The riots that broke out during the months of August and September in the UK’s city of Leicester between Hindu and Muslim youth sent shockwaves globally. The riots were picked up by a number of national as well as international publications, in addition to featuring heavily on Bharat’s news channels.
However, what wasn’t picked up, or at least, what wasn’t given sufficient attention was the apparent reluctance of authorities and the media to describe the Islamist agitators that played a significant role in the riots. The reluctance to name Islamism and those who subscribe to this ideology, appears to be rooted in the misguided belief that somehow it would increase Islamophobic sentiments. Yet the evidence to suggest such a claim has any basis in established facts is tenuous. To understand how we have got to this point, we must look at who is making this claim and what the response to it has been.
The National Association of Muslim Police (NAMP), is a body that has its members in the UK Police force. In 2019 and now in 2022, the NAMP sought to start the debate about whether using terms such as Islamist, Islamism and Jihadi were appropriate to be used to describe individuals who carry out acts of terror. It was the NAMP’s belief that these terms were open to abuse and could lead to demonisation of Muslims. As part of this campaign, the NAMP cited survey data that suggested that there was a belief that Islamophobic sentiments would increase if these terms were used.
Yet, basing the claims on the belief that Islamophobic sentiments would increase because these terms are used is not good enough. To request or make changes to police policy, there needs to be strong evidence that supports the case. Without it can be argued that there is a belief that Islamophobic sentiments do not increase. In the case of the latter, that is an established fact because the former does not provide strong evidence that suggests the contrary. The NAMP citing survey data is therefore tenuous and cannot be taken with the seriousness that it expects.
It is perhaps no surprise that in 2019, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Cressida Dick, did not agree with the NAMP’s request. In an interview with the LBC Radio host Nick Ferrari, Dick was asked whether the terms would be dropped. The Commissioner of the Police confirmed that they would not be dropped. It is important to note that the terms would not be dropped because the use of them would increase Islamophobic sentiments, but rather, because the terms themselves are appropriate to use.
The NAMP, however, has suggested that the terms are not appropriate and that there are more appropriate terms that can be used in place of Islamism, Islamist and Jihadists. The suggested terms include: “Daesh inspired terrorism”,”Irhabism” and “Anti-Western Extremism”. While these terms may accurately capture some aspects of the ideology driving these terrorists, they omit a sad fact that the Muslim Ummah must face up to the fact that there is something Islamic about this form of terrorism.
Interpreting Islam In A Way To Justify Violence
One of the realities facing the Muslim Ummah globally is the fact that there is no one version of Islam, but rather, many versions of it. There are some fundamentals that all Muslims agree upon, such as the Five Pillars. However beyond that, it is left for the believer to interpret and decide. This loose approach to Islam allows Muslims to practice the faith in the way they see fit, but it also emboldens nefarious characters to interpret the religion in a way that justifies violence. The Home Secretary of the UK, Suella Braverman quite clearly recognises this reality and has therefore renewed her focus on Islamist extremism.
The Hindu victims of Islamist extremism were let down by the media because there is currently a belief that using terms such as Islamism and Jihadism increases Islamophobic sentiments. But the terms are accurate to describe and capture fully the perpetrators that interpret Islam in a way that justifies violence
Naming the Islamist agitators in the Leicester riots is not rooted exclusively in the belief that it ignored their role, but rather, because it also prioritised imagined victims over the truth. The Hindu victims of Islamist extremism were let down by the media because there is currently a belief that using terms such as Islamism and Jihadism increases Islamophobic sentiments. But the terms are accurate to describe and capture fully the perpetrators who interpret Islam in a way that justifies violence. The terms are not used, nor can it be correct to assume that using them would demonise the diverse Muslim community in the UK. If this reluctance to use these terms continue, then the primary victims will be ignored in favour of the imaginary ones. This would be a bizarre way for the media and law enforcement to operate.