The FCO, the Islamic Forum of Europe, and the Festival of Muslim Cultures 2006

This is a guest post by Derek Pasquill

It is instructive to note the inclusion of the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) in a list of organisations from which a letter of support would be welcome in respect of the ill fated Festival of Muslim Cultures planned for 2006. See Graeme Thomas’ letter to Isabel Carlisle, Director, FoMC, of May 2005, included as document 9 (page 68) of Martin Bright’s Policy exchange pamphlet – When Progressives Treat with Reactionaries – here

“To be precise, the FCO and DCMS would hope to see the following groups fully signed up to the initiative:

All of the following:

The Muslim Council of Great Britain
Young Muslims UK
Islamic Society of Britain
The Islamic Foundation
British Muslim Forum
The Muslim Welfare House

Others to seek support from include:

Islamic Forum Europe
Itna Ashari Khoji Shia World Federation
Federation of Student Islamic Societies
Karimia Institute
London Muslim Centre
Islamic Cultural Centre
The Arts Council
The British Museum”

I drafted this letter for Graeme Thomas, yet at the time would not have known the difference between an Islamic Forum of Europe and a European Council of Fatwa Research.

In fact the list was supplied by Mockbul Ali, the FCO’s Islamic Issues Adviser, and in the light of the revelations made in last night’s Ch 4 Dispatches programme about the IFE’s approach to the arts in general, and secular Bangladeshi festivals in particular , it does appear somewhat disingenuous for Ali to have included them in this list.

I sometimes thought of myself and Graeme as the Little and Large of the FCO’s outreach to British Muslims – he was quite large and I was quite little – yet both of us were innocents adrift in a sea of corruption and power politics where these were manifestly not fit for purpose, i.e. in ensuring that the state and its adminstrative organs stood up for secular and liberal democratic values. Be that as it may, at the time we must have appeared to Isabel Carlisle as K.’s unnecessary helpers from Franz Kafka’s The Castle, who, although imbued with good intentions, unwittingly blocked all of K.’s attempts to see Count West-West.

It is a significant tragedy that the Festival of Muslim Cultures was sabotaged before it had the chance to get off the ground through the combined efforts of the Government, the FCO and the Muslim Council of Britain – a potent symbol of craven politicians and officials out of their depth in their dealings with the Muslim world, and, through their ignorance and ineptitude, betraying any aspirations towards secularisation within that same community to the detriment of Britain’s future well-being.