Anti Fascism

Bunting, Bunglawala and me

Bunting has another column up at CiF.

My answer is this

1. Clerical fascist movement like Jamaat or the Muslim Brotherhood are now much better understood than they were 6 years ago.

2. So are the political views of their supporters.

3. Contrary to Martin Bright, I do not think that Jamaat or Muslim Brotherhood supporters should be forced to change their publicly stated views. I think it is very unfair to expect people to abandon deeply cherished philosophical commitments.

4. If Inayat Bunglawala really believes that a state, organised according to the principles of Islamic law would be a terrible thing, then of course he is perfectly at liberty to say so.

I would be delighted to hear him say, unequivocally, that he would fight to prevent a state emerging which

– promoted a constitutionally enforced gender and religious apartheid: for example by enacting laws which provided for unequal treatment of religious minorities or women in any way.
– criminalises religious dissent, athiesm, “adultery” and homosexuality
– was premised upon the will of god rather than the choices of citizens

I would like to hear Inayat Bunglawala arguing with and condemning politicians who do propose these ideas, rather than circulating their writings: as he did with the writings of Osama Bin Laden, who he also praised.

But I am not in the business of demanding that people change their views.

5. I don’t think that the State should give any money to a group which is led by people who support the creation of an Islamic Republic. It should listen to them, as it might listen to any other advocacy group. I would very much hope that a sensible Government would not follow the advice of such a group on any subject.

6. Finally: you, Madeleine Bunting, are an absolute disgrace. Your participation in this debate has been entirely malign. You seem to see your role as being to cover up for, and whitewash, political extremists and bigots of the worst sort.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

NB: I have reproduced the Bunting article below, because it seems – I hope temporarily – to have been removed from the CiF website

A dialogue of the deaf
Martin Bright and David T have both deliberately chosen to misinterpret my argument for an open dialogue with Muslim groups.
Madeleine Bunting

The French have a good way of summing up pointless debate: a dialogue of the deaf. That’s precisely what I feel after reading Martin Bright and David T’s blogs on my column. It’s as if they both deliberately chose to misinterpret my arguments.

When David T finally – after a tediously long rant – concludes that he doesn’t think that any one Muslim “single outfit” should be regarded “as the first or the only port of call for the government” I am in complete agreement. When Bright says that the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) shouldn’t drive government policy. I am in complete agreement (but I think its delusional to think it ever did. To the extent that the government over-relied on the MCB, it was due to the laziness of the government wanting only to hear one voice – the colonial model of “bring me your headman”).

Of course the government has to engage with a wide range of Muslim organisations – but unlike Martin Bright’s schoolteacher attitude (they must behave themselves) – I think it is absurd to exclude the MCB, the biggest Muslim organisation in this country and the one that has achieved the greatest degree of non-factionalism and non-sectarianism.

But before Bright misunderstands me again, let me make it clear: the Muslim Council of Britain is far from perfect. Of course it doesn’t score on Bright’s checklist: it is not democratic, it is not representative and it can be divisive. Wake up Bright, it’s called politics. Why should ethnic minority politics be any less complex and compromised than the Labour party? Is the House of Commons representative of the British population? No, of course not, there aren’t nearly enough women or ethnic minorities. So why do we expect community organisations to achieve something that the world’s oldest democracy can’t.

The problem about this debate is that the politics of people like Inayat Bunglawala, and many other MCB members is changing. Many Muslims growing up in this country have travelled a long way from the family politics influenced by the likes of Mawdudi, which they heard about from their parents and have absorbed a huge amount about democracy and human rights. They are among the most thoughtful and responsible Muslims in this country and frankly, our best hope of a peaceful coexistence lies with them and their increasing self-confidence.

I simply cannot see the point of a witch-hunt against anyone who has ever read Qutb or Mawdudi. This is McCarthyism of the worst kind. We might as well hound out of British politics anyone who has read Lenin. The kind of scenario David T paints of an entryist Islamism trying to establish a “perfect Islamic state” is a fantasyland and I can’t understand why a serious journalist such as Martin Bright endorses it.

Finally, the chilling of the MCB’s relations with the government owed as much to the former’s opposition to the Iraq war as it did to Bright’s efforts. But it led Ruth Kelly into a dead end – her four strategic partners would have struggled to rally a half dozen Muslims between them.

Are the Sufi Muslim Council, Forward Thinking, or even the excellent City Circle representative? Democratic? No, none of them met any of Bright’s checklist. Follow his strategy and you end up talking to fewer and fewer people – enough for a fascinating seminar but pointless if what you are trying to do is reach right across the many Muslim communities in this country.