Monday, 19 October 2015
David Cameron's Latest Counter-Extremism Initiative Has A Mosque-Sized Hole In It
Today the government released the latest in their recent attempts to outline a cohesive strategy on dealing with the jihadist threat - ahem, sorry, "extremism in all its forms".
The full outline of the strategy, which can be read here, contains many useful and important initiatives which will help to keep the wolf from the door just a little bit longer, but as usual, it is full of massive problems.
The first, once again, is its obsession with placing "right-wing extremists" up on the same pedestal with Islamic jihadis, as if they were at least a roughly equivalent threat. That's not to say that such people shouldn't be combatted where they exist, but the extent of the threat they pose is massively exaggerated - especially when compared to ISIS - and the scariest things the report can come up with are individual attacks against Muslims by loners with no connections to anyone, and a "neo-Nazi" group that holds racist rock concerts. It also cites now-discredited statistics on anti-Muslim hate crimes from Tell MAMA to make the threat of "Islamophobia" seem worse than it actually is.
This isn't just annoying - it also shows how ineffective these new strategies are likely to be, since they work on the assumption that all "extremism" requires the same solutions, and that all ideologies can be dealt with in the same way. There is no logical reason to believe this is the case.
The other HUGE omission, given that despite the false equivalences, the majority of the document does in fact dwell on Islamic extremism specifically, is that it contains pages and pages of material about how to stop online jihadi recruitment, and not even one sentence on dealing with extremism INSIDE BRITISH MOSQUES.
Mosques are only mentioned twice in the entire strategy document: Once on page 9, in a sentence about how Muslims have the freedom to build them in this country, and again on the following page, in a paragraph explaining how mosques are sometimes attacked by "right-wing extremists". That's it. There is also an oblique reference on page 28 to plans to "help faith institutions to establish strong governance." This scheme, however, will apply to "places of worship of all faiths".
Because the UK's 100 or so Sikh temples just need "stronger governance" so urgently.
Why is this omission so critical? Because it flies in the face of mountains of evidence that mosques are a major radicalisation ground, given that they are the place where mainstream Islamic doctrines - which include many things the British government defines as extremist - are taught to the faithful.
The first exposure many British people will have had to the hate preaching and extreme sermons occurring in British mosques was probably in Channel 4's Undercover Mosque documentary in 2007. The same year, an investigation by The Times revealed that books calling for the beheading of lapsed Muslims, ordering women to remain indoors and forbidding interfaith marriage were being sold inside some of Britain’s leading mosques. The report claimed that such hardline material was found at a quarter of the 100 mosques visited during the investigation.
According to the Evening Standard, the An-Noor mosque in Acton has had numerous links to terror and extremism over the years, including a wanted terror suspect who used it as a shelter to evade the police, and the attendance of Abu Hamza's son, Uthman Mustafa Kamal, who was preaching at the mosque, offering prayers for “holy warriors” to “destroy their enemies”.
And relating specifically to the newest threat of Islamic State, The Guardian reported last month that networks of ISIS operatives are already recruiting inside mosques in the UK, with one imam even resigning from his mosque after witnessing extremist preaching first hand. In August, it was claimed that a teenage "jihadi bride" who groomed three of her school friends to join her in Syria to fight for Islamic State was radicalised at a women’s charity based at one of Britain’s biggest mosques, the East London Mosque in Whitechapel.
In light of all this and much more, the fact that the government's "anti-extremism strategy" says absolutely nothing about monitoring mosques more closely, or forcing mosque leaders to implement transparent programmes in their institutions to teach against the jihadist ideology, is nothing short of scandalous.
One final point: A government press release that came out yesterday, announcing the imminent release of the new strategy, cites the work of the Quilliam Foundation, suggesting once again a collaboration between David Cameron and the organisation founded by Maajid Nawaz. By all accounts, Nawaz seems to think that he has been involved in advising Cameron on this new strategy. Why would this self-professed "moderate reformer" not advise the Prime Minister to do more to tackle Islamic extremism inside the very bastions of Islamic preaching?
If Nawaz was indeed involved in this initiative, it's a question with no comforting answers.