Every now and then, a servile Islamophobic journalist whips up a hatchet job so embarrassing that even their newspapers seek to bury it in the middle somewhere or behind a subscription-only paywall so it is only read by their faithful. This is what happened after quite a fruitless 3-month “investigation” into Muslim community group Mend, by Dominic Kennedy who, one naturally feels sorry for having wasted so much time in his McCarthyite witch-hunt to end up with nothing of substance for whoever put him up to the task. Indeed, his article literally consists of disparate statements hastily thrown together in the last-ditch hope that readers read in some kind of narrative or logic to them.
The petty attempt at coordinating a smear against Mend involved others too, such as one unfortunate tabloid radio shock-jock who hosted a phone-in on LBC to talk about how bad Mend were. I am told, embarrassingly for him, four out of the five callers on the subject turned out to be people with actual knowledge of and experience with the grass-roots Muslim community, inevitably praising Mend for their years of excellent work (mashaAllah).
Equally embarrassingly, if it were not for the LBC blunder even Mend wouldn’t have known about the hatchet job, after which they analysed and wrote a point-by-point refutation of the carefully-crafted misrepresentations. Although I am normally one to offer the benefit of the doubt to people, after a cursory check of the facts, the excuse of genuine ignorance or functional illiteracy for Kennedy seems to wear very thin. Below are some examples of the author’s unfortunate scaremongering.
“Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend), which uses a logo similar to the jihadist hand signal adopted by Islamic State, works with politicians, police and prosecutors.”
I won’t patronise any readers with a comprehensive explanation as to why this is a pitiful attempt at a smear, but it might amuse some that the logo he is referring to is actually the logo for Islamophobia Awareness Month—a campaign involving Mend as well as countless others across the country, including Lords, MPs, politicians, church groups and constabularies. The cherry on top is that it has been running since 2012—years before the creation of ISIS!
Kennedy offers many similarly bizarre tidbits that will also make intelligent people laugh but stoke fear and loathing among racists and Islamophobes:
“On Mend’s online giving page, beneath PayPal, Visa and MasterCard logos, it quotes the Koran: ‘And whatsoever you spend of anything (in Allah’s Cause), He will replace it’.”
How extreme of them.
The demonisation of Azad Ali
Light entertainment value notwithstanding, one must not forget the seriousness of those with power and privilege systematically demonising and disempowering others. One of the bolder lies against Mend is that Azad Ali, Head of Community Development & Engagement at Mend, is “an Islamic extremist who supported the killing of British soldiers”.
As is well known by now, unfortunately “Islamic extremist” is now a widespread, vacuous term that is used to describe anyone disliked with little consequence. However, the false charge of supporting the killing of British soldiers is (still) subject to some shame and reservation amongst most people. This smear seems to have been invented by the infamous Andrew Gilligan, who misquoted Azad Ali as saying:
“If I saw an American or British man wearing a soldier’s uniform inside Iraq, I would kill him because that is my obligation … I respect this as the main instruction in my religion for jihad.”
However, the most basic of web searches reveal his actual words; not on some remote, hard-to-find corner of the web, but on his own blog two years ago:
I have never called for the killing of British troops. I challenge anyone to produce the evidence that suggests I have uttered any such words. What is used to smear me is the fact that I quoted from Abdullah Azzam’s son in a reference to the Iraq war and the resistance to the Allied attack against Saddam Hussein. He said: “If I saw an American or British man wearing a soldier’s uniform inside Iraq I would kill him because that is my obligation. If I found the same soldier over the border in Jordan I wouldn’t touch him. In Iraq he is a fighter and an occupier, here he is not. This is my religion and I respect this as the main instruction in my religion for jihad.” [Emphasis his]
…He [Gilligan] completely misrepresents the statement and the point I was making in my article about war, the concept of the ‘theatre of war’ and combatants and non-combatants. I was making no such claims to the legitimate targeting of British soldiers. Nor was I defending, in citing from Abdullah Azzam’s son’s comments, the killing of British troops in Iraq. Again, this is another tedious act of smearing by association, in this case by quoting someone without a disclaimer but perhaps Mary Fitzgerald, who wrote the article for the Irish Times, is saved from having to offer such a disclaimer because she isn’t a Muslim?
Ironically, what Azad Ali’s case does show is the dire need for the full implementation of the Leveson press regulation recommendations. Without access to the low-cost arbitration enshrined in Section 40, innocent victims of “journalistic” manipulation are effectively powerless to challenge damaging smears that could affect them for the rest of their lives. Unless, of course, they are rich.
Kennedy also tried his luck with the historic guilt-by-association card always used to smear activists:
“Mend’s tone is partly set by its community chief, Azad Ali, who spoke at an event run by the group Cage — which described the Islamic State beheader known as Jihadi John as a “beautiful young man.’”
However, the only guilty association he could come up with was an imagined one: the now ubiquitous lie that Cage described “Jihadi John” as a “beautiful young man”. No one with access to YouTube and a calendar has an excuse anymore—let alone a self-described “investigative journalist”—to use such words to describe what Cage actually did, which was to describe Muhammad Emwazi years before he even went to ISIS let alone becoming “Jihadi John”. People no longer wonder why the same outrage was not felt of those white people who said the same about him and others, including more recently Thomas Mair and the Westminster attacker.
“Mend campaigns to scrap Prevent, a government scheme that aims to stop people from becoming terrorists, using the hashtag #EndPrevent.”
Either cunningly or unbelievably ignorantly, Kennedy rightly reports that Mend campaigns against Prevent, giving an ignorant reader the impression that they are against stopping people becoming terrorists.
What he conveniently leaves out is that Mend are part of thousands of others—Muslim and non-Muslim—who campaign against Prevent, including hundreds of academics that point out its fundamentally flawed nature. Far from the impression given, the reason so many people are against Prevent is because it is fundamentally racist and Islamophobic, lacks empirical evidence to justify its focus on ideology, and there is increasing evidence to prove that it is in fact counterproductive, exacerbating the empirically-determined causes of political violence, such as alienation, mistrust, despair, and so on. Empirically, those who campaign to #EndPrevent are the ones actually doing something to stop “people becoming terrorists”, not the other way around.
Baseless accusations galore
It is clear why the recent attempt at a smear failed so miserably. Those accusations and smears that are independently verifiable, have turned out to be, upon the most rudimentary of scrutiny, demonstrably false. What remains are accusations from disgruntled or otherwise unverifiable “sources”.
“Whitehall officials are concerned about Mend’s influence with key elements of the establishment, including police forces, the Crown Prosecution Service, police and crime commissioners, councils, teachers and parliament…”
A cynic might say that the fact that the sources are conveniently not cited is revealing, especially since—if the source or the concerns were real—they would have a duty to protect such public institutions.
But what this does reveal is the “good news” of this investigation. Of course, with systematic racism and Islamophobia so rife, one would expect to find some officials at any level of the Establishment to be concerned with previously dominated and dispossessed minorities getting a voice of their own. And of course, one would not expect someone to put their name publicly to both the COINTELPRO-style smear tactics, or their underlying racism. The reason why this is good news is that if people who seek to disempower and disenfranchise minorities are upset, it suggests they are not succeeding that well in their aims.
Commendation of Mend
The icing on the cake for Kennedy’s embarrassment is that he has inadvertently written a glowing CV for Mend when he set out clearly to do the opposite. He has shown that Mend, by doing focused, grass-roots work and not compromising their principles, are getting under the skin of those who wish to keep the whole community in a state of disempowerment or choose to restrict access to people and organisations “compliant” to power. It is the will of Allah first and foremost, and then the good work and bridges they have built within society, that is the reason this pathetic attempt at a smear failed so badly and failed to get any traction—except by people ridiculing it.
I have been informed that those volunteers that were harassed by Kennedy over the last three months, intimidated by him showing up at their workplaces and contacting their families, have instead of capitulating to the bullying, redoubled their efforts and have said they would like to donate even more time volunteering to the organisation. And we ask Allah to swell their organisation with sincere people and barakah from Him, as well as all organisations working toward a common good.
The danger of poison
Newspapers today bear a tremendous responsibility that some are spectacularly failing to carry. This latest smear is just one fine specimen of well-known propaganda models of “journalism” servile to power. In fact, manufacturing a common enemy was stated explicitly as one of Chomsky and Herman’s ‘five filters of the mass media machine’ published in Manufacturing Consent, keeping the public distracted and in a constant state of fear.
Studies conducted by Lancaster University have demonstrated the ways in which Muslims and Islam are demonised and criminalised within the British media. This coordinated propaganda against Islam in the media serves to perpetuate Islamophobic sentiments and create an atmosphere of hate, distrust, suspicion and fear of Muslims. It is this atmosphere that Kennedy seems personally committed to furthering and exploiting. In observing dozens of articles and twitter comments written by Kennedy over the last five years, Mend’s researchers could not even find a single example of Mr Kennedy representing Muslims in a positive light.
In the UK, it was Jews yesterday that were written about as Muslims are today—with questionable loyalties, conspiring to take over Britain yet simultaneously isolated and “not British enough”. Before them it was Catholics. If it becomes unprofitable to demonise Muslims, those occupying that rank of so-called “journalism” will just move onto the next scapegoat.
But it is important not to fall for false dichotomies or lose hope as Muslims. Some will unfortunately ignore the fact that this attack on Mend was carried out by a relatively low-level individual, which failed to get off the ground (al-Hamdu lillāh), and say things like “What’s the point? When you try to engage with politicians and civil society, “they” will vilify you and demonise you!”
It is true that “some” will vilify Muslims whatever we do. Paradoxically British Muslims are at once criticised with Casey-style propaganda for not integrating enough, and being “entryists” with “too much influence” in society. But that does not mean society at large is against us. It is just those who seek to uphold unjust imbalances of power and keep us distracted or disempowered. Importantly, that is not an excuse for not trying to reach out and build bridges across society; in fact quite the opposite.
As for journalists, then let us not forget that they are by no means all the same. Whilst we mock and ridicule those who profit from scaremongering and Islamophobia, we should likewise commend those who defiantly choose integrity over smears and hysteria, such as Richard Peppiatt. He courageously and publicly resigned from his post at the Daily Star after refusing to take part in what he called “anti-Muslim propaganda”. In his resignation letter, he wrote to the newspaper owner Richard Desmond words which we hope Kennedy and all others like him reflect upon:
“The lies of a newspaper in London can get a bloke’s head caved in down an alley in Bradford.”
If you can’t see that words matter, you should go back to running porn magazines. But if you do, yet still allow your editors to use inciteful over insightful language, then far from standing up for Britain, you’re a menace against all things that make it great.
 Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky.