By NADEEM SAEED
As the horrors of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris were unfolding on our TV screens and social media, one community across Europe and Britain was more worried than others. After every act of violence perpetrated in a Western country in the name of Islam, Muslims are expected to denounce vociferously the groups who claimed responsibility of the attacks. If they do not do this publicly they are suspected as terrorist-sympathisers and condoning their acts.
Muslim Council of Britain issued a statement the very next day of the Paris attacks saying “British Muslim communities are equally appalled by the violence, and angered by those who commit abhorrent acts in the name of religion. The perpetrators do not represent us; their views are perverse and self-serving.” The council also placed adverts titled “With one voice, British Muslims condemn the Paris attacks unreservedly” in Daily Telegraph and Mail Online.
But that could not stop hate crimes against the country’s Muslim population.
Hate crimes against Muslims shoot up manifold after every terrorist incident. In the week following the attacks of November 13 in Paris, as many as 115 Islamophobic hate crimes were reported, a staggering increase of more than 300 per cent compared to the preceding weeks.
The figures were compiled by the Tell Mama helpline, which records incidents of verbal and physical attacks on Muslims and mosques in the UK. They are likely to be a considerable underestimate of the actual attacks because it is understood that many of the victims would not have contacted police or community groups out of fear. Most of the victims of hate crimes were Muslim girls and women aged from 14 to 45 clad in traditional Islamic dress.
Muslims not only become target of hate crimes, surveys and polls are also rolled out within days of an incident to gauge their loyalty and to see how much they ascribe to the extremist ideologies of Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State (ISIS/Daesh).
Right wing media would unashamedly manipulate results of the polls if they are not as they wished them to be. Sun splashed a headline on 23 November 2015 “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis” on the basis of a survey it commissioned to pollster Survation.
Questions asked in the survey were deceptive and manipulation of the data was so obvious that newspapers like Guardian, Independent and Mirror had to run reports critical of Sun’s divisive approach.
At the time of writing as many as 25, 500 people have filed an online petition asking the Attorney General to charge the newspaper (The Sun) with incitement under section 19 of Public Order Act 1986.
In the wake of mounting criticism, even Survation has to issue a statement to distance itself from The Sun’s interpretation of its data. The statement reads: “We do not support or endorse the way in which this poll’s findings have been interpreted. Survation categorically objects to the use of any of our findings by any group, as has happened elsewhere on social networks, to incite racial or religious tensions.”
One of the questions asked in the survey was about the level of sympathy with young Muslims who have left the UK to join fighters in Syria. Only 5.3 per cent of the respondents chose to have lot of sympathy while 14.5 per cent expressed some sympathy. Of the respondents, 71 per cent showed no sympathy at all with young Muslims who have joined fighters in Syria. The pollster had not defined what it meant by sympathy, though later when the questionnaire was questioned it clarified “sympathy does not amount to support”.
Exact number of British Muslims who have left to take part in Syrian civil war is unknown but it is thought that it could be few hundreds to a couple of thousands. More than 80 per cent of them are believed to have joined Daesh ranks.
At least 60 young girls and women have also reached the Daesh land from Britain.
Prime Minister David Cameron accused British Muslims of ‘quietly condoning’ some of the ideologies that drives Daesh hostilities and normalise hatred of ‘British values’.
Later in October while unveiling a new counter-terrorism plan, Mr Cameron remarked “we know that extremism is really a symptom; ideology is the root cause. But the stakes are rising, and that demands a new approach”.
The new approach includes moves to prevent radical material from being posted online and to bar anyone who expresses conviction to commit terrorist crimes or extremist activities from working with children. A panel will examine the application of Shariah law in Britain, and another will seek to ensure that schools, colleges, local authorities and health services are protected against infiltration by extremists.
But Mr Cameron did not name the ideology causing extremism. Is not it the Saudi-sponsored conservative ideology? Clerics of the same ideology run majority of mosques and allied religious schools in Britain. But you cannot name it because it involves risk of offending moneyed friends in the Gulf.
Followers of the same ideology have been used as proxies to topple unfavourable regimes in Afghanistan and Libya. And the same tactics are employed in Syria which though have resulted in the rise of Daesh, an outcome President Obama has interpreted as “unintended consequence”.
The ultra conservative British Muslims and some of their sympathisers on the left of political spectrum often blame British foreign policy in radicalisation of Muslim youth. But interestingly they would welcome western interventions in the name of Afghan Jihad and building up of Free Syrian Army. They, however, would be critical of dethroning Taliban from Kabul and installing a Shia-dominant government in Baghdad after removing Sunni Saddam Hussein.
Their criticism of the foreign policy is loaded with sectarian partisan approach. In the early days of Syrian crisis the same people, who were critical of the invasion of Iraq, wanted Western powers to bomb Assad and his army; and they were frustrated when it did not happen exactly.
The pull of the message of Daesh for Jihad and protection of the caliphate, which it claims has been established under the leadership of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, has allured many of young British Muslim men and women. British national Mohammed Emwazi aka Jihadi John remained face of the terror until he was annihilated in a drone strike a couple of weeks ago. In June this year, Dewsbury’s Talha Asmal, 17, blew himself in a suicide attack in Iraq while fighting for Daesh.
A startling Channel 4 documentary “ISIS: The British Women Supporters Unveiled” aired on 23 November 2015 is an eye opener of how some British women are glorifying Jihadis and promoting an ideology that is supportive of the so-called Islamic State.
Muslims are though a small minority (5 per cent) of the overall population in the UK but Islam is the second largest religion with a population of 2.7 million. Of them, two-thirds are of Asian descent. Half of the Muslim population is British born.
The controversial Sun-Survation poll found that only 3 per cent of the Muslims feel that “it is not important for British Muslims to integrate into British society” but the sense of British and Muslim identity is equally important for 76 per cent of the Muslims.
But that overwhelming majority of British Muslims is caught between increasingly skeptical state institutions, hostile media and the tiny minority of their fellow Muslims who think mixing with ‘others’ is infidelity.