D wrote to me asking about my views on the UK Islamic Mission:
In Leeds they are setting up a centre in Moortown. The English Defence League is trying to exploit tensions about this by having a demo. I read a post from I think your forum saying that the UKIM is linked to Jamaat-e-Islami but looking at their website they seem to be just an evangelical group like the Mormans or Jehovah’s witnesses. Peddling an outdated and misogynist world view but basically within the remit of religion rather than politically linked to Jamaat. As a secular lefty I organised people to turn out against the EDL in Leeds and Bradford but this obviously is slightly more complicated because I don’t want to gloss other genuine concerns about UKIM but neither do I want to overact and take a position of neither EDL or UKIM.
I asked Gita Sahgal of Centre for Secular Space and an authority on Jamaat-e-Islami to respond. She wrote:
Please see this old Islamic Right Key Tendencies on UK Islamic Mission. The briefing is a few years old, but will be useful in determining which groups are Islamist. According to our information which was very thoroughly researched, the UK Islamic Mission is a part of the Jamaat e Islami. Fudamentalist organisations have numerous front organisations for different purposes including proselytising, collecting money for charity and so on. They all pursue the same political agenda even if it isn’t obvious.
I think it is high time that a NO to All Fascism front was established and I think it would be great to say no to EDL and to the UK IM.
D wrote back saying:
I am slightly wary of the Oppose both Fascisms stance. The EDL are proposing to go into an area with historically a high Jewish population and shout racist slogans and threaten and scare residents. If they could they would beat up Jewish and Asian people there and seek to whip up violence against the Asian community and would make no differentiation between Hizb-ut-Tahir and secular Muslims or non-Muslims who look Asian. Meanwhile the UKIM whilst having the links with Fascists in the Subcontinent and sharing their reactionary world view are obviously not threatening people on the street or anything like that. I think the main purpose of any demo would have to be against the EDL but the literature we put out should criticise UKIM but argue for the best way to oppose them is to support Muslim people and people of a Muslim background who are politically engaged against the Islamic right (like yourselves but also LGBT Muslims and some Liberal religious groups).
And here is Gita’s must read response:
Thank you for your letter on the ‘Opposing Both Fascisms’ stance. I understand that taking this stance involves a huge change in mindset and therefore it is difficult to take. It stems from seeing Muslims as powerless, ‘other’ and therefore needing support from the left, because they have no other support. It also treats ‘Muslims’ as an undifferentiated category.
If any of your assumptions were accurate, it might be possible to argue that the EDL poses the greater threat, but unfortunately not a single one of your statements is correct.
• As our material shows, the Jamaat e Islami is a global transnational movement which has organised in Britain and in many other countries. It is MUCH more powerful than the EDL and arguably as threatening on the street. Its threat is not expressed in the same ways and remains invisible to white leftists who are not affected by it.
• Britain is one of its main organising centres outside the Indian sub-continent where it originated. As our future research will show, the Jamaat has pursued its goals on the streets of Britain in a number of ways and regularly threatens people who do not conform to its agenda. It has sectarian differences with other Muslim fundamentalist groups but works with them and has tolerated and promoted their agendas.
• Muslim women in public life are regularly attacked by the Jamaat for not veiling. The Jamaat says the veil is mandatory. Ordinary workers in shops are also threatened. One woman, who is a Christian Bangladeshi, went public and appeared on Newsnight. But this is a more widespread problem. She was defended by Christian fundamentalists because of course, the left websites said the problem was exaggerated.
• Various people have been physically threatened over the years, including one religious studies teacher.
• Ramadan is policed by beating up people seen smoking and threatening and intimidating others.
• Cultural functions such as a Bengali ‘Mela’ or fair are regularly denounced from the East London Mosque with musicians threatened.
• There is an enormous campaign of genocide denial, backed by British and American law firms and lobbying groups, Saudi Arabia and all the Muslim Brotherhood states. I am not aware of the EDL being funded and politically supported by a single foreign state.
• Bloggers who have provoked a mass anti-fundamentalist movement in Bangladesh are being threatened here on the streets. Windows of houses have been smashed; women have been followed late at night. Leaflets are being circulated in mosques naming people. They have been declared ‘apostates’. One blogger in Bangladesh named on Jamaat websites and declared an ‘apostate’ had his throat cut. Declaring someone an apostate is not simply an insult. It is a religious injunction to kill them. Therefore, we consider people in Britain who are part of the Shahbag movement to be at serious risk. They are certainly being physically and psychologically intimidated by people who know where they live.
• The Shahbag movement has directly threatened the Jamaat and attacks on it have been organised from Jamaat centres.
• “Muslim Patrols” run by individual vigilantes are threatening people in Tower Hamlets, which has also seen stickers calling it a gay-free zone. When interviewed a leader of the Muslim Council of Britain (another Jamaat dominated organisation) said that ‘non-Muslims’ shouldn’t be intimidated. The underlying reasoning being that Muslims can be told not to drink, what to wear, etc.
• I have investigated prominent British Jamaatis for their involvement in war crimes (direct involvement in fatwas promoting mass murder, in death squads and lynch mobs) in the film The War Crimes File. They have thrived in this country and continued to promote their politics here. They were central organisers of the anti-Rushdie marches and the demand to extend the blasphemy law. In Pakistan, they succeeded in establishing a blasphemy law, now used to attack dissenters and to attack and jail poor Christians and other minorities. These minorities have been threatened in this country.
• All these examples are breaches of the human rights of the people concerned. The EDL marches are a threat to public order, but arguably fall within free speech boundaries. I believe that they should be strongly opposed, but not by being a mirror image of their argument. I believe that an anti-racist movement, which is also a genuinely anti-fascist movement, will build in strength rather than being divisive. So many sensible people are turned off by the current assumptions it makes.
• Finally, as I indicated, the Jamaat has access to foreign state funds. But it also has access to huge funds from the British state, while other Muslim fundamentalist organisations are funded by the Quakers. There is at least one piece of research being done on the Jamaat trying to establish how much money comes from the British taxpayer. It runs into millions of pounds. I doubt the EDL are advisors to the government, partners of the police and in receipt of large amounts of public money. Jamaat are embedded in the local state in some places but also in senior policy positions. Does this not terrify you?
By the way, as I am sure Maryam will confirm, organisations such as ours – One Law for All, Council of Ex-Muslims and the Centre for Secular Space – have huge difficulties raising funds as all the liberal/left donors are supporting Muslim fundamentalists.
Thank you for making an inquiry and for struggling with the question. I do think a proper anti-fascist movement is long overdue. I hope you are up for it.