European Eye on Radicalization
Standing Against Anti-Semitism
The European Commission (EC) has landed a blow on the UK’s most notorious Khomeinist group, the self-styled Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). In early December, the German newspaper Bild reported that the EC is stopping funding of the IHRC’s work with the “Counter-Islamophobia Kit” project, which is coordinated by the University of Leeds in partnership with the IHRC and five European universities.
The project aims to “critically review dominant anti-Muslim narratives, and also compare the use and efficacy of prevailing counter-narratives to Islamophobia” in Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, and the UK. This work supports the production of “a transferable ‘Counter-Islamophobia Kit’ (CIK), which aims to detail best-practice in countering anti-Muslim hate across the continent.”
The EC had granted €585,000 to the project, according to Bild, or enough to cover 80% of the project costs. The IHRC’s share was €156,000. The EC was not aware of the IHRC’s antisemitic record, the newspaper said. Now it will not provide remaining outstanding amounts to the IHRC and ask for the return of funds the IHRC has already received.
Asked about the newspaper report, the EC’s justice spokesman provided European Eye on Radicalization (EER) with the following statement:
The Commission stands firmly against all forms of Anti-Semitism.
As regards the project ‘Counter Islamophobia Toolkit’ – coordinated by the University of Leeds – we are looking closely into the allegations that one of the organisations involved had expressed anti- Semitic views. The Commission services have launched the procedure to terminate the grant agreement with the organisation in question (IHRC).
Beyond that, the Commission is also reassessing the safeguards in place and their application to exclude that any beneficiary of the justice programme could operate against fundamental EU values or in contradiction with the purpose of the funding which aims to combat racism, xenophobia and all forms of intolerance.
Asked by EER for its reaction, the University of Leeds offered a noncommittal statement:
We have been made aware of the European Commission’s intention to terminate the participation of the IHRC in the Counter-Islamophobia Kit project. The commission invited us to submit our observations on its reasons for the proposed action and we are currently finalising our submission.
Leeds professor Salman Sayyid, a key figure in the project, has been particularly close to the IHRC, speaking at several of its events in recent years.
The EC’s decision is perfectly understandable. As EER has reported, the IHRC has a long record of antisemitic agitation, explicit and enthusiastic backing for Hezbollah, abuse of “Islamophobia” in bids to silence mainstream voices, and support for convicted terrorists in the West, even if they were given full due process and found guilty in open court.
Al Quds Day – Marching for Hezbollah in London
The organization is perhaps best known for “Al Quds Day”, an annual march through central London where vicious denigration of Israel and open support for Hezbollah are the central themes. The day was first marked by the Ayatollah Khomeini and large banners of his image are features at the march in London and other cities worldwide, alongside numerous Hezbollah banners.
A scene from Al Quds Day in London
Memorably, in the 2017 Quds Day London march Nazim Ali, a director of the IHRC’s registered company and march leader, blamed “Zionists” for the fire at Grenfell Tower, a disaster in a London apartment building that claimed 76 lives four days before the march. As one of the reports at the time noted:
In video footage posted online, Mr Ali goes on: “Let us not forget that some of the biggest corporations who were supporting the Conservative Party are Zionists. They are responsible for the murder of the people in Grenfell, in those towers in Grenfell, the Zionist supporters of the Tory Party.”
In another heated outburst, he says: “It is the Zionists who give money to the Tory party, to kill people in high rise blocks…. Careful, careful, careful of those rabbis who belong to the Board of Deputies [of British Jews – ed.], who have got blood on their hands.”
The Community Security Trust (CST), which safeguards Britain’s Jews, had this to say about the outburst:
In any circumstance, these comments would have been utterly hateful, but to hang them on what happened at Grenfell Tower beggared belief. It was, of course, a pro-Hizbollah demonstration, but such hatred would have been staggering even in Beirut or Tehran, never mind the streets of London.
Exploiting “Islamophobia” in Islamist Politics
The IHRC’s annual “Islamophobia Awards” are also controversial. In 2015, there was widespread condemnation when the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was named a “winner”, just after its staff were murdered by terrorists in Paris.
Liberal Muslims are also nominated frequently for their supposed “Islamophobia”. Nominees in recent years include Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London; Sara Khan, then the leader of the liberal activist group Inspire and now the head of the UK’s Commission for Countering Extremism; Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary; and Maajid Nawaz, leader of the anti-extremist group Quilliam.
Liberal Muslims are not the only enemies. Orthodox Sunnis are in the frame too. Ludicrously, even Saudi Arabia has been nominated for an award.
In 2014, when President Obama was a “winner”, the Leeds professor Salman Sayyid was one of the speakers at the event.
Salman Sayyid speaking at the IHRC “Islamophobia Awards” event in 2014
Another recent IHRC move was highly characteristic. In December, it held events in London and Edinburgh titled “Islamophobia and Silencing of Criticism of Israel”.
British Jewish community leaders have been outspoken in their criticism of the far right, just as one would expect given the dark shadows of the Holocaust. In the IHRC’s world, however, reality is turned on its head. The IHRC advertised the meetings with these slanderous words:
Given the racist nature of Zionism, this marriage between the far-right and Zionist activists was inevitable. Pro-Israel advocates see an overlap between their hatred of the Arabs whom they wish to displace in Palestine with the far-right’s hatred of Muslims.
Ramon Grosfoguel, a Berkeley professor, was one of the speakers at the London event. He railed about Israel, calling it a “criminal enterprise” and an “extremist organization” while lamenting its “audacity” for naming Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups.
He added these conspiratorial lines:
There’s a Zionist industry that has put together a global institutional framework to put things upside down and make us believe that what they’re doing is defensive and resisting the terrorists.
In the process of shaping the institutional framework to criminalise critics of Israel and to criminalise support to the resistance, they are contributing to the elimination of basic democratic rights in the west and encouraging the rise of extreme right new fascist groups.
This prompted Dave Rich, the CST’s Head of Policy, to speak up:
This speech evokes classical antisemitic conspiracy theories, with its talk of global Zionist frameworks and lobbies controlling what people think, and it does so to encourage people to support terrorist groups that are banned in this country. It is yet another example of the IHRC’s extremism.
Fiyaz Mughal, a prominent liberal Muslim, wrote a biting review of the same IHRC event in the Jewish Chronicle, calling the IHRC rhetoric “poisonous nonsense”, “toxic narratives”, and “twisted and childlike commentary”. He warned, though, that such nonsense is “deliberate and aimed at playing to ignorance, fear and division”, and should be met with concern, not complacency:
It suits this organisation to punch the lowest common denominator with its support base — and that means vilifying Israel.
We have under-estimated the acumen and energy of Islamist groups and how they use key campaigning topics as a way to funnel in young minds into their activism. The last thing we need is groups like the IHRC taking the issue of Palestine and lumping it into a debate around ‘Islamophobia’.
Supporting Terrorists in the West
That the IHRC has come as far it has – including gaining EU finding and university partners – is perhaps most remarkable when one considers its record of openly supporting terrorists in the West, not the Middle East alone.
Abu Hamza was arguably the UK’s most reviled extremist for many years after the 9/11 attacks in the USA. He was finally incarcerated for incitement to murder in 2006. The IHRC said it was “saddened” by the verdict, which sent “yet another signal that Muslims are not equal in the eyes of the law of this country”.
Abu Hamza was subsequently extradited by the UK to the USA to stand trial for terrorist offenses. He was found guilty in a US court in 2014 and once again the IHRC painted due process for a dangerous man as anti-Muslim prejudice – “a dual system of justice in Britain by which European human rights standards do not apply to Muslims”.
Omar Abdel-Rahman, the “blind sheikh” seen as a spiritual leader of the 1990s New York terrorist bomb plotters, was another cause célèbre for the IHRC. A man who had been sentenced to life for his crimes was nothing less than a “prisoner of faith”, it said, while urging Muslims to send him letters of support.
When Abdel-Rahman died in prison in 2017, the IHRC hailed him as “a rare man of principle who refused to be cowed by state bullying and terror”, a “martyr”, and “an inspiration for people who continue to resist foreign backed autocracy and imperialism in the Muslim world”.
Soft Touch Britain
The problem is that the UK has long been a soft touch for Islamist extremists. The IHRC is typical in this field – it has exploited every opening it can find and has faced very little serious opposition.
If you step back and gain wider perspective, it would be simply astonishing to see a university team up with a group that openly supported far right extremists, up to and including terrorists. Yet when it comes to Islamists, the University of Leeds and others have not seen any problem.
Even British Quakers – nominally anti-racist and strongly opposed to violence – are part of the trouble. The Edinburgh meeting in December was hosted at a Quaker meeting hall. This is part of a pattern of welcoming some of the UK’s worst extremists at Quaker venues up and down the country for years on end.
Nor should the UK’s numerous critics of Brussels harp on too sharply about the latest news. The IHRC has a registered “charity” arm which promotes violence. It has faced no firm action and collects substantial amounts of money from British taxpayers through “Gift Aid” claims to the country’s tax authorities.
Forty years on from the Iranian revolution, with all its devastating consequences in plain view in Iran and beyond, this is a dismal state of affairs.