July 27, 2015 Tell Mama

Civil war? A note of caution about the ‘counter-jihadists’ and their Muhammad cartoons exhibition

HOPE Not Hate’s useful expose of the ‘counter-jihad’ network’s plan to use their Muhammad cartoons exhibition on September 18 to create a UK civil war is disturbing. The ‘civil war mentality’ that follows sections of this movement is not exactly new. Since the inception of the Tell MAMA project in 2012, we have often found this rhetoric across social media platforms. A current of fatalism underpins much of this racialised anti-Muslim discussion.

Of course, some desire civil war (imagined or otherwise) because it gives those disaffected and disempowered voices a grand narrative and sense of belonging. Hence why groups like Britain First heavily borrow the iconography of the Knights Templar.

Key individuals in the movement like Tommy Robinson openly peddle anti-Muslim conspiracies. In a 2014 interview, he told Newsweek “The UK is heading to civil war. Whether it happens in five, 10 or 20 years, there will be bloodshed”. A year later, he claimed halal meat funds terrorism.

Socialisation in the offline and online worlds potentially hardens ideologies and perceived grievances towards this type of thinking. In his keynote speech on counter-extremism, Prime Minister David Cameron argued that ‘grievance justifications’ must be challenged. A challenge that extends to far-right and ‘counter-jihad’ circles.

Quite often, these groups foster a sense of self-victimisation. For example, they would argue that is not ‘racist’ to worry about becoming a ‘white minority’ in Britain (a classic white supremacist trope). The far-right are mere victims of immigration, Muslims and a two-tier justice system. Therefore, they must find ways to reinsert themselves back into the dominant culture.

The Prime Minister was also correct to say that we must challenge the conspiracy peddlers ‘who try to suggest that there is some kind of secret Muslim conspiracy to take over our government’. A fear of ‘Islamisation’ also dates back to the European tradition of viewing Jewish and Muslim communities as ‘foreign intruders’ in societies. ‘Intruders’ intent on changing societies through demographics alongside the historic, nefarious and paradoxical antisemitic trope of disproportionate Jewish influence over public institutions.

A similar notion of this belief is ‘Dhimmitude’ a term coined by ‘pseudo-scholar’ Bat Ye’or. Ye’or contends that non-Muslims serving in Muslim conquered lands treaty for protection from their new leaders. A bizarre notion that feeds a false narrative that Muslims are afforded legal and political favours.

The idea of a ‘Muhammad cartoon contest’ or exhibition is infantile and crass; but they have the right to host an event, no matter how desperate their need for attention. Others can peacefully counter-protest. But like in Texas, the best antidote is to ignore it. Indulging these groups provides the media attention they crave.

Had two extremists not reacted with violence, it is unlikely many beyond Texas would know of the AFDI’s contest (that spawned various copycat events in Europe and North America). Sadly, extremists on both sides intend to fan the flames of bigotry. Murderous intentions are no response to offence.

Thankfully though, many British Muslims are secure enough in their faith to follow the response of the Prophet Muhammad when faced with insults. Giving voice to this middle ground is key to drowning out extremist narratives on both sides.

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