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The Islamic Movement in Britain

The Islamic Movement in Britain
28th September 2020 ICSR Team
In Publications, Reports

The full report can be accessed here.

Please read on for the Introduction.

This report is focused on a network of Muslim organisations and individuals that it refers to as the “Islamic Movement” in Britain. This name is sometimes used by protagonists comprising the network in reference to the collective, organised effort to “revive” and expand Islam’s role in social and political life, in the West, the former Islamic empire, and the world at large. Sheikh Yusuf Al‑Qaradawi, the Egyptian‑born theologian and host of the Al Jazeera TV programme, “Shari’a and Life”, for example, explicitly refers to the “Islamic Movement” as such. The main purpose of this report is to describe this network in Britain.

Chapter 1 introduces the Islamic Movement in Britain, its origins in two strands of Islamic activism abroad, and its gradual transformation into a movement that transcends ethnic and linguistic boundaries. Chapter 2 describes the worldview, values, and motivations of the Islamic Movement in Britain. It observes several important shared features of the organisations comprising the Movement, including a proactive tendency to engage in social and political affairs, and the effort to represent social and political normative values through Islamic concepts and beliefs. Some analysts have described these organisations as non‑violent Islamists, distinguishing them from violent jihadists, such as Al‑Qaeda. But, as this report demonstrates, jihad is just as important to the Islamic Movement as it is to violent jihadists, with the important caveat that, for the former, jihad takes the form of education, advocacy, lobbying and other non‑violent approaches to achieving their goals. A factor complicating this picture is the support they express for the Palestinian “resistance” in Israel, which they tend to see as a “defensive jihad”.

Chapter 3 describes some of the organisational connections of the groups comprising the Islamic Movement in Britain. It is impossible to provide a complete picture of these complicated and evolving relationships, so several key nodes will serve as a point of departure to map out some of them. These nodes include the Muslim Council of Britain and a lesser known group, the Coordination Committee of Islamic Organisations. Organisational interconnections may also be mapped out to some extent by regarding some of the key international dimensions of the Islamic Movement in Britain. Connections between organisations in Britain and Europe, some with generous funding from Qatar, may be drawn, helping to provide a fuller picture of the network. The final chapter highlights the major campaign areas that the Islamic Movement in Britain has dedicated its energies to in recent years. These include Palestine; the British government’s counter‑radicalisation programme, Prevent; and Islamophobia; as well as Muslim political participation and education.

In some of these areas, Islamic Movement groups have courted controversy. Some Islamic Movement organisations, for example, have attracted scrutiny for their alleged connections to extremist speakers or terrorist groups, including Hamas or groups linked to it. Perhaps some critical observers would say that some of these British‑based organisations have not attracted enough scrutiny for such links. In recent years, for example, some analysts have criticised the Charity Commission for being “soft” on a number of charities with alleged links to proscribed groups. But, even so, noting these allegations does not imply that all staff in these organisations support terrorism. Neither does it imply that all Islamic Movement organisations support terrorism. The Islamic Movement in Britain is not a network of terrorist groups. It is a network of activist, advocacy, and community organisations that broadly share a religiopolitical outlook. Nonetheless, some of the organisations and individuals comprising the Islamic Movement have attracted some interesting and important allegations. These should be contended with, not shied away from, i we are to better understand these organisations and the network that they form. Writing about these controversial and mostly contested connections is a delicate matter, but it is important to do so, not to tarnish any reputation, but, to obtain the most comprehensive picture of this network as possible, which is the main purpose of this report.

This report seeks to provide a picture of the overall network of the Islamic Movement in Britain, since although there have been some reports regarding specific groups, there are few that seek to map out the network as a whole – ideologically, organisationally, and in terms of the work they are engaged in. It admittedly falls short of being comprehensive, since the network is evolving and no doubt many connections exist beyond what can be viewed in publicly sourceable material. Nonetheless, it is hoped that what follows is an important step towards understanding the network of the Islamic Movement in Britain.

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