antisemitism,  Labour Party

“Why is it racist to ask why Sadiq Khan defended racists?”

This is a guest post by Zee Lahori

There has been a lot of discussion over how scrutinising the past associations of Sadiq Khan is racist and Islamophobic. But let us put this in another context If a white Tory candidate for public office had openly supported and defended far-right extremists, including two infamous racist anti-Semites, would it be considered racist to expose and scrutinise this? The answer is, of course, no. So why is it racist to ask why Sadiq Khan defended at least three anti-Semitic racists, who also incited violence against Jews?

In 2002 Sadiq Khan was the lawyer for Louis Farrakhan seeking to overturn his ban on entering Britain.  Khan said: He is preaching a message of self-discipline, self-reliance, atonement and responsibility. “It’s outrageous and astonishing that the British Government is trying to exclude this man.” As the ADL point out, Louis Farrakhan is a racist anti-Semitic demagogue who says things like: “the Satanic Jews that control everything and mostly everybody, if they are your enemy, then you must be somebody.

In 2004 Sadiq Khan defended the racist anti-Semite Yusuf al-Qaradawi at a parliamentary committee, saying : “There is a consensus among Islamic scholars that Mr al-Qaradawi is not the extremist he is painted as being by selective quotations from his remarks.” In actual fact, Qaradawi is a racist anti-Semite who openly calls for Jews to be murdered: As the ADL points out, Qaradawi says things like: “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.” In another sermon on January 9, 2009, Qaradawi lashed out at Jews, including calling on God to “kill them, down to the very last one.”

Khan also attended a speech in which Azzam al Tammimi incited violence against the West, which Khan merely described as ‘flowery language’. Al-Tamimmi is a Hamas supporter who has praised the suicide bombing of Jews.

Let me be clear. I do not believe Sadiq Khan is an anti-Semite. But I do believe for a period of his life he was happy to proffer apologetics for people who are anti-Semites. In doing so, Khan contributed to the climate of laissez faire towards anti-Jewish attitudes and rhetoric that manifests itself in the horror of today’s Labour Party,  something which frightens many Jewish voters.

The more interesting question is why is it racist to ask about this, when it would not be considered racist if the candidate who had defended extremists and racists was a white Tory? I believe the Labour Party is playing with fire. Rather than shouting ‘racist’ and ‘Islamophobia’ when Sadiq Khan is asked to explain his past associations, he should give a full account of why he took those positions, and why he no longer holds them. And, as a matter of importance, he should condemn those who say that asking questions on these matters about of a man who seeks public office is racist or Islamophobic. There are lots of Jewish people who are frightened of the Labour Party today. And there are lots of members of the general public who are concerned about silencing over religious extremism. Khan must reach out to them, and ask his defenders in the press not to treat them with contempt.