There are some utterly bizarre interactions going on around Islam in the UK. There’s much guilt by association and incredibly dishonest smear campaigns, even coming from those that are often victims of dishonest smears themselves.
Nigel Farage was demonised as a racist for his UKIP Brexit campaign that saw him stood in front of a poster of economic migrants. It should have been obvious to anyone (because he explained it) that his point was that the images we were seeing throughout 2014/15 were predominantly of healthy young migrant men. Where were all the weak, old and infant refugees? Why had these men left them behind? These were legitimate questions, at the height of illegal immigration. So too was the question about the political ideology that many of the illegal immigrants were committed to. Even Angela Merkel had to face up to these realities eventually, as she shut down all the publicly expressed concern she could, and eventually had to stem the flow.
But then, when Gerard Batton announced the ‘consultation’ role of Tommy Robinson, Farage joined in the smears of Robinson and the guilt by association of UKIP. Personally, I see Robinson as a legitimate activist, but not a particularly good politician – too hot headed and not responsible enough to have him too close to the leadership of a party. But, he has definitely been smeared beyond any recognition of the person he actually is. So, it’s strange to see Farage take that particular stance himself – a convenient distancing of himself from someone he sees as lost to fair coverage and so dangerous to Farage’s personal agenda.
In another context we see long-term gay activist Peter Tatchell struggle to hold a rational position regarding Islam. He has joined with activists from Faith to Faithless (a part of Humanist UK) to encourage acceptance of homosexuality among Muslims in Britain. He too has demonised Farage and Robinson, and has played the dodgy alliance game of suggesting ‘persecuted’ minorities like gays and Muslims should unite against the right. Totally paradoxical since Islam is inherently conservative, and in many cases far right – so much so that explicitly liberal Muslims like Maajid Nawaz are demonised by organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain and 5 Pillars. Of course Tatchell’s hoped for alliance backfired when Muslim parents announced their own homophobia* is an essential part of Islam.
[*They declare they are not homophobic, and yet also insist that anyone that doesn’t like their bigotry is Islamophobic. The ironies mount up pretty fast in this sphere of human affairs.]
In a similar fashion we see Owen Jones denouncing the same homophobia among Muslim parents, yet also declaring as Islamophobes anyone else that dares to criticise Islam. Lately he has taken to building a chain of guilt from Tommy Robinson, to Douglas Murray, and on to Yasmine Mohammed, the latter being a thoroughly decent ex-Muslim that simply campaigns for the right for ex-Muslims not to be persecuted.
And it’s odd that Owen Jones cites the Muslim Council of Britain as an upstanding organisation in the same thread, when it is they, among others, that declare that Ahmadi Muslims are not to be considered Muslims, so continuing the persecution of Ahmadis that sees their mosques attacked in Pakistan, an Ahmadi killed in Glasgow by a Sunni from Bradford (for ‘insulting Islam’), and even very recently having a UK mosque provide leaflets requiring the killing of Ahmadis. What on earth is Jones doing siding with a conservative homophobic misogynistic religion? I doubt he’d have much in common with Westboro Baptists who seem to hold a similar view on homosexuality to many Muslims (a large number of UK Muslims think homosexuality should be illegal, at least … the less cautious will support the death penalty).
Elsewhere we have the Muslim prosecutor of Muslim grooming gangs on the Three Girls case also declaring other critics of Muslim grooming gangs to be Islamophobes, while his colleague and ex-police investigator Maggie Oliver, also of Three Girls fame, uncovers much police corruption around the cover up of grooming gangs and calls for ‘people power’ in response. Wasn’t Tommy Robinson and example of ‘people power’ in action?
And even though we see more and more Muslims acknowledging the problems in ‘our community’ they too still play the Islamophobia game: The Enlightenment of Saira Khan. Saira has been calling Robinson a racist for years, and yet she is just as explicit as he is, even more directly so, in her condemnation of those in her ‘community’ that transgress the bounds of decency by being a groomer or a terrorist.
Papers like the Guardian seem to alternate between articles that report on problems around Islam, only to follow up with an opinion piece by yet someone else that declares it’s Islamophobic to report on the problems around Islam. No surprise that Miqdaad Versi of the MCB has created a busy schedule for himself demanding, with some success, that news papers change the headlines of many of their stories so that thy are less ‘Islamophobic’.
It’s not as if the news about the news is consistent in this regard either. Owen Jones, again, expressed his Twitter indignation by declaring that stories about the young ‘angelic’ Christchurch terrorist wouldn’t happen if it were a Muslim terrorist – except that’s precisely what the news papers did regarding Jihadi John – so much so the Mail front pages for the two terrorists were practically identical.
Within Islam it doesn’t become any simpler – quite the opposite. Liberal-Moderate, Moderate-Conservative, Conservative-Fundamentalist, Fundamentalist-Extremists … overlapping circles of influence where the extreme ends totally denounce each other as non-Muslims, yet each circle makes excuses for and defends their near political neighbours. You have to wonder where all the 2 billion Muslims are, when so many Muslims declare fellow Muslims to be non-Muslims for their inadequate understanding of Islam. Meanwhile, we are told, “We are all Muslims”, under the unity of the Ummah … a monolith of Muslim creation. We are also told that Islam is a diverse religion, yet, oddly, all accept Allah, Mohammed and Quran – where all but liberal reformers insist the Quran is the inerrant perfect word of Allah, that is both easy to understand and yet needs scholarship to avoid all the nasty bits – nasty bits that are not there, apparently, despite what you actually read in the Quran.
“Nothing to do with Islam” we hear. Well, if that’s so, how is it Islamophobic for non-Muslims to point to the Islamic texts that ISIS cite? How is it that many of those that joined ISIS became more religious, more Islamic, according to those that knew them, before tipping over the edge into radicalism and extremism?
The complexities of all this, the smears, the alliances, the shear irrationality of it all, need a damned good Venn diagram of overlapping appreciation. But I fear it would be so complex it wouldn’t make it any clearer.
We need more rational debate, and more honesty, less conflating Islam with race – what nonsense that is. We have a long way to go.