The ‘Islamist’

The diary of Faisal Haque, a British Muslim activist

Archive for June, 2007

“The Council of ex-Muslims of Britain”

Posted by theislamist on June 18, 2007

This is not a joke – this Thursday will see the launch of the Council of ex-Muslims of Britain. The launch will take place at Portcullis House at Westminster. The Council “will provide a voice for those labelled Muslim but who have renounced religion and do not want to be identified by religion”.

The voice of the organisation in the UK will be Maryam Namazie. Talking about the new organisation, Namazie, said, “We are establishing the alternative to the likes of the Muslim Council of Britain because we don’t think people should be pigeonholed as Muslims or deemed to be represented by regressive organisations like the MCB. Those of us who have come forward with our names and photographs represent countless others who are unable or unwilling to do so because of the threats faced by those considered ‘apostates’ – punishable by death in countries under Islamic law. By doing so, we are breaking the taboo that comes with renouncing Islam but also taking a stand for reason, universal rights and values, and secularism. We are quite certain we represent a majority in Europe and a vast secular and humanist protest movement in countries like Iran.”

Apparently there are similar organisations of ex-Muslims in Germany, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The launch is being sponsored by the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society.

To find out more about Namazie and her views, I recommend watching an interesting debate that took place last November on More 4 between her, Inayat Bunglawala of the MCB and Taji Mustafa of HT.


Posted in Politics | 1 Comment »

Ed Husain at it again

Posted by theislamist on June 10, 2007

I had hoped that my criticism of Ed Husain and the critical analysis by many in the Muslim community would have given him a dose of common sense. However he is at it again – not satisfied with the dozens of book reviews he has enjoyed and the tens of thousands of pounds he has earned from book sales, he is now complaining in the Observer that Muslims are generally saying nasty things about him [hat tip: Yusuf Smith on DeenPort].

If some Muslims at East London Mosque have threatened Mahbub, they must desist. Not only is this haram but probably exactly the kind of response that Mahbub was looking for and expected. He can now add weight to his argument that mosques are hotbeds of extremism and compliment himself on his admirable bravery and courage in writing his book.

Yahya Birt has correctly pointed out that, “we are not given proper evidence that this third-party reported threat was inspired by “Islamism”, or proof that the mosque authorities were somehow invovlved. What has been the reason to set out these sorts of reports, given by a third party, in the Observer? Was this done after other steps were taken previously and then found insufficient, and “not fit for purpose”? “

The response of Mahbub to all kinds of criticism from all sides of the political spectrum is remarkable and certainly not fitting of one who claims the path of tasawwuf. As Sumayyah Evans has written, there seems to be a Bush like ultimatum of either you agree with his personal narrative or you’re an extremist. Mahbub is arrogantly refusing to accept any credible criticism of his book or viewpoint – he seems to allege that all criticism if driven by ‘Islamism’ or by moderates with family connections to ‘Islamists’.

On one discussion thread, he actually insists that all that ask him questions must reveal all past, present and family connections to ‘Islamism’. One brother who spent a total of 9 years with MAB and YM is arrogantly told by Husain that he can’t possibly shed the ‘Islamist’ influence.

Remarkably, Mahbub ignores all of the brothers and sisters who have been demanding answers to the many inaccuracies in his writings. While ignoring these people and labelling them as ‘Islamists’ or sympathisers of ‘Islamists’,  all Mahbub can talk about is the support he is getting from a couple of former ‘Islamists’. Why does he not talk of the support he is getting from the neocon sympathisers who spearheaded the Iraq war? Why is he not ’emboldened’ by the support of Melanie Phillips and her ilk? What about those right-wing Zionists and neo-nazi BNP supporters who have been emboldened by his book?

He also talks of silent support from some of the Sufi shuyukh but names no names. However, from what my Sufi brothers have told me, some of the leading shuyukh have in fact expressed huge dismay at Mahbub’s actions and his misrepresentation of some of their opinions.

Those who remain close to Mahbub must explain to him that he cannot continue falsely slandering other Muslims and misrepresenting the opinions of the Shuyukh.  What may have started as a personal biography or narrative has unfortunately turned Mahbub into a pawn in the hands of those who are seeking to create divisions within our community. Enough is enough.

I agree entirely with Sidi Yahya who writes, “…I must say that his subsequent behaviour and conduct have certainly helped to tip people towards a more sceptical reading of his motives, and, no, they are not people who have been duped by Islamists, or indeed have been working members of Islamist organisations. Nor have they ever been Islamists — unlike Sidi Mahbub! Is he so sure that he can characterise their responses as naive?”

Posted in Politics, Terrorism | 1 Comment »

Ed Husain: The Islamist

Posted by theislamist on June 1, 2007

As I mentioned in a previous posting, I have been reading the recent book by Ed (Mahbub) Husain entitled The Islamist. I have finished reading it now. Mahbub and I both attended HT activities in London back in the early 1990s. I had intended to write a detailed piece on my thoughts about the book, but as there have been so many reviews I thought I would just make the following observations:

  1. Although the book has received wide acclaim amongst non-Muslim commentators, the reception amongst the Muslim community has been very frosty. The book was obviously written for the non-Muslim audience (hence the pen name ‘Ed’). The most positive review (although a lot of negative points are made) is the lengthy one by Yahya Birt. Other Muslim writers including Inayat Bunglawala, Andrew Booso and Yusuf Smith are much more critical of him. There are some newspaper journalists including Brian Whitaker, Riazat Butt and Madeleine Bunting who have also been critical.
  2. On DeenPort, Mahbub asked whether Muslims should wash their dirty linen in public. He has received a great deal of criticism from members of the DeenPort discussion forum and although he initially responded to it, he has failed to respond to much of the recent criticism. I agree with Yusuf Smith who asks “How can we take anyone seriously when he tells us not to air dirty linen in public while writing a book which does precisely that, on a much larger scale?”
  3. I don’t want to question Mahbub’s sincerity, but there are a huge number of opportunities for ‘kiss and tell’ style accounts from former ‘Islamists’. It is easy in this day and age to make a quick buck by bad mouthing the Muslim community. Brother Mahbub should reflect on the rightwing racists and Islamophobes who are feasting on his testimony.
  4. When the book neatly fits the Government’s narrative it is not surprising that it gets such wide acclaim from the broadsheets. The government’s narrative is that there are ‘ordinary decent Muslims’ who are completely detached from concerns about foreign policy or the notion of Islam being at the centre of state and society in the Muslim world. Every one else is an ‘Islamist’ who are accused of exploiting the faith of their fellow Muslims for political ends. This explains the Government’s recent support for the Sufi Muslim Council and the British Muslim Forum.
  5. I don’t think Mahbub’s account adds anything about the Islamic ‘scene’ in the UK. This is not surprising as he has not been part of it for over a decade. By his own admission, in the mid-1990s he ended his association with HT, before briefly moving on to associate with MB linked groups like ISB. He was never a ‘jihadi’ and never a ‘terrorist’, even though some in the media have described him as a former ‘jihadi’.
  6. Although many of us may have had bad experiences with some people from HT, Yusuf Smith hits the nail on the head when he says, “In calling for HT to be banned now, he ignores the reason why they are not: because the troublemakers left ten years ago. HT now are a quiet intellectual group, at least in the UK, and we do not ban parties in this country simply because we dislike their ideology.”
  7. There are some major errors in the book – I am not sure whether these are intentional or accidental – I know they are errors because I was with HT during the same period Mahbub was – for example there is the claim that HT never spoke out against Saddam Hussain. His suggestion that he parted company with HT for ideological reasons is also not true – it was more to do with his close personal relationship with Omar Bakri [he left when Bakri was kicked out], pressure from his father and other personal reasons which I don’t want to mention.
  8. Mahbub does not answer some very important questions. What tips someone over from being a ‘radical’ to becoming violent? After all, he was a radical and never became violent and the overwhelming majority of radicals do not become violent. Why is it that ‘Islamists’ linked to HT and the MB have existed in the UK for decades, yet we have never seen violence on the streets of the UK until after the Iraq war? Mahbub dismisses the foreign policy angle as a cause for alienation and radicalisation, but I think the evidence is stacked up against him. If this is a battle of ideas between “traditional Islam” and “Islamism” then how can it be won by banning groups or silencing voices? Does Mahbub believe that ISB, JIMAS, etc, etc. must all be banned? Should East London Mosque and Regent’s Park Mosque and all the other mosques linked to MB and the Wahabbis be closed down? Surely, what is needed is more debate and argument between the groups in accordance with the Islamic etiquettes? We can’t just sweep the views of many Muslims under the carpet. Does Mahbub really believe that anyone who wants the caliphate or an Islamic state must believe in violence? After all, a recent poll by the University of Maryland found that over 70 per cent of the population in the Muslim world wanted Shariah and the caliphate but were opposed to violence.

Posted in Politics, Reviews, Terrorism | 5 Comments »