The Roman stoic philosopher Seneca once said: “we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” The goal here being not to eliminate the emotions entirely, but properly attaching our judgments to them because that’s something in our own control.
Fiyaz Mughal is the founder of Faith Matters and TellMAMA. The former being an interfaith organization that focuses on making things cozy between different religions, while the latter is an anti-Muslim incident reporting organization that collects information submitted from the public. While TellMAMA formally began back in February 2012, it was in November of that year Nick Clegg christened it seaworthy (for further reading: the issue of prejudice against Muslims was a huge part of his platform). He granted £214,000 of further funding to the project, making a big announcement at a town hall shindig alongside Minister for Faith and Communities Baroness Warsi and Communities Minister Don Foster. Back then, TellMAMA had been collecting data on anti-Muslim incidents to give insights to the police and government on how to address hate crime. The dataset provided by Fiyaz Mughal’s organization would be used to inform the cross-government Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group’s research into the issue. Also going on at the time was the emergence of the English Defense League. Police cracked down hard that year on their demonstrations. Based on the articles back then, you can see the reactionary dynamic Fiyaz Mughal was forming opposite the EDL here. He used them to justify and kickstart TellMAMA as an organization.
But Fiyaz Mughal’s political views add a whole other layer to how the two organizations and their functions play themselves out in a practical sense.
I wanted to see what my followers on Twitter thought the current political climate as presented by TellMAMA in one of their latest yearly reports. This was done in order to establish a general sense of what people in my corner of the internet thought about it all (and shouldn’t be used to represent views of the UK on a national level or anything like that).
One of the most popular answers was being afraid to give their honest opinion, out of concern that Twitter would suspend them. When it comes to the mention of Muslim Britons becoming second-class citizens in a two-tier society, people thought Shahid was painting a too-broad brush and lacking clarity. What group is Shahid talking about when it comes to needing to change the way they dress? On one hand, there are Muslim women who take their hijab off in order to blend into crowds more. Native British women who read that didn’t appreciate the blanket insinuation that “racists” are demanding that of Muslims. People understand this is something Sharia demands Muslim women to do. But on the other hand, many people saw that line and thought about the English, Swedish, German, and other European women and girls who fall victim to Muslim immigrants perpetrating sexual violence. Such as the grooming gangs. On the grounds that Islamic culture finds the way Western women dress lacking “modesty” and that they’re raped by dressing how they do.
According to some responses, the whole statement by Shahid felt like a contradiction on itself. Ambiguous doublethink. If you look closer (like this reply did) you’re able to see the careful choice of words used. The first paragraph goes “anti-Muslim,” “our British,” and “Muslim Britons” in separate sentences. Your mind doesn’t catch that, that way. But in the last part of the last sentence, this is brought back into play more directly. By going “British values,” “British freedoms,” and “our way of life,” it makes the Muslim assimilation into Britain messaging that Shahid was going for come into focus for the reader. It forces the reader to take an us vs. them side. TellMAMA claims to abhor such strategies, but here they are using it. Not between Muslim or British groups, mind you. Instead, it provokes an accepting Muslim culture or rejecting Muslim culture division. Some were aware of this manipulation and twisting of words. To make sense of this, we have to account for the “while there are Muslims in Britain, but there is no such thing as British Muslims” perspective. Muslim women being forced to wear face coverings is antithetical to the freedoms enjoyed by those with British values. Many replies acknowledged the reality of this culture clash. The British native public is waking up and defending their cultural heritage. Against those who label mourning the execution of Lee Rigby as “bigotry.” People who lived there for generations having a brand new for the first time influx of economic migrants dumped into their society. The West’s altruism being used against them, with the system being rigged to subvert itself by that dynamic. An incompatibility between British values and Islam. The blunt bottom line that British freedoms, like speech, are being censored to protect the Muslim minority group. People see a lack of equality under the law within Britain.
“I’m sick of being made out to be a racist because I’m concerned with the criminal actions of some migrants (who happen to be Muslim). And being guilted into tolerating an ideology which refuses to tolerate me and my beliefs,” one reply said. It states the upfront approach to what people who disagree with what’s going on are thinking.
Here’s another one, from a person who wished to remain anonymous. They live in the UK and tell me about the changes in daily life around them.
“Hi I wanted to respond to your tell mama tweet quoting its chair Shahid Malik but I didn’t want to do it publicly. I’ve found the opposite of what he talks about to be true, it is British women that have to modify our behaviour & our dress. I moved back to an area I used to live in, it’s by a really busy street that is full of restaurants & used to have lots of pubs, now it’s coffee shops & dessert shops. There is one owned by a convicted grooming gang member, it’s always packed. You used to be able to walk about on it safely until late as it was always busy but now gangs of middle eastern men intimidate western women. I’m in my 40s & I’ve been called a white b***h & wh**e on several occasions, mainly you just get intimidating stares. I can’t sit on my balcony in shorts & a T-shirt for example without having women in burqas stand underneath it starring until I give up & go inside. These are just mild examples about how life is changing for the worst, I could give you many more about how it’s indigenous Britons who are already second class citizens due to insane laws & a culture of placating muslim sensibilities at all levels of power in the UK. I volunteer in the local community & tell mama leaflets are appearing everywhere, I’m really scared as already we can be abused, threatened & nothing happens but if they claim racism we get police & council round in a flash. We are already expected to take anything they throw at us & if we complain they immediately say we said something racist & then we have to defend ourselves against the accusation & their behaviour even if witnessed by officials is dismissed.”
Some people thought he was referring to native Brits in that mention of modifying their looks. In such interpretation, calling Muslim Brits the second-class ones sounded “the wrong way around.” It was pointed out that a characteristic of “two-tier societies” by rule of nature have either population think of the other as second-class. Specifically in cases where the native population feels like they’re being replaced. A few saw this second-class concept as being enforced by Islamic culture instead. A prominent response by many said Shahid Malik was playing the victim card on behalf of the Muslim community in order to dodge criticism. Deflection from the crimes Muslims commits against non-Muslims, heightened by the mass immigration into the country. It’s a two-fold approach to being an aggressor while at the same time claiming to be the victim. “In my opinion, he’s crying out in pain as he strikes you,” one reply said. People say they’re sick of that tactic. On top of getting tired of being called racist just for existing.
This is the sort of battlefield of thought going on in the United Kingdom. Examples like the one above are the point of contention for the public on both sides. Three simple paragraphs from TellMAMA can be interpreted in so many different degrees, and the reality of it is they know that.
I realized the responses I got were probably going to be seen as the “far right wing” detractors. So I compromised.
I put out questions to the Muslim community as well. Unfortunately, there wasn’t as much of a response. It was a shame that was the case. But I wanted to get some sort of answers on their platform here, in a reflection of the public at large.
It was here I ended up being super lucky.
“Who Speaks for British Muslims?” I asked myself. It just so happens there was a Channel 4 documentary with that exact title (watch it here), that aired back on March 26th of this year. That’s when I discovered MEND. A pro-Muslim organization that ended up on the bad end of a smear campaign. One that had TellMAMA’s influence lurking within the background.
When it comes to the contents of the documentary itself, the best way I can break it down is by comparing it to TellMAMA. This way you can get an all-around understanding of them too.
In the interests of disclosure, I have to mention the bias I have in regards to this Channel 4 documentary. The team behind it is Hardcash Productions. As you can see here, they’re the same folks who made an ITV documentary about the “new far right” When it aired, Brittany Pettibone and I watched it when it aired back in November. Martin Sellner and Generation Identity were subjected to undercover reporting that amounted to nothing more than a few out of context statements in his case. Yet his situation was lumped together in this narrative of extremism that didn’t do a fair shake at covering the nuances between the different right-wing groups.
That makes this situation have a tasty layer of irony. Here, Generation Identity (critical of Islamic mass migration and the erosion of Western culture) is put into the same corner as MEND (a grassroots Muslim advocacy organization that pushes to give their people greater political power). I can say with confidence Generation Identity can relate to MEND’s tweets talking about how Hardcash Productions “first decided we were linked extremist and then went hunting for ‘evidence’ to ‘prove’ their theory.” Both MEND and Generation Identity were indeed subjected to the same social media mining for curated examples that justify the documentary’s presented allegations.
(At some point, later on, I would love to explore this particular aspect at greater length in the future. But we’re here to talk about TellMAMA so let’s get back to that.)
On March 26th, when this documentary was being broadcasted, MEND took to Twitter to reply on points throughout. At one point they laid out their platform:
- “This is what MEND is about: We call for Section 40 to be implemented immediately so that we can have a proper print media regulator”
- “We call for a change to the incitement to religious hatred legislation to make it easier to prosecute people who perpetrate anti-Muslim hatred”
- “We call for Prevent to be repealed an independent academic review into its effectiveness #Dispatches”
- “Action to end discrimination against Muslims in the workplace – e.g. by introducing name blind CVs since research by BBC has shown you are x3 more likely to get an interview if you have a Muslim sounding name”
- “We want the Government to invest in educational resources to teach Islamophobia alongside racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice and hatred in schools”
In a very general sense, the spirit behind MEND’s goals is also seen in TellMAMA’s work. Both MEND’s founder Sufyan Ismail and TellMAMA’s founder Fiyaz Mughal pride themselves on looking sleek and smooth as leaders. Both groups seek to make Britain a more inclusive, tolerant, and socially cohesive place for Muslims. To that effect, they both sought to make a foothold for themselves in the public sector.
However, the mutual aims get dwarfed in a fog of alleged scandals brought up. “Do these people really know who they’re working with?” the documentary imposes about MEND. “THERE’S NO SUGGESTION THAT MEND SUPPORTS TERRORISM. BUT…” is said at one point.
Many of the negative things insinuated and imposed about MEND as an organization are factors that play into TellMAMA as well. For example, at one point the documentary digs up old tweets from people involved with MEND. They point the finger of alleging antisemitism at it. However as you’ll see later on when we talk about Alison Chabloz, Fiyaz Mughal’s hands aren’t exactly clean in this regard either. A lot of a later page in this essay is dedicated to exploring the links to extremist activities that Mr. Mughal and his allies have. The Channel 4 documentary spins things on this “bad behaviors” axis against MEND, to make it appear as if the relationships MEND has with UK police is a bad thing. That it’s a shocker that the authorities would dare to be seen with MEND at all.
When this essay is finished discussing Fiyaz Mughal, you’ll be asking yourself the same thing about TellMAMA.
Next, the documentary talks about the backlash Sara Khan faced after Theresa May put her as the head of the new Commission for Countering Extremism she was putting together. Lady Warsi spoke out against the move, decrying Sara as a “mouthpiece” for the Home Office. Other detractors pointed out Sara Khan’s history of supporting the PREVENT program, which in 2016 was called “inherently flawed” by the UN Human Rights Council. There was a lot of flack. You would think Baroness Warsi wouldn’t be as harsh in her condemnation of Sara Kahn’s appointment. As seen in her speech to Bradford University, Sara definitely shares the same goals and desires with regards to extremism. Her viewpoint is that the idea of being a British Islam is a perceptual thing that came about as a generational shift.
The documentary says a MEND senior member commented that Sara Khan was an Oreo. Defined here as “brown on the outside but white on the inside.”
Fiyaz Mughal is given thirty or so seconds of screen time. It’s the only point in the whole documentary where his TellMAMA and Faith Matters organizations are mentioned at all, here. It’s enough of an opportunity for Mughal to impose that MEND “seems racist in their outlook” in regards to the comment made by the MEND senior member. Make a mental note of this because it shows the massive amount of weight Fiyaz puts on what he thinks are mean words.
You can see by the reporting style in this documentary MEND is pushed into that corner of having to condemn acts of terrorism. Of course, they do! Any sane organization looking to maintain their public image would. By slamming that question onto MEND it paints this perception that they’re dubious enough to make such questions necessary.
I should point out that the documentary makes mention of Sufyan Ismail’s donations to CAGE. They’re a similar interest group in the same neck of the woods as TellMAMA and MEND. Yes, MEND states their support for CAGE. But the particulars of why are vital. I have to admit when it comes to CAGE there’s more of a leg for this documentary to stand on. Snafus like CAGE involvement in handling Isis’s chief executioner Jihadi John and CAGE director Dr. Adnan Siddiqui reportedly saying suicide bombings were “a price worth paying” in some cases is unavoidably a bad look for the group to have. But you can still disagree with CAGE on that and not write MEND off entirely. Sufyan Ismail clarifies he donates to CAGE to support the group’s progressive work. You’ll be able to see what that is exactly when we talk about the UK government’s PREVENT policy.
This channel 4 documentary opened up with a story about how MEND activists lobbied for a school to remove their hijab ban imposed on 3 to 7-year-olds. The documentary accused MEND of being misleading by making it a debate about religious freedom after being told the school’s reasons for it were safety-related (MEND in response said their efforts were “in line with the views of the parents who felt the hijab and fasting ban was a breach of their religious freedom”).
In the end, the narrator thinks he’s making a big ol’ point when he says only one person ended up wearing a hijab after the school lifted the ban on it. Yet TellMAMA was involved in a similar case involving one person’s right to wear a hijab. In July 2015 a teenage waitress accused her employer The Savoy of discrimination, alleging they sent her home for refusing to remove her hijab. While working a wedding reception she claims Savoy staff questioned her twice about her headscarf. In response, the hotel made it clear that staff members are permitted to wear their hijab and there was no preventative policy in place for that. TellMAMA and Fiyaz Mughal stepped in to confront hotel management on the situation anyway.
There’s so much to take away about TellMAMA from this documentary about MEND, though. All centering around the idea of who has control of defining Islam in Britain. Fiyaz Mughal was generous enough to make a statement in light of the Channel 4 documentary’s release. It’s here we see him describe the direction of his organization.
“The programme explains how some groups play on a divisive approach targeted at British Muslim communities. But this agenda of tackling anti-Muslim hate and protecting social cohesion is too important to be left to those who would divide the community and ignore intolerance. This is why we chose to speak out and take part in the Dispatches documentary.
We will continue to fight for an inclusive approach to Islam, based on pluralism and where dissent is part of the cornerstone of healthy communities. We also know that colleagues in other programmes of work that we have set up, will continue to diligently tackle anti-Muslim hatred as they have done for over 6 years now. This means that we will continue to speak up where we see this approach being abused.”
The main idea is that Fiyaz Mughal’s approach to his Muslim advocacy work is a pluralism where the identity of Islam in itself makes some sacrifices for the sake of the politically correct Utopian ideal. But it’s important to understand that when he says “we challenge intolerance within our own communities,” this is what he means. Getting involved in a documentary to smear a similar group to his own with an aim to dominate the UK cultural and social conversation.
“We think we speak best for British Muslims,” says TellMAMA (essentially).
MEND too had an official statement after the documentary. It manages to explain the other side of this feud of theirs perfectly.
“MEND works tirelessly to ensure a future society where minority communities have the tools and the confidence to actively participate in political and civic life, and in which they are free from discrimination and marginalisation on the basis of religion, gender, ethnicity, race or sexuality.
We remain dedicated in our efforts to tackle Islamophobia in the UK and we will continue to unapologetically work towards empowering our communities within political and media spaces.”
MEND emphasizes they never claimed to represent British Muslims, but they have been advocates for the British Muslim community issues. That’s the distinction here. If you read over Fiyaz Mughal’s statement again you’ll notice that he never touches on empowering Muslim communities to have the tools themselves to address issues. Rather, Mughal’s focus is a system of total interdependence and connectivity with other arms of society.
“Muslims speak for themselves,” says MEND.
It wasn’t the first time MEND and TellMAMA clashed either. In fact, what transpired between the two organizations back in December 2016 demonstrates the friction at play in the Channel 4 documentary. I’m not just making a “reading between the lines” assumption. As seen in this official complaint to UK parliament, MEND thought Fiyaz Mughal abused parliamentary privileges to make libelous allegations against them. It’s worth reading in full to understand what went down. But the key thing theme throughout the whole document is that MEND rejects the accusations of anti-Semitism brought forward by Fiyaz in his remarks. Mughal name-dropped both MEND and CAGE as somehow guilty of that “conspiracy” in their organizations. He goes as far as saying MEND was guilty of attacking him for his organization “being too Jew-friendly” and having a Jewish person in the company’s leadership chair. MEND replied those statements were baseless and ludicrous.
But the incident serves to prove a point. That it’s possible for Fiyaz Mughal to use his pluralism politics as an attack vector against his opponents.
This was the only thing people saw, though. “Twitter fails to deal with far-right abuse, anti-hate crime group tells MPs,” says the Guardian article’s headline.
Which, to nitpick for a moment, presents the other part of Fiyaz Mughal’s body of work (including the flaws within it). Now consider that in August 2016, Twitter was proud to share an update on their efforts to combat violent extremism. To cut to the chase, the social media website said they suspended 360,000 accounts for promoting terrorism within the span of a little over a year. But months later here on December 13th, we’d come to find out that Fiyaz Mughal of TellMAMA thought places like Twitter weren’t doing enough to combat “far-right abuse.” That’s what he was telling UK parliament in the same occasion he made wild claims about MEND being antisemitic. He alleged people were opening up websites to name and identify Muslim community members for the purpose of targeting their speaking activities.
“It’s a significant and ongoing problem and it affects many parts of our country and our communities. We’ve had to do the police work. We’ve had to put the networks together, explain what they are, give names, identities that are open source, to Twitter to say here is the evidence and we’ve reported through their channels. And those accounts are still open.”
TellMAMA researcher Bharath Ganesh made a note of the international level of interactions going on between right-wing groups.
In years past, Fiyaz Mughal has complained that Facebook and Twitter are allowing Islamophobia to go unchecked on their websites. Commentators chose to prop them up as the leading force against “anti-Muslim prejudice,” and use the broadest scope for that definition by applying “everyday abuse” (mean words) and “criminal assaults” (actual physical crime) under one big umbrella. That led us here. These days Mughal is saying things like “We Must Close Down The Social Space For Those Who Seek To Harm Our Citizens.”
Harm now meaning dissent. But why is that? Let’s look deeper into TellMAMA’s reports to find out.
To describe the core of what TellMAMA does, I’ll refer to their own wording. By looking at the 2016 TellMAMA Annual Report we can get a sufficient breakdown. As far as it can go from their own words, anyway. They describe themselves as an independent and confidential third-party hate crime reporting service for anyone who experiences an anti-Muslim hate crime or incident. The public reports these things to TellMAMA staff via their website directly (the ‘Submit a Report’ page), free phone helpline, by email, their apps on Apple/Android, via WhatsApp, and on social media. TellMAMA positions itself in a way they describe as unique. If people aren’t comfortable reporting things to the police, they can come to them. They frame their program heavily on the involvement of one-on-one trust between TellMAMA and the victim. Furthermore, they explain their relationship with police, and the information sharing agreement they have between themselves and the authorities. When your average ordinary everyday citizen contacts TellMAMA as a witness or victim, they collect details about the incident. This means the perpetrator and victims themselves, too. They claim to verify that the story itself is valid and took place in the UK. But later on in the Tim Burton section of this essay series, I caught TellMAMA slipping up in that regard. It was a news story, but TellMAMA makes of the fact they look at those situations too.
The tail-end of page 27 (of the PDF, which is also labeled as page 25 in the report itself) mentions this:
“Our recommendations and figures inform and shape the political debate on this issue, and our training programmes have been welcomed by law enforcement, improving their understanding about the evolving nature of anti-Muslim hate crime, and how society is best equipped to respond and protect its Muslim communities.”
The scope of implications in that one paragraph alone lay the groundwork for the multiple pages of this essay. I need to emphasize the fact that TellMAMA said this themselves and make that particular distinction of what the reality is here. I ain’t going full tinfoil with talking about all this. “Shaping political debate” is the broadest possible expanse when it comes to subject matter.
I’m thankful for Fiyaz Mughal and TellMAMA giving me such an opening. There’s a ton of angles this can be taken to and explored. We’ll try and hit them all here.
“Everything the light touches is our kingdom.”
Towards the bottom of page 28 it says this:
“Within our analysis, we rely heavily on the testimony of victims or witnesses for information on anti-Muslim incidents. All eyewitness testimony is based on the perspective of the person reporting to our service. Therefore, it is natural to expect some gaps in the data. Our focus, however, is about supporting our service users, giving them a voice and using first-hand accounts of their experiences to show how low-level prejudice and racism affects their daily lives. Subjectivity can be observed in how we classify incidents and reports. With the information provided to our caseworkers, we can determine the location and incident category of offences. Subjectivity also relates to the characterisation of perpetrators. For example, there are tests applied to a perpetrator to see if their views, statements or clothing suggest any far-right tendencies.”
What about Muslim on Muslim incidents? What happens then? It’s certainly not out of the question that can happen, either. Let me show you examples of what I mean. First off in April 2016 it was reported that “Kill Ahmadis'” leaflets were distributed by an ex-head of Khatme Nabuwwat and on display at Stockwell Green mosque.
For context: “Khatme Nabuwwat believes Ahmadis are apostates. Those who refuse to convert to mainstream Islam within three days should face a “capital sentence” – or death penalty, according to the leaflets.”
A trustee of the mosque denied the legitimate existence or validity of these fliers (he thought the whole thing was some big hoax). This is in spite of the Khatme group listing the Stockwell Green mosque as an “overseas office” of theirs. That’s only the surface level of it. The news report talking about all this goes much deeper into the internal Muslim community friction.
There was another one of these sorts of incidents later on that year. An imam named Jalal Uddin was murdered in August 2016 by two Islamic State supporters. The suspects followed Uddin around and surveilled his day-to-day routine. They became offended when discovering the imam practiced Ruqya healing (something involving amulets). ISIS considers that black magic punishable by death.
Thus I arrive at one of my main criticisms of TellMAMA’s most recently available year-end report. There’s an overwhelming focus on the “us” (referring to the Muslim community generally) vs. “them” (referring to outsiders that aren’t Muslim who come and attack the religion of Islam). To be clear, this doesn’t imply that there isn’t an overall focus by TellMAMA to address internal community problems. It’s just that what I see in this report is a theme that avoids devoting an area of attention to Muslim on Muslim matters.
In Fiyaz Mughal’s biography on the official TellMAMA website, my reasoning gets some backing to it. In reference to TellMAMA itself, the description reads “it has fast become a well-recognised brand in the field of hate crime work and has been a project that tackles far-right extremism and has actively disrupted far-right anti-Muslim networks.”
It becomes clear to me based on what I’ve seen so far that I need to just analyze Mughal’s words and actions on my own accord. I don’t have much confidence that Fiyaz Mughal/TellMAMA will be entirely reliable when it comes to self-reflection.
The most revealing quote from Fiyaz Mughal is his rant on social media companies from May 2017.
He says (with bold emphasis being mine):
“Yet, having notified Google in January 2017 of the need to delink to such sites, their response was that because I was a ‘public person’ they could not delink their search facility from such sites. In other words, because I founded a national hate crime campaign countering racism, intolerance and prejudice, I should put up with it.“
This indicates that Mughal desires special privileges and advantages. Preferential treatment. If one wanted a clear answer to some of Fiyaz Mughal’s personal agenda, the example there substantiates it.
Then there’s the fact that Fiyaz Mughal is misleading in how he represents his strategic relationships. In June 2017, Facebook launched a “counterspeech initiative” over in Europe. The aim of it was to go after online extremism and hate speech, bring experts together to develop the best sort of strategies possible. Now over in the UK, this included benefits for NGOs. Things like training, marketing, and financial support for academic research were made available to them.
But if you read a piece written by him in March 2018 you wouldn’t know any better. This article by Mughal in HuffPost was about the banning of Britain First from Facebook. Did he applaud the company for taking action? No. Fiyaz whined that Facebook didn’t act soon enough to his liking.
In his own words:
“Over a short period of time, Britain First amassed over two million followers, larger than many political parties in the UK and Europe. They used it to raise money and to keep their anti-Muslim rhetoric alive and funded. All of this, right under the noses of Facebook’s young fashionista staff and public relations executives who turned up in Parliament to explain how great they were at removing content, without mentioning the fact that the platform was allowing far right and Islamist extremist groups to operate and generate funding for their hate.”
What he does say is that TellMAMA lobbied against Britain First for quite some time. Thus demonstrating the organization’s deplatforming agenda. Throughout the entire body of this piece that’s made abundantly clear. As he throws Facebook to the wolves and accuses them of being against “the safety and security” of the public and “the social fabric and cohesion” of the United Kingdom. It ends up being ironic when he says people have “paid the price of hate” from these California types. As he’s getting paid by those exact same people he described as “hate profiteers.”
In pages 71 and 72 (going by the PDF’s numbers), the TellMAMA report zeroes in on what they call “ideologically-driven accounts” that “sustain narrow echo chambers which selectively seek out news content, from mainstream and non-mainstream news sources that posit Muslims as collectively responsible for crimes and acts of terrorism.”
This is the exact portion of the report where TellMAMA attacks people’s right to criticize Islam. Right there. What you are about to read is the angle of attack on free speech the organization goes for.
“This dehumanisation serves a secondary function as it attacks the fundamental identity of Muslims in Britain while demonstrated a disproportionate interest in halal meat and the inner workings of Islamic institutions. This cultivation of content may allow flagrant falsehoods to pass as accepted truths, or the normalisation of graphically racialised cartoons. In one example, a horrific cartoon depicting the rape of a white woman (or child) on the so-called ‘altar of multiculturalism’ by Muslim men was reported by our team to Twitter, who did not consider it a breach of its conduct. The Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry cited Twitter’s failure to remove this very cartoon in their final report. It also outlined how Twitter did not remove a user with the name @gasmuslims despite our initial report. Furthermore, it took the efforts of the committee to remove the anti-Muslim @Fahrenheit211 account. In earlier evidence, we added that this Twitter account often deployed hateful, racialised, and dehumanising language about Muslims – including the use of the terms ‘Muzzies’ and ‘Paedo Prophet’. When challenged in his evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Nick Pickles, Twitter’s UK head of policy, cited positive examples of counter speech within two prominent anti-Muslim hashtags. Subsequent analysis from the BBC drew similar conclusions when analysing the #KillAllMuslims hashtag after the Paris terror attacks in January 2015.”
Just to summarize. Yes. UK government officials and TellMAMA got together, sat down, and talked about mean tweets. Just to walk you through the above quote in itself, we can see TellMAMA reported a cartoon to Twitter as a violation of terms and conditions. Afterward, the Home Affairs Select Committee of the United Kingdom complained about that. They also moaned about the failure to immediately remove a user by the name of @gasmuslims on the basis of the account’s name alone (TellMama’s report doesn’t specify that but the initial source of the claim. Lastly, the report says “it took the efforts of the committee” (meaning the UK government lobbied for the removal) to take down the “anti-Muslim” @Fahrenheit211 account.
Their source on this one is an article from The Times. “Google rejected pleas to silence racist campaign” was behind a paywall, but given the public importance of this I signed up an account so I could access it. Here you go.
It cites something called the “Pakemon” campaign as the damning evidence against Fahrenheit211. What The Times defines as “smears against Muslims” in the eyes of the article’s author, is interpreted as freedom of artistic expression in the eyes of Fahrenheit211. They also talk about taqiyya and Tim Burton’s trial, which we’ll cover on a later page. But what’s relevant to mention here is Fiyaz Mughal’s efforts to erase the website from existence for the act of reporting on the events of the trial between him and Tim.
Google thought that was nonsense.
“Our conclusion is that your role in public life, and the public interest, justifies the continued inclusion of the URLs in question in Google’s search results.”
What the most important thing to take away from this is that TellMAMA’s approach to social media “hate” erases the nuances away from each of their individual examples. In the case of @gasmuslims, we have an account that had in terms of interactions a grand total of six tweets from two people. They were a nobody account. Moreover, there’s no screenshot evidence provided at any point showing @gasmuslims committed wrongdoing. The UK government simply takes TellMAMA at their word, by the looks of it. Later on, we’ll examine the legitimacy of that trust between the two of them.
Here are the three examples, but now with context. Do all three of these situations deserve to have the same label put on it? An account intended for political statements (source on page 8 of this PDF), an account with little to no interaction history (type it into Twitter search to see) that was condemned on the basis of its name alone, and a parody of Pokemon from a blog website.
That cartoon on the top left? Yeah. About that. A week prior to that tweet being posted, a Polish magazine had a cover depicting a real-life European woman experiencing migrant rape.
What this report tries to argue in the paragraphs that follow is the phenomena of online “hate speech” is married to the extremist actions done by neo-Nazi groups. Generally speaking, we shouldn’t be equating words online to the same caliber as street violence. That’s what the UK has done.
Instead of framing online words as equally terrible to offline action, the focus should have been to maintain the distinction between one and the other. TellMAMAUK takes advantage of the nuances in the English language to distort and shape reality in their preferred style. You can see it by looking at the exact of what got Tommy Robinson banned from Twitter, and contrast that to the interpretation TellMAMAUK describes those facts as.
It’s called bullshitting. The thing is Tommy Robinson and Fiyaz Mughal have been at odds with each other for years. You can see the two debating back in mid-2013 over on LBC Radio to get a proper sense of the friction going on between them both. While either party knows how to act polite, it’s a game of political chess. It was at this time the media was starting to claim that schools had a responsibility towards stopping people from joining the EDL. The government’s chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw coupled the EDL as being populated by “jobless and unskilled” groups. This notion that a student’s failure in the education system would lead to a life of extremism was perpetuated.
Later on, in October 2013, TELLMAMA is much more to the point in his thoughts about Tommy. When speaking on Tommy’s parting of ways with the EDL, Mughal paints him as a hatemonger who was a burden to police resources. This is coming from the mouth of the same man who spent four years of his life going after a guy by the name of Tim Burton because of some tweets.
Times were turbulent back then. The 2013 year rounded out with Fiyaz Mughal telling David Cameron that there’d be an upsurge of violence if he went through on his latest counter-extremism crackdown. The courts would have new civil powers to ban extremist preaching, meaning Islamist radicals could easily be expelled from Mosques and other Muslim community areas. “There has to be parity and not a feeling that Muslims are being singled out,” Mughal said. He continued this shaping of policy implementation that punished the far-right for the problems the Muslim community was creating. There was also a distinction being formed between Islamist extremism and what Cameron defined as the traditional religious practices. The extremists he said were a “distorted interpretation of Islam, which betrays Islam’s peaceful principles”.
Let me reiterate here. At the end of December 2013, Fiyaz Mughal was vocally against extremism crackdowns in the Muslim community. He called for an even playing field and no special treatment being given to either side. Here in June 2014 he’d turn around and demand in a Huffington Post article that “Anti-Muslim hate must not be an afterthought.” He more or less provides a counterexample as to why the crackdown on extremism shouldn’t have been applied so heavy handed to the far-right in the first place.
“We within Tell MAMA will be releasing an analysis of our 2013/2014 data, received from victims, (and which has been independently analysed by Teesside University), within the next three weeks. It will show, once again, that whilst the number of Far Right activists implicated in anti-Muslim hate incidents reported to us has dropped, a small number of Far Right activists are causing a disproportionate impact in terms of anti-Muslim hate incidents.”
That disproportionate impact was being created by Fiyaz himself in terms of his area of reporting focus and targeting. What’s worse is that people in the government believed Mughal on it.
That’s why Tommy Robinson would get tossed around England’s prison system as if he was a salad.