ABDUL HAQQ Baker.
Anthony (Abdul Haqq) Baker converted to Islam in 1990 and, after working in the legal profession for ten years, transferred his focus to community leadership and educational management following his appointment, in January 1994, as Chairman of the Brixton Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre.
During his fifteen year tenure as chairman, up until January 2009, his community work included the acquisition of the mosque premises, 1 Gresham Road in March 1998 as well as the establishment of the community’s first registered independent Muslim primary school, Iqra Independent, in Brixton. His work in this field led him to embark upon a Masters of Business Administration Degree in Education (MBA [Ed.]) in 1995 to examine the apparent variance in government policy between Muslim and other, more mainstream religious denominations’, education. His final thesis, entitled: ‘The Significance of State Funding for Muslim Education in Britain’ highlighted the results of his research around what was considered to be a very topical issue where research was established to be minimal.
Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Brixton Mosque became the focus of much media attention due to the attendance of individuals lured away into extremism and attempted terrorist actions; Richard Reid (aka the ‘shoe bomber’) and Zacarius Moussaoui (the 20th 9/11 hijacker). Abdul Haqq knew both individuals and, in order to avert the death penalty for Zacarius Moussaoui (thereby removing the latter’s subsequent aim of alleged martyrdom), acted as a character witness for the defence. Through a series of interviews over the years, Abdul Haqq has highlighted the susceptibility of some young British Muslims to extremist propaganda. He is widely considered as a leading authority on processes of violent radicalisation and extremism in the UK and remains at the forefront of many of the challenges facing British Muslims today.
His strategic focus continues to be centred on helping young Muslims understand how best to contextualise and practice their faith as British Muslims within society today. In March 2007 he began an intervention initiative called ‘Strategy To Reach Empower & Educate Teenagers (STREET) which targeted Muslim youth deemed vulnerable. This programme was cited by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and British think tank DEMOS, among others, as a model case study. Its effective approach towards youth engagement and intervention led to it winning a government award for being the most innovative youth programme in 2008. Endorsement for this initiative has also been received by renowned religious figures from Muslim societies.
His work continues to involve him travelling internationally to attend and deliver lectures, seminars and workshops. He worked for two years as a part-time lecturer in Terrorism Studies in the Centre for the Studies in Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at the University of St. Andrews (February 2010 – September 2012) and as a Research Fellow for the University of Exeter’s European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) from November 2009 to August 2010. His PhD research at Exeter (he graduated in 2010) examined whether Muslim converts were more vulnerable or in contrast, more effective in addressing the challenges of violent radicalisation in the UK. This work was subsequently published under the title ‘Extremists in Our Midst: Confronting Terror’ (Palgrave MacMillan, July 2011).
He also acted as Editor in Chief of the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies’ (CPGS) inaugural journal, Foresight: Global Challenges and Strategies’ (August 2013), and served as a de- and counter-radicalisation expert for this non-partisan think-tank. He was an expert defense witness in the case U.S vs Paulin-Ramirez on 8th January 2014, having provided advice surrounding the vulnerability of some converts to radicalisation. In September 2014, he briefly joined Kingston University, UK as a Visiting Senior Research Fellow after introducing a new project – the Youth Engagement & Research Hub (YEAR) – under the Centre for Research on Communities, Identities and Difference (CresCID) within the Department of Criminology and Sociology.
Abdul Haqq continues to consult and advise academics and practitioners internationally on issues of effective youth engagement, understanding processes of violent radicalisation and their root causes, while developing initiatives that can successfully address these issues.