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Two urgent steps Britain must take to defeat the Islamist threat


THOSE of us who understand and speak Arabic were reminded by the barrage of anti-Christian rhetoric broadcast last week on the Qatari state channel, Al Jazeera Arabic, of the threat facing Christians.

No one here would have known from the positive coverage of the Pope’s landmark visit to the UAE given by Al Jazeera to its UK audience. How could they guess at the contrast between the English and Arabic versions or at the fury of the response seen on Al Jazeera Arabic as in this report here?

It refers to a statement by Ali Al Quradagi, the deputy of one Yusuf Qaradawi who was banned from entering Britain by the Brown government, who is a regular guest on Al Jazeera Arabic. Far from presenting the Pope’s visit as one of peace, Ali sees it as ‘part of the oppression in the region and part of the aggressive attacks against the Muslim nation (of Qatar)’. The key message in the headline is one of hostility.

This was the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam, and it had given much hope for a greater tolerance between Christians and Muslims. Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt hailed it as ‘a powerful initiative and a step towards greater cooperation, understanding and tolerance between two of the world’s great religions’.

It was hoped that the visit would usher in a new era in which the rights of Christians in the Middle East would be protected. For so many years now, the Christians in the Middle East have been subjected to persecution; literally being driven out by the insidious Islamism that has been taking hold of so many societies in the region, making them the most persecuted religious minority in the world.

Sadly, efforts by moderate Muslim states to reverse the trend, such as the papal visit to Abu Dhabi, are the subject of vitriolic attack by Islamist extremists, for example by the leading Qatari writer I tweeted about.

Other examples of such attacks come from as far away as North Africa where local preachers, as below, repeat the assertion that the Pope is ‘aimed to destroy Islam’.

There are other Islamist TV channels too, that have hosted Qatari preachers condemnation of the Pope’s visit as an attack on Islam as here.

Islamists have one goal: the establishment of an Islamist society where religious minorities are welcome only as long as they live as second-class citizens. Christians, Jews and moderate Muslims as well as peoples of other and no faiths are all targets.

Al Jazeera Arabic and other Arabic media coming out of Qatar, a country embroiled in a conflict with its moderate neighbour, the United Arab Emirates, provided the platforms for these attacks on the papal visit, exposing how deep-seated is the anti-Christian view of the world that Islamists hold.

Such anti-Christian rhetoric not only harms Christians in the Middle East, but also threatens Christians and others in this country. What happens in the name of religion in the Middle East affects what happens in Britain.

The world’s oldest and largest extremist Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, continues inciting its adherents in the Middle East and Europe. The Manchester Arena bomber was radicalised by the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Haras Rafiq, chief executive of Quilliam, the anti-extremism think tank, as reported in the Guardian.

In 2010, Gordon Brown’s government banned Yusuf Qaradawi, the Qatari spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, from entering Britain. In 2015, the UK government conducted a review on the global activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, clearly linking them to terrorism. However, neither step went far enough to mitigate the existential risk those vile Islamists pose to British values.

Qaradawi may be banned from entering Britain, but his teachings are widely available on the internet, on Al Jazeera’s Arabic language website. There are over 700 recorded interviews by Qaradawi in which he warns against friendship with Christians and in which he endorses suicide bombings, of which this is one.

Such teachings, freely accessible in the UK, are regularly used by Muslim Brotherhood preachers and speakers permitted in mosques and madrassahs across the UK, as described by Ed Husain in the Spectator, inspiring British Muslim youth to hate their Christian compatriots.

Islamists have demonstrated an unparalleled ability to outsmart government. They adapt to new circumstances and adopt new technologies to spew their venom. Yet they are also very vulnerable, and defeating them is within reach if the political will exists. The government of this country needs to catch up. There are two immediate and urgent tasks that it needs to undertake.

The first is a review by the Home Office of the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK. The Government’s review of the threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood was conducted by the Foreign Office and directed its attention abroad. Although it touched upon Muslim Brotherhood activities in Britain, the focus was global and therefore diluted the potential of any meaningful action against the Brotherhood in the UK. What is needed urgently now is a comprehensive review of the group’s activities, including preaching in the mosques and madrassahs across the country, with a view to proscribing it as a terrorist group.

The second urgent task is to block access to anti-Christian and anti-Semitic preaching on the Al Jazeera Arabic website. This includes sermons by people who are either banned from entering Britain or people who have openly supported suicide bombings of the kind seen at the Manchester Arena.

The security forces are doing a most commendable job in protecting the security of this country but the ultimate responsibility is on politicians to ensure that the breeding ground for terrorists can no longer flourish here.

The governments of Gordon Brown and David Cameron took important steps in addressing the most dangerous Islamist threats facing Britain. But further urgent action is needed if we are to avoid having to deal with another atrocity in the streets of Britain.

The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity—and ultimately of all religious minorities—in the Islamic world is at stake. 

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Ghanem Nuseibeh
Ghanem Nuseibeh
Ghanem Nuseibeh is Chair Muslims Against Anti Semitism, Founder, Cornerstone Global Associates and former fellow at Kings College London and Harvard University. Twitter @gnuseibeh

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