In 2003 in the U.K. the “Stop the war coalition” (StWC) organised a march against the impending Iraq invasion by a military alliance which included the U.K.
A major theme was that this war was “not in my name”, i.e. the protesters were dis-avowing the government's impending action.
Estimates of the numbers involved range from 750K (Police), 1 million (BBC) up to 3 million (StWC).
This might equate to 1.5 million in reality.
The population of England an Wales in 2003 was just over 52 million. Scotland held it's own event(s).
1.5 million thus represents just under 3% of the total population.
In 1989 Some “20 or 30,000 Muslims - British Muslims” (call it 25,000) came together to protest Salman Rushdie's book “The Satanic Verses”. In 1991 there were 950,000 Muslims in the U.K. That protest represents ~2.6% of the (then) Muslim population.
From this we might conclude that Muslims are only ~85% as likely to protest something that really upsets them as are the general population.
Having set the scene, let's consider the reaction of U.K. Muslims to the emergence of IS.
We are often told that IS “has nothing to do with Islam” or that IS is “un-Islamic” etc. we have even seen a hashtag campaign with the tag “Not in my name” - a throwback to the StWC slogan. But I have to ask the question: Where are the marches by Muslims dis-avowing the actions of IS?
Let's look at this statistically.
In 2011, the Muslim population of England and Wales was 2.8 million according to census figures.
If Muslims were as bothered by IS as the U.K. population as a whole was by the Iraq war, then the U.K. should have seen 3% of Muslims protesting, i.e. a march 84,000 strong.
There has been NO anti-IS march on such scale.
If the “Satanic Verses” could mobilise ~2.6% of the U.K.'s Muslim population to protest, surely we could expect a similar response to the barbarity that is IS, i.e. we should see ~73,000 Muslims protesting and/or marching.
There has been NO anti-IS protest on such scale.
But perhaps I'm being too hard on U.K. Muslims. It must be admitted that the the run-up to the Iraq war and the publication of the “Satanic Verses” probably were emotional high-water marks in the U.K.
Perhaps it would be better to consider a more “run of the mill” type national protest...
In August 2014 StWC held a “150,000 strong protest” for the terrorist quasi-state of Gaza and against democratic Israel. Slogans such as “Victory to the Intifada” could be seen.
In 2014 the population estimate for the U.K. was ~63 million.
150,000 represents 0.24% of the total population.
Let's assume that just as small a percentage of Muslims are sufficiently bothered about IS's massacres not just of Christians and Yazidis but Muslims too as are the general population about Gaza/Israel.
0.24% of 2.8 million is ~ 6,700.
There has been NO anti-IS protest on such scale.
On Feb.8th 2015, “over 1000” Muslims protested against the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. This was after the massacre of the cartoonists and Jews in Paris. When challenged, they also stated that the killings were “against Islamic law”.
This protest represented 0.03% of the Muslim population.
Perhaps only as many Muslims would protest mass-murder of non-Muslims as would protest “insult” to their prophet.
But no, there has been NO anti-IS protest on such scale.
However, I can report that Muslims have protested against IS in the U.K.
Below is a list of the four largest (actually all) the reported protests against IS I have been able to find as of mid-Feb 2015:
“100s” of people protesting outside the BBC.
Scores of Kurds protested on Westminster bridge.
50 Kurds protesting at Heathrow.
“Dozens” of Kurds blockaded Oxford Circus tube station.
10 cars driven by Kurds protesting IS in Wales. That's 40 people – max.
Note: I've discounted this one because the U.K. numbers are not given clearly.
With the sole exception of the first really “large” (in the “hundreds” - perhaps 2-300 strong) protest, all other are by Kurdish Muslims. The first protest is also exceptional in that it was a mixed protest by both Muslims and non-Muslims, thus it can't be used to judge Muslim attitudes with any accuracy.
It should also be born in mind that Kurds have a particular reason to protest IS: many Iraqi Kurds have been killed by IS and IS has captured Kurdish territory, thus they are more emotionally exercised than non-Kurdish Muslims.
Thus, by even the most generous estimate, Muslims care 10x as much about rude cartoons depicting Mohammed than they do about mass-murder by IS.
I would suggest that 0.003% of a population is largely irrelevant when dealing with the “views” of the population as a whole – especially when this minute fraction is from a group with a special interest/concern in IS.
Since all the Muslim protests are by a “special interest” group, I could simply conclude that (overall) U.K. Muslims either have no issues with IS (i.e. tacitly support it) or else that they are completely indifferent to the suffering of non-Muslims and “bad” Muslims (as IS would term them) alike.
That, however, might be a little harsh. Muslims I have spoken to are not in favour of IS, groups in the U.K. such as the Muslim Brotherhood linked Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) have spoken against them; but words are cheap, action more costly.
Were Muslims to actually come out on the street for reasons other than anti-Israel/Jewish marches and protests about “insult” to their religion, they would be making a clear statement dissociating themselves from other Muslims.
Such an action could well be termed “Takfiri” - calling a group of Muslims apostates, to put it simply.
Notwithstanding it's wide use in history and it's prevalence within Wahhabism and (to a lesser extent) some strands of Salafism, declaring Takfir is frowned upon within mainstream Sharia.
Therefore, for Muslims to publicly “disown” IS could in and of itself be considered “un-Islamic”. (This is a point to remember when reading the various letters to al-Baghdadi put out by groups of Muslim scholars both in the U.K. and the U.S.)
There is also an Hadith which says “If one Muslim calls another an apostate, then one of them is.” This is generally understood to mean that unless one is very certain of another's apostasy, then one commits an act of apostasy by making a (false) allegation.
This acts as a powerful disincentive amongst many Muslims for such a dissociation.
And such a dissociation would be wrong.
IS's interpretation of Islam is by no means the only one. IS is, according to Prof. Haykel “really trying to live the early days of Islam”. Fundamentally that means that IS is Salafist in nature. Yet various of IS's doctrinal positions would be opposed by “quietist Salafis” (to borrow from Haykel again). Even Wahhabist groups disagree with some of what IS is doing, as do many of the more “mainstream” groups, Sunni and Shia alike.
But, and it is a very large caveat, IS doctrines still fall within the ambit of Islamic teaching. This should not come as a surprise since Islam is inherently flexible in nature and IS's press releases, documents and propaganda all tend to quote extensively from the canon of Islamic scripture.
Thus whilst IS may not be “the only true voice of Islam” it is certainly “a true voice of Islam” and, if it becomes truly successful, more of Islam's voice will either fall into line or be silenced.
The reluctance of the U.K.'s Muslims to give a truly public disavowal of IS's interpretation is evidence either that such silencing is already occurring or that there is much more tacit support for IS than commonly believed.
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