The GPU Festival should make all progressives uncomfortable. So why are our MPs’ sharing its platform?

This is a cross-post from Left Foot Forward by Al-Razi

Al-Razi works for the Council of ex-Muslims

Update: Sadiq Khan has contacted Left Foot Forward to make clear that he never agreed to speak at the GPU Festival and was never asked to speak. It appears that GPU’s organisers are using a photo of Sadiq to promote the event’s speakers without his permission.

Imagine that in the year 2013 a conference in London featured speakers that had in the past said that a certain group of people deserve to be killed.

Imagine that other speakers had proudly stated their supremacist, extremist and bigoted views that were entirely at odds with every value of a liberal secular society which aspires to equality and seeks to overcome prejudice and hatefulness.

Imagine that this conference attracted senior British politicians who were billed alongside these extremists, giving them the power of establishment endorsement, and that this conference utilised the rhetoric of moderation and tolerance to obscure the nature of the speakers they promoted.

This is not a fictional dystopia. This is reality. This is the Global Peace and Unity Festivaltaking place at the Excel Centre at the end of November.

It features Said Rageah, a preacher who declares that ex-Muslims are worthy of being murdered for leaving Islam, proving once again that ex-Muslims are the only group of people in Britain about whom it can be said they deserve death with relative impunity.

Rageah has also said the ‘kuffar’ should never be taken as friends, and that Muslim women must free themselves of ‘Western mental slavery’ and be physically restricted to their homes.

The list goes on.

The conference also features Muhammad Al Shareef, from Canada, who has spoken abouthow Muslims should not take ‘kaffirs’ as role models and blamed ‘kaffir’ schools for the corruption of Muslim children. He has also spoken disparagingly of Jews.

Yasir Qadhi from America thinks that it is a sign of a society that has ‘regressed’ when hate speech against homosexuals is criticised. He says that the Islamic punishment for blasphemy is not ‘polite’ and that Muslims should not be ashamed of it. He has also in the past described Jews as ‘crooked nosed’ and promoted holocaust denial, advising his followers to read a book called ‘The Hoax of the Holocaust’.

Another preacher from America, Yusuf Estes, has spoken of how gays deserve to be put to death.

It makes grim reading, and I could fill a whole article with the hateful beliefs and statements of other speakers. But what really horrifies is that , Andrew Slaughter MPLord Falconer and Simon Hughes MP will be speaking at the festival.

When Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg was found to have addressed a dinner of the Traditional Britain Group, a racist conservative caucus with links to the far-right, the media correctly scrutinised him and forced him to account for his decision. But when it comes to politicians associating themselves with platforms that provide space to religious reactionaries and Islamists, all too often there is a moral breakdown.

What this reveals is something that should make all progressives very uncomfortable. And this discomfort should lead to introspection. Because this is an example of a major ethical failure that not only threatens society, but threatens the fundamental integrity of progressivism.

The failure to confront ultra reactionary, bigoted, supremacist hatred when it is peddled in the name of religion, especially when it is part of a rhetoric that utilises the notions of tolerance and liberal multiculturalism, is a tragedy that should horrify and alarm everyone.

As ex-Muslims, the sight of a conference that includes speakers who say we deserve to be murdered fills us with fear and outrage. A failure to deal with this issue is a failure of moral conscience that threatens everyone.