In our series of posts, published since Ken Livingstone’s defence of Qaradawi, I have been concentrating on two matters:
– the poor quality of Livingstone’s rebuttal; and
– the rationale behind Livingstone’s extraordinary apologia for Qaradawi.
The most convincing defence of Livingstone’s actions is that advanced by dsquared, which is essentially that british muslims currently subdivide into three categories:
1) Normal, nonviolent Muslims
3) Muslims who are not currently Jihadis but who might become jihadis.
and that talking to Qaradawi – whose message is basically that “it is more holy to stay where you are and live as good a Muslim life as possible, than to defend your Muslim brothers by flying aeroplanes into buildings” – might keep those potential jihadis out of the hands of Al Muhajiroun.
My response has been that Al Muhajiroun’s recruits typically do not segue from orthodox islam into jihadism, but rather from secular backgrounds straight into radicalism. Al Muhajirounies are the muslim equivalent of the public schoolboy who joins the SWP in his first term at university. The only effect that meeting Qaradawi can possibly have is to legitimise his status as a “community leader” and to treat his views on social issues – female circumcision, the punishment of homosexuals, wife beating, and the obligitory nature of the hijab – as mainstream. Which, among british people from a muslim background in the United Kingdom, they quite simply are not.
However, as Oliver Kamm points out, we have so far failed to make the most important point of all. Qaradawi’s support of suicide terrorism targetting civilians is the one factor which should count more heavily than all the others.
Livingstone’s dossier characteristically glosses over the point. Qaradawi, it admits, “justifies suicide bombings of Palestinian forces fighting against the Israeli state“. It then cites a report on Al Jazeera which has Qaradawi condemning the Bali bombing. The impression it gives is that Qaradawi supports only attacks against Israeli soldiers. That is not true.
In 2001, Qaradawi made his position very clear. Sheik Tantawi, of Cairo’s al-Azhar University, had declared that Islamic Shari’ah law, “rejects all attempts on human life, and in the name of Shari’ah we condemn all attacks on civilians, whatever the community or state responsible for such an attack.”. Tantawi concluded:
“We disapprove of all whose who justify attacks against children by reasoning that the children will join the army when they grow up.”
These arguments “are odious. I reject them and they are contrary to the recommendations of the prophet Mohamed,”
Qaradawi’s response was as follows:
“How can the head of Al-Azhar incriminate mujahideen [fighters] who fight against aggressors? How can he consider these aggressors as innocent civilians?”
In Israel, “men and women are soldiers,” “They are all occupying soldiers.”
This quotation is from Islamonline, Qaradawi’s own website. It is not a Zionist forgery. Rather, it is Qaradawi’s own words. His position is unequivocal. He justifies the murder of innocents as a religious obligation. And, in holding that position, he is – even in relative terms – an extremist.
Whereas Livingstone has vaguely disassociated himself in a generic fashion from Qaradawi’s more objectionable positions on social issues, he has not distanced himself from Qaradawi’s advocacy of the murder of civilians. Indeed, Livingstone has feted Qaradawi as a speaker of uncomfortable truths.
Commentators are certain to point out the consistency between Livingstone’s present actions, and his public meeting with the IRA in the 1980s. They’re right. Both were based upon support of the aims of the terrorists, and at the very least an acquiescence to their methods. Both were pointless political gestures by a man whose stature as an international politician is close to non existent. The real advances with the IRA took place behind closed doors and involved people with the power to make policy.
As Oliver Kamm puts it:
The highest municipal official of a cosmopolitan capital city cannot behave as Livingstone has done and be considered any part of a principled and humanitarian politics.