New report intensifies squeeze on Muslim CSO space

Islamic Human Rights Commission

21 January 2019

PRESS RELEASE – UK: New report intensifies squeeze on Muslim CSO space

Beleaguered Muslim organisations, already squeezed by a shrinking civil society space, are the target of a new report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change which brands them divisive and extremist.

Singling out five organisations including IHRC the report, ‘Narratives of Division’, accuses them of promoting an extremist narrative that threatens social cohesion in Britain.

The report is premised on the discredited concept of non-violent extremism which underpins the UK’s Prevent anti-terrorism strategy. It charges the selected organisations with perpetuating narratives that promote a divisive view of how Muslims should see their place in Britain.

We believe the report underlines the concerns raised in an IHRC briefing released last week that legitimate criticism and rigorous research that makes uncomfortable reading for the political class is now routinely being stigmatised and marginalised.

“For the best part of two decades, successive governments and those opposed to Muslim participation have forced to the margins authentic CSOs from the Muslim community that do not conform to preconceived official strategies or desired policy outcomes,” said the briefing.

‘Narratives of Division’ falls squarely into the same bracket. It appears to have selected the five Muslim organisations on account of their resistance to political co-option and their strident criticism of state policies. The report dismisses their output as the product of a conspiratorial and antagonistic Islam vs West mindset, using the banned Al-Muhajiroun network as a benchmark. Astonishingly, it concludes that much of the five groups’ public messaging approaches or is similar to that of Al-Muhajiroun.

IHRC finds the report tendentious and Islamophobic. It aims to establish a benchmark for extremism which is well below the threshold required to be able to legitimately express one’s views and which sets the bar differentially for Muslims.

One only has to cast one’s mind back to the Macpherson report to see how the finding of institutional racism against the police did not lead to charges that racially minoritised groups were promoting a conspiratorial or divisive worldview. Yet today calling the state or part of it institutionally Islamophobic is presented as evidence that Muslim organisations are promoting a narrative of division.

IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “It’s somewhat ironic that we are being accused of promoting extremism by an organisation which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia to the tune of £9million, a regime that commits war crimes in Yemen, jails and executes critics and chops up journalists.”

Notes to editors:

IHRC’s briefing is available to read at https://www.ihrc.org.uk/publications/briefings/20386-briefing-the-shrinking-political-space-for-csos-in-the-uk/

Narratives of Division is available here: https://institute.global/sites/default/files/2019-01/Narratives%20of%20Division%20report.pdf

For more information or comment please contact the Press Office on (+44) 20 8904 4222 or (+44) 7958522196[ENDS]

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IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

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