Last week the British Government announced a further £70M funding towards combating “Muslim Extremism” (in addition to the £6M already approved and being spent by local authorities). Other initiatives funded by the government include projects such as the Radical Middle Way and its Muslim Scholars Roadshows. Many of the projects funded clearly have both religious and political goals, although they are presented as Dawah/awareness and good community relations.
There are a number of problems with the approach and initiatives. Firstly, the projects being implemented include even madrassah education, Muslim media, mosque reform and women’s projects. The British State is now openly funding Islam. For the last 40 years we have consistently been told the secular state “does not do religion”. In fact, this is nothing new for the British State, under the Raj in India they managed to pacify and de politicise Islam to preserve their own occupation of India. Today’s initiatives are an internal form of colonialism for the same ends, ending resistance to Western occupation of Muslim lands, by reforming Islam.
Secondly, the projects target and monitor the Muslim communities to the exclusion of all others. According to the guidance only Muslim “extremists” or perpetrators of violent attacks are problems. So what about others is there no Hindu, Christian, Zionist or right wing, left wing extremism/violence? The EUROPOL “EU Terrorism Situation and Trend report 2007” documents that of the 468 terrorist incidents in the EU in 2006 only 2 were committed by “Islamists”, the others being described as left wing, right wing, separatist and other terrorism. By accepting the Extremism Initiative and the label it attaches to Muslims, we will simply be aiding and abetting a McCarthyite witch hunt against ordinary Muslims, and those with legitimate/dissenting political views and causes. This will further erode a Muslims right to practice and believe in his religion and restrict his political views.
Thirdly, the underlying rationale behind this fund is that the root cause of all Muslim violence is theology not politics. Muslims and Islam are portrayed as the cause of the problem and in need of reform. It lets the British Government off the hook and excuses the violence and mass murder it commits in the Muslim world. But as the EUROPOL report points out “Terrorism is not an ideology or movement, but a tactic or a method for attaining political goals”. By accepting this viewpoint we are accepting that Muslims and their violence are somehow different and require different solutions. However, reforming Islam will have absolutely no effect on terrorism. An Islam that talks of spiritual development and theological reform, without addressing how Muslims can deal with the real world issues they face, will become redundant just as it did in British India; which left a Hindu Ghandi to lead, nurture and develop the movement for independence.
Sadly, we have to admit that these initiatives could not have been progressed without the support of some Muslims and their organisations. Whatever their reasons for supporting the Government, and there are many, they are misguided. Some are doing it purely for financial gain for themselves, their careers, or their projects. Others because they do not understand the potential implications on the community, and still others for their own sectarian reasons, fighting outmoded battles from the days of the Raj, totally irrelevant to today’s Muslim situation. The result will simply be more division and sectarianism.
Finally, there are theological objections. What kind of relationship does Islam permit with a State that is at war in Muslim lands, and responsible for the mass murder of Muslims? A State that openly supports regimes that oppress and terrorize Muslims, and wants to impose non Islamic values on the Muslim world, as well as attempting to reform Islam. Is it permissible for Muslim Scholars to work under projects designed by the British State to reform Islam, knowing full well what their Agenda is? At the heart of the matter is what kind of Islam and Muslim Institutions we want in Britain; Independent, and serving only the Agenda of the Allah (swt), or dependent and funded by the British State serving its agenda? A strong and united Muslim community can only emerge if it is independent of the State.