There is an excellent piece by George Readings at Left Foot Forward. It is a response to a recent interview with Ken Livingstone, in which he states:
I think the fact that Sheikh Qaradawi has been banned is a disgrace; he is one of the leading progressive voices in the Muslim world
Livingstone also says:
Although there’s a huge smear campaign organized by Zionists. When I met this man, [I found him that] he’s a progressive, humble person who is looking at how Islam can engage with the rest of the world and we should support him.
Here is George Readings’ conclusion:
Mr Livingstone presents his audience with a false dichotomy. The alternative to Saudi-style fringe figures who demand that the world is flat and that women must not drive cars, work with men, or reveal their faces in public, is not necessarily al-Qaradawi.
What about other Muslims around the world who, although they may still consider homosexuality to be a sin, do not want homosexuals to be punished in this world? And those who oppose FGM and wife-beating? Are they not the real “progressives”?
The danger is that, if leading figures like Ken Livingstone continue to claim that Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a ‘moderate’, they will feed the EDL/BNP narrative that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. For many British people, particularly those living outside the larger cities, their only knowledge of Muslims and Islam comes from the media. If they see a Muslim figure who supports FGM, punishing homosexuality and wife-beating being lauded as a “progressive”, then some may well ask ‘How regressive are the views of other Muslims?’.
Whatever one thinks of the previous Labour government’s decision to ban al-Qaradawi from the country, there are clearly reasons to be concerned about his views. Against a background of increasing anti-Muslim bigotry in this country, Ken Livingstone may think that his defence of al-Qaradawi is a defence of all Muslims. In reality, he runs the risk of making the situation worse.
I think that’s pretty much where we are at the moment.
Anybody who has spent any time battling Islamist groups, domestically or abroad, understands the true picture. First of all, most of the work to defeat Islamist politics is being carried out by Muslims: which is understandable, as Muslims are the first and most numerous victims of Islamist politics and terrorism. Secondly, Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami have minority support among Muslims almost everywhere, possibly excepting some localities such as Gaza. So we are, in effect, looking at a battle of ideas, even a civil war, within Muslim majority states and communities.
Politicians like Ken Livingstone understand full well that there is a battle around these ideas. Nevertheless, because they believe that the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami are part of their coalition against “imperialism” and “colonialism”, they have signed up to defend the clerical fascists.
There is also a civil war going on, within the Left on this issue. Lining up alongside Ken Livingstone are others whose background is in revolutionary Communist politics. Take, for example, Bob Pitt’s defence of Qaradawi and attack on George Readings on today’s Socialist Unity.
It should be clear by now that the prime targets of people like Pitt and Livingstone are Muslims who are social democrats, and their supporters. Pitt’s website, Islamophobia-Watch, is proof of that.
Ken Livingstone is Pamela Geller. As far as both of them are concerned, Qaradawi is not the spiritual head of a determined clerical fascist party. He is, rather, the archetype of all Muslims. Indeed, Livingstone is worse than Geller – he suggests that Qaradawi is about as moderate as Muslims get.
This is a hopeless situation. Livingstone and Pitt are acting as if the battle against anti-Muslim bigotry has been won, as if most people in the country agree that there’s no particular problem with clerics advocating extreme hatred of other groups while claiming indulgences for themselves. But they don’t. Just as anti-Muslim scare stories in the tabloid press whip up hostility towards Muslims, attempts to portray extremists as moderates really do make things worse.
The prime targets of Livingstone and Pitt have been groups and individuals who have argued, consistently, that we have a problem with specific Islamist political parties, rather than “Islam” or “Muslims” as a whole. Quilliam in particular has been subjected to a relentless campaign of vilification. It is almost as if Pitt and Livingstone are hoping to polarise the debate between those who hate all Muslims and those who admire Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. They hope that the alliance between Islamists and the far Left will set the agenda for “progressive” politics.
It is a dangerous game to play. Outside the bubble of Far and bien pensant Left thinking, support for Islamist politics is very thin. But the genie of anti-Muslim bigotry, once out of the bottle, is far more difficult to contain.
PS: Alex Hitchens on form here.
habibi adds: so is Bob Pitt a Hitler fan too, like “progressive” Qaradawi?
Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.
To conclude my speech, I’d like to say that the only thing I hope for is that as my life approaches its end, Allah will give me an opportunity to go to the land of Jihad and resistance, even if in a wheelchair. I will shoot Allah’s enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus, I will seal my life with martyrdom. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. Allah’s mercy and blessings upon you.
Gene adds: Responding to this in the comments at Socialist Unity, this is the best Pitt could come up with:
And what is the source of this quotation? Surprise, surprise – it’s the Middle East Media Research Institute. Now it could be that Qaradawi’s words are accurately translated here and not quoted out of context. In which case, that would certainly be a first for MEMRI.
He then goes on to cite supposedly more moderate comments from Qaradawi about the Jews, as if those would negate what he said here.
Certainly if MEMRI had mistranslated Qaradawi, or taken his remarks “out of context,” we would have heard about it by now. We haven’t, of course.