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{UAH} Islamists are preying on moderates

Islamists are preying on moderates


For years I have warned that Islamist extremism is infecting the minds of some of my fellow Muslims. Hatred of Jews and LGBT people, and a supremacist belief that non-Muslims are lesser humans, have been allowed to percolate for too long.

After the July 7 attacks I toured the country with ministers, urging Muslims to challenge the extremism within their communities — only to be told over and over again that there was no problem. Some said that official deradicalisation programmes like Prevent were a "government ploy to spy on Muslims". Others blamed a "Zionist cabal" at work, trying to damage Muslims. Others spouted conspiracy theories that 9/11 and 7/7 were the work of American, Israeli and British security agencies, designed to make Islam the enemy after the end of the Cold War.

In the past 12 years, Islamist groups have exploited digital and social media to spread this message of anger, fear and hatred even further.

One thing that has not changed since 9/11 is the extremists' core message — that the West wants to change, undermine and destroy Islam. Hand in hand with this has gone the cult of victimhood that steadily corrodes trust in western institutions — democratic government, public institutions and the police — that is second nature to most of us.

Yes, Prevent could have been implemented better, and has suffered from misperceptions among some Muslims. But that is in part because Islamist groups have gone out of their way to damage trust in it.

Prevent has suffered in part because Islamist groups have gone out of their way to damage trust in it

To add insult to injury, extremists often turn up to community events after terrorist atrocities, tweet images of themselves holding hands in solidarity with the peace-loving people, and play up the liberal "Kumbaya" mentality of our country. These are often the very people who have worked night and day to weaken trust in the concept of a national counterextremist and counterterrorism strategy. When asked what their alternative is, they cannot provide a single workable alternative. We can only conclude that they want to strip away security and return to a pre-9/11 environment.

If we are to stop attacks such as that at London Bridge, we have to stop those who prey on moderate Muslims, like wolves prey upon sheep, with their manipulation of the Koran and their warped politicised views. No amount of sugar-coated tweets from politicians is going to do it.

The government needs to get real and actively empower those willing to challenge Islamist narratives, as well as violent extremism. It also cannot expect civil society groups within Muslim communities to challenge Islamists alone. Many groups are smeared and harassed by Islamists. Now is the time for government to get a spine in tackling the narratives of extremism and hatred.

Fiyaz Mughal is director of Faith Matters, a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns against extremism

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