Dangerous Sectarianism in the UK

BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS 

ENGAGE, a website headed by Mohammed Ali Harrath, who is the subject of an Interpol red notice for alleged terrorist activity, was set up in order to supposedly monitor anti Muslim activity.  Yesterday, it launched an attack on a section of the British Ahmadiyya community.

ENGAGE appears to be run by Inayat Bunglawala, a member of the disgraced and illegitimate Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which still refuses to condemn a statement in support of jihad against Israel that was endorsed by their deputy secretary general.  Bunglawala seems to do most of the writing on the site; he recently wrote a piece for Comment is Free which included a number of paragraphs that were copy and pasted from an ENGAGE piece of the previous day.  

The ENGAGE website is devoted mainly to attacking newspapers that run what they see as anti-Muslim stories, often decrying the media, which they suggest is too often unduly pro-Jewish or Zionist.  This should be familiar territory for anyone who follows Islamist activity in the UK.

On their site, ENGAGE ask: “Tired of seeing Muslims vilified in the British Press?”, arrogantly presenting themselves up as the upholders of justice and defenders of Muslims.  Not only do they regularly vilify Muslims who don’t agree with them, (they have repeatedly attacked my co-blogger Shiraz Maher, who, although they may disagree, is in fact a Muslim) they have now begun attacking those who dare to define themselves as such.

Yesterday the ENGAGE site ran a piece entitled Can you guess which ‘Muslim’ group congratulated BNP MEP Andrew Brons on his victory? The author claims that the President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat in Sheffield, Mohsin Abbas Rizwi, sent a letter of congratulations to Andrew Brons for winning a seat in the European Parliament.  The only source for this, which ENGAGE seem more than happy to rely on, is Andrew Brons’ official website, although it does not provide a copy of the letter. 

Thus we see a supposed anti-bigotry group using a Nazi’s website to attack a religious minority which they have the audacity to refer to as ‘Muslim’ only in inverted commas.  The validity of Brons’ claim is yet to be verified, but it is telling that ENGAGE are more than willing to take the word of the BNP at face value if it means that they can use it to attack the British Ahmadiyya community.

The ENGAGE article ends with the following statement:

Readers will not be surprised that the Ahmadiyya are unanimously regarded as a non-Muslim sect by all the main Islamic schools of thought across the world.

This is in fact true, but what positive gains could ENGAGE possibly offer to community relations when they tell entire groups of people that they are not Muslims even if they clearly define themselves as such?  In the past, Bunglawala has repeatedly taken issue with anyone who dares to suggest that Ahmadis are Muslim or that there are a significant number of them worldwide.

Some have taken this a step further, using it as a justification for persecution and violence against the Ahmadis.  In Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Jamaat e-Islami (with which the MCB has very close and unashamed links) have been responsible for the violent persecution of Ahmadis for decades, and according to Human Rights Watch:

The Jamaat-e-Islami…do not recognize the Ahmadis as Muslims and have been involved in fomenting religious violence against them and other religious minorities.

As we can see, this type of sectarianism can often enter very dangerous territory and has absolutely no place in the UK, a country which proudly allows all Islamic sects freedom to practice their religion in whatever peaceful way they see fit.  For ENGAGE not to recognise the sensitivities surrounding the denial of Ahmadi’s their right to call themselves Muslim calls into question their integrity and effectiveness as an anti-bigotry organisation.

UPDATE 8/4/2010

According to news reports, Harrath has now been removed from the Interpol Red Notice list.

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