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This is Britain: a crackdown on Islamic extremism will not cause attacks on Muslims

5 December 2013

3:05 PM

5 December 2013

3:05 PM

Hallelujah, vaguely. The Prime Minister’s extremism task force set up in the wake of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby has just reported and its findings, ‘Tackling Extremism in the UK’ include the following admission:

‘We have been too reticent about challenging extreme Islamist ideologies in the past, in part because of a misplaced concern that attacking Islamist extremism equates to an attack on Islam itself. This reticence, and the failure to confront extremists, has led to an environment conducive to radicalisation in some mosques and Islamic centres, universities and prisons.’

Who could possibly remain opposed to such prevailing common sense? Well here are the people who caused yesterday’s Independent to headline its piece on the report: ‘Government crackdown on radicals “will lead to attacks on Muslims”.

‘Chris Allen, an expert on Islamophobia at Birmingham University, said: “The more the lens is turned on the Muslim community, the more society begins to think, ‘There’s no smoke without fire’.”

Chris is a nice guy, and has made a nice career out of ‘Islamophobia’. The problem he keeps coming up against is that the British public did not imagine the 7/7 attacks, nor the slaughter of Drummer Rigby. Nor did we conjure up from the depths of our imaginations the Haymarket car-bomb, Madrid, Bali 9/11 and so on.

Meanwhile Isabella Sankey, the director of policy at Liberty, said:

‘Driving those who despise diversity further underground does nothing to expose their beliefs and only acts as another recruitment tool. You cannot protect our democracy by shutting down the very freedoms that sustain it.’

‘Liberty’ once again suggesting that there’s nothing quite so British as a bit of jihadism.

But it is the response of Fiyaz Mughal – the centrepiece of the Independent story – that is most revealing:

‘Last night Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Tell Mama, which records anti-Muslim incidents, said he feared Mr Cameron’s announcements would reinforce negative perceptions of Muslims. 

‘Mr Mughal said he had asked extra staff to be on standby because of an anticipated surge in hate attacks.’

Lest we forget, this is the same Fiyaz Mughal and ‘Tell Mama’ who sucked press attention away from the actual murder of Drummer Lee Rigby by claiming that Britain was, as a result of that attack, suffering an anti-Muslim tsunami. At that delicate time Mughal claimed:

‘The scale of the backlash is astounding … there has been a massive spike in anti-Muslim prejudice. A sense of endemic fear has gripped Muslim communities. 

‘I do not see an end to this cycle of violence. There is an underlying Islamophobia in our society and the horrendous events in Woolwich have brought this to the fore.’

Or as he told the Today programme:

‘The [Government’s] Prevent [anti-extremism] agenda, the extremist agenda, have not been good for building confidence – the sense of fear just alienates and isolates communities.’

It was Mughal’s group that claimed that there had been 212 “anti-Muslim incidents” in the immediate aftermath of Woolwich.  Unfortunately for ‘Tell Mama’ these claims were clinically exposed in the Sunday Telegraph. As the Sunday Telegraph reported:

‘Tell Mama confirmed to The Sunday Telegraph that about 120 of its 212 “anti-Muslim incidents” – 57 per cent – took place only online. They were offensive postings on Twitter or Facebook, or comments on blogs: nasty and undesirable, certainly, but some way from violence or physical harm and often, indeed, legal. Not all the offending tweets and postings, it turns out, even originated in Britain. 

…Although the service says its caseworkers “carefully handle each report as it comes in, to determine whether it can be verified and justified as an anti-Muslim incident”, Mr Mughal admitted that a further 35 of the 212 post-Woolwich incidents, or 16 per cent, had yet to be verified. 

He justified publishing the figure, however, saying he expected that all but a handful of incidents would be verified.  

Fewer than one in 12 of the 212 “incidents” reported to Tell Mama since Woolwich – 17 cases (8 per cent) – involved individuals being physically targeted. 

Six people had things thrown at them, said Mr Mughal, and most of the other 11 cases were attempts to pull off the hijab or other items of Islamic dress. 

…Offences of common and racially aggravated assault are typically used where there has been no injury, such as hijab snatching, or minor injury not drawing blood or requiring medical treatment, such as the throwing incidents reported by Tell Mama. The Met said there were no cases reported to it where any more serious injury resulted. 

Asking other police forces and trawling local media reports, The Telegraph has been unable to find a single confirmed case since Drummer Rigby’s death where any individual Muslim has received an injury requiring medical treatment.’

Read it all here.

Supporters of Tell Mama responded to this Telegraph analysis by describing it as ‘better suited to the days of 1930s Germany’. So even criticising the hype and shoddiness of Mughal’s work on hate crime constitutes a hate-crime, which is one way to try to force people to fawn over you.

And fawn, for a while, people did. It transpired that in one year alone Mughal’s organisation had received £375,000 from the UK’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). This puts Mughal himself in that intriguing group of people who complain that government funding is part of the problem when the government funds groups they dislike (‘The [Government’s] Prevent [anti-extremism] agenda, the extremist agenda’, as he told the Today programme) while all the time insisting that they can find a better use for the money if only government would direct it their way.

Sadly for him, Fiyaz Mughal lost his government funding shortly after the damning Sunday Telegraph report. As a follow-up piece in the Sunday Telegraph reported:

‘”Mr Mughal was giving data on attacks to DCLG which wasn’t stacking up when it was cross-referenced with other reports by Acpo [the Association of Chief Police Officers],” said one source closely involved in counter-extremism. 

‘”He was questioned by DCLG civil servants and lost his temper. He was subsequently called in by [the Liberal Democrat MP] Don Foster and told that he would receive no more money.”’

Discredited, in other words, not just by a Telegraph analysis but by the DCLG, ACPO and even the Lib Dems.

But now that the PM’s task force has reported he is back again, warning of the crack-squad of ‘extra staff’ he’ll need ‘on standby’ because of an anticipated surge in hate attacks’ thanks to a report spurred by the ritual slaughter on a London street in broad daylight of a British soldier.

Speaking personally, I have rather more faith in the decency of the British people than Mr Mughal seems to, and very much doubt that the Prime Minister’s extremism task force report will lead to the kind of upsurge of attacks that Fiyaz Mughal anticipates.

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