Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Shiraz Maher: Ed Husein's Supporting Actor

Taken from Noman Hanif's article "Ex-Islamist Inc: Fabricating a Link between Hizb-ut-Tahrir and Terrorism'

The case of Shiraz Maher is an interesting one. Unlike Husein, Maher was a prolific writer for Hizb ut Tahrir in Britain (HTB) demonstrating a sound understanding of HT ideology. Hence his dramatic u-turn in 2005 from doctrinal Islamist to secularist must have taken HTB completely by surprise. Maher first came to prominence as “reformed” ex-HT Islamist through his publication of an article in Prospect Magazine wherein he argued that UK Universities had failed to acknowledge the extent of Islamic extremism on the campuses despite the report by Anthony Glees and Chris Pope, "When Students Turn to Terror" (Social Affairs Unit). Since then he has been working in the background as a consultant for the BBC on political Islam and although preceded Ed Hussein as the original ex-HT defector was overshadowed by the publication of The Islamist, until now. However, Maher’s own opportunism starts with the issue of his Maher’s official account of when exactly he joined HT which has been disputed by people who claim to have known him. Within a comment on Maher’s article in the New Statesman entitled, “Glasgow bombs: the Doctor I knew”, the person under the name of Sajid writes;

“Brother Shiraz why are you dishonest over the one matter you should know best. I note that in this article you have tried to avoid the lies in your previous accounts of your "recruitment". You have now admitted that when you moved to Leeds you "already knew about Hizb ut-Tahrir". However that is not what you wrote in the Times Higher Education Supplement [3 February 2006] when you said that you first met HT at Leeds University where you were "recruited". Did we not attend HT study circles in Birmingham Central Mosque together for several years when you were at Solihull School and I was at King Edward's? You had first approached members of HT many years previously when you lived with your grandfather in Harborne in 1994. I remember that you asked to join HT at that time, but rather than ‘recruit’ you , HT merely explained its thoughts to you, and did not make any efforts to meet you again. Many years later you again actively approached members of the party at a mosque in Leeds. In the article last year in THES you alleged that you had been approached at university - I am glad that you have now admitted in this article that your previous account was inaccurate. With so much dishonesty why should anyone now believe your account?” (New Statesman, 12th July, 2007)

Why was there a need for Maher to provide such contradictory accounts. Is it an attempt to cover tracks in order to reinvent oneself? Or is it more sinister? Whatever the answer, the issue of credibility has already been raised.
The attempted bombing of Glasgow airport catapulted Maher directly into the global media limelight. The British media had brought him in from the cold. Why? Not because he knew the Glasgow bomber Dr. Abdullah, but because he knew him in the capacity of a Hizb-ut-Tahrir member. Ed Hussein’s Home Office script had just found a supporting actor. Maher took the opportunity and locked himself into the narrative. Until now Maher had made no connection between HT ideology and terrorism. Rather the focus was on protecting liberal values through attacking HT’s goal of an Islamic Caliphate and the supremacy of Sharia;

"Hizb ut-Tahrir is, after all, ostensibly non-violent and committed to open discussion, so can it really be that dangerous? I suggest that it is…Hizb ut- Tahrir is no paper tiger. It is a revolutionary movement seeking to overthrow governments in the Muslim world, establish a caliphate and then wage jihad on other nations." [Times Higher Education Supplement]
Crucially however, the opportunism is confirmed by the fact that he had kept quiet about his association with jihadists in the past and had argued vigorously as a HT member that its methodology was non-violent and no link had ever been established between HT and terrorism. Whilst a member of HT Maher states;

“Disillusioned at the failure of her agents to suppress the Islamic da'wah we now see the colonialist states taking direct action against the Hizb. Despite vain attempts to slander the Hizb and associate her name with terrorism the German government much like the Uzbek, Jordanian, Syrian, Egyptian administrations has failed to show demonstrate any such link. Islam is the only ideological solution to capitalist exploitation and hegemony. Unfortunately even the supposedly democratic west - the bastion of liberal democracy and free speech - now fears this growing and unstoppable call."[ 86574.html+%22shiraz+maher%22+ban&hl=en&gl=uk&ct=cln k&cd=22]

It is not surprising that Maher has vigorously tried to remove these statements from the internet. The question which naturally arises from the quote is that despite HT’s ideology remaining consistent for over fifty years, no terrorism connection was ever found. HT’s ideology has not changed so what has? Maher as with Ed Hussein provides no answers to this question. Moreover, since according to his own admission Dr. Abdullah had been radicalised by jihadism before his introduction and also according to his own admission Abdullah had rejected the non-violent methodology of HT and refused to join HT, Maher is totally disingenuous in declaring that the ideology of Islamic dissent and HT ideology in particular is a precursor to terrorism.

“And so it was through my involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir and its ideology of extremist political Islam that I came to befriend Bilal, the would-be bomber. That's why I believe it's wrong to distinguish between "extremism" and "violent extremism" as the government has been doing in recent months. The two are inextricably intertwined. Without movements such as Hizb creating t he moral imperatives to justify terror, people like Bilal wouldn't have the support of an ideological infrastructure cheering them on. And, I believe, it's a fallacy to suggest that the culpability of agitators and cheerleaders is any less than for those who actually carry out acts of t error.” (New Statesman, 5th July, 2007)
Yet the closeness to the narrative of The Islamist is unmistakable,

“Islamist terrorism does not exist in a vacuum. Like other social phenomena, it operates within a wider infrastructure, designed to achieve specific ends. In this case, that is the political ideology of Islamism, an idea distinct and different from Islam the religion. ” (New Statesman, 12th July, 2007)

“The political ideology of Islamism”, “Islam the religion”. Sound familiar? Once the fog is removed it is clearly recognisable that Maher has been scripted by the Home Office to play supporting actor to Husein. The issue is not terrorism but a concerted attack on the ideas of political Islam and specifically those concerning the Caliphate, Islamic Universalism and jihad. Thus it is no coincidence that Maher ‘s timing of his article in The New Statesman on the 12th of July coincided with Husein’s articles in Newsweek and the Guardian in the same week, concurring that;

“Islamist groups thrive on preaching a separatist message of Islamic supremacy, which concerns itself with reversing the temporal decline of Islam and challenging the ascendancy of the west by reviving a puritanical caliphate.” ((New Statesman, 12th July, 2007)

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