by Soeren Kern:
The number of so-called taxi-rapes has snowballed to such an extent that a British judge recently issued a warning that no woman can expect to be safe while travelling in a cab.
Ibrahim Munir, an exiled senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood now living in Britain, when asked if violence would be an option, replied, “Any possibility.”
“Do I have to change my religion to get the best [banking] deal?” — Lloyds Bank customer, quoted in The Daily Telegraph.
Islam and Islam-related issues were omnipresent in Britain during the month of April 2014, and can be categorized into three broad themes: 1) The British government’s growing concern over Islamic extremism and the domestic security implications of British jihadists in Syria; 2) The continuing spread of Islamic Sharia law in all aspects of British daily life; and 3) Ongoing questions of Muslim integration into British society.
1. ISLAMIC EXTREMISM AND SYRIA-RELATED THREATS
British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a “thorough probe” of the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in Britain. At a press conference, he said:
“We want to challenge the extremist narrative that some Islamist organisations have put out. What I think is important about the Muslim Brotherhood is that we understand what this organization is, what it stands for, what its beliefs are in terms of the path of extremism and violent extremism, what its connections are with other groups, what its presence is here in the UK.”
The review will be headed by Sir John Jenkins, the British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. This has led some analysts to surmise that the oil-rich nation—which sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to its own stability—is pressuring Cameron to ban the group from British soil. (Cameron’s announcement also came just weeks after Britain finalized a deal for the sale of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon strike jets to Saudi Arabia.) Jenkins has been asked to compile a report on the movement’s “philosophy and values and alleged connections with extremism and violence.”
The Muslim Brotherhood was banned from Egypt and many members expelled following the coup d’état there in July 2013. The group recently opened a new headquarters above an unused kebab shop in Cricklewood, northwest London.
The most senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood living in exile in Britain, Ibrahim Munir, denied claims that the group was moving its British operations from London to the Austrian city of Graz. The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, reported on April 12 that the Muslim Brotherhood was preparing to move its headquarters to Austria in an “apparent attempt to avoid an inquiry into its activities set up by the Prime Minister.”
Munir appeared to be issuing a threat when he said that banning the Muslim Brotherhood would increase the risk of terrorist attacks in Britain. “If this [ban] happened, this would make a lot of people in Muslim communities think that [peaceful] Muslim Brotherhood values … didn’t work and now they are designated a terrorist group, which would make the doors open for all options,” Munir said in an April 5 interview with The Times.
When asked if he meant an option would be violence, Munir replied: “Any possibility…. If the UK makes this option, you can’t predict [what would happen] with Muslims around the globe, especially the big Muslim organizations close to the Muslim Brotherhood and sharing its ideology.”
In a related matter, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on April 23 urged the West to put aside its differences with Russia over Ukraine in order to face down what he (and many others) believes is the single biggest threat to global security: Islamic extremism. He said:
“The threat of radical Islam is not abating. It is growing. It is spreading across the world. It is de-stabilizing communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalization. And in the face of this threat we seem curiously reluctant to acknowledge it and powerless to counter it effectively … whatever our other differences, we should be prepared to reach out and cooperate with the East, and in particular, Russia and China.”
But in what appears to be a classic case of the “right message” being delivered by the “wrong messenger,” Blair was accused of hypocrisy after the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch reported that his high-profile multi-faith charity, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, has two senior advisors with close links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
On April 9, Home Secretary Theresa May published her annual report on the government’s strategy for countering terrorism. Battle-hardened British jihadists returning from the war in Syria now pose the most serious threat to British security, according to the report. “The most significant development in connection with terrorism during 2013 has been the growing threat from terrorist groups in Syria,” May said in a statement to the British Parliament.
An assessment by the official Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) concurs: “The nature of the conflict in Syria and the emergence of the al-Nusrah Front, which has declared its allegiance to al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, is leading to the country becoming an increasingly significant potential source of future threats to the UK and UK interests overseas.”
Adding to the sense of foreboding, William Shawcross, the chairman of the Charity Commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales, said Islamic extremism is the “most deadly” problem faced by British charities.
In an interview with the Sunday Times on April 20, Shawcross said: “The problem of Islamist extremism and charities … is not the most widespread problem we face in terms of abuse of charities, but is potentially the most deadly. And it is, alas, growing. I’m sure that in places like Syria and Somalia it is very, very difficult for agencies always to know what the end use of their aid is, but they’ve got to be particularly vigilant.”
Shawcross said that the commission was “taking tough measures” against any charity that was “sending cash to extremist groups in Syria” or “dispatching young Britons for training in Syria by al-Qaida or other extremist groups.”
He also said it was “ludicrous” that people with convictions for terrorism or money laundering were not automatically disqualified from setting up charities or becoming trustees, and that he has asked the prime minister to make changes to the law.
On April 24, British counter-terrorism officials launched a nationwide campaign aimed at encouraging Muslim women to contact the police if they were concerned that their family members or close friends might be preparing to travel to Syria to fight.
The UK’s counter-terrorism chief, Helen Ball, warned that Britons who fight in Syria are crossing a “red line” and will be investigated by police. She said she was “very concerned” about the growing numbers of British nationals travelling to fight in Syria and warned that would-be fighters are at risk of being “preyed upon” and radicalized by extremist terrorist groups, as well as killed on the battlefield. Ball also said that 40 Syria-related arrests were made in the first three months of 2014, up from 25 in all of last year.
On April 18, it emerged that Abdullah Deghayes, an 18-year-old from the southern English coastal town of Brighton, died while fighting in Syria. One of Abdullah’s brothers, Amer, 20, suffered a bullet wound to the stomach in the battle, while another brother, Jafar (at 16, he is believed to be the youngest British jihadist fighting in Syria), was unhurt. Abdullah’s father, Abubaker, said his son “died a martyr.”
The total number of British jihadists in Syria is estimated to be in the hundreds; as many as 20 are thought to have died in the fighting.
On April 20, a British citizen who is fighting with the rebels in Syria released a video tour of the home he shares with fellow fighters. The man—known by the nom de guerre Abu Abdullah and believed to be a member of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIS]—has appeared in a number of similar videos, in which he calls for British Muslims to join him in Syria.
In the video, entitled “Five-Star Jihad,” Abdullah seeks to present a realistic portrayal of the life of a rebel fighter, in contrast to many who have tried to glamorize the jihad in Syria. “Today we wanted to show you the basic living of the brothers in this base,” says Abdullah. “There has been a lot of talk of this so-called five-star jihad—and the way the mujahedeen have been living in these villas and these mansions and cupboards full of sweets. But it is far from that.”
2. SHARIA LAW IN BRITAIN
On April 3, the British government launched a public consultation on whether or not to introduce student loans that are compliant with Islamic Sharia law, which forbids loans that involve the payment of interest.
The move seeking input from the general public comes amid rising complaints from Muslim students, who argue that the existing interest-based student loan system is unfairly forcing them to choose between getting a university degree and staying true to their religious beliefs.
The government says the establishment of a scheme that would enable Muslim students to finance their degrees in a way that complies with Islamic principles would “ensure that anyone with the ability and desire can go to university.”
Critics counter that the dispute over interest-bearing student loans follows stepped-up demands for Sharia-compliant banking and insurance as well as credit cards, mortgages and pension funds, which—taken together—are contributing to the establishment of parallel Islamic financial and legal systems in Britain.
Separately, Lloyds Bank was accused of religious discrimination after dropping overdraft fees for Muslims. The bank sent customers a booklet in April explaining the new policy. While non-Muslims will have to pay up to £80 (€97, $135) a month for an overdraft, Muslims were told they would escape the charges. The document (p.26) says: “We are removing the monthly overdraft management fee of £6 from our Islamic Account, Islamic Student Account and Islamic Graduate Account. So, if you use an unplanned overdraft on these accounts, there won’t be any charges.”
On its website Lloyds says: “Following the guidance of Islam is an important part of everyday life, so we’ve made it an important part of everyday banking. Our Sharia committee of two independent scholars has guided us to create an account that’s right for you.”
The Daily Telegraph quoted one Lloyd’s customer as saying: “I can’t believe that they’re thinking of offering one account for Muslims and making everyone else pay for the same service. Do I have to change my religion to get the best deal?”
Lloyds Bank, one of the UK’s largest, was accused of religious discrimination after dropping overdraft fees for Muslims. Non-Muslims will have to pay up to £80 a month for an overdraft. (Image source: Kake)
Also, apparently in an attempt to please its Muslim customers, the fast food giant Subway removed ham and bacon from almost 200 outlets in Britain and switched to halal (Arabic for “permitted” or “lawful”) meat alternatives.
On April 24, a group of British lawyers launched a new organization called “Sharia Watch UK” to “highlight and expose those movements in Britain which advocate and support the advancement of Islamic law in British society.” The group says it seeks to “explain and describe Sharia law—what the organization calls “Britain’s Blind Spot”—in relation to specific issues, primarily the treatment of women, freedom of speech, finance, and the marketplace.
Read more at Gatestone Institute