“Ed” Husain and other dividers

Sister Summayah Evans, who recently entered the Muslim blogging community, has posted this lengthy entry on the scandal of Muhammad Mahbub “Ed” Husain, the author of the book The Islamist which was published last month as a memoir of his brief encounter with Hizb-ut-Tahrir during the mid-1990s which he thinks gives him licence to attack the entire body of political Islamist activism in the UK. “Ed” crops up in today’s Observer as well, complaining about “thugs” at an un-named London mosque and about all the Muslims who are saying nasty things about him.

What sticks out about his article in today’s paper is the same as what I noticed in a previous media appearance: his total rejection of, and total refusal to acknowledge, all criticism. Nobody is deconstructing his writing and finding parts of it wanting in accuracy: the only opposition he acknowledges is that of enemies, calling him names, accusing him of being an agent or of being in it for the money, and making threats to him. There are a few “spiritual Muslims and scholars” cheering him on in private, he tells us, but for some reason they won’t speak up - despite the fact that such people have stood up to oppose extremism for years without being afraid to give their names.

Among the issues he fails to address is that some of the details in his book are remembered differently by others who were there. For example, Yahya Birt, on Deenport today, notes that the murder he describes of a Nigerian student in Newham may not have been “Britain’s first Islamist murder” at all, but rather a drug-related incident. He alleges that HT is “a sophisticated organisation: it rarely ever pulls the trigger. It raises the temperature and allows others to do the deed”. Since he talks in the present tense, can he tell us of all the murders in which HT have been similarly indirectly involved since the split with Omar Bakri? I should not think so, because there have been none. He completely ignores the significance of this split, which is all too evident in the belligerent attitude of al-Muhajiroun’s remnants even today and the quiet intellectual activism of HT. We may disagree with them - I certainly do - but it does not give us the right to slander them.

In his article today, he claims to have unmasked “those who, until very recently, were walking in and out of Downing Street masquerading as moderate Muslims”, who “taught from the works of Syed Qutb and Abul Ala Mawdudi, the godfathers of al-Qaeda ideology” by night and stood at the Cenotaph with politicians and diplomats by day. Clearly this is an appeal to the non-Muslim readers, since it could not fool any Muslim. They may well be influenced by Mawdudi, but do we see them encouraging acts of terrorism in the west, or indeed anywhere? If they had been, one would expect that we would have seen far more violence than we have. Of course, it has never been any secret that many of the MCB’s leaders have a Jama’at background, and this fact was “exposed” in the media before he came on the scene last month. Media and blog campaigns against politicians befriending Muslim Brotherhood affiliated scholars like Shaikh Qaradawi have been going on since at least 2005 - certainly well before the London bombings.

He has not addressed the issue of why he does not behave as he suggested to others last year, while he was writing his book. When people criticised a leader of whom he approved - Hisham Kabbani, the leader of the self-styled Islamic Supreme Council of America - he said, “must we wash our dirty linen in public?”. Does he not see any contradiction, when encouraging people not to discuss the ISCA’s faults on a forum as public as DeenPort, in discussing the affairs of the whole Muslim community in a published book and in the national media?

I’m not in a position to analyse “Ed” Husain’s motives, but he is not the only person out there throwing mud at Muslims, in the name of “moderate” Islam, in such a way as to get noticed and praised by hostile non-Muslims. Recently Dr Irfan al-Alawi was interviewed by the Christian Broadcasting Network, a right-wing American TV station best known for broadcasting Pat Robertson’s 700 Club programme, as part of a news feature posted on YouTube under the heading “Make way for the Monster-Mosque in Londonistan” (also see a written version here or here). Irfan al-Alawi is the “Western Europe director” of Stephen Schwartz’s so-called Center for Islamic Pluralism, and is shown in the feature talking of the Tablighi Jama’at’s “satanic ideology” to CBN’s fundamentalist Christian viewers. Quite apart from the fact that taking men for a few days out of their normal routine for a bit of religious learning isn’t perceived as “satanic” by the vast majority of Muslims, the article contains the usual exaggeration of the mosque’s capacity and other scary “facts”.

People defending al-Alawi point to his role in bringing to the public’s attention the Saudis’ destruction of the architectural heritage of the Hijaz, and Mecca and Madinah in particular, but his attacks on fellow Muslims, and his association with Stephen Schwartz who is distinguished for denouncing Shaikh Hamza Yusuf over and over again like a stuck record, detract from this to a huge degree. It is a known fact that his opinion of the TJ is not shared by the shuyookh of the Bani Alawi with whom Irfan al-Alawi is associated. I have personally heard Habib Ali Jifri speak highly of the TJ. However, while I’m sure we all agree that protecting our heritage from the Saudi régime’s depredations is important, Shaikh Hamza’s and his colleagues’ work has been to protect Muslims rather than bricks and mortar. The fact is that, through their work, it has been made easier in the west to be a mainstream Muslim and that an English-speaking Muslim culture has been established which follows the four madhhabs and accepts the authority of the traditional scholars rather than sectarians. I do not see what good motive anyone would have for speaking ill of such a person in the courts of those who hate Islam and the Muslims.

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