FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Muslim Blacklist

by YVONNE RIDLEY

CONSTRUCTION giants Balfour Beatty, Kier, Laing O’Rourke and Sir Robert McAlpine are among 40 companies which have pledged to compensate thousands of workers who were unlawfully blacklisted and denied employment for years. The firms funded a clandestine agency which kept secret files on construction workers labelled as politically disruptive.

Quite how you can put a price on causing such hardship and distress to workers and their families remains to be seen, but this is probably one of the worst examples of McCarthyism that has, thus far, been exposed in Britain today. Personal files containing information dating back to the 1980s show that individuals were described in negative terms such as “militant ringleader”, “agitator”, “is a good worker but has proved to be very militant”, “do not touch”, and “that subject is a very bad troublemaker and would not be re-employed”.

In their apology, the companies issued a statement admitting their involvement with The Consulting Association after it emerged that it held data on 3,213 construction workers and traded their personal details for profit.

Blacklisting is a very un-British concept, not least because such secret briefings bear the hallmarks of cowardice and are all the more morally repugnant when money is the prime motivation for ‘digging’ the so-called ‘dirt’.

In mid-20th century America some of the most talented screenwriters, actors and directors in Hollywood lost their careers after being secretly targeted by the anti-Communist witch hunt promoted by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Many were barred from their profession on the basis of unfounded links to or alleged membership of the American Communist Party during the height of the persecution in the late forties through to the late fifties. By the time McCarthy was on the scene he had little proper regard for evidence.

Sadly this vile form of state-backed oppression and persecution has crossed the Atlantic and those targeted today are not confined to trade unions in the construction industry. The new blacklists contain the names of people of Faith, more specifically the Muslim Faith, and you don’t have to be a bomb-plotting, subversive, western-hating ding bat to get on the list.

For the last few years counter-terrorism units and so-called academic think-tanks have made a lucrative living out of their toxic briefings and reckless ‑ and often unsubstantiated ‑ accusations which have brought into question the character, motives and patriotism of people who dare to disagree with or challenge them.

My name has found its way on to these lists courtesy, I believe, of the Quilliam Foundation, a controversial London based ‘counter-extremism’ think-tank which claims to challenge Islamic extremism in Britain. I am no more a threat to my own country than my 86-year-old mum and her friends in the Mothers’ Union that I was invited to address in a County Durham pit village last year. And my roots in Britain are much longer and deeper than the people behind Quilliam who are, to their shame, leading this anti-Muslim neo-McCarthyism.

While I would hardly class myself as a Union Jack flag-waving Brit, I am British and proud of my working class upbringing, 35 years of trade unionism, a stiff upper lip and outspoken ways, and always have been, long before I embraced Islam. I say what I mean and mean what I say and if I disagree with someone’s views they will be among the first to know. I don’t hide behind the coward’s veil of anonymity if I want to take a pop at someone; I’ll tell them to their face, and that is the way it should be.

Yet peaceful Muslim groups, politicians and at least one Islamic television station have all found their way on to lists drawn up by the Quilliam Foundation which is going to extremes itself these days to drum up funding and support.

One loony briefing document from Quilliam says: “The ideology of non-violent Islamists is broadly the same as that of violent Islamists; they disagree only on tactics… These are a selection of the various groups and institutions active in the UK which are broadly sympathetic to Islamism. Whilst only a small proportion will agree with al-Qaida’s tactics, many will agree with their overall goal of creating a single ‘Islamic state’ which would bring together all Muslims around the world under a single government and then impose on them a single interpretation of sharia as state law.”

Another toxic briefing document was marked for the attention of the director general of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) and carried a warning that it should not be shared with civil servants. The fact that it was leaked and posted on the web is not surprising and perhaps an example of the contempt with which the British Establishment views tittle-tattle, snitches and squealers.

Hijab-wearing Salma Yaqoob, former leader of the Respect Party, was among those targeted by the men from Quilliam. I’ve known Salma for many years and she’s a fantastic role model for young women of faith and no faith, a promoter of democracy and tireless peace activist.

The Labour MP Keith Vaz, chair of the home affairs select committee, said at the time that one of Quilliam’s secret lists first emerged: “I think it’s very dangerous to be drawing up lists of this kind. I am concerned and will be writing to the home secretary to ask if the government requested this list, what is the status of this list, and why it is being considered in this way.”

According to Inayat Bunglawala, chair of Muslims4Uk and a former MCB spokesperson: “This is just like something straight out of a Stasi manual. The advice from Quilliam is frankly appalling and incredibly self-serving… This is a truly shocking document, and it is little wonder that the Quilliam Foundation marked it as being not for public disclosure. In effect, Quilliam – a body funded very generously by the government through Prevent – are attempting to set themselves up as arbiters of who is and is not an acceptable Muslim. Their document specifically contains a McCarthy-type list of large and established Muslim organisations that they regard as suspect and smears them as being ‘Islamists’.”

Another example of a poisonous briefing came in an email marked “confidential” from the foundation’s Usama Hasan earlier this year which can still be seen here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/131981181/Usama It urges recipients to harass Sheikh Haitham al Haddad with emails. Hasan then goes on to urge them to contact the media with dubious accusations about the Arab scholar in order to embarrass the University of Nottingham for hosting him as a speaker.

Now I’ve never sat through any of Sheikh Haitham’s speeches but I’m damned if I’m going to have Usama Hasan decide who I should and should not listen to. He is, after all, a former extremist himself and therefore someone who is gullible and whose judgment has been flawed; who’s to say he’s not going to flip again? Frankly I don’t know, but why should I trust a man who picked up a gun because he thought he might encounter 72 virgins if he was killed in the process?

This is the same Usama Hasan, indeed, who sat next to former EDL leader Tommy Robinson at a media briefing this week to welcome him into the Quilliam fold. It seems that Robinson and his batman Kevin Carroll have swapped their jeans and Primark t-shirts for Boss suits and brogues to sign up to the controversial foundation.

Quilliam, always on the lookout for a nice little earner after losing out on hundreds of thousands of pounds of government funding, heralded the arrival of the EDL duo who are clearly desperate to earn some of the dodgy foundation’s filthy lucre using their own extremist credentials as the access key to the trough.

It certainly worked for Quilliam’s founders, and Robinson and Carroll clearly found that their brand of jackboot activism and street fascism doesn’t offer the same financial rewards as the seemingly more respectable face of far-right politics.

I’m all for giving people second chances but there is little evidence that the EDL pair have recanted their vile views. Like Quilliam they say that they are against Islamic extremism but, again like Quilliam, they also regard many Muslims and their organisations as extremists.

While the unholy alliance made headlines in the British media there was a sense of déjà vu with journalist and anti-fascist Anindya Bhattacharyya who has campaigned against the EDL since the organisation first emerged four years ago. “Back in July 2011 the Quilliam Foundation announced that former EDL members Leighton Evans and Harry Burns had renounced their views and would now campaign against the EDL,” he reminded us in his latest blog. “This stunt soon unravelled when it turned out that Evans and Burns hadn’t changed their noxious views in the slightest.”

The Muslim community is already suspicious of QF and its alliance with the former EDL leadership will widen the credibility gap even further. I’ve a feeling another gulf has also opened up in the media which is no longer as gushing or breathless over the Quilliam Boys as it once was.

This latest media stunt looks to me like a final desperate act by a think-tank which is running out of gullible Arabs ‑ apparently private donors in Saudi and Kuwait have thrown money at it ‑ to prise money from and has to resort to scrambling round for new tricks and money-making schemes. So let the buyer beware; Quilliam blacklists and poisonous emails all serve to stifle liberty and freedom of speech, two very British qualities apparent in those who really welcome a multicultural Britain.

Yvonne Ridley is the West European Asst. Director-General of the International Muslim Women’s Union

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
Charles R. Larson
A Review of Mary Roach’s “Grunt”
David Yearsley
Stuck in Houston on the Cusp of the Apocalypse
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail