19 May 2016
Cameron’s apology to a London imam who he had wrongly described in the House of
Commons as supporting Isis has been celebrated in some quarters. Less
attention, however, was given to the fact that the Prime Minister clarified
that Suliman Gani was actually reported to be in support of an Islamic state,
rather than the Islamic State, or Isis.
accusations of extremism that were thrown around in the run up to the London
mayoral elections were a step backwards in our efforts to understand the
dangerous global ideology behind groups like Isis. More useful is to try and understand why Gani
shares the main objective of creating an Islamic state, but differs with Isis
and others on how to achieve it.
There is no
suggestion that there is a direct progression from political Islamist
aspirations of an Islamic state to Jihadi violence like that of Isis. However,
both derive their direction from a common ideology and hold aspirations of
establishing a state in which Islam is the dominant legislation. There is
overlap that we cannot shy away from.
doesn’t mean saying there is a problem with the Muslim community as a whole.
Let’s not forget, they are the prime targets and first victims of Isis and
their fellow Jihadis.
lies in combating the politicisation of Islam. Only then can we distinguish
religion from politics and faith from fanaticism.
is that while Islamist groups may differ vastly on the particulars of their
respective visions of Islamic governance and the means by which to achieve
them, there are some shared ideas.
groups came into being due to the development of an existing non-violent
Islamist group, or its members, resorting to violence in order to further its
cause. Examples of which have been seen in the Islamic Salvation Army in
Algeria, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
at the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics has looked at the backgrounds of
100 prominent Jihadis – the leaders and ideologues driving the movement. We
found that 51 per cent had documented links to non-violent Islamist organisations
prior to their involvement in violent extremism.
therefore dismiss the possibility that the two are linked. Of course we found
that not all Jihadis were Islamists, nor that all Islamists inevitably go on to
become Jihadis. But the research suggests that there may be a stronger link
between the two than many of us previously thought.
those Jihadis documented as having non-violent Islamist links prior to engaging
in jihad were traced back to the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, a group
that has already faced scrutiny over its activities and was subject to a UK
government review last year.
Raffaelo Pantucci linked half of all terror attacks carried out in the UK back
to Al-Muhajiroun, a group that despite being outlawed continues to operate
under various guises. The group calls for the reinstatement of the caliphate
and the application of Sharia law in Britain, but does not actively encourage
acts of terrorism. That said, the 7/7 attacks and the murder of Fusilier Lee
Rigby were carried out by individuals with links to this seemingly non-violent
societies that operate on campuses up and down the country have often courted
controversy for hosting extreme speakers, shutting down atheist events, and
even promoting anti-Semitic and homophobic views.
Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), which was founded by activists
from the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami movements, claims to represent
almost 100,000 Muslim university students has in the past been criticised by
the Government for its failure to adequately challenge terrorist and extremist
Emwazi, more commonly known as Jihadi John, was a student at Westminster
University, where an investigation found that the student Islamic society had
been running a Facebook page circulating violent Jihadi videos and whose former
president was jailed on terrorism charges in 2007.
about links between non-violent Islamist groups and violent Jihadi groups are
not as farfetched as some would like to believe.
there are some difficult conversations to have. Addressing matters of free
speech and political engagement will indeed form part of the dialogue, but when
a train of thought is being associated with abhorrent ideas, society and our
political leaders must speak up. Criminalising ordinary practicing Muslims from
going about their business is not the solution, but we must rescue Islam from
the warped political ideologies that thrive on its manipulation.
Minister, along with other world leaders, must not shy away from having these
difficult conversations. Our leadership must show courage and unity if we are
to effectively challenge and defeat extreme ideas.
Mubaraz Ahmed is a Middle East Analyst at the
Centre on Religion and Geopolitics?