This is a guest post by Yasmin Baruchi
The Muslim Council of Britain is outraged again. After news of Eric Pickles’ letter to 100 mosques broke, inviting them to work with the government to address the challenges of “integration and radicalisation”, they responded:
“Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society?”
That the MCB responded with accusation of Islamophobia might baffle you. But it doesn’t surprise me. It is a typical defensive response that only someone who has grown up in a Muslim community can really understand. To explain this attitude to a wider audience I’m going to use the analogy of someone who has become notorious in public life over the last few years: the ‘political and social commentator’ Mo Ansar.
Over the last 12 months, I have chuckled, guffawed and shrieked with laughter at the excellent exposes of Mo Ansar. They have come thick and fast. Following the impressive investigative work of Jeremy Duns on twitter; Nick Cohen, Milo Yiannopulis, and Iain Dale amongst numerous others, have all written on the Muslim “Walter Mitty”. In fact, so much has already been written that I was in two minds about whether to write this at all. But like the MCB and a number of others first in line to cry “victim”, Mo isn’t about to back down or change tact.
The unpalatable truth is there isn’t a single view that Mo Ansar has expressed that I can honestly say I have not heard in abundance in Muslim communities myself. From his “soft heart” platitudes, dubious take on history, victim mentality, hostility to challenge and apologia on all things “Islamic”- Mo is still the very definition of a type of South Asian British Muslim I see every day. Even his insistence to only wear Arabic garb in public to demonstrate his piety is a cliché.
Let me walk you through some of Mo’s defining view and behaviours and make sense of them for you in the context of my experience as a British Muslim of South Asian origin.
*That* Slavery Tweet to Tom Holland
Take the hideous slavery justifying tweet Mo sent to historian Tom Holland that John Sargeant wrote about. Mo would not have thought twice about expressing such a view- the tweet rationalises and justifies slavery in a way hundreds of thousands of children will have been taught to in the UK during after-school madrassah lessons when studying the life of the Prophet. Almost all Muslim children attend madrasah in these communities to enrich their Islamic education and this is exactly the type of apologism all my family, childhood friends and community will have absorbed in their lifetime.
All is not as it seems…
The same goes for Mo’s predilection for conspiracy theories. I remember when 9/11 happened. Almost every Muslim I knew at the time ( including myself) believed that even if the US hadn’t carried
out the attack themselves, they certainly aided it in some way. Fast forward, to post 7/7, the community was sharing home-made YouTube documentaries “proving” the attacks were staged. Can you honestly say you don’t see it EVERY single time? Even when Lee Rigby was murdered, it was exposed during the “Trojan Horse” scandal that Muslim teachers were circulating between themselves and perhaps to students that it was a false flag event. Right now we are blaming the Jews and Mossad for ISIS and the Charlie Hebdo and Jewish murders in France.
Islam did it first and this article proves it!
Something that appears quite comedic at first is Mo’s love affair with fantasy Islamic History. Muslims discovered the Americas before Columbus anyone? Unfortunately the laughter stops when you realise this too is the symptomatic of widely held and smug belief in our communities that Islam is responsible for discovering everything that is of any significance in the world. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard that without algebra there would be no internet- taking for granted that algebra is an Islamic invention of course. I have even been told that Robin Hood was in fact a Muslim- his real name is “Raul Ibn Hud”. The inaccurate and debunked “scientific miracles of the Quran” arguments peddled by the well-loved and revered extremists Zakir Naik and more recently Hamza Tzortis are lapped up hungrily by many British Muslims of South Asian origin- and books on it will be found in most Islamic bookshops without fail. If you visit a dawah stall in town, the likelihood is they will have a leaflet or two on how the Quran described embryology and the Big Bang before any western scientist. It’s a clear testament to the willingness to believe that Islam discovers everything first, no matter how silly the claim.
They’re out to get us
Given that there is nothing Mo Ansar espouses that is in reality “off-the wall” or deviates from normal mainstream beliefs of millions of other Muslims, it’s no surprise he has entrenched himself as a victim of a “neo-con conspiracy” against him and by extension “orthodox” Islam. The victim narrative is one shared by large proportions of British Muslim society because like Mo- they have grown up with the same version of non-violent yet extreme version of Islam that taught them that Islam is superior in every way, the Quran is the divine word of Allah and therefore infallible, that a caliphate based on a certain interpretation of shariah law ( which no one can seem to agree on!) is the “ideal”. In comparison, Western secular democratic society is corrupt, immoral, and inferior. There is and always will be an ongoing struggle between Muslims and the ” Kuffar” (disbelievers). In fact, the disbelievers want you to be like them and so will never stop trying to lead you astray.
Therefore, Mo’s open sympathy and support for non-violent Muslim Imperialists Hizb-ut-Tahrir and his seething rage and contempt for secular reformists such as Maajid Nawaaz and the progressive Muslims you saw on last week’s Panorama and written about by John Ware isn’t a fringe sentiment but something that makes sense to British Muslims the country over. After decades of the unchallenged Saudi Salafist and Deobandi stronghold over our mosques, It could hardly be any other way.
Stop bullying me
Whenever external scrutiny is applied by the Government- whether it’s in Islamist infiltrated schools, charities and organisations, the cries of “Islamophobic witch-hunt” follow. It’s why the MCB have chosen to align Eric Pickles with the far right in response to a well meant and genuine call for help. Through his immediate default to crying bullying and harassment in the face of any challenge or criticism, Mo is acting all this out on an individual scale. He may have attended one of the best grammar schools in the country (Watford Boys’ that churns out Oxbridge candidates) and been given every opportunity to achieve in reality even one of his many made-up occupations, Mo has chosen to play the eternal victim and blame it on “Islamophobic neo-cons” instead. It’s a familiar story.
I could go on and on but what’s clear to me is that within Mo Ansar we are seeing a live example of British Islam and the struggle it’s now facing when scrutinised and challenged. And that’s why we should worry. The views Mo holds are steeped in his belief that they are Islamic, which makes them perfect and non-negotiable. He won’t give up easily on this- nor will millions of others. Change is going to be hard.