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Oh Bungle!

This is a guest post by Hmmm.

You might have read Inayat Bunglawala’s recent article on CiF in which he attacked Nick Cohen as a “new McCarthyite” for pointing out that he writes for the website of Qaradawi, an extreme racist theocrat.

Bungle’s defence, such that it is, is that “I certainly do not agree with many of Qaradawi’s other views”. He goes on to talk in broad terms about his opposition to “casual antisemitism” and his support for “the freedoms we enjoy in liberal secular democracies”.

That is all well and good, but  it doesn’t answer the basic question. Inayat says that he has moved away from his enthusiastic support for Hamas and Osama Bin Laden, and now embraces liberal secular democracy. If so, what is he doing writing for the website of a man whose entire mission in life is to oppose liberal secular democracy, and a political movement whose programme has been described by a Egyptian secularist as “an assassination to the civic state“.

One answer might be: to challenge the bigotry and extremism to be found on Islam Online.

But Bunglawala does not challenge Qaradawi or the Muslim Brotherhood on Islam Online. Look for yourself. Instead, he feeds them precisely the sort of unchallenging diet that they get from the other Islamist commentators on the site: griping about Jewish Power and grievance-mongering about the hard lot of Muslims in Britain.

The complaint of “McCarthyism” is bunkum. Inayat hasn’t lost his job. Nobody at all has lost their job. “McCarthyism” isn’t pointing out that a supposedly liberal political commentator is writing uncritical articles on the website of a leading fascist. That’s just reporting the facts.

But Inayat Bunglawala goes one important step further. His article is, in essence, a defence of Qaradawi, based on the thesis that this man is still of value in helping us to defeat Al Qaeda. Here’s the passage in question:

My views on Qaradawi are not exactly a million miles away from those of the director of the office for security and counter-terrorism, Charles Farr, who in evidence to the home affairs select committee earlier this year said:

Qaradawi is one of the most articulate critics of al-Qaida in the Islamic world. I think for any government, and I really passionately believe this, this is a real problem. If we refuse him a visa people will come back to us and say, ‘Hang on a moment. This person is coming here to speak against the organisation which most threatens you. Surely you need to operate within a degree of latitude which allows that.’ I do not say that is a compelling argument … but certainly, when we put advice out to ministers, we have to say, ‘That is what is going to happen and you need to weigh this in the balance.’

How I wish Inayat Bunglawala had printed the words that immediately precede this statement:

Farr: Every case is a bit different. May I give you an example? A notorious Islamist preacher operates on al-Jazeera, Qaradawi. You may remember Qaradawi came to prominence in this country when he came here and met Ken Livingstone. Qaradawi highlights all the difficulties of this for us. In some ways Qaradawi holds views which are certainly extremist by the definition that we suggested earlier. In other words, they are critical of the values on which our society rests.

Q160 David Davies: Women, gays, all the rest of it.

Mr Farr: Correct, all of those things, reprehensible.

Let’s unpack this passage.

Farr isn’t saying that he supports the admission of Qaradawi. What he is saying is that “people” will argue for Qaradawi on the basis that he will speak out against Al Qaeda. In other words, he is recognising that a defence of Qaradawi will be attempted on these grounds: but that he does not find this defence “compelling”.

Farr is right. Qaradawi isn’t a bulwark against Al Qaeda. In fact, what greater expression of anti-Muslim bigotry could there be, than to suggest that the only thing that prevents British citizens who are Muslim from murdering their neighbours is the influence of a man who supports the creation of a repressive Islamic state, the suicide bombing of civilians, female genital mutilation, the execution of apostates and the similar punishment of homosexuals?

That is precisely the sort of thing that people like Steven Gash of Stop the Islamisation of Europe say about Muslims.

Inayat Bunglawala doesn’t agree with Farr at all, really. Rather, Farr is talking about the need for the government to have an answer ready for those who make the argument – which Farr does not find “compelling” – that Qaradawi is an asset to us, in the fight against extremism. In other words, Farr is talking about the need to prepare for the sort of arguments that Bunglawala makes, routinely, in defence of this dangerous extremist:

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. His long experience of dealing with youths influenced by extremist and takfiri ideas (ideas involving accusations of backsliding from Islam) would surely have been a valuable asset in the struggle against al-Qaida-inspired propaganda.

Inayat Bunglawala wants to reposition himself as an ex-radical who now embraces secular liberal democracy. That is a good thing.

However, can I politely suggest to him that the best way to go about this task is not to argue for Qaradawi’s admission to the United Kingdom, or to misrepresent Charles Farr as a believer in Qaradawi’s ability to prevent British Muslims from joining Al Qaeda. Neither is best served by writing unchallenging articles on Qaradawi’s own website that reinforce the Muslim Brotherhood worldview.

If Inayat wants to be taken seriously, if he is really upset by the suggestion that the only changes in his outlook are superficial and presentational, much much more is needed.