1. Iran Feb 2008
2. Libya Feb 2008
3. Indonesia March 2008
4. Bangladesh (x2) March 2008 & May 2009
5. Afghanistan (x2) April 2008 & October 2009
6. Pakistan (x2) June & Nov 2008
7. Egypt July 2008
8. Ethiopia / Somaliland Aug 2008
9. Turkey Nov 2008
10. Sudan – Darfur (incl. Cairo, Jeddah, Dec 2008
11. Algeria & Morocco Feb 2009
12. Lebanon March 2009
13. Algeria Feb 2010
14. India March 2010
Annex C – internal reports
Subject PROJECTING BRITISH ISLAM: VISIT TO LIBYA: 19-21 FEBRUARY
Summary Libya welcomes delegation of British Muslims. Meetings with students,
academics and businesspeople in Tripoli and Misurata who take away a
more positive impression of life for Muslims in the UK. Some
suggestions for further activity.
1 A delegation of British Muslims visited Libya 19-21 February as part of CTD‟s
“Projecting British Islam” programme. The visit also included an unplanned
trip to the Vatican on 18 February, when the delegation got stuck in Rome for
a day because of problems with their Libyan visas.
2 Once they did get here, the delegation received a warm welcome from their
Libyan hosts, the Green Book Centre and the World Islamic Call Society and
we were able to fit most of the original programme into the remaining time.
3 The World Islamic Call Society (WICS) made a very positive impression on
the delegation, particularly through its Director, XXX, whom they met at the
beginning and end of their visit. XXX, along with several other interlocutors,
said that he was pleased to see a delegation that reflected Muslim
participation in everyday British life. This is very important - and it does not
come automatically. Muslims living in the West have an even greater
responsibility to represent Islam than those living in Islamic countries because
they live among people who are looking for an explanation of what Islam
means. XXX commended the “reasonable and thoughtful approach” of the
UK in dealing with Islam, particularly for including the promotion of cultural
links and visits such as this as part of its CT strategy.
4 The visit‟s objective of increasing awareness of how Muslims live in the UK
was achieved through open discussions with WICS students, at the British
Council in Tripoli and Misurata University. Common themes at all these
events were: how Muslims are perceived by others in the UK; whether they
are free to practice their faith; and how their rights are protected. The
delegates description of how British Muslims are able to build their social and
spiritual infrastructure in the UK, backed by strong civil society and human
rights laws was received positively. Some Libyans were surprised to learn
that the Prison Service employed imams (including one member of the
delegation). We have found through our prison reform project that Libyan
imams tend to be reluctant to take on such work.
5 Several of the participants spoke about the misrepresentation of Islam by
extremists and the need to promote better understanding both among
Muslims and the rest of British society. There was relatively little discussion of
British foreign policy. Afghanistan (now and the 1980s) and Iraq were raised
as factors contributing to radicalisation. But in general, the debate was more
about promoting tolerance and preventing further radicalisation. One local
sheikh in Misurata praised British democracy as an example to the world.
Given the rarity of events like these in Libya, the delegation and we were
impressed by the level of debate and questioning from the local participants.
6 By Libyan standards, media coverage of the visit was very good.
Unfortunately the interview we had planned with Libya FM fell through at the
last minute. But the local newspapers in Tripoli and Misurata both covered
the visit and the Libyan-owned international paper al-Arab also ran a short
story. The delegation‟s visit to Misurata featured in the city‟s contribution to a
weekly TV show featuring events across Libya.
7 The delegates were surprised that WICS has not made a more prominent
contribution to the public debate on extremism in the UK. With the exception
of one delegate from the Muslim College of Britain (itself a WICS college),
they were not aware of its work across the world to promote moderate Islam.
As they recommended, we will encourage XXX and his colleagues to take
part in more events in the UK. The other idea that we plan to work on is the
suggestion of offering trainee British imams places at WICS to study
vocational skills and Arabic. The Embassy is discussing this with WICS and
8 I thank the delegation for the patience and persistence they showed in getting
out here, in spite of all that the Libyan immigration system could throw at
them. Thanks also to the Embassy in Rome for their help in finding
accommodation and liasing with Alitalia.
Subject Indonesia: Projecting British Islam and Prevent
Summary 1. Second UK Muslim delegation strengthens existing relationships and
opens up new opportunities. Excellent media coverage. Suggested
follow-up. Other recent Prevent activities in Indonesia.
2. Post hosted a delegation of six prominent British Muslims from 3-6 March, as part
of the Projecting British Islam (PBI) programme, a key element of CTD‟s Prevent
strategy. The aims of the visit were: to project a dynamic and inclusive view of Islam
in a multi-cultural Britain, to counter extremist narrative and misconceptions about
the UK and to strengthen understanding and partnerships.
3. The delegation comprised a cross section of young successful professionals with
a comprehensive mix of academics, community activists, writers/opinion formers and
4. The programme included discussions with high school and Madrassah students in
Bogor and with university students and academics at the Masjid Salman Mosque
and the State Islamic University in Bandung. The delegation also visited one of the
largest Islamic publishing houses in Indonesia. A particular highlight was meeting
about 70 women members of a Majelis Taklim (Koranic study group) in Tangerang -
a town close to Jakarta which has recently adopted a number of so called Sharia by-
laws. The visit culminated in in-depth discussions with representatives of the Wahid
Institute, focusing on the dynamics of Indonesian Islam, issues surrounding the
imposition of Sharia law in Indonesia and shared UK Indonesian experiences of
countering the threat from violent extremism.
5. The delegates were struck by the generally low level of understanding of the
ethnic and religious diversity in the UK. This perhaps reflected the restrictions on
religious freedom during the Suharto years in Indonesia.
6. Alongside this some complex themes emerged: How best to bring Islamic
perspectives to bear on government decision-making?; Nationalism - is it possible to
be a Moslem and feel truly British?; How can Islam be made more relevant to the
youth and challenges of the day eg tackling corruption?; How do British Moslems
tackle misconceptions about their faith, especially post 9/11?
7. Indonesian interlocutors were less focused on UK foreign policy than might have
been expected. Afghanistan and Iraq were raised but in the context of an expectation
that British foreign policy was taking a different, „softer approach‟ under the current
government. Some interlocutors expressed a desire for Indonesia to exert its
influence more on the world stage. As the world‟s most populous Muslim country
there was a certain frustration at the Arab world‟s tendancy to claim „ownership‟ of
Islam. The British delegates were impressed by the level of Indonesian female
participation in the meetings and repeated assurances that gender inequality was not
a real concern.
8. The Indonesians recognised the shared threat from violent extremism and the
need to think creatively about prevention, especially amongst vulnerable
communities. The delegate‟s messages around tolerance and the struggle for
spiritual Jihad as opposed to violent Jihad ran true with the values of many
Indonesians. Promoting mainstream voices and understanding were recognised as a
key element in developing more robust barriers to the spread of extremist ideology in
Indonesia and the UK.
9. Media coverage, both TV and print media was extensive. Interviews with Metro tv
and TVRI (state-run tv), as well as Republika and the Jakarta Post newspapers were
conducted and broadcast on 3 and 5 March. These set the scene for the visit as well
as providing opportunities for key messages around tolerance and mutual respect
between faiths. The front page of the Jakarta Post on 6 March featured a prominent
photograph of the delegates meeting women in a mosque and the newspaper‟s
website currently has the article posted on its home page (www.thejakartapost.com).
10. [Information redacted] This was a well received delegation which undoubtedly
helped to build ties between our respective Muslim communities - all be it ones
which are mirror images in terms of numerical dominance within their societies. The
delegates engaged fully in terms of their personal and spiritual journeys as well as
their wider political and social viewpoints, which our Indonesian hosts warmed to.
11. We should aim to build further on these PBI visits, with a focus on both high level
political interventions as well as contact with grassroots activists. [Information
Other recent Prevent activities include:
12. From 17-23 February the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted an inter-
faith delegation from the UK, a spin-off from the successful UK-Indonesia Islamic
Advisory Group‟s work. They met the leadership of the two largest Islamic
organisations in Indonesia: Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama, as well as visiting
churches and mosques in Jakarta. I hosted the group and other guests before they
departed for Yogyakarta for meetings with inter-faith practitioners and visits to a
Buddhist monastery and Christian and Islamic boarding schools.
13. In Yogyakarta on 18 February I launched the latest leg of the Peter Sanders
exhibition of photographs of British Islam. This was the third stop on an extensive
tour of the exhibition around Indonesia and was hosted at the eminent Gadjah Mada
univeristy in Yogyakarta. The event enjoyed wide media coverage
14. Finally on 20 February we despatched the latest cohort of Deputy Heads of
Pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) to Leeds University where they will attend a
specially designed GOF-funded course which looks at UK best practice in the fields
of education management and curriculum development
Subject PREVENT PROGRAMME: BRITISH-BANGLADESHI DELEGATION
VISIT TO BANGLADESH, 17-20 MARCH
Summary British-Bangladeshi delegation visit successfully addresses negative
misperceptions of a „victimised‟ diaspora and communities. Focus on
mainstream and mass audience affords extensive coverage of
messages highlighting successes, opportunities and contributions of
diaspora communities. Delegation shows benefits of adopting
engagement through cultural, over Muslim, identities in some countries.
1. A delegation of British-Bangladeshis visited Bangladesh from 17-20 March 2008.
2. The visit was originally arranged under CTD‟s „Projecting British Islam‟
programme. However, objectives were tailored more appropriately for the
Bangladeshi context. We judged that an explicit focus on „British Muslims‟,
implying faith as the principal defining identity of this group in British society,
would not resonate well with local audiences [information redacted]. The
renamed „British-Bangladeshi Delegation‟ therefore concentrated more on
projecting a confident, successful and outward-looking diaspora community, at
ease with multiple identities (of which religion/Islam is a part) and positively
sharing in mainstream British values and society. The aim was to counter
negative misperceptions, widely held among ordinary Bangladeshis, of British-
Bangladeshis as „victims‟, a prejudice which, if left unchecked, would appear to
chime with a key strand of the extremist narrative.
3. The delegation visited Dhaka and Sylhet (ancestral home of the majority of
British-Bangladeshis), with a deliberate focus on mainstream opinion formers and
reaching mass audiences. Their calls included discussion events with public and
private university students, a visit to a voter registration centre in Demra,
meetings with leading cultural, civil society and media figures, and a visit to a
Sylhet school participating in the British Council‟s „Connecting Classrooms‟
programme. The delegation participated in numerous media engagements,
including a prime-time talk-show on the state broadcaster BTV (potential
audience of over 90 million viewers), programmes with private channels (NTV
and Channel I potential audiences of 400,000 each), and a special edition of
Radio Today FM‟s „Khola Mon‟, aimed at youth audiences. (Comment: Begun as
a successful BHC Dhaka Prevent project, Khola Mon became the country‟s most
popular radio phone-in programme (up to 200,000 listeners) and is therefore
being continued by the station).
4. The dominant message with all interlocutors was that commonly held perceptions
of widespread discrimination against British-Bangladeshis are wide of the mark.
As in any society, it exists to some extent, but it is “too easy to blame
discrimination for our own underachievement.” The protections - legal and social
- in the UK are the best in the world. Individuals can be confident that in applying
for jobs, or accessing services, they will receive the same treatment: people and
their needs are judged on merit, not ethnicity. Britain, they said, does more than
tolerate minority cultures. It creates space for difference, respects and actively
encourages celebration of diversity. “Religious freedoms are unrivalled”; the UK
is the best place in the world to be a Muslim and there is no contradiction in these
identities. As Muslims, they have not faced hostility following the 7 July 2005
attacks, and although they were conscious of heavier security post-Iraq, they do
not feel they have been seriously disadvantaged.
5. A second theme given prominence in debates and media engagements was that
opportunities for success exist for British-Bangladeshis as much as for anyone
else in the UK. Delegates drew on their own experiences, social mobility and
considerable achievements as evidence of this. British-Bangladeshis contribute
enormously to the UK and, by becoming successful, can do more for Bangladesh
too. They pointed out the possibilities for education, participation in politics and
all fields of public life, which are often taken for granted in the UK, and the
likelihood of soon seeing a British-Bangladeshi MP. They were proud of the
contribution that Bangladeshi restaurants had made to the UK but also pressed
the point that it was important to see the wider achievements and move away
from „Brick Lane‟ stereotypes which do little to raise the aspirations of young
people. Integration and ambition would be vital: the community cannot afford to
cling to a photostatic image of a first generation culture that no longer exists.
„Ghettoisation‟, insularity and a „victim mentality‟ would only hold them back.
6. Media coverage, particularly on television, has been wide and positive especially
in the portrayal of opportunities for personal success and a community which is
on the up. This has been played back into the UK diaspora extensively through
first-hand coverage on a number of Bengali language channels and a post-visit
press briefing at the FCO.
7. The positive messages were universally well received by interlocutors, who
praised the visit initiative and were genuinely impressed with the delegates‟
passionate drive to correct misperceptions and show a new face of the UK
diaspora community. The composition of the group from various professions,
their seniority and considerable personal successes lent authority and credibility,
as did their clear independence from HMG. That all delegates were British-
Bangladeshi (as opposed to just „British Muslims‟) and spoke at least some
Bangla (some were fluent) also greatly assisted communication of key messages
and made for more nuanced engagement than pushing people under the „Islamic
umbrella‟, which has been an own goal in some circumstances.
8. The focus on „community‟ (mostly from the interlocutors) did, at times, deflect the
focus from underlying Prevent objectives. Though interesting, that discussions
sometimes drifted into areas like visa policy, UK media and the UK investment
climate which was away from the main topics of discussion.
9. This could be addressed practically in future through actions such as the insertion
of activities which are more explicitly focused on extremism issues. Also, we
would look to broaden the range of interlocutors to include those perhaps less
well disposed towards the UK. The delegates felt they would have welcomed
grittier „interrogation‟ and the opportunity to face down more ideologically rooted
prejudices. The delegation format, though labour-intensive, has scope for further
interesting development, especially as Post‟s Prevent agenda prioritises raising
the level of public discourse on radicalisation.
10. Nevertheless, the visit has strengthened our engagement with mainstream
figures and, in particular, our ability to draw on media levers in raising the
standard of public debate on diaspora issues (and, by extension, issues of
radicalisation). This activity was never intended to be about directly
addressing „Islam‟ or those most at risk of radicalisation. It was about
disconnecting large numbers of ordinary Bangladeshis from the kind of
commonly-held prejudice that lends credibility to the extremist narrative. In
projecting a different image of the British-Bangladeshi community (and by
extension British Muslims) to a mass audience, the visit certainly achieved its
Subject LOCSEN; NOSEC: AFGHANISTAN: VISIT OF BRITISH MUSLIM DELEGATION, 29 MARCH -
4 APRIL 2008
Summary The first visit of a delegation of British Muslims to Afghanistan helps transform
attitudes of their senior interlocutors (some of whom appear unaware of the
presence of Muslims in Britain) and the wider population through some good press
work. Although the Dutch film was released during the visit, it has made little impact,
neither on the visit nor more widely.
1. Five prominent British Muslims visited Afghanistan from 29 March to 4 April, as part of Counter
Terrorism Department’s (CTD) Projecting British Islam (PBI) programme. The participants were:
2. The programme included meetings with: the Minister for Hajj and Religious Endowments;
Deputy Minister for Education; the Head of the Ulema (Religious Scholars) Council; the First
Deputy Speaker of the Lower House; the only Ayatollah in Afghanistan; a range of MPs; local
NGOs; and British troops in Kabul. The delegates also visited a Teacher Training University, a
leading madrassa, a Shia Islamic University, and the UK-funded ‘Criminal Justice Task Force’,
which handles counter-narcotics cases. The programme included a day in the northern city of
Mazar-e Sharif, where the participants met XXX and visited a UK-funded drug treatment centre
and the Shrine of Hazrat Ali.
PERCEPTIONS OF BRITAIN AND BRITISH MUSLIMS
3. Many of the people the delegates met were unaware of the numbers of British Muslims in the
UK, or the integral role British Muslims play in UK life. Many expressed pride that one of their
fellow Muslims was an MP in the UK, and were impressed that the UK treated its Muslims so
well. Those who had been to Britain praised the freedoms which Muslims enjoyed in the UK. The
Deputy Head of the Ulema Council commented mischievously that even those extreme Muslims
who were not welcome in their own countries were able to live freely in Britain.
4. A common theme in meetings was gratitude for the UK’s contribution to Afghanistan, and the
continuing lack of capacity within the Afghan government to solve the country’s problems by
itself. XXX XXX XXX XXX said that Afghans were proud of the British army, fighting the Taleban in
the South, and grateful to the young men who made this sacrifice. The delegates themselves
were very impressed with the British troops they met. They felt strongly that many Muslims, and
even the wider population, misunderstood the work of the British Armed Forces, which needed
to be much better publicised, particularly their contribution outside Helmand.
5. The message of Islam as peace was reiterated repeatedly in the delegates’ meetings. Ayatollah
Mohseni and other Shia ulema emphasised that the message of Islam was unity among all
Muslims, Sunni and Shia; a message reinforced by the British delegates. First Deputy speaker
Yasini said that Afghans needed to address issues such as women’s rights gently; it had to be
done gradually to ensure compatibility with Afghan culture and Islam. Leaders of the Ulema
Council said that the Council had been set up to prevent extremism and to ensure that the third
article of the Constitution - that nothing should be against Islam - was upheld.
6. [information redacted]
DUTCH FILM REACTIONS
7. The visit coincided with the release of “Fitna”, the Dutch film, but was not overshadowed by it.
Male MPs told delegates that part of the Afghan parliament’s role was to defend the country’s
Islamic values against insults such as the Dutch film and Danish cartoons. The Ulema Council
Head, XXX, said there could be no compromise on disrespect to the Prophet. The ulema were
not blaming the whole of those countries, but he acknowledged that the public were calling for
the end of relations with the Dutch and Danish governments. Separately, the Dutch film was
condemned by three Afghan Ministries, and both houses of the National Assembly. The Taleban
also denounced the film and threatened retaliation against Dutch soldiers. Public protests
overall have been muted.
8. The British delegation made the point that in the UK, non-Muslims and Muslims lived together
and learned about each other’s culture; in the UK, non-Muslims were also angry about the
Danish cartoons and Dutch film. UK media outlets had consistently refused to print the offensive
9. The delegation received good local media coverage in the main daily press outlets, Cheragh and
Weesa, and had TV interviews on all the main TV stations including Lemar, RTA and Ariana and
Tolo, which has a strong youth viewership, as well as with other Pashto language media. The
delegation also had a press briefing with all the main local print journalists and news agency
Pajhwok, and had coverage from numerous smaller media outlets. The visit was featured in daily
news bulletins on the BBC World Service, which attracts the highest number of listeners in
Afghanistan. The delegates also gave an in-depth interview on BBC World Service and BBC
Pashto ‘Women’s Hour’. XXX gave interviews for the British media, including Radio Five Live, and
Euronews covered the delegation meeting British troops. On return to the UK, the delegation
held a press conference with a wide range of Muslim media. 'Women’s Hour' in the UK will also
interview the female delegates on return.
10. A successful visit in providing an insight for Afghans into the British Muslim experience. The
delegates met Afghan partners on the level of fellow Muslims and helped tackle any
misperceptions about Britain as ‘anti-Islamic’. The delegates also left with a positive vision of
what the UK - including British troops - is working to achieve in Afghanistan. The Deputy Head of
the Ulema Council, XXX, made the point that the international community had offered a lot of
material support, but that this form of non-material support was also valuable. The embassy will
follow up on the practical project ideas generated by individual delegates, and the good will
created by the visit.
Subject LOCSEN; NOSEC: PAKISTAN: PROMOTING BRITISH ISLAM VISIT
Summary Successful visit, with a strong group engaging with wide range of community and
senior interlocutors. A reminder that British Muslims, particularly those of Pakistani
origin, can engage effectively on sensitive community issues (e.g. 'denial') and rebut
myths in ways that most officials cannot. And a good opportunity to remind
interlocutors that British Muslims are dedicated and proud of being British, while
retaining great respect for their roots.
Not for EU partners
1. Islamabad's third Promoting British Islam delegation, all of Pakistani origin, visited
between 1 and 7 June. The programme included outreach activity in Islamabad, Mirpur,
Jhelum and Rawalpindi, providing opportunities to engage with a range of people,
particularly students. They spent an hour with the Foreign Minister, XXX, who described his
pleasure to talk in depth with young British Pakistanis, as opposed to the older generation he
normally has to spend time with. XXX said he was looking forward to continuing that
conversation when he visits the UK later this month. This records the main issues the
delegation encountered, and offers some comment about how to use their impressions and
advice in our future work.
2. One of our short-term Prevent aims is to prioritise regions that play a role in
radicalisation with a direct impact on the UK. Mirpur, and other "ancestral regions" in and
around Pakistani-administered Kashmir, are such priority regions for the UK. The
delegation's visit there gave us access to people with probably the greatest familiarity with
the UK, given that the majority of British Pakistanis have family links to this part of the
country. Influencers in Mirpur can play a real role in stopping British Pakistani extremists
using the region as a springboard to terrorist training elsewhere in Pakistan. Convincing
them that we have a shared interest in doing so is important. Helping build their resilience
to do so is something we are actively exploring, at the same time as conducting research and
wider outreach in the region to identify the key influencers.
3. Despite this strong link with the UK, the delegation faced issues in Mirpur that they
found everywhere in their visit: that Islam was under attack in the West, that there was no
role for Muslims to play in countering extremism, and that people were disappointed with
and angry about the UK's foreign policies. Such ideas, common across the class divides,
along with the most elaborate of conspiracy theories, were accurately described by one
delegate as symptoms of Muslim denial, that he had found as much in parts of the British
Muslim community as in Pakistan. That said, they did also find cause for optimism:
madrassa administrators being trained by the British Council in Peshawar as part of a
Strategic Priority Fund (SPF) project talked about themselves as not being opposed to
reform, quoting an Islamic tradition of "seeking benefit wherever it can be found". Others
described an intellectual distinction between the UK with its tradition of tolerance and
learning, and the more recent image of the UK associated with foreign policy that they
considered ill-judged. [Information redacted]
What worked well
4. The delegation, carefully selected from a range of professional and social
backgrounds, quickly learnt that most of their time was spent dispelling myths about the UK,
whether informing young madrassa students that yes, there were mosques in the UK (1600,
and growing, as I mentioned in a speech at a reception given for them) or explaining that
differences between the general public and the government on issues such as Iraq were dealt
with peacefully and through force of argument. This role as myth-buster was amplified
through a busy media programme: their 45 minute appearance on 'Live with Talat' will have
reached a viewership of 300 million Pakistanis, and the reception I held showcasing
photographs of everyday British scenes featuring Muslims was widely reported.
5. Talking to ordinary people, especially the young, about the sorts of things people here
care about worked well. Meetings with some senior people were useful (e.g.
XXX)[information redacted]. The delegates all stated that the emphasis of such outreach
work should be with young people, who have either not yet formed opinions about the West,
or were still willing to have their minds changed. Projects due to begin this financial year,
brokered by CTD, and should fill precisely this gap. [Information redacted] will bring
credible new perspectives and ideas to young people in large and small cities across the
country. [Information redacted]. Both will also have the luxury of more time properly to
explore debates; our delegates complained that by the time the (lengthy) pleasantries were
over it was time to move to the next engagement. And with both new projects, the media
must be involved to reach a much larger audience.
6. Being of Pakistani origin was also important. Having some Urdu made
communication easy, and having a common heritage made it more of a conversation between
equals. The delegates, rightly proud of the sacrifices and risks their ancestors took in leaving
the subcontinent, felt they had the right to point out the problems and failings of Muslims in
Pakistan, and their interlocutors took note. The free rein the delegates had to say what they
liked was picked up by those they met, but also by the delegates themselves - one said
specifically that he had enjoyed how little HMG had asked him to say.
7. Promoting British Islam delegations are an important part of our calendar of Prevent
activity, allowing us to meet and influence people that we otherwise cannot, and for things to
be said that would be unacceptable coming from a diplomat. It is also an opportunity to
showcase the contributions Muslims make to the UK: their personal accounts of real pride in
being British and Muslim has an almost visible impact on public opinion here. But such
engagements cannot just be for the benefit of those they meet, hence our emphasis on a
heavy media schedule to deploy their key points about the UK and about the freedoms that
they enjoy as Muslims. The delegation visits have helped inform new activities, and they
should be used to road-test project ideas again in the future
Subject NOSEC: PAKISTAN: Projecting British Islam visit, 26-27 November
Summary Successful visit to Pakistan on 26-27 November. Delegation focussed
on correcting Pakistani misperceptions about lives of Muslims in Britain
and promoting strong counter-extremist messages. Well-received
Question Time-style event with the Foreign Secretary and outreach in
Not for EU partners - EXEMPT
1. Islamabad's fourth Projecting British Islam (PBI) delegation, four British
nationals of Pakistani origin, visited on 26-27 November. The visit was timed to
coincide with yours. Its objectives were to correct the wide-spread misconceptions in
Pakistan about the situation of Muslims in the UK, and to amplify the voice of British
Muslims to counter extremist ideology. The visit was short, but punchy. The main
focus (as on previous PBI visits here) was on outreach activity in Islamabad and
Mirpur, with particular emphasis on young people. There was a large media
element: apart from "Question Time" in Islamabad, in Mirpur the delegates talked to
the written press and did a live-on-air session with Rose FM (soon to be linked with
Sunrise FM in the UK, courtesy of FCO funding).
2. The delegation comprised XXX (a leading scholar and research fellow at the
University of Birmingham); XXX (an award-winning independent film-maker and BBC
journalist); XXX (an obstetrician and community activist, working on Muslim women's
issues); and XXX (a XXX of the Muslim Youth Helpline).
3. The centrepiece was the "Question Time" event in Islamabad, in which you
participated. The audience consisted mainly of students from the International
Islamic University, as well as Pakistani Youth Parliamentarians (another FCO funded
project) and the media. Questions varied from visas and immigration, through issues
of identity of Muslims in the West, to terrorism and US Predator attacks. The
delegates responded articulately and robustly. They talked positively about their
hybrid identities: as British nationals, as Muslims and as successful professional
people. They also talked about Islam 'of' the west and not 'in' the west, and they
spoke with conviction about the challenges facing British Pakistani communities.
4. One of our PREVENT objectives is to prioritise regions that play a role in
radicalisation, with a direct impact on the UK. Mirpur, an "ancestral region" from
where the families of some 65% of British Pakistanis (including XXX) originate, is the
prime example. The population have very extensive links with the UK, though we
often encounter a somewhat distorted perspective about life in the UK. There is a
strong expectation in the local community that many young people will move to the
UK as a result of marriage.
5. Despite this „umbilical‟ link with the UK, the delegates encountered many of
the same misunderstandings and distorted views that are found elsewhere, including
eg widely held beliefs that the US engineered 9/11 and that Islamophobia is
widespread in the West. Worryingly, they also encountered such views among the
media. We are working hard to increase our understanding of the role Mirpur plays
in the radicalisation process. Engagement of this kind with the population to
influence the mindset, and therefore build resilience against extremism, is crucial.
What worked well
6. The Question Time event. The moderator was ponderous but questions
flowed freely. As you pointed out, such events bridge the gap between politicians
and the public.
7. It was very helpful that all four delegates were of Pakistani origin and had a
good command of Urdu. They connected with their audiences and carried
considerable credibility. A shared heritage and faith allowed the delegates to be
frank with their audiences and even-handed in their criticisms both of Pakistan and of
the West. They all emphasised very convincingly the responsibility of Muslims in
combating violent extremism.
What we could do better
8. All of the delegates said they would have preferred more time to explore
issues in more detail. Time pressure meant that each of the events had to be cut
9. Although the „reach‟ of the visit was large - particularly through Rose FM - it
did not directly touch people in positions of influence and power. Moreover, the visit
was probably less successful in reaching out to the less mainstream audience, those
who are ultimately more vulnerable to radicalisation.
11. The four delegates were outstanding - and gave us very positive feedback
on how they felt the visit had gone as well as helpful pointers for future PBI
programmes in Pakistan. When confronting misunderstandings, distorted
beliefs and conspiracy theories in Pakistan, our approach has to be one of
attrition over time. We need to create the conditions for interactions of this
kind to develop in a natural way; and we need to take great care to address
the actual concerns of our audiences, not the concerns which we think they
have. We are working on a proposal for a more sustained and targeted out-
reach project, on which we will write separately.
Subject Egypt- Promoting British Islam Visit
Summary Second PBI visit to Egypt (7-11 July) touched on a range of important
Prevent issues including extremist recantations, the role of Al Azhar,
and public diplomacy/countering the extremist message. The visit went
well, but success will be measured by how we follow up. Some
1. A six-person PBI delegation visited Cairo and Alexandria between 7-11 July. This
was the second PBI visit to Cairo (the first was in late Jan/early Feb 2006) and
the first to Alexandria. The delegates undertook a packed programme that
included a visit to the CTRF-funded English language centre at Al Azhar;
meetings with NGOs, activists and high-profile individuals (e.g. XXX) engaged in
countering extremism and intolerance; discussions of the extremist recantations
with XXX and XXX (ex Gamaa Islamiyya and Egyptian Islamic Jihad
respectively); and dinner at my house with some heavyweight scholars and
opinion formers, like XXX. In Alexandria, they participated in a public
debate/panel discussion entitled: “British and Muslim: a contradiction in terms?”
at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and met a cross section of Alexandrian society at a
reception hosted by the Consul General. The delegation also gave numerous
press interviews, including with Islam Online and the BBC, and met a small group
2. One of the highlights was the visit to the ELT centre a Al Azhar University, where
the top 20 or so students from five religious faculties are taught English, in a
special course and facility run by the British Council, as part of a joint honour-
style degree course. The delegates enjoyed meeting the students, with whom
they struck up an instant rapport. And they described the (CTRF-funded) project
itself as hugely important. But during that visit, and throughout the trip, they were
disappointed by what they saw and heard of Al Azhar as an institution, and its
current role in promulgating moderate, mainstream Islam. One interlocutor
described Al Azhar as “dead”, others as a “dinosaur” or irrelevant. [information
3. [information redacted]
4. In terms of public diplomacy and projecting British Islam, it is clear that there is
an appetite in Egypt for more (balanced) information about Muslims in Britain.
Many Egyptians still perceive British Muslims to be a poor, oppressed minority
group struggling to integrate and reconcile their faith with British customs and
values. The delegation did their best to introduce different perspectives and give
a more accurate picture, but there is scope for much more work in this area. One
of the delegates suggested that a visual presentation showing British Muslims
going about their (normal) British lives would be a useful tool for future PBI visits.
Others were keen to organise cultural events in Egypt involving British Muslims.
They were also keen to conduct more of the open debates, particularly with
university students, which were not possible on this occasion because of the
5. Discussions with NGOs and individual anti-extremism activists touched on the
need for the mainstream to be more pro-active, especially through the media, and
particularly the non-traditional media. There was some disagreement among the
delegates themselves, as well as between the delegates and Egyptian
interlocutors, on the role of scholars and Muslim thinkers in countering
extremism, but the general consensus was that certain individuals, particularly
XXX (XXX), could make an enormous contribution. We will work, with the
Department, on getting him, and possibly others, to Egypt.
6. The visit was arranged at short notice and the timing was not ideal. Apart from
XXX and XXX, none of the delegates was on the original list, and one dropped
out at very short notice. The inclusion of [information redacted]. But under the
circumstances, the visit went very well. Although it did not fully achieve its
original objectives, it certainly opened some new doors and helped us refine
future Prevent priorities. The delegation worked extremely hard, and were a
pleasure to host. We look forward to working with them again on the follow-up.
Subject LOCSEN: ETHIOPIA: PROJECTING BRITISH ISLAM
Summary Successful first Projecting British Islam delegation to Ethiopia. Key
meetings with the local Muslim community, civil society and Government
figures. One delegate addresses 10,000 worshippers at Friday prayers.
1. A four person Projecting British Islam (PBI) delegation visited Ethiopia on 18-19
and 22-23 August for the first time. See separate eGram for their 19-21 visit to
Somaliland. Ethiopia programme and delegation members detailed below. The
delegation paid a variety of calls on Islamic leaders, opinion formers, NGOs and
Government officials. The aims of the visit were to:
Build strong partnerships between British Muslims and the Ethiopian Muslim
leadership, opinion formers, civil society leaders and youth;
Develop a greater understanding of Islam in Ethiopia;
Provide a platform for British Muslims to showcase the work the UK is doing in
Ethiopia, including DFID's £130m development assistance programme;
Amplify the voice of British Muslims to join those in Ethiopia opposed to extremist
ideology in Ethiopia and the UK
2. The visit highlight was delegate XXX addressing 10,000 people during Friday
prayers at the main mosque in Addis. In ten minutes he detailed how the UK
allowed him to be a Muslim better than any other country and directly tackled
nascent anti-westernism. The entire delegation were enthusiastically mobbed on
exit. A further highlight was a two hour debate on Islam and the UK with a core
group of 40 salafi students, including their teacher and leader.
3. The delegates' key impressions of Ethiopia were:
Muslims occupy a better place in Ethiopia than at any time before. But although
there is a long history of good Christian/ Muslim relations it is clear that
coexistence is breaking down in places. This remains a taboo for general
discussion and was difficult to properly debate.
The Islamic community have a good religious leader (the Mufti) and political
leaders (the Vice President of their Islamic Council). [Information redacted]
Despite having the largest DFID programme in Africa myths about UK interest in
Ethiopia remain. Partly these were based on misunderstanding of UK foreign
policy but it was commonly thought that British Muslims were something akin to
second class citizens with no political influence. Through all their meetings
delegates directly addressed and tacked these misconceptions. Overall,
delegates were surprised by the level of anti-western / anti-British sentiment
found amongst many young Ethiopian Muslims.
4. The PBI received good media coverage for a country more used to visiting senior
officials and donor assessment missions. This mostly concentrated on delegates
lauding good inter religious community relations across Ethiopia. But points on
Muslims in Britain were always included. They achieved the front page across a
number English language papers, inclusion in the two main papers for the Muslim
community, local TV news over the weekend and coverage across a number of radio
stations, including an interview on the VoA amharic service.
5. [Information redacted]. In that time we have developed contacts with a variety of
people that were key to such a successfully diverse PBI programme. But perhaps
the greatest achievement of the PBI visit is to turn those contacts into meaningful
relationships with people who now have a real affection for the UK. We need to
capitalise on this rapidly with targeted projects to address key capacity issues and to
help maintain Ethiopian resilience to more radical influences.
6. In particular we will look to enable the established political and religious
leadership to better connect with each other and their members, especially women
and youth where vulnerability to more radical forms of Islam seems most prevalent.
We are talking to the British Council about training that would bring both sides
together for professional leadership and management skills training. The recently
established British Council funded Inter Cultural Dialogue Programme was key to
the variety of events the PBI were able to attend. We will work with the Council to
ensure this group develops its capacity to better work on overall ICD issues and as a
sounding board for HMG in Ethiopia. [Information redacted].
Subject LOCSEN: SOMALILAND: PROJECTING BRITISH ISLAM
DELEGATION: RIPE FOR RADICALISATION OR HMG A:Id=0139225
Summary Successful Projecting British Islam delegation to Somaliland. Enhanced
contacts with the local Muslim community, civil society and key
Government figures. A blank page and solid ideas to now start our
PREVENT work in earnest. [Information redacted].
1. A four person Projecting British Islam (PBI) delegation visited Somaliland for the
first time from 19-21 August as part of our continuing development of CT work there.
(eGram 28912 refers). They met a variety of people from the Somaliland
Government, students, civil society and religious leaders. Full programme and
delegate list attached below.
2. The aims of the PBI were:
To build strong partnerships between British Muslims and the Somaliland Muslim
leadership, opinion formers, civil society leaders and youth;
To develop a greater understanding of Islam in Somaliland; and develop strong
links with opinion-formers in both countries;
To provide a platform for British Muslims to showcase the work the UK is doing in
Somaliland, including DFID's development assistance programme;
To amplify the voice of British Muslims to join those in Somaliland opposed to
extremist ideology in Somalia and the UK;
To identify and consider possible projects and targeted interventions/ outreach
aimed at promoting mainstream voices and countering extremist messages,
bolstering vulnerable individuals, communities and institutions and addressing
grievances that can act as the underlying drivers of radicalisation and extremism.
3. As with most people the delegates had little knowledge of Somaliland, especially
how it differs from the violence common in Puntland and South/ Central Somalia.
Highlights of the visit included: meeting the President of Somaliland; a dinner with
key ministers hosted by the Foreign Minister; a morning spent touring the various
madrassa and mosques of Hargeisa; an emotional student Q&A session about
Islam, the UK and the future of Somaliland; [information redacted].
4. Key impressions of the delegates were:
5. Our own security rules for Somaliland travel make media handling difficult.
However we managed to have coverage across all three local TV stations, the BBC
Somali service, local radio and most local papers. One TV programme reached UK
audiences via satellite. With Somaliland media being the most free and professional
of all regional media it is followed by many in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Puntland and South/
Central Somalia, much amplifying the work of the PBI. Delegates also passed on
agreed messages [information redacted].
6. We are working closely with CTD to get PREVENT work in a number of areas up
and running in this FY. In particular we are looking at a programme of technical
assistance to the Ministry of Religious Endowment to develop its capacity, explore
how national stuctures for Islam could be established and provide professional
training for imams. We will also work up a plan for the development of a national
curriculum for all madrassa, probably involving the development of a number of
model madrassa and training for teachers; and capacity building of the media as a
forum for moderate voices,[information redacted].
7. An excellent visit that signalled our continuing commitment to Somaliland and
further development of all aspects of CONTEST there. Our basic knowledge of what
is happening in Islam, the threat to the UK and how to assist has been greatly
enhanced. As with all HMG visitors the delegation received a warm welcome by all.
But also something more: a genuine appreciation that our interest was wider than
just government to government. And an openess to receive almost any assistance.
But we must begin to deliver on a number of projects by the end of this year or risk
losing the goodwill and constructive relationships we now have across so many
8. Somaliland is clearly ripe for radicalisation by external influences. With a number
of targetted interventions by HMG we can up their resilience and demonstrate the
value for money of PREVENT focussed proactivity at an early stage.
Subject LOCSEN: TURKEY: PROJECTING BRITISH ISLAM VISIT 10-14
Summary Very successful first PBI visit to Turkey, majoring on the importance of
Turkey's EU membership. [Information redacted]. Widespread media
coverage including of the Embassy's newly opened multi-faith prayer
room. The headscarf was the dog that barely barked. Scope to repeat,
with a wider framing of the debate, and for a mutli-European delegation.
1. A six person PBI delegation visited Turkey between 10-14 November, with
calls in Istanbul, straddling the Eurasian continental divide, in Gaziantep bordering
with Syria, and in Ankara. The packed programme included: public forums in two
very different universities; meetings with a Muslim business association, youth and
women's NGOs; a reception as part of our project on countering extremism with
Bahcesehir University, calls on the Directorate of Religious Affairs and its Islamic
Research Centre; a discussion with members of the Parliamentary Commission
dealing with the OIC; a visit to Ataturk's mausoleum; intellectual discussion with
theology professors from Ankara University; a visit to the Embassy's newly opened
prayer room; and a lively Q&A with the Women's Branch of the AK Party in
Gaziantep. The delegation also gave numerous interviews, including with Al
Jazeera, blogged, and twittered throughout.
2. The delegation visited two very different universities. In Istanbul, they visited
Bilgi University, an affluent private university. There, they joined a class of around
17 students, mainly Turkish but with German, British, Polish and Italian students for
a lively discussion in English around what EU membership would bring and whether
Turkey should join in say 2023 (the 100th anniversary of the Republic). While there
were some doubts that the EU would let them in, the students largely felt that Turkey
should join, and that membership would increase their democratic freedoms and
3. In Gaziantep - a province bordering Syria, famous for its cuisine and world-
class Mosaic Museum, with an active industry and a municipality keen to make use
of EU funding - they visited an 11 year old State university with an emphasis on
engineering and medicine. The group had a 2 hour session in an auditorium packed
with students, few of whom spoke English Here the audience appeared more
pessimistic than their Istanbul counterparts that the EU would ever let Turkey in,
although they seemed struck by the figures that the delegates rattled off about the
number of Muslims in the UK and in the EU. One student drew great applause when
she suggested that Turkey should forget the EU and look to form an alliance with its
Turkic brothers - ignoring not only the balance of political power but also Turkey's
(and Gaziantep's) economic interests (26% of local trade is with the Middle East,
25% with the EU, 17% with other European countries, only 8% with Central Asia).
The delegates urged the audience to see the benefits in facing both East and West,
rather than choosing one over the other. Questions about the EU dominated - the
forum had been titled 'Turkey's role in Europe, Europe's role in the world' - and
leaving, many students commented that there were so many other things they would
have liked to ask, outside of the EU.
4. The second day in Gaziantep saw a similarly lively exchange with the
Women's Branch of the AK Party (chaired, inevitably, by the male Provincial Chair of
the party). Here, the discussion went wider. The Provincial Chair talked in critical
(but not specifically anti-UK) terms about the invasion of Iraq, and there was open
discussion of the headscarf. The delegates talked about different countries finding
their own way to plurality, and discussed the UK's acceptance of different religious
clothing and their freedom to practise Islam in the UK. [Information redacted]. Both
the AKP and the Gaziantep University event showed the real strength of PBI visits -
delegates were able to make a deeper connection with the audience than would
have been possible for members of this Embassy. As Muslims growing up in the
UK, they could rebut arguments about the EU as a Christian club not just with
statistics, but from personal experience, and argue convincingly that a multi-layered
identity was an asset Turkey should cherish.
5. In Ankara, delegates visited Anitkabir, Ataturk's mausoleum, to get a sense of
modern Turkey. They met a selection of contacts and journalists at an Embassy
reception, and visited the Embassy prayer room, newly opened as a result of work
by our local Diversity committee. In a visit to the Diyanet (Directorate of Religious
Affairs), they asked about imam training, particularly for the imams sent abroad. The
Diyanet provide several months of language training in the language of their host
country, classes on its political and social structure, and refreshing the Imams'
general training, which the delegates thought could be of interest to people in the UK
looking at the issue of Imam training. This was later twisted in the press as a plan
for the UK to import imams from Turkey, but the delegates were able to correct this
in subsequent interviews). Delegates were also extremely interested in the Diyanet's
project to publish a new collection of hadith, categorised by topic and put into context
- this was not a reformation or change to the accepted hadith, rather a re-
presentation to make them relevant and accessible to a modern audience. The
Diyanet said they expected this to be published (in Turkish only initially) 'in 2009', but
were unable to be more specific.
6. There was widespread media coverage - only a Royal visit could guarantee
more - with over a dozen articles, and several tv interviews. Coverage was
overwhelmingly positive - the one off-the-wall story about UK 'plans to import imams'
only served to increase media interest in the following events, and was quickly
corrected by delegates.
WHAT WORKED, WHAT DIDN'T
7. [Information redacted]
8. To manage the risk, we presented the visit firmly in the less threatening
context of the UK's support for EU accession. Overall, this worked - there is still
gratitude for the UK's role in getting negotiations started at all levels of society,
expressed by many of the Turkish interlocutors. But at times it may have restricted
the debate, with few questions about delegates' experiences as Muslims in Britain
and the importance of cooperating against radicalisation, and there was surprisingly
little comment or questioning about the headscarf in the UK. It is possible that
whatever the title of the session, students might feel unable to discuss controversial
issues in a hall full of their peers and lecturers. But for future visits, we should look
for looser topics, and also encourage the lead delegate at any meeting to make it
clear that off-topic questions would be welcome.
9. It is often hard in Turkey to get programmes finalised, and the timing and
format of some of the meetings was up in the air until the day before. This meant
that some of the informal meetings and public fora felt compressed in time, and
could easily have gone on longer. Informal meetings where the delegates could
circulate and meet as many people as possible worked very well, but were then
limited to mainly English speaking invitees.
10. I met the delegates for a wash up session on the last day of the visit. We
identified a number of ideas & projects which we will take forward with CTD
Subject SUDAN: DARFUR: PROJECTING BRITISH ISLAM VISIT, 14-18
Summary British Muslim Delegation visits Khartoum and Darfur on first leg of a
four country visit aimed at getting Arab countries to increase
engagement in Darfur peace process. Delegation takes a robust line,
reminding interlocutors of their responsibilities as fellow Muslims to put
an end to the suffering in Darfur. Positive media coverage in local and
1. A British Muslim delegation visited Sudan on 14-18 December as part of CTD's
Projecting British Islam programme. The delegation sent two days in West Darfur
and two days in Khartoum meeting a wide range of government and opposition
figures, religious leaders, Islamic scholars, academics, students, NGOs and other
civil society representatives. The delegation will also be visiting Egypt, Saudi Arabia
2. The delegation visited a camp (Krinding 2) for internally displaced people (IDPs)
near El Geneina, where Islamic Relief are camp co-ordinators. The delegation were
able to see at first hand the grim conditions faced by the camp's 14,000 residents
who have been living there in basic shelters since 2004. The main request from both
camp elders and women's groups was for security, better access to health,
education and food. The delegation visited a women‟s handicraft centre, a medical
clinic where 100 children are born every month and an outdoor school, where they
expressed the hope that the pupils would go on to contribute to Darfur‟s future.
3. The delegation met the [information redacted], Darfuri lawyers and UN officials.
Most Darfuri interlocutors were cautiously optimistic about the Qatari initiative,
stressing the need to resolve differences. Without a political settlement, IDPs could
not return home and there could be no transition from humanitarian relief to recovery
and development. [Information redacted].
XXX XXX XXX
4. [Information redacted]
5. [Information redacted]
6. [Information redacted]
7. Questioned by XXX XXX on whether the problem of rape in Darfur was growing
or diminishing and what steps were being taken to deal with it and to punish the
perpetrators, the XXX on gender-based violence produced statistics to show that the
incidence of rape was in sharp decline.
8. [Information redacted] and a leading Islamic scholar, told the delegation that XXX
announcement had encouraged change in Sudan. International pressure must
continue. [Information redacted].
9. [Information redacted] on Darfur and Director of University of Khartoum Peace
Research Institute, said that the SPI had brought people together from across the
political spectrum to discuss a way forward on Darfur. This was a significant
achievement. [Information redacted]. The delegation should urge the GoS to take
forward the recommendations. The rebels were also behaving in an irresponsible
way and should be urged to join the peace process. [Information redacted]. The Arab
world should be encouraged to do more for rehabilitation and reconstruction in
10. The delegation had a Q&A session with around 100 students from Khartoum‟s
Africa International University. Pro-GoS students were critical of INGOs, claiming
that many of them had their own agenda. Others stressed the need to encourage
more dialogue between the Muslim world and youth in the West. The delegation
were challenged on how they would make use of what they had seen in Darfur and
how they could encourage rebel groups to attend the talks in Qatar.
11. Television crews from Al Jazeera and Arabiya MBC accompanied the delegation
to Darfur and produced positive packages of their visit for the pan-Arab media. BBC
World Service will broadcast an interview with XXX recorded after her return from
Darfur. The delegation's press conference at my Residence received extensive
coverage in the local media. The delegation filmed video diaries which will be
broadcast on youtube and on XXX blog. Photos of the visit to Darfur can be found on
12. [Information redacted].
13. Another successful visit by an impressive PBI delegation to Sudan at a key time
for the Qatari initiative on Darfur. The visit took place against a difficult political
backdrop ahead of a potential ICC indictment of President Bashir and concerns
about mounting JEM rebel forces. [Information redacted]. Others took a more
moderate line, admitting that there was a problem and that political will was needed
on all sides to reach a sustainable peace. The delegation presented eloquent and
robust responses noting that what they had seen was not „normal‟. They reminded
interlocutors of their responsibilities as fellow Muslims and urged courageous action
rather than denial to end the suffering in Darfur.
MOROCCO: PREVENT: PBI VISIT OF BRITISH MUSLIM DELEGATION:Id=1429548
Summary High quality British Muslim delegation makes real impact on Moroccan thinking and
on Prevent work here. They find fertile ground for co-operation, open minds for
ideas, and some food for thought for Prevent work in the UK.
1. A delegation of six British Muslims visited Morocco from 9-13 February. EGram 4442/09 set out
the background to the visit. The delegation carried out a packed three-day programme in Rabat,
Casablanca and Fez. The delegates were animated and engaged, visibly inspired by what they saw,
and in turn inspired many of the people they met. We gave them a full briefing on their arrival,
encouraging them to take the lead and speak freely at all meetings. All reactions to the visit were
positive, with most interlocutors wanting more time.
Who did they meet?
2. The delegates met three Ministers and a raft of former ministers. They also engaged with
government officials, NGOs and scholars. We held four separate events where the delegation
engaged with over 100 students and young people from the worlds of journalism, strategic studies,
future religious scholars and underprivileged youth.
What did we achieve?
3. We challenged misconceptions about Muslims in the UK. The diversity of the delegation dispelled
the Moroccan myth that all British Muslims are of South Asian origin. The moderate views they
expressed also countered the image of extremist “Londonistan” which still exists, particularly in the
lower echelons of Moroccan society. The delegation also showed that Muslims in the UK are able to
practice their religion freely, with our delegates explaining the wide provision of prayer rooms, no
legal obstacles to wear the hijab, etc.
4. The visit will help us better achieve our Prevent objectives at Post. The visit allowed us new access
to Moroccan youth and religious leaders. It has boosted our credibility within the religious
establishment, both at grassroots level among future religious leaders and with the Minister of
Islamic Affairs himself, which will prove key in securing the support needed for greater co-operation.
The openness with which the delegates spoke demonstrated the UK Government’s willingness to
engage with individuals who do not necessarily support all our policy.
5. The visit will also have a positive impact on our prevent work in the UK as the delegates were
visibly impressed by our understanding of the causes of radicalisation and the fact that we are
engaged with a range of partners to tackle it. The delegates are influential in their communities and
will relay the message that the UK Government is working in co-operation with local communities,
civil society and local governments to address these problems in Muslims countries.
6. The visit was also an opportunity for the delegates and Embassy staff to learn from Morocco.
Moroccan Islam is spiritual and tolerant, and the delegates were visibly moved by their discussion
with the (renowned scholar) Minister of Islamic Affairs. The delegates were pleased to hear that
Morocco has been working to counter radicalisation for some years, with its own approach to
Prevent. The delegates were keen to learn lessons from the Moroccan experience and to translate
successful projects and approaches to the UK.
What came up?
7. As expected, the Israel-Gaza conflict was raised at many meetings, sometimes by the delegates
themselves. This provided the opportunity for delegates to highlight the freedoms of speech and
association that British Muslims enjoy. All agreed that the Palestinian issue would continue to be a
force for radicalisation until a peaceful resolution was found. The delegates were disappointed
(though not surprised) that no Moroccans would take the lead on condemning the behaviour of
Hamas or other “islamic” movements.
8. The delegates held several discussions on the role of women and the obstacles they faced. The
delegation were genuinely impressed by some of the recent steps taken by the Moroccan
Government to tackle these issues, though interlocutors all agreed that more needed to be done.
The delegates were disappointed by the mourchidats project (training women religious guides),
though recognised that the project was still in its infancy. The delegates were touched by grassroots
NGOs working to overcome domestic violence, and were keen to do more to help.
What about the media?
9. There was good coverage across all forms of media, which was overwhelmingly positive. The visit
was covered in the evening television news, several radio interviews were aired and a “Week in
Westminster” -style radio programme focused on the visit. The French and Arabic printed press
have also covered the story with a positive angle, noting the quality of theological discussions and
replaying the key messages of the visit. While we were disappointed not to have wider media
interest (such as in-depth television interviews), the quality of the reporting trumped the quantity.
What did it do for us?
10. The Embassy was engaged at all levels from an early stage. I was involved in the planning stages
and met the delegation for a full briefing when they arrived. Colleagues accompanied the delegation
at all times, offering support but taking a backseat at meetings. This has reaped rewards for us. I
have positive feedback from a number of Ministers and other key figures here. They saw it as an
innovative approach. The visit enabled Embassy staff to engage with new interlocutors within the
religious establishment and reinforced our credentials with previous contacts. Most importantly,
almost all interlocutors across the spectrum understood and appreciated the intentions of the visit.
They understood and identified with our key messages and were keen to work us on the counter-
11. The delegation highlighted that, while the Moroccan Government had understood the threat
from radical extremism, and had some excellent ideas to counter it, this narrative was not filtering
down to the grassroots level. Many imams did not fully understand their role in countering
extremism. Some of the delegates also raised the role of religious scholars in speaking out against
violence against women, particularly in countering the belief that it is defended in the Qur’an. We
will consider how we might work with partners and the Government of Morocco in developing these
12. The delegates themselves made contacts at all levels and we expect these to be developed over
the coming months. The delegates were impressed by the Director of the Fez Sacred Music Festival,
and one will be taking forward plans to hold a similar event in London, promoting inter-faith
dialogue through music. [information redacted]. We will keep abreast of these activities and see
where we can add value.
13. A good experience. I would welcome further visits. I was very impressed by the quality of the
delegates and their thought through and often courageous interventions. It was particularly
intriguing to see how quickly they moved on from projecting the UK (which they did most
effectively) to taking away real lessons from how Morocco practises tolerance.
Subject LEBANON: PREVENT: PROJECTING BRITISH ISLAM (PBI) VISIT
Summary PBI delegation visit to Lebanon challenges misconceptions about the
role and treatment of Muslims in the UK. Delegates take part in five
Q&A debates with young people around the country. They meet key
theological figures from the Sunni and Shia religious establishment,
including XXX. Positive and widespread local and regional media
coverage, including a one hour interview with one delegate on Al
1. A delegation of six British Muslims visited Lebanon between 2 - 6 March as part
of the PBI programme. The delegates were representative of the diverse Muslim
communities in Britain, including Sunni and Shia, religious and secular, and from
South Asian, Arab and African backgrounds. The delegates were impressive, both
in terms of achievements in their fields, and in the depth and breadth of knowledge
2. Embassy staff arranged the programme and accompanied them throughout. But
the delegates led the sessions and made it clear throughout the programme that
they were independent of HMG and were expressing their own views freely.
3. In an intensive five-day programme the delegates met with students, religious
figures, politicians, journalists and NGO workers across Lebanon (full programme
attached). Of particular note were calls on XXX, and lively, well attended Q&A
debates at the Beirut Arab University and Islamic Cultural centre. The delegates
were warmly received at all the events.
4. With such a diverse range of contacts, discussion in meetings and debates was
varied, but some common topics came up repeatedly. There was significant interest
in the role and treatment of Muslims in British society. Questions ranged from
practical issues about wearing the hijab and prayer times at work, to broader
concerns over discrimination, integration and preserving beliefs in Western culture.
The general perception appeared to be that there were serious obstacles for
Muslims in the UK. The delegates were able to dispel many misconceptions and
described life as a Muslim the UK, whilst having its challenges, as being very
positive with real freedoms. The delegates made it clear that the Muslim community
was a part of UK society and not a separate entity. They highlighted that the Muslim
community was actively involved in government and consulted on policy.
5. Israel/Palestine, the 2006 conflict and terrorism also came up frequently is
discussions. In particular there was a perception of bias in British media coverage
of Arab/Israeli issues. Despite testimonies on the objectivity of the British media
from the delegates, they were unable to alter opinion significantly. Similarly, the
narrative of Western involvement in the Middle East being [information redacted]
On the whole, these attitudes were more prevalent amongst older participants in
discussions, with more openness shown by students in debates.
6. On a positive note, there was a common perception throughout the visit that the
UK was more in touch with the situation of Muslims in the Middle East than
most other Western countries, and that the UK was ahead of other countries in
providing for the rights of Muslims domestically.
7. The meeting with XXX was a mixed experience. He began with comments about
the need for Muslims in the West to play a full part in their countries, and support the
societies which have given them a good life. He said that terrorism was not
acceptable there and that terrorists did not understand or represent Islam.
8. Amongst NGOs and universities, there was a desire to build links with the UK.
Delegates were able to exchange details with NGOs with whom they may seek to
work with in the future. Students also in showed an appetite for further dialogue and
exchanges with Muslims in the UK. The delegates indicated they were happy to help
with this and provided contact details.
9. There was wide media interest in the visit, and PBI delegates were interviewed by
local and regional newspapers and television stations. there was also factual
coverage of the visit. In addition, two live TV interviews were held on AJ Live and
Future TV focusing on the role of British Muslims in UK politics and society,
Islamophobia (on Future TV), the image of Islam in the west and east, women rights
amongst other issues. The highlight was the one hour interview on Al Jazeera Live
with Sabira Lakha - the first time a delegate has been given such lengthy coverage
in the regional Arabic media. Sabira was able to challenge misconceptions about
Muslims in Britain, the UK‟s anti-terrorism legislation and application of Sharia law
with a wide Middle-Eastern audience.
10. Six major Lebanese newspapers of various political affiliations interviewed
members of the delegation, reaching out to a wide local and regional audience.
There was an impressive outreach to Lebanese audience within Lebanon‟s diverse
political and confessional system. Overall coverage was very positive, with a focus
on the delegation‟s visit objectives, their integration in British civil society as well as
building bridges between Muslims in the UK and those in the Arab World.
11. The visit has helped challenge misconceptions about Muslims in Britain and
opened up the potential for further engagement between Muslims in the UK and
Lebanon. The Prevent team in the UK and here will follow up with delegates to build
on the links developed during the visit.
12. The visit was also educational for the delegates in learning something of the
complexities of Lebanon and the issues facing Muslims here. It served to provide
further credibility with contacts in Lebanon, demonstrating that Muslims are an
integral part of UK society and very engaged politically.
Subject Bangladesh: PBM Visit 24 – 28 May 2009.
Summary Projecting British Muslims delegation visit reached a number of
audiences and delivered key Prevent messages. Potential for follow up
and lessons learnt.
1. A six person British Bangladeshi delegation visited Bangladesh from 24 - 28 May
under the Projecting British Muslims (PBM) project. The programme for the visit
sought to exploit the diverse background of the delegation members (which included
media personalities, a sportsman, a businessman, an author and an academic) and
deliver against London and Post's Prevent objectives.
2. The intensive 5 day programme in Dhaka and Sylhet involved a range of events
and calls, including:
Round table discussions with private and public university students and
academics which debated the drivers of student political violence (a driver of
A meeting with the Islamic Foundation (the main governmental body on Islam)
where we heard about the organisation‟s role in promoting moderate Islam in
Bangladesh and discussed possibilities for increased exchange of religious
thought/texts between the UK and Bangladesh and throughout the Muslim world;
A visit to one of the main Alia (government supported) madrasas in Sylhet, where
the delegation had a lively and interactive discussion with 50 students on a wide
range of issues, including UK culture, diversity, terrorism using religion, Islam in
the UK and misperceptions of Islam in the West;
A meeting with one of Bangladesh's leading football clubs where the delegation
discussed the role of sports people as role models/credible influencers,
opportunities for sporting exchanges between the UK and Bangladesh and how
sporting structures can be developed to provide positive ways for young people
to spend their leisure time;
A meeting with the business community where views on business links and
opportunities between the UK and Bangladesh were discussed and exchanged
and the positive role the diaspora is playing in promoting these links was
And a wide range of media opportunities (press conferences, interviews,
talkshows, special features etc) which the delegation used as a platform to dispel
myths about the British Bangladeshi community in the UK.
3. The visit received excellent media coverage in Bangladesh, with two interviews
and the concluding press conference also broadcast in the UK. All major
newspapers and TV channels reported on the visit, targeting both the young and
academic audiences. Some of the key messages expressed by the delegation and
reported in the media included religious and cultural freedom in the UK; UK
government‟s provision of education irrespective of religious or ethnic backgrounds;
success stories of the expatriate Bangladeshi community in the UK in a range of
sectors; cultural identity; and discussions on the practice of Islam and the role of
Muslim women in the UK.
4. The visit helped identify a number of new avenues for future Prevent work in the
area of counter ideology. We are exploring a range of ideas with CTD colleagues
including improving the Islamic Foundation‟s access to mainstream Islamic texts
which can be translated into Bengali and disseminated to key audiences. We are
also discussing with CTD how we can involve one or two key Bangladeshi opinion
formers in PBM follow-up events in the UK.
5. Overall the visit was a success, but we have received subsequent feedback that
the delegates focussed too much on religion. The Awami League Government are
emphasising Bangladesh's secularist nature and the importance of Bengali culture.
Subject AFGHANISTAN: VISIT BY BRITISH MUSLIM DELEGATION, 25 -30 OCTOBER:Id=3264730
Summary British Muslim delegation visit to Afghanistan, focusing on Helmand helps promote a
more positive image of the UK and provide a moderate Islamic counterweight to
more extreme Taliban and insurgency messaging. We are looking at what follow up
steps we can sensibly take to deliver the latter in support of Afghan religious and
provincial government authorities.
1. Helmandis in the main district centres are uncommonly familiar with British people. But their
impressions of the UK are often largely informed by interactions with soldiers on the ground and
rumours propagated by the Taliban. When villagers in Musa Qala met a Muslim soldier earlier this
year, they made him recite the Quran before they believed that he was Muslim.
2. In that context, the visit by an FCO-sponsored delegation of four British Muslims to Afghanistan,
focusing on Helmand from 26-28 October, played a valuable role in helping correct some of those
3. They were hosted by the leading religious official in Helmand, XXX XXX XXX XXX. In Lashkar
Gah they met XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX, held shuras with a range of religious ulema and
with a representative selection of Lashkar Gah residents, and took part in a TV debate with local
ulema. In Nad e Ali they attended a counter-narcotics shura, met XXX XXX XXX, local Community
Council members and ulema, visited a school and met UK troops and some of the ANA officers they
were mentoring. A news team from Sky accompanied the visit throughout. In Kabul they met the
Parliamentary Religious Affairs Committee, members of the Ulema Council, the Minister of Hajj and
Religious Affairs, XXX, visited a madrassah, attended a reception with a cross section of civil
society, government officials and parliamentarians and had a round table discussion with Afghan
media where they spoke powerfully against the use of suicide bombers.
4. The delegation’s visit was widely reported by local press in Helmand and Kandahar. XXX, among
others, reported that news of the delegation’s presence was met with regret by those who had
missed them. In their own messaging to a range of Helmandi audiences, taking in religious figures,
tribal elders, provincial officials and schoolchildren, the delegation focused on the freedom afforded
to Muslims in the UK in comparison to other countries, the promotion of strong counter-extremist
messages and Islamic teaching on suicide bombing and narcotics.
5. XXX high Islamic standing and fluent Pashtu enabled him to build bridges with some of the more
hostile ulema. He was received warmly by well-respected mullahs with whom we have only ever
established a cautious rapport and engaged in detailed theological debate on the roots of suicide
bombing and the concept of martyrdom.
6. Typical messages put out by insurgents in Helmand aimed at undermining international efforts in
support of the Afghan Government include that international forces are here to undermine Islamic
society; that they build schools to inculcate children with Christianity and hospitals to inject them
with non halal substances; and that Helmandis growing poppy are effectively waging jihad against
infidel Western users. The delegation was able to refute a number of these myths including e.g.
engaging with schoolchildren in Nad e Ali who claimed that their school couldn’t have been built by
the British since they would refuse to attend an infidel school. They also stood down a vociferous
journalist who claimed that killing non believers might be acceptable, with their response broadcast
on Radio and Television Afghanistan (RTA).
7. The delegation has gone away with a much better understanding of the nature of the UK and
international effort in Helmand and this will inform their future engagement with their own
constituencies in the UK. They were impressed by the range of non-kinetic stabilisation activity in the
province and the extent to which this was directly supported by the military. They were surprised to
learn about the contribution of nations such as Turkey and the UAE to the international effort and
were keen that we collectively encourage Arab states to engage more actively in support.
8. A key theme throughout the visit was that of education. The delegation were keen to look at what
more could be done to ensure that Helmandis had access to decent religious education which
enabled them to learn the true nature of Islam and equipped them to counter the extreme Taliban
narrative. They suggested that religious radio programming could help. During the visit, XXX and
XXX recorded moderate religious messages for broadcast on local radio and they plan to follow up
with more. In Kabul, they visited the Darul Uloom Arabia and XXX offered support in providing
teaching material on learning the English language from an Islamic perspective.
9. It is likely that the people will credit the XXX with much of the visit’s organisation, and his
association with popular religious visitors may have enhanced his own standing. We are looking at
how we can help him do more to exercise his religious oversight function within Helmand.
10. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the visit was how much the Helmandis enjoyed it. It
demonstrated to us both the immediate public diplomacy benefits such a visit can bring and the
potential for future work engaging British Muslims in countering the Taliban narrative. We hope to
organise a follow-up visit to the UK for senior Helmandi religious figures in the coming months.
UNCLASSIFIED - SENSITIVE
Highly successful third PBM visit to Algeria, including visits to the provinces.
Ministerial reception; widespread and largely positive media coverage. The UK
remains the forerunner in Algerian perceptions of community cohesion, well
ahead of European partners. Pleas for increased engagement from the British
Council, particularly English language opportunities.
eGram No. 3271/10
Despatched 16/03/2010 09:34:00 GMT
1. Four British Muslims visited Algeria from 6-12 March as part of the PBM visit
programme. The delegation comprised two people of Algerian origin, one of Iraqi and
one of Yemeni descent. The mix in age, experience and backgrounds of the
delegates worked well and the programme played to each of their individual
strengths. Having a delegation where everyone spoke Arabic allowed for a much
freer flowing discussion than during the 2009 visit, given that so few people in
Algeria speak English (and we are grateful to the delegates for persevering with
2. The delegation was very well received by the Algerian authorities. In Algiers, the
delegation called on the Minister of Religious Affairs, and the Head of the Higher
Islamic Council and met with Islamic Scholars. The delegation called on the
Religious Affairs committees in both houses of Parliament, including a meeting with
XXX, Vice President of the Senate and national heroine for her activities in the
Algerian war of independence. The delegation held a debate at the Department of
Political Sciences of Algiers University with 80 students on the role of Muslims in the
UK and held an informal but insightful meeting with a group of students from the
University of Tizi Ouzou. I hosted a reception at the Residence with leading opinion
3. The delegation also visited the two predominant centres of Islamic learning in
Algeria, Tlemcen and Constantine. In Tlemcen, the delegation was received by the
Wali and the local Member of Parliament and other senior officials. They also visited
the University of Sidi Boumediene, although opportunities for interaction with the
students were limited. The delegation saw the preparations underway for 2011,
when Tlemcen will be the Islamic City of Culture. Despite the grim weather, the
delegation had an opportunity to visit many Islamic historical sites, many dating back
to the exodus of Muslims from Andalusia.
4. In Constantine, the delegation met the Wali but spent most of the day interacting
with students, firstly at the Amir Abdelqader University of Islamic Sciences and then
the Mentouri University. At the former, the delegation had a Q&A session with a
group of students in what is, by far, Algeria‟s most conservative institute of Islamic
5. The key messages from Algerians to the delegation were consistent and clear.
The UK is seen as the forerunner of intercommunity relations, particularly the
freedoms that Muslims are afforded in the UK to practise their religion in the UK
without interference from the state, a stark contrast the delegation were told time and
time again, to other European nations. The delegation was honest and open in
response to questions: while there were inter-community tensions and the UK was
not paradise, they appreciated the society in which they lived.
6. The delegation had a busy programme with the media starting with a reception
hosted by my DHM. There was widespread coverage of the visit in all of the print and
broadcast media. They attended a roundtable discussion at Echourouk newspaper,
the Maghreb‟s largest, with a circulation of 1.5 million (mostly conservative) daily
readers. They appeared on both the French and Arabic morning breakfast shows
(which are among the most viewed programmes on Algerian TV) and were guests on
a primetime talk show. The delegation gave interviews to all Algerian radio channels,
including Radio Quran. A debate on the role of Muslims in the UK hosted by the
Echaab Research Centre was covered prominently in the newspapers and in the
evening TV news. The visit prompted a special TV programme on UK/ Algeria
relations. Coverage of the visit was carried by all Algerian newspapers, both French
and Arabic (which have a combined daily circulation of more than four million
newspapers). The vast majority of coverage was positive, welcoming the FCO‟s
initiative in bringing a PBM visit to Algeria and reporting the delegation‟s positive
experiences of life in the UK. The two Algerian delegates on the visit also gave
separate interviews on the Algerian community in the UK and we hope will serve as
a future positive link between this Embassy and the Algerian community in the UK,
as well as useful contacts for CTD for outreach events. Negative coverage was
limited to scepticism in some of the smaller papers that this visit was a propaganda
exercise by the British Government.
English language teaching
7. One of the regular themes of the visit was the demand for greater engagement by
the UK in Algeria, particularly English language training. There is an almost
insatiable demand for ELT in Algeria as the country wakes up to the fact that we are
in an increasingly English- speaking world; [information redacted]. These are
requests that this Embassy hears on a daily basis from a range of interlocutors. The
calls for greater engagement from the British Council were particularly strong during
the visits to Tlemcen and Constantine, where some European countries do have
cultural centres. The delegation took the opportunity of a call on the Director of the
British Council to raise these issues and to look at other areas where the two
Algerian delegates might promote links between the two countries on issues such as
8. A very good visit which has further reinforced the perception that the UK is way
ahead in terms of community cohesion from our European counterparts. We have
been encouraged by the amount of goodwill towards the UK in this country, which is
all the more apparent given the poor state of relations between Algeria and France at
the moment. The visit has served to build our links outside Algiers, something that
we will seek to build on in the year ahead. We will also discuss with the British
Council what we can do to meet the Algerians strong desire for increased English
language training and cultural activities.