Transmitted 28 July 2015. Posted 31 July 2015
On Tuesday 28 July I appeared on the Ummah Channel for the first time. They have a new format programme "Face the Facts" and the 49 minute programme was devoted to a discussion of David Cameron's 20 July 2015 speech in Birmingham about extremism.
The presenter was Adnan Khan whose main occupation is as a civil lawyer. The panellists were:
The 49 minute was transmitted live and is now on YouTube. It can be watched lower down on this page.
Most of the programme consisted of the presenter asking me challenging questions about what David Cameron said in his speech and the Government's Prevent strategy.
The programme should be watched in full to understand the presenter's perspective as shown by his questions, and also the perspective of the other panellist Sharif Hafezi who was also very critical of the Government's approach.
The text below is a brief summary of some of my responses as a guide to what the video contains.
Despite the presenter's assertion, this is not a new concept. In my view a non-violent extremist believes in basically the same things that a violent extremist believes, but is not engaging in, or planning to engage in, violence.
It is incorrect to contend that the Government will be criminalising people for what they believe. However people who propound extremist views will be marginalised.
In his speech David Cameron condemned belief in conspiracy theories. I did not quote the speech in the programme, but the key excerpt is below:
And ideas also based on conspiracy: that Jews exercise malevolent power; or that Western powers, in concert with Israel, are deliberately humiliating Muslims, because they aim to destroy Islam. In this warped worldview, such conclusions are reached – that 9/11 was actually inspired by Mossad to provoke the invasion of Afghanistan; that British security services knew about 7/7, but didn’t do anything about it because they wanted to provoke an anti-Muslim backlash.
I made the point that we want to deal with non-violent extremism while preserving the freedoms that all of us value. For example it is not illegal to buy "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" but a believer in such conspiracy theories is not fit to be a school teacher.
There was a long discussion about whether people are persecuted for expressing their religious views about homosexuality.
I made it clear that as a Muslim I regard homosexuality as a sin. However I do not believe in discrimination against people who are homosexual. The dividing line is crossed when people preach hatred against homosexual people, or advocate them being punished, for example by death, "in an ideal Islamic state."
I stressed that the Channel programme is not about spying on people. It is about helping people who are at risk by stopping them from being radicalised. I referred to Sir Norman Bettison's testimony before the Home Affairs Select Committee about the youngest of the 7/7 bombers, Hasib Hussain.
Mak Chishty's comments in a Guardian interview have been regularly misquoted or misunderstood. His key point was that a sudden change in a person's level of religious practice may be (but is not certain to be) a sign that the person is becoming radicalised. On that he is clearly right in my view.
I concurred with David Cameron's criticism of the organisations CAGE and MPAC UK.
I accepted that when the leader of the 7 July 2015 London bombers Mohammad Siddique Khan (MSK) said that he was acting in response to Britain's actions overseas he was speaking truthfully. However my fundamental point was that MSK must have believed certain things; otherwise he would not have carried out his suicide bombing.
In particular, he must have believed that God would regard his bombing as a good act, not an evil one.
I explained briefly why the Conveyor Belt Theory is a straw man.
I reminded the audience of the key message. The Government does not have an anti-Muslim agenda, and the measures to counter extremism will in the long run help Muslims.
The video can be watched below.