British Islamists are seeking quite deliberately to create a sense of alienation among young Muslims, and in effect helping to do the work of Isis for them. This kind of overblown rhetoric fosters deep suspicion among some young British Muslims about the whole of British society. One community group in the northwest told me that there are youngsters who don’t bother to apply for jobs or go to college because they’ve become convinced by British Islamist propaganda that “Zionists, the Illuminati and western neo-cons” have shut every door to them. What hope is there for me in Britain, a youngster may ask. To some of these youngsters, a caliphate suddenly sounds rather appealing.
It is a measure of the success of the vigorous campaign waged by some British Islamists against the government’s counter-extremism policy that I began this book with a sense of foreboding. It is a tribute to Sara Khan that by its conclusion the dread was directed entirely at the noisy proponents of Islamophobia, a cottage industry of extremists who do a great disservice to British Muslims and our wider society.
Khan is a particular lightning rod, as a Muslim who opposes Islamism — by which she means the politicisation of Islam, which she believes to be directly antipathetic to the religion’s tenets — as well as Islamophobia, and will work with the government on both.
If that wasn’t enough, she is also a feminist who is unafraid to call out abuses against women in her religion and anyone else’s. Cue the sound of a thousand internet trolls rushing to their keyboards, steam pouring from their ears.
Khan has had to involve police in threats against her, and to consider her security arrangements.
What is particularly frustrating and pertinent to Star readers is that she’s been attacked by the left as much as the right, and by other feminists.
If you missed our launch at Waterstones Piccadilly in central London – here is a film of the debate with authors Sara Khan and Tony McMahon joined by celebrated journalist Nick Cohen. It was a lively evening in a packed room!
Female author urges UK Muslims to speak out against extremism
By Elisabeth O’Leary | EDINBURGH
Islamic State (IS) violence can only be tackled if Muslims stand up for their views of what real Islam is, according to a rare female voice within the British Muslim community.
Human rights campaigner Sara Khan argues in a new book that combatting IS needs the development of religious counter-arguments to violent extremism, and she calls for an “amplification” of faith teaching which deconstructs Islamist ideology to help stop Islamists recruiting young Britons.
“Confronting any type of extremism lies in championing genuine human rights and embracing democracy, none of which are antithetical to Islam’s teachings,” Khan argues in “The Battle for British Islam”, presented at the Edinburgh book festival.
“If we are to have any hope of defeating Islamist extremism, we must all protect the middle ground.”
Khan has raised awareness of the complex issues for Muslims regarding violent extremism and hopes her work will encourage women to take a more prominent role.
She has faced harassment and threats for working with a government-funded programme which seeks to eradicate radicalisation of young Muslims.
“The seemingly unstoppable growth of puritanical and Islamist ideology in Muslim communities troubles me deeply,” she says. “I still meet many young Muslims who believe that Islamism (which rejects gender equality and democracy) is authentic Islam.”
Her book, to be published in September, describes how young people are radicalised via social media, providing case studies.
Thousands of Muslims, including more than 800 Britons, have left Europe for Iraq and Syria, many to join IS, according to the interior ministry.
Khan told Reuters she herself had had to challenge her own beliefs.
“For years I thought that wearing a headscarf was mandatory (…) but I found myself not identifying with it. I decided that I wanted someone to come to me without having assumptions.”
In France, a ban in some coastal towns on burkinis has been held up by the government as a “battle of cultures”, but has caused fury among many women.
“Can’t we talk about high unemployment rates (among Muslim women)? We’re still talking about women’s clothing!” Khan said.
Khan cites a YouGov poll from March 2015 which found that 55 percent of British voters believe there is a fundamental clash between Islam and the values of British society, compared with 22 percent who said they were “generally compatible.”
Issues of race came to the fore in the campaign for Britain’s European Union referendum, with concerns about immigration prompting some people to vote to leave the bloc.
It was too early to say if the June vote, which ignited pockets of racial violence, had had any sustained effect, she said. She noted, however, that Britain’s new prime minister Theresa May in her former role as interior minister took part in a campaign to stamp out radicalisation which sought to support Muslim women in the fight against extremism.
A sign of “genuine hope” in Britain, Khan said, was the election this year of London’s first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan.
“There are a lot of Muslims who have progressive views but they just get on with it, and don’t spend time shouting about it. But (shouting about it) is perhaps what they need to do.”