According to Livingstone, the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sheikh Qaradawi is an equivalent figure to the convenor of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII.
Certainly, if you’re the sort of person who think that Muslims are normally only seconds away from self detonating in front of their neighbours, then Qaradawi’s insistence that there is a time and a place for terrorist attacks which target civlians might result in you forming the impression that he was a moderate and even a reformist sort of fellow. But only a real islamophobe – or somebody who was completely ignorant of the trends within contemporary political Islam – would make that error.
As for the comparison with Pope John XXIII… Well, both traditionalist and progressive Catholics will be distinctly unimpressed by the comparison.
What exactly is the equivance said to be? Did Pope John XXIII back the deliberate targeted murder of civilians by arguing that those civilians were members of a society which is “completely military in its make-up and did not include any civilians“? Were there falangist terrorist groups which relied on to Pope John XXIII’s religious rulings as the basis for their murder of of civilians? Did Pope John XXIII issue a ruling suggesting that a catholic who leaves his faith “deserves killing”?
Ken Livingstone’s reason for supporting Qaradawi and Islamist political movements is a mixture of opportunism and “idiot anti-imperialism”: anybody who advocates suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq is fighting a brave struggle of liberation. But he has run that argument a few times already and its beginning to wear a little thin. Therefore he has now turned away from the Mandela analogy to the comparison with Pope John XXIII. In drawing that equivalence, Livingstone hopes to dodge those tricky questions on women and gays, and put forward a pragmatic argument for enaging with Qaradawi. The idea is that Qaradawi is a religious reformer, whose good offices will help kids in the UK to say no to terrorism.
Qaradawi is not a reformer. He is a Muslim Brotherhood ideologue. To point out that he condemns the actions of salafi jihadists (and that salafi jihadists condemn him) is about as profound as observing that Maoists, Stalinists and Trotskyites don’t always see eye to eye on either political analysis or tactics. Salafists of all types disagree with Qaradawi, for deep doctrinal reasons: not because of his views on social issues.
More importantly, Qaradawi and the jihadists play to different audiences altogether. The Muslim Brotherhood is in the business of creating an islamist political mass movement in muslim society. Salafi jihadists are in the business of building a terrorist movement. Democrats need to oppose both tendencies. Championing the lesser evil to avoid the greater one isn’t a tactic that works here.
Let’s make no bones about it. Ken Livingstone is an active apologist for the deliberate targeted murder of civilians.
He is also the worst sort of liar: when caught out, he simply escalates the lie and repeats it as loudly as possible. Confronted with evidence of Qaradawi’s politics and his role in the promotion of the deliberate targeted murder of civilians, he seeks to impugn the sources. When it is pointed out that the sources include material on Qaradawi’s own website, Livingstone’s response is that Qaradawi “is not responsible for everything on the website that operates under his name“. When Qaradawi’s endorsement of the various punishments for homosexuality are cited, Livingstone’s replies like a professional spin doctor, describing Qaradawi’s views, which are included in a fatwa with religious-legal force as “a series of questions of a philosophical nature“.
Qaradawi’s true parallel is not a reforming Pope. It is, rather, a figure like David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and white supremacist who has been attempting – unsuccessfully – to build a mainstream political career.
By extension, Livingstone’s politics are equivalent to those Tory “ginger groups” which shade into fascism, and whose associates flitted in an out of openly racist parties. Livingstone himself is the equivalent of those Tory MPs, who in 1995 held cordial discussions with Jean Marie Le Pen’s deputy, Bruno Gollnisch MEP.
In fact, Livingstone is worse. Because – unlike Ken – no Tory MP in public office used public resources in order to defend the reputation of a member of a far right political movement.
Hat tip: Eric at the Popinjays