The official website of Mohammed Ansar
You might imagine that so appallingly unrepresentative was this research, such a foreseeable prospect of hate, prejudice and hysteria based on false premises, that no one in their right mind would use it to spark a public debate on Muslims. Well, you might think that. Trevor Phillips has done nothing short of saying these people and their views represent the views of all Muslims. The conclusion is that Muslims refuse to, or are unable to, integrate into a liberal British society. That we have a problem that needs solving. Cue the hysteria and ‘othering’ of Muslims. Again.
Trevor Phillips’ documentary program for Channel 4 ‘What Muslims Really Think’ was a weak, tired and most of all, desperately outdated piece. The trails for it in the Sunday Times and elsewhere, lead to a series of articles and interviews discrediting the program even before it was aired. During the program itself, Phillips’ introductory preface provided his agenda writ large. Rather than iterating a zero tolerance attitude to anti-Muslim prejudice in society which might be expected of any responsible social commentator, Phillips offered-up an apologism for certain kinds of anti-Muslim prejudice. In doing so, he confirmed himself as ideological bedfellow with the likes of Douglas Murray, Pegida and the Quilliam Foundation by suggesting that anti-Muslim prejudice was understandable or acceptable and somehow brought upon by Muslims themselves, therefore Muslims (and Islam itself) needs to reform.
To be clear. The rationale here is that Muslims bring Islamophobia upon themselves because of their own beliefs and practices, and because of this, they should alter (‘reform’) their faith. In other words, Islamophobia serves as a mechanism for faux-reformists.
Phillips went on to say
“The Channel 4 Survey explored what Britain’s 3 million Muslims really think on a range of issues” (Phillips)
Well, no. The survey did precisely the opposite. The modelling was unnervingly taken from the national Prevent scheme. The ‘survey’ targeted high Muslim populations (20% or more). A face-to-face with 1,000 Muslims from the inner cities and disproportionately the most poorly educated and disenfranchised communities, is an intentionally weighted and skewed sample. Statistically irrelevant. Certainly unrepresentative. And Phillips knows this.
Despite polling mechanisms and models having been shown to be fundamentally flawed during the last general election, polls on Muslims are often even worse. The Survation Poll for the Sun said incorrectly, that 1 in 5 Muslims support ISIS jihadis (IPSO required them to print a correction as it was held to be misleading). ICM stated in 2006, quite incorrectly, that 40% of Muslims supported the 7/7 bombers (the true figure albeit less than 1% was still woeful). ICM claimed now that 4% of all Muslims support violence in the pursuit of politics; potentially suicide bombing. The program might just as easily have said that 96% of Muslims did not support suicide bombing, despite the sample skewing but that wouldn’t have served the programs agenda. By extrapolating the 4% figure to arrive at a total of 100,000 British Muslims, you can fuel panic. It’s an oft deployed rhetorical tactic by anti-Muslim counter-jihadist interests such as the Clarion Group. The subtext promoted is that any Muslim you meet, from your work colleague, to the supermarket worker, or those normally friendly parents at the school gate, could be a potential suicide bomber sympathiser. The enemy in our midst. Sinister. On the issue of faith schools and Muslims visiting non-Muslims homes, Phillips could have provided balance had he wished. The refusal to contextual Muslim faith schools by mentioning that 98% of all British state funded faith schools are Christian, or that there are twenty times more Jewish faith schools than Muslim (despite there being twenty times more Muslims than Jews in the UK), gave a wholly skewed picture. Phillips also refused to mention that white British communities are the least integrating. Alas, it became clear that the whole purpose of the documentary was to continue to provide an entirely decontextualised picture of Muslims, with a narrative six degrees separated from the truth.
At a recent interfaith gathering, I was reminded that the overwhelming majority of white non-Muslims know little or nothing about Islam, and some have never interacted with a Muslim face-to-face. That Phillips placed the blame for this institutional and cultural failing (related as much to central and local government housing policy as it does discrimination in society) and landed it at the feet of Muslims, is a remarkable slight of hand.
Muslims as the new Untermensch.
But the fastest gun in the West trick did not end there. Beyond the use of wedge issues such as gay marriage and attitudes to women, Phillips sought to introduce a rather sinister and menacing idea: muscular active integration. The idea is that we must now force people into a funnel; to make people compliant. Forcible assimilation. The kind of fascistic attitude that Brits instinctively and vehemently oppose. Phillips is being far too ambitious with his effort to extend the establishment’s muscular liberalism. Unless of course it is, as I fear, a fait accompli. If pre-prepared policies start appearing on the horizon, we’ll know.
Just like bombing people to liberate them, Phillips believes this strong armed social engineering of Muslims is being done under the banner of ‘Liberalism’. Arabs call this speaking out of both sides of your mouth. It is in fact sheer intolerance and illiberalism. Asking Muslims to separate their behaviours from their beliefs, to reform and change their faith to assimilate, is straight from the faux-reform playbook to undermine normative Islam. Phillips sought to fuel the narrative that Muslims are now less than, different, and need to be separated and tackled. The idea is that religiosity, modesty, personal space and autonomy should be handed over by Muslims to the State. That Muslims are the new Untermensch. The inferior people. It is a gross and distorted divisiveness, a reprehensible selling-out of his former views and values supporting Muslims and multi-culturalism. It belies his track record as a supporter of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for undermining the functions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and doing little to oppose the British dismantling of habeas corpus and human rights. In any other era, he would be called out for being a neoconservative.
A study from the University of Essex has stated that when Muslims are compared with the rest of the UK population (ostensibly the white indigenous population) they are prouder to be British citizens, more strongly identify with the UK and by some margin, wish to live in diverse mixed communities. White flight is precisely the refusal to integrate and live in isolation. Whilst there are complaints only 34% of Muslims would report terrorist pals to police, we now know only 30% of non-Muslims would do the same. Studies from Professor Linda Woodhead, and credible analysis from YouGov and Gallup show that Muslim attitudes to sexual identity, freedom of speech is far more nuanced than other populations and their views are driven by a closeness to their faith. The question should be of contribution not of integration, which is now just a by-word for assimilation. True liberalism and democracy is about accommodation of individuals, their beliefs and practices within a plural society. The European mind and political systems repeatedly fail on this civilisation test throughout history. Muslims are not the enemy within to be demonised and ring-fenced. The ever increasing efforts to create this dichotomy is truly dangerous.
Muslims helped deliver the Enlightenment, Renaissance and Industrial Revolution to the West. They brought to Europe original ideas on co-existence, humanism and critical thought; they provided solace and safe haven to a Jewish peoples repeatedly suffering extermination at the hands of an intolerant and hateful West. They were the spiritual and ideological bedrock for the Founding Fathers, Christian scholastics, science, art and literature. So often done, erased from our minds and culture by revisionist historians and interests; the fact is that Muslims were the heirs to Hellenism and providers of essential European and Western ideals of enlightenment we call ‘British Values’ today – they were the pioneers of religious freedoms and liberalism. Today, as Europe and the West slides further into conditions giving rise to pandemic fascism, it is that same but newly redefined neo-liberalism which is being used as weapon of choice to attack the fundamentals of Muslims life and the Islamic beliefs they seek to practice. It is a step too far. It is dangerous.
During my interview with Jon Gaunt, over and again Jon will attempt to over oversimplify complex issues around social policy, the causes for disenfranchisement, alienation and welfare crises for Muslim populations. He will seek to belittle and undermine civil rights violations against Muslims, and refuse to accept that Western wars of oppression and tyranny destabilising Muslim majority nations and communities across the Middle East and further, are a problem. It culminates in Gaunt’s call for Muslims – and only Muslims not other communities who don’t integrate – to be thrown out of the country. It is shocking stuff.
Have a listen to my interview with Jon Gaunt on Muslims, Trevor Phillips and the Muslim civil rights crisis.