New Age Islam
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Radical Islamism and Jihad ( 4 Feb 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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UK challenging Radical Islamism by promoting Mainstream Islam



By Manoj Joshi


UK’s four- pronged approach to de-radicalise its Muslim minority holds important lessons for the Indian effort to counter extremism at home


DIFFERENT nations have reacted differently to terrorist attacks. The US response to Nine- Eleven has been harsh. It has ramped up home defences and undertaken a controversial global war on terror (GWOT) abroad. Russia has acted with, what some would say, characteristic brutality, levelling Grozny to fight the Chechens. India’s response has been fitful and dithering. It has a done a bit of everything and nothing. Britain, on the other hand, has evolved a sophisticated strategy which rests on four pillars — prevent, pursue, protect and prepare.


The July 7, 2005 bombings killed over 80 people in London. The shock was so much greater because most of those who carried out the acts were second generation Britons, albeit of Pakistani descent. In the mea culpa thereafter, UK acknowledged that it had for too long, in the name of multiculturalism, permitted migrant communities to live in isolation where unemployment and unequal opportunities accentuated the sense of alienation and resentment.


The Four P’s strategy has involved Britain supporting the US GWOT abroad and shoring up the home defences as well. New laws have been passed to monitor the borders and to deal with terrorist conspiracies. Police departments have been revamped, as have the intelligence services which have doubled in size and begun an unprecedented campaign of recruiting personnel from racial and religious minorities.




Recently, I had the opportunity to study aspects of the first strand of the Four P’s strategy — preventing the emergence of violent radicalism on the part of the Muslim youth in the UK. The plan addresses disadvantage, mis-perception, and alienation by putting money into a number of projects addressing inequality and discrimination. Targeted schemes have sought to improve the educational and physical infrastructure of the ghettoes, and even more boldly, to directly challenge radical theology by promoting moderate Islam as well as inter-faith dialogue. The approach has been to knit together various ministries, local governments, civil society, community institutions like mosques, gurudwaras and temples to attack the problem.


According to Rhydian Philips, of the counter-terrorism department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the idea behind the strategy is to deal with grievances which can make people vulnerable to recruitment. These could relate to justice, employment and education. The central government has provided £90 million for three years for NGOs to promote youth activity, reform curriculum, build local police capability and fund moderate Islamic preachers to talk to communities in UK, as well as fund road-shows in target countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.


In Leicester, for example, the Home Office works with the Islamic Foundation which is running a course for several Indian imams who are currently at the Markfield Institute for Higher Education.


According to the Executive Director Mr Irshad Baqui, the Foundation is aimed at promoting a better understanding of Islam. Its work comprises publications and research through the MIHE focusing on issues relating to Islamic economics, interfaith issues and support services to new converts.


The British authorities are interested in the specialist short-courses the foundation offers in chaplaincy — a concept unknown outside Christianity, but considered important to service Muslim military and prison populations.


In Birmingham, where in 2007, the police bust a plot by several British Muslims to kidnap and behead a British service man, efforts are under way to promote community cohesion and cultural leadership of the “right type.” According to Mr. Mashhuq Ally, the Head of Equality and Diversity, the goal is for citizens of all backgrounds to think of the city as their own.


He said that in recent weeks, his department has worked with various groups to ensure that feelings over Mumbai or Gaza don’t spill over into violent confrontation between communities.


Among the current city projects under the rubric “Preventing Violent Extremism” is the suggestive “Reclaiming Islam” concept aimed at reducing the risk of mosques being infiltrated by violent extremists by funding special activities. Another two projects target madrasas to provide a common curriculum that will include learning of the Quran, Islamic studies and citizenship.


They will also support madrasas to meet their legal requirements and provide a safe learning environment for children.


Five youth inclusion programmes seek to create a set of “success clubs” designed to get young people to develop knowledge skills and attitudes that will promote personal success. The clubs promote the forging of links between alienated youngsters and their elders in a “journey of the soul” and study circles to help young people to develop a better understanding of Islam. The person in-charge of these activities is Detective Chief Inspector Paul Marriot who works through the Birmingham City Council.




Not everything is working smoothly in implementing the Prevent policy. According to Gareth Price, Head of the Asia Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, there are worries that radicals could use the programmes to promote their interests.


Michael Whine, Director of the Defence and Group Relations Division of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, says that anyway it is too early to say whether the strategy works or not.


He, too, worries that money provided for de-radicalisation could end up being used for the very opposite purpose. As it is, I was struck by the fact that the Chairman of the Islamic Foundation was Professor Khurshid Ahmad, a leading light of the Jamaat-e- Islami, Pakistan.


What is important, however, is that the UK is not sitting back to allow the situation to unfold, but engaging the issue of terrorism on multiple fronts. As Kay Hampton, Professor of Communities and Race Relations and a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission pointed out, “You need leadership and investment from the top, otherwise the communities will be leaderless.”


There are obvious parallels between the evolving British experience and India. Beginning 1950, the Indian version of secularism has sought to provide equal space for all faiths to function and flourish in this country. Provisions were made to ensure that the Muslims would be governed by their personal laws, even while the Constitution took the view that over time, communities would move at their own pace towards adopting a common civil code and a common sense of citizenship.


Unfortunately that did not happen. Communal violence increasingly drove the Indian Muslim community into ghettoes and their economic status began to decline relative to other segments of the population.




The result today is not dissimilar to what obtained in UK — Muslims in isolated communities live their own lives and do not understand the faith and precepts of others, just as the others do not understand theirs. The economic and social deprivation of the community has been listed by the Sachar committee in considerable detail.


But that is where the parallel stops. While there is political consensus in UK that something needs to be done to deradicalise the Muslim youth, if necessary by spending money on special schemes, in India, such steps are stymied by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Sangh Parivar who believe that any effort to ameliorate, or even address, the condition of the Indian Muslims smacks of “appeasement.” The Congress and other political parties are not without fault either. Over the years they have cynically used the insecurity of the Muslim community to harvest votes.


The consequences of this situation are obvious and dangerous. In the slum ghettoes of Indian cities we are witnessing the emergence of a Muslim underclass which has little or no connect with the country’s mainstream or the traditional moderate clergy.


Such a class is ideally suited for recruitment by the jihadi elements who already stalk our society. The Indian Mujahideen is the first, but by no means the last, manifestation of this danger. Courtesy: