It is always nice to hear about groups that are organising to promote global peace, so I was happy to read more about upcoming convention of Britain’s Ashmadiyya Muslim community (First Person, August 19, Leicester Mercury).
Islamophobia remains a major problem in British society. Unfortunately, not much seems to have changed since 2011 when Dr Habib Akram (a leader of the local Ahmadi community) published a First Person piece in the Mercury (April 29) which highlighted the negative role played by the mainstream media. “No good, it seems – if the media were to be believed – ever comes from Muslims,” he wrote.
Dr Akram correctly drew attention to the relationship between the ongoing demonization of Muslims and the historic persecution of communists, which of course included many leading trade unionists: “Decades ago, it was not Islam that was the menace (it was then an ally) when communism was the great threat and the West feared the ‘reds under beds’.”
Like many other Muslim groups, it is not easy to be openly critical of the government’s Islamophobic ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’ strategy, which allegedly aims to undermine home-grown terrorism.
But at least the international press office of the Ashmadiyya Muslim community felt comfortable enough to provide some friendly criticisms of David Cameron’s July 2015 speech about his efforts to stamp out Islamic extremism.
The Ahmadi press office statement noted how, despite their own high expectations, Cameron’s speech “sadly… often veered into reaffirming generalised views of Islam, which are not only unhelpful, but counter-productive.”
They went on, Cameron’s “gratuitous claim that a link must be drawn between Islam and extremism lacks understanding and so masks a more sinister suggestion that there is some theological justification for extremist acts within the religion of Islam.” Correctly adding that such misrepresentations only serve to “add fuel to the fire” of Islamophobia.
The statement also pointed out how the “prime minister is either unwilling or unable to come to terms with the proven links between political unrest and global frustration”.
Nevertheless, the Ahmadi communities’ gentle criticisms of Cameron don’t go anywhere near far enough. After-all, they make no mention of the disturbing way in which Cameron conflated what he called nonviolent and violent Islamic extremism.
Furthermore, compared to the extensively documented criticisms of Cameron’s anti-terrorism strategy undertaken by the likes of Professor Arun Kundnani, the Ashmadiyya Muslim communities response to Cameron’s belligerent nonsense is decidedly timid.
But then again, one must remember that any Muslim group openly contradicting the government’s reactionary views on countering terrorism run the very serious risk of being mislabelled by Tories as Islamic extremists themselves!
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on 19th August.