Controversy over 'moderate' UK Islamic group

This Cybercast News Service story, UK Muslim Body's 'Moderate' Tag Questioned , reports controvery ensuing from media criticism of Britain's leading Islamic umbrella group, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

The group is challenging media reports which said the group was not moderate but "has its origins in the extreme orthodox politics in Pakistan."

The Observer newspaper said MCB leaders and some of its 400 affiliates had links with "conservative Islamist movements," especially Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Pakistan's leading Islamist party. The report also said one MCB affiliates, the Islamic Foundation, had been founded by a senior figure in Jamaat-e-Islami.

We can go further. The Islamic Foundation is the British branch of the Jama'at-i-Islami (also spelled Jamaat-e-Islami) that is the reason why it has (had) leadership overlap with the JI in Pakistan.

While media has been obtuse on this, scholarly works on political Islam on the Indian subcontinent have affirmed it as have Muslim leaders who have lived in Pakistan.

Ex 1: Frederic Grare's "Political Islam on the Indian Subcontinent."

Grare writes that of all the countries of Europe, Great Britain has the largest number of Islamic groups orginating in the subcontinent. He writes:

"The Jama'at-i-Islami has strong roots in this community where it has been able to develop a closely-knit network of organizations. It is represented in all the cities of the United Kingdom having substantial Muslim population, like Manchester, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Southampton etc."

Second and third generation descendants of immigrants though have a more complicated relationship to the Jamaat, as they have forged their own political alliances and identities.

Grare notes that the JI doesn't just want to be a champion to the community, it wants to project to the non-Muslim majority an image of modernity.

You would think they would have a difficult time with that since they call bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who was found sheltered in the home of a JI member, as were at least 4 other top lts. of al Qaeda) "heroes" of the Islamic world and continue to support al Qaeda and the Taliban. In addition they maintain what they call "close brotherly ties" and "practical links" to Hamas. They invited bin Laden to address one of their rallies in Islamabad in '98 according to Yossef Bodansky. Bin Laden was not able to come due possibly to security concerns, but he sent a "fiery message of support." Author Mary Anne Weaver (author of "Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan") writes of a meeting between JI president Qazi Hussein Ahmed [pictured above] and bin Laden in the Sudan. Yet, Ahmed has managed to come to the US to convince the Brookings Institute of the moderate nature of his movement.

The media there and here in the US do not identify their foreign branches as such. Instead, their foreign branches get fluffy PR-style coverage. (I've looked at over 700 LexisNexis listings of the Islamic Circle of North America, named as the American branch of the group by experts and a document I obtained, and all are overwhelming positive portrayals of the group which refrain from asking any incisive questions. There are a couple of exceptions -namely newspapers who have questioned whether there is a link there.)

Through media's perplexing aversion to digging and asking the tough questions, these groups proceed to then parlay the air-brushed coverage into community and political power. So much for media as gatekeepers.

Supporting bin Laden, suicide bombings, and the Taliban hardly qualifies one for mainstream status in the US or UK though. (Perhaps it does in Pakistan.) That distinction needs to be made by media.

Also from Grare:

"Of all the organizations controlled by the Jamaat, five are important: These are the Islamic Foundation of Leicester, the Islamic Mission of the United Kingdom with its headquarters in London, the 'Muslim Education Trust', the Dawatul Islam and the organization of the "Young Muslims of the United Kingdom."
  • Founded in 1973, the Islamic Foundation of Leicester is a NGO that controls more than 20 centers throughout the country. The centers usually incorporate a mosque, a Koranic school and a community center. The Foundation also maintains bonds of cooperation with institutes of education, research and publications including the International Islamic University of Malaysia, the Islamic Foundation of Bangladesh, theUhlman de Fodio University, Sohoto (Nigeria), the International Islamic University of Islamabad and the International University of Africa, in the Sudan. It also has strong ties to Saudi Arabia.
  • Founded in 1962 the Islamic Mission of the UK has about 35 branches in British territory. It controls the largest network of mosques in the country. The Mission accepts members under the categories of "sympathizers, associate members and members."
  • The Muslim Education Trust was set up in 1966 by the Islamic Mission of the UK and led by a Bangladeshi academic. It organizes for Muslim education for youth outside of school hours. Controls a network of more than 50 schools across the country.
  • The Dawatul Islam was created in 1976.
  • The Young Muslims of the UK operates as a student group on campuses throughout the country. It operates like the Jamiat-ul-Tulaba (the JI's student org in Pakistan), that is as a recruiting tool steering youth toward the Islamic Mission.

Literature: They distribute literature of the JI in Pakistan (Wahhabist). Writes Grare: "Most organizations mentioned here are organziations for conducting the propaganda of the Jama'at-i-Islami in Europe."

I'll have much more to write on this later.
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