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Fun With Numbers (and with the Muslim Council of Britain)

This is a guest post by Yossarian

The Muslim Council of Britain likes to present itself as the voice of British Muslims. If you tuned in to Kenan Malik’s excellent programme on Radio 4 this morning, Are All Muslims the Same? then you will have heard MCB spokesman Inayat Bunglawala boasting that organisations like the MCB have never been out of step with what “the silent majority” of British Muslims are saying.

Quite apart from this making no sense at all (How does he know what the silent majority are saying if they are silent?), it is a portentous claim. If the MCB know what all Muslims are thinking then, as discussed yesterday, it makes sense for the government to treat them as gatekeepers to British Muslims. Bunglawala clearly knows better than British Muslims themselves, only six percent of whom actually believe the MCB represents them.

To further bolster the MCB’s pretensions to represent British Muslims, Bunglawala stated that the MCB now has over 550 affiliated mosques, organisations and the like. This is another interesting claim and, fortunately for us, an easily verifiable one – the MCB has published a list of affiliates on its website.

I copied all of the organisations on the MCB’s list into a spreadsheet and, far from the “over 550” affiliates of which Inayat boasted, my list totalled 457.

And then something else struck me, I should do a little rough mathematics. There were quite a few duplicates on the list and, although some of them are probably innocent slips, there does appear to be a concerted effort to beef up the numbers. For several different organisations not only is the national organisation named as an affiliate but also the regional and local groups. For example, there are 12 different varieties of Islamic Forum Europe on the list, 16 of the Islamic Society of Britain, eight Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith and no fewer than 35 different varieties of UK Islamic Mission.

Then there are some rather bizarre affiliates like ‘Muslim Directory’ and ‘Trends Magazine’ – how exactly can a directory of services and a magazine claim to be organisations? And Islam Expo (which appears twice, once purely as Islam Expo and once as Islam Expo Ltd) is an exhibition. In what sense is a four day Islamist extravaganza an affiliated organisation? And another one I found, ‘Save Chechnya Campaign’ seems very unlikely to still be active. This leads to the suspicion that several of the other organisations on the list may no longer be active but, unless somebody is prepared to spend hours seeking out Companies House records for each name on the list, the MCB will have to get the benefit of the doubt.

So, from my master list of 457 organisations I produced some sub-lists. Firstly, duplicates (111); then organisations which were not actually organisations, like Islam Expo and the Muslim Directory (8); then mosques (69) and schools (17). And finally, actual bona fide organisations (just 254). On the radio this morning, Inayat Bunglawala boasted that the MCB had started with 150 affiliated mosques and organisations, a number which had grown to over 550. My rough and ready analysis suggests that the MCB really only has about 340 affiliates – of which just 254 are actually organisations in the normal sense of the term (rather than a building) and several of those are probably one-man-bands.

Now, if you take a look in the (MCB-affiliated) ‘Muslim Directory’ you will find thousands and thousands of mosques, Islamic centres, organisations and the like, only a tiny (generally Islamist) fraction of which want to have anything to do with the MCB. So much for being representative.

Yet another reason for the government to disregard the MCB’s arrogant claim to be the voice of British Muslims.