari’ah.” The IFE’s “primary work” to create this state, the document goes on, “is in Europe [my italics] because it is this continent, despite all the furore about its achievements, which has a moral and spiritual vacuum.”

Life in the IFE’s Islamic social and political order would be different from the way it is now. “Protect yourselves from all types of haram [forbidden things] … music, TV, and freemixing with women in that which is not necessary” the IFE recruits are told. “Democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no one agrees with that,” says the IFE’s community affairs coordinator, Azad Ali.

Inayat Bunglawala’s attempt, therefore, to claim in this space yesterday that the IFE are merely regular Muslims seeking “democratic engagement” is hopeless. The IFE’s enmity to democracy comes from their own lips.

I have no objection at all to the IFE engaging in the political process in support of their views – so long as they are honest about them. But I very much object to what they are actually doing: concealing those views to win significant and growing power over their community through democratic, secular parties whose values are diametrically opposed to theirs.

The IFE’s deceit is borne of necessity. For all their claims that any attack on them is an attack on Islam itself, they know that their support among Muslims is small – as shown in our documentary, where Muslim Londoner after Muslim Londoner lined up to express their outrage at the IFE’s presumptuousness as much as at its views. The fact that fully 70% of our interviewees were Muslim should answer any charge that this was an “Islamophobic” programme.

My Muslim friends and I believe in a world that is, in Louis MacNeice‘s fine words, “incorrigibly plural”. We see no reason why we should have to be defined by our faith, unless we want to be. Like the poet, we feel the drunkenness of things being various. The cold Islamic supremacists of the IFE are the enemies not just of democracy, but of multiculturalism and pluralism itself. Their indulgence by the political system is one of the hidden scandals of our time.

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Fatwa Issued Against Suicide Bombings

(Telegraph) – THE LEADER of a worldwide Muslim movement has issued a fatwa in Britain condemning terrorism and warning suicide bombers that they are “destined for hell”.

Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a leading cleric in Pakistan, has written a 600-page religious ruling that says “suicide bombings and attacks against civilian targets are not only condemned by Islam, but render the perpetrators totally out of the fold of Islam, in other words, to be unbelievers.”

Dr Qadri runs the Minhaj-ul-Quran movement based in Lahore but also has many British followers.

He follows the moderate sufi form of Islam and has campaigned for greater religious tolerance.

But his ruling is among the most comprehensive examinations of terrorism and could have an affect on those on the fringes of extremism.

Shahid Mursaleen, spokesman for Minhaj-ul-Quran UK, said: “He has hit hard on the terrorists as it prevents Islamists from considering suicide bombers as ‘martyrs’. This fatwa injects doubt into the minds of potential suicide bombers.

“Extremist groups based in Britain recruit youth by brainwashing them that they will ‘with certainty’ be rewarded in the next life and Dr Qadri’s fatwa has removed this key intellectual factor from their minds.”

The fatwa has been billed as “arguably the most comprehensive” theological refutation of Islamic terrorism to date by counter extremism think tank the Quilliam foundation.

A Quilliam spokesman said: “Terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda continue to justify their mass killings with self-serving readings of religious scripture.

“Fatwas that demolish and expose such theological innovations will consign Islamist terrorism to the dustbin of history.”

The Minhaj-ul-Quaran movement runs courses in combating religious extremism in educational centres throughout Britain including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nelson, Walsall, Glasgow and Dundee.

Communities Minister Shahid Malik, whose Dewsbury constituency was home to 7/7 bomber Mohammad Siddique Khan, welcomed the fatwa.

“It is incumbent on Muslims to stand up for their faith – when 7/7 occurred those four evil young men killed themselves and over 50 innocent people because they followed a twisted and perverted interpretation of Islam which told them by doing so they would go to heaven,” he said.

“A clear and unequivocal message must go out that Islam teaches that these four are not martyrs going to heaven but sinners going somewhere very different indeed.

“Hence, I very much welcome the work of Dr Qadri in helping reinforce this most crucial of message to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”

Islam4UK To Be Banned

(Guardian) – THE ISLAMIST GROUP Islam4UK, which planned a march through Wootton Bassett, and its “parent” organisation, al-Muhajiroun, will be banned under new legislation outlawing the “glorification” of terrorism, Alan Johnson announced today.

The order, which will come into effect on Thursday, will make it a criminal offence to be a member of either of the groups, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

“I have today laid an order which will proscribe al-Muhajiroun, Islam4UK, and a number of the other names the organisation goes by,” Johnson said. Other names are Call to Submission, Islamic Path and London School of Sharia. The group is already proscribed under two other names – al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect or the Saviour Sect.

Johnson said that proscription was “a tough but necessary power to tackle terrorism”, adding that it was “not a course we take lightly”.

The decision, based on months of monitoring the output of websites and comments by senior figures, will have to be endorsed by parliament. Al-Muhajiroun was founded by Omar Bakri Muhammad and Anjem Choudary, and has been operating in Britain since the mid-1980s.

The group became notorious for praising the September 11 attacks in 2001. Bakri was banned from Britain by the former home secretary Charles Clarke in August 2005, on the grounds that his presence in the country was “not conducive to the public good”.

At the same time, the Home Office announced its intention to ban the group but it disappeared from view before relaunching itself in June last year.

The Saviour sect and al-Ghurabaa were proscribed under the 2000 Terrorism Act.

Islam4UK has called off its planned march through Wootton Bassett, the Wiltshire market town that has come to symbolise the fatalities sustained by British forces in Afghanistan.

It said it had “successfully highlighted the plight of Muslims in Afghanistan globally”.

The group said that if their organisation and al-Muhajiroun were banned, “another platform with a new name will arise to continue to fulfil these divine objections until the sharia has been implemented”.

Counterterrorism legislation passed in 2006 is designed to automatically ban any “successor” organisations set up by proscribed groups.

Home Office lawyers are drawing up the necessary parliamentary order implementing the ban so it can be debated by MPs within days.

The move came as MPs heard evidence of tensions within government over the direction of the official programme aimed at preventing violent extremism.

Written evidence from the Local Government Association (LGA) for a special Commons select committee held in a Birmingham mosque yesterday, confirmed that tension between the Home Office’s office of security and counterterrorism and the Department of Communities and Local Government had been a problem at times.

The LGA said the heart of the disagreements had been the focus of the Prevent programme, with the communities secretary, John Denham, arguing that it should be part of the broader work on community cohesion and equalities. “Police and the security services will necessarily see things in a different perspective,” an LGA memo said.

Its evidence said that the security services have moved away from developing a profile of a “typical extremist”, to a more rounded analysis of potential risks and interventions.

Evidence from the Association of Chief Police Officers to the MPs’ inquiry said that so far 228 young adults aged under 25 “who have been inspired by the al-Qaida ideology” have been referred to the Channel Project, which provides support to those believed to be vulnerable to radicalisation.

Britain Divided By Islam

(Telegraph) – MORE THAN HALF the population believes Britain is deeply divided along religious lines, the annual British Social Attitudes survey has found.

A majority of the country would also be concerned if a mosque was built in their area, while only 15 per cent expressed similar qualms about the opening of a church.

The survey found that only 45 per cent of those questioned felt that diversity had brought benefits to the country, while just one in four felt positively about Islam.

In addition it concluded that those with no educational qualifications were twice as likely to have negative attitudes towards Muslims as university graduates.

Findings in the annual study, which is produced with funding from Whitehall, will increase concern that tension over religion is growing in Britain.

The recent furore over plans by the extremist Muslim group Islam4UK to march through the town of Wootton Bassett, to oppose the war in Afghanistan, has increased feelings of division.

The social attitudes survey, which is produced by leading academics from interviews with almost 5,000 people, will be published in full later this month.

But the early findings are likely to heap criticism on Government policies which promote multiculturalism.

Professor David Voas, of Manchester University, who analysed the findings said many Britons felt the growth of Britain’s Muslim population presented a threat to national identity.

He told the Daily Mail: “Opinion is divided and many people remain tolerant of unpopular speech as well as distinctive dress and religious behaviour, but a large segment of the British population is unhappy about these subcultures.”

Islamists Cancel Wootton Bassett Protest Plans

(BBC) – A RADICAL ISLAMIC GROUP has cancelled plans to hold an anti-war march through a town famous for honouring the UK’s servicemen and women killed abroad.

Members of Islam4UK had planned to march through Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, to honour Muslims killed in the Afghanistan conflict.

The government had been considering outlawing the group, which is said to have extremist links.

Earlier this week, Gordon Brown said plans for the march were “disgusting”.

Families of soldiers who died in Afghanistan had condemned the planned march, and MPs signed a motion calling on the home secretary and local authorities to prevent the protest.

Wootton Bassett has become the focus of public mourning, with hundreds lining the streets every time hearses carrying the repatriated bodies of killed UK service personnel are driven through the town from nearby RAF Lyneham.

On Sunday, a statement from Islam4UK’s leader, Anjem Choudary, said it had “successfully highlighted the plight of Muslims in Afghanistan”.

“We at Islam4UK have decided, after consultation with others including our Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, that no more could be achieved even if a procession were to take place in Wootton Bassett,” he said.

The group denied members had planned to carry 500 empty coffins through the town.

Islam4UK had previously said it had chosen Wootton Bassett to create maximum publicity.

The News of the World reported on Sunday that Home Secretary Alan Johnson would outlaw the group on Monday.

The newspaper said comments made by senior members of Islam4UK and on websites breached the Terrorism Act.

A Home Office spokesman said the final decision on whether to ban the group rested with Mr Johnson but he would not confirm the plan.

“Proscription is a tough but necessary power to tackle terrorism,” he said.

“Decisions on proscription must be proportionate and based on evidence that a group is concerned in terrorism as defined in the Terrorism Act 2000.”

North Wiltshire MP James Gray said he was “extremely glad” Islam4UK had abandoned its plans, and he also condemned Mr Choudary’s actions as a “media stunt”.

“He was trying to make a political statement, the whole announcement was to get media coverage – he admitted that himself – and he achieved it. He received lots of coverage,” he said.

Mohammed Shafiq, from the Ramadhan Foundation, said Mr Choudary had been deliberately provocative.

“His attempt to demonstrate at Wootton Bassett was set out to provoke hatred between communities and is not welcomed in the Muslim communities,” he said.

“He and his cronies have no support in the British Muslim communities.”

Johnson ‘Will Back’ Wootton Bassett Islamic March Ban

(BBC) – THE HOME SECRETARY has said he will back any request from police or local government to ban an Islamic group marching through Wootton Bassett.

Alan Johnson said he felt “revulsion” at the thought of Islam4UK’s proposed march through the Wiltshire town.

Wootton Bassett has become famous for its repatriation ceremonies for fallen British service personnel.

Islam4UK says it wants to parade empty coffins through the town to draw attention to Afghan war casualties.

Mr Johnson said: “The idea that anyone would stage this kind of demonstration in Wootton Bassett fills me with revulsion.

“I find it particularly offensive that the town, which has acted in such a moving and dignified way in paying tribute to our troops who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, should be targeted in this manner.”

He added: “If the Wiltshire Police and local authority feel that a procession of this kind has the potential to cause public disorder and seek my consent to a banning order, then I would have no hesitation in supporting that request.”

Islam4UK, which has been linked to the radical al-Muhajiroun movement, said the town was chosen to create maximum publicity.

Anjem ChoudarySpokesman Anjem Choudary said: “We are having a procession, it’s in Wootton Bassett but it’s not about the people there and it’s not against them personally – rather it’s to highlight the real cost of war in Afghanistan.

“The sad reality of the situation is that if I were to hold it somewhere else it would not have the media attention that it has now.

“If I am to balance between the sensitivity of having it in Wootton Bassett and the possibility of continuing the quagmire and cycle of death in Afghanistan, then quite honestly I’m going to balance in favour of the latter.”

‘Dangerous and divisive’

Wiltshire Police said it had not received an application from any group to hold a march in the town.

Marches and demonstrations can be banned if police believe they are likely to endanger public order.

Earlier, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and the town’s MP James Gray all condemned the group’s plans.

North Wiltshire MP Mr Gray told BBC Radio 5 live: “Fine Mr Choudary, say what you want, I detest what you say, but please, please don’t come to Wootton Bassett.”

Social Cohesion Minister Shahid Malik added: “Anjem Choudary rightly has a reputation as a dangerous and divisive figure in the UK, however, he does not speak for Muslims in the UK.”

Wootton Bassett’s mayor Councillor Steve Bucknell said the town, which has a population of just over 11,000, was entirely inappropriate for any march, protest or demonstration which refers to Afghanistan or Iraq.

“We are going to do our utmost to make sure that this march doesn’t go ahead,” he said, adding that the town’s council had received dozens of e-mails and phone calls from people concerned with the issue.

Locals have turned out to honour the corteges of more than 100 service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as they made their way from nearby RAF Lyneham to a morgue in Oxford.

Islam4UK said its march would not coincide with a repatriation ceremony.

… (Julian Ware-Lane, 04/01/2010) – Islam4UK should not be allowed to march through Wootton Bassett