Statement by Tony McMahon
Over the last few days there has been some ill-informed comments on social media about my involvement in Sara Khan’s book on extremism in the UK, The Battle for British Islam (published by Saqi Books in 2016).
I’d like to put the record straight.
This subject of this book has been Sara’s life for nearly two decades as the founder of Inspire, a human rights NGO, and an activist before that. She has campaigned tirelessly for gender equality and against both Islamist and Far Right extremism. Anybody who knows Sara will be more than aware that she has dedicated her life to protecting vulnerable individuals from online and offline radicalisation.
My involvement in this area is far more recent. For the last five years I have been an independent communications consultant working in the counter-extremism space. I own my own company and have been a contractor working on contracts promoting safeguarding and community cohesion.
Much of my work has involved improving the communications capacity of civil society groups. It’s helped some great organisations stop young people falling into violent extremism or worse. I’m very proud of what I do.
During the course of my work, I met Sara Khan. We developed a book idea describing the challenges faced today by community groups all over the UK. Why had hundreds of young people been radicalised by Daesh? Was there an ideological climate that made it easier for violence to be legitimised? Is there a concerted effort to undermine UK counter-terrorism policy and who is behind that?
Sara felt these critical questions needed to be answered and conveyed to the British public.
This book had nothing to do with the Home Office. It was a project that Sara and I developed and wrote together. Sara had a clear view of the UK landscape from her considerable experience and as a former journalist and published author, I helped to set it down. But the idea that I held the pen is rubbish. The Battle for British Islam is Sara’s honest and heartfelt account of the extremist threat today.
Those who claim this was written in the corridors of Whitehall or the Home Office are either peddling an untruth or are simply ignorant of the facts. I hope that this statement sets the record straight. Obviously I can’t stop people spouting nonsense on social media, often with malicious motives, but you can no longer use ignorance as a defence.
To those who claim the book is inaccurate or untruthful – I have a simple riposte. Give us the examples. The Battle for British Islam was thoroughly researched and footnoted.
To those who have yet to read The Battle for British Islam – get a copy and form your own judgment. Don’t let others tell you what to believe. Think critically and decide for yourselves!