Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Islamism Driving British Political Tumult and Violence, Politicians Warn

ResearchIn-Depth AnalysisIslamism Driving British Political Tumult and Violence, Politicians Warn

As an anti-Israel slogan flickered up and down London’s Big Ben and Parliament on February 21, a vote calling for a Gaza ceasefire inside the House of Commons had descended into chaos.

The speaker of the House of Commons, who is sworn to provide nonpartisan oversight of parliament, backtracked on a promise to grant Britain’s third largest party, the Scottish National Party (SNP), a vote on a Gaza ceasefire, following the defeat of the first one last November by 294 votes to 125. The speaker flouted parliamentary protocol to select a Labour Party amendment for consideration instead.

The decision meant that while Labour’s wording (calling for a “humanitarian ceasefire” and including a call for a two-state solution) was nodded through, the SNP’s proposal (which contained the phrase “collective punishment of the Palestinian people”) did not advance to a vote. Scottish Nationalist and Conservative MPs stormed out of the chamber in anger.

On the one hand, this was a constitutional matter: furious political voices observed the speaker’s unusual decision helped the Labour Party avoid a mass rebellion of MPs, which had risked collapsing the Labour leadership under pressure over the question of Gaza. This was hardly the behavior of an impartial constitutional figure.

On the other hand, the speaker’s decision was just the latest consequence of a growing climate of Islamist-induced fear. The speaker argued he was impelled to act after speaking to Labour MPs about the threats of violence they had received for failing to speak out in favour of a ceasefire. And the debate ended with a Conservative MP pleading with the Speaker to hold a formal vote, fearful that his family’s security was still in jeopardy.

Conservative MP Robert Jenrick, writing in the Daily Telegraph, observed: “Last Wednesday was a dark day for our democracy. After steady deterioration, the Islamist threat reached a severe water mark, with the Speaker asserting that the high risk of physical violence towards MPs led him to bend parliamentary procedure.”

Outside the Palace of Westminster, as MPs fearfully debated, the slogan “From the River To the Sea, Palestine Will be Free” was projected onto the walls of Big Ben.

Conservative MP Andrew Percy called the slogan a “genocidal call.” But Scotland Yard said the police would not act because the stunt was “not a criminal offence.” By Saturday, anti-Israel activists had occupied London’s iconic Tower Bridge, blocking the bridge with cars and giant banners, and letting off green flares, leading police to close the road to peak evening traffic.

Since then, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has warned police leaders in a conversation about the safety of MPs that, “There is a growing consensus that mob rule is replacing democratic rule.” The prime minister called for a “robust approach” from the police “to protect our democratic processes from intimidation, disruption, from subversion.”

Certainly, the threat of violence is real. On February 28, Home Secretary James Cleverley announced that security guards would be deployed at events held by MPs as part of a £31 million drive to protect politicians amid increased threats following the Israel-Hamas conflict. The MPs at highest risk will also be able to call on private bodyguards around-the-clock because of physical threats to their safety. Three female politicians have already been provided with bodyguards.

Ignoring Islamist threats can be fatal. In 2021, a British Somali Islamic State supporter stabbed to death Conservative MP Sir David Amess in his constituency surgery. The attacker cited Amess’s membership of Conservative Friends of Israel as well has his voting record on British airstrikes in Syria.

In 2010, a British Bangladeshi Al-Qaeda sympathizer stabbed Labour MP Stephen Timms. She said her attack was to punish Timms for voting for the Iraq War, as an act of revenge for the Iraqi people. 

More recently, Mike Freer, the Conservative Justice Minister and MP for Finchley and Golders Green, a constituency with a large Jewish population, last month announced he will not seek re-election, having narrowly escaped David Amess’s killer by a “stroke of luck” because of a schedule change. He has since experienced death threats, abuse and a suspected arson attack on his office.

Despite these continued threats at lawmakers, too many in government and the opposition made only veiled or passing reference to the actual source of the problem. Then, in a dramatic piece for Daily Telegraph, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman grasped the nettle, declaring: “The truth is that the Islamists, the extremists and the anti-Semites are in charge now. They have bullied the Labour Party, they have bullied our institutions, and now they have bullied our country into submission.” 

Notwithstanding these bold public statements, and the expressed concerns of the prime minister, Islamist influence and mob activity continues unabated, now picking up a seat in parliament.

Iran’s Man in Rochdale

A special election in Rochdale, a town just north of the city of Manchester, took place on February 29, following the death of the serving MP, Tony Lloyd. The election campaign was tumultuous, and themed entirely around the subject of Islamism and Gaza.

The Labour candidate, Azhar Ali, lost the backing of his own party, at the order of party leader Keir Starmer, after Ali aired the view that Israel had allowed the October 7 massacre to happen, purportedly ignoring warnings from Egypt and the USA, so they could have a “green light to do whatever they bloody want” in Gaza.

Other candidates did not fare too well. Simon Danczuk, a former Labour MP now standing for the right-leaning Reform UK Party, reported receiving death threats and abuse.

Reform UK chair Richard Tice told LBC News he had had to move his staff from their accommodation in the constituency. “We have had supporters’ businesses being threatened with being firebombed if they don’t take down the leaflet supporting our candidate.” he said.

The collapse of the Labour campaign in the Rochdale by-election made way for the landslide victory on Thursday of firebrand George Galloway.

Galloway, who has praised Saddam Hussein and sided with Iran and Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad, was expelled from Labour in 2003 after he appeared to advocate the killing of British troops in Iraq. Galloway has a long history of Islamist activity. He previously played a key role in the establishment of the Respect Party, a collaborative effort between far-Left and Islamist forces that sought to secure Islamist political influence across the United Kingdom.

Galloway is also the founder of charity Viva Palestina. During a March 2009 “aid convoy,” he directly provided Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh with three cars and £25,000 in cash. On a later visit, he also met former Hamas military chief Mahmoud Zahar, reports the Jewish Chronicle.

In 2006, Galloway donated the six-figure fee for his appearance on reality TV show Celebrity Big Brother to the U.K-based charity Interpal, also known as the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund. Interpal is a designated terrorist organization under U.S. law, because of its overt involvement with Hamas.

That same year, Galloway lauded the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, stating: “I glorify the Hizballah national resistance movement, and I glorify the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.” Indeed, Galloway has proudly spent a decade as a presenter on Hezbollah and Iran’s TV station, Al-Mayadeen.

George Galloway Interviews senior Houthi terror leader, just weeks before the election

Galloway won the Rochdale by-election easily, with almost forty percent of the vote. The major parties did not even manage to secure second place, losing to another independent candidate.

Galloway’s success came after losing his Muslim-majority seat of Bradford West in 2015. A string of failed attempts to rejoin parliament followed, always standing in other areas with hefty Muslim populations. His support for the Assad regime, it seems, had upset many British Sunni Muslims in the 2010s, but now his staunch support for Hamas and vivid denunciations of Israel seem to have won back the favor of British Sunni Muslims, who make up around twenty percent of the Rochdale constituency.

Galloway used his Rochdale victory speech to condemn the Labour leader and reiterate his agenda: “Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza. … You have paid, and you will pay, a high price for the role that you have played in enabling, encouraging and covering for the catastrophe presently going on in occupied Palestine in the Gaza Strip.”

Galloway pledged that his party, the Workers Party of Britain, would field 50 candidates in the upcoming general election. This national election, Galloway has said, “will be about Muslims.”

Abandoning the Center-Left

As with Galloway, Islamist lobbyists also appear to be working to capitalize on the hemorrhaging of the Muslim vote from the Labour Party. Data from a research company Survation and the Labour Muslim Network (LMN) found that, while eighty six percent of British Muslims voted Labour in the 2019 general election, only forty three percent said they will definitely vote for Labour again, while twenty three percent were undecided. The shift in voting intentions is widely seen to be linked to Labour’s qualified support for Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 

A new campaign called The Muslim Vote is widely supported by Islamist groups, including: the Palestinian Forum in Britain, led by Hamas activist Zaher Birawi;  the Muslim Association of Britain, a Muslim Brotherhood organization co-founded by senior Hamas politburo member Mohammed Sawalha; the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), a collaborative effort between Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat-e-Islami and Deobandi Islamists; and hardline lobbying groups such as MEND, which has campaigned on behalf of Islamist extremists.

Across the country, Islamist-linked activists are now preparing to run for parliamentary seats. Tasnime Akunjee, the lawyer for the family of exiled Islamic State recruit Shamima Begum, has announced his candidacy against Labour’s Rushanara Ali in the Bethnal Green and Bow seat in East London. He cited Ali’s “refusal to vote for a ceasefire despite the overwhelming pro-Palestinian sentiment in Bethnal Green and Stepney.”

Meanwhile, a major fundraising campaign already underway to back anti-Israel activist Leanne Mohamad, who is standing against shadow health secretary Wes Streeting in Ilford North, in Essex. Mohamad is closely involved in Islamist causes.

One Labour MP has described the level of funding donated towards these independent candidates to run against Labour in recent weeks as “astonishing.”

The ambitions of Islamists to disrupt mainstream politics can be seen in a video posted February 10 to a social media channel of pro-Hamas, pro-Taliban Islamist news website 5 Pillars. The footage shows the outlet’s editor, Roshan Salih, who has appeared on BBC Newsnight, urging Muslims gathered in Leicester to support Galloway’s candidacy and that of other independent candidates.

Salih urged British Muslims to reject Muslim politicians who do not toe the Islamist line: “In the next general election later this year, inshallah it’s our duty to target those MPs who refuse to call for a ceasefire. The sellouts, the Muslim sellouts like [Shadow Business Secretary] Rushanara Ali, like [Shadow Justice Secretary] Shabana Mahmood, we’ve got to end their careers.  We’ve got to kick them out of Parliament. We’ve got to send a clear message to them that if they’re going to support genocide, then they ain’t going to get our vote.” 

An Islamist Political Future?

On February 22, former Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage predicted at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, USA, that following the rise of pro-Palestinian activism in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict, a “radical Islamic party” would likely be represented in the House of Commons by 2029.

The same day, Conservative MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire Lee Anderson, appearing on right- leaning channel GB News, said he did not believe that Islamists had control of the U.K, but he did believe “they’ve got control of [London Mayor Sadiq] Khan, and they’ve got control of London.”

Anneliese Dodds, the Labour chair, immediately denounced Anderson’s comments as “unambiguously racist and Islamophobic,” and called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to remove the whip from Anderson. Sunak did so on Monday, saying Anderson’s remarks were “unacceptable” and “wrong.”

In an illustration of how central Islam and Islamism have persistently become to British political discourse, yet another furor emerged. Downing Street found itself under pressure as it refused to describe the comments as “Islamophobic,” despite demands from Labour and the Liberal Democrat parties to do so.

The Conservative Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, who also holds the post of Equalities Minister, wrote on Twitter it was best to use the term “anti-Muslim hatred,” as such a phrase would protect both religious freedom and the “freedom to criticise religion.” Badenoch has warned the Labour Party risks creating a “blasphemy law” because of its adoption of a definition that deems Islamophobia “a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

Contemporary examples of “Islamophobia” in public life listed in the definition include a list of well-documented Islamist activities and dogmas:

  • “conspiracies about Muslim entryism in politics, government or other societal institutions; the myth of Muslim identity having a unique propensity for terrorism”;
  • “Accusing Muslim citizens of being more loyal to the ‘Ummah’ (transnational Muslim community) or to their countries of origin, or to the alleged priorities of Muslims worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations” ; and
  • “Denying Muslim populations the right to self-determination e.g., by claiming that the existence of an independent Palestine or Kashmir is a terrorist endeavour.”

As for London Mayor Sadiq Khan, his moderate defenders point out he projected the Israeli flag onto City Hall on October 8th; has been shortlisted as “Islamophobe of the year” by the Khomeinist Islamic Human Rights Commission; and has faced death threats from Salafi-jihadist Islamists.

However, not unreasonably, critics point out that Khan was reported to have appeared at multiple Islamist events, such as the Tooting Islamic Centre in South London in 2004 on a panel hosted by charity Friends of Al Aqsa, a chief organizer of the pro-Hamas demonstrations since October 7 2023, alongside an array of prominent pro-Hamas extremists.

More recently, Khan continues to work with the Muslim Council of Britain, despite his own party blacklisting the organization in 2009 after it emerged that MCB officials were among signatories to the Istanbul Declaration, a document that advocated attacks on British soldiers and Jewish communities.

At the very least, then, the mayor of one of the world’s richest and most important cities, is serving to enable Islamist voices. For many, Britain’s political prospects look increasingly bleak.

When French President Emmanuel Macron introduced measures to crack down on radical Islam in France in 2020, former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, herself hounded out of Holland by death threats from Islamist extremists commented: “Leaders have failed in four ways. They have failed to make it clear what Islamism is. They have allied with the wrong people, they have failed to regulate immigration, to give the Muslim communities that are already in France the opportunity to go through the process of integration.”

Leaders have failed, she continued “to use the tools that a state has to make it very clear to those individuals and organizations that are turning people’s minds away from what it is to be French and bringing them instead towards radical Islam, that this will not be tolerated. Those individuals and organizations they should not have partnered with and for a long time they did.”

The silver lining of the dark clouds that have overshadowed British politics in the past fortnight is the apparent realization by mainstream MPs and analysts of the enormity of the threat. As one put it this week, “Multiculturalism is Dead.”

Whether or not convincing action will follow remains to be seen, but the sense of urgency is clear. On Friday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak offered a statement outside Downing Street, warning: “There are forces here at home trying to tear us apart. Since October 7 there have been those trying to take advantage of the very human angst that we all feel……about the terrible suffering that war brings to the innocent, to women and children……to advance a divisive, hateful ideological agenda.”

By Saturday, it emerged that the Charity Commission is examining 21 hate sermons delivered by Islamists at U.K institutions in the weeks and months following Hamas’s invasion of Israel on October 7.

On Sunday, government plans to ban hate preachers from the U.K. on national security grounds were reported.

The prime minister has also asked ministers to update the government’s 2015 definition of extremism later this month to cover those who more broadly “undermine” the country’s institutions or values, so that they can be excluded from council funding and barred from working with public bodies.

Fighting talk aims to fill the political vacuum for now. But with Sunak’s days in office numbered by polls predicting a dire election defeat for the Conservatives later this year, Britain’s overdue reckoning with Islamism is far from assured.

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