MPs on the all-party group on Islamophobia voted this evening not to use iEngage, the controversial Islamist group, as its secretariat.
The vote, by 60 to 2, follows the resignation in February of its Conservative chair and Labour vice-chair over an earlier decision to use iEngage.
Paul Goodman at Conservative Home has further details:
- I gather that Angie Bray led the charge to do so on the Conservative side, and Hazel Blears (a former Secretary of State with responsibilities in this area) did so from the Labour end.
- The detailed report of the academic commissioned, Chris Allen, is essential reading for anyone interested in IEngage and the tortuous controversies surrounding it.
- This document wasn’t widely circulated to Parliamentarians until the day of the meeting itself, which some of those present believe reflected poorly on the co-Chairmen.
- Peter Bottomley, the idiosyncratic Conservative MP and supporter of IEngage, left the meeting before the vote.
- Jack Straw voted to dispatch IEngage, having voted not to last time round.
The report by Chris Allen is well worth reading. It chronicles, in painful detail, how iEngage’s hysterical and hyperbolic response to the specific concerns relating to its politics, actually demonstrated the substance of those objections. In effect, iEngage talked itself out of the gig.
As a footnote, it is notable that Chris Allen sees the problem with iEngage. He has previously contributed to Bob Lambert’s “Islamophobia” publication, which had to be withdrawn because another chapter was defamatory. It is clear that he understands the concerns very well.
This was the problem with iEngage all along. It is an organisation which is very closely tied to specific Islamist political parties, which both defends those political parties and associated hate preachers, while attacking Muslim liberals in the most personal terms. Indeed, iEngage operates from an office within the Islam Channel: a tv station which has been censured by OFCOM, and whose CEO Mohammed Ali Harrath is both a Trustee of iEngage, and a veteran of the Tunisian Islamist extremist scene.
Islam Channel CEO Harrath with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza last month. He was participating in an Interpal convoy for Hamas.
iEngage just couldn’t help itself. This is the nature of the organisation. It was inevitable that it would act this way.
However, this episode should cause those within Labour (and other parties) who form alliances with Islamist political organisations to think very carefully about doing so in future. They may do so for the best of reasons. They may think that it is important to reach out to such outfits, in order to “bring them into the mainstream”. They may think, outrageously and falsely, that Muslims are naturally politically extreme and therefore supporting Muslims necessitates supporting extremist Islamist institutions. I hope that they believe that they’re helping to combat hatred and suspicion of Muslims.
The trouble is that outfits like iEngage will always screw up. That is because they exist to defend hate preachers, promote Islamist political parties, and attack Muslim liberals. There is no “nice” way of doing that.
All of this foolishness could have ended, months ago, when iEngage was initially removed by the initial chair of the APPG. Instead, it was rescued by Jack Straw, Steven Timms and Sadiq Khan. Timms is Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and I understand that he was one of the two who voted to keep iEngage as the Secretariat. Sadiq Khan is Shadow Lord Chancellor. Both Labour Shadow Cabinet members.
This is just insane.
Promoting and protecting groups like iEngage which themselves support hate preachers will not diminish Islamophobia. Instead, such political misjudgements bolster the haters and bigots, provide them with ammunition, and more importantly, undermines the moral authority of the Labour Party in the fight against racism and intolerance.
This is not the only occasion in which Labour has been led astray by the idiotic alliances of some very senior Labour Party figures. It has to stop.