Today's Guardian G2 section has a short piece by Emine Saner on plans by the Tablighi Jamaat sect to build a 'Mega-Mosque' in East London. Saner focuses on the campaign against the mosque by right-wing Christians, and ends by quoting a spokesperson for the project who claims: 'This is a group of people who have decent intentions, no record of any problems and are living and contributing to the community'.
On the face of it, an open-and-shut case of religious bigotry against a peace-loving community. What Saner's report overlooks is the widespread suspicion that Tablighi Jamaat is not quite what it seems. According to Ziauddin Sardar, the movement 'is now seen as the common link between several Muslims alleged to be involved in plans to blow up transatlantic airliners.' He adds:
Conventionally, the Tablighis are seen as an unchanging, conservative, benign, global network of simple preachers. This, I think, is a serious mistake. Organisations do not remain static. Simply because Tablighi Jamaat has followed exactly the same course for decades, no one thinks it can change. It has. Drastically...the Tablighis are not as harmless as most Muslims seem to think. The world has changed; and the Tablighi Jamaat has changed with it... We need to look at the Tablighis much more critically and see just what they are teaching our youth.
By making the prejudices of right-wing Christians the focus of the article, Saner adroitly avoids mentioning these awkward facts. There's another example of ignoring the obvious in a separate article in today's G2, in which Seumas Milne continues his deluded campaign to identify 'good' Islamists, in this wide-eyed encounter with Iraqi 'insurgents'. Milne naively parrots his informants' claims to be good democrats with only the interests of their fellow-Iraqis at heart, completely fails to mention their murderous tactics and is gullibly unquestioning about their plans for the future of the country. Does he really believe that an alliance that includes Iraqi Hamas and Ansar al-Sunna, which even he admits is 'an armed Islamist group with a ferocious reputation', is committed to anything resembling a tolerant, multi-party democracy?