The Curious Case of Mehdi Hasan

This is a guest post by Sheikh Zubair

The maxim ‘politics makes for strange bedfellows’ is truer now than it has ever been. In an age in which numerous religions, political ideologies and social outlooks compete for supporters in a single society or nation, alliances of convenience become a necessity. Where there are alliances there will inevitably be compromises and such sacrifices for the greater good will lead to discontent amongst the purists and, thus, fragmentation.

In Britain we have a well-established far-left/Islamist alliance in which a common fixation with a west-centric world view, in which all non-western states and political actors are absolved of agency and responsibility, is used to form a cohesive bond. However, in more recent years this alliance has come under strain as anti-western forces in the Middle East have turned on each other and Russia has emerged as the region’s meddler in chief.

Domestically the far-left continues to ignore the reactionary and regressive nature of many of their Muslim allies, bolstering them in the process at the expense of liberal Muslims. Reform-minded Muslims are considered a threat because they don’t carry the anti-western angst that the far-left has been so successful in instrumentalising. They are viewed as products of western cultural imperialism and deemed ‘not useful’.

In France things are quite different as the far-right has began to reach out and develop an alliance with conservative Muslim factions. Far-right elements in France have never been pro-Muslim but, in the grand scheme of things, they have decided that gays and Jews pose a greater threat to the French way of life. It is not unusual to see conservative Catholics, Muslims and far-right elements joining arms to protest on the streets of France condemning same-sex marriage and Zionist domination in the same breath. This new movement is represented by the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne and the inverted nazi salute he helped to popularise, known as the quenelle.

A number of British far-left activists disguised as journalists, such as Seamus Milne, embody the far-left agenda as described above and other less eloquent and coherent ones, such as Owen Jones, aspire to. However, Britain also, quite uniquely, has another activist in disguise that embodies both the British and the French alliances of political convenience in a single body. He is the very personification of integrity-free politics  and will form alliances with whoever will enable him to gain popularity and prestige. If you haven’t already guessed I am talking about Mehdi Hasan.

In spite of famously comparing non-Muslims to cattle and admitting that he really struggles with the idea of homosexuality, Mehdi seeks to present himself as a social progressive in his Guardian and New Statesman columns. I, in turn, struggle to think of a single social issue on which he is progressive or liberal. However, his barely concealed social or moral conservatism and barely concealed religious fanaticism is forgiven when he goes off on one of his ‘I don’t care what the topic is but I’ll use it as an excuse to criticise western powers anyway’ rants that gormless liberals absorb uncritically without stopping to think what an intellectually lazy and popularity seeking perspective that represents.

Yet whilst Mehdi is winning over non-thinking and intellectually stagnant sections of the left, he is simultaneously writing fawning letters to the editor of the Daily Mail in which he demands a column that he can use to chastise the left for being socially progressive. Mehdi recognises that he is a social conservative and as a writer his real home is the Daily Mail or Express rather than the Guardian.  The fact that the Daily Mail pay good rates would have sweetened the deal and provided extra incentive for the ambitious young Mehdi to worm his way in. Unfortunately for Mehdi, the Daily Mail did not need yet another hysterical social conservative hack.

Groucho Marx once said ‘here are my principles, if you don’t like them I have some more’. Motives are very important in politics and it is important to appreciate the motives of those that appear to agree with us before we join hands. The anti-interventionist who opposes intervention in Syria out of geo-political considerations is not the same as the one who opposes intervention for insular and ethnocentric reasons. Since we have forgotten to do this we now have out of control hacks running amok, insulting the intelligence of the public in the process. Journalism is no longer what it says on the tin.