The year that was: 2007

By Irfan Jalil

This article never made it into issue 11 due to space concerns. It is now available as an extra bonus for our online readers.

So, what events affected Muslims in 2007? No, the Danish cartoons were 2006. So was Jack Straw's niqaab hoo-ha. If you think the only thing that happened in 2007 was Benazir Bhutto's assassination then you really haven't been keeping up with news, have you?

There's never a dull moment in the Muslim world and there's always something that requires our considered response. But the British Muslim report card for 2007 is a mixed bag. There were things we can look back on and pat ourselves on the back for and other things where some of us really needed a good telling off. And as ever, we also got the blame for things we didn't do.

This was the year when the government tried to further distance itself from the Muslim Council of Britain and there were continued calls to ban Hizb ut Tahrir. Channel 4 weighed into the good Muslim vs bad Muslim debate by airing a documentary which presented a hash of statements from various supposedly extremist mosques. It tried to make up for it by then airing a documentary about a group of non-Muslims who tried Islam for a few weeks. This docu, "Make Me a Muslim", received mixed reviews from Muslims.

But anyway, lets take a more detailed look at other issues of the year.

Tablighi Jamaat Under Fire

The Tablighi Jamaat came in for a rough time in the press this year. They were first told that plans for a mosque at the site of the 2012 Olympics was a "chief testing ground of the attempt by radical Muslims to gain more power and influence in Western society." But this wasn't some ignorant tabloid hack writing a piece under pressure from an editor with a bias against Muslims, no. It was two Muslims who've been going around trying to create ever more divisions between Muslims. It was Stephen Schwartz and Irfan al-Alawi writing in the Spectator.

The Times tried to discredit Deobandis by saying that it was "a hardline Islamic sect whose leading preacher loathes Western values." The leading preacher they were talking about was Shaikh Riyadh ul-Huq. On his blog, Yusuf Smith reminded us that "Shaikh Riyadh, along with other Deobandi scholars, have been very much active in combating more extreme ideologies and defending traditional Islam against both modernism and Wahhabism."

Soldier Scare and Sensationalist Stories

To kick off February nine men were arrested in Birmingham on charges of trying to kidnap a British Muslim soldier. The police insisted that the arrests were intelligence based and that could prove to be wrong. Despite calls from the police that the press should be responsible in their coverage, secret briefings were given to the press before and after the raid by people in the government. The press then used this to print as fact whatever the unnamed sources told them. The next day's papers were full of stories about how a Muslim soldier was going to be kidnapped, put in an orange boiler suit and then beheaded on an internet video. Three of the men were subsequently released without charge. Six men are due to go on trial in January 2008.

Who Killed Bob Woolmer?

During the cricket World Cup in the Caribbean the Pakistan coach, Bob Woolmer, suddenly died. Suspicion immediately fell on the Pakistan team – well, they're brown and some of them have beards. The team were finger printed but were allowed to leave with suspicion still hanging over them. It then took three months for the police to finally say that Woolmer died of natural causes.

Mail's Maddie Muslim

In a year in which the tabloids were almost dominated by coverage of missing toddler Madeleine McCann, it was only a matter time before Muslims would be dragged into it – somehow or other. Apparently, someone saw a Moroccan woman in a scarf carrying a little girl. That someone wrongly thought that it was Madeleine. Before it could be verified whether the girl was in fact Madeleine the Daily Mail ran a story with the headline "'Stop the car, there's Madeleine': Witness sees her dragged by Muslim woman". For some reason the woman seen in Morocco couldn’t be described as just "a woman" or even "a Moroccan woman". Inshallah, whatever the truth of her disappearance, she'll soon be found safe and well.

Blair Today, Brown Tomorrow

On 27 June it finally came to an end. The prime minister who had lied, manipulated and wriggled his way into an illegal and costly war stepped down and left the British political scene. Tony Blair was gone but this won't be the last we'll see of him – he's going to try to bring "peace to the Middle East". Don't hold your breath. The new PM, Gordon Brown, has now stepped up the withdrawal from Iraq and Basra has been handed back to the Iraqis. But what Gordon gives with one hand he can take with the other. Get set for legislation on ID cards and 90 day detention limits in 2008.

Deranged Doctors of Death

In an apparent attempt to attack Glasgow Airport, two men set their car on fire, then set themselves on fire and one got punched in the face by a baggage handler. The men were doctors who had worked in the NHS and were protesting the Iraq War. Did nobody tell these suicide doctors about demos against the war held every other month? Anyway, their efforts led to further demos. Scottish people – 2000 Muslims and non-Muslims – rallied in Glasgow city centre to condemn the attempted suicide attack.

It's OK: It's Only a BNP Terrorist!

Also in July, a man went on trial for stockpiling explosive chemicals at his home. He had recently become more religious and radical in his political views. He wasn't Muslim so was not charged under anti-terrorism legislation and got only two and half years. Robert Cottage from Lancashire was an ex-BNP candidate and was preparing for a "civil war".

Isn't it Ironic?

Shahid Malik, MP for Dewsbury and government mouthpiece, revealed that last year he was searched and held at a US airport. His baggage was also examined for explosives. In Britain he had voted enthusiastically for draconian and civil liberty eroding anti-terrorism laws. In America he was made to feel the humiliation that many people suffer as a result of such laws.

Sudan Teacher's Teddy Troubles

A court in Sudan sentenced a British teacher to 15 days in prison because a child in her class named a teddy 'Mohammed'. Some Sudanese people went further and protested on the streets of Khartoum, the capital, that the teacher be executed. Hmm, best not make any jokes lest I offend the crazy lunatics. It was left to British Muslim peers, Lord Nazir Ahmed and Barroness Sayda Warsi, to go to Sudan and sort it out. Safe to say, they secured her release and brought her back to the UK.

Divide and Fabricate

Earlier in the year a report was published by a rightwing think tank which claimed that extremist literature was readily available at British mosques. A group of 8 Muslim researchers had gone to about 100 mosques up and down the country and purchased books from 25 mosques which they thought contained extremist material. Except the research wasn't completely honest. Come December, Newsnight found that some receipts for the supposedly extremist books were faked.

Poetic Injustice

Also in December, 23 year old Samina Malik was sentenced to 100 hours community service for collecting information likely to be useful to a terrorist. But she wasn't going to bring down any planes or blow up any buildings. She was sentenced for downloading information from extremist websites. She got picked up for writing bad poems in praise of Al Qaeda. Someone at MI5 obviously had an English Lit degree. Calling herself "lyrical terrorist", Samina wrote about how she admired beheadings and such on the back of receipts in the shop she worked at. A bit loopy, but she thought it was cool.


So what will 2008 hold? Will the maximum length that police can hold a suspect be raised to 45 years? Will Tony Blair convert to Islam after getting bored of attending mass? Maybe a new Caliph will step forward to lead the Ummah and there will be true Muslim unity... OK the last one of those was a joke! But whatever happens, be sure to read The Revival every two months… and a bit.


Some of these things don't feel so long ago! There should be similar articles for 08/09/10