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Jeremy Paxman and the BBC should be ashamed of themselves

This is a guest post by Alexander Hitchens

Yesterday, Newsnight had the Muslim Council of Britain’s Deputy Director General, Daud Abdullah, in their studio following a report by Richard Watson on Contest 2. Watson’s analysis of the new strategy missed what was arguably the most significant shift in the government’s approach, namely the much larger emphasis that has been placed on the role of ideology in inspiring Islamist terrorism. Previous Contest and Prevent documents included only the most fleeting references to this, whereas in the newest paper the word appears on almost every other page. Daud Abdullah – and the Istanbul statement to which he has proudly put his name – represent this poisonous belief system.

Paxman, famous for his ferocious ability to verbally beat his victims into submission, was presented last night with a very rare opportunity to publically expose and discredit a major proponent of this dangerous ideology. Instead, what the viewer was subjected to was a cowardly fawning of the most sickening order, which the BBC seems to keep in special reserve only for when it deals with Islamist bigots.

Abdullah was given the opportunity, unchallenged by Paxman, to make weak excuses for the statement (which he does not deny signing) and even try to claim that Britain was contradicting its democratic values by trying to unseat a democratically elected member of the MCB. He began by saying that he does not support any attacks on British troops – a claim that Paxman did not deem worthy of any further questioning even though the statement signed by Abdullah includes a clear call to attack foreign navies that stop the smuggling of weapons to Hamas. The Royal Navy has been involved in precisely these types of operations in the past and continues to do so. Rather than subjecting Abdullah to the type of questioning he is famous for, Paxman essentially took his side against Keith Vaz, who was hauled in to try and defend Labour’s call for Abdullah’s resignation-something which he showed himself fantastically incapable of doing.

Paxman said to Vaz that the views expressed in the statement, which openly supported Hamas, were “perfectly reasonable given the circumstances”.

Is it really “perfectly reasonable” to support an organisation that deliberately kills women and children in its fight for Islamist supremacy? As has been mentioned in previous posts by bloggers on this site, the statement also includes a clear and open threat to any countries that are allied with Israel, again, “perfectly reasonable” as far as Paxman is concerned.

Paxman criticised the government for calling for the resignation of Abdullah simply because they “don’t like what he has said about another country [Israel]”. This really does call into question whether or not Paxman actually read the statement. Compared to the amount of violent Islamist rhetoric, there was very little mention of Israel. Furthermore, the government’s decision had nothing to do with what the statement said about Israel’s recent actions in Gaza. Rather, it was driven by Hazel Blears’ initiative to delegitimise anyone who promotes the ideology of radical Islam.

The content of the Istanbul statement has already been covered extensively on this blog so there is no need for me to go through all of its appalling statements. However, it is very important to highlight that this statement is an embodiment of one of the biggest problems faced by normal Palestinians, namely the Islamisation of what should in fact be a nationalist cause. The Istanbul statement was a religious call for ongoing violence in the region coupled with an outright rejection of any possible peace settlements that include the existence of Israel. I am sure that many readers would agree that had religious zealotry been ignored long ago by both sides of this conflict, the situation in Gaza and the West Bank would be far better than it is today.

This statement, and the involvement of influential British Muslims in formulating it, should be taken very seriously and the government’s recent actions in response have shown that they are beginning to understand that Islamist-inspired attacks against civilians anywhere in the world should not be considered separate from each other – they are all part of the overall problem. Either the BBC has failed to understand this point or, more worryingly, they have chosen to ignore it.