Concerns over report into anti-Muslim hatred in Britain


A study into anti-Muslim hatred in Britain produced by an anti-fascist group could leave legitimate campaigners open to attack by jihadis, it has been claimed.

Hope Not Hate said it wanted the report – published on Wednesday – to highlight the “mainstreaming” of anti-Muslim hatred.

But critics said the document libelled some anti-jihadists – both Muslim and non-Muslim - as being Islamophobic, implying they were among those driving organised hatred against Muslims, creating a target list for extreme Muslim groups.

The 180-page report – The Counter-Jihad Movement: Anti-Muslim hatred from the margins to the mainstream – looks at individuals and groups which Hope Not Hate said were “dedicated to anti-Muslim hatred and prejudice”.

The report profiles 920 organisations and individuals in 22 countries, exploring, it said, “the connections between politicians, bloggers, street activists and funders in the widespread ‘counter-jihad’ arena”.

Hope Not Hate said the aim was to raise awareness of “the new face of the far-right”.

The list includes individuals such as controversial Jewish American activist Pamela Geller, who has previously been banned from Britain because of her comments about Islam.

But it also highlights progressive Muslim voices and Muslim reformers who have attempted to counter jihadi groups, while appearing to label them as Islamophobic.

Among those it singles out is Jewish journalist Melanie Phillips, who it describes as a “fierce critic of Islam and supporter of Israel”.

The report lists organisations such as the International Free Press Society, an umbrella campaigning group which has in the past given awards to journalists including Ms Phillips for their writing on Islamism.

In response, Ms Phillips said: “To support its libellous claim that I promote anti-Muslim hatred, this document headlines me as a ‘supporter of Israel’. It is extraordinary and shocking that supporting Israel, which I am proud to do, is presented as self-evident proof of anti-Muslim hatred and therefore a hateful attitude in itself. This suggests a deeper HNH agenda of anti-Israel hatred and the vilification of those who support it.

“The document claims those on its list fail to distinguish between law-abiding Muslims and extremists. This is a lie. I have consistently emphasised that the problem lies with one interpretation of Islam, that millions of Muslims are decent and threaten no-one and that we should support Muslim reformers.

“It is perverse in the extreme that such reformers are themselves also libelled here as anti-Muslim. In today’s incendiary climate, I believe this poisonous document poses a direct threat to my safety and to theirs.”

She called on the Board of Deputies and the London Jewish Forum, which worked with Hope Not Hate as part of the Golders Green Together initiative in the summer, to condemn the group “in the strongest terms and have nothing more to do with it”.

There was an immediate backlash to the report online, with some campaigners on Twitter even accusing Hope Not Hate of being a “front for Islamists and Jihadis”.

Maajid Nawaz of the Quillian Foundation, a former Hizb ut-Tahrir member who now campaigns against extremism and stood for the Liberal Democrats in May’s general election, said the document was part of a “witch-hunt that conflates Muslim reformers and critics of Islam, with bigots”.

In a tweet to Hope Not Hate, Mr Nawaz said the report was “totally discredited and not worth the ink it's printed on because you've listed Muslim reformers as anti-Muslims”.

Hope Not Hate said it had removed from the report one of the Muslims it initially listed.

In a piece on the group’s website, Nick Lowles, Hope Not Hate chief executive, wrote on Thursday: “As we set out in our report, the Counter-Jihad movement is a disparate and varied mix of people and organisations who believe that Western civilisation is under attack from Islam.

“Some are of course more extreme than others. Whilst the counter-jihadists have some differences between them, all agree that Islam is a supremacist religion and many see little difference between violent Jihadists or the ordinary Muslims who live their lives quite peacefully.”

Report co-author Joe Mulhall said: "Any insinuation that we have included people because they support Israel is ludicrous."

A Board of Deputies spokesman said: “This is a sensitive area which requires care on all sides.

"When rightly criticising violent extremism, commentators must be careful not to spread fear or hatred of all Muslims.

"Equally, commentators should be given some generosity and latitude in terms of expressing legitimate concerns.”

Hope Not Hate have asked us to publish a response to this story, and we are happy to do so:

Our belief is that this report is urgently needed, and timely, given the upswing in anti-Muslim sentiment (and attacks) that have been occurring recently. Just as we expose this wide counter-jihad network, you will know that we have also produced seminal reports into the Islamist network run by Anjem Choudary, for example, and I myself have personally travelled to Iraq for Hope not hate to report from the frontline fight against the Islamic State. 

We fundamentally disagree with Melanie Philips comments. We have very close ties with the Jewish community in the UK and have spent many years fighting antisemitism. Any insinuation that we included people because of their support for Israel is not only (blatantly) factually incorrect, but frankly outrageous as well as deeply hurtful. You will know how we led the Golders Green Together campaign, for example, earlier this year, helping to forge a coalition against antisemitic neo-nazis threatening to march in the area. 

We also have major concerns with the following line in the article:

 ‘But it also highlights progressive Muslim voices and Muslim reformers who have attempted to counter jihadi groups, while appearing to label them as Islamophobic.’

 There is zero evidence for this line and I note you have failed to provide any to back up this assertion. 

Some people have raised concerns about three Americans named in our report, out of a total of over 900. After wide consultation, we decided to remove one of the names that people had concerns about. She was mentioned once very briefly and has now been removed. You will please note that the other two individuals named have been discussed at length in multiple US media reports, and by respected civil rights groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and Center for American Progress. Nothing we are saying is “new” about them, and therefore we are at a loss to explain how our report — relying on existing and published sources from respectable civil rights groups — could somehow be construed as kowtowing to bigots or exposing these people to danger. 

We have outlined our specific reasoning for the inclusion of the two people that some have concerns about here: 

I am sure you can see why we take issue with the article's insinuation that the report includes 'progressive Muslim voices'. If you truly believe this to be the case then we believe you should name the people you believe should not have been included. At present this article regurgitates the criticism of a few people and presents it as fact. To reiterate again, in case you are not aware, HOPE not hate has been a vocal critic of Islamist extremism for a long time, having published reports on British Islamic extremism. As I mentioned, I myself have been to Iraq for HNH to make a film to encourage anti-fascists to be more vocal in their condemnation of Islamism. The counter-jihad report is very clear that legitimate criticism of Islamism and even Islam is perfectly acceptable. Any insinuation that this is not the case is a (deliberate) misreading of the report.  



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