By looking across the Atlantic at our closest friend and ally, the United Kingdom, are we looking into our future? Or maybe even our present?
A brilliant exposé on Channel 4's "Dispatches" and the pages of the Telegraph, reveals that the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) – which has chapters across Europe – has infiltrated the British Labour Party in London, holds sway over local government spending, and tries to manipulate electoral politics. The IFE has extensive ties with Jama'at-e-Islami, a political movement founded by Syed Abul A'ala Maududi – the godfather of modern Islamism – in Pakistan in 1941. In fact, IFE officials also hold leadership positions at the East London Mosque and the Muslim Council of Britain – both of which are heavily dominated by Islamist - and, particularly - Jama'at-e-Islami cadres in Britain. The IFE is even headquartered in the same complex of the East London Mosque, which calls the IFE "a social welfare organization."
However, that is not how Jim Fitzpatrick, the UK Environment Minister, views it. He told Telegraph London editor Andrew Gilligan:
"They are acting almost as an entryist organisation, placing people within the political parties, recruiting members to those political parties, trying to get those individuals selected and elected so they can exercise political influence and power, whether it's at local government level or at national level."
An IFE leaflet shown in the "Dispatches" program claims the organization is dedicated to changing "the very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order, and its creed from ignorance to Islam."
The program featured a recording of a speaker at an IFE event:
"Our goal is to create the True Believer. To then mobilize these believers into an organized force for change who will carry out da'wah, hisbah [enforcement of Islamic law], and jihad. This will lead to social change and iqamatud-Deen."
Another IFE pamphlet reads, "[T]he Islamic Forum Europe strives for the establishment of a global society, the Khilafah [Caliphate], based on truth and justice." A host of an IFE radio program explained over the airwaves, "Democracy, if it means that, you know, at the expense of not implementing the Sharia, no-one's going to agree with that."
The parallels with Maududi's revolutionary thought, contained in his pamphlets, Process of Islamic Revolution and Moral Foundations of the Islamic Government, are striking. Central to Maududi's argument is that an Islamic revolution must be manned by cadres immersed in the tenets and ideology of Islam who create a "system of education to train and mould the masses in the Islamic pattern of life." This system would
"produce Muslim scientists, Muslim philosophers, Muslim historians, Muslim economists and financial experts, Muslim jurists and politicians; in short in every branch of knowledge there should be men who have imbibed the Islamic ideology...men who have the ability to build a complete system of thought and of practical life based on Islamic principles and who have strength enough to challenge effectively intellectual leadership of the present Godless thinkers and scientists."
These men would engage in a struggle of word and deed to proclaim the Islamic system to the world. This will attract a segment of society, bringing about a "revolution...in the mentality of the masses..." It will then "become impossible...for any other system of life to maintain its existence." Due to the patient efforts of the Islamist educational system, once this occurs, there will be cadres at every level and in every field ready to seize the reins of power.
Shared Means and Ideology in the U.S.
There is also an obvious parallel with an internal U.S. Muslim Brotherhood strategy memo, written in the early 1990s and released as evidence in the terrorism financing trial against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. That memo reads:
"The process of settlement is a 'Civilization-Jihadist Process' with all the word means [sic]. The Ikhwan must understand their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions."
In 1987, the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood Shura Council stated in another internal memo that its goal is:
"[The] Enablement of Islam in North America, meaning: establishing an effective and a stable Islamic Movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood which adopts Muslims' causes domestically and globally, and which works to expand the observant Muslim base, aims at unifying and directing Muslims' efforts, presents Islam as a civilization alternative, and supports the global Islamic State wherever it is."
A dawah manual produced by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) – a U.S. group that is, like the IFE, heavily tied to Jama'at-e-Islami, explains that dawah - or the effort to spread Islam - for them is a means toward overthrowing "those who are rebellious to Allah" and establishing Islamic governance.
The ICNA manual continues:
"As a result of the Da'wah process, we will be able to reach Muslims conscious of their obligations and willing to strive in the way of Islam. They are to be organized under the banner of the Islamic Circle. As a part of this Movement, they will be involved in intensive Islamic education and training. This is to prepare for Jihad – the struggle to establish Allah's Din Islam on the earth..."
As noted by Rashad Ali, a former Hizb ut Tahrir activist interviewed by "Dispatches," Maududi's script is being followed closely by the IFE. In fact, when Channel 4's undercover journalists went to the East London Mosque to join the IFE, they found that members are told to keep their ties to the group a secret and are required to sign an oath of allegiance. The undercover journalists were told that they "have to accept every aspect of Islam. Political aspect, economical aspect, because Islam provides all the solutions. Allah gives us everything, the sharia covers everything, every aspect of life."
Members are also given a reading list, which includes works by Maududi, including Let Us Be Muslims. One passage in this text reads:
"[A] sacred duty devolves upon you: wherever you are, in whichever country you live, you must strive to change the wrong basis of government, and seize all powers to rule and make laws from those who do not fear God."
The best example of IFE infiltration is the Tower Hamlets borough council in London. Through aggressive lobbying and canvassing, the IFE was able to get Lutfar Rahman appointed as head of the Tower Hamlets council. Shortly thereafter, Rahman managed to get Luftar Ali – a candidate with a "downright dishonest" resume – appointed as assistant chief executive, a post with responsibility over grant funding. This achievement was accomplished despite council head-hunters who found him to be "rather superficial" and worried that he "may struggle with the intellectual challenges in a highly strategic role." This result has given two men with extensive IFE ties essential control over a £1 billion budget, which they have used robustly to support Islamist causes and the promotion of its interpretation of Islam in public spaces and institutions in Tower Hamlets.
Local activist leaders have noticed that millions of pounds in funding have increasingly gone to IFE-linked groups at the expense of other community groups that had received funding previously. "All the resources is [sic] going to Islamic and fundamentalist group [sic]," complained one Tower Hamlets Muslim resident and activist. Most of the residents interviewed by "Dispatches" who have complained about the situation and even protested publicly against IFE's efforts have been Muslims of Bengali origin who do not agree with IFE's Islamist agenda.
Rashad Ali explains that the IFE has sought to enter the Labour Party – a secular party – "with the intention of being able to influence the future political agenda." He continues, "The aim of jihad is to bring down every other government which does not impose Islam, or their interpretation of Islam." Fitzpatrick claims that local Muslims who had never participated in Labour politics before turned up at elections with printed lists of who they were to vote for – the marching orders from IFE – and then were never seen again.
Labour officials quickly became concerned and suspended the rights of the Tower Hamlets branch to select its own candidates. "We're concerned about people joining for the right reasons and are trying to prevent organisations filtering in who may try taking over the party by signing up and ousting existing members," a Labour spokesman said.
These concerns seem well-founded. "Dispatches" obtained Tower Hamlets Labour membership lists between 2006 and 2008 and discovered that, while Labour party membership has been in decline everywhere else, it had more than doubled in Tower Hamlets. In 2006, the ethnic makeup of the Tower Hamlets Labour members was 50% South Asian and 50% non-South Asian. This statistic roughly reflected the ethnic make-up of the borough. Yet 90% of the new members since 2006 have been South Asian.
"If you don't believe in democracy or in mainstream pluralistic political parties, if you have a disdain towards them, the idea of taking them over and subverting them...is quite an appealing thing," said Paul Richards, former advisor to the UK Department of Communities and Local Government.
Not surprisingly, IFE played a decisive role in the 2005 election of George Galloway, the firebrand supporter of Hamas and founder of the RESPECT Party. At an East London Mosque dinner following his electoral victory, he stated: "I am indebted more than I can say, more than it would be wise for them for me to say, to the Islamic Forum of Europe. I believe they played the decisive role..." Galloway has tried to diminish the role the IFE has played in his political career in comments to "Dispatches."
The same entryist methodology can be seen in the U.S., but the U.S. Islamist groups have not been nearly as successful as their British counterparts. Last spring, Esam Omeish sought to become the first Muslim elected to serve in the Virginia General Assembly. His campaign machine tried to erase Omeish's role as president of the Muslim American Society (MAS), a religious and political body created by Muslim Brotherhood members in the United States. He was defeated in the primary election.
Omeish had previously resigned from a state immigration panel to which he had been appointed after video shot by the Investigative Project on Terrorism showed him praising Palestinians for choosing "the jihad way …to liberate your land" at a 2000 rally.
Just a few months before launching his candidacy, Omeish gave a sermon in which he described how Islam could fuel a "transformation, a real change" in society:
"We cannot allow the status quo to continue. We need an American Islamic movement that transforms our status, that impacts our society, and that brings forth the change that we want to see."
MAS's efforts to subvert the American political system have not stopped there. MAS has an active voter registration effort, employing Muslim Boy and Girl Scout troops to get out the vote in Virginia's 2006 Senate election. In and of itself, this is not problematic. Many civil society groups conduct voter registration campaigns and it is a perfectly legitimate and even admirable activity. However, MAS has clearly demonstrated an Islamist intent in its campaign. In 2008, it ran a program called "Voting is Power," which called voting a
"first step toward that political empowerment so vital to our ultimate goal of raising and developing exemplary citizens who will contribute to the greatness of our country, and whose convictions and dedication will illuminate the brilliance and beauty of the great message of Islam."
Other examples of subversion and infiltration abound. As is well-known to readers of this website, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has enjoyed cozy relationships with lawmakers, law enforcement, and civil society alike. They were close "partners" of the FBI and even ran their "sensitivity training." CAIR's own website brags:
"CAIR officials have met or regularly meet with US Presidents, members of the administration, members of congress, governors, mayors, members of state legislatures, county commissioners and others. Several CAIR affiliates have received proclamations and citations from mayors and county commissioners."
However, their relationship with the FBI finally soured when CAIR officials were unwilling to answer questions about their ties to Hamas.
The Islamist infiltration extends into the US military. Abulrahman Alamoudi, the former head of the American Muslim Council, was one the nation's most admired Muslim leaders. Despite his close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas officials, he met with presidents, including President Bill Clinton, and presidential candidates, including then-Governor George W. Bush. Alamoudi and his associates - including anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist - are often credited with Bush's 2000 campaign promise to end a practice known as "secret evidence" that had long been used in criminal prosecutions, in accordance with the Classified Information Procedures Act, and in immigration proceedings.
Alamoudi – who once told the audience of a Chicago-area conference that Muslims would turn American into an Islamic country – founded the US military's Muslim chaplaincy program, which was never reviewed even after Alamoudi was sentenced to 23 years in prison for violating sanctions laws pertaining to Libya and engaging in an al-Qaeda linked conspiracy to assassinate then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. The Muslim chaplaincy program endures under the control of the Islamic Society of North America – perhaps the most significant Muslim Brotherhood front group in the United States.
The " Tadarruj" Entryism of British Islamists
Abu Tala, an IFE activist, in a secretly filmed conversation explained the gradual nature of this campaign, praising the imam of the East London mosque for transforming the neighbourhood and his efforts to purge the local Muslim community of what he sees as un-Islamic practices. He stated, "Tadarruj means gradualism. He's done it gradually." The IFE has also infiltrated the UK civil service. In fact, the former head of the civil service Islamic association is an IFE activist.
In a conversation filmed secretly by a "Dispatches" undercover reporter, Abjol Miah, a senior IFE activist and Tower Hamlets councillor, explained, "We've actually consolidated ourselves. We've got a lot of influence and power in the council. Councillors, politicians." IFE allies on the council became rather bold. They unsuccessfully tried to cancel all meetings scheduled during the month of Ramadan. Then, according to Councillor Peter Golds, they sent around a message to non-Muslim councillors that suggested they should fast for Ramadan.
The IFE denies all of these allegations publicly, stating that it does not support extremism, nor does it seek to impose Sharia law or establish an Islamic state in Britain. It also denies infiltrating the Tower Hamlets Labour Party. Representatives claim they seek to aspire to good, engage in outreach, further the collective community endeavour, and seek fairness and goodness for all. And, they are waging an aggressive campaign against "libellous" and "grossly inaccurate" media coverage.
Defenders of the East London Mosque also make claims to moderation, but these are flimsy at best. This is a mosque that hosts an imam who encourages the mosque's congregation to play "Spot the Fag" and decries the "fag lifestyle." Taza Khan, another Islamic scholar lecturing at the mosque, explained to the audience, "Any woman who comes out of her house perfuming herself. Every single eye that looks at her...she's an adulterous woman." He continued, "A fornicating woman, a fornicating man – flog them one hundred times."
The program notes that these were just two of 20 "extremist speakers" its reporters recorded at the mosque over the last three years. Others included a spokesman for Taliban ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Bilal Phillips – teacher to Ali al-Timimi, the convicted spiritual leader of the Virginia Paintball Jihad cell.
And the worst among them? Anwar al Awlaki – the Yemeni-American Muslim cleric who has allied himself with al-Qaeda in Yemen and provided spiritual sanction to the Fort Hood shooter and possibly guidance to Umar Abdulmutallab, the would-be Christmas Day bomber. The East London Mosque hosted Awlaki's talks via video link. As the London-based Centre for Social Cohesion originally reported, the mosque most recently hosted a video message from Awlaki in January 2009. When confronted with Awlaki's extremist views before the day of the message, a mosque spokesperson responded: "Mr Awlaki has not been proven guilty in a court of law. Everyone is entitled to their point of view…"
Government outreach with the IFE and the East London Mosque are just two examples of the larger trend of empowering Islamism in the UK. British authorities have long turned a blind eye to extremism within their borders. During the 1990s, the so-called "covenant of security" was the unwritten agreement between the British state and Islamists based in what the French security services called "Londonistan." Under the terms of this agreement, the most dangerous Islamist groups and movements were allowed to operate freely as long as they did not launch attacks in Britain.
Many British Islamists viewed the covenant as shattered post-9/11 – especially due to British participation in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. This is how some Islamists justified the 7/7/05 London transit bombings, which killed 52 and wounded scores.
In the aftermath of the attacks, the British developed a strategy known as "Prevent," to counter the violent radicalization of "vulnerable communities" (read: Muslims). In this effort, the British state enlisted the help of dubious allies – namely groups tied intimately to the Muslim Brotherhood, Jama'at-e-Islami, and Salafism. These "allies" of the British state have included the East London Mosque and other IFE linked organizations, which have received government funding to prevent violent extremism.
Paul Richards explained in the "Dispatches" program: "Somehow it's all gone horribly wrong and somehow the very people who we should be saying are beyond the pale are in fact inside ministers' offices sitting around the table having cups of tea." He continued:
"If you are part of a revolutionary organization and you hold these views as part of a fundamental canon of belief, having a chat or a cozy cup of tea with a minister is not going to change your mind. But, being around that table, what it does do, is strengthen your hand with your own community."
The "Dispatches" documentary put it best and the parallels with the U.S. would be uncanny if we did not already understand that the Brotherhood operates by the same playbook in the West:
"The state doesn't seem willing or able to tackle this. The IFE and its allies are fond of saying that any attack on them is an attack on Islam, but it is Muslims themselves who are taking the lead and speaking out."
It is encouraging to see a well-sourced documentary that exposes the Islamist political agenda and shows the threats posed to British politics and to Muslims who happen to be uninterested in the toxic mix of religion and politics. There are plenty of Muslims in America who oppose the effort of national organizations to mix mosque and state. However, too often, their voices are overlooked and they are not given a chance to rebut Islamist ideology and political activity. When they do, the results can be shrill and hyperbolic.
Perhaps an American network will show the same temerity as Britain's Channel 4.