Tag Archives: English Defence League

When Tommy Met Mo

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Mo Ansar dropped everything on hearing that Tommy Robinson was taking part in a press conference at The Quilliam Foundation, rushing from his home in Hampshire to London. Having taken part in the television documentary “Quitting the English Defence League: When Tommy met Mo” (aired last night) Ansar had seen how impressed Tommy had been with Usama Hasan and Maajid Nawaz. Discussing openly with them issues with 7th century thought and the need to discuss and review application of sharia in an Islamic state. Tommy saw there were Muslims prepared to challenge “No Answer” as he called him, and that maybe it would make sense to work together with Muslims to tackle extremism. Abandoning the English Defence League to be more able to do so.

Nawaz had previously invited Ansar to condemn sharia sanctioning chopping the hands off a thief – Ansar obfuscated and, oddly for someone introduced as a theologian by the media, said he would want to see what other scholars said (note on The Daily Politics today he does call such punishment “abhorrent” – if only the follow up question was should it still happen in an Islamic state?). Unlike Nawaz in the documentary, he could not say no to sharia being implemented without considering whether it was Islamic and therefore legitimate to do so. It appeared like religion being put before being humane by Ansar.

Mo Ansar will revise history, deflect criticism and even refuse to answer criticism of Islam as islamophobic – even though when it comes to women, homosexuality and punishment we would say the same about the bible. Historians and scholars are open about the bible and being the subject of its time in a way that Mo Ansar will not when it comes to the Koran and hadiths. As Tom Holland mentions by Islam going through the same historicising process with societal pressures maybe hadiths on apostates and homosexuality can be phased out as the last word.

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This process is more plausible than Mo Ansar stating in a room full of EDL supporters that “Islam is not homophobic.” Mehdi Hasan acknowledges homophobia as an issue. For 15 years Mo Ansar said he has advocated for gay rights. Great thing to say. On his blog I cannot find a single post where he has done so and hope readers can help me out where he has written in defence of gay rights within Islam and that an Islamic state should not punish homosexuality. As a “theologian” one might hope he has written a scholarly article or two as a gay rights activist.

On The Daily Politics Ansar was a little more accurately introduced as a “Muslim commentator”, and what becomes apparent in the documentary is the more Tommy meets Muslims who disagree with Mo, the greater the distance between them grows. Whether it is Yaqoob (formerly Respect) stating head covering is a choice for women and not something for children – Mo wants parents to choose for their children – or Usama Hasan saying openly Koranic verses are problematic for 21st century rather than misunderstood and timeless as Mo would claim.

Ansar claimed to agree with the “European” human rights model on The Daily Politics. Yet parents do not get to enforce religious observations on children, whether fasting or veil covering and gender segregation is not “groovy” and only opposed by “swivel eyed loons” as he has claimed on twitter – if we endorse a universal human rights model. Muslims are as Mo says not a monolithic bloc – clearly they disagree with him – what actually comes out of the documentary is Mo is not so much the moderate Muslim, one that as Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra might say has to be a good human being first before a Muslim. Mo came over as an apologist and revisionist first and foremost, one concerned that women prevent men concentrating on prayer when together, but women looking at men from behind women would not be put off. For a civil rights activist Mo, you really do not seem to understand what women want.

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For Tommy talking to Muslims, and groups like Quilliam is the way forward. However the memory of his rhetoric lingers on, and Tommy seems to be moving from no mosques being built unless integration happens, to regulation of mosques for more to be built when on Newsnight. He states in the documentary: “have to keep this as a Christian country … When does tolerance become take over?” which rather undermines the secularist claims of EDL – though the emblem of the cross and motto “in this sign you will conquer” should have been enough to dissuade as a secularist organisation.

I would advise that Tommy meets up with secularists and political theorists too, to examine the concept of religious freedom and freedom from religion in a pluralistic, secular and open society. The concern is that Quilliam (and if he wants to be included if it goes wrong Mo Ansar) have given Robinson a veneer of respectability to rise beyond the football hooliganism tradition that EDL grew out of. That we can forgive his own criminal history as a bad boy who has since learnt the error of his ways, and that there is a better way. I watch to see if this is a new media career with the same rhetoric or a thoughtful activist focused on extremism not Muslims.

What has come out of all this is the importance of dialogue and listening to each other. I noticed however one listener to Tommy became angry when he suggested the Koran be reformed the same way the Bible was – though she had spent over an hour and a half mostly agreeing with his points till he concluded with that.

No one is saying this dialogue is going to be easy. People will have agendas, ideologies to defend, gravy trains, salaries and funding to keep drawing on that may make conversation and accord difficult. We might not even want an accord when it comes to veils on children, or female genital mutilation. There are limits to what can be done to another in the name of tradition and subjective opinion claimed as religious.

The death threats that Maajid Nawaz, Usama Hasan, Tom Holland, Tommy Robinson and Mo Ansar have had should indicate this is not a straight forward debate within a democracy. Hopefully moderate Muslims will not be intimidated, will speak up, and hopefully will be given a platform to speak on. Otherwise we will have more people thinking it is just a cultural difference to be respected rather than a human rights issue that cannot be reduced by a faith claim.

Mo Ansar finally arrives at the press conference, however he is not admitted. On twitter he claims to be responsible for Tommy leaving the EDL. Tommy reminds us that while incarcerated white pride types came back into EDL, and trying to prevent that and being associated with that prevented what he wanted to concentrate on – Islamic extremism. What surprises Tommy are Muslims that are working on that too and prepared to examine and historicise the Koran and Hadith. He decides leading EDL is more a hinderance than a help, and Quilliam make that easier for him, where he makes the announcement.

Mo sadly does not seem to understand that he has yet to go on his own journey of discovery. Surely another documentary needs to be made. Maybe When Tom Holland Met Mo

Update: till BBC pull down from youtube here is the documentary (hat tip Sam Harris)

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Tommy Robinson – Actions and Words Required

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“I have been considering this move for a long time because I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive. I acknowledge the dangers of far-right extremism and the ongoing need to counter Islamist ideology not with violence but with better, democratic ideas. ~ Tommy Robinson

On hearing the news that Tommy Robinson has left the English Defence League he formed in 2009 I was hopeful, but cynical. Hopeful because he seemed to recognise the problem with street marches I had criticised the EDL for but cynical that he has changed his mind on key issues he stood for. As I said in an article he read and tweeted:

Our criticisms require us to be well heeled in knowledge of Islam and extremism without wearing jackboots ourselves. If the shoe fits I hope you find it uncomfortable and take off quickly before marching against the ideals you claim to be protecting.

As Ghaffar Hussain says, ‘The far-Right has been evolving in their tactics and strategy and seeking to adapt to their environment in order to survive. One of the outcomes of this adaption has been the attempt to hijack the anti-extremist agenda in order to drive through a hidden racist and xenophobic agenda.’

I will continue to criticise religion – but I will not welcome as fellow critics those on the far right that promote solutions that would erode secularism in this country, not encourage secularised Islam to flourish, and would deny freedoms that are the rights of all citizens in this country regardless of creed or skin colour.

At the press conference Tuesday 8 October we heard from the same Tommy Robinson who was at a demonstration a few weeks ago in Sheffield complaining about another mosque being built stating “at what point does diversity become takeover?” He claimed at the press conference that his target all along was Islamism. This revisionism just does not wash – his actions and words are too well documented unless you want to believe otherwise. The EDL under his leadership were against Muslims and he gave voice to this whether on immigration or as part of the community.

This Saturday there is to be an EDL march in Bradford. How well this is supported and by whom may give us an early indication on the organisational abilities of the group. What seems clear is that Tommy with like minded ex EDL members and co founder Kevin Carroll wish to create a new group.

This appears to be a lobby group – and Tommy has had meetings not just with the Quilliam Foundation in order to understand Islam better. However, those instincts and prejudices we have seen will die hard. The suspicion is not at all – the most we can hope for is less public agitation on the streets may make public order and community tensions easier.

That though is not in the hands of Tommy and Kevin anymore. Tommy revealed there was an attempt to usurp him whilst he was incarcerated. So this may be more a career move than a change of heart considering the inner conflicts that were looking to remove both him and Kevin. Forces he freely admits he could no longer control.

If we genuinely believe Tommy the EDL could become even worse – the question is will it disband into it’s component parts or become more potent on the streets. It would benefit all to think we can now concentrate more on radicalisation to extreme Islamism, combating militant Islamism and Islamist ideology.

We have given his character, behaviour and past actions not just the right to be sceptical but the need to be so till Tommy proves himself. Quilliam have given Tommy that opportunity. Let us see if he can seize it. He needs more than a name change this time to try and escape his past.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Islamism and the Scapegoating of Muslims

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Once in ancient times when woes happened on a people, rituals were performed. A high priest would enter a temple having taken on, and hopefully been cleansed for, the sins of the nation. After this a rope was tied round him before he went to meet the divine presence in the Holy of Holies in case God did smite him, and they could drag him out. If sins forgiven, he would come out alive without being tugged.

The more common one we think of is such sins being transferred into a goat that would be driven out of the community into the wilderness – the legendary scapegoat of Leviticus 16.

In modern times those to be scapegoated are five percent of the population:

There’s a problem within Islam, this is true, but unless people stop screaming racist, bigot, fascist, hate monger and resort to insults and threats at those who criticise/hold an opinion then we will never ever see peace in our lifetime, muslim population is less than 5% of the UK population yet it’s in our media and lives daily, what happens when it gets bigger? You may not care enough today, but what about tomorrow, if we don’t do something about our concerns today then next generations will say “what the hell did our parents/grandparents do”…

At least mine will say “she tried”

Invited by a blogger to shed a tear reading that last line, I wonder what frenzy of fear must grip someone to think there will be no peace in the land of hope and glory while Muslims reside amongst us, only adding to our problems if they breed? A shiver up my spin was my reaction instead. A group of easily identified people were the problem while the solution was left hanging.

Martin Amis, in remarks he now regrets making, summed up the scapegoating principe:

There’s a definite urge—don’t you have it?—to say, “The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.” What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation—further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan. . . . Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children. . . . They hate us for letting our children have sex and take drugs—well, they’ve got to stop their children killing people.

The blogger that took “there’s a problem … ” quote above from the post of an English Defence League (EDL) supporter made this remark which they shared with me in a new post:

The painful truth is that we are in deep, deep waters precisely because many Muslims are correctly interpreting an ideology which is demonstrably intolerant, disturbing and violent. People don’t understand just how poisonous this ideology is and they don’t understand the cancer of self-censorship and fear gnawing away rabidly at free speech, because they haven’t got even the slightest clue how important free speech is to our way of life. [Source]

Political Islamism is an ideology within Islam – calling it the correct interpretation is as ludicrous as denying it has anything to do with Islam. Looking at other faiths people have similarly found inspiration to legitimise intolerance and violence whether in Rwanda or the Balkans. Religion far from helping to bring people together sets them apart.

Religion is a problem and political Islam the biggest challenge we all face including Muslims who suffer the most from it.

Will intransigence by the educated middle class result in us “living under full fat sharia” as the blogger states:

Only at that point might they beg their unwashed underclass to fight this apocalyptic war for them. The only thing stopping them from asking now is that they’re too fucking stupid to realise we’re already at war. [writers own emphasis]

Sharia would be an anathema to the human rights model that we esteem in this country, and secularism means freedom of religion and lack of coercion in matters of religion. Multiculturalism should not mean human right abuses like female genital mutilation being tolerated. Yet when I have seen Muslims on twitter with secularised renderings of Koran and Hadith I have seen non muslims tell them they are not sticking to the “correct” fundamentals of their faith. What version of Islam do we want for goodness sake! Is the war to be fought against our own people or is there a better way than using such rhetoric on a whole people who are not terrorists, just Muslims.

Secularism and humanist principles do not allow sacred books or traditional interpretations to have the last word. Muslims can totally get that – they need to be emboldened not told they lack the correct interpretation. They have a hard enough time from orthodox believers, believe me. Women should not be imprisoned in their homes, and segregation in public spaces zero tolerance for in the UK.

The enemy is not muslims but those that support a theocratic Islamic state denying pluralism, free speech, fundamental human rights and secularism – the Islamists. The left need to realise this distinction in British politics and that we must challenge theocracy at every turn.

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The EDL in their mission statement “Promoting The Traditions And Culture Of England” are vague on the details in this supposed war in the UK. Some supporters tell me reaffirming the Church of England and Christianity is the way forward – a religion set up by a “Paedophilie” King (Bessie Blount mistress to King Henry VIII at around 14). The irony of using modern social norms when criticising a 7th century “paedophile” prophet is lost while they promote the C of E. And who supported sharia in England – none other than the former Archbishop of Canterbury. Yes I am mocking the crass remarks in tweets about Mohammed – far better ways to make the argument follow.

Those that are apologists for Islam – trying to make slavery under it benign for example – need to be challenged on the historical veracity of their revisionism. Some verses deserve outright condemnation rather than revision. As always making something God’s Word makes this too sensitive for some; and illegal in some countries to question. Pointing out that sex with minors and captured slaves makes values of early Islam not timeless but subject to the moral zeitgeist may not always be appreciated. They are valid.

Our criticisms require us to be well heeled in knowledge of Islam and extremism without wearing jackboots ourselves. If the shoe fits I hope you find it uncomfortable and take off quickly before marching against the ideals you claim to be protecting.

As Ghaffar Hussain says, ‘The far-Right has been evolving in their tactics and strategy and seeking to adapt to their environment in order to survive. One of the outcomes of this adaption has been the attempt to hijack the anti-extremist agenda in order to drive through a hidden racist and xenophobic agenda.’

I will continue to criticise religion – but I will not welcome as fellow critics those on the far right that promote solutions that would erode secularism in this country, not encourage secularised Islam to flourish, and would deny freedoms that are the rights of all citizens in this country regardless of creed or skin colour.

Nor will I for the sake of embracing different cultures accept the degrading of human rights as if that was what multiculturalism called for. The left misunderstood this and continue to with the Muslim Brotherhood.

If you oppose sharia support “One Law For All”. Ending extremism within Islam and young people Quilliam Foundation. The human rights of blasphemers and apostates The Council of Ex Muslims of Britain.

Religion poisons everything – people of indefatigable good will to all are the antidote. They are to be found as atheists and theists.

There is no scapegoat to drive off this island, and no high priest to absolve us of our sins. We have to work hard together to defeat the extremists that would rule us by fear or coercion.

For a master class in dealing with Islamism read Christopher Hitchens Facing the Islamist Menace.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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A Response to terror

How to respond is the question to a brutal murder on the streets of London by killers shouting “Allahu Akbar” demanding we have British troops returned from Afghanistan, and EDL taking to the streets as football hooligans looking for confrontation.

Regarding pulling troops out of Afghanistan, before the murder in Woolwich YouGov reported:

YouGov’s Public Opinion polling in April of this year found that a strong majority of the British public (77%, split between leaving immediately and leaving gradually) were in favour of bringing British troops home from Afghanistan, while 14% were not in favour, and 9% said they didn’t know.

Regarding getting rid of our government, voting intentions just before the murder had Labour on 38%, Conservative 27%, UKIP 16%, Liberal Democrat 10% (Source)

Not only is there a democratic process to be used by aggrieved citizens, but a swell of public opinion to be tapped into on these issues. The young men turned their back on using these means to create their own outrage. Violence can never be legitimised in a society that allows dissent. Anyone that suggests their savagery was justified lacks credibility on the issues and is not just an enemy of reason but of humanity.

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In Spain the Madrid bombings of 2004 nearly 200 were killed and over 2000 injured, and the hundreds of thousands that protested against terror was dignified and moving as Spanish people showed solidarity with each other and mourned the victims.

We can contrast that moving spectacle of solidarity, protest and movement with the English Defence League when they descended on Woolwich the night of the murder.

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So how should we in the secular, humanist and atheist community show solidarity with the Muslim community? The answer I would hope would be straightforward but it is has proven on social media not to be. The statement of the obvious needs repeating unless we are prepared for others to make up for our silence.

In no particular order as all important:

1. Do not treat Muslims as a homogenous group – everyone is an individual
2. Do not dehumanise Muslims – we are all human beings
3. Calmly note our difficulties and problems with Islam – and how that impacts on Muslims too
4. Speak out against outrages to religious freedom and human rights taking place
5. Talk to each other and find out how we can stop people being radicalised by others

This will not be easy, you will lose people who think this is the time to be quiet about criticising Islam, or think you should be abandoning secular liberal principles to respond harshly to the Muslim community.

We need to speak up even more so that our voices can be heard. In a civil society commitment and enthusiasm can make a difference where will power and not brute force triumphs. These values are what bring us together in a pluralistic state.

Now is the time to stand for human rights, secularism and the democratic process.

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Oh Robert Spencer … Tommy Robinson is not a political prisoner

In a previous blog on 7th January I expressed the hope that Robert Spencer may finally distance himself from the EDL and Tommy Robinson/Stephen Lennon/Paul Harris (take your pick which one to use) given that his illegal entry to the USA on another person’s passport was to attend and talk at the conference that he and Pam Geller had organised. That blog with the video of the EDL leader’s speech and my review can be found here.

Instead, the following day after my blog Stephen Lennon (no longer Tommy) was made out to be a political prisoner:

Don’t think he is a political prisoner? Consider this: In December 2011 in the U.K., a gang of Muslim women who savagely beat a non-Muslim woman were let off scot-free because “they weren’t used to drinking because they’re Muslims.” Consider also that earlier in 2011, Muslims pelted EDL members with stones, touching off an altercation; a Muslim was fined £50, while Robinson’s fine was £315.

Source Jihad Watch

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So lets consider it. Why was he fined?

We filmed the notorious leader of the EDL on a drunken night out in Luton Town centre before he disguised himself as a Rabbi to get through a cordon of thousands of police at the edge of Tower Hamlets. Tommy was on bail for head butting what he believed to be a National Front racist trying to usurp his leadership of the EDL. The bail conditions meant he couldn’t give speeches at EDL demos, write emails on behalf of the EDL. He says they were political bail conditions, he has a point there.

He couldn’t give his speech without being arrested, so he bought a £20 beard and hat and went in disguise, it was like something out if an Ealing comedy. When he jumped the stage and ripped off the Rabbi disguise, giving his speech, the police tried to rush in. He got away with us in tow, escaping finally on a double decker bus with a bus ticket costing £2:20. Only in England, only in England. Funny as this might have been, the population of Tower hamlets felt under threat that day and the anger and hatred meted out by the EDL was palpable.

Source Huffington Post

In the same article above, you have covered that the group behind the burning of poppies have been banned by the Home Secretary.

Regarding the drunken night out the judge did not use that supposed religious intolerance to alcohol in his judgment.

Are they a gang because they are Muslims? No. Did the judge pay any heed to the defence’s argument about religion affecting their tolerance to booze? There is no sign that he did.

Compare that to the Telegraph’s opening line:

Rhea Page, 22, had been walking home with her boyfriend after a night out when the drunken women attacked her, knocking her to the ground and taking turns to kick her in the head.

The Telegraph story does not mention the word “Muslim” once.

But he [the judge] said he accepted the women may have felt they were the victims of unreasonable force from Mr Moore as he tried to defend his girlfriend, and handed the defendants a suspended sentence.

Source Anorak

Rather than a report on binge drinking fuelled violence, and whether harsher penalties should be used and how we deal with this on our streets, this was turned into a racial attack and religious privilege in some parts of the tabloid media. Something which the judge either rejected or did not refer to in handing out sentence.

None of this deflects from the criminal record of Paul Harris/Stephen Lennon/Tommy Robinson for assault, breaking bail conditions and now most recent deliberate immigration violations. He has not been framed, nor has been victimised. He has been found guilty of a crime he has committed.

It is there for people who want to read and listen. He flouted with total disregard for the laws of the United States and the United Kingdom.

If you cannot cut loose of such a person then more fool you.

Photo above Robert Spencer in Stockholm supporting EDL.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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