Welcome to MCB Watch!
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) was founded in 1997 and since then has grown to be the largest and arguably the most influential Muslim lobby group in the UK. Representing some 300 affiliate organisations, the MCB seeks to lobby parliament and represent Muslims on a wide range of issues. It also claims to be the voice of moderate, reasonable Islam, “working hard for a representative Britain”.
Since its inception, the MCB has also been actively courted by the British Government, who had previously struggled to engage with the Muslim community due to the lack of figureheads or organisations with whom to dialogue. The MCB is proud of its links with government and, post 9/11 and 7/7, these channels of influence are likely to open all the wider.
However, there are also grave problems with the MCB and it is our considered opinion that the time has come for the organisation to be seriously and robustly challenged on a whole range of points. This we will seek to do over the coming weeks and months, drawing on the whole pool of statements, opinions and articles that the MCB has published since its inception eight years ago.
The MCB present themselves as the moderate face of British Islam, yet many of the ideas and doctrines they put forward are actually not that far removed from the radicals. For example, The Quest for Sanity, a book published by the MCB in the aftermath of 9/11, argues in several places for the restoration of the caliphate (= global Muslim state), a similar aim espoused by many radicals. This reduces the MCB’s effectiveness, since it cannot challenge the radicals on ideology or theology, only on methodology.
The MCB consistently engages in sitting on the fence as far as possible when it comes to actually condemning the theology and ideology of the radicals. This not only makes their criticism of the radicals’ methodology look a little hollow, but also results in them appearing to be guilty of double-standards. The most recent example was their failure to actually state that all suicide bombings are un-Islamic, no matter where or when they were carried out.
Within the 300 or so Muslim organisations affiliated to the MCB are many organisations that espouse radical views. The MCB apparently makes no attempt to actually set standards for its affiliates and when challenged on this in the past, has simply ducked the issue. In the next few weeks, we shall shine the light on several examples, including affiliates with extreme Islamist and anti-Semitic leanings. The MCB cannot claim to be moderate whilst lying in bed with radicals.
The MCB consistently refuses to engage in any serious self-critique of Islamic practice or history and this manifests itself in a failure to deal with the theology that drives the radicals. This lack of self-critique also leads to further double-standards. For example, the MCB regularly accuses the West (and especially America) of “colonialist” tendencies in its foreign policy, yet the Muslim world engaged in its own colonial expansion in the seventh and eighth centuries. Furthermore, as David Cook has argued, in the best of the recent scholarly books on jihad, you cannot really hope to challenge the ideology of the radicals properly if you are not prepared to condemn the Islamic conquests with the same force as the Christian churches have repudiated the Crusades.
The MCB’s failure to engage in self-critique spills over into a tendency to engage in ad hominem attacks and its typical methodology is to slander anybody who criticises it or Islam with labels like “Zionist” or “Colonialist” and so forth. Rather than face up to the fact that some critics might have a point and engage in rational debate and argument with them, the MCB regularly takes the path of cheap point scoring. This also extends to its treatment of radical Muslims, whom the MCB often accuse of not being "true Muslims” rather than actually confronting their arguments.
We have other problems and concerns with the MCB, but these will do for now. Over the weeks and months to come we will cast more light into all these areas, quoting from the MCB’s published materials to demonstrate our case at each point. Stick with us and keep reading MCB Watch.