Asim Hafeez, the head of the ‘Prevent Interventions Unit’ at the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism, has recently been profiled by Martin Bright of the Jewish Chronicle, who quoted Home Office officials as describing him as a ‘hardcore salafi’.
A number of Hafeez’s talks are available online which appear to not only back up Bright’s accusations but also to suggest that Hafeez might additionally be a hard-line Islamist who wishes to replace the British constitution with ‘the Quran and the Sunnah’.
One of the most alarming lectures available online is one called ‘Jesus in Islam’ which Hafeez gave in November 2008 to the Islamic Society of the University of Glamorgan.
Although most of the lecture is devoted to attacking Christian beliefs, which is troubling enough in itself, the most alarming part occurs towards the end of the talk (from 05:45 onwards) when he tells his audience:
“Why is it taking such a long time to show the beauty of the message of al-Islam? Because we are not practicing Islam as it is meant to be practiced. In lecture which I gave to a humanist society, which I was mentioning to some brothers earlier, all of them were shocked by this, [they said]: ‘You are giving us this picture of Islam and we don’t see it anywhere in the world’. And I can’t turn around and say, ‘Yes it is prevalent in every Muslim country’ because it’s not, because we’ve drifted from the Quran and the Sunnah. We’ve left our deen [religion] behind us and adopted ’-isms’, communism, capitalism, bengalism, pakistanism, Saudi-ism, whatever-isms’, nationalism. Hizbiya and Asabiyya. We’ve adopted them instead of the Quran and the Sunnah as our constitution. This is the problem.”
Let’s un-pack this and see what Asim Hafeez saying.
Hafeez initially says ‘we are not practicing Islam as it is meant to be practiced’ and that Muslims have drifted ‘from the Quran and Sunnah’. While such phrases are widely used by Muslims of all persuasions in order to give a religious hue to their respective causes, the context that is provided by Hafeez’s following sentences makes this platitude a rather greater matter of concern.
In particularly, Hafeez goes on to say this reliance ‘on the Quran and Sunnah’ has been replaced by belief in a range of different ideologies and specifically Hizbiya which means party-ism and Asabiyya means roughly nationalism or patriotism, such the ‘Bengalism’ and ‘Pakistanism’ which he references.
This raises some important questions.
Why does Hafeez believe that adopting ideas like capitalism equate to leaving ‘our deen behind us? Likewise, why is a person who apparently rejects the concept of nationalism and patriotism, working in a government department which is explicitly aiming to strengthen the identification of British people who are Muslim with the UK and its institutions?
It gets worse, however, when Hafeez says that ‘We’ve adopted them instead of the Quran and the Sunnah as our constitution.’
This phrase is, of course, an exact echo of the Muslim Brotherhood’s famous slogan: ‘The Quran is our constitution’.
What is a British government employee, especially one who is head of a key counter-extremism programme, doing lecturing Muslim students using the words and slogans of the hard-line Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood?
And, most importantly of all, what does a British Muslim like Hafeez mean who he tells other British Muslims that ‘We’ve adopted them instead of the Quran and the Sunnah as our constitution. This is the problem’?
Is Hafeez talking about the British constitution (such as it is)? Does he think that the British constitutional arrangement should be replaced with ‘the Quran and the Sunnah’? If not, then which constitution is he talking about when he says ‘our constitution’?
This all raises a bigger question, however, which is why has a ‘hardcore salafi’ like Asim Hafeez been made head of the Home Office’s ‘Interventions Unit’, a unit which was specifically created to identify Islamist individual and groups and find ways to challenge their Islamist ideology – when he appears to have himself preached the very same ideology on British university campuses?