IHRC on CST's response to its briefing

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IHRC presents this two part response to the CST's document 'The Islamic Human Rights Commission and CST' by Dave Rich dated June 17th 2009.

IHRC on CST's response to its briefing

IHRC presents this two part response to the CST's document 'The Islamic Human Rights Commission and CST' by Dave Rich dated June 17th 2009. The first part sets out to refute the CST's claims to be hitherto disinterested in IHRC or without any contact or interest with this organisation. Secondly we present a brief response to their claims that the substance of IHRC's briefing is inaccurate or misleading, a matter that is simply unsubstantiated by the facts. The CST of course, as we have previously stated are entitled to their views, regardless of how misrepresentative and misleading they are. However they should also be prepared to be criticised for them.

IHRC has expressed it criticisms after many years of hoping that the CST's involvement in various anti-racism fora would have the effect of challenging many of the organisation's perceptions regarding other minority communities. Sadly, time has shown that CST's work has increasingly focussed on equating pro-Palestinian work or any work critical of Israel as being racist. Such an equation is nefarious and detracts from the very real problem of rising anti-Semitism in Europe. As an anti-racist organisation that has had to deal with clients who have suffered anti-Semitic abuse, we find the behaviour of the CST chauvinistic and counterproductive to their stated aims.


The CST's claims regarding its knowledge of, interest in and contact with IHRC

For further clarification, CST has made various comments about IHRC as far back as 2000. Further when IHRC members and officers approached the CST to request disclosure of information held on them by the CST, as entitled under the law, CST responded by demanding proof of address documents as verification of identification of requestees, rather than any other form of ID that would not involve violation of personal security.

As stated in IHRC's original briefing, Mike Whine, in his article 'AN UNHOLY ALLIANCE – NAZI LINKS WITH ARAB TOTALITARIANISM' published in Gloablisierter Rechsextremismus? Die extremisticische Rechte in der Ara der Globalisierung (i) attributes an article presented at a conference in London in 2004 as the work of or somehow associated with the Islamic Human Rights Commission. We invite the CST to correct this mistake and apologise for the libel they have perpetrated on us.

IHRC has been forwarded copies of the following briefing attributed to the CST, entitled:
'Antisemitic incidents and threats to Jews arising from Gaza Crisis.' As it does not appear on the CST website, IHRC invites CST to confirm whether or not it is in fact a briefing produced by CST and if so, where this briefing has been sent.
To view the briefing click on this link:
http://ihrc.org.uk/attachments/4274_CST_briefing.pdf

Although undated, the document properties give the creation date as 30/12/08 (it also gives the document a different title i.e. 'Rhetoric of British groups against Israel's invasion of Gaza'). A list of organisations is contained in this document under the heading 'List of groups calling for action, advertising protests or organising demos'. This list contains the names of 30 organisations and groups of which 18 are either Muslim or Arab. The list includes mainstream Muslim organisations including, Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), Interpal, Friends of Al-Aqsa, British Muslim Initiative (BMI), Islamic Forum Europe and ourselves, Islamic Human Rights Commission. By listing all these organisations (including some anti-Zionist Jewish groups), the briefing suggests that these organisation are anti-Semitic or behaving in an anti-Semitic manner and are or have made threats to Jews.

As this document appears to have been circulated without public scrutiny, it raises the question as to whether CST has been involved in other forms of secret briefing, and if so, whether it has maligned those organisations listed or any others.

We request the CST to be open about its work. It seems clear that as part of its work, CST compiles much information on individuals and organisations that work for or support Palestinian rights. CST has consistently tried to wrongly equate such work with anti-Semitism and smear those involved in such work in civil society with this brush.


CST's response to IHRC: IHRC's refutation

IHRC acknowledges that its original briefing, as the CST has stated, some articles have been attributed to Mike Whine when in fact Mark Gardner was the author and vice versa. This will be corrected in due course. If either author takes exception to the content of the other's work they should state so. It is IHRC's understanding, and we believe this could be reasonably deduced by anyone perusing the CST's publications, that the articles published there provide a body of work that comprise the views of the CST.

For the purposes of our response we are using only the 'examples' used by the CST, for the sake of brevity. IHRC strongly disputes the charge made by CST that it has misrepresented the articles referred to. Further we are deeply saddened by the way the CST has attempted to evade the criticisms IHRC has made.


Example 1:

CST criticises IHRC's point:

“Whine's article 'The New Terrorism' focuses on 'Islamist' terrorism while ignoring other forms of international terrorism. The article has no mention of international terrorism carried out by non-Muslims in the name of a vast array of causes, implying that terrorism carried out by Muslims is the only threat. His claim, which he provides no evidence for that terrorist training occurs in Madrasas (schools), creates the impression that this is typical of all madrasas in the Muslim world. Such unfounded statements serve to create a distorted image of Islam and serve to demonise a historical institution of Islam.(xviii)”

and tries to defend itself from this charge by quoting Whine's article where he mentions 'ultra-nationalist' terrorism such as Kahane-Chai and India's RSS and Bajrang Dal. These cases as stated by Whine and CST in the original article and response are domestic or national forms of terrorism. IHRC's point focussed on the portrayal of international terrorism. Nevertheless it is worth noting that Mike Whine's article concludes with a description of the new terrorism that points subtly and explicitly to Muslims only:

“The process which resulted in the political or religious extremist evolving into a terrorist has been foreshortened by easy access to technology and the materiel required to commit the act of terror. Moreover this process is now likely to take place in cyberspace, in a training camp or in a madresa (Islamic religious seminary).”(ii)

The above conclusion which is brief and cites Muslims specifically, accurately sums up the article entitled 'New Terrorism'.

It is worth noting that the article 'The Aftermath of 7 July: New Trends in Terror', concludes that there needs to be a revisiting of the profile of terrorists, concluding that:

“Salafi terrorists come from all socio-economic levels, nationalities, family backgrounds, and levels of educational attainment. We adopt a narrow view at our peril.”

The CST is well aware that adherents to 'Salafism' form a significant and diverse part of the Muslim community, CST's call to essentially view all 'Salafis' as potential terrorists is deeply troubling, and as nefarious as likening all Orthodox Jews as potential terrorists affiliated to Kahane-Chai.


Example 2:

CST attempts to critique IHRC's observation that CST publications repeatedly claim that links and similarities between Muslims, Islamists and fascists etc. exist. They do so by focussing on a quote from an article by Dave Rich, but do not convey the overall message of his article or reference the other articles quoted by IHRC, in particular Mike Whine's article 'Unholy Alliance' which refers specifically to alleged links between Muslims and neo-Nazis and fascists of various ilks, including the claim (p6) that:

“ties-up and linkages are more difficult to discern… but they exist in all European countries and particularly manifested themselves in far right support (both neo-Nazi and third positionist) for the anti-Iraq war campaigns and in anti-Israel demonstrations… the Dutch AIVD noted the successful attempts by the Dutch People's Union (Nederlands Volks-Unie) to link up with Arab nationalists and their involvement in pro-Palestinian demonstrations in 2002.” (iii)

Coupled with this, Rich in his article quoted by CST in their defence, states that despite 'the history of friendly contact and cooperation between the British far right on the one hand, and either the far left or Muslim and Islamist organisations… is minimal to say the least… what has happened is that the rhetoric of far left and Islamic organisations is increasingly similar to that of the far right whenever Israel, Zionism, Jewish political activity and the Iraq war are mentioned.” (IHRC's emphasis)

The italicised part of the quote immediately follows the quote used by CST to refute the idea that CST makes such comparisons. Following immediately on, Rich's article quotes BNP rhetoric and compares them with comments from the Muslim Council of Britain. Immediately after that he compares the Muslim Public Affairs Committee with the National Front. The cause of the commonality in his opinion is the use of a commonly available photograph of George Bush in front of an Israeli flag. In this article as in others from CST, it is claimed without any hard evidence that anti-Semitic literature is readily available in Muslim bookshops.

For the sake of brevity, IHRC recommends any concerned or confused readers to read through Rich's article for his numerous claims regarding the similarities. Further in an 'Unholy Alliance', Mike Whine makes specific claims of links between 'Muslim Islamists' (the significance of this type of terminology has been discussed in our previous briefing) and the far-right, including reference to the conflation of the Nation of Islam and 'other Black Muslim', a huge generalisation subsumed in an overly generalised article positing a huge spectrum of Muslim groups under the banner of Islamists allegedly linking to the far-right in Europe and the USA.

In this article (please see also CST's example 8) that Whine (not as we originally stated Gardner) states regarding 'Black Muslims':

“The racial segregation policies of post-war Nazi groups parallel those of the Nation of Islam and other Black Muslims and their meetings, though infrequent, have had important influences on each other's world views…” (p. 6)


Example 3:

CST in their response contend that they do not conflate Muslims with rises in anti-Semitic attacks, citing part of an article by Mark Gardner, which explains that Muslims are less overrepresented as perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks than some commentators suggest. Nevertheless the article still comes to the conclusion that they are overrepresented as perpetrators. More alarmingly however are the unsubstantiated claims that Muslims fit a perpetrator profile of anti-Semitic attacks in the wake of any international events related to Israel-Palestine. This is a highly contentious claim and is by no means proven through systematic analysis. The example used by Gardner earlier in the article suggests that such claims may be based on suppositions rather than statistical analysis of proven perpetration:

“One example of this counter-intuitive phenomenon occurred in 2000. A synagogue in North East London was desecrated: a swastika was daubed on the rabbi's lectern and a Union Jack flag – which belonged to the congregation – was propped against it. The media assumed that this was a far Right attack, as it involved a swastika and a British flag. Nevertheless, the Jewish community was not so sure. Swastikas have become a common expression of Islamist anti-Israel hatred; the synagogue was the nearest one to the most infamous mosque (Finsbury Park) in the whole of Britain. Other Diaspora Jewish communities (especially in France and Belgium), were also suffering a wave of attacks on synagogues by local Muslims, triggered by overseas Israeli-Palestinian violence. Nobody was ever arrested for the attack, but the Police investigation strongly suggested that the Jewish community's suspicions were most likely to have been correct.”

Again quite bold and unsubstantiated claims are made e.g. “Swastikas have become a common expression of Islamist anti-Israel hatred.”

Rich elsewhere claims 'Islamist anti-Semitism bears undeniable similarities to that of the far right'.(iv) As the response to example 4 and our previous briefing shows, lack of clarity over terms gives an overall impression of Muslims of various backgrounds inclined towards anti-Semitism.


Example 4:

Again, CST has tried to evade the charge about its casual use of terminology by citing part of one article by Michael Whine i.e. 'Islamism and Totalitarianism: Similarities and Differences.' A full critique of the claims of this article should be undertaken at some point. For the purposes of this response, we simply point out that despite the attempt to clarify what he means by Islamism, Whine effectively conflates several disparate ideas, groups, movements and thinking in Muslim history. In his conclusions Whine compares 'Islamists' with Nazis and Fascists:

“In the Muslim world, the leadership often lacked the requisite capital on which to build and progress. Both, therefore, harked back to a glorious past, whether it had a racial or national basis. For Islamists it has reached back to its early days of the community of believers who accompanied and succeeded the Prophet, or more recently to the Middle Ages when Islam conquered the Middle East and Southern Europe and provided the basis for much scientific and cultural progress. For the Nazis it was racial ideal with its roots in mythology, and with the Fascists it was imperial Rome.” (p.70, IHRC's emphasis)

Further Whine in his article 'An Unholy Alliance – Nazi Links with Arab Totalitarianism' uses various terms and refers to various groups, all of which are subsumed under the category 'Arab Totalitarianism'. In this article alone, there are numerous examples of casual interchange between e.g. 'Nation of Islam' 'other Black Muslims', 'Muslim Islamists' etc. Additionally from his article alone, again we can cite his reiteration of Webman and Rembiszowski that “neo-Nazism, Arab nationalism and Muslim revivalism serve each other's interest and bolster each other's ideologies and world view.” (p10). On page 12, Whine claims that, “Most Muslim bookshops in the UK have sold versions of the Protocols of Zion at one time or another during the past twenty years…”.


Example 5:

IHRC simply reiterates what it has already said, with regard to the confusion and conflation of terms – a matter which only serves to distort ideas about Islam and Muslims.


Example 6: Definition of Jihad

The foregoing applies here also, but additionally CST in their defence have quoted Whine's definition of jihad which simply indicts them further.


Example 7: The Invented Quote

The quote in fact comes from the original researcher's notes on this article and should not have been put into quotation marks. However the point made in that quote regarding Whine's article i.e: that “He compares Islamism to totalitarianism and argues that they are similar as both seek to mobilise- both aim at the elimination of opposition- and both believe in sacrifice, either for God or for the process…” is easily substantiated from his article. On pages 68-9 he states:

“Ideology is the application of scientific, and supposedly rational, thought to a belief system, and purports to explain the historical process, the past, the present and the future. In this respect totalitarianism shares another bond with Islamism which deals not with belief in God, but, rather, sets out an explanation for why the state is as it is, and a system of behavior.

“By conferring on the party or nation a sacred status, totalitarianism elevated an earthly entity, thereby replacing religion. Man still needs a religious belief system despite modernity and in seeking to promote itself above all else the totalitarian system sought to replace religion with a new belief system.

“The power to recruit and command the loyalty of the masses was the totalitarian regimes' most conspicuous feature. They demanded the total unrestricted, unconditional and unalterable loyalty of the individual.”

On page 68, he compares Islamism and Totalitarianism thus:

“Totalitarianism like Islamism, has the sole answer to society's ills, and the prescription for the way forward. No debate was tolerated, and opposition was ruthlessly crushed…”

On page 65 he describes Totalitarianism thus:

“Totalitarianism aims at the corporate state, one where the state controls the economy and directs enterprise, and high culture, involving the galvanization of the masses with the aim of creating a new level of statehood through the creation of a new map. To do so certain elements have to be harnessed there must be a continuous mobilisation; there must be social control mechanisms (in order to achieve mobilisation); political and social opposition must be eliminated, politics itself must be the object of a sacralisation process to replace the belief in God with the worship of the new state…”

Earlier on page 62 he compares Islamism, specifically the aspirations of Qutb and Maududi thus:

“Banna and Maududi had emerged at a time of growing nationalist mobilization against foreign domination, so inevitably their views reflected nationalist ideology, but also contained a reaction to it. Islamist thinkers saw foreign domination of their countries as a symptom of Muslim weakness and its elimination as a key to Muslim power.”


Example 8: The Nation of Islam

This has been dealt with above under Example 2.


Conclusion

IHRC stands by its briefing and is saddened though unsurprised that the CST has accused us of 'misrepresenting their staff in so comprehensive a manner'. IHRC has read through CST's publications and offered its analysis of them. Whilst the CST can of course disagree, they should at least be willing to argue over the substance of what has been written rather than, as they have done in this instance, attempt to portray their publications as conducive to 'helping to build a more harmonious society for all'. We repeat our original concern that, rather than encouraging Islamophobic sentiments, the CST has a responsibility to encourage tolerant discourse and should look for common ground with the Muslim Community. Its publications thus far take on the form of alarmist tracts rather than sound analyses. In so doing they not only vilify Muslims and their faith, they undermine the much needed work of tackling anti-Semitism that they purport to uphold.

To this end, IHRC awaits CST's clarification as to whether it is the author of the briefing circulated in its name entitled: Antisemitic incidents and threats to Jews arising from Gaza Crisis. If it is a genuine document, IHRC awaits CST's clarification as to where it was distributed.

Further IHRC is concerned that other private briefings on Muslim and pro-Palestinian organisations may have been produced and circulated by CST and welcomes the CST's confirmation or denial of whether it has produced and circulated such material.

IHRC also awaits the removal of its name from the article 'An Unholy Alliance – Nazi Links with Arab Totalitarianism' wherever it has been published, and an apology from the CST.

IHRC July 6, 2009

Endnotes:

(i) It can also be downloaded from: http://www.thecst.org.uk/docs/An%20unholy%20alliance%201801%20original.doc
(ii)Whine, Michael, 'The New Terrorism' accessed 14/07/2008
(iii)Whine, Michael, 'An Unholy Alliance – Nazi Links with Arab Totalitarianism', p.6
(iv)Rich, Dave, 'The Barriers Come Down: Antisemitism and Coalitions of the Extreme'

Attachments:
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