Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Month of Islam in Britain: April 2014, by Soeren Kern

Islam and Islam-related issues were omnipresent in Britain during the month of April 2014, and can be categorized into three broad themes: 

1) The British government's growing concern over Islamic extremism and the domestic security implications of British jihadists in Syria 

2) The continuing spread of Islamic Sharia law in all aspects of British daily life 

3) Ongoing questions of Muslim integration into British society.

1. Islamic Extremism and Syria-Related Threats

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a "thorough probe" of the Muslim Brotherhood's activities in Britain. At a press conference, he said:

"We want to challenge the extremist narrative that some Islamist organisations have put out. What I think is important about the Muslim Brotherhood is that we understand what this organization is, what it stands for, what its beliefs are in terms of the path of extremism and violent extremism, what its connections are with other groups, what its presence is here in the UK."

The review will be headed by Sir John Jenkins, the British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. This has led some analysts to surmise that the oil-rich nation—which sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to its own stability—is pressuring Cameron to ban the group from British soil. (Cameron's announcement also came just weeks after Britain finalized a deal for the sale of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon strike jets to Saudi Arabia.) Jenkins has been asked to compile a report on the movement's "philosophy and values and alleged connections with extremism and violence."

The Muslim Brotherhood was banned from Egypt and many members expelled following the coup d'état there in July 2013. The group recently opened a new headquarters above an unused kebab shop in Cricklewood, northwest London.

The most senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood living in exile in Britain, Ibrahim Munir, denied claims that the group was moving its British operations from London to the Austrian city of Graz. The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, reported on April 12 that the Muslim Brotherhood was preparing to move its headquarters to Austria in an "apparent attempt to avoid an inquiry into its activities set up by the Prime Minister."

Munir appeared to be issuing a threat when he said that banning the Muslim Brotherhood would increase the risk of terrorist attacks in Britain. "If this [ban] happened, this would make a lot of people in Muslim communities think that [peaceful] Muslim Brotherhood values ... didn't work and now they are designated a terrorist group, which would make the doors open for all options," Munir said in an April 5 interview with The Times.

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