I’ve been watching the ongoing furore about the dispute between patriot campaigner Tommy Robinson and Islamic reform organisation Quilliam with interest. As someone who supports the idea of an Islamic reform, even though I know it is unlikely, and a person who is, like Mr Robinson, legitimately concerned about the adverse effects of orthodox Islam, I have a ‘dog in this fight’.
As I said I like the idea of Islamic reform and have taken the position that Quilliam, although imperfect, does at least give a voice for Islamic reformists. But the behaviour of this organisation and the behaviour of some of its staff following the release of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee report on ‘online extremism’ has shown the organisation to be even more hollow than many people might have imagined it. Many of us knew and accepted that Quilliam’s brand of reform has very little support in the wider Islamic community in Britain, but as history shows, big religious reform movements sometimes start out small and ill supported but can grow. We also knew that Quilliam’s target audience didn’t seem to be that broad and seemed to be concentrated on the politically liberal wine bar and interfaith waffling circuits. Quilliam talk a big and good game and have views that chime with others who want peaceful co-existence between faiths but it doesn’t seem to have accomplished much that can be pointed to in that area. It’s a talking shop if I were to be completely honest. If I was being cynical I’d say that Quilliam tell the middle class Left and the ‘bagels and bhajis’ interfaith lot what they want to hear which is that Islam and jihadist psychopaths can be reformed and that one day we’ll all live together in harmony etc etc.
Despite my reservations about Quilliam I gave the organisation the benefit of the doubt. I took the view that their hearts may be in the right place and that ultimately they want the same peaceful world as I do. But I was wrong. Quilliam have shown themselves to be much less than naïve or useless, but have shown themselves to be part of the problem. Like so many other groups, especially Islamic groups, Quilliam decided that they’d publish a piece in the Guardian, based on the report from the HASC (a committee made up in significant part, of Labour Islamopanderers and centrist Tories it seems). Like other similar pieces from those who could loosely be described as part of the ‘red -green alliance’, this Guardian article was basically telling readers to concentrate criticism of what the writer calls the ‘far right’, rather than the Islamic troublemakers that have caused many more people to speak up. People are, it should be noted are speaking up even if it does get them a ‘far right’ tag from Leftists, political Islamists and heavily biased writers such as those behind the Guardian article that has kicked off this row. This article can be summed up in the phrase: Look over there at the far right, no not there at the jihadists or the extremist Imam, just look at the far rightists. This report, written by Julie Ebner an Austrian journalist who now works as a researcher for Quilliam, really does come into the category ‘don’t look there, look over there instead’.
The article by Ms Ebner was appalling journalism full of half truths, smears and guilt by association. It attempted to link groups like National Action, PEGIDA, the EDL and other groups together and lumped individuals who are not easy to objectively classify as ‘racist’ such as Mr Robinson and Mr Robert Spencer, with those who plainly are. The key part of the article that caused the furore was one that attempted to link Tommy Robinson with ‘white nationalism’. This article resulted in Tommy Robinson and the Rebel Media camera crew, entering Qulliam’s offices and complaining about the piece by one of Quilliam’s staffers.
Here’s the offending part of the article by Ms Ebner and I think you will see, as I can that this was an attempt to link Mr Robinson with white supremacists and other similar groups in order to smear him.
Ms Ebner said in the Guardian:
That the far right has moved from the fringe into the mainstream demonstrates the massive support that white supremacist movements have attracted from digital natives. Their online followership often exceeds that of mainstream political parties: with over 200,000 followers, Tommy Robinson’s Twitter account has almost the same number of followers as Theresa May’s.
This paragraph on its own is an attempt to link Mr Robinson with ‘white supremacist movements’ but the preceding paragraphs lay the ground for this and names a whole host of different right wing, populist organisations, individuals and publications and then goes onto talk about ‘neo Nazis being removed from Twitter’. Both the triggering paragraph and the preceding ones mix diverse types of groups and individuals into one. The writer even managed to get a bit of Trump-bashing in as well. Either this was a case of the writer making a mistake or the writer has deliberately tried to conflate people and groups that many people would consider beyond the pale, with those who are decidedly NOT beyond the pale, people like Tommy Robinson for instance?
Some have criticised Mr Robinson’s decision to enter the Quilliam offices with the Rebel TV crew and I can see their point to a certain extent in that maybe this matter could be dealt with differently. However, none of us walk in Mr Robinson’s shoes and very few of us have had to put up with the sort of lies that are promulgated about him by Islamic groups (including some grievance mongering ones well known to readers of this blog), Leftists, journalists and others. Mr Robinson said in a social media post that ‘he’d had enough of the lies’ and I cannot blame him for thinking that or acting as he did.
This article by Ms Ebner was an appalling example of politically bent journalism Ms Ebner seems to have had an point of view and chucked everyone and everything into a bucket and mixed it up in order to prove her view was the correct and proper one. Awfully lazy journalism and it’s a similar sort of boilerplate Islam related whining that we’ve seen coming from the mountebanks of Tell Mama and it makes me wonder who is writing which stuff. To paraphrase Orwell: ‘I looked from corpulent taxpayer funded Islamic grievance mongers to celebrated Islamic reform group and I’m damned if I can tell the difference’.
The video of the visit to Quilliam’s offices, which Quilliam say was an ‘invasion’ makes very interesting viewing and can be found below.
It’s a brilliant piece of citizen journalism by Mr Robinson and the Rebel Media crew. It’s the sort of thing that is needed when the mainstream media sadly seem to be unable or unwilling to address the sources of our current problems. Quilliam have made themselves look thuggish and shifty and lacking in popular widespread support, which may well be the case.
To conclude on the matter of Mr Robinson and Quilliam: I think that by this article by Ms Ebner and the way that their staff have behaved afterwards, shows Quilliam up for what they are, which is a useless talking shop. They also can’t admit when they or their staff are wrong which is not what is needed in an organisation that wants and needs to be trusted. I really don’t believe that Quilliam can achieve the sort of reform that they say they would like to see as their support in the Muslim community is too low for them to be able to do that. Quilliam are and have been shown to be, far less than they seem. The way that they’ve treated Mr Robinson is appallingly unfair and they’ve lost a lot of what little credibility as they had as an organisation that counters Islamic violence and supremacism.
However there is another story here and it’s one that is related to the row between Mr Robinson and Quilliam. This other story is about the report from the HASC itself and how a number of highly questionable groups may have had an undue influence on the final outcome of this report. Groups such as Quilliam themselves, the mendacious grievance mongering taqiyya artists of Tell Mama and the Islamic extremist group MEND, have also given evidence to the HASC, evidence that seems to have been accepted by the committee without much meaningful scrutiny or questioning. The fact that this report seems to be coming down in favour of fining social media companies for hosting what these groups refer to as ‘hate speech’, but is often in reality opinions that some Muslim groups find disagreeable, will heighten suspicions that these groups are having an influence on our governance and our culture that is both unwarranted and often malevolent. These disparate groups all, for their own reasons, have a vested interest in shutting down public debate about Islam or at least, controlling the language with which this debate is carried out. Also giving evidence to the committee were some of the ‘tame academics’ such as Teeside University’s ‘Centre for Fascist, post Fascist and anti Fascist Studies’, which are used by groups like Tell Mama to give their often spurious claims and reports some degree of supposed credibility
The HASC could have made a stand for freedom of speech and told the parade of often publicly funded conmen who paraded before the committee whining about ‘hate speech’ to go ‘do one’. But with a committee chair like Yvette Cooper and Labour members such as Naz Shah and Chuka Umanna on board, such an outcome would have been unlikely. It is to be hoped that after the next election the composition of this committee may change and it will no longer represent the forces of the censorship that the ideology of Islam desires, but instead the forces of freedom and for that you the voter are ultimately responsible to see that this end comes about.
This whole situation going from the evidence taking by the HASC, the report itself and the journalism and comments following its publication seems to be seriously dirty. It’s dirty politicians listening and taking note of the evidence of dirty Islamic groups and the view of the corrupted report promulgated by dirty journalism. This report should be junked as it was put together under the influence of all the wrong sort of people, the people who wish to stop you and me speaking about what concerns us.