This is a guest post by Amjad Khan
The scrutinous nature of the post-911 political discourse about Islam and Muslims has compelled many, otherwise reactionary and outright bigoted, figures to recast themselves as moderates. Such recasting has been necessary in order to stay in the limelight and remain relevant, but, as is always the case, the mask often slips.
A classic and almost textbook example is the pseudo moderate, and favourite of BBC’s Big Questions, Mo Ansar. Mo describes himself on his own self-glorifying website as:
A theologian, public speaker and visiting lecturer on Islamophobia, Islam in contemporary Britain and Theology, Mohammed is a civil rights activist and legal advocate working across a variety of sectors and with a number of organisations in the fields of equalities, education and interfaith. With extensive experience in countering extremism, Mohammed has worked on leading and delivering both local and national programs.
Impressive credentials one may be forgiven for thinking. However, a brief survey of Mo’s tweets reveals a very different picture. In a discussion with historian Tom Holland about slavery, Mo had the following to say:
If slaves are treated with justly, with full rights, and no oppression whatsoever…why would anyone object
These are the kind of words one would expect from the owner of a cotton plantation in the Deep South 50 years ago. Certainly not from one that has worked with ‘…a number of organisations in the fields of equality, education and interfaith…’ and one that describes himself as a ‘civil rights activist‘. Clearly Mo, and the organisations that he has worked with, have a very unique definition of the terms ‘equality’ and ‘civil rights’. Definitions that Martin Luther King certainly would not recognise, but the KKK might.
Mo also claims to have ‘extensive experience of countering extremism‘. The least one would expect from an individual claiming to have such experience is opposition to leading extremist groups in the UK right? Wrong!
Mo’s twitter feed is replete with jovial discussions with leading members Hizb ut Tahrir (HT). In particular, he seems to share a real affinity with the UK spokesperson for HT, Taji Mustafa. In fact, their twitter conversations seem to reveal that the two are kindred spirits. They both agree that secularism is the cause of the world’s ills – see here, they both support enforcing gender segregation at public events in the UK – see here. Mo also seems to endorse the HT stance on homosexuality – see here.
Not content with endorsing HT views, Mo goes the whole hog and decides to use his twitter feed to recommend HT events to his followers – see here. This shameless promoting of extremist events did attract an objection, obviously from someone who thought Mo was a moderate. The objector tweeted “A speaker from Hizb ut Tahrir, I believe they call for an Islamic caliphate”, to which Mo responded “Each to their own right?”. Indeed Mo, each to their own, even if it means calling of the establishment of a clerical fascist superstate that would declare war on all non-Muslims and execute gays and apostates.
So it seems Mo’s ‘extensive experience in countering extremism‘ involves promoting and defending the work and goals of what every right-minded person regards as an extremist organisation. And just in case Mo’s views on HT were not already completely clear, here is him describing Taji Mustata as ‘…usually very good.’
The above examples are just the tip of the iceberg, Mo’s twitter feed of full of links to and endorsements of leading extremist groups and individuals. And therein lies the real tragedy. British Muslims have been let down again and again by self-styled leaders who abuse their position to espouse a regressive and reactionary agenda. In the case of Mo, actively promoting the work and ideas of an organisation that gave birth to Anjem Choudary, Omar Bakri and a whole host of other extremists that have inspired many terror attacks in the UK.
It is also true that HT, in light of their declining popularity, have opted to ingratiate themselves with other sympathetic Muslim spokespersons. This step has been taken in the knowledge that their brand is tarnished and viewed as toxic by the Muslim masses. However, sensible and intelligent Muslim spokespersons have not fallen for this ploy and kept a safe distance from the toxic HT brand. Mo, it seems, in his sad quest for recognition and support, has proven that he is neither sensible nor intelligent and, in the process, not much of a moderate either.