Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ed Hussain - The Islamist

I have been reading The Islamist by Ed Hussain. I am only one third through, but already I can say, "Buy it and read it."

Ed Hussain is the son of an Indian Muslim immigrant who settled in London's East End. His parents were devout Muslims of a traditional sort, well integrated into British Society, members of the Labour Party, believing that religion and politics were quite separate. Mohamm(Ed)Hussain was a well brought up young man, devout, but an outcast from his school where the young Bangladeshi immigrants were only interested in Bollywood movies. He got sucked in by the infamous East London Mosque that was under the control Jamat-e-Islami and the Young Muslim Organisation (YMO). Here he was politicized and followed the teachings of Abul Ala Mawdudi, a Pakistani journalist and amateur theologian. Mawadi, who died in 1979 on a speaking tour of America, reinterpreted the Koran, departing from classical scholarship and rebranded Islam as a political ideology. Stupidly, the standard textbook in British secular schools for religious education on Islam was and is Islam: Beliefs and Teachings by Gulam Sawar, a lecturer in business management and follower of Mawdudi. If I know the British government they chose this book because it was a job lot going cheap. Pretty certainly no-one concerned with policy ever read it.

Sarwar was an activist for all the Islamist political organisations that have caused us such trouble, yet here was his book (and still is) the basic introductory text for young Muslims in schools. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

Tower Hamlets College is a large further education college in Tower Hamlets, London, England, one of the poorest parts of London and dominated by Bangaldeshi immigrants. It was here that Ed Hussain became president of the Islamic Society and began politicizing it. The book Milestones by Sued Qtub became the Bible of the movement. Hardened by racialism in America and Nasser's Socialism in Egypt Qtub's book declared that Islam is the answer for oppressed people everywhere. Tortured in Nasser's jails and hanged there in 1966, Qtub became a martyr for the cause. Now, not only Christians and Jews, but ordinary Muslims had become the enemy. Qomen began to wear the Hijab as a political statement. This was not enough for some who insisted on wearing the jilbab which covered the body and the niqab which covered the face. The boys called these girls the ninja sisters, but they were not figures of fun. they were the portal of entry for Wahhabi preachers from Saudi Arabia. These men, with their red chequered head scarfs, black bushy beards and knee length trousers preached a return to 7th Century Arab lifestyle. It was their proposition that 1200 years of Muslim scholarship had been a by-way and that Muslims should return to the original.

The atrocities of Bosnia provided a springboard for the next development. Neither Wahhabism nor Qtubism provided a remedy for the persecution of Muslims in the Balkans. What was needed was not simply the conversion of moderate Muslims to a politicized agenda, not just Muslim lands for Muslims, but a restoration of the Caliphate, and the organisation to bring it about was Hizb ut-Tahrir. In their view democracy is an invention of the devil. They desire a theocracy, one Muslim nation to rule the whole world under Allah. Not just the former Muslim areas that include Spain, but the whole world, Britain, Western Europe and the USA included. The preacher who espoused these ideals to Hussain was Omak Bakri. You can read all about him here.


Anonymous said...

And to think that Francis Fukuyama wrote 'The End of History' in the 1990s, since the fall of communism seemed to usher in a new epoch of peace and cooperation among nations.

Was this the stupidest notion in the last 50 years?

Frank said...

To read and believe without checking, even if it's only a third of a book, often leads to misunderstanding.

Ed Hussain's book, which has delighted neocons and islamophobes, has been slated by those in the know for its twisted revisionism.

To describe the 'East London Mosque' as infamous is just ridiculous. It is one of the mosque open, forward thinking mosques in the Western world, with strong links to local and national government and organisations. How many mosques or Islamic centres have women in the management, or non-Muslims on their staff? They're about as open as an institution could be, and their work is directed at helping the local community. All these supposed links bear no meaning in reality. Few places could have come under such scrutiny, both open and covert, by media and security services.

So why does Ed Hussain appear to hate them so much. Well, going back to his youth, he soon tired of the do-gooding of this moderate mosque. So while his contempories got on with the business of being good Muslims and good British citizens, Ed left to join the radical Hizbut Tahrir (HT), despite the warnings of those close to him who could see where it could lead.

He became president of the college Islamic Society when he was an HT activist. It was the students in the Young Muslim Organisation (YMO), who were closely associated with the moderate East London Mosque, who ensured Ed was ousted as president.

But this was not the only reason for his hatred of the mosque. Whilst much of British society dismissed HT as a noisy irritation, mosques in Tower Hamlets were trying to prevent this spread of extemism. On one occasion Ed went to the East London Mosque with his beloved leader, the radical Omar Bakri, and several other HT members. They were used to forcing themselves into mosques and demanding to be heard, but here the East London Mosque took a firm stand. They prevented Omar Bakri from speaking and forcefully ejected him, Ed and the other extremists. Ed felt humiliated.

Ironically, Ed and the HT members left shouting abuse along the lines of the mosque being a 'government' mosque under the control of Tony Blair. They hated the idea of a mosque working with non-Muslims, of a mosque supporting participation in democracy, of a mosque encouraging people to be responsible members of society.

On a separate point: Ghulam Sarwar's book has never been a standard textbook for British schools. It is almost certainly the most popular book for young people in the Muslim community, and it was used in some schools, such as Ed's, for children who had been withdrawn from collective worship or RE by their parents and put into classes organised by the Muslim Educational Trust. Sarwar left political activism in the 70s and has since worked as an educationist and in chariry relief work. His book Islam: Beliefs and Teaching is highly readable and uncontroversial, except perhaps for a few of pages where he dares to mention politics in Islam.

The claim that women wear hijab as a policial statement does a great injustice to the vast majority of ordinary women who wear it as a duty to God as part of their faith. Perhaps in the highly politicised circles of HT that Ed moved in some women made it more than that.

All these years later, the normal Muslims Ed left behind in the East London Mosque have made an increasingly positive contribution to British society. By any reasonable assessement, they should be viewed as role models. Ed and his new chums are desperately trying to recast all this, to turn it all upside down, much to the pleasure of the neocons who gleefully watch from the sidelines, occasionally stirring. And they still carry with them the traits of extremism that they just can't leave behind: an inability to get on with any Muslims who disagree with their narrow view, a hatred of Saudis, a passion for criticising, a distorted understanding of Islam, all wrapped up in an ego that cries to be at the centre of attention.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad radical Islam has its defenders. However, you cannot and never will convince me that Islam is not veered onto a dangerous, radical path.

Honor killings, sectarian violence, hatred of the West by 'homegrown' radicals and other signs cannot and will not be ignored.

Terry Hamblin said...

Ed Hussain is a member of the Labour Party - hardly a neocon. Politically, he seems middle of the road. Most Muslims in Britain see their religion as a matter of personal holiness and morality just as most Christians do. I happen to think they have got onto a false path and think they should convert to Christianity. Some have subverted Islam into a political organisation with a mission to destroy Western Society and replace it with a Shariah-based jurisprudence. Fome like HT believe in doing it violently others like the East London Mosque think it can be done by persuasion and education. Of course, HT is worse, but the aims of political Islam are just as pernicious and unwelcome. As anonymous #2 says 'honor killings and sectarian violence' cannot be ignored. 7th Century attitudes should remain in the 7th Century.