European Muslim Research Centre

The European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) is a unit at the University of Exeter. It is funded by the Cordoba Foundation, which has been described by David Cameron as a “front for the [Islamist] Muslim Brotherhood”, and IslamExpo, and has received a financial support from the Al-Jazeera Satellite Network.

Though it does research it is a sorry example of how the issue of Islamophobia can be turned to political ends, in this case to push a particular brand of Islam.

Also, the EMRC “research” is not what you expect from a reputable academic body. Its recent major report (reviewed below) had to be withdrawn and reissued with one of its main chapters removed because of the baseless “research” it contained. The University of Exeter issued this apology.

A Review: Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: UK case studies 2010 – An introduction to a ten year Europe-wide research project

By Robert Lambert and Jonathan Githens-Mazer. Published by European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC), University of Exeter.

(1) What is anti-Muslim hate crime?
(2) Extremist nationalists are the major problem (or are they?)
(3) Origins
(4) Glaring omissions
(5) Anti-Muslim hate crime
(6) Recommendations
(7) Who and what

This is a political report. It ….

…. blames the British Government, the media, and the War on Terror for being the major causes of anti-Muslim hate crime.

…. promotes the interests of so-called traditional Muslim organisations in an attempt to hi-jack the issue of anti-Muslim hate crime to promote their worldview at the expense of other Muslim voices and views.

…. attacks Muslims and organisations that don’t meet the approval of the Muslim organisations behind the EMRC.

…. ignores any Muslim beliefs or practices as a factor in anti-Muslim hate-crime and Islamophobia.

(1) What is anti-Muslim hate crime?

The authors are at great pains to define anti-Muslim hate crime as something different and separate from hate crime inspired by Islamophobia, an irrational fear of Islam.

Many of the Muslims surveyed in the course of the EMRC’s work have been attacked because they were perceived as terrorists or terrorist sympathisers. Their attackers often made this very clear. This means they were not attacked because of their religion. Islam itself is not involved.

The authors claim that the British Government and the media have triggered this violence through the misconceived War on Terror.

“…. it was the prosecution and presentation of the war on terror by government and media …. that prompted an outbreak of anti-Muslim street violence …” (p53)

And they say:

“… The al-Qaeda related threat has been the subject of vast, unprecedented expenditure over the last decade and yet it has not diminished.”

“In contrast, the threat of terrorism and political violence to Muslim communities and other minority communities from violent extremist nationalists has grown steadily ….” (p78)

Thus, they believe that Muslims face “terrorism and political violence” akin to the terrorism and political violence of al-Qaeda from the likes of the EDL and the BNP.

(2) Extremist nationalists are the major problem (or are they?)

The authors believe the Government must commit as much effort to defeating extremist nationalism as it does to defeating al-Qaeda and international terrorism.

“…. we argue that the government should treat both terrorist threats with equal importance and in the same way.” (p79)

“In both instances small fringe groups and individuals seek to resort to political violence and terrorist tactics as a compensation for their impotence in mainstream politics.” (p97)

So the EDL and the BNP and their followers are to be compared with an international organisation funded by billions of dollars that has violence on a large scale as its deliberate policy and that aims amongst other things to overthrow governments and to destroy a whole nation state, Israel, and that tries to get its hands on biological or nuclear weapons.

The report goes on, perhaps unintentionally, to throw a different light on the issue.

“The majority of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK do not appear to be committed by members or supporters of the EDL, BNP or their sister organisations ….”

“…. there is clear evidence that many anti-Muslim hate crimes are motivated by an identical analysis of ‘radical Islam’ or ‘Muslim terrorists’ to that which informs EDL, BNP and extremist nationalist thinking.” (p97)

We now learn the main perpetrators of anti-Muslim hate crime aren’t supporters of the EDL and the BNP and “radical Islam” is a factor. What is this radical Islam? The report does not explain.

The report claims that al-Qaeda’s aims are not religious or ideological. They are political. This is really another way of trying to take Islam out of the equation

“ …. the al-Qaeda threat (is) “political, not primarily religious, military, or even conventionally ideological” (p81)

This analysis that politics is separate from religion and ideology is rich indeed coming from these authors whose partner organisations make so much of their aim and ideal of pursuing politics “informed by Islam”.

(3) Origins

The authors portray 9/11 as the start and the War on Terror as the underlying cause of anti-Muslim hate crime.

“…. the deterioration since 9/11 has been so marked that they recall the 1990s as a bygone time when Islam was widely respected and mosques were no more likely to be attacked than any other religious building in the UK.” (p42)

A contributor to the report, Chris Allen, an Islamophobia expert, unintentionally shows this might be misleading. He discusses his introduction to Islamophobia in 1997 shortly after the publication of the Commission on British Muslims & Islamophobia’s report, Islamophobia: a challenge for us all, four years before 9/11. He says:

“…. real people were being routinely prejudiced, discriminated and vilified just because of their religion or how they look? Why, more worryingly, were we allowing people to become victims of crime, abuse, assault and more ….? “

Back in 1997, the report spoke of how “Islamophobia’ …. is part of everyday life in modern Britain”. ( p56)

According to this expert Islamophobia was making Muslims the “victims of crime, abuse, assault” well before 9/11. He offers no explanation of why this was happening but it is reasonable to suppose that Muslims at that time were not especially perceived as terrorists or terrorist sympathisers.

(4) Glaring omissions

It truly is amazing that a report examining anti-Muslim hate crime and Islamophobia fails to mention Salman Rushdie and the Danish Cartoons. Not one word.

Kenan Malik author of “From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy” which puts the fatwa into perspective and explains the pivotal role it played in Muslim non-Muslim relations especially in the UK gets mentioned, but this is only to attack him for his observation “that after 9/11 only a dozen or so serious physical attacks on British Muslims were clearly evidenced” and questioning the extent to which “a climate of vicious Islamophobia” was a reality in contemporary Britain.

Inayat Bunglawala, a former spokesperson of the MCB, one of the partners to this report, at the time trilled at how the fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie demonstrated to non-Muslims that Muslims were people to be reckoned with, but now nearly twenty years later he is having second thoughts. [Note 1]

The people behind the EMRC cannot contemplate even for a few milliseconds that these events and others like them have given non-Muslims cause to dislike Islam and mistrust Muslims.

(5) Anti-Muslim hate crime

The report provides case material that illustrates the total nastiness of blameless citizens being assaulted in the street or in their homes, and mosques and religious buildings vandalised and attacked in life threatening ways.

You might reasonably expect that after a year in which to produce this massive report the EMRC would give a better account than the one given of the scale of anti-Muslim hate crime and Islamophobia. They might have covered:

What is the trend, who really are the victims and the culprits, what is the breakdown by different types of anti-Muslim hate crime, how does it compare with anti-Semitism and animosity towards immigrants, are the perpetrators caught and how are they punished?

But the account you get is seriously lacking and brief. You get just a few pages. (pp99-104)

There is no analysis of existing statistics and how they might be improved, only a vague dismissal. The complaint is made that anti-Muslim hate crime is probably under reported, which seems likely, and of course it would apply to other victims of hate crime, such as Jews and immigrants.

(5.1) Individuals

No quantification or perspective is given at all on anti-Muslim hate crime against individuals. The report says that interviewing took place. It doesn’t mention how many interviews, how they were carried out or how the respondents were chosen, all standard procedure in professional research, so that the results can be fairly assessed. It simply takes the opportunity to repeat its claim that 9/11 was the turning point.

“The phenomenon of increased suspicion, hostility, bigotry, intimidation and violence towards Muslims in the UK can be traced back to 9/11. In the last twelve months we have interviewed Muslims …. and there is already significant evidence to suggest that 9/11 marks a dramatic and negative shift in attitudes and behaviour towards Muslims.”

…. and again accuse the Government and media.

“The terrorist act of 9/11 itself is … insufficient explanation for a discernable rise in anti-Muslim hostility and violence but rather a necessary, explanatory condition.”

“ …. Most significant was a majority of mainstream UK political and UK media analysis and reporting that identified the suicide bombers’ motivation as being grounded in Islam or a particular rendition of Islam.” (p99)

Read this quote at least twice and take in its full perversity.

The authors offer no method of dealing with this “problem”. Could it be that all media are subject to a super injunction that forbids any mention of a terrorist’s religion, or any reference they make to religion, or that all such terrorist news must be accompanied by a disclaimer that any Islam referred to is not the real Islam but some other Islam?

It would make reports of the latest Danish cartoon outrage [Note 2] very odd. “Five young men set out to gun down as many people as possible at the office of cartoon publisher: cartoons were not funny!”

(5.2) Mosques and Islamic centres

The EMRC research shows that between 40-60% of 1600 mosques, Islamic centres and Muslim organisations in the UK have suffered at least one attack since 9/11. Attacks include petrol bombs, assaults on imams, bricks thrown through windows, pigs heads fixed to mosque entrances, death threats, other threatening and abusive messages and vandalism. No breakdown is given.

The authors say at their lowest estimate this is 1000 hate crime attacks on at least 700 Islamic places since 9/11. They could also mention that this is just over 100 attacks a year, two a week throughout the whole country, many of which could be abusive messages or vandalism and concern Mosques that have been in the news for outrageous statements by their imams.

All these figures are based on a survey of 1000 questionnaires. No details of this questionnaire are given. The questions, the method of completion, that would be expected in any professional survey.

This is all you get, these key matters are given barely half a page (see p104) but the authors say they “aim to have a clearer picture by the 11th September 2011”. The 11th September at the time this report was published (November 2009) was a year away.

The deliberate mention of this date beggars belief and signals again the authors fixation with 9/11 and their twisted thinking.

You might also wonder why the EMRC is a 10 year project if there is an urgent anti-Muslim hate crime problem today. It would be better to spend the money spent on the EMRC and the authors on a survey of Muslims carried out by a professional survey organisation such as Gallup (who have a Muslim unit) or Pew.

It would also be instructive to interview in a representative way those who actually commit anti-Muslim hate crime, another notable omission from the EMRC’s work.

Since this report was published an All-Party Group on Islamophobia has been formed and hopefully they will give the subject more urgency and indeed examine professionally and objectively the scale and causes of anti-Muslim hate crime and Islamophobia and what to do about it, which this massive tome has egregiously failed to do.

(5.3) Never mind the quality feel the width

This fleeting treatment of the central problem is striking contrast to space given to topics that are peripheral or irrelevant.

Immediately following the Mosque survey section there are three pages (compared with the half page on the Mosque survey results) discussing the details of petrol bombs and in particular the use accelerant. Robert Lambert, one of the co-authors, is an ex-policeman, and one might easily think he donated his notebook to the report.

At the beginning of the report we get a three and a half page hagiography of Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, a former leader of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and currently Chairman of the board of trustees at the East London Mosque (ELM), six times as much space as the Mosque survey.

We get a three page tutorial on Tariq Ramadan’s ideas.

We even get a whole part, Part 5 of the report, 20 pages (a tenth of the entire report, that’s right one tenth!) devoted to a one sided justification of the recent political career of Councillor Lutfur Rahman, the controversial Muslim mayor of Tower Hamlets. What, you wonder, has this to do with anti-Muslim hate crime?

(6) Recommendations

You might expect the final part of the report, Part 6, “Responses and Recommendations” to bring together practical suggestions on dealing with anti-Muslim hate crime and Islamophpobia but it doesn’t.

Instead you get an attack on the previous and current Governments for dealing with the wrong Muslims. It is obsessed with the possible influence of several individuals and the think-tank Policy Exchange and its neo-conservative ideology. The Government should be dealing with the Muslims behind this report.

“…. the previous government sought to delegitimize politically active Muslim organisations…. The motivation for such counter-productive and discriminatory government policy is premised on the negative Policy Exchange analysis of political Islam …. Most notably, in 2009 Hazel Blears severed links with the Muslim Council of Britain.” (p199)

The authors don’t bother to mention why the Government severed links with the MCB. Daud Abdullah, the deputy secretary general of the MCB signed a declaration concerning Palestine supporting violence against foreign forces – which could include British naval personnel. [Note 3]

Part 6 is divided into three sections: (1) Partnership or Exclusion, covering who the Government should deal with, which takes up 93%, 1940 words; (2) Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: Urgent Government Action, taking up 3%, 61 words; and (3) Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: Urgent Community Action and Funding Needed, 4%, 91 words.

A nice reflection of the authors’ priorities.

(7) Who and what

The report makes clear whose agenda it follows “…. We hope that this report will provide evidence to assist our partners in the MCB, The Cordoba Foundation, Forward Thinking and Engage”.

But what do these organisations stand for? Several statements give clues.

…. the voices of …. Muslims, who do not support assimilation, are silenced or ridiculed. (p53)

…. the integration agenda of the British government is less about addressing terrorism and more about Muslims giving up their Islamic values. (p194)

…. they are told …. that Muslims must abandon any notion that Islam informs their politics before they can be accepted. (p200)

…. against accommodating ‘traditionalists’ …. appears to mean any seriously practicing Muslim. (p201)

…. Islam and strict adherence to Islam pose[s] a threat to the safety, cohesion and well being of communities and countries in Europe. (p203)

So what are these Islamic values and what does strict adherence to Islam entail? What does a seriously practicing Muslim do and believe?

  • Should animals be stunned before they are slaughtered? And should halal meat be labelled to say whether or not stunning has taken place.
  • What do they think about stoning to death for adultery? That is, torturing someone to death. Inayat Bunglawala, a former spokesperson of the MCB and connected with Engage, doesn’t agree with it himself but thinks it is OK if people in other countries want it. [Note 4]
  • Do they agree with the 51% of British Muslims who say a Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim? [Note 5]
  • Do they agree with the 31% of British Muslims who agree conversion is punishable by death. [Note 5] In Pakistan, the country of origin of many British Muslims 76% favour the death penalty for apostasy. [Note 6]
  • It should be easy for a man to divorce his wife, but very difficult for a wife to divorce her husband. Muslim women who seek divorce are subjected to an interview process, pressured to remain married and risk losing quite possibly their only financial wealth by being forced to return their dower.
  • Child custody should always favour the man. Judges in The House of Lords described Sharia rules on child custody as ‘arbitrary and discriminatory’.
  • Death was too good for Salman Rushdie.
  • There should be a parallel legal system (Sharia Courts) for Muslims in which women have inferior rights to men, in property division and inheritance for example, and there are no female “judges”. Nearly a quarter of judges in UK courts are female and in magistrate courts it is half.
  • It is completely forbidden to make or publish a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad and that such activity even by a non-Muslim should be severely punished.
  • Despite the intense British and European dislike of people in public hiding their face it is just fine for Muslim women to wear the veil. [Note 7]
  • National exams such as GCSE and A Level should be moved so they don’t clash with Ramadan.
  • It is not the business of Muslims or Mosques to tackle “radical Islam”. [Note 8]
  • As Islam is a comprehensive system of worship and legislation (Sharia) there is no need for man-made laws at all and all Muslims must work to that end.
  • Democracy is a good thing but once Muslims obtain power that is the end of democracy if it means not implementing Sharia.

Where do seriously practicing Muslims stand on the teachings of Syed Mawdudi the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, the South Asian Islamist party:

“our goal is to create the True Believer. To then mobilise believers into an organised force for change who will carry out da’wah, hisbah and jihad. This will lead to social change and iqamatud-Deen (an Islamic social, economic and political orde).”

“merely believing in God is not enough. Muslims have a sacred duty, wherever you are, in whichever country you live, you must strive to change the wrong basis of government, and seize powers to rule and make laws from those who do not fear God”.

The MCB agrees that it is accurate to say that Mawdudi believed “…. in [an] ideal Islamic state, private and public life would be inseparable. In this respect it would bear “a kind of resemblance to the fascist and communist states” They just don’t like anyone mentioning it. [Note 9]

And regarding practical examples of Islamically informed politics we have plenty from Iran, Sudan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia ….

NOTES

Note 1 – Extract from: A timely reminder

Those of us – including me – who marched and called for the book to be pulped/banned were in the wrong. Calls for pulping or banning the book gave rise to understandable fears about increased censorship and intolerance. A more sensible response would have been to just ignore the book or to write a proper rejoinder pointing out Rushdie’s shortcomings in his fictional treatment of the Prophet Muhammad and allow readers to then make up their own minds.

Read complete item here

Note 2

See: Denmark holds ‘Muhammad cartoon plotters’

Note 3 – Extract from: The Guardian and Islamism – is anybody counting?

Following exchanges between the MCB and the Government, The Guardian published a statement by Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, which said:

“ …we have been asking the MCB to find out whether their deputy secretary general, Dr Abdullah, attended the conference and signed the statement. The MCB has now confirmed he did attend and did sign the declaration. A declaration that supports violence against foreign forces – which could include British naval personnel – as the prime minister has offered British naval support to stop the smuggling of weapons to Gaza; and advocating attacks on Jewish communities all around the world.”

Read complete item here

Note 4 – Extract from: Stoning to death for adultery

[Joan Smith on Inayat said][But during a public debate in London two weeks ago, he refused my invitation to condemn unequivocally the practice of stoning women to death for adultery. It had happened during the lifetime of the Prophet, he said, “so you are asking me to condemn my Prophet”]

[Inayat today says][I don’t actually support stoning for adulterers although as I have stated several times, I respect the right of people in other countries to choose their own legal systems.]

So you are saying your Prophet supported stonings and that you wont condemn your prophet (PBUH), so the natural reaction here is that you support it because you support your Prophet. Either you believe the Prophet was wrong on the issue of stoning or you personally support it (though you dont want it here). So which is it, was the Prophet wrong or do you personally support it?

As mentioned by another poster, your stance here talks a lot of respecting peoples right to choose what laws they like. Would you “respect” the right of British people to pass extremely anti-Islam laws? No, of course you wouldnt, you would be up in arms on these very pages, as we all well know. Stop dodging and diving, Inayat.

Is stoning wrong, or is the Prophet wrong?

Read complete item here

Note 5

See: Living Apart Together – British Muslims and the paradox of multiculturalism

Note 6

See: Support for Harsh Laws (Including Death for Apostasy)

Note 7 – Extract from: Joint statement about the veil from Muslim groups, scholars

…. We understand the viewpoint of those who may find the veil a barrier to communication. However, we believe that the level of discomfort caused is insignificant ….

…. We ask all society to deal with the Muslim community without prejudice, and to exercise genuine openness and tolerance towards Islamic practices, even those they may not like, as this is the real test of tolerance to others. [Emphasis added]

Read complete item here

[Comment by Reviewer] So in this statement, signed amongst others, by Dr Bari, when he was leader of the MCB, the British are being told they can get stuffed when it comes to the veil. It’s our tolerance that is being tested.

Perhaps a more reasonable view would have been to say “as so many British find hiding the face rude, you are trying to hide something – you only do it if you are ill, very cold, or in mourning – and it isn’t a religious obligation to wear the veil, very few Muslim women actually do, we strongly recommend you don’t”. “And, of course, extreme Western styles of dress are not tolerated in Muslim countries.” But that, I suppose, is asking too much!

Note 8 – Extract from: Sweden bomber’s Luton link must not reinforce cliche

On Guardian Cif – newsed1, 13 December 2010 8:28PM

Anybody listen to The World at One?

They interviewed the local ultra-reasonable, unaccented, Muslim chap from the local Mosque in question.

‘Oh yes’ he says ‘we didn’t like his extremist ideas, so we chucked him out.’

So why didn’t you alert the authorities?

‘That’s not our job’ says Mr Reasonable.

…. when the local Muslims happily tell us they had the bloke’s number years ago, WTF are we supposed to do?

Read complete item here

Note 9 – Extract from: Common Ground or Not

A section of the programme spoke about Sayid Mawdudi [the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami] who was described as “the ideologue and founder of a party that ‘wants Pakistan to become an Islamic state governed by sharia holy law”. The programme presenter went on to say and quote: ‘In Mawdudi’s ideal Islamic state, private and public life would be inseparable. In this respect it would bear “a kind of resemblance to the fascist and communist states”

The MCB did not like the association with the fascism and communism. After an accusatory exchange of letters with the BBC the MCB reached the conclusion:

“The BBC’s response demonstrated that Mawdudi’s words had been quoted accurately, but only in a limited and strictly literal sense. However, the words ‘fascism’ and ‘communism’ carry negative connotations for most people in Britain. The effect of using a very brief quotation was, therefore, to highlight references to these two political systems and to exaggerate the parallels with Islam, thereby transferring to Islam the negativity that fascism and communism connote.

The MCB admits there is a parallel complaining only that it carries “negative connotations”!

Read complete item here

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