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The United Kingdom is a European hub for numerous forms of Islamist activity, ranging from violent jihadist terrorist cells to “soft power” Islamists.1 The threat from jihadist terrorists is widely recognized and accepted by both government and civil society in Britain; however, there remains relatively little interest in non-violent Islamists, who hold significant power and influence. While politicians from across the mainstream political spectrum are largely in agreement about the threat faced by terrorism, there is little consensus on how to deal with political Islamism and what role, if any, it should play in countering extremism and terrorism.

Islamist groups in Britain have tried to position themselves as the gatekeepers of British Muslims, claiming to represent everything from their political opinions to their views on halal meat products. These organizations assert that they alone have the credibility to convince young British Muslims to turn their backs on violence, and to instead involve themselves in the political process. These groups have often been insufficiently stringent in condemning Islamist extremism, arguing that terrorism is often a response to government policy and speaking out in support of a variety of extremist movements and individuals. 

Level of Islamist Activity: 
Low
Islamist Activity: 

British Islamists fall into four fluid and often overlapping categories. The groups from these different categories agree on many issues, particularly on the need to withdraw foreign troops from what they describe as “Muslim lands” and the central role that sharia law should play in the lives of all Muslims. The major differences often surround issues such as participation in the democratic process and the legitimacy and necessity of violent jihad.

The Muslim Brotherhood/Jamaat-e-Islami nexus
Although these movements originate from different countries, British manifestations of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and South Asia’s Jamaat-e-Islami are closely aligned in ideological and strategic terms. While they represent only a small minority of British Muslims, groups aligned with these movements are among the best organized and funded of any British Islamic groups. 

French Muslim Brotherhood specialist Brigitte Marechal has described how the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe continues to promote Islam as an all-encompassing framework which "suggests that Islam should be understood as a complete system that concerns state and nation, beliefs and legislation, cult and behavior, and the social, political and historical."2 This all-encompassing ideology, which Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna referred to as shumuliyyat al-Islam, is one of the driving forces for jihadist terrorists who are currently trying to enforce their interpretation of sharia in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and numerous other fronts. 

The intention of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain is to peacefully promote the shumuliyyat al-Islam in the hope that it will gradually initiate a reform of society along Islamist lines. Using front groups such as those described below, the organization disseminates its ideology among British Muslims by organizing events and lectures. It has subsequently seen some success in creating culturally and nationally transcendent, “ummah-centric” mindsets, whereby young Muslims feel a greater affinity with fellow Muslims around the globe than with their non-Muslim fellow citizens. 

Similarly, the British Jamaat (established in the U.K. before the Muslim Brotherhood), are followers of the group’s founder, Sayyid Abul A’ala Maududi, and propagate a form of comprehensive Islamic identity through their own set of organizations. Due to their close ideological affinity, the two have effectively formed a partnership: the Jamaat, with its roots in Pakistan and Bangladesh, has more appeal to British South Asian Muslims, while the Arab origins of the Muslim Brotherhood give it more traction with British Arabs and North Africans. The main method through which the soft Islamist mission is carried out in Europe is da’wah (prosletyzing), whereby Islamist objectives are pursued through missionary and ideological programs. 

The main British Muslim Brotherhood institutions and organizations include:
The Muslim Welfare House (MWH). Founded as a charity in 1970 with the original aim of assisting foreign Muslim students in Britain, the MWH gradually became one of the central Muslim Brotherhood bodies in the country. It now acts as both a mosque and a community center, and despite its relatively low public profile wields significant influence over the national direction of the movement. The Muslim Brotherhood’s connections with the MWH are extensive: until 2007, of the five registered owners and trustees of the MWH, three were also directors of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), the Brotherhood's other, more publically active, representative in the United Kingdom.3 Among the owners were Mohammed Sawalha, (see below), and Abdel Shaheed el-Ashaal, referred to by the Muslim Brotherhood magazine Islamism Digest as a “senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood.”4 Until 2000, el-Ashaal was the company secretary for the Hassan al-Banna Foundation, one of the stated aims of which was "to give a correct image of the thoughts, ideology and life of Imam Shaheed Hassan el-Banna."5 In 2007, all five trustees were replaced, and at least two of their successors—Wanis al-Mabrouk6 and Hany Eldeeb7 —also hold positions within the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) or one of its affiliates. The FIOE is the Muslim Brotherhood’s European umbrella organization which loosely connects all of the group’s European front organizations.8  

The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB). The MAB is the main British representative of the Muslim Brotherhood global network. It was set up in 19979 by Kemal el-Helbawy, then the Muslim Brotherhood’s official spokesman in Europe.10 It has been described by scholars Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank as “a Muslim Brotherhood group”11 and is also the official British representative of the FIOE.12 The MAB is primarily a political activist organization, which promotes Islamist political thought among British Muslims. According to its website, the MAB “attempts to fill in the gap in terms of Islamic Dawah work in Britain where the call for a comprehensive Islam that encompasses all aspects of life is lacking.”13 This comprehensive Islam is precisely the vision set out in the above mentioned shumuliyyat al-Islam as envisioned by Hassan al-Banna.

The British Muslim Initiative (BMI). Founded as a limited company in 2006, the BMI is an offshoot of the MAB, and was founded by Mohammed Sawalha, who serves as the organization’s president and has been described by the BBC as a ‘fugitive Hamas commander’.14 Its main spokesman is former MAB director Anas al-Tikriti. Since its inception, it has taken on much of the MAB’s political activism (and, like the MAB, also has a close alliance with the Stop the War Coalition).15 

The Cordoba Foundation (TCF). TCF was founded as a limited company in 2005 by Anas al-Tikriti, who is also the group’s CEO.16 In 2008, the then-head of the Conservative Party (and current British Prime Minister) David Cameron, identified TCF as a “front for the Muslim Brotherhood” and claimed that “even the most basic research would reveal that the Cordoba Foundation has close connections to people with extremist views, including Azzam Tamimi, the UK representative of Hamas.”17 The role of TCF differs slightly from that of other British Muslim Brotherhood groups in that it describes itself as an “independent research and Public Relations organization.”18 Although it also takes part in political Islamist activism, TCF styles itself as an Islamist think-tank which, among other things, publishes a quarterly journal, Arches Quarterly, featuring a mix of prominent Islamist thinkers and non-Muslim academics sympathetic to their cause. Through its academic and research based approach, TCF seeks to further sanitize and mainstream the Islamist ideology. 

The North London Central Mosque (NLCM). Also known as the Finsbury Park Mosque, the NLCM was founded in 1988 as a charity. In the 1990s it developed into a center for terrorism recruitment and facilitation under the leadership of the jihadist preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri, whose followers included “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and a suspected twentieth 9/11 hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui. In early 2005, Abu Hamza was removed from the NLCM, and it was taken over by a new management committee made up of senior members of the British Muslim Brotherhood.19 Its five trustees—Mohamed Kozbar, Mohamed Sawalha, Ahmed Sheikh Mohammed (Treasurer), Abdel Shaheed El-Ashaal (Chairman) and Hafez al-Karmi20 —were, until 2007, the registered owners of the MWH. In addition, all of the NLCM trustees apart from al-Karmi were also former directors of the MAB. After the takeover, MAB founder Kemal el-Helbawy acted as the mosque’s spokesman for a brief period.21 In 2007, the NLCM received £20,000 from the government’s Preventing Violent Extremism fund, a grassroots initiative designed to fund moderate Muslim organizations to help prevent young British Muslims from falling prey to extremism.22 

The main Jamaat-e-Islami organizations and institutes in Britain include:
The UK Islamic Mission (UKIM). The UKIM was established in 1962 as an official offshoot of the Jamaat-e-Islami, with the express goal of establishing the party and its ideology as a major political and social force.23 With around forty branches, over thirty-five mosques and numerous Islamic schools all across the country, it is the biggest single Islamist organization in Britain.24 Since its inception, the UKIM has used its considerable financial resources to promote Islam in Britain as “a comprehensive way of life which must be translated into action in all spheres of human life” with the eventual aim of “moulding the entire human life in accordance with Allah’s will” and creating an “Islamic social order in the United Kingdom in order to seek the pleasure of Allah.”25 The UKIM continues to disseminate the works of Maududi as well as those of senior Muslim Brotherhood figures such as Jamal Badawi.26  

The Islamic Foundation (IF). Founded in 1973, the Islamic Foundation (IF) was set up as the official research institute of the burgeoning Jamaat network in Britain and is the main publisher and translator of Maududi’s works in the country. It is based on a ten-acre campus in Leicester and runs classes and research projects focused on spreading Islamist ideology. In 2000, the IF established the Markfield Institute of Higher Education, which offers postgraduate degrees in Islamic studies and is a crucial center through which IF develops the Jamaat’s political ideas.27 Islam scholar Gilles Kepel has referred to the IF as “one of the most important centres for the propagation of militant Sunni Islamist thinking in the world,” also noting that much of its work is in English, which reflects their attempts to “challenge Western cultural hegemony (whether ‘secular’ or ‘Christian’) on its own linguistic territory.”28 The IF is also known to be a key facilitator of the close relationship between the British Jamaat and Muslim Brotherhood.

The East London Mosque (ELM). Founded in 1985, the ELM is, according to a 2009 British government report, “the key institution for the Bangladeshi wing of JI [Jamaat-e-Islami] in the UK.”29 The Mosque has been at the centre of numerous controversies ranging from their regular hosting of extremist speakers, to their attempts to manipulate the British political system in order to advance their Islamist agenda. In 2003-2004, the Mosque claims to have received £2.4 million in public funds,30 and in the years 2007-2009 the ELM has received nearly £35,000 from the government’s Preventing Violent Extremism fund.31 The ELM twice (in 200332  and again in 200933) played host to al-Qaeda’s American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, spiritual mentor of failed Christmas Day bomber Abdel Farouk Abdulmuttalab and who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in September 2011. 

The Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE). The IFE is a subsidiary organization of the ELM, based within the Mosque’s complex. In keeping with the Jamaat’s mission of promoting the all-encompassing Islamist identity, its mission statements proclaims that “Islam offers a comprehensive system and the challenge to us all is to learn and embody the teachings of Islam and convey them to others in a wise, sensible and beautiful manner,” and that the group “helps to enable individuals to learn and apply the basic tools required to achieve this within a collective framework helping to develop the Muslim community and benefit the wider society.”34 The primary mission of the IFE is to train young Muslims in da’wah, so that future generations can continue to propagate the movement’s message. A six-month investigation by Channel 4 and the Daily Telegraph into the IFE and ELM, which culminated in a 2010 documentary, uncovered a detailed Islamist indoctrination program based on the teachings of Maududi. Among the discoveries was the transcript of 2009 IFE recruit training course which told new members that its goal was “to create the True Believer, to then mobilise those believers into an organised force for change who will carry out dawah, hisbah [enforcement of Islamic law] and jihad. This will lead to social change and iqamatud-Deen [Islamic social, economic and political order].”35 

Muslim political organizations
Campaigning and lobbying is an important element of the British soft Islamist strategy. Presenting themselves as representatives of the rights of persecuted Muslims, Islamists have acquired significant support and large media profiles, often appearing as the voice of British Muslims on television and in newspapers. 

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). In the years following the Satanic Verses affair,36 the British government saw the need for a single umbrella body that could represent the political and social views of British Muslims. This lead to the creation of the MCB in 1997, headed by Iqbal Sacranie, one of the most vocal critics of the novelist Salman Rushdie and his book.37 The MCB expanded rapidly, and eventually claimed to have around 400 Muslim and community groups under is aegis, including the MAB, IFE and ELM. Despite a seemingly wide range of voices within the MCB, the leadership was, and remains, almost exclusively Islamist, taking its ideological cue from Maududi’s teachings in particular.38 After the 7/7 London bombings, the MCB took center stage as the government’s main advisors on extremism and radicalization and used this influential position as an opportunity to attempt to effect real change in the government’s foreign policy. Following the attacks, the MCB issued an open letter to the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, imploring him to change government policy so as to prevent any future attacks.39 Their approach to domestic policy is centered on the belief that soft Islamists such as themselves are the strongest bulwark against al-Qaeda as they can use their supposed credibility among vulnerable British Muslims to prevent them from turning to violence. As part of this approach, the MCB remain among the staunchest defenders and supporters of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and a global advocate of this bulwark theory. In 2008, when he was denied a visa to enter Britain on national security grounds, the MCB, along with the BMI, were openly critical of the government’s decision.40  

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS). Based in North London, FOSIS was established in 1962 as a joint venture of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami, acting as the student wing of both of these groups. A 2009 government report on influential Islamic organizations notes that “the Jamaat-e Islami (JI) along with the Muslim Brotherhood were pioneers in developing student activism through the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS).”41  To this day, FOSIS remains a vehicle for Islamist activism, and coordinates the ideological direction of dozens of British university Islamic societies. It claims to represent over 90,000 students and its events have featured leading British as well as international Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami figures including Anas al-Tikriti,42  Rashid El Ghannouchi,43  Azzam Tamimi,44  Dr. Muhammed Abdul Bari45  and Jamal Badawi.46  

The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). The IHRC is a Khomeinist Islamist organization founded in London in 1997. According to its mission statement, the organization aims to “promote a new social and international order, based on truth, justice, righteousness and generosity, rather than selfish interest.”47  Its definition of human rights is couched in Islamist terminology and IHRC co-founder and current chair, Massoud Shadjareh, has described how a lack of Islamic human rights is why “the enemies of Islam are able to plunder, kill and rape Muslims, and deny the most basic rights of Muslims even in Britain today.” His suggested solution is “to promote Islam and the justice of Islam as a means of salvation for the whole world.”48  Shadjareh, the co-founder of the IHRC, is also a vocal supporter of Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist group Hezbollah.49 Under Shadjareh, the IHRC holds the annual “al-Quds day,” an event which was originally instituted by Ayatollah Khomeini. During the march through central London, protesters wave Hezbollah flags and chant anti-Israel slogans.50 Some of the IHRC’s campaigns are in support of convicted jihadists, who are often presented as victims of anti-Muslim government legislation. In 2006, for example, the IHRC campaigned for jihadist recruiter Abu Hamza al-Masri, who in 2006 was convicted of inciting murder and stirring up racial hatred, and was recently extradited to the United States to face terrorism charges.51  

Cageprisoners (CP). CP was founded as a limited company in 2003 by former Guantanamo Bay inmate Moazzam Begg to “raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror.”52  CP presents all terrorist prisoners as victims rather than aggressors and campaigns for leading jihadists. Between 2006 to 2009, one of CP’s main causes célèbres was Anwar al-Awlaki, whose work they promoted on their website.53  “Defensive jihad” is for CP a central and undeniable tenet of Islam. Indeed, CP founder Moazzam Begg has written that, “By consensus of the Islamic schools of thought, jihad becomes an individual obligation, like prayer and fasting, on Muslim men and women when their land is occupied by foreign enemies.” He continues by arguing that the obligation to take part in jihad “extends to neighbouring lands until the enemy has been expelled.”54  

Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPACUK). MPACUK was founded in 2002, in the aftermath of Israel’s invasion of the West Bank. As a political lobbyist group with a strongly anti-Zionist outlook, it urges Muslims to become politically active along purely sectarian, Islamist lines, and organizes campaigns against what they perceive as pro-Israel politicians. Referring to themselves as mujahids (holy warriors), MPACUK members see their actions as a form of jihad against the marginalization and disenfranchisement of Muslims.55  During the 2010 British General Election, the group organized the “Operation Muslim Vote” campaign, which involved MPACUK activists mobilizing Muslims to vote against “several pro-Zionist war mongering MPs.”56 

Democratic Rejectionists
Unlike the groups profiled above, which have developed a utilitarian approach to democracy, this category of British Islamists rejects any form of participation in the political process. While they acknowledge that other Islamists are gaining influence through their successful manipulation of the system, democracy is still seen as an unacceptable concession. For these organizations, taking part in the current secular democratic system is a form of shirk (polytheism) that acknowledges laws that are above those of God. Although they differ from Salafi jihadists on issues such as when and where violence is legitimate in order to establish an Islamic state, their stance on secular democracy is almost indistinguishable from that of al-Qaeda.

Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT). HuT is a worldwide revolutionary Islamist political party with a political interpretation of Islam inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood that works toward the re-creation of the Caliphate in the Middle East as an aggressive, expansionist entity that will eventually encompass the entire globe, thus uniting the global umma (community of Muslim faithful).57 The fundamental differences between the British wings of HuT and the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat are tactical, not strategic—they share the same goal of creating an Islamic caliphate but disagree on what is the most effective way to do so. HuT also claims to be non-violent, and the party currently pursues a grassroots strategy which recruits a core of loyal members who work to implant Islamist ideology within British Muslims, preparing them for the country’s eventual annexation by the Caliphate after they have succeeded in its re-establishment in the Middle East.58 HuT’s recruitment and indoctrination program is often pursued through numerous front organizations based in the heart of major British Muslim communities as well as universities, which organize discussions and other events featuring leading members of the group presenting their ideology as the only true form of Islam. HuT’s support for overseas terrorism in the “defensive jihads” in Iraq, Israel and Afghanistan and their views on Jews and homosexuals have led them to be banned from appearing on British campuses by the National Union of Students.59 In addition, senior politicians from both major British political parties, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair and current Prime Minister David Cameron, have pledged to ban the group under anti-terrorism legislation. However, this has yet to materialize.60 

Al-Muhajiroun (ALM). ALM was founded in 1996 as a direct offshoot of HuT by the former leader of HuT in Britain, Omar Bakri Mohammed.61 Mohammed split from HuT due to a dispute with the party’s hierarchy: Bakri wanted the party to change tactics and concentrate on establishing an Islamic state in Britain rather than re-creating the Caliphate in the Middle East. He therefore formed ALM with the aim of creating a cadre of activist Muslims who campaigned for the immediate creation of an Islamic state in Britain. Since its creation, ALM has also supported “defensive jihad” in Israel, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Iraq.62 The group has campaigned and organized marches on various issues, including a number of anti-voting initiatives, and was one of the main driving forces behind the mass protests in London against the Danish Mohammed cartoons in 2004.63 The group was officially disbanded in 2004 to avoid proscription, though it continued to hold meetings in Islamic centers around the country. After the 7/7 London bombings, Bakri fled the country, handing over the leadership to his deputy, Anjem Choudhary. In 2005, ALM regrouped under the banner of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah, and later formed two more offshoots, al-Ghuraaba and Saved Sect, both of which were banned in 2006 for glorifying acts of terrorism.64 Despite the bans, Choudhary and his followers were still able to operate as Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah, which was never banned, and in 2008 they began working under the name of Islam4UK. A year later, they announced the re-launch of al-Muhajiroun.65 The entire movement was ultimately banned by the government in January 2010.66 However, this has not stopped the group continuing to organize public meetings under a variety of pseudonyms. 

“Homegrown” jihadist terrorists
Since the 7/7 attacks, the specter of British “homegrown” terrorism has remained a central concern for the country’s security services. Numerous plots, including many in the final stages of planning, have either failed or been prevented from occurring since 9/11. The majority of those convicted on terrorism charges are British citizens, many of Pakistani origin. Between 1999 and 2010, British Pakistanis or Pakistani nationals were responsible for over a quarter of all Islamist-related offences in Britain.67 

In May 2013, Britain suffered its first domestic fatality to Islamist terrorism since 7/7. Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in the streets of London by two British extremists, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. Adebolajo had unsuccessfully attempted to join up with al-Shabaab, the Somali terrorist group, in 2010, and was also known to have spent time within the ALM network in the U.K.

Islamism and Society: 

According to the last official estimates, taken from the country’s 2011 Census, Britain has a Muslim population of 2.7 million (4.8 percent of the overall population), making them the second largest religious group in the country, after Christians.68  

It is difficult to gauge the exact level of support for Islamist groups among Muslims in Britain, though a number of polls have tried to assess the level of support British Muslims have both for specific British Islamist groups, as well as certain aspects of Islamism (such the establishment of sharia law and violence in the name of Islam). In 2005, the polling company Populus asked British Muslims about their views on a number of British Islamist organizations. Twenty-five percent of respondents in that survey claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood/Jamaat e-Islami-aligned Muslim Council of Britain “absolutely” or “broadly” represented their views, and 19 percent made the same claim about the Muslim Association of Britain, one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s main representatives in the country.69 

On British Muslim views regarding certain aspects of Islamism, a poll commissioned by the think tank Policy Exchange in 2007, and carried out by Populus, found that 36 percent of 16-to-24-year-old British Muslims believed the death penalty should apply to Muslims who change their religion, compared to 19 percent of Muslims over 55. It also found that 59 percent of British Muslims were happy to live under British law, with 28 percent preferring some form of sharia law.70 Of the 16-to-24-year-olds, 37 percent preferred sharia, whereas among the over 55s this number was only 17 percent. 

On the specific issue of support for al-Qaeda, the poll found that seven percent of British Muslims “admire” the group and others like it, and that 13 percent of 16-to-24-year-olds agreed with the statement that al-Qaeda and its affiliates are worthy of admiration because they fight the West. This was compared with only three percent of those surveyed over 55 who shared the same view. These, and other figures like them, indicate that the younger generation of British Muslims have stronger sympathies for elements of radical Islam than their parents, consistent with similar assessments that have been made by other analysts.71  

British Islamist groups are regularly discussed in the mainstream media, often in controversial circumstances. For example, after the deputy secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, Daud Abdullah, signed a statement in support of violent jihad against Israel (see section below for more), it was covered across a range of different newspapers and media outlets.72 In addition, Hazel Blears MP, the government secretary who liaised with the Council, and Daud Abdullah both published articles stating their respective positions.73  

There is a significant element of Islamist influence in important areas of civic life. The head of the Muslim Council of Britain and Chairman of the East London Mosque (which, as mentioned earlier, twice hosted al-Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki), Dr. Muhammed Abdul Bari, sat on the panel for a University College London inquiry into the radicalization of their student, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab,74 who on Christmas Day 2009 attempted to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear on a plane over Detroit. Considering that Anwar al-Awlaki is widely regarded as a major inspiration for Abdulmutallab’s actions, Dr. Bari’s involvement in the inquiry was seen by some as inappropriate.75  

Islamism and the State: 

Since the July 2005 London terror attacks, the relationship between the British state and national Islamist groups has been characterized by inconsistency. The government’s current counterterrorism strategy, dubbed CONTEST, is split into four parts: Pursue, Protect, Prepare and Prevent. The first three of these priorities are straightforward, hard power methods to be implemented by the security services. However the fourth—Prevent, also known as Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) —is a new and unique approach, which is implemented through the Home Office. 

Designed with the intention of applying measures which could mitigate the influence and effect of “violent extremists,” its primary function was to act as a fund for local community organizations that pledged to tackle radicalization on a grassroots level. Between 2006 and 2009, the Prevent fund distributed around £12 million to hundreds of organizations around the country, and quickly began to court controversy.76 Soon after the fund began, there were revelations that a number of Islamist organizations were in receipt of Prevent funds despite their involvement in extremist activity. 

In 2008, for example, it was reported that the aforementioned Cordoba Foundation, while in receipt of Prevent funds, organized an event entitled “Has Political Participation Failed British Muslims?” which included on its panel Abdul Wahid, the Chairman of the British wing of Hizb ut-Tahrir. The predominantly Muslim audience voted against political participation at the end of the debate.77 

The issue of the previous Labour government’s dealings with Islamist groups came to a head in early 2009, when the Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Daud Abdullah, was a signatory (along with Mohammed Sawalha of the Muslim Association of Britain) to what became known as the “Istanbul Statement,” a conference document of unequivocal support for violent jihad against Israel.78  

At the time, the MCB was a governmental partner on Prevent, and the then-Secretary for the DCLG, Hazel Blears, warned the MCB that Abdullah must either resign or the government would sever all ties with them. It should be noted here that in her implementation of Prevent, Blears believed that preventing terrorism was more than just an issue for the security services—it was also a societal concern. She identified that one of the roots of terrorism lay in ideological inspiration, and recognized that the Islamist ideology which inspired terrorists went against all the most basic values of British society. Thus, she pursued a values based approach, whereby Prevent would only engage with organizations with so called “shared values.” 

It is this attitude which led to Blears’ demand, to which the MCB responded by portraying Blears’ request as an attempt to exercise control over an independent Muslim body, refusing to back down. Blears subsequently cut ties with the MCB. Months later, however, Blears was replaced by John Denham, a minister with a more sympathetic view toward the MCB, and they were brought back into the fold shortly thereafter.79  

Since the Labour party lost power to a Liberal Democrat/Conservative Party coalition in May 2010, the new government’s stance on the ideology of political Islamist groups such as the MCB shifted.

The new government’s thorough review into the Prevent strategy led to it being recalibrated in 2011. Describing the Prevent program run by the Labour government as ‘flawed’, the Conservative/Liberal coalition government outlined its intent to confront extremist ideology, not just its violent manifestations. Organizations that did not adhere to a belief in equality before the law, democracy and human rights would not be engaged with by the government, and nor would they be funded.80 

However, implementation of this policy faces challenges from within reluctant elements of the civil service. For example, in June 2010, Home Secretary Teresa May banned Zakir Naik – an Indian cleric who had praised Osama bin Laden and said that “every Muslim should be a terrorist” – from entering the U.K. on the grounds that his presence would not be conducive to the public good. However, Charles Farr, the Director of the Office of Security and Counter Terrorism, attempted to undermine this policy and (ultimately unsuccessfully) facilitate Naik’s entrance into the U.K.81 This disparity between government policy and civil service execution remains an ongoing problem.

Citations: 

[1] The term “soft Islamist” will be used throughout this entry to refer to Islamist groups that use “soft power” in pursuit of their goals, in particular the two main revivalist organizations: the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaat-e-Islami.
[2] Brigitte Maréchal, “Universal Aspirations: The Muslim Brotherhood In Europe,” International Institute for the Study of the Muslim World ISIM Review no.22, Autumn 2008, 36-37.
[3] UK Land Registry, Title Number: NGL700045.
[4] “Six Decades of Repression: An Interview With Adbel Shaheed al-Ashaal,” St. Andrews University Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence Islamism Digest, February 2007.
[5] Hassan al-Banna Foundation Certificate of Incorporation as a Limited Company, Companies House, February 11, 1997.
[6] Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, “President Of The Federation And Head Of The Assembly Of Islamic Imams Meet President Of The Commission And European Parliament President,” n.d., http://www.euro-muslim.com/En_u_news_Details.aspx?News_ID=214.  
[7] “EU Muslim Converts Sharing Experiences,” IslamOnline, April 12, 2009, http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1237706102893&pagename=Zone-English-Euro_Muslims%2FEMELayout.
[8] Maréchal, “Universal Aspirations.”
[9] It is unclear if it was originally set up as a limited company. Official company records for the MAB only date back to 1999.
[10] “Kemal El-Helbawy CV,” n.d., http://www.khelbawy.com/about.html.
[11] Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, “The Unraveling: The Jihadist Revolt Against Al-Qaeda,” The New Republic, June 11, 2008.
[12] Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, “FIOE Organisations,” n.d., http://www.euromuslim.com/En_u_Foundation_Details.aspx?News_ID=211
[13] Cited on the official website of the MAB, www.mabonline.net.
[14] Mohammed Sawalha is the central figure of all Muslim Brotherhood activity in Britain, and in 2006 was described by the BBC’s Panorama program as “the most influential Muslim Brother in Britain today.” See “Faith, Hate And Charity,” BBC Panorama, July 28, 2006.
[15] Richard Phillips, “Standing Together: The Muslim Association Of Britain And The Anti-War Movement,” Institute of Race Relations Race and Class 50, no. 2 (2008), 101–113.
[16] 2008 Appointments Report for The Cordoba Foundation LTD, Companies House.
[17] David Cameron speech delivered at the Community Security Trust in London, 4 March 2008
[18] The Cordoba Foundation, “About us,” n.d., http://www.thecordobafoundation.com/about_us.php.
[19] “The Battle For The Mosque,” BBC News, February 7, 2006.
[20] NLCM press release, “New Era For North London Central Mosque,” February 5, 2005.
[21] Bergen and Cruickshank, “The Unraveling.”
[22] Taxpayers’ Alliance, “Council Spending Uncovered II, No.5: The Prevent Strategy,” September 8, 2009.
[23] Michael Whine, “The Penetration of Islamist Ideology in Britain,” Hudson Institute Current Trends in Islamist Ideology 1, May 2005.
[24] According to the official website of UKIM, www.ukim.org.
[25] UKIM, “Introduction,” n.d., as cited in Giles Kepel, Allah in the West: Islamic Movements in America and Europe (Oxford: Polity Press, 1997).
[26] UKIM, “UK Islamic Mission Dawah: Resource To Online Islamic Books & Articles,” n.d., http://www.ukim.org/webpages/Dawah.aspx.
[27] Sayyed Vali Resa Nasr, The Vanguard Of The Islamic Revolution: Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).
[28] Kepel, Allah in the West.
[29] Department for Communities and Local Government, “The Pakistani Muslim Community In England,” March 2009; For more on ELM connections with the Jamaat-e-Islami, also see Delwar Hussain, “Bangladeshis In East London: From Secular Politics To Islam,” Open Democracy, July 6, 2006, http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-protest/bangladeshi_3715.jsp.
[30] ELM press release, “Exposing Dispatches,” n.d., http://www.eastlondonmosque.org.uk/uploadedImage/pdf/2010_03_15_17_14_22_ELM_dispatches_response.pdf. [31] Tax Payers’ Alliance, “Council Spending Uncovered II, No.5: The Prevent Strategy,” September 8, 2009.
[32] Audio of Awlaki’s speech at the ELM is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyCf25XujkM&feature=youtube_gdata.
[33] Gordon Rayner, “Muslim Groups ‘Linked To September 11 Hijackers Spark Fury Over Conference,’” Daily Telegraph (London), December 27, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3966501/Muslim-groups-linked-to-September-11-hijackers-spark-fury-over-conference.html; “Councillor Slams Muslim Lecture ‘New York In flames’ Poster,” East London Advertiser, December 31, 2008.
[34] IFE, “Islamic Forum Of Europe: Responding To The Call,” n.d., http://www.islamicforumeurope.com/live/ife.php?doc=intro.
[35] Andrew Gilligan, “IFE: Not Harmless Democrats,” Guardian (London), March 4, 2010.
[36] After novelist Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses in 1988, there were widespread protests and riots by Muslims in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia who considered the content of the book blasphemous and insulting to the Prophet Mohammed. This culminated in the issuing of a fatwa by the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in February 1989, which called on Muslims to kill the author in the name of Islam and Mohammed. This saga is widely seen as a watershed moment in the political “awakening” of Western Muslims, and is probably best recounted by Kenan Malik in From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy (London: Atlantic Books, 2009).
[37] Sacranie famously said of the novelist: “death, perhaps, is a bit too easy for him? His mind must be tormented for the rest of his life unless he asks for forgiveness to Almighty Allah.” See “Rushdie In Hiding After Ayatollah's Death Threat,” Guardian (London), February 18, 1989.
[38] Martin Bright, When Progressives Treat With Reactionaries: The British State’s Flirtation With Radical Islamism (London: Policy Exchange, 2006).
[39] “Full Text: Muslim Groups' Letter,” BBC, August 12, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/4786159.stm.
[40] “Muslim Outrage As Yusuf al-Qaradawi Refused UK Visa,” Times of London, February 7, 2008
[41] Department for Communities and Local Government, “The Pakistani Muslim Community In England,” March 2009.
[42] “FOSIS Annual Conference 2005,” http://oldsite.fosis.org.uk/FAC/conference05/poster.jpg.
[43] “FOSIS Annual Conference 2007,” http://oldsite.fosis.org.uk/FAC/FAC2007/programme.html.
[44] “FOSIS Annual Conference 2003,” http://web.archive.org/web/20030801182249/http:/www.fosis.org.uk/events/articles/annualconf_jun2003.htm.
[45] Ibid.
[46] FOSIS, “Muslim Contribution To Civilisation, Dr. Jamal Badawi, February 2010,” n.d., http://fosis.org.uk/sc/calendar/details/94-jamal-badawi-speakers-tour/145%7C139.
[47] IHRC, “Aims and Objectives,” n.d., http://www.ihrc.org.uk/about-ihrc/aims-a-objectives.
[48] Massoud Shadjareh, “Human Rights, Justice & Muslims In The Modern World,” n.d., http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=10.
[49] In July 2006, it was reported that in a speech he gave in London, Shadjareh called upon his audience to provide Hezbollah with “financial, logistical and informational support.” See Harry Macadam, “Fanatic’s Cash Aid Call,” The Sun (London), July 6, 2006.
[50] IHRC, “The Annual al-Quds Day 2009,” August 30, 2009, http://www.ihrc.org.uk/events/9048-the-annual-al-quds-day-demonstration-2009-in-support-of-palestine.
[51] “Britain Convicts Muslim Cleric Of Inciting Murder,” Associated Press, February 7, 2006, http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060207/jury_almasri_060207/20060207?hub=World.
[52] CP, “About Us,” n.d., http://www.cageprisoners.com/page.php?id=2.
[53] CP, “Book Reviews From Behind Bars: Anwar al-Awlaki,” n.d., http://www.cageprisoners.com/articles.php?id=24871.
[54] Moazzam Begg, “Jihad And Terrorism: A War Of Words,” Cordoba Foundation Arches Quarterly 2, iss. 1, Summer 2008.
[55] MPACUK, “Watford Campaign Starts With A Bang!,” April 18, 2010, http://www.mpacuk.org/story/180410/watford-campaign-starts-bang.html.
[56] MPACUK, “Operation Muslim Vote,” May 5, 2010, http://www.mpacuk.org/story/020709/operation-muslim-vote.html.
[57] Hizb ut-Tahrir, Hizb ut-Tahrir (London: Al-Khilafah Publications, 2000).
[58] For more on HT in Britain, see Houriya Ahmed and Hannah Stuart, Hizb ut-Tahrir: Ideology and Strategy, (London: Centre for Social Cohesion, 2009).
[59] “‘Stealth’ Islamists Recruit Students,” Times of London, October 16, 2005.
[60] “Blair Announces Summary Deportation For Extremists,” Times of London, August 5, 2005; David Cameron, speech delivered at the Community Security Trust in London, March 4, 2008.
[61] “Jews Fear Rise Of The Muslim ‘Underground,’” Guardian (London), February 18, 1996.
[62] Suha Taji-Farouki, “Islamists And The Threat Of Jihad: Hizb al-Tahrir And al-Muhajiroun On Israel And The Jews,” Middle Eastern Studies 36, no. 4, October 2000, 21-46.
[63] “Reaction Around The World To Cartoon Row,” BBC News, February 4, 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4676930.stm
[64] “Reid Bans Two Radical Muslim Groups,” Guardian (London), July 7, 2006.
[65] “Islamist Al-Muhajiroun Relaunch Ends In Chaos Over Segregation Attempt,” Guardian (London), June 18, 2009.
[66] “Islam4UK To Be Banned, Says Alan Johnson,” Guardian (London), January 12, 2010.
[67] Robin Simcox, Hannah Stuart & Houriya Ahmed, Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections (The Henry Jackson Societ, 2010). These include offenses contrary to anti-terror legislation (namely the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Terrorism Act 2006) and those which include a clear threat designed to intimidate the public, in particular other religious groups.
[68] Office for National Statistics, Census 2011, September 2012, http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_290510.pdf
[69] Poll prepared by Populus on behalf of Times newspaper, December 2005.
[70] The results of this poll were used in Munira Mirza, Abi Senthilkumaran, and Zein Ja'far, Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the Paradox of Multiculturalism, (London: Policy Exchange, 2007).
[71] See for example Phillip Lewis, Young, British and Muslim (London: Continuum, 2007); See also Parveen Akhtar, “Return To Religion And Radical Islam,” in Muslim Britain: Communities Under Pressure, (London: Zed Books, 2005); Mark Huband, “Radicalisation And Recruitment In Europe: The UK Case,” in Magnus Ranstorp, ed., Understanding Violent Radicalization (New York: Routledge, 2010).
[72] “British Muslim Leader Urged To Quit Over Gaza,” Guardian (London), March 8, 2009; “Hazel Blears' Standoff With Muslim Council Overshadows New Anti-Terror Launch,” Guardian (London), March 25, 2009; “Government Ties With MCB Restored But Not For Deputy,” Daily Telegraph (London), January 15, 2010.
[73] Daud Abdullah, “My Reply To Hazel Blears,” Guardian (London), March 26, 2009; Hazel Blears, “Our Shunning Of The MCB Is Not Grandstanding,” Guardian (London), March 26, 2009.
[74] Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab: Report to UCL Council of independent inquiry panel, University College London, September 2010.
[75] For example, see Paul Goodman, “Why The Conservative Party Should Have Nothing To Do With The East London Mosque,” Conservative Home, October 12, 2010. Until May 2010, Mr. Goodman was a Member of Parliament and Shadow Communities Secretary for the Conservative Party.
[76] For a comprehensive breakdown of all Prevent funded groups, see Tax Payers’ Alliance, “Council Spending Uncovered II, No.5: The Prevent Strategy,” September 8, 2009.
[77] “Muslim Pressure Group Wins Anti-Democracy Debate,” East London Advertiser, February 27, 2008.
[78] “British Muslim Leader Urged To Quit Over Gaza,” Guardian (London), March 8, 2009.
[79] “Government Seeks To Recast Relations With British Muslims,” Guardian (London), August 10, 2009.
[80] HM Government, Prevent Strategy, June 2011, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/97976/prevent-strategy-review.pdf
[81] “Theresa May under pressure to sack top adviser in row over ban on Muslim preacher”, Telegraph (London), October 19, 2010, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/8071101/Theresa-May-should-sack-top-terrorism-adviser.html