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Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam

اَللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ - لَا إلَهَ إلَّا اللَّهُ وَاَللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اَللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ وَلِلَّهِ الْحَمْد - اَللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ - لَا إلَهَ إلَّا اللَّهُ وَاَللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اَللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ وَلِلَّهِ الْحَمْد - اَللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ - لَا إلَهَ إلَّا اللَّهُ وَاَللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اَللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ وَلِلَّهِ الْحَمْد - اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ كَبِيرًا وَالْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ كَثِيرًا وَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا
Four things to do during the blessed 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah
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  1. #1
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    Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam (OP)


    Salaam

    Event: Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam

    Recent events from the Middle East have placed the Muslim community in Britain in the public eye once more with their every word and action coming under microscopic scrutiny by the media and politicians. This is only the latest chapter in an ideological attack that has been ongoing for significantly longer.

    Whereas the attacks on Islamic concepts of war, political governance and the unity of Muslim lands are nothing new, they have now increased on an unprecedented scale in the wake of the rise of ISIS and its declaration of a Caliphate. The matter is not about supporting or opposing the version of a Caliphate as demonstrated by ISIS but rather the criminalisation of Islamic political thought and ideology. The concepts of jihad, shariah and khilafah are not the exclusive possession of ISIS but core Islamic doctrines subscribed to by almost one third's of the world's population. It is telling that the government's treatment of ISIS is similar to its treatment of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb-ut Tahrir, and the Taliban, despite the enormous differences of belief and methodology between the groups.

    The Islamophobic nature of the criminalisation of those who believe in fighting in Syria against Assad is underlined by the lack of concern for British Jews who fight in the Israeli Occupation Forces, particularly at times where they are engaged in war crimes and other atrocities, such as the recent attack on Gaza.

    On the flips side, Muslims who wish to aid their brothers and sisters through the provision of humanitarian aid via aid convoys are having their homes raided, being harassed by the security services and are effectively being accused of engaging in terrorism. Charities are having their bank accounts closed without explanation and are coming under investigation by the Charity Commission simply for being involved in crisis zones like Gaza and Syria. Witch-hunts such as the Trojan Horse hoax and the mass hysteria over issues of the niqab, halal food and conservative Muslim values demonstrate that the criminalisation is spreading beyond Middle Eastern politics. Individuals and organisations within the Muslim community who have been speaking out against these policies are now under attack. They have had their organisation, business and bank accounts arbitrarily closed. Even their children's bank accounts have been closed. They are maligned in the media as terrorist sympathisers, extremists and jihadists. Some have even been imprisoned.

    The common element across all these cases is that those targeted cared for the oppressed and for those who are suffering. They have been criminalised because they cared.

    Join CAGE at this series of events around the country to unite the Muslim communities against this criminalisation of our faith, our beliefs, our mosques and organisations, and our leaders. The following regional events will take place with the large conference taking place on 20 September at the Waterlily in London.

    Sunday 14 September - 6pm

    Pakistani Community Centre, Park Hall, London Road, Reading RG1 2PA

    Jamal Harwood
    Dr Adnan Siddiqui
    Dr Uthman Lateef
    Anas al-Tikriti
    Taji Mustafa
    Wednesday 17 September - 7pm
    East Pearl Banqueting Centre, Longsight, Manchester
    Ibrahim Hewitt
    Abdullah Andalusi
    Jahangir Mohammed

    Friday 19 September - 6.30pm

    Muslim Student House (the Daar), Moseley, Birmingham

    Dr Uthman Lateef
    Ismail Adam Patel
    Abdullah Andalusi
    Dr Abdul Wahid
    Fahad Ansari

    http://www.cageuk.org/event/it-crime-care

  2. #321
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    Re: Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam

    Report bad ads?

    Salaam

    Another update



    A good news story



    Just to reaffirm





    Oh and this

    Last edited by Junon; 1 Week Ago at 08:28 PM.

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    Re: Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam

    Salaam

    Another update, this man could become Prime Minister of the UK.

















    Hah



    More on prevent, this time in the USA.



    Last edited by Junon; 1 Week Ago at 12:34 AM.

  5. #323
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    Re: Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam

    Salaam

    Another update

    A Shared Future’ report ignores state failures and panders to counter-terrorism sector


    The report’s uncritical appraisal of PREVENT and its unwillingness to challenge the prevailing views on counter-terrorism fatally undermines its credibility.

    The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) released its report ‘A Shared Future: Preventing hateful extremism and promoting social cohesion commission’ last week. The aims of the report included, among others, developing a response to “hateful extremism”.

    The authors of the report develop their own definition of “hateful extremism”, by connecting the Manchester Arena bombing and the subsequent spike in “hate crimes”. For them, both are polar opposites on a continuum. They both threaten social cohesion and they must therefore be dealt with in the same way.

    What this does, however, is ignore the specific causes and political developments that have led to both.

    In the context of Manchester, the report evades questions that have emerged regarding British intelligence’s role and relationship with bomber Salman Abedi. In the context of “hate crime” the reports ignores the role that the state has had in enabling a far-right resurgence, of which ‘hate crime’ spikes are a symptom. Instead the report uses this pretext as an opportunity to further entrench counter-extremism apparatus and divert attention away from government failings.

    Calls for public funding are valid but misplaced

    The report raises pertinent issues about the importance of increasing public funding for services in society. But it takes the damaging decision to articulate these demands for investment through the lens of combating ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’.

    This process – withdrawing public funds under austerity measures and bringing them back in under the guise of counter-extremism – has been a defining feature of PREVENT since 2011. It is the means through which the government has widened the scope of surveillance. In taking the politically comfortable option of appealing to the sensibilities of counter-terrorism to make their demands, the report writers legitimise the framework of securitisation from which PREVENT stems, and which has undermined society and civil liberties.

    This is aided further by the conflations between ‘hate crime’, ‘extremism’ and ‘social cohesion’ that underpin the report.

    As such, the report comes across like a business case pitched haphazardly to the counter-extremism industry.

    Safeguarding is used to legitimise PREVENT, when it is everything but this


    More damningly, the report unquestioningly accepts the notion that PREVENT is a tool of ‘safeguarding’, lends support to its expansion. To justify this, the authors include a number of case studies that are presented as ‘successful’ instances of PREVENT intervention. It is at this point that the report descends into a favourable PR exercise, taking pains to defend the programme.

    It also dismisses concerns about it as simply malicious misinformation.

    The pernicious myth that PREVENT is safeguarding is little more than state propaganda that masks its inherently coercive nature. Safeguarding processes long preceded PREVENT and, tellingly, it was not marketed as such for the first decade of its existence. The rebranding of PREVENT as safeguarding has served to justify its targeting of children, which has skyrocketed since the introduction of the statutory Prevent duty in 2015.

    CAGE has recorded a number of cases of such interventions and the extremely traumatising ward of court family proceedings resulting from them.

    Social services should have acted, rather than cases being handed over to PREVENT


    The attached case studies included in the report speak more to the erosion of front-line social services than the success of PREVENT. Rather than attribute these cases to any ‘success’ of PREVENT, they should have warranted the intervention of social service in the first place rather than the full gamut of the counter-terrorism apparatus.

    Driven by an unclear mix of rationales, sloppy theoretical underpinnings and at-times questionable methodology, the Shared Future report outlines the clear limitations of mainstream responses to PREVENT and counter-extremism.

    Any robust and critical approach must begin from the understanding that PREVENT has, by design and in execution, planted the roots of securitisation deep in society through its most crucial sectors – social services, health and education. As a result it has had a deeply detrimental effect on those targeted, and the the fabric of society.

    The authors, most importantly, should engage those negatively impacted by PREVENT in good faith. It should listen to their criticisms, not hold them in contempt as either ignorant individuals or, worse, purveyors of deception.

    https://www.cage.ngo/a-shared-future-report-ignores-state-failures-and-panders-to-counter-terrorism-sector

  6. #324
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    Re: Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam

    Salaam

    This is clever, check out the new hasbra strategy from the Guardian, normalising the settler state among many other things.

    The Islamic school that ensures its boys understand the Israeli point of view

    The private Abrar Academy is pioneering a groundbreaking method of teaching the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict


    More than 550,000 students took GCSE history this summer, says Michael Davies, a history teacher at Lancaster Royal Grammar, a selective state boys’ school in Lancashire. “Of those, only 2,200 had studied Israel and Palestine. In comparison, 70,000 had studied the history of the American West.”

    At Abrar Academy, a private Muslim boys’ school based in a former Methodist church in Preston, this year’s GCSE cohort did not take the Israel/Palestine option. Like so many schools of all dominations, they studied the first world war instead.

    It’s not that the boys aren’t interested, says Suhayl Hafiz, curriculum manager, during the eerily quiet lunch break: “Palestine is the third holiest site in Islam, and the conflict is something all the boys have heard about, whether at the mosque or at home or in school.”

    It was their history teacher’s decision, he says, as a group of boys in long white tunics play barefoot football downstairs where the pews used to be. “They weren’t really confident at that time.” It’s something Davies has often heard: “Teachers are scared of it. It’s a hot potato. They are worried about upsetting parents or the kids saying something which will be reported to the authorities, and so they teach the Tudors instead.”

    Yet towards the end of Abrar’s summer term, Hafiz accepted an offer from Davies to teach a class on one of the most divisive conflicts in the modern world. It was a big moment for Davies, who has set up a project called Parallel Histories, which teaches Israel/Palestine from both sides rather than “twisting competing perspectives into a single, compromised narrative”.

    In June he organised an event at the House of Lords to discuss why so few schools dare to teach this difficult and often very emotional topic. None of the 20 or so Muslim schools he invited came. A few Jewish institutions did, encouraged by Samantha Benson, director of education at the Partnership for Jewish Schools.

    It was disappointing but not a surprise. “Muslim schools are acutely aware of the potential for bad publicity after the Trojan Horse affair,” says Davies, referring to a scandal in some Birmingham schools in 2013 and 2014 when hardline Muslims were accused of conspiring to take over local schools and running them according to strict Islamic principles.

    “The downside of tackling Israel and Palestine in front of outsiders is obvious – Muslim students care passionately about it and the story of Palestinian oppression feeds into a broader narrative of Muslims as victims of western aggression, and that’s not an area where most teachers want to go with observers in the classroom,” says Davies.

    At the Abrar academy, a warning bell sounds out across the school. It is still the middle of a lesson but the bell tells the boys that they have 15 minutes before their afternoon prayer. At the anointed time, they will kneel down in neat rows and press their skullcap-clad heads to the ground in worship before it is time for the last secular class of the day. Afternoons are devoted to secular studies; the morning is set aside for Islamic study: Qur’anic recitation and translation, Arabic lessons and Islamic theology. In 2016, Ofsted found the school “requires improvement”, saying teaching in secular subjects did not help pupils to learn as well as in Islamic lessons.

    Around 120 boys aged 11 to 21 study at Abrar, which was set up in 2009 by Hadhrat Shaikh Maulana Fazlehaq Wadee, a scholar of the Deobandi strand of Sunni Islam. Day pupils pay £1,300 a year – boarders £2,500 (Lancaster Royal Grammar charges £11,181 per year for boarders, considered to be at the bargain basement end of the market).

    Although the Deobandis have a reputation for hardline puritanism (the Taliban are its most notorious proponents), the teaching at Abrar is quite liberal, insists Hafiz, an alumnus of a Preston state school. “We think of ourselves as British so we are quite liberal in that sense.” He points to link projects with nearby Lowton high school, including a visit by their pupils who tried on Islamic dress and experienced Muslim education for a day.

    People make the wrong assumptions about us, says a 15-year-old boarder from Newcastle. “My parents wanted me to go to a secular school but it was me that pushed to come here.” Some of the boys change into jeans and T-shirts as soon as school is out: others prefer Islamic dress seven days a week. A good proportion of the boys aspire to be an imam or a Muslim scholar, perhaps after pursing a secular degree.

    All of Abrar’s teachers are male and when female students visit the school and take extracurricular lessons on the balcony, they are shielded by fabric and room dividers. Nonetheless the boys do not seem fazed by the arrival of a blond female reporter with bare arms and uncovered hair, and are curious about the Guardian’s interest in their school.

    Davies is excited about the lesson he has planned on the Balfour declaration, a hotly contested document signed by the British in 1917 which promised the land of Palestine to the Zionist Federation, a recently established political movement whose goal was the creation of a Jewish state.

    The boys, aged 14 to 19, have already been split into two groups to prepare for a debate. Half were disappointed to be told they must argue that the British should be praised for the declaration – an opinion held by very few Muslims.

    Two boys are appointed judges and mark their classmates on content and presentation, totting up the scores to declare the Palestinian side winners, though only by a whisker.

    Abdul, 15, on the Israel team, says his side had to work harder: “I told the team, swallow your pride, just do it. Even after hours and hours of research we thought Palestine had a stronger argument, so to find an argument for Israel and the Jews to have this thing was really difficult.

    “But we did find it, we found small things to pick out and expand on, and we were very close to actually winning. I was more on the other side but now I’ve got a bit more understanding and think Israel does have a point. In this school especially we are trying to become Muslim scholars but we have to go out there and we need to be aware of what’s going on – this is Britain, we need to understand British values. All of this will help us understand tolerance, etc. If we are biased to one opinion by ignorance then it’s not fair. No matter if they are Jews or whatever, they are still human. We have to respect them.”

    Earlier this year, Davies split his Lancaster Grammar students into two groups. One was taught the Israeli view, the other the Palestinian. Afterwards, they were surveyed on the Balfour declaration and if the British should have signed it. Their answers were influenced by what they had been taught. Almost 60% of those taught the Jewish side said the British should be praised, while almost 50% of those taught the Palestinian narrative said the British should be criticised.

    After the Abrar lesson, just two boys say that they still believe Israel does not have a right to exist.

    “Obviously you have to look at it with a sympathetic view when you are dealing with the Jewish part of things because they came out of the holocaust and needed a land of their own and Palestine did have a bit of space,” says Mohammed, 19.

    “But what makes me say that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist is the fundamentals of what it was built on and how they deal with Palestine right now.”

    Davies asks if he would distinguish between “right to exist” and “be heavily criticised”. “I wouldn’t say it should be eliminated right now but the basis on which Israel was built was wrong,” says the boy. “I don’t think it should be removed now that it exists.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/educatio...stine-conflict
    Last edited by Junon; 1 Week Ago at 09:47 PM.

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  8. #325
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    Re: Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam

    Salaam

    Another update













    Hah!



    More seriously this is disturbing.



    Pressure on British Muslim parents to counter extremism is damaging

    Pressure on British Muslim parents to counter extremism in their own families is having a detrimental effect, according to new research by Manchester academic Madeline-Sophie Abbas.

    Young Muslims have come under intense public scrutiny due to their perceived vulnerability to radicalisation. The Prevent counter-terrorism strategy has placed increased responsibility on parents to police their children, including removing their passports if suspected of travelling to join IS.

    The security agenda has also crept into Muslim households through government-sponsored initiatives such as Families Against Stress and Trauma (FAST) and the #MakingAStand campaign, which work with Muslim women - particularly mothers - to counter terrorist recruitment.

    The role of Muslim families in countering radicalisation is a pressing policy concern, but the new study has found that there is a failure to address the detrimental effects that such measures have on Muslim family relations as well as broader relations between Muslim families and the state, and the non-Muslim community in Britain. It demonstrates the need to understand how counter-terrorism measures pervade all Muslim families and communities - not just those under official suspicion.

    “My research is motivated by my personal background, as someone of Iraqi and Muslim heritage on my father’s side,” said Madeline. “I decided to embark on the research because of the significant focus placed on British Muslims as ‘suspect’, in order to examine the potentially detrimental impact that these representations have had on communities and families.”

    As well as conducting interviews with Muslims in West Yorkshire, Madeline joined local community organisations and attended events in order to make connections and to understand the situation in greater detail. She discovered that government and media debates about countering extremism within the Muslim community caused tensions within families, with fears about their children being targeted by the state, leading to them worry when they wear Islamic clothing or grow beards.

    It is important to note that adopting Islamic markers does not mean that Islamic principles are being followed or that Muslims embracing Islamic dress or the beard are extremists. By viewing behaviour typical of young people as they discover themselves through the lens of extremism, Muslim parents risk perpetuating conceptions of young Muslims’ vulnerability to being radicalised.

    Madeline-Sophie Abbas

    Counter-extremism policy is currently based on the demonstration of British values. For example, the current definition of extremism is ‘vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs’. This means that restrictions are placed on young Muslims to perform their Islamic identities without fear of being labelled as extremist. Within the family sphere, Muslim parents fear talking to their children about terrorism in case they are referred under Prevent.

    “The scope for young Muslims to discuss their beliefs has closed down, and thus the spaces in which counter-extremist narratives can be engaged with are also impacted. Policy that is sensitive to a range of Islamic identities is required to enable young Muslims to feel that they are not suspect but instead, have equal rights to belong in Britain.”

    "I grew a beard and my dad flipped out!’ Co-option of British Muslim parents in countering extremism within their families in Bradford and Leeds" by Madeline-Sophie Abbas is published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (University of Manchester, Department of Sociology).

    https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discove...uslim-parents/
    Last edited by Junon; 1 Week Ago at 10:11 PM.

  9. #326
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    Re: Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam

    Salaam

    The people who run 'anti extremism' bodies themselves peddle 'extremism'.





    More on the Niqaab














  10. #327
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    Re: Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam

    Salaam

    An alternative view, He's downplays the prejudice Muslims receive, and downplays the weaponisation of antisemitism but he's one the right lines regarding the marginalisation of Christianity. Thought provoking article nevertheless.

    Forget burkas - Christianity's the faith that is really under siege

    How we love fretting about the wrong thing. While the country convulses itself about Islamic face veils, a truly disturbing event, affecting our freedom and our future, goes almost unobserved.

    This is the creepy and totalitarian treatment of a Christian nurse, Sarah Kuteh, sacked from an NHS hospital for daring to suggest that a patient she was treating might like to go to church and (horror of horrors) ‘inappropriately gave a Bible to a patient’.

    The good news is that Ms Kuteh, whose abilities as a nurse have never once been questioned, has now been allowed back to work by the political commissars who increasingly control our country. But the price of this is a humiliating process of self- criticism, of the sort once usual in communist states. Typically, the whole thing is conducted in a hideous mangled form of English which makes a supermarket checkout robot sound like Shakespeare.

    To regain the favour of the commissars, she has had to write a ‘reflective’ screed in which she ‘incorporated your obligations in relation to having clear professional boundaries and not expressing your personal beliefs in an inappropriate way’ and ‘set out the steps you have taken to address the deficiencies highlighted in your practice. You have addressed how you would act differently in the future.’ In other words, she has confessed her thought-crime and promised not to repeat it.

    Well, that is modern Britain, a slimy, squelchy totalitarian state in which unemployment, rather than the gulag, is used to threaten people into conformism and force them to keep their deepest, beloved beliefs a personal secret while they are on state premises.

    How absurd. Christianity is pretty much the origin of modern nursing. I am glad my beloved Aunt Ena, a nurse of extraordinary courage and devotion, and an exemplary Christian in thought, word and deed, did not live to see this era.

    But the cultural revolution has a special loathing for Christianity, perhaps precisely because it was until so recently the idea which ruled all our hearts.

    And I doubt the same horrible process would have been imposed on a nurse who suggested her patients attended a mosque, or gave them a copy of the Koran. For while the British State loathes Christianity, it fears Islam. So do lots of other people.

    It is this fear that has driven much of the stupid frenzy which followed Alexander ‘Boris’ Johnson’s not especially funny or original remarks about niqabs, burkas and letterboxes.

    Here’s a simple point about both these great religions. If you don’t believe in them, and to some extent even if you do, both faiths are a set of political and social opinions, chosen by those who hold them.

    People are quite entitled to disagree with and mock them, as they would with any other manifesto and party. I’m against personal rudeness and deliberate offence, such as the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. But I’m all in favour of reasoned criticism, and some humour, and I’m weary of foolish people calling this ‘Islamophobia’ as if it was some sort of disease.

    Being critical of Islam is not the same thing as the Judophobia which is such a big issue in the Labour Party. Judophobes dislike Jews for being who they unalterably are, not because of what they happen to think at the moment.

    For example, the Nazis murdered the distinguished German Christian theologian and Roman Catholic nun, Edith Stein, because she had Jewish ancestors. They went to some trouble to hunt her down in her Dutch convent and drag her to Auschwitz so they could kill her. That’s a phobia in action.

    As it happens, I have quite a lot of sympathy with some bits of Islam. On a visit to Iran I was much impressed by a beautiful and highly intelligent young woman, a schoolteacher, who made out a powerful case for modesty in dress, and clearly had not been forced by her husband (very much her equal) into the night-black robes she wore.

    I’ve come across similar views in Turkey and Egypt. Forced veiling is another matter, but I cannot see that state bans or public jeering are going to make much difference to that.

    We have Muslim fellow-citizens among us, for good or ill. They are our neighbours. We’re going to have to work out a civilised relationship, in which we can talk frankly to each other. I’ve never found any of them upset by serious argument. Many are saddened by much of what they see around them. So am I. Many wish this country was more Christian. So do I.

    One of the supreme achievements of a free civilisation is the ability to disagree without hating your opponent. We need to relearn it.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-6050819/PETER-HITCHENS-Forget-burkas-Christianitys-faith-really-siege.html

  11. #328
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    Re: Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam

    Salaam

    Ah seems the powers that be want to create more 'moderate' Muslims.



    The Home Affairs Department is behind a clandestine scheme to recruit ‘Good Muslims’ to promote a uniform government line within their communities. By Shakira Hussein.

    Dutton’s secret propaganda unit


    The email from Mustafa was friendly, cheerful and littered with signifiers of our shared Muslim identity.

    Opening with “Salam Alukum Shakira”, Mustafa introduced himself as the influence manager at Breakthrough Media, “a communications agency that prides itself on telling great stories to help address complex social issues”. Breakthrough, he told me, was planning to hold a Twitter training initiative in Sydney for “a diverse group of Australians, in particular Australian Muslims”.

    This event was “based on requests from members of the Australian Muslim community, who have advised us that a program that builds up the capacity of emerging and established leaders, especially on a platform such as Twitter, is a necessity in today’s political climate”. Given my “excellent academic background” and Twitter profile – “I’m one of your many Twitter followers hehe” – I was regarded as a “perfect fit” for this initiative. And not to worry, Breakthrough would pay for my flights from Melbourne.

    At first glance, Mustafa’s invitation sounded routine enough. However, Breakthrough Media is far from a routine presence on the landscape of Muslim community politics in Australia. The communications company’s relationship with the British Home Office has been the subject of lengthy investigative reports in The Guardian and by the advocacy organisation Cage, but its Australian branch has attracted little scrutiny since it was established in 2016.

    In deflecting attention away from critical voices and towards a supposed consensus of contentment, it serves a clear propaganda purpose.

    In Britain, The Guardian’s 2016 report noted that the Home Office used Breakthrough Media to “promote a reconciled British Muslim identity” while keeping its involvement hidden, as “any content or messaging attributed to the state are highly unlikely to have any credibility among these audiences”. The work was described as a series of “clandestine propaganda campaigns”. Young Muslims were commissioned to run a government line, without ever knowing it was the government commissioning them.

    My invitation to Breakthrough Media’s Twitter training event did not disclose any similar relationship with the Australian government. However, concealed in the eight-page registration survey Mustafa asked me to fill in, among the questions about dietary requirements and social media use, was a line saying the project was “a partnership between State and Federal governments, the Australian government’s Department of Home Affairs and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner”. Deep in the forms, it noted that the Countering Violent Extremism Sub-Committee, under the Australian New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee, “funds this project”.

    The survey asked respondents to confirm we were prepared to meet a list of expectations for participants in the “Voice Accelerator Workshop”, including that we were willing to be active on Twitter and attend the workshop, that we were “willing to assess opportunities, supported by Breakthrough, to participate in online discussions that align with your interests”, and that we share “the values of the project, which are: Courage, Participation, Diversity, Respect, Connection, Expression, Accuracy”. It asked that we “respect Breakthrough’s need to be politically neutral, while we respect everyone’s right to express their political opinion”. Wondering whether anyone would actually self-identify as being opposed to motherhood values such as courage and respect, I ticked “yes”.

    A few weeks later, I arrived at a harbour-side conference venue in Woolloomooloo. The 30-odd participants were seated at designated tables of four or five as Mustafa – a young man, smartly dressed in a suit and tie – introduced himself as our MC. He told us that others in the room included Muslim and non-Muslim sportspeople, academics and people who worked in the business and tech sectors, from Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney – all potential positive influencers. Mustafa was “a bit of an influencer” having built up a large Twitter following, posting about his favourite football team. He loved football, pasta, curry and sunsets on the beach. All food served on the day would of course be halal and prayer space was available.

    The overall theme of the day was that “divisive commentators” were having a negative effect on Australian society, that Muslims were bearing the brunt of this, and that it was important for voices like “ours” to be heard. With no mention of the fact the government funded this program, we were informed: “We know that Muslim communities are often the most overlooked or misrepresented in the online space. Governments alone cannot redirect these narratives, but they can support those who do so.”

    I recognised several familiar faces among the participants – Muslim academics, postgraduate students and community leaders. I was seated at a table with a middle-aged male Muslim academic and a young Muslim man wearing a football jersey. We had been told that we might be photographed or filmed at the workshop, and photographers and camera crews were discreetly visible in the background.

    In itself, most of the content presented at the workshop would not have been contentious for most Muslims living in Australia. Aside from a session from the adviser to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, the various presentations were led by external private providers and were probably similar to those provided to their corporate clients on media diversity, Twitter training, and resilience training. Yet I was left feeling deeply concerned by the workshop and by Breakthrough’s shadowy role in Australian public discourse.

    Just as the disclosure about the workshop’s funding had been hidden deep in the pre-workshop survey, we were also fleetingly told that “a representative of the federal government” was attending the workshop, without being told the name of the department concerned. After directly asking Breakthrough staff for more information, I was told that the representative – Fiona Crawford of the Department of Home Affairs – would be happy to answer my questions. Crawford is a former executive producer for ABC News, a former Liberal National Party staffer in Peter Dutton’s home state of Queensland and an unsuccessful LNP Queensland Senate candidate in the 2016 federal election. Her presence at the Voice Accelerator workshop and her background in media made me wonder just how closely Dutton’s Home Affairs department was working with Breakthrough in shaping its “positive social impact through communications”.

    Breakthrough’s work in both Australia and Britain forms part of the campaign to “counter violent extremism” – a contentious strategy that seeks to enlist community organisations, educational institutions, service providers and individuals in promoting a model of good citizenship to Muslims and isolating not only those individuals and organisations who are suspected of undertaking a criminal offence, but also those who are regarded as “at risk” of radicalisation and whose ideology is seen as aligning with extremism.

    One of Breakthrough’s most visible Australian projects is the social media channel RAPT. RAPT describes itself as “a social news channel that explores, discovers and celebrates the stories of young Australians from mainstream and multicultural communities”. The channel is produced by Breakthrough Media and says it “is built on successful partnerships between the Australian government, communities, civil society groups and individuals, taking a grassroots approach in assisting people to tell their stories, celebrate their achievements, and speak out against violence”.

    I realised when researching Breakthrough that several videos and memes from RAPT had appeared in my Facebook feed after being shared by friends who almost certainly were unaware of any connection to the Home Affairs Department. The content is lighthearted and feel-good and does not have any obvious political agenda. And yet in deflecting attention away from critical voices and towards a supposed consensus of contentment, it serves a clear propaganda purpose.

    One video features Yassmin Abdel-Magied talking about how to combat unconscious bias and “hustle a job”. It was made shortly before her appearance on ABC TV’s Q&A and the Anzac Day tweet that made her, in her own words, “the most hated Muslim in Australia”. Abdel-Magied confirms that Breakthrough approached her to produce the video but did not disclose its relationship with government.

    “They initially emailed and as they’d been given my name through someone I knew, I thought there was no harm in getting involved,” she told me. “I didn’t know that they were funded by government at all actually – they simply said they were ‘a social news channel that celebrates the diversity of the next generations of Australians and has a particular focus on strengthening the ties between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians’.

    “I was intrigued, but didn’t ask too many questions … They seemed nice, a bit vague about how they’d started or who they were, but seemed to have good intentions, which gave me some level of comfort. I don’t recall someone from government being there – at least, there was no one introduced like that.”

    Mustafa closed the day by telling us we could drop our lanyards into a bucket, to signal that we were willing to accept weekly packages of information in our various areas of interest. These areas were broken down as news and current affairs, sport, arts and culture, science and technology. The idea was that we would share this weekly information on social media and help to push out positive messages. Those messages, I now understand, would be the government line for Muslims. The ’80s power anthem “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” blasted through the speakers as we were sent out into the world to make our voices heard – or rather, to make Breakthrough’s voice heard.

    I chose “news and current affairs” as the topic for my information package. The first two weeks of content were remarkably apolitical. The focus of the first package was Ramadan, with a series of tweets from Muslims around the world, followed by a package on the British royal wedding and then a notification of the pending appearance by Randa Abdel-Fattah on that week’s episode of Q&A – which, we were reminded, was an important time of the week for any aspiring “influencers” to be online. The list of likely topics for discussion did not mention the United States embassy’s move to Jerusalem or the killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza.

    The workshop participants were repeatedly assured that our participation was voluntary, that we could withdraw at any point, and that we were under no obligation to share material unless we thought that it was worth endorsing. These reassurances seemed odd. It would not have occurred to me that I was under any obligation to share content from an organisation that was not employing me and with whom I had never had any contractual relationship.

    Of course, sharing this content is the point. As in Britain, Peter Dutton’s department is hoping to shape a unified voice for Good Muslims. This unified voice is propaganda.

    The Department of Home Affairs did not respond to The Saturday Paper’s questions about Breakthrough or the risk that concealing this contract poses to relations between the government and the Muslim community. A spokeswoman for the department offered a question rather than an answer: “When’s your absolute deadline?”

    https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2018/06/09/duttons-secret-propaganda-unit/15284664006349

  12. #329
    Junon's Avatar
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    Re: Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam

    Salaam

    Another update



    The story of British Pakistani men, told by a native informant

    BBC's 'Lost Boys?' is a lazy reproduction of racist, culturally essentialist stereotypes approved by an 'insider'.


    Two nights ago I found myself gripped by BBC Two's new, "Lost Boys? What's Going Wrong for Asian Men?" presented by Mehreen Baig. I was initially dubious that a one-hour documentary would be able to dissect the identity "Asian men" with much nuance, or to address them as multifaceted beings. I was also concerned about Mehreen's positionality as a presenter who gained her name through appearing in the reality show "Muslims Like Us", rather than for being an investigative journalist. But I was gripped because what I saw was much more disappointing than merely unnuanced or unrigorous, Lost Boys? was a lazy reproduction of racist, culturally essentialist stereotypes approved by an "insider".

    The "Asian men" the documentary focused on were specifically those of the Kashmiri, or "Mirpuri", diaspora in Bradford. This is a diaspora which has been historically demonised in the British media, as my family, based in Bradford for fifty-five years, well know. From representations of the 1988 "Rushdie affair" which internationally portrayed Bradford's Pakistani men as militant, fundamentalist and "backwards", to the 2001 riots blamed on their gang mentality, and post-7/7 narratives around Yorkshire's so-called "parallel communities" being linked to terrorism, Pakistani men in Bradford are a demographic consistently disparaged and demonised. To my mind, documenting them for TV would require a sensitive approach taking account of the history and context of their lives. However, the production team behind Lost Boys? appear to have thought otherwise.

    Indeed, the central problem with the documentary is that throughout an entire hour focused on a racialised, largely working-class, Muslim minority; questions of race, racism or class were never explicitly mentioned or interrogated in a structural way. Instead, a narrative was spun that approached the men as if they lived lives devoid of context. They were derided as "princelings" who were not business-minded enough to get very far in life - as contrasted with one random Gujerati family from Uganda who Mehreen has a pint with (proof they, as compared with the "Mirpuris", are better assimilated, by the way).

    I sat, awestruck that this laughable narrative was framed as an explanation for the challenges in "Asian men's" lives. There was no comment on the effects of structural disadvantage and racism in the employment market, racism and being "written off" at school, or the deindustrialisation of Bradford which has harmed employment for multiple generations. There was no mention of austerity having removed social services and support from young people's lives. No hint that intergenerational cycles of poverty may play a role. In fact, there was no appreciation that to compare the Ugandan-Gujerati diaspora with the Mirpuri diaspora is to disingenuously homogenise "Asians" and make a false comparison.

    Ugandan-Gujeratis largely migrated from different class backgrounds with more social capital than migrants from Kashmir who came to the UK specifically due to the colonial link and the metropole's calls for unskilled industrial labourers after the second world war. If this had been a rigorous investigation Swann Productions could have included these factors and further explored the fascinating pattern of resource divestment from young Pakistani boys since 2003 as part of the government's counterterrorism strategy which instead (bizarrely) funnelled money to Muslim/Asian girls (conflated in policy) on the assumption they were neglected. All of these factors were absent from the documentary in favour of an easy narrative of victim-blaming. In fact, Mehreen's reflections throughout the show insinuated that the solution to problems facing "Asian men" seemed to lie in making it down to the local pub more often and just thinking as if they had more social capital.

    What is perhaps even more frustrating than this absurdly reductive analysis, is that the documentary was evidently made with a hypothesis to be proved, not tested. After I tweeted about my frustrations with the show I received responses from two separate men who informed me that they had been filmed extensively for the production - only to find out recently that they had been dropped because, as the producers told them, their lives reflected "what's going right", not "what's going wrong".
    Last edited by Junon; 19 Hours Ago at 09:19 PM.

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  14. #330
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    Re: Syria, Gaza and the Criminalisation of Islam

    Salaam

    Continued

    These experiences reveal the human side of the selective narrative Lost Boys? presented. Far from being rigorous, it was an investigation presenting an argument, not findings. By erasing stories of financial success, educational attainment or defeating the structural odds, participants were disrespected and a selective story was told which is lazy at best, and exploitative at worst - bringing me to my final grievance.

    The topic of how Mehreen conducted her investigation was the issue of most frustration to the hundreds who liked and retweeted my critique online. She distances herself as much as possible from other British-Pakistanis, particularly the working-class Mirpuris she finds in Bradford - whose terraced housing she incredulously comments on as "so close together" - positioning herself as someone with less proximity to the community she is investigating, and more to a middle-class, white voyeur.

    This explains the often patronising anthropological tone she uses in the documentary which is reminiscent of ethnographers exploring "native" subjects 150 years ago. Crucially though, while occupying this "outsider" position makes her relatable to an audience with no personal experience of being Pakistani in Bradford, Mehreen simultaneously reaps the rewards of being an ethnic "insider". She gains the trust of participants and viewers because of this, making her findings - which reproduce racist, classist tropes vilifying Pakistani men - appear valid to a wider audience. In colonial times, people positioned in this way were known as "native informants" - used to validate the dehumanising views the coloniser already held. In this case, Mehreen's positionality helps bolster liberal racism and Islamophobic tropes about Pakistani men as lazy and uniquely misogynistic (she repeatedly asks whether the women in these men's lives cook for them to the point that one would assume non-Pakistani men in England must never benefit from patriarchal norms and women's domestic labour).

    By the end of the show, it was not the boys who were lost, but me. I cannot fathom what the documentary achieved other than to consolidate racist, victim-blaming accounts of Pakistani men in Yorkshire. Such an outcome is not only disappointing but actually harmful since those very tropes are ones used to justify the maltreatment of Pakistani and Muslim men in the justice system, demonise them in the media, and even inform the "science" behind the government's radicalisation thesis which rests on culturalist assumptions that have been deemed barely valid by the psychologists who wrote the study themselves. And yet, it is the mass belief in tropes such as this documentary put out that keep the stigma, racism and Islamophobia, going.

    This documentary should have been presented as the opinion piece of an uninformed outsider arriving to Bradford with only the knowledge of media tropes as reference. A rigorous insight would actually give the mic to "Asian boys" to speak on their own terms, accept contradictory viewpoints, investigate the context and history, and question the role of masculinity among young men more generally. But unfortunately, yet again, Bradford's boys have been spoken over, tokenised and disparaged in the name of giving a green light to white liberals that racism, cultural essentialism and stereotyping have been thumbed-up by an "insider".

    https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/story-british-pakistani-men-told-native-informant-180816085534623.html

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