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The Curious Rehabilitation of Inayat Bunglawala

This is a cross-post by Shiraz Maher from the Focus on Islamism blog

Inayat Bunglawala – more commonly known as Bungles – is a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

He’s been a busy boy recently.

The MCB has taken a beating over the last two years after its sectarian and Islamist politics were exposed, prompting Bungles to desperately repackage himself as a moderate and liberal. Unfortunately, his Potemkin villages have fooled some – including those foolish Catherine’s who really should know better.

Yes, Inayat wrote an encouraging piece on the Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) about Geert Wilders and, more recently, about gay rights too – but so what?

‘Credit where credit is due’ cry Inayat’s new supporters. This is a fallacy. Inayat is due nothing.

On the same day that he wrote about gay rights for the Guardian’s left leaning CiF readership, Inayat was busy penning another piece for the Islamist website IslamOnline. His choice of topic for that audience? ‘British Jews’ Influence on UK Policy’. Old habits die hard.

The article leaves no room for doubt – Inayat is a man who has not confronted the demons of his reactionary Islamist beliefs. He tells us:

The "Islamist" label has been used in recent years as a smear to denigrate and marginalize all politically engaged and active Muslims while promoting those who are docile enough not to criticize Western warmongering and support for Israel’s barbaric treatment of the Palestinians.

I fail to see how Inayat can distance himself from a problem he fails to even recognise.

His deliberate misrepresentation of the term ‘Islamist’ is typical of those who adhere to that ideology. Far from being a ‘smear’ it is a term that protects and distinguishes ordinary Muslims who believe in Islam as a faith from being associated with those who have turned it into an aggressive and expansionist political ideology.

Of course, many Islamists – including Inayat – simply betray those in whose interests they claim to act: ordinary Muslims, by passing off their own highly contentious theology as undisputed fact.

Similarly, unlike those who are genuinely trying to lead Muslims away from Islamism, Inayat remains unwilling to address problems with the Islamist ideology. Without doing that, it is impossible to see just how he can claim to have changed. His IslamOnline piece he reiterates the same old jaundiced view about the motivating factors behind Islamist terrorism:

From the trial of the three British Muslims recently convicted of involvement in the airliner bomb plot, and from video messages left by other violent extremists who have gone on to commit terrorist atrocities, what has undoubtedly been a key motivating factor is the injustices they have witnessed and experienced, the results of western foreign policies abroad, including Israel.

It is foolish to deny that many people were deeply unhappy about, for example, the war in Iraq. There was a vocal and vociferous anti-war campaign that marched through the streets of London to protest against it.

But if foreign policy incites terrorism, how many non-Muslims were moved to launch terrorist conspiracies in the aftermath of the allied invasion of Iraq? Where are the suicide videos from Mr and Mrs Smith saying the British people deserve ‘punishment’?

Lots of people, of all faiths and none, go to the West Bank and Gaza to protest against Israel, but it was two Islamists – Omar Sharif and Asif Hanif -who decided to go one step further and become suicide bombers.

Indeed, all the terrorists whose actions Inayat tries to explain away have all been Muslim. Those in the airline plot also claimed to act in the name of Islam.

This is the reality that Inayat denies. He does not accept that political movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood or Jamaat e-Islami have developed a highly politicised and regressive form of Islam. I am yet to see him oppose their desire to create theocracies in the ‘Muslim world’ by denouncing either of those groups or their activities.

He is unwilling to accept that Islamists provide the intellectual succour that terrorists need. That much was apparent when Inayat penned another piece for IslamOnline this week – where he stupidly accuses me of McCarthyism – and, even more stupidly, reaffirms his support for the worst Islamist ideologue today: Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

This Qatar based cleric wants Muslim apostates murdered, homosexuals executed, supports suicide bombings and female genital mutilation, and justifies the slaughter of Israeli children ‘because they will grow up to join the IDF’. Describing Qaradawi as ‘an asset’ Inayat tells us:

Sheikh Al-Qaradawi is an Islamic scholar who commands huge respect among millions of Muslims worldwide. As a regular past visitor to the UK, he would consistently urge British Muslims to shun all forms of extremism and to focus their energies on ensuring that their children excelled in education.

Here is the man Inayat regards as an ‘asset’ revelling in Hitler’s attempt to exterminate Jews, and praying for it to happen again ‘at the hands of the believers’:

Inayat has not changed. He had years to make these pronouncements, to alter his position and shift his stance. He never did. In truth, Inayat and his band of brothers over at the MCB lost. They were hammered by Hazel Blears when she was Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Before her, Ruth Kelly was equally forthright in her treatment of the group. Between them, they set about reaching over the heads of the MCB and directly empowered genuinely progressive grassroots initiatives. To win favour again, Inayat has to portray himself as a liberal.

That much is clear to almost every observer who follows British Islamism.

Yet, what is most disappointing is that those who should know better have not only embraced Inayat in recent weeks, but have engaged in the most shameful and short-sighted public courting of him possible. And to what end?

Anyone seriously suggesting that Inayat has changed offends only their own intelligence.

So, where does this leave his recent and welcome pronouncements on issues like gay rights or free speech? Should credit be given where credit is due?

After all, I suppose Mussolini made the trains run on time.