Well, as we move into 2016, it has been another year where my colleagues and I have been at the front-line of working with faith communities in the United Kingdom and where we have also stood firm against anti-Muslim bigotry. We have also continuously made the case that bigotry from some small sections of Muslim communities cannot go unchallenged and this means that LGBT hate and anti-semitism, also need to be tackled.
We have also sadly, seen our work challenged by those within some sections of Muslim communities, who use anti-Muslim prejudice or Islamophobia, to promote a set of views which we regard as being problematic, particularly when their leadership have made statements that are targeted at other communities and against those that we work with. For example, smearing a patron of Tell MAMA as a Zionist, just because he is Jewish, hardly provides any confidence to wider communities in those organisations and self-appointed leaders who make such comments. That is before even going into the actions of their ‘activists’ who promote messages which are homophobic on platforms such as Whatsapp. So, as they say, apart from battling against anti-Muslim bigots, we sadly have to tackle territorialism, smears and those with views that undermine partnership working and building solidarity with other communities.
But this brings me onto another area. This involves the far right’s obsession with me, as well as the obsession of anti-Muslim bigots. Gosh, I never knew that I was the stuff of their dreams, on second thoughts, eugh!
Months ago, I chose to go onto an iERA (Islamic Education and Research Academy) platform, where they were talking about a range of issues, including anti-Muslim prejudice, values in Islam etc. This decision was not taken lightly and was done to engage with a wider audience and to take part in a debate. The latter term being important – a debate.
I for one, believe in talking to wider audiences and engaging in debates, yet, if you read the frothing blogs of anti-Muslim bigots, they believe that by debating, you actually agree with some of the views aired, by merely sharing a platform. The person in question they had a problem with, was Anas-Al-Tikriti. Now, Anas is not an extremist, nor should he be regarded as such, but according to anti-Muslim bigots and their sites, he is one. Allied to that, was a lame attempt to suggest that I believe in a Caliphate. If I believe in a Caliphate, then Donald Trump is a secret Muslim.
Anyway, I wanted to ensure that readers of such sites have it spelt out loud and clear to them, given that many may be missing critical analyses skills when they read sites. It must be hard to see the world beyond just black and white and ‘grey’ for them, sends them into an emotional crisis. So here goes:
Do I believe in a Caliphate: No!
What was the question I responded to: It was a question where I was asked whether I believed people who want a Caliphate, can be regarded as extreme? My response was no. Does that mean that I want a Caliphate – two different things, no!
Why did I respond as I did? Since there are a group of Muslims, Ahmaddiyas who are the most peaceful of Muslim communities and who suffer persecution in countries like Pakistan for their belief. They believe in a Caliph as a symbolic leader. They are hardly extreme, by any stretch of the imagination.
Also, some people will have a vision of living in a utopian Caliphate. Does that make them extreme? No – it means that they will be living the dream for eternity. Now, we also have to be realistic and groups like IS and their sympathisers will also buy into the idea of a Caliphate. What I am trying to say is that this is not a clear sign or indicator of extremism and nor should it be considered to be.
So what do you believe in? Having spent 12 years of my life as a Liberal Democrat and 6 years as a Liberal Democrat member, I believe in one man or woman and one vote. I mean, anyone looking to gain power secretly, (as many anti-Muslim bigots believe Muslims want to take over the West), would hardly join the Liberal Democrats……you really only join the Liberal Democrats if you believe in their values. So, I am sorry to dampen the strongly held belief of anti-Muslim bigots that Muslims want to take over the West. Some of us believe in the democratic process, even if that meant spending money and attending conferences where Liberal Democrats talked about first past the post systems and……..local Government spending. I mean, as you can imagine, it was pretty painful!
So sorry anti-Muslim bigots – it is democracy for me! If that breaks your world view – great, because it must be pretty twisted if you truly believe all Muslims believe in the same thing. In fact, that is pretty twisted.
Anyway, bring on 2016.