At a time when there is intense debate about the position of Islam and Muslims in British society, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper last month exposed the British government’s latest weapon in the war against what it calls “violent extremism”. It didn’t come in the form of more draconian anti-terror laws; nor was it yet another increase in already oppressive police powers. The government’s latest arrow in its quiver of Islamophobia is what is supposed to be a community project for promotion of a more ‘moderate’, ‘peaceful’ version of “Islam”. The Radical Middle Way project includes a roadshow of touring lecturers, as well as a website, www.radicalmiddleway.com, containing articles, speeches, audio and video lectures taken from a series of events in Britain that took place over the last twelve months. The Telegraph further reports that around 100,000 CDs promoting “moderation” have also been funded and distributed free to Muslim students at universities and colleges. (‘The Government has a secret weapon: Islamic podcasts’, Sunday Telegraph, 22 October 2006.)
Although it is being presented as a grassroots Muslim initiative, the website and the entire project are in fact funded by the Foreign Office, through the Home Office, with the objective of fighting “extremism”. The hidden aim is to pacify Muslims into accepting an ‘Islam’ that is submissive to the agendas of the West. This project is not to be understood in isolation but as part of a larger effort at social engineering of the Muslim community. This effort has been going on since September 2001.
To understand fully the impact of this scheme, it is important to cast our minds back to the early nineteen-nineties. Back then, British Muslims flooded into Bosnia to assist the local Muslim population fight for survival against the Serbs, who were carrying out a genocide sanctioned by the silence of a watching world. The jihad brought together Muslims from all walks of life who were simply not prepared to stand by and allow their fellow Muslims to be butchered. Those who could not travel to fight helped in other ways, such as fundraising, public awareness events and demonstrations. This collective effort by British Muslims was part of the global Muslim effort to protect the Bosnian Muslims, which was instrumental in ending the genocide. (Western intervention came very late and only after it was apparent that that the Bosnian Muslims were gaining the upper hand. Former US President Bill Clinton himself writes in his autobiography that it was only the fear of the establishment of an Islamic state in the heart of Europe that prompted Western intervention.)
In the decade and odd years since then, the Muslims’ situation has got much worse. Muslims continue to be subjected to barbaric oppression in places like Chechnya and Kashmir. Palestine has been under foreign occupation for almost sixty years; Afghanistan and Iraq are now also in the same situation. Tens of thousands of Muslims continue to languish without charge in Guantanamo Bay, Bagram airbase, Abu Ghraib, Diego Garcia and ghost prisons throughout the world. The nature of the threat has not changed, but the attitude of Muslims in the West is very different.
Since September 2001, a relentless campaign has been launched to reform Islam into something more palatable to Western society. The aim is a secular and cultural Islam at peace with the world because of submission to humanity’s oppressors and exploiters, instead of to Allah; an Islam devoid of jihad, shari’ah and khilafah: the very things Muslims are commanded by Allah to implement in order to establish Allah’s deen in the world. Detailed studies such as that of the RAND Corporation in the US outline the means being chosen to achieve this goal. A report in 2003 by RAND entitled Civil Democratic Islam groups Muslims into four categories: fundamentalists, traditionalists, modernists and secularists. Its recommendations include:
- 1. financially supporting and promoting the ‘modernists’ and their viewpoints;
- 2. supporting the ‘traditionalists’ against the ‘fundamentalists’;
- 3. promoting Sufism;
- 4. challenging the ‘fundamentalist’ interpretation of Islam, revealing its links to jihad groups, demonstrating the so-called fundamentalists’ inability to rule, portraying them as terrorists and encouraging journalists to dig up dirt on them;
- 5. encouraging division among the ‘fundamentalists’;
- 6. selectively supporting the secularists and discouraging the secularist alliance with anti-US forces on such grounds as nationalism and leftist ideology.
A joint Home Office and Foreign Office document from 2004, ‘Young Muslims and Extremism’, indicated that a similar strategy was being used in Britain. Codenamed Operation Contest, the document tells of measures by which government endorsements could be used to promote certain elements within the Muslim community. These methods include supporting “moderate” Islamic media outlets, promoting Muslim organisations, individuals and fora that are seen as government-friendly, and encouraging “moderate” Muslims to challenge the “extremists”.
We should not be surprised by such intricate plots by the enemies of Islam; they have been taking place in vain for over 1,400 years. The sheep should not look to the wolf for protection. What is more worrying is the change in attitude of the shepherds of the Ummah, those entrusted with its guidance and protection, its own leaders and imams. It seems that the events of 11 September 2001 in the US and 7 July 2005 in London have paralysed these people, and forced them to implement the RAND and Operation Contest recommendations in record time. The very groups and individuals named in the latter document are those we see today at the forefront of this attempt to ‘reform’ Islam.
Individuals who for years rallied their people to stand up for justice and support mujahideen around the world have suddenly not only become embarrassingly silent but have found themselves condemning armed jihad and portraying mujahideen as terrorists and extremists who follow a distorted version of Islam. The greatest error of the Ummah has been its silence while the world and these individuals have equated martyrdom operations in Palestine and other occupied lands with acts of terrorism in London, operations which are completely different in nature; one is legitimate resistance against a military occupation, and the other is blatant terrorism. Equating the two only betrays those Muslims who have no other option but to fight or face extermination.
This disease has also infected imams who themselves once took part in jihad in places like Afghanistan against the Soviets and in Kashmir against Indian occupation, and who now call on Muslims to abandon this noble path and to focus instead on integration. The illness has also spread to popular speakers from Islamic movements, who now criticise Islamist parties and governance by shari’ah and instead promote a moratorium on the hudood and a ‘reformation’ within Islam. Even student and youth movements which consistently campaigned for Palestine and Iraq have suddenly lost their tongues in an attempt to be accepted as “moderate” and “tolerant”.
As the Sunday Telegraph has stated, Operation Contest has been implemented primarily through the Radical Middle Way Project. One of the schemes of this Project was a national roadshow of Muslim scholars flown in from all over the world to preach a more pacific message to British Muslims. Perhaps we should not question the intention of the scholars themselves, and certainly many of those associated with the project are sincere and well-meaning, but it does seem that they have allowed themselves to become pawns of the government, letting themselves be manipulated by it to complete its agenda. The roadshow has become a platform from which to bash so-called Wahhabi groups in the most cynical manner, as Muslims begin to divide themselves even more along lines drawn for them by the West. In doing so, these speakers take on the very characteristics they so vehemently attack.
Running alongside all this has been the development of a pop-nasheed culture, one result of the inferiority complex from which many Muslims suffer, leading them to wish to be “more Roman than the Romans”, entertaining themselves for the sake of entertainment. The end-result of all this has been a dilution of the deen of Allah, a weak and pacified ‘Islam’ willing to accept the status quo in which Muslims are oppressed and subjugated; an Islam in which Muslims are content to sing and sway the night away to nasheeds, to concentrate on bettering their life in the West, and to condemn the actions of their brothers and sisters who courageously resist occupation and oppression with whatever they can. Even making du’a’ for them has become a crime; one must wonder how long it will be before we are told by our imams not to even pray for the mujahideen.
One of the greatest military generals the world has known, Salahudeen Ayubi, the liberator of al-Quds, was once asked why he did not smile. He answered with another question: how could he smile while knowing that Masjid al-Aqsa remained under the Crusaders’ occupation. How far removed are British Muslims from this attitude today! England’s performance in the World Cup and ‘reality TV’ shows draw more tears than the daily massacres of our brothers and sisters in the deen. Had this attitude been present ten years ago, Bosnia and its Muslim people would have been completely exterminated.
In all this darkness, there is one light. History shows us that one of Islam’s wonderful characteristics is that the more it is pushed down, the higher it rises. Muslims in Britain are now being stopped and searched, raided, arrested, humiliated and shot in something like the manner in which their brothers and sisters around the world are suffering. This has developed a sense of empathy with the plight of the rest of the Ummah. A growing number of young Muslims are now realising that no matter how hard they compromise their deen to blend in with the rest of British society (“mainstream society”, so called), when things go sour they will be treated with suspicion. This is not scaremongering but realism. The more the government condemns the concepts of shari’ah, khilafah and jihad, the more some Muslims are willing to dedicate their lives to establishing these things. The more Muslims are arrested, the more Muslims align themselves with the terror suspects. The recent unprecedented attack upon the niqab by virtually every government minister has united the Muslims as one body as they see the evident truth in the words of Allah that “The Jews and Christians will never be pleased with you until you follow their religion.” (Q. 2: 120).
Last July, MI5 announced that it believes from polls that the percentage-equivalent of 400,000 Muslims in Britain support “violent jihad” around the world. One can only attribute this surprisingly low proportion to a fear of being labelled “extremist”. It must be understood that this ‘violent’ jihad is something noble, a just war against injustice and tyranny, of no threat whatsoever to most of British society (and even something that is not only justified but encouraged by international law –” for what that is worth). “Violent jihad” in Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya, Kashmir and elsewhere is not like the events of July 2005, which have been absolutely condemned by all. That the government is now urging Muslim parents and university lecturers to spy on the Muslims in their midst indicates a level of desperation that they are losing the battle for the Muslims’ minds and allegiances. Proposals to establish a permanent Radical Middle Way Foundation are destined to fail.
Slowly but steadily, more and more Muslims are realising that it is not terrorism or extremism or the niqab that is being targeted, but Islam itself. The enemies of Islam will continue to attempt to divide Muslims and to ‘reform’ Islam as they have done throughout the centuries. At such times, it is vital for Muslims to educate themselves about these plots but to always bear in mind Allah’s words that “they plot, but Allah also plots; and Allah is the best of plotters.” (Q. 8: 30)
* Published with the courtesy of Crescent International