The New Republic has published an article by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank which claims that al Qaeda is unravelling because former supporters are turning against it, and that as a result Muslim moderates are on the march against the jihadis. While there is undoubtedly some truth in their argument, in that – as we can see in Iraq – the mass killings of Muslims by al Qaeda are clearly turning increasing numbers of Muslims against it, the authors' apparent naivety and ignorance have nevertheless led them to some dangerously wrong conclusions, particularly in their analysis of what is happening in Britain.
They have fallen into the trap of believing that the only extremists are al Qaeda and others who support terrorism in Britain. They thus extol as moderates those who oppose al Qaeda and terrorism in Britain. But this view – which is shared by many in British security circles, alas -- presents an entirely false and indeed lethal dichotomy. For there are Islamists who oppose al Qaeda and terrorist action in the UK as a tactical mistake but nevertheless subscribe to the same strategic goal – to restore the medieval Caliphate, overturn British and western society and institute the rule of Islam instead.
This is because there are two arms to the jihadi pincer: terrorist attack and cultural attack; and the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists use either or both depending on circumstances and upon differing strategic points of view between groups under the same jihadi umbrella. There are also some who, after the London Tube and bus bombings, the subsequent Islamic terrorist trials and the resulting hardening of public opinion, decided to moderate their previously hard-line position and profess reformist opinions as a tactic to lull the British into lowering their guard.
None of this appears to have occurred to the authors of this article. They have instead listened uncritically and uninformedly to certain individuals in Britain's security establishment who so lamentably fail to grasp the nature and extent of the jihad, as well as to manipulative Islamists who have played the authors (along with that security establishment) like fish on a line. As a result they make gross errors of judgment in hailing certain individuals as moderate when they are anything but. For example, they write:
Kamal el Helbawy, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who helped bring in moderates at the Finsbury Park mosque in London...
This shows a truly lamentable ignorance. After the removal of the notorious abu Hamza from Finsbury Park, the police did not broker the arrival of a moderate regime at the mosque. They brokered instead a new administration dominated by the Muslim Association of Britain, the British arm of the Muslim Brotherhood whose aim is to Islamise Britain and the west, and whose chief spokesman is Dr Azzam Tammimi, the Hamas acolyte who has publicly supported human bomb terrorism in Israel. As for Kamal el Helbawy, who the authors clearly think is the acme of moderation, he is the main Brotherhood man in Britain and Europe -- and thus central to the whole strategy of indoctrination and radicalisation of Britain's Muslims and the demoralisation with menaces of the indigenous community, which is putting this country at such risk. Because it's not just terrorism that creates the danger – it's the ideas that drive the terror.
In the House of Commons in 2003 the MP Louise Ellman said:
It is time that the spotlight fell on the Muslim Association of Britain, particularly the key figures, such as Azzam Tamimi, Kamal el Helbawy, Anas Al-Tikriti and Mohammed Sawalha. All of them are connected to the terrorist organisation Hamas. The Muslim Association of Britain itself is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood -- an extremist fundamentalist organization founded in Egypt in 1928, and the spiritual ideologue of all Islamic terror organizations. It is militantly antisemitic and always has been.
Yet the NR authors present the MAB as the antidote to the jihad!
Then there is Usama Hassan, an imam at the Masjid-al-Tawhid mosque in Leyton, east London, a former jihadi who is now openly critical of al Qaeda and therefore, in the authors' star-struck eyes, a born-again moderate. Certainly, Hassan has drawn considerable fire from other Muslims for taking positions such as opposing the death penalty for apostasy, and has gone out of his way to present a reformist approach to Islam. However, questions remain.
For a start, both the mosque and its senior imam, Hassan's own father Sheikh Suhaib Hassan, featured in the Chanel Four Dispatches investigation into radical mosques. As this article reported, the programme recorded him
predicting the establishment of an Islamic state under Sharia law and detailing some of the extreme punishments, such as flogging of drunkards, that would be carried out in such a state. Shaykh Hassan says, however, that his remarks were taken out of context, and that he has never said Sharia law would be appropriate for Britain.
Two weeks ago, Dispatches won an unprecedented libel action against the police and crown prosecutors who had falsely accused the programme of selective editing and distortion.
Then there is this rather troubling letter written by Usama Hassan. In response to his Muslim critics who accuse him of selling out, he says:
...I, of course, support a just Caliphate based on the Prophetic model...
He also attempts to refute his critics' claim that he wants to separate Islam from secular government, saying he supports the position taken by Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia. This surely should also cause concern. For Ceric himself is a dissembler who is keen to tell westerners what they want to hear – that Muslims present no threat to the west -- and who believes accordingly that Muslims living in the west should do nothing to alienate the indigenous society, but should impose sharia by a process akin to the Trotskyite long march through the institutions.
That is indeed what is happening in Britain. It's why Tariq Ramadan is so lionised here; it's why Brotherhood radicals are acting as government advisers on combating Islamic radicalism; it's why the police are tied up in such lethal knots. The idea that the Muslim Brotherhood is a counter-radicalisation movement is simply ludicrous. But it is one that the British establishment -- whose knowledge of Islam appears to consist largely of the sanitised vapidities of the likes of Karen Armstrong and John Esposito -- have eagerly embraced. And now this absurd article in New Republic is spreading the confusion yet further across the Atlantic too.