On the 30th of October, a rally of about a hundred protestors rounded on the French Embassy in Central London and conducted a ‘sit-in’ around the bounds of the Embassy. The demonstrators, it seems, had traveled to London to shower the Embassy with chants and raised fists in the air. It was a show of force and rage against the comments of Macron, who had defended the fundamental principle of free speech, in defending the right for Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad. Macron had also subsequently made numerous statements delineating the Government of France from the actions of the Charlie Hebdo publication and even expressly stated that France has “no problem” with the religion of Islam that is practised by over 1.7 billion people. However, none of the context and nuances of the French premier mattered to the demonstrators in the video below. Their rage is clearly evident in the video, much of it looking like it was stage managed by a core handful of people.
What is clear from the footage below is that many of the demonstrators were a mix of people of South Asian heritage and many seemed to follow the rehearsed chants of a handful of agitators who were repeatedly and aggressively shouting slogans with their fists in the air. We will come back to these slogans later as we believe that public order offences were conducted by some of the demonstrators and we have noted the times in the video when we believe they took place.
The Link to Khatme Nabuwat (KN)
Khatme Nabuwat is a loose affiliation of people at a global level whose primary aim is to defend the honour and integrity of Prophet Muhammad, by placing him as a central figure in their lives. They see themselves as ‘defenders against blasphemy’ which we have long said, is affecting parts of Barelwi Muslim communities, not just in the UK, but at a global level. Khatme Nabuwat networks feed off themselves and are therefore a sporadic modern day version of the Spanish Inquisition, where anyone seen to question the divinity or events around Prophet Muhammad, become legitimate targets for intimidation, harassment and hate. Take for example, this incident where ‘Kill Ahmadis’ leaflets were reported to have been found in a South London mosque. It was reportedly authored by an ex-head of Khatme Nabuwat, with the leaflets sending shock waves and fear into the British Muslim Ahmadi community at the time.
Khatme Nabuwat’s constant obsession with Ahmadis, had led to targeted acts of intimidation against them, as a means of rallying others to their cause. This has meant threats and incitement against Ahmadi Muslims on the basis that they question the finality of Prophet Muhammad. This is fundamentally false or ‘fake news’, yet none of this matters, since the ‘blasphemy police’ and mob type behaviour of Khatme Nabuwat networks regard anyone who simply questions elements around the life of Prophet Muhammad, as fair game for violence. So not much has changed in their medievalist mindsets.
Anyone watching and listening to the video below may come to the conclusion that free speech comes with caveats and limitations as the speaker rants against the very values that give him the right to speak so openly. In other words, free speech is fine as long as nothing is directed towards Muhammad, which aptly demonstrates the sheer hypocrisy of these ‘blasphemy policing’ networks. But this is no laughing matter since the spread of such intolerance has impacts and we have seen how this very intolerance led to an asylum seeker in France using a meat cleaver against two people who happened to be outside the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo publication. Their crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, whilst they had a smoke.
The perpetrator of these attempted murders was Ali Hassan, who left Pakistan when he was 15 and who entered Europe illegally. Hassan put out a video prior to the attack in which he explained that he was from Kotli Qazi in Pakistan and he cited his family lineage and then put out an emotional defence of Muhammad on the back of the cartoon reprints by Charlie Hebdo. These reprints coincided with the trial of fourteen people alleged to be accomplices of the initial Charlie Hebdo attackers in 2015.
The fact is that Hassan came from a Barelwi Muslim background, who have mainly been influenced by Sufi traditions and who have taken a much more spiritual approach to faith. However, the issue of ‘blasphemy’ and the defence of the Prophet has significantly shifted members from this Muslim grouping towards harder and more extreme beliefs. One of these beliefs is that threats and violence are legitimate in the defence of the reputation of Muhammad. This is particularly depressing given that Barelwi Muslim communities by enlarge, have been more spiritually and religiously flexible in their interpretation of Islamic theology and traditions.
The brutal attack in Paris by Hassan cannot be seen to be in isolation. It is part of a wider ideology, which at its core is built on the need to use threats and force against people merely perceived to be blasphemous. It is simply now reaching a murderous form in European states, even though the history of blasphemy in Pakistan, has seen people brutally murdered by mobs on the mere allegation that the victim questioned some aspect of Muhammad or his life.
Which brings us back to the video below. At 14:16 mins into the video – demonstrators are seen to specifically mention the ideology of Khatme Nabuwat and to rouse the crowd on the back of these chants outside of the French Embassy in London. Worst still, at 22:38 mins into the video, a number of the demonstrators are led to chant “Death to Macron” – (Macron Murdabad). These actions we believe, are public order offences and may well fall into incitement, which need to be reviewed by the Metropolitan Police Service (Met), given the public affirmation of threats to the well-being of the French President.
Words and actions have consequences. At the very least, the Met need to assess the video for any criminal actions. Sadly, the issue of extremism based on perceived blasphemy is not going away for some time to come.