Leading Nothing

Here it is again. Yet again. The BBC declaring the head of the MCB a ‘leading Muslim’. But what makes him a leading Muslim, who says he’s a leading Muslim? The MCB is a self-appointed, very reactionary ‘council’ that gets treated and deferred to as if it represented all UK Muslims in some way, but it doesn’t. It’s very annoying and unhelpful and lazy and obscurantist that the BBC keeps pretending it does, keeps handing it a giant megaphone by rushing to ask its opinion every ten minutes and by refraining from asking non-MCB Muslims and people of Muslim background for their opinion at the same rate. Why does the BBC do that? Why doesn’t it stop doing that? People keep complaining about it, so why doesn’t the BBC pay attention and do better? Surely it’s not that difficult to figure out! The MCB is not elected, not representative, and not the only possible strand of opinion that could be consulted, so why does the BBC treat it as if it were some sort of official body? Just because it’s too much trouble to spin the Rolodex, or what?

Munira Mirza says some good things.

‘I have forsaken everything for what I believe in. Your democratically elected governments continue to perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world.’ So spoke Mohammad Siddique Khan, the 30-year old ringleader of the London bombings, in a video message he recorded before his death…the audacity of Khan’s homemade video diary is breathtaking. First he whines to the viewer that he has sacrificed a lot for his cause, and then he claims to speak on behalf of all Muslims everywhere.

That’s the work all this community-speak does, I think: it hammers home the idea that there is such a thing as ‘the Muslim community’ and that it thinks and feels as one. It’s a small step to decide that that one is best represented by grievance-frotting narcissistic young men, that their worked-up rage about ‘their people’ is the truly authentic One that the ‘Muslim community’ thinks as.

What we see in these videos are not soldiers in a war, but self-righteous young men who believe that their own moral certainty absolves them of the need to explain themselves properly. Nobody elected Khan or Tanweer…Obviously, Khan or Tanweer did not show much interest in trying to win people over to their worldview – they thought that ‘democratically elected governments’ had less claim to act on behalf of people than they did. Khan and Tanweer took a remarkably narcissistic approach to politics, which short-circuited the need actually to engage with the people they claimed to speak for. Yet since 7/7, and straight away following the release of Tanweer’s video yesterday, journalists, politicians and so-called Muslim community leaders have all been duped into taking seriously these loners’ claims to be the voice of ‘the ummah’ and angry Muslims all around the world.

In much the way many journalists and politicians last fall took the rioters in the banlieues weirdly seriously as ardently political revolutionaries with rational grievances, blithely ignoring the obvious possibility that they were just testosterone-addled young males tearing things up.

Khan and Tanweer had no legitimate claim to speak on behalf of Muslims. Their connection to victims abroad was in their minds, created out of a desire to be part of something global. But in a world where any old hack can be called a ‘community leader’, it is hardly surprising that they also thought they were qualified to speak as one. What Khan and Tanweer’s terrible action shows is the price of endless, meaningless community consultation, where some people are rewarded political power for merely being the right skin colour or religion.

And it’s not just a Muslim thing, as Munir points out.

Animal rights extremists in Oxford have felt no inhibitions about using violent tactics against local scientists, feeling that their moral outrage against the building of a new laboratory is sufficient justification…We need to challenge the anti-democratic nature of contemporary politics and stop flattering individuals who have no claim to speak for anyone but themselves.

Listen up, Beeb. Seriously. Cut it out.

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