» Monday, November 28, 2005

Terrorism Bill

Asked if we held out any hope on reaching an agreement on the draft legislation defining terrorism, the PMOS said: yes. We believed that there was a consensus that everyone condemned terrorism, and that everyone wanted to do more to tackle terrorism and its causes, and to take action against extremism and incitement towards dialogues and moderation. We would find out by the end of the day whether we had reached agreement, but we believed that there was still a prospect of doing so.

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  1. Not bowled over by Tablighi Jamaat
    Dominic Whiteman – 3/22/2007
    In the summer of 2006, I was asked by a senior British politician to draw up a list of organizations operating in Britain which deserved to be banned. This list did not include already proscribed entities, like Al Qaeda or the LTTE.

    Top of my list were the offshoots of Al Mujahiroun \x96 Al Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect (which were banned in August by the British Home Secretary). They sat alongside the anti-Semitic, extreme Islamist sect Hizb ut Tahrir (ban under review). Included in a column marked \x93increased monitoring essential\x94 was Tablighi Jamaat – an Islamic missionary and revival movement, now with several million members worldwide, founded in what is now Pakistan in the early twentieth Century, as a response to Christian evangelists working among poor and poorly educated Muslims in British India.

    No one with access to reliable intelligence accuses Tablighi Jamaat of direct involvement in terror. Indeed, it’s more often than not a mistake to see them as political at all. Yet some interesting connections are emerging:

    We already knew that two of the 7/7 bombers attended the Tablighi European headquarters mosque in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. In August, we learned that at least four of those charged with the alleged airline ‘terror plot’ worshipped at another Tablighi mosque. In September, Muslims in Gillingham, Kent, warned of a Tablighi Jamaat \x93fundamentalist\x94 takeover there. Finally, this month, we learned that Aishah Azmi, the Dewsbury teaching assistant who wore her veil in class, followed the instructions of a Tablighi Jamaat imam.

    American intelligence analysts have justified the continued extrajudicial detention of dozens of Guantanamo captives, including Abdul Hakim Bukhary and Ghallab Bashir, in part, on allegations that Tablighi Jamaat has ties to terrorism.

    The question of just who Tablighi Jamaat are is a pressing one in London, where the group has put forward for planning permission a 50,000 square meter \x93super-mosque\x94 \x96 to be built right alongside London\x92s Olympic Park in the Newham area of East London. If the intended building is permitted, it will eventually accommodate 70,000 worshippers, cost 100 million UK pounds, be called the London Markaz and will be the largest mosque in Europe.

    Although Tablighi Jamaat\x92s charitable trust, the Anjuman-e-Islahul Muslimeen, already owns the 18-acre site, it is understood that the British Government will intervene and turn down the planning application for the mosque. Nonetheless, Tablighi Jamaat has hired a lobbying firm with a track record of supporting controversial planning applications, in an attempt to build political support for the project. Indigo Public Affairs says, "Our client utterly refutes any links to terrorism. It is a predominantly apolitical organization seeking to go about its faith in a peaceful way." Indigo has been told to go for a scaled-down building (which can be added to later) should opposition to construction win the day.

    More than six months have passed since I drew up my list of groups who should face a ban in Britain. During those six months, after visiting Tablighi Jamaat mosques in London and Yorkshire, while listening to the advice of VIGIL associates now living in London who have been attending Tablighi Jamaat meetings and mosques, I am more than convinced that Tablighi Jamaat should not be banned. Tablighi Jamaat\x92s leadership is no more guilty for the group\x92s links to Islamist terrorists than the Pope is for the Catholic church\x92s links to IRA terrorists. In fact, if all Britain\x92s Muslims were Tablighi Jamaat devotees and lived their lives according to Tablighi doctrines, there would be little to no problem with violence-espousing, extreme Islamism in the UK.

    For Tablighi Jamaat\x92s brand of Islam focuses on Ijtima, Ghust, Chilla and Kitaab reading \x96 drawing the attention of its followers away from jihad. It is focused primarily on proselytism and in Britain the thing it focuses on most is door knocking. Its leaflets \x96 unlike Hizb ut Tahrir\x92s – are non-political and certainly not inflammatory. It is less a stealthy legion and more a time-consuming cult.

    But surely the true litmus test of whether the group should face a ban or not is displayed by how other extremist Islamist groups see it and react to it. And Tablighi Jamaat gets the backs up of the Islamists \x96political Muslims \x96 in the UK and across the world, who whine about how the Ummah\x92s energies are diverted and sapped by Tablighi Jamaat because of its popularity, while these energies should be used to \x93defend the Ummah\x94 and get up the noses of the Kuffar (unbelievers) instead. For this one reason alone, Tablighi Jamaat should escape a ban. As one veteran campaigner of MPAC(UK), the Islamist (but recognizing British voting systems) group wrote, \x93Imagine all these door knockers at election time, the message they could spread. One can only dream. Actually the most potent Muslim force out there, it takes courage and conviction to knock on people doors, and take rejection, and here we in the Muslim community have a latent potent force, which is being wasted.\x94

    If their ban is off the agenda, are Tablighi Jamaat an organization which should be encouraged by passing plans for the Markaz? Are they at one with, or opposed to, British values?

    Tablighi Jamaat is not political (as yet). This does not mean that it is a group bursting with sweetness and light. Far from it – it teaches world domination by Islam; it does not recognize the nation state; and teaches the doctrines such as the second class status of women and the sinfulness of both interfaith dialogue and the toleration of non-Muslim religions.

    In December 2006, one London Tablighi imam urged followers, including one of VIGIL\x92s associates, to spend more time off work and on pilgrimage saying that they had no excuses, especially in a country where they could claim all sorts of state benefits. It is true that Tablighi imams try as best they can to draw followers away from being economically productive in the sense that they urge followers to devote more and more of their time to the Tablighi cult \x96 two days a week becomes two weeks a month becomes six months a year.

    The group is ridiculously secretive \x96 which can only foster outsider suspicions \x96 and certainly its Dewsbury headquarters is more Hitler\x92s bunker than, just as an example, the welcoming open doors of equivalently proselytizing \x93happy-clappy\x94 Christian evangelical groups in operation in the UK. Its religious education programs are discriminatory and promote intolerance. Its leadership prefers languages like Urdu to English and its women folk are often dressed from head to toe \x96 thus erecting social barriers rather than dismantling them.

    Tablighi Jamaat seek an Islamic society throughout the world, and that includes Britain. At the last time of counting, 98.3 percent of Britons could think of nothing worse than Britain as an Islamic Society. Perhaps this would explain the findings of an ICM opinion poll in February 2007, to which the Labour MP Sadiq Khan commented, \x93vast numbers of Muslims feel disengaged and alienated from mainstream British society\x94\x85 the British Muslim population is only 2.5 percent of the population.

    The London Markaz should be prevented from being built \x96 in the sense that the last thing Britain, let alone London, needs is another \x93ghetto\x94 (recall radical Muslim Abu Izzadeen last year chiding the Home Secretary in Leytonstone for visiting \x93Muslim land\x94) which the Markaz will promote in what is currently a diverse part of the country where Tamils of various religions live peacefully alongside Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Jews.

    Abdul Khalique, the Markaz project manager, is being blind when he says,\x94 "My foremost vision is to break down the barriers – to bring the people of Newham together. If we can understand culture, and not try to change culture, we will get on together more happily." The planned Markaz is gargantuan and will dominate Newham if built \x96 peaceful coexistence between religions in such a cosmopolitan inner city area is hardly encouraged by one religion plunking its ownership so visibly over such a large piece of both land and skyline, where its history is trifling compared to the history of the Jews and Christians who have lived there for centuries. History not relevant? Then try size \x85Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral, the largest Christian place of worship in Britain, has a capacity of 3,000 not 70,000 and is not crammed into an inner city which is so culturally diverse.

    Tablighi Jamaat is able to pursue its aims because Saudi Arabia spends billions of dollars of its oil revenues every year on building and maintaining mosques and supporting it. And \x96 dare the elephant in the room be acknowledged – why should we allow the Saudis to fund mosque building, let alone super-mosque building, in the United Kingdom when they do not allow any non-Muslim places of worship to be built on their territory, nor do they allow any other forms of religion to be openly practiced?

    From VIGIL\x92s examination of Tablighi Jamaat in the United Kingdom \x96 our report will be published in June 2007 after one year of monitoring the group\x92s activities \x96 there are undoubtedly rotten apples in the organization. Our findings tend to chime with Alexis Debat of The Nixon Center who stated that, "The organization is present in more than 80 countries, and about 99.9 percent of its activities are legitimate, peaceful and apolitical… It\x92s dedicated to improving society through individual development… They claim it\x92s not a political goal, but I\x92d argue that trying to change a society\x92s values is a political project, philosophically speaking. The question is how to root out the 0.1 percent \x85 without antagonizing the rest of the community." Certainly, our findings show that members of Tablighi Jamaat put religion first and last \x96 they have no concept of what is Caesar\x92s and what is God\x92s, thus run contrary to Britain\x92s cherished secular, free society and hard-fought British values. In light of this alone, as they are seeling to dominate with their beliefs, they are not a group who should be encouraged; certainly not given \x93landmark\x94 status.

    Tablighi Jamaat shows a lot of ambition and its ambition is undoubtedly organised. It\x92s a group which tries to gain legitimacy and following within the Muslim world by openly advertising the various celebrities and notables in its ranks. (Its hiring of Indigo for the Markaz project is indicative of such organized ambition). But if it wants to dominate a country, Britain\x92s the wrong place for it to try \x96 Britain\x92s not interested in becoming an Islamic society. And the last thing Britons want when the London 2012 Olympic Games are flashed across the world\x92s screens is a gargantuan symbol of Britain\x92s tolerance towards men who oppress women \x96 might as well have a colossal statue of John Knox sitting alongside it and have a grand old male-only celebration while we\x92re at it of medieval values.

    It\x92s beyond most people in Britain as to why religions bother proselytising any more. After all, we\x92ve got Broadband now and can choose to engage in religion of our own volition if we so wish, rather than having it rammed down our throats by those who \x93know\x94 the truth. It\x92s also beyond most people in Britain why Islamists persist in mixing Islam with British politics when they have about as much chance of politically imposing their religion on our secular lives as we have of being eaten in one by a mosquito.

    Sure \x96 Tablighi Jamaat, for now, is not mixing Islam and politics. But by imposing the Markaz and by being so ambitious in its celebrity recruitment and in other areas it is either disclosing that it has political presence or getting very close to coming out as a political organization.

    Maybe Tablighi Jamaat just needs a change at the top \x96 some new decision makers who aim to step less on the toes of people who do not belong to the cult and reinforce in the minds of those who may ban it that they\x92re a peaceful bunch who are catching up with the better values of the twenty-first century after all. Perhaps appoint a woman (though we\x92d have to see her face) as its Ameer?

    Or maybe Tablighi Jamaat \x96 in its attempts to get too big for its boots – is losing its vogue? Speaking to a Pakistani colleague this morning after breakfast, I am told that Tablighi Jamaat is now getting the blame for the Pakistan cricket team\x92s extraordinary loss to Ireland in the Cricket World Cup. (Yesterday on St Patrick\x92s Day, Ireland \x96 where virtually no cricket is played at all \x96 beat Pakistan in Sabina Park, Jamaica, and knocked one of the world\x92s foremost cricketing nations out of the cup altogether. One of the most shocking things that has ever happened in international sport).

    The Pakistani Newspaper notes, \x93The 3-4 months in a year that the Pakistani team members such as Imran Khan, Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal, Sarfraz Nawaz, Javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbas, Mohsin Khan, Rameez Raja, etc, used to spend in England playing county cricket, would make them adopt the lifestyle of any other English cricketer: liquor, nightclubs, girlfriends and everything else that comes with the package. However, those days of cricketing casualness are now memory, as are so many aspects of secular life in Jinnah’s Pakistan. The Pakistani cricketers have never pursued their religious beliefs as devoutly as they do nowadays. "Bismillah" (In the name of Allah) or "Inshallah" (God willing) stud their every utterance, no matter whether they are on the field or elsewhere. The team members huddle together to pray on the ground during pre-match preparations; ‘Islamic beards’ are sported as an advertisement of their faith; batsmen have known to cramp because they fast and play during the holy month of Ramadan. This religiosity has come about because a clutch of players — Inzimam, Mushtaq Ahmed (bowling coach), Mohammad Yousaf, Saqlain Mushtaq, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik and Yasser Hameed – have become members of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), participating in public gatherings organized to propagate Islam and stress the virtue of an ‘authentic Islamic lifestyle’. The TJ has invaded the dressing room of the Pakistani cricket team – they can be seen praying with players and reciting the Holy Quran for the team’s success (never mind that it has been performing poorly). As TJ membership makes it incumbent upon a person to preach, most of the Tablighi cricketers, especially Inzimam, often conduct preaching tours across Pakistan. Inzimam’s penchant to mix religion with cricket has already sparked accusations that he favours Tablighi players over those who are either secular or prefer to confine religion to their private lives. The non-Tablighi group is reportedly led by Vice-Captain Younas Khan and includes Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif, Danish Kaneria, Imran Nazir, Abdul Razzaq, etc. This divide often shadows differences between players. This shrinking of the secular space is perhaps already happening in the cricket team. But for those persevering in the way of Allah Almighty, these are minor matters.\x94

    Apparently, the conspicuous Islamicisation of the Pakistani cricket team recently prompted even Pakistan\x92s President – General Pervez Musharraf – to advise the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board Dr Naseem Ashraf to ask the players to strike a balance between religion and cricket. One imagines his prompts sounded more like orders this morning.

    Whether it\x92s religion and politics or, more importantly, religion and cricket \x96 religion just doesn\x92t mix.

    Tablighi Jamaat should not be banned in Britain. But someone should tell it to focus its ambitions less on unattainable erections and more on bringing its subjugated womenfolk into modernity.

    Dominic Whiteman is spokesperson for the London-based VIGIL anti-terrorist organization \x96 an international network of terror trackers, including former intelligence officers, military personnel and experts ranging from linguistic to banking experts.

    Comment by Capt Walker — 22 Mar 2007 on 5:47 pm | Link

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