Campus Salam: The Institutionalising of the Muslim Brotherhood

Last month, a Government funded organisation called Campus Salam was launched.

A non-Muslim friend of mine was involved in the project. Some time ago, he had emailed me excitedly about the proposals, which were designed to help to deradicalise Muslim students at University by providing them with a safe space to talk about Islam, free from the clutches of the evil jihadists.

“Very interesting”, I said. However, I told him that I had my doubts about the chances of the strategy working. First, I suggested, if we’re going to promote social cohesion, we’ve got to stop treating “Muslims” as a bloc, and stop treating people primarily in terms of their religious or cultural backgrounds. Most people do not have monolithic identities. Even well meaning, liberal, attempts to engage with people as Muslims (or in terms of any other single category) will tend to hurt, rather than help. Far better to treat individuals as ordinary people, with multiple contrasting aspects to their sense of who they are.

My other concern was that the organisation would be used as a base for Muslim Brotherhood activism. The Muslim Brotherhood in the United Kingdom is a small Arab dominated organisation, with little traction among British Muslims of South Asian origin. However, it is absolutely desperate to promote itself as the “firewall against Al Qaeda”, in order to partner with the Government, receive public funding, and increase its profile among British Muslims. Indeed, it is well placed to do just this: because British Muslims who are not extremists, tend not to be organised along political-confessional lines, and so are more difficult to find.

The problem with this strategy is that the Muslim Brotherhood is very far from a moderate organisation:

They stand for the fusing of church and state, and the dominance of non-democratic religious law over man made law, the rejection of fundamental human rights standards, the entrenching of gender and religious inequality, the lack of freedom to change or abandon religious beliefs, except in one direction, and the death penalty for those who do. They are not a non-violent organisation. In Egypt, they do not engage in terrorism, but that is a tactical decision only. However, Hamas – which is the Muslim Brotherhood – directs terrorist attacks against civilians, without shame: a policy which is sanctioned religiously by the Muslim Brotherhood’s religious leader, Yusuf Al Qaradawi.

Don’t worry, my friend said. We will be looking for genuine moderate voices in the Muslim community to help us out. Indeed, my friend said, he’d been talking to a very intelligent and moderate Muslim leader who was advising them how to defeat radicalisation. Perhaps I’d heard of him?

His name was Tariq Ramadan.

So, last month, Campus Salam held its first event:

‘What is the place for Islamic Political thinking in the UK today?’ 

What is the place of Islamic political thinking? You decide! A free event where students interrogate the experts, who are Tariq Ramadan , Anas Altikriti, Barbara Zoller, Sheikh Bahmanpour, Osama Saeed & Hanif Qadir.

My friend was very excited about this event. Campus Salam had managed to get together some really strong independent voices who would help to challenge jihadism. He directed me to the Facebook page, which contained information on the speakers at the event.

When I saw the list of names, my face fell. I copied in another friend who had been been active in Islamist politics in the past, to explain why these people were not moderate voices at all.

The Centre for Social Cohesion has it spot on:

Campusalam’s inaugural event was a debate featuring Tariq Ramadan (arguably Europe’s most prominent defender of the Muslims Brotherhood), Anas Altikriti (the former spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain), Barbara Zollner (an academic who believes the Muslim Brotherhood are now moderate), Osama Saeed (the Muslim Association of Britain’s Scottish spokesman).

The two other panelists included Sheikh Bahmanpour, who teaches at the Hawza Ilmiyya, a Shia school in East London which reportedly teaches that unbelievers are “filth” and Hanif Qadir, a youth worker who tried to join the Taliban in 2002.

Oh dear, said my friend. Have we got it wrong?

Campus Salam has, in fact, become a base from which those aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood can spread their message. It isn’t clear to me whether this has happened because the Government is is clueless as to who the Muslim Brotherhood are, and so have had the wool pulled over their eyes; or because there are those who have bought into the “promote the Muslim Brotherhood as a firebreak against Al Qaeda” thesis.

Either way, the prospects are dismal.

Neil D reported yesterday on the Government’s proposals to encourage the funding by Councils of “community bodies which challenge extremist ideas”. My bet is that this will become a cash-cow for Muslim Brotherhood related groups, which will set up front organisations in order to recruit and extend their ideological influence.

I’d say that the Government will prove both incapable and unwilling to prevent this from happening.