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An ‘invisible’ community...

Comment
Gordon Boyle


The recent comments made by the UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid, son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver who settled in Yorkshire, has reawakened my memories of the murder of Asad Shah, a Glasgow shopkeeper.

Carried out by Tanveer Ahmed, from Bradford in Yorkshire this sectarian attack was motivated by hatred of Shah’s religious views.

Mr Shah was particularly vulnerable as an Ahmadiyya Muslim, a peaceful sect who believe they have witnessed a second coming of the Prophet.

They are persecuted in Pakistan where the constitution bars them from calling themselves Muslims.

Tanveer Ahmed is a devout Deobandi, a revivalist movement within Sunni Islam.

At his trial he admitted the fact that Asad Shah had been rash enough to post ‘Happy Easter’ on his Facebook page, thereby ‘disrespecting’ Islam drove him to carry out this killing.

Founded in an Indian town called Deoband in 1856, in reaction to British colonial rule, it has spread throughout the world, with the UK as its hub.

Migrants brought Deobandi Islam to the UK during the 1960s, setting up mosques and schools in Yorkshire from which a national network grew, intentionally isolationist, leaving vast numbers of people segregated from wider British society.

This is a large secretive almost invisible community of at least 600,000 in the UK. Dewsbury, just 10 miles away from Bradford where Tanveer Ahmed lived is central to Deobandi thinking where the Tabliki Jamaat (society for spreading faith) missionaries operate from and who are strongly affiliated to the Taliban and armed jihadists groups in Pakistan.

Saville Town, a suburb of Dewsbury, is the least indigenous town in the UK, with fewer than one per cent of its residents being indigenous white British.

Several high-profile Islamist extremists came from Saville Town including three of the four suicide bombers who carried out the 2005 London bombings including their leader, Mohammad Sidique Khan.

It was also the home of Britain’s youngest convicted Islamist extremist, Hamaad Munshi, and Britain’s youngest suicide bomber, Talha Asmal.

The Deobandi run nearly half of the 1,500 registered UK mosques and 17 of the 26 known seminaries. These produce eighty per cent of all domestically trained Muslim clerics who educate an ethnic group which is now over 5pc of the English population, more than 20pc in London.

Mufti Mohammed Pandor from Dewsbury is faith adviser to the Universities of Bradford and Huddersfield and describes the Deobandi mission as a “back to basics movement” for those wanting to live life in the style of the Prophet Mohammed. His family does not watch British TV. He refers to Strictly Come Dancing as porn, says music is un-Islamic, and although closely associated with two British universities has mixed feelings about Muslims (men) studying there. He condemns people for wearing the ‘Christian Dior’ label, he doesn’t like the name.

Many British Muslims, especially younger women, feel betrayed by the weakness of the British state, which has allowed the Deobandis to thrive secretly. Youngsters do not have basic liberties such as the right to choose whether to wear the hijab, to experience music, culture or art. Perhaps the Home Secretary in liberal Britain knows how to deal with this.

Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at gordonboyle@hotmail.com

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