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The myriad three-monkey mosques

For those who argue that we should not have a negative view of Islam generally but rather should go about, in the manner of the ants who helped Psyche, knowledgeably picking apart the grains and seeds of "good Islam" from "bad Islam," Robert Spencer notes an interesting trend. This, with reference to the Portland, OR, bomber:

[D]espite Mohamud's avowedly Islamic motivations, the Imam Yosof Wanly of the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center in Corvallis, Oregon, followed a predictable and oft-repeated pattern when he downplayed Mohamud's connection to the local Muslim community. Every jihadist who has ever lived for any time in the United States has been simultaneously a devout and informed Muslim by his own account, and by the account of the local mosque leaders, someone they seldom saw and who was at odds with the larger community when he did show up. It raises a large question that no journalist ever has the wit or courage to ask: if these jihad terrorists really had little or nothing to do with their local mosques, and if their understanding of Islam differs so sharply from that of the area Muslims, where did they learn the version of Islam that impelled them to attempt mass-murder of infidels?

And here the same pattern comes again in the case of the Swedish Muslim suicide bomber, about whom the Swedes are so carefully refusing to "jump to conclusions." On the one hand, his friends in Sweden seem to think that he was "radicalized" by an Egyptian imam that he met in Luton, England.

Wahab became interested in radical Islam in the town just north of London, where he met his wife, reportedly the same age as him and also a Swedish citizen.

"He got to know an Egyptian imman [sic] at the mosque in Luton," a friend of the family told Expressen, adding that during his time there "he became another person. It's hard to say how. He changed and became more restrictive."

When he returned to Sweden in 2005, he had a beard, cut contact with his old friends and led a withdrawn life.

On the other hand, the people at the mosque in Luton say they threw him out for his "extremist" views. Where's the mysterious Egyptian imam? Did he get thrown out, too? Does anyone admit he was even there? Nobody knows nothin'. This despite the fact that Luton is known as a hotbed of extremism. They must be throwing lots of people out of the mosque there.

But maybe not. Maybe, in other words, they're just lying.

Comments (34)

Quoth the ant:

"Is it so difficult to tell the difference between the members of 'the Quilliam Foundation' and al-Muhajiroun?"


Graham, I think you might have trouble with the leaders and members of some of these mosques, yes. I think they might just bamboozle you, especially if you took all their statements at face value.

To be fair, I do have a negative view of Islam in general. For one thing, it isn't true.

But many people who self-identify as Muslim do not read the Koran or the Sunnah in this way. These may be unreasonable interpretations. But some Muslim communities can see Sufi doctrines in the Koran. So it isn't surprising that other communities can read the Koran and reject Imperialism.



You're suggesting that Ed Husain is a bamboozler? That the members of Qilliam cannot be trusted? On what basis?


I certainly wouldn't take their statements at face value - I don't take newspaper articles at face value, never mind the soundbites contained in the articles!
Deobandi Muslims may have taken over 50% of British Mosques. This does not mean that 50% of British Muslims have been radicalised. But we should not underestimate the extent of the problem.


I'm certainly not going to deny that particular mosques can play a role in radicalization, but it's my impression that oftentimes the radicalization process takes place when a group of radically-inclined individuals meet and begin to cut themselves off from the "mainstream" mosque-going community. They then create for themselves a hermetically sealed environment in which they basically egg each other on to higher levels of radicalization, a process helped by the easy accessibilty of jihadi propaganda and scholarship on the internet. A disaffected individual could even more easily lose themselves in the vast ocean of jihadi porn. That's not to say that that's always the pattern or that that's what happened in Luton, but it certainly wouldn't be unheard of.

A question I had unrelated to this post but that was prompted by the previous posts in Lydia and Jeff's series on Islam, would the policies recommendations in those pieces apply equally to Sunnis, Shi'is, Isma'ilis, Zaydis, Alevis, 'Alawis, Druze, and 'Ibadis?

Whoops. I seem to have deleted a sentence, and implied that some versions of Islam are true! Perish that thought!
The missing sentence referred to the Islamic Imperialist Impulse, which is a problem for Islam. There is a venerable tradition of Islamic Imperialism.

"this way" in my post above refers to Islamic Imperialism. Not everyone who self-identifies as Muslim buys into the Imperialism.


Robert Spencer on Ed Husain. Spencer, as usual, asks excellent questions:


Reza Aslan, whom I believe you've also mentioned, Graham, does appear to be a straight-out bamboozler.

On Quilliam, I would point out that they laud the "Muslim scholastic giants, such as the noble...Shaikh Ali Goma (Mufti of Egypt)..." who have "provided ample guidance."

Spencer points out:

Not reassuring. Ali Gomaa is the statue-hatin', wife-beatin', Hizballah-supportin', Muhammad's-urine-drinkin' Mufti of Egypt, who not long ago denied reports that he had rejected the traditional Islamic death sentence for apostates. The delirious Dinesh D'Souza has praised him as a "traditional Muslim" with whom American conservatives should cultivate an alliance. I do not think Americans should be so naive, and do not think that the Quilliam Foundation's invocation of this man as a moderate bodes well for its own claims of moderation.

Interesting how wife beating, or at least views thereon, can be one of those little divisive issues that flushes the "moderates" from cover. I've noted it in another post. Gomaa evidently teaches that you shouldn't do it if it's against the law in the country you happen to be in. That makes me feel much better. What a giant. He provides us with ample guidance in crafting a moderate Islam.

The Luton mosque claims they threw out the Stockholm suicide bomber for his "extremist" views, but they did not inform the British police that a dangerous man was on the loose.

Melanie Phillips writes in her commentary on this case: "Of course, millions of British Muslims shun violence or extremism. They want only to live peacefully and enjoy the benefits of Western democracy and human rights."

I'm tired of reading this sloppy excuse. If "millions of Muslims" want to live peacefully in Western democracies, they should be prepared to identify the so-called "tiny minority" who don't.

The disconnect between the reputation of Luton and the claims of the Luton mosque should really bother people. Where are all those "extremist" Muslims in Luton going to pray if the mosque kicks out extremists? Where's the magical disappearing Egyptian imam? At least with an organization or a foundation or a person who claims to be "moderate," we can get some sort of paper trail. But if we're supposed to be open-minded to all mosques except those we somehow (who knows how) know will be "taken over by extremists," then this sort of thing must be allowed. It looks undeniable that so-called "extremists" (good, jihadi Muslims) meet each other at the Luton mosque, yet nobody knows nothin' and we're just supposed to buy that.

What we need are some hard nosed investigative reporters to start turning over the rocks, stick their necks out, metaphorically speaking, follow the truth where so ever it leads, and damn the consequences. Of the sort we have witnessed in awe when our media heros, bearers of the lamp of truth, lifeblood of the Free Society, Gideon's Trumpet,etc., have pursued scandals of pederasty within the Church, or sent a couple of hundred reporters to Alaska to discover whether Sarah Palin uses milk or cream with her coffee.
But is it possible that this army of the semi-literate though conscientious refrains from this mission due to lack of sufficient interest? Why I wonder?


I'm sorry, but where is the evidence that Husain endorses terrorism? Or that he believes that there should be a Holy War with the West? Grant that his reading of the Koran is poor. Grant that he ignores difficult passages. So does Tony Blair.
Grant that he won't reform Islam until he follows Spencer's analysis. It follows that he is a poor reformer. It does not follow that his religious practices endanger the West.


Again where is the evidence that Quilliam endorses wife beating? Or that it endorses the death penalty for apostates?

In terms of hard-nosed journalism I can only recommend "Flat Earth News" by veteran journalist Nick Davies before anyone takes news reports in the British Press at face value.
("Quilliam" and "Civitas" are both guilty of this.)


Again where is the evidence that Quilliam endorses wife beating? Or that it endorses the death penalty for apostates?

Did you read the incredible, over-the-top endorsement *as a guide for developing moderate Islam* of somebody who _does_ endorse these things? That's a problem, y'know? It's not just that they said, "Hey, I agree with what this person said about x or y." It's that they expressly endorsed him *as a guide*, as someone who has given *ample guidance* for the development of a moderate, modern form of Islam. If this guy is their guide for that particular purpose, then that's a problem. It looks like they are modeling their notion of moderate Islam after his.

Here, I seem not to have included the link--apologies:


And here is what they say about Goma:

The think-tank aims to develop its arguments out of the Islamic theological tradition, rather than simply use Western secular arguments against versions of political Islam which it regards as distorted and damaging.

Its founding statement says: "Western Muslims should be free from the cultural baggage of the Indian subcontinent, or the political burdens of the Arab world. We were born and raised in a milieu that is different from the Muslim East. As such, our future and progeny belong here.

"Just as Muslims across the globe have adopted from and adapted to local cultures and traditions, while remaining true to the essence of their faith, Western Muslims should pioneer new thinking for our new times. Here, Muslim scholastic giants, such as the noble Abdullah bin Bayyah and Shaikh Ali Goma (Mufti of Egypt), have provided ample guidance."

Are there any incidences of "Islamic lightning" in those mosques?

Not that I know of, Foxfier. :-)

Graham, remember too that however much you might really, really like this Quilliam foundation, it is not a mosque. I think it is highly naive to consider all mosques "moderate until proven otherwise," so to speak.

I would add, too, that there is a big pattern that needs to be opposed of pretending that somehow only the Wahabis are a problem. This is false. Hezbollah is Shia.


I'm enjoying this tremendously.

As it happens I don't really like Quilliam. I don't think that they'll reform Islam. I don't like their ethics. I'm just pointing out that there are groups that won't be shoe-horned into certain categories.

I can't find the Goma quotation in its original context. I can find no reference to him on the Quilliam web-site - and that would not be surprising, given that they want Muslims to change their stance on homosexuality (one of the reasons I don't like them!) I can't see the Mufti approving.
There is a tendency to laud any Muslim who doesn't endorse terrorism as a moderate. In fact, a Muslim can endorse terrorism in Israel, and still be lauded as a moderate provided he won't bomb Brixton or Western tourist resorts in the Middle East. But Blair and Livingstone were ding this long before Quilliam. (And this is worth pondering. There are horrible Muslim leaders who do not believe that a war with the West is wise or warranted. Do we deal with them the same way we deal with the Bin Laden's?)

Still, until I see the original speech, it's difficult to know what was meant. It could be a lousy speech writer; or an attempt to woo radicals away from violence. But evidence of a Muslim conspiracy, or a Muslim addiction to Jihad with the West? I'd need some convincing.



Why would you think that I really like Quilliam? I hope I'm not coming across as a moderate (-:re

As always, my respect for you guys here on W4 is a given. If I come across as disrespectful or rude, shoot me down!


Oh, and on Mosques. Quilliam's research would suggest that very few are controlled by anyone that Westerners would consider moderate. 50% would be Deobandi. Most have Imam's who have been trained outside Britain. So most have Imams that do not want integration with the West.
That does not mean that they wish to give succour to terrorists. The situation is a little more complicated. Generally this leads to young Muslims feeling that they have little in common with the West, and with their Imam. Research by Kings College in London indicates that extremists thrive on young Muslims’ frustration with their imams.Mosques function like community centres.Mosque management committees sometimes cannot control what happens in the Mosque. Again, this has been well documented. There have been lengthy court cases in which Mosque management committees struggled to have radicals removed. Mosque management committees are not noted for their progressive views. It is frightening to consider what might have offended them!

So generally a presumption of "anti-western" is warranted. But given that most Muslims attending will not understand the khutbah, or a Friday sermon given in Urdu, we should not presume that the vast majority of Muslims attending are happy with the Deobandi's, or are in contact with terrorists.

And, generally, there is a danger of lumping the problems of terrorism and ant-integrationism together. The problems are obviously connected, but that does not make them the same problem.


The problems are obviously connected, but that does not make them the same problem.

I agree with this but think that both are good types of reasons for not wanting a mosque in one's neighborhood and hence for obstruction when one has the chance, per Jeff's proposal.

The reason that Gomaa's speech on wife beating got taken down is because Youtube closed MEMRI's Youtube channel, which is a disgrace. That messed up the link from Jihad Watch. I did find clips from it on a Muslim web site yesterday, though, and should see if I can find the link again. It was funny to see the Muslim at the site scratching his head a bit because Goma was saying (apparently) that you shouldn't beat your wife if it's contrary to her culture but may beat her if it's accepted in her culture. The Muslim thought this sounded kind of wishy-washy, apparently.

Oh, sorry Lydia! It wasn't Gomaa I was looking for, it was the Quilliam speech promoting Gomaa as a moderate. I'll keep digging.

Still,it is helpful to have access to Gomaa's thoughts (a lovely man. Every mother's dream). And that blog looks like a helpful resource!


The praise for Goma is from Quilliam's statement "About Us." It's not very long altogether. Here's the page:


And the praise of Goma goes like this, in the second paragraph:

Just as Muslims across the globe have adopted from and adapted to local cultures and traditions, while remaining true to the essence of their faith, Western Muslims should pioneer new thinking for our new times. Here, Muslim scholastic giants, such as the noble Abdullah bin Bayyah and Shaikh Ali Goma (Mufti of Egypt), have provided ample guidance.

Oh, right. Cunningly disguised on the Home Page. Doh.

So the question remains. Does Quilliam endorse Gomaa's views on wife-beating (which he permits in Egypt, but not in Canada. Or loosely translated, wife beating is OK, if several men in police uniforms won't beat the husband up in response.)

In it's response to the BNP Quilliam warns against "literalistic interpretations of...verses which are regarded as outdated by many Muslims" when discussing the role of women.Quilliam also endorses: Fatima Mernissi, a Moroccan Muslim feminist. Mernisi writes: ‘If women’s rights are a problem for some modern Muslim men, it is neither because of the Koran [Qur’an] nor the Prophet, nor the Islamic tradition, but simply because those rights conflict with the interests of the male elite’. Mernisi interprets Surah 4v34 so that wife-beating is forbidden.

Which doesn't seem plausible, to say the least. But they endorse Mernisi on these issues. So should I believe that Quilliam endorse domestic violence because they endorse some of Gomaa's views?


Would you endorse a candidate for office if you, and the public at large, knew he was a wife-beater?

They didn't just endorse some of Goma's views. They said that he is a "giant" who has provided "ample guidance" in making Islam compatible with Western culture. That's pretty fulsome. In fact, as I pointed out, it is pretty different from saying, "I think so-and-so has it completely right about X," where X is something specific.

So - we have half a sentence which could be taken as evidence that Quilliam endorses wife beating. And numerous articles in which it does not, and in which it argues for the emancipation of Muslim women.
With all due respect, this might make it into a prosecutor's brief. But it does not seem like an even handed way to assess an entire organisation.
Furthermore there is no evidence that Quilliam (who were just cited as a random example - I could have mentioned Ziauddin Sardar, or Jemima Khan for that matter!)endorses violence against the US. There is no evidence that Quilliam would want Muslims to break US laws. There is no evidence that they wish to make Sharia law in the US (or the UK). Or at least no one has presented any to me yet.


Re: what counts as evidence

If we were to apply the principle "what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander" to Mr Spencer's blog, he would not come out of the process much better than some of the organisations and individuals he attacks. (Leave aside the Karadzic defendin’, bikini-wearin’ Pamela Geller...) Mr Spencer has given a lot of space to the English Defence League. Many of the posts make this organisation look like a reasoned and balanced approach to "Islamification". He explicitly refuses to judge and condemn them.

The EDL are mainly former football hooligans addicted to the cult of violence; small gangs can no longer brawl at soccer matches due to increased security at matches. However, they are more difficult to control united as a mass movement.
Guramit Singh, the spokesperson wheeled out to convince middle class whites that the EDL is not racist, stated:
"Most of the main football firms in the country are involved,"...
"It's nothing to me if they want to have a fight on a weekend basis. Some of them are friends and brothers to me." (Reported by the Leicester Mercury 7th October 2010).

Furthermore anyone familiar with British Racism would know that there has been a shift of attention from Jews and Blacks to Eastern Europeans, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. They would notice the absence of East Europeans in the EDL - even though Eastern Europe has been at the frontline of Muslim/Christian conflicts. They would also know that targeting Mosques and Muslim areas is the most efficient way of targeting Bangladeshi's and Pakistanis. And racial tensions have always existed Indian/Bengali and Bangladeshi/Pakistani communities.
The EDL is adding a LGBT wing. So I cannot see how they are defending Christendom. But if anyone has any doubts, watch how Irish Catholics are treated by Singh's "brethren" at the next England v Ireland soccer game.

Now should I conclude that Mr Spencer is a closet racist? That he is addicted to the cult of violence? Hardly. He is obviously dangerously naive about one aspect of British Culture (and this should give anyone pause before they accept his reports of Muslim activity in Britain. And, as I have said before, it is best to fact check most media reports from the UK several weeks after the story has broken. I can multiply examples if you like).But what Mr Spencer says elsewhere completely undermines the idea that he is a closet racist. (And, given a glance at a few photographs of Mr Spencer, it isn't easy to see him rumbling it up with the Chelsea Headhunters.) A little generosity leads to a better conclusion.

On the more important point of evidence:
the hypothesis that all Islamic communities are potentially expansionist and violent, despite their protestations is bold, and daring. It rather reminds me of Daniel Goldhagen. This hypothesis needs solid and convincing evidence. It seems to me that Mr Spencer does not spend enough time comparing Islamic communities with other non-Western communities. Put that to one side also. It seems obvious that recycled media reports will not count as evidence for such a thesis.

I'm not an expert on any subject all; many of the contributors to W4 are. I am somewhat intimidated by their intelligence. I think this is a robust reply, but if it comes across as rude or arrogant, please forgive me. It was not my intention.


Well, as I said before, I think that "private" things like wife beating, honor killing, making your women wear hijab, etc., and terrorism are both good reasons for not wanting a mosque in one's neighborhood. Nor do I think the "private" and "public terrorist" things can be disconnected. The main point of the post was to support Jeff's idea that it's good to obstruct mosque building if one is on a committee, etc., with the power to do so. Plenty of mosques talk like they know nothing at all about terrorism and are opposed to it when they really contain plenty of people who are strongly in favor of it and who use the mosque as a place to meet and recruit.

It may well be that Quilliam qua foundation is opposed to terrorism qua terrorism. But that doesn't mean they are by any means unobjectionable or reliable. And, as I mentioned before, a foundation has some advantages over a mosque in any event--more of a paper trail, for one thing.

I don't recall what Spencer has said about the EDL. I've seen more about the EDL at Pamela Geller's site. But I'll be willing to bet dollars to donuts he hasn't said anything nearly as fulsome about them as, for example, a "guide" to (say) religious and racial relations in the West, or something sweeping like that, as Quilliam has said about Goma.

It matters. I'm not just talking about vague associations here or even about specified agreements. I'm talking about sweeping endorsements in the very area where ringing endorsements should not be given.


1 - there is counter-evidence to the assertion that Quilliam condones violence to women.
2 - in terms of public policy, if a community does not present a threat, I cannot see why we should be passing laws or developing policies to exclude them
3 - I think that there is more than one Islamic community. And that the mosque that a Muslim attends does not define the type of Islam that they identify with. Mosques do not always function like Churches.

However given my reading of Muslim authors

4 - there are Muslim groups and organisations that should be "disinvited". So I don't think that the "disinviting" was unreasonable. I just think "Islam" was too broad a target.
5 - I don't take any think tank that has a stake in policy as prima facie reliable. No one wants their funding to dry up.
6 - once you start differentiating between Mosques and organisations, I think that you're beginning to nuance Jeff's suggestions. It may take pressure for some Mosques to acknowledge that they have a problem, never mind deal with it. (Not every Mosque will present a problem, though. Again, some nuancing seems sensible.)
7 - on Muslim immigration. I can't see any problem with your proposals. They seem sensible. Mass immigration hits the poorest hardest. It hurts the country losing the skilled workforce. It puts strains on law enforcement and education systems. To bring in groups that could give cover to terrorists when there are many other groups that equally need help, and present no threat seems absurd.

In other words, I'm all for "tough love". I just want to make sure that we smack the culprit, and not all the kids in the room. And I get irritated with multi-culturalists who ignore the problem.



It's probably better that I say nothing about Spencer's comments on the EDL. I have to work hard to keep students away from groups similar to the EDL (who are very good at putting on a respectable front when it suits them) and I found some of Spencer's pieces very, very upsetting. I'll leave it at that.


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