Questions raised over 'error-riddled' book on UK Muslim life

Ed Husain’s book on UK Muslims slammed over ‘unverified source’ suggesting 'killings are normal' for refugees
4 min read
London
11 June, 2021
Further doubts have been raised over Ed Husain's latest work after Manchester Council said it has no knowledge of a source cited in his book as saying that Muslim refugees are accustomed to violence.
Ed Husain's latest book has been widely criticised by British Muslims [Getty]

Questions have been raised over the accuracy of self-styled former extremist Ed Husain's latest book, after a local authority in the north of England claimed no knowledge of a source cited in the work.

Husain's "Among the Mosques: A Journey Across Muslim Britain" has been criticised as "error-strewn" over alleged factual inaccuracies beginning on its first page, as well as for suggesting, among things, that British Muslims "self-deport or be deported" or "modernise, integrate... and contribute to Western society".

'No go areas for white people'

In one section of the book, Husain recounts meeting a man named Mahfuz Alimain, who is described as a senior official at Manchester Council. Alimain allegedly told Husain that Muslim refugees in the UK had grown "accustomed" to violence.

"Syrians and Libyans, Yemenis and Palestinians who come to British mosques have seen bombs and destruction daily. Killings are normal for them," Alimain is quoted in the book as saying.

"Peace in Manchester troubles them; they feel they need to seek revenge and justice for the wrongs done to them in their countries."

The excerpt, along with others, were later cited in a widely-shared article by right-wing UK tabloid The Daily Mail, which included claims that parts of Britain were "no go areas for white people".

On Wednesday, however, Manchester City Council said it had no knowledge of an individual named Mahfuz Alimain working for them.

The clarification came in response to a question from British medical practitioner Dr Siema Iqbal, who tweeted the council and Husain's publishers asking for further details about Alimain.

"Hi @ManCityCouncil  Who is Mahfuz Alimain? It appears noone seems to know who he is.@BloomsburyBooks do you fact check before publishing? Or is this in the fiction section?" Iqbal tweeted on June 7.

On Wednesday, Manchester City Council responded:

"Hi Siema, Just to confirm on this, we don't employ a Mahfuz Alimain, nor do we have any record of having employed anyone of this name. Thanks."

The New Arab reached out to Husain and the book's publisher, Bloomsbury, via Twitter for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Later on Thursday, however, Husain responded to accusations that Alimain was a "made up character", saying that the name was an alias.

"It’s called an ‘alias’, Ian," Husain wrote in response to a tweet by journalist Ian Fraser.

"Protecting good and brave people from this sort of witch-hunt. Bureaucracy of local government is not the arbiter of truth. Read the book please and then decide," he added.

But the response raised further questions, with some asking why the author did not clarify the use of an alias for Alimain when other aliases are clearly stated as such in the publication.

In another section of the book, Husain claims that Darwen Council threatens "eviction" for residents who fly the British flag. In a Twitter thread, British Islamic Studies lecturer Dr Usaama al-Azami said he had reached out to the council to clarify the matter, with the council leader responding that the claims were "laughable".

'Countering extremism'

Husain, a former member of Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT),  gained prominence through his work on extremism and radicalisation.

Along with fellow former HT members Rashad Ali and Maajid Nawaz, Husain founded the now-defunct Quilliam Foundation think thank in 2007. 

Quilliam, which was established with Home Office funding, was criticised by many British Muslims for its reports on faith and race relations.

In 2018, a Quilliam Foundation report claimed that 84% of sexual grooming gang offenders in the UK were Asian, drawing widespread from experts on child sexual exploitation.

Perspectives

A report later released in 2020 by the UK Home Office appeared to debunk Quilliam's claims of an "alarming level of over-representation of South Asian men" among child grooming gangs.

Critics of self-styled counter-extremism experts argue that the countering violent extremism (CVE) industry has done more to alienate Muslim communities in the West.

"Islamophobia has been a persistent feature in the global north," Tarek Younis, a Middlesex University lecturer who has conducted research into the racialisation of Muslims in counter-extremism policies, told The New Arab.

"Following the war on terror and CVE however, long-standing debates regarding 'Muslim integration' into Western society have been securitised. What was once 'if you’re not like us, you don’t belong here,' is now 'if you’re not like us, you’re potentially a security risk'."