UK Politics

The lid comes off

And so do the gloves during the Observer’s investigation of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Far from representing the more progressive or spiritual traditions within Islam, the leadership of the Muslim Council of Britain and some of its affiliates sympathise with and have links to conservative Islamist movements in the Muslim world and in particular Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami, a radical party committed to the establishment of an Islamic state in Pakistan ruled by sharia law.

…Another is Birmingham-based Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, an extremist sect whose website says: ‘The disbelievers are misguided and their ways based on sick or deviant views concerning their societies, their universe and their very existence.’ It urges its adherents not to wear Western hats, walk dogs, watch sport or soap operas and forbids ‘mingling and shaking hands between men and women’.

And there’s plenty more where that came from.

There’s also mention of next week’s “Panorama”, which is billed as highly critical of the MCB and the not so saccharine Sacranie. It has prompted the Council’s media spokesman, Bunglawala, to write to the BBC, complaining of – don’t laugh – a pro-Israeli bias:

‘It appears that the Panorama team is more interested in furthering a pro-Israeli agenda than assessing the work of Muslim organisations in the UK.’

No, you couldn’t make it up.

The MCB recently succeeded in getting one its members elected to the board of trustees of the Festival of Muslim Cultures, an event planned for next year.

The organisers are now concerned that the festival will lose political backing if they invite performers who are seen to be ‘un-Islamic’.

Perhaps the festival organizers have done some background reading?

The strain of Islamic ideology favoured by the MCB leadership and many of its affiliate organisations is inspired by Maulana Maududi, a 20th-century Islamic scholar little known in the West but hugely significant as a thinker across the Muslim world. His writings, which call for a global Islamic revival, influenced Sayyid Qutb, usually credited as the founding father of modern Islamic radicalism and one of the inspirations for al-Qaeda.

So, are the MCB true moderates, or just the latest group to try to put the “fun” into “fundamentalism”?

There is no suggestion that Sacranie and other prominent figures in the Muslim Council of Britain are anything but genuine in their condemnation of the terrorist bombings of the 7 July. But their claims to represent a moderate or progressive tendency in Islam are becoming increasingly difficult to sustain.

That the MCB are not as loathsome as the MAB is as irrelevant as it is fair. Playing one against the other is a variation on the “my enemy’s enemy” theme, a political philosophy that was buried by the rubble of 9/11.

The government simply cannot continue with this charade. Islamism, even Islamism-lite, cannot ever be cuddly. A Labour Party which prides itself on liberal traditions and the promotion of social democracy, equality and tolerance, should be seeking out Muslim moderates who do more than pay lip service to the values we hold dear.

David T adds: Here is an old CS Monitor article which considers the links between Jamaat-e-Islami and Al Qaeda.

The choice which the Government faces is between
– doing the hard work of forging links with a diverse variety of muslim religious and cultural organisations, including organisations which are not primarily religious in nature; and
– working with those ready-made organisations which promote a narrow conception of muslim identity, and which are intolerant of diversity.

The second Observer article also quotes Abdul-Rehman Malik, of the Muslim magazine Q-News, who says that MCB leaders should clarify its position on suicide bombers:

‘You cannot be equivocal about innocent people. An innocent person in Tel Aviv is the same as an innocent person in Baghdad or London.’

Also, read Nick Cohen’s column in todays Observer: Belief isn’t everything .