Most British Muslims do not practice the Islam of the so-called trojan horse plot
Since the Trojan Horse Islamist school plot hit the headlines, the extremist architects of the plot have hit back with the inevitable claims of ‘Islamophobia’, ‘racism’ and ‘hostility’, with some on the left misguidedly defending these Islamists and branding the current investigations a ‘witch hunt’ against Muslims.
Just to remind readers of what we are dealing with here – these schools had banned music and the use of musical instruments, they stocked books advocating stoning, lashing, execution, intimidated Muslim moderates, made children engage in anti-Christian chants and invited a pro-al-Qaeda speaker into one of the schools.
Mohammad Zabar, a former teacher at Park View, said “It is important for Muslim parents to say that what is happening is wrong, and to stand up against it. The culture I’ve been brought up with is that you mix with all races and communities and this will drive wedges between different communities.”
Some staff at the schools hit back with cries of ‘hostility’ and ‘Islamophobia’, but it is important not to be fooled by crocodile tears from extremists. This is not the Sufi inspired Islam of my parents nor the Islam of millions of Muslims in Britain. Ofsted and the Education Funding Authority have already found indisputable evidence of a plot and I expect, when the Department of Education (DfE) releases its own findings, they will be much the same.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me make something clear: this is not the Islam I was bought up with by my parents. It is not the Islam that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Britain, most of whom are from South-Asia, were bought up with. Salafi-Wahhabism, originating in the 18th Century, is a particularly virulent strain of religious fundamentalism which is being pushed and funded by oil rich Gulf States.
Sufism on the other hand, is a thousand years older than that. It is a branch of Islam known for its humanism, openness, tolerance and spirituality. Ask any Pakistani or Indian about the Qawwalis of Nusrat or Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and they will smile with pride.
And rightly so. Qawwalis are a great tradition and a huge part of Asian Islam. Age old Sufi religious music like Dam Dama Dam Must Qalandar praise Hindu saints and seek to work for unity across faiths in the Pakistani province of Sindh. The virulent Salafi-Wahabi strain of Islam, however, considers Sufism to be heretical, let alone calls for brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims.
It is contingent upon the South Asian populations of Birmingham and indeed the liberal left, which has sometimes failed to support liberal Muslims in their bid to face off this extremist threat, to save the Islam of their parents. A good step would be to acknowledge the Wahabist/Salafist attempts to indoctrinate young children into their regressive, ultra-conservative brand of Islam while branding any of their critics ‘Islamophobic’.
It is too easy to shrug off this plot as a vicious smear campaign against Britain’s Muslims instead of acknowledging that a minority of self-appointed ‘representatives’ of Muslims are pushing their own extremist agenda in state funded secular schools. Liberals, leftists, Muslims and non-Muslims alike should condemn attempts to divide communities.
The left must support liberal Muslims; and Muslims themselves must channel the Sufi tradition of their parents which worked to bridge divides between communities, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. Misguided attempts to curtail anti-Muslim bigotry are not helped by refusing to acknowledge attempts by fundamentalist Muslims to indoctrinate Muslim children or speak for Muslims as a whole when they clearly do not.
Only by supporting liberal, humanistic values which cross faiths and communities can the problem of extremists who give Muslims a bad name be tackled.
The divisive, hateful and draconian Islam found in these schools is similar to that sometimes heard in university and college campuses. It is at these universities that Islamists have spent the last two decades making a concerted effort to capture and control Islamic societies at the expense of the Sufi influenced Islam of my parents and the parents of the overwhelming majority of British Muslims. At least four former heads of Islamic societies in the UK have been charged with terrorist offences.
How many more children must be indoctrinated into the brand of Islam followed by the likes of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab (the underwear bomber) before we realise that there is a problem? If extremists running riot on university and college campuses has led to the emergence of terrorists, most of whom failed in their plots, would the next bomb plot have to be successful before we all wake up?
Zaheer Rayasat is an activist and social commentator