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The Muslim Council of Britain: Coming In From the Cold

This is a guest post by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens

We must not be ashamed to pursue a counter terrorism strategy which is based on a rejection of all types of extremism. The groups which our government works with on the Prevent agenda must adhere to some basic values and, as political Islamists, the MCB fall well short of this. A number of their members represent an ideology which is inimical to the values of a liberal democracy and, although they are free to say and do what they like, their belief system should not be legitimised.

All of the noises coming out of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) suggest that Labour is looking to bring the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) back in from the cold as part of its mission to ‘rebrand’ the government’s Prevent agenda. Prevent is a strand of the CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy, and is designed to prevent radicalisation.

Both the Daily Mail and the Guardian have reported that that Secretary for Communities and Local Government, John Denham and community minister Shahid Malik intend to make some changes to the approach of their predecessors, Ruth Kelly and Hazel Blears. According to the Guardian:

The communities secretary, John Denham, is to attempt a fresh start in the government’s relationship with British Muslims after acknowledging that mistakes have been made in the drive against violent extremism in the UK

Some of the reported changes seem to be positive. For example, more attention will be paid to the rise of far right, neo-Nazi extremism. At the Centre for Social Cohesion, we have also identified this growing threat as something that must not be ignored, and this led us to release a report last month on the online activities of neo-Nazis.

However, part of this ‘fresh start’, seems to be a re establishment of the relationship between the Government and the MCB. The Guardian claims that:

The official attempt to mend fences follows a controversial phase in the history of the programme, which culminated in an acrimonious dispute between Hazel Blears, Denham’s predecessor, and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

This ‘acrimonious dispute’ is a reference to Hazel Blears’ principled stand in her refusal to deal with the MCB after its deputy secretary general, Daud Abdullah, signed a statement (now known as the Istanbul statement) in support of jihad in Israel. This issue has already been extensively covered, so I will now only provide you with these little gems from the statement:

We affirm in full conviction that the Palestinian Authority, whose mandate is coming to an end, is not eligible to represent the Palestinian people. It stands outside the will of its people, and has given up the choice of jihad in the way of Allah…

We affirm in full conviction that the so-called Arab peace initiative is a proven betrayal of the Islamic Nation and the Palestinian cause…

[We affirm] the obligation of the Islamic Nation to find a fair formula of reconciliation between the sons of the Palestinian people…[that] will carry on with the jihad and Resistance against the occupier until the liberation of all of Palestine.

[We affirm] 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.

Blears requested that, if the MCB wanted to continue enjoying a relationship with the government, Abdullah should either retract his support for this statement, or that the MCB condemn him and force him out. Abdullah refused to back down and the MCB stand staunchly by him to this day.

Blears’ approach was values based, and her belief was that the government should only be working with and funding organisations that share some of our society’s basic values. A group which refuses to condemn the abhorrent views in the Istanbul statement falls well short of what should be expected from so-called mainstream and moderate groups, and certainly fails to live up to the values on which this country is based.

The backing of Abdullah is one of many examples of objectionable behaviour from the MCB. This year, they boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) in protest of Israeli actions in Gaza. According to an official MCB statement:

This year when the Central Working Committee met for its quarterly meeting on 17 January 2009, one of the items for discussion was the crisis in Gaza. In the context of that discussion, the MCB participation at the HMD came to be discussed as per the wishes of the majority of the members of the Central Working Committee – an elected and nominated body of just over seventy persons representing over five hundred affiliates – national, regional and local affiliates of the MCB. There was no one in that meeting who was prepared to attend the HMD this year without making a visible protest about the genocide in Gaza. Following discussion it was agreed that the MCB does not wish to minimise the tragedy of holocaust or demean or disturb its annual memorial by attending and protesting about the genocide in Gaza and it was therefore decided to abstain from the Holocaust Memorial Day this year.

The MCB have boycotted HMD in the past and they base this on the flawed and ignorant assumption that HMD only commemorates the Nazi genocide, whilst ignoring others. HMD is also a memorial of other genocides, including those in Rwanda and Bosnia. According to the above statement, it also seems that the MCB can’t trust their members to behave in a respectable manner at a memorial for a number of genocides because HMD has not added the plight of the Palestinians to its list. This disgraceful decision by a supposedly anti-Zionist group showed the MCB up as the fools that they are; neither were they aware of the true nature of HMD nor were they willing to distinguish between the 11 million people who were killed by Hitler and the actions of the IDF.

On their website, the MCB also continue to advertise events involving antisemites and Islamic extremists. One such group is MPACUK, whose event ‘An Evening Of Hope – Swat Valley Fundraiser’, the MCB is happy to plug. MPACUK are a vile antisemitic jihadist group who were identified in the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism as:

[having] been criticised for publishing material on its website promoting the idea of a worldwide Zionist conspiracy, including the reproduction of articles originally published on neo-Nazi and Holocaust Denial websites, and is currently banned from university campuses under the NUS’s ‘No Platform’ policy.

The use of ‘Zionist’ as a replacement for ‘Jewish’ is common on the MPACUK website. The Community Security Trust submitted evidence that in one explicit case of this the Talmud, a Jewish religious text written many centuries ago, was described as a "Zionist holy book" The website also posed the question: "Is this the most Powerful and Racist book in the world?!"

In June, MPACUK were also heavily involved in a vulgar and invasive campaign against a female staff member at an Islamic school in Blackburn because she was a lesbian. Among other things, they published private photos of her with her girlfriend on their website. She was eventually forced to resign.

Two months ago, the MCB also gave ad space on their site to the fascist Islamist organisation Hizb ut Tahrir, advertising their event called ‘The Struggle For Islam & Call For Khilafah’ which is described on the MCB site as follows:

This conference will highlight how we, as Muslims in the West, need to be at the forefront of the struggle that counters these policies; carrying the real message of Islam, showing its beauty, and how the future Khilfah [global Caliphate] will stand with the oppressed people of the world against the exploitation of global capitalism.

Unfortunately, none of this seems to matter to the Government, who have been looking to re establish their relationship with the MCB for some time now. A few weeks ago the Foreign Office held a ‘stakeholders meeting’, which, according to sources who attended, included Ibrahim Mogra, one of the MCB’s leading members.

When Malik and Denham replaced Blears, many saw the return of the MCB as inevitable and one can only hope that the damage these two will do to her good work will be limited by the fact that their party will be out of power in a matter of months. How the Tories will approach this issue remains to be seen and the resignation of Paul Goodman as Shadow Communities and Local Government Minister, who has been a vocal critic of the MCB in the past, is certainly a blow.

In their unflinching support for Daud Abdullah, their boycott of HMD and their dismissal of Blears’ requests, the MCB have behaved in an arrogant and brash manner for which they will now be rewarded.

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