This is a guest post by Rupert Sutton of Student Rights
In an article written yesterday and published on their website, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK) appears to have taken offence over a piece that I wrote back at the end of May.
This highlighted that the group’s spokesman had posted a video of himself on a student Facebook page telling viewers “that the fate of the Bosnian Muslims, who were massacred in their own homes by people who they lived next door to, is going to be your fate.”
The idea that Muslims in the UK are threatened by their neighbours is one which MPACUK have been developing in recent months.
Since the group’s conference at the end of June, their Twitter feed has also been full of references to the Balkan conflict, including warnings such as “Blond haired, blue eyed, fully integrated citizens, ruthlessly massacred in ?#Bosnia. Why? Because of their Muslim heritage. Never again”.
They also responded to one individual who expressed his horror at the terrible tragedy of Srebrenica that “we mustn’t forget what happened in Bosnia. There are many parallels to Britain”.
In addition to these dire predictions, they have also run an article on their website this week called ‘Feeling British Won’t Save You’, in which they once again raise the spectre of genocide, saying that “for simply advocating the truth, one is automatically at risk”.
Using the deaths of Muslims in Bosnia to radicalise young people has been described as “a very potent contemporary tool for Islamist radicalisation in the UK”, and MPACUK should know better than to inflame tensions in this way.
As I wrote at the time that the original video was posted, anger about the conflict is believed to have been one of main reasons behind the radicalisation of the British citizen Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, convicted in 2002 for the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl.
It was also a tactic used by the Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki who used his lecture ‘The life and times of Umar Ibn Khattab’ to tell his Western audience “…in Bosnia, that’s what happened…a brother was telling me, ‘they used to date our women, they used to be very close to us, neighbour to neighbour, very close’. But then Milosevic tricked them…and they turned against the Muslims”.
Unfortunately, at MPACUK they don’t see it this way, yesterday’s article claiming that our criticism of them shows that we believe that “Muslims have no right to speak about Bosnia, have no right to justice and any Muslims that demand simple, unalienable rights, are extremists”.
Political participation and the right to speak on any subject of course extend to any community in the UK regardless of the paranoia spouted by MPACUK. It engages individuals with their government and with their neighbours, improves integration and encourages debate.
Telling Muslims that they will be slaughtered by their neighbours unless they engage with MPACUK’s principles of ‘political jihad’ of opposing the “Zionist agenda to dominate the Middle East” does none of these things though.
Instead, it indulges a victim mentality to encourage intolerance and suspicion, much in the same way that MPACUK claim the West does against the Muslim community.
It also conjures a grossly inaccurate analysis of the Balkan conflict, one in which, lest we forget, the West utilised airstrikes against Christians to try and protect Muslim civilians from attack.
Despite this, MPACUK are currently advertising advocacy courses for young Muslims to teach them how to challenge misconceptions about Islam, gain confidence in public speaking and learn the “tactics used by [their] enemies”.
These courses have been advertised to a number of Islamic Societies at universities around the country and publicity material includes two student activists from Queen Mary University profiled in our recent report ‘Challenging Extremists’.
If the material being taught on these courses is of similar content to the MPACUK website and Twitter page then it seems that we will soon be faced by more young activists, ignorant of the implications of their actions and of the subjects they are railing against.