Targeted by the New McCarthyites
|Wednesday, December 2,2009 22:17|
[John] Denham is entertaining Inayat Bunglawala of the MCB, who gave a taste of the 'progressive' policies Labour is encouraging when he wrote an article defending Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a preacher who recommends wife-beating, genital mutilation of girls and the murder of apostates and homosexuals. Earlier this year, the sheikh said of Adolf Hitler's massacres of the Jews: 'This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.'
I am not sure what Cohen means by me being "entertained" by Denham but I must admit that I did sit on the opposite side of a table to the communities secretary during a discussion on Newsnight last week about the continuing presence of British troops in Afghanistan. Regarding Qaradawi, it is true that I wrote an article for Islam Online last week in which I criticised the 2007 ban on Qaradawi visiting the UK – just as I also criticised the ban of Geert Wilders earlier this year – and pointed out:
As a regular past visitor to the UK, he would consistently urge British Muslims to shun all forms of extremism and to focus their energies on ensuring that their children excelled in education. His long experience of dealing with youths influenced by extremist and takfiri ideas (ideas involving accusations of backsliding from Islam) would surely have been a valuable asset in the struggle against al-Qaida-inspired propaganda.
My views on Qaradawi are not exactly a million miles away from those of the director of the office for security and counter-terrorism, Charles Farr, who in evidence to the home affairs select committee earlier this year said:
Qaradawi is one of the most articulate critics of al-Qaida in the Islamic world. I think for any government, and I really passionately believe this is a real problem. If we refuse him a visa people will come back to us and say, 'Hang on a moment. This person is coming here to speak against the organisation which most threatens you. Surely you need to operate within a degree of latitude which allows that.' I do not say that is a compelling argument … but certainly, when we put advice out to ministers, we have to say, 'That is what is going to happen and you need to weigh this in the balance.'
I certainly do not agree with many of Qaradawi's other views. I have written previously about the need for Islamic scholars and activists need to assume more responsibility to ensure that justified criticism of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians does not slide into casual antisemitism. I also believe that Islamic scholars can learn much from the freedoms we enjoy in liberal secular democracies and that for real progress to be made in solving many of the deep-seated problems facing Muslim-majority countries, the spread of liberal secular democracy and the entrenchment of human rights in those places seems to me to be a prerequisite.
But Cohen is not really interested in any of that. His crude attempt to smear by association is regrettably par for the course. Cohen is one of a breed of New McCarthyites, who have made it their mission to identify and hunt down "Islamists". Denham and his undersecretary at the communities department, Shahid Malik, are attracting criticism from the New McCarthyites because – to their credit – they both understand that it is vital to persuade people that democratic politics can work and that the best way to raise concerns about government policy is through peaceful and democratic engagement. To try deliberately to marginalise large sections of British Muslim opinion is self-defeating and only serves to reinforce the al-Qaida narrative.
The New McCarthyites must be firmly resisted. In the words of Edward R Murrow, the CBS broadcast journalist who did so much to face down the original McCarthyists: