BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS
In Comment is Free (CiF), Shaaz Mahboob, the Vice-Chair of British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD), has written a piece in which he asks Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) to call off their planned demonstration outside the Harrow Mosque. BMSD have also written an open letter to the SIOE head, Stephen Gash, which carries the same message.
This exercise has helped to expose the truly extreme and illiberal nature of Gash and the SIOE. In the BMSD letter, Mahboob writes:
[...]we would like to point out that just like the majority of law-abiding British Muslims and non-Muslims, we too are extremely concerned about the rise of extremism and political Islam in Britain, which has been used to justify or demand non-democratic practices. On this issue, I am sure your organisation and ours share a common concern and would like to see a halt to the spread of these.
In the comments thread of Mahboob's CiF blog, Gash makes it very clear that BMSD are wrong when they say that the groups share any common ground (some of his more offensive comments have now been removed). SIOE are not against extremist or political Islam, they are simply against all Muslims. Constantly referring to ‘Muslims' as if they are all one big bloc of violent maniacs, Gash refuses to accept the very existence of a moderate Muslim:
We do not believe in moderate Muslims and I told Shaaz Mahboob and his colleagues so at the demonstration he wrote about in his article.
Here Gash is using a well known argument which patronisingly instructs Muslims that they are deluding themselves if they think they are moderates. Gash repeatedly implies that simply by practicing their religion, Muslims are by definition extremists. Not quite what one would expect from a man who says he stands for liberal values such as religious freedom.
In the same comment, Gash launches an all out attack on the BMSD, thus fully cementing his bigotry:
Shaaz Mahboob and the BMSD are practising :-
Taqiyya - lying to further Islam
Kitman - withholding the truth/facts to further Islam
These comments are shameful. BMSD are working very hard, often at their own personal risk, to promote anti-Islamism amongst Muslims. By accusing them of taqiyya, Gash makes it very clear that no Muslim will ever pass his test, no matter what they do. Gash is also seemingly unaware, as are many who use the taqiyya argument, that the concept also allows Muslims to declare themselves as non-Muslims if it helps their cause. Why would a taqiyya Muslim draw the line at protesting extremism? Surely they could just pretend to renounce their faith, gain Gash's favour and then subvert his cause from the inside? In his CiF comments, Gash praises former Muslims Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Wafa Sultan, not realising that they are just as eligible to be accused of taqiyya as the BMSD.
I saw Gash briefly at the BMSD anti al-Muhajiroun protest and he had a sort of looming Nosferatu quality to him which made me feel instantly uneasy in his presence. At the time I knew very little about him, but soon found out that my instincts were right. Not only does he hold extreme views about Muslims, but his website also writes in support of Radovan Karadzic, who is now in The Hague facing charges of war crimes against, among others, Bosnian Muslims (of which he stands accused of killing 7500). Let's just hope that SIOE's solution to ‘stopping the Islamisation of Europe' does not mirror that of the Serbian ultra-nationalists.
Searching the SIOE site one can also find rather reassuring signs that SIOE are so crazy and fundamentally unserious that they can't possibly have any influence. Take, for example, this cheap and poorly produced picture which says:
Islam + International Socialism + Communism + Fascism + Nazism = Internazislam
What an incisive and revealing political analysis! These are nothing more than the frenzied gibberings of a paranoid fool who has nothing to offer to a highly complex debate.
Islamism is a very real threat to our society, and this is what our blog is dedicated to exposing. Not only do SIOE not understand the Islam/Islamism distinction, they actively seek to discredit and attack moderate Muslims who do. Gash's disgraceful behaviour towards BMSD illustrates just how detrimental his organisation is in the fight against Islamism, and all true liberals should join forces in condemning the SIOE.
Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.
Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.
Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London. He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon.
To contact the authors, click here
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