Moderates, Extremists, and Azad Ali

Since the story of Azad Ali’s unmasking as a supporter of some pretty extreme jihadists broke, our comments threads have been inundated by commenters calling themselves “sheila”, “elizabeth”, “Gary”, “Mary” and – you’ll find this v droll – “Ann Frank”.

They all have the same story to tell. Mr Ali is not extreme at all. In fact, he’s the very model of moderation, and a mainstay of the community, beloved by cats and children alike. In fact, to be suggesting that he is not, I must be being paid – who by is not  made clear – to injure the reputation of this poor gentle man. The one thing that Azad Ali is not, we are assured, is extreme. Rather, he is pretty much the only person who can save this country from extremism, and if dialogue with him ceases, we will reap the whirlwind. Apparently.

I mooted the possibility that the supporters of Azad Ali and the rest of us might be using a different definition of “extreme”. So, as a test, I asked “Gary”, Ann Frank, and the rest whether they regarded the following as “moderate” or “extreme”:

Abdullah Azzam


I couldn’t get a straight answer. Here are some of the responses I received:

I thought we this blog is about Azad Ali and the ill-informed decision to suspend him. What has Jamaat e Islam got to do with it? David T you should moderate your own comments i think.

I know what your trying to do…but you should stick to your own advise and stick to the topic. The subject of Jamaat is irrelevent as we live in the UK and Jamaat is an organisation based in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

What has my opinion on Jamaat being a moderate or extreme party got to do with this article? I dont know much about them and what I do know is that they have a big following in S. Asia and also that they are trying to implement Islam in these regions to the fullest extent. Like the same way other parties in S Asia do.

Again David T I am not here to discuss the goals and objectives of Jamaat.

Okay. George Bush declared, “”Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” which some might consider a false dilemma. I think that “extremist or moderate?” or simply “extremist?” is a false dilemma. Which makes any answer bound by that condition open to all sorts of interpretation without further qualitification.

Hey David, would you regard Menahim Begin an extremist or moderate?

Golda Maier – extremists or moderate?

… and so on.

It is a bit difficult for Azad’s defenders to describe Azzam as a moderate. He’s a text book definition of an extremist if ever there was one. But Ali admires him greatly, and supports his perspective on Jihad, along with that of other equally extreme Islamists.

Likewise, they can’t say that Jamaat-e-Islami is a moderate organisation, because if they do, they’ll end up having to defend its extreme political positions on (for example) women, minority rights, democracy and so on.  But Azad Ali works out of the Jamaat-e-Islami fronts, the Islamic Forum Europe and the East London Mosque.  

The thing is: they actually realise that ordinary people will regard the politics that Azad Ali espouses as extreme and jihadist in nature. Nevertheless, they don’t have the courage of their convictions. They won’t defend him, and his views.

Here’s another insight into the “moderate” Azad Ali’s political affliations. His Civil Service Islamic Society wanted to invite the former Imam of Birmingham Central Mosque, Sheikh Riyadh ul Haq to a reception, hosted by Gus O’Donnell, the head of the civil service.

This is the Hansard text of certain written answers in the House of Lords, three years ago.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty’s Government:

    Whether the reception to be hosted by Sir Gus O’Donnell in his capacity as patron and ambassador of the Civil Service Islamic Society on 18 January to mark Eid ul Adha will receive any subsidy from public funds. [HL3289]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Cabinet Office considered the request to fund this internal Civil Service event in accordance with normal spending guidelines and agreed to meet the cost, which will be £889.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether Shiekh Riyadh Ul-Haq, known as Abu-Yusef, was invited to attend and speak at the reception to be hosted by Sir Gus O’Donnell on 18 January to mark Eid ul Adha; and, if so, when they became aware that the invitation had been issued. [HL3290]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Cabinet Secretary agreed to host the reception on 18 January. Neither he, nor any member of the Cabinet Office, invited Shiekh Riyadh Ul-Haq to attend or speak at the reception. As soon as the Cabinet Office became aware of suggestions that external speakers should be invited to the event, the department made it clear that it would not be appropriate to invite external speakers to this internal event.

Is Riyadh ul Haq a moderate or an extremist? Here are some of his views:

On Jews “They’re all the same. The Jews don’t have to be in Israel to be like this. It doesn’t matter whether they’re in New York, Houston, St Louis, London, Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester. They’re all the same. They’ve monopolised everything: the Holocaust, God, money, interest, usury, the world economy, the media, political institutions . . . they monopolised tyranny and oppression as well. And injustice”
On New York “Jew York . . . sorry, New York . . . a slip of the tongue.”

On the Taleban “The only group of people upon the earth who are establishing the Sharia and the law of Allah” [In 2000]

On integration “Allah has warned us in the Koran, do not befriend the kuffar [unbelievers], do not align yourselves with the kuffar”

Are these moderate views or extreme views. Azad Ali must have thought him very moderate indeed: or else why would he have been invited to meet Gus O’Donnell?

But can you imagine how a Muslim civil servant, who hates the Taliban, fights against Jamaat-e-Islami, and who deplores racism must have felt to find that “their” staff organisation was trying to arrange a meeting between ul Huq and GoD?

Incidentally, I’d regard Begin as pretty extreme, particularly in his Irgun days. Meir, I think was essentially moderate. Hope this helps.