Ummah of Muhammad (UoM) are a Wales-based Islamic organisation who claim to 'protect the symbols of Islam'. They called a demo on the 10th of July outside Cardiff City Hall, where under forty people demonstrated to 'protect the symbols of Islam'. After half an hour, the man leading the demonstration ran out of script and the crowd proceeded to shout various chants such as “UK, watch your back, Islam is coming back!' and 'Shariah law in the UK!' amongst others.
In recent months Islam itself has been a hotly debated topic, along with its various symbols of identity. Switzerland banned the minaret after a xenophobic campaign in which there were more minarets (which were shaped as missiles) on the poster than there would be in the whole of Switzerland. The French parliament are debating banning the burqa, President Nicholas Sarkozy even said the burqa 'was not welcome'. In Marseille, a new seven-thousand capacity Mosque is causing controversy as its minaret will be taller than the cathedral. Unlike the "British Asian", a corresponding "French African" identity does not exist: you're either French or not, leading to widespread xenophobia, alienation, the rise of the far right and inner city riots.
If the far right carry on growing, if xenophobia and islamophobia get more widespread and acceptable, we may end up like France when it comes to attitudes towards the Muslim population and the Islamic religion. The Danish cartoon controversy led to uproar and outrage across the world including the UK.
This is the sort of political climate that the UoM are coming out of. Islamist terrorist attacks in London and a huge jump in racially motivated attacks have meant that British muslims are turning more in on themselves.
In their press release a few days before the demonstration UoM made valid points about protecting identity in light of racism and xenophobia throughout Europe, until a deeper read into the statement shows a clear disdain for freedom and equality:
“The Kuffar (non-Muslims) are at war against Islam and Muslims, by their nature when they have authority and power, they will never fail to be treacherous against all that is held sacred in the religion of Islam”.
UoM are behind the Muslim Don't Vote campaign with the "Caution, Muslims Don't Vote!" stickers denouncing voting as ‘an act of apostacy’. A clear attempt encourage segregation towards an already isolated community. In reaction the Muslim Council of Wales did a counter campaign encouraging Muslims to vote in the election.
On contacting the Muslim Council of Wales about our plans for a counter demo they damned the UoM, but after talking with Imams in Cardiff and Newport they were not going join us as it would bring more publicity to the UoM. I found this quite hypocritical, as should a terrorist attack take place, they will condemn it, but when an Islamist extremist group is starting to assert itself in Cardiff they ignore it.
The same went with some members of Unite Against Fascism (UAF), one of whom claimed that the fact a Muslim was organising the counter demo was irrelevent as
“This notion that because a Muslim called the demonstration that it is tactically the correct way forward is nonsense. If a gay person called a demo against Pride because it was too camp, would that be the right thing to do?"as if the problem is the UoM are "too Muslim" rather than reactionary right wing authoritarians.
People were saying that it had to be 'Muslim led'; how can you tell without terrible misconceptions and preconceptions of how a Muslim should look? A man with a beard? A woman with a veil? What's the criteria here? According to this theory Muslims can demonstrate against other Muslims, but non-muslims cannot as it would be deemed racist. We can come out and demonstrate against white extremists, but not vice versa?
Some said that a majority, demonstrating against an already oppressed, powerless and ignorant hate-filled sect of society would make it worse. Surely the English Defence League (EDL) can be classed as that? UAF came out with many assumptions of our demo, most of which were incorrect and could have been rectified by thoroughly reading what we stood for. One Muslim man came out and said that he felt the biggest threat to his family were Islamic fundamentalists as opposed to the EDL.
There were more policemen than demonstrators in the UoM crowd, and all of the women were wearing burqas. Our counter demo, albeit badly organised, got a turn-out of around twelve people. Mostly without placards or banners, we stood and watched as their demo got more and more extreme.
We're happy with how it turned out, despite the fact that our opposition to the UoM was challenged from all sides. The question is, are the UoM going to grow bigger? If so, will they demonstrate again, where are they getting funding and where are they recruiting people from?