The political editor of the New Statesman, Martin Bright, was scheduled to speak in a debate at IslamExpo this weekend. He has dropped out.
This is why:
I was very uncomfortable about accepting an invitation to speak at IslamExpo this year. What appears to be a celebration of Islam is, in reality, a rally for a particular brand of Islam based on the thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-i-Islami.
I am particularly concerned about its connections to Mohammed Sawalha, the President of the British Muslim Initiative and a supporter of Hamas. Sawalha is the holder of the domain name for IslamExpo.
The only argument for speaking at an event run by the Islamic far right is to take the debate to these people. But I accept the counter-argument that none of the government ministers and liberal journalists who have agreed to speak at IslamExpo would address a BNP rally. I was due to speak at a debate hosted by the left-wing think tank Demos, so I thought this protected me, to a degree, from this charge.
Now I learn that Sawalha is suing David T of Harry’s Place blog for allegedly suggesting that he was an anti-Semite. The whole sorry business is explained here. The libel laws of this country are the last resort of the scoundrel. As David says, a member of Hamas has no reputation to defend. It is already strange enough that Hamas-UK is having such a rally in central London, but when it starts suing its critics that’s a step too far.
I won’t now be attending IslamExpo on Saturday.
The debate in question was organised by Demos.
Demos is the fluffy successor organisation to the Marxism Today, Eurocommunist wing of the CPGB. For one short month, its director was Madeleine Bunting: who made it her mission at the Guardian to soft soap and apologise for the worst of Islamists.
I don’t think we ever found out why the button was pressed on Maddie’s ejector seat. Whatever the reason, it evidently wasn’t a principled objection to legitimating clerical fascists.
Not only is Demos sponsoring and organising a debate at IslamExpo: an event founded by Mohammed Sawalha who the BBC identified as a fugitive Hamas commander. It is also “supporting” a British Muslim Initiative organised event:
Understanding Political Islam: Trends and Perspectives’: a two-day specialist seminar organised by British Muslim Initiative and supported by Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, Conflicts Forum, Demos, Forward Thinking and The Cordoba Foundation
The British Muslim Initiative’s president is Mr Sawalha. It also includes Azzam “Kaboom” Tamimi: a man who was identified in the press as “Hamas Special Envoy”, and who has expressed the desire to become a suicide bomber.
Why is one of the centre-left’s most respected and influential think tanks in bed with the British section of Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood?