On Harry Hill’s TV Burp, it would be settled by a fight. But in the world of politics, such public battles are conducted by means of press release.
Hazel Blears has just issued the following statement:
STATEMENT FROM COMMUNITIES SECRETARY HAZEL BLEARS
We welcome the efforts made by parliamentarians to work with MCB in resolving this serious issue. The statement resulting from their meeting by the senior officers of the MCB and Parliamentarians, personally signed by Dr Daud Abdullah, provides some clarification of his rejection of the articles in the Istanbul declaration which called for violence against civilians and British forces. This is a positive sign that the organisation has recognised the serious issues at hand.
However, we continue to believe that the Istanbul declaration does call for attacks on foreign warships – potentially including the Royal Navy – and also advocates violence against Jewish people and their supporters around the world. In light of Daud Abdullah’s other public comments about the Istanbul declaration, we will need to build on the parliamentarians’ statement to gain greater clarity on his views.
We have not sought to intervene or interfere in the running of the MCB; it is an independent organisation that must make its own decisions. However Government must take a clear stand against violence and hatred that can cause harm and sow division in communities. Nor can we, as Government, take lightly anything that might increase the threat to our forces deployed overseas. And in recent months we have seen a deeply worrying rise in anti-Semitic attacks. Public statements that assert that attacks of this kind are not only acceptable but an “obligation” cannot go unchallenged.
There are some who wish to promote a wholly mistaken view that government is attempting to curtail free speech. That is absolutely not the case. It is a strength of our democratic system that people can express their political views to government on issues that matter to them, including foreign policy and the situation in the Middle East. But when those views cross the line into advocating violence or hatred we will not hesitate to challenge them. We all have a responsibility to work together to build safe, strong, cohesive communities.
The parliamentarians’ statement is a helpful first step. We now need further dialogue with MCB on where its stands as an organisation and where Dr Daud Abdullah stands personally, on the articles in the declaration itself and on engaging with us to build the strong communities in which we all want to live.
There are certainly some people who have formed the view that the Muslim Council of Britain has, with this endorsement of jihad, taken one step past the point of no return.
However, if the Muslim Council of Britain is genuinely concerned to play a part in defeating the pernicious racist and terrorist ideology that Daud Abdullah very publicly signed up to, this should be its very last chance to do so.
Hazel Blears proposes further dialogue with the MCB and with Daud Abdullah, with the purpose of clarifying its position on the Istanbul Declaration.
Here are the questions that she should be asking, and conditions that test whether the MCB is ready for engagment, in any form: not simply by government, but by anybody who cherishes true community cohesion, security and anti-racism:
Questions and Conditions
1. Paragraph 7 of the Istanbul Declaration reads:
“The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard everyone standing with the Zionist entity, whether countries, institutions or individuals, as providing a substantial contribution to the crimes and brutality of this entity; the position towards him is the same as towards this usurping entity.”
(a) Daud Abdullah must explain, in detail, what he understood the words “the position towards him is the same as towards this usurping entity” to mean.
(b) It is imperative as a condition of re-engagement that the MCB condemns, without equivocation or limitation, terrorist threats against such persons, countries or individuals.
2. Paragraph 8 of the Istanbul Declaration reads:
“The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters, claiming to control the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms to Gaza, as a declaration of war, a new occupation, sinful aggression, and a clear violation of the sovereignty of the Nation. This must be rejected and fought by all means and ways.”
(a) Does Daud Abdullah accept that this statement treats “foreign warships” in “Muslim waters” as a “declaration of war”. Will he explain why he signed a statement calling for “the Islamic Nation” to fight “by all means and ways” such a “declaration of war” .
(b) As a condition of re-engagement, the MCB must condemn, without equivocation or limitation, the assertion that the presence of “foreign warships” in “Muslim waters” is a “declaration of war” against “the Islamic Nation”.
3. The MCB must also make it clear that it does not regard this religious ruling as a statement of the “obligations” of “The Islamic Nation”, and condemns any person who asserts that any Muslim should treat it as such.
4. Daud Abdullah must explain why he signed this statement. He must apologise for having signed this statement, publicly withdraw his name from it, and explain clearly why he is doing so.
5. The MCB must promise that neither Daud Abdullah, nor any other MCB member or affiliate, will participate in the so-called “Global Anti-Aggression Campaign“, or in any other conferences substantially led by Hamas, Hezbollah, or any other terrorist organisation.
6. The MCB must make it clear that any person or constituent organisation who does participate in such a conference in the future will be expelled from the MCB.
7. It appears that a number of members of bodies affiliated to the MCB have also signed the document. If any of them have signed it, they must publicly take the same steps to distance themselves from the Declaration as Dr Abdullah, or be expelled from the MCB.
This is a hugely serious matter. It is essential that Daud Abdullah and the Muslim Council of Britain be asked to answer these questions fully as a condition of re-engagement. On its face, a senior member of the MCB called for jihad against the Royal Navy, and against people, institutions and countries. Instead of apologising, Daud Abdullah twisted and turned, the MCB was triumphalist and defiant, and the pro-Islamist cheerleaders on the extreme Left sneered and jeered.
The MCB has a choice. It can either speak out with absolute clarity against jihadism. Alternatively, it can go its own way, and cement its reputation as an extremist fringe body, which no social democrat should have anything to do with.
Care must be taken not to fumble this opportunity. Extremists are usually very careful about what they say in public. The MCB will not make this mistake again. The worst possible outcome is if this affair is treated by the MCB as an object lesson in the importance of covering their tracks. The Government must not allow itself to be fobbed off with fine words.
It is imperative, therefore, that we have absolute clarity on this issue.
I should also add that the Istanbul Declaration rejects the Arab Peace Initiative as a sellout and states its preference for jihad. Can the MCB clarify its position on this provision, as well?