BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS
Well, I managed to make it through Friday’s Stop the War Coalition event, and I believe I deserve some recognition for that. Needless to say, Diane Abbott MP was not present as advertised and, mercifully, neither was Ismael Patel. I blogged about the background to this event last week.
All in all there were 10 speakers, some harmless, some insulting, and all bereft of any real substance. At the time of writing, videos of each speaker are available on Youtube. What must be understood about the Kafa project, which claims it will campaign against attacks on the Muslim community, is that it is dressing up an Islamist agenda as a noble anti-discrimination project. There is certainly a need to address the problem of racially driven attacks against Muslims in this country, the fire bombing of a Luton mosque being one of the most recent examples of this. However, those involved in Kafa are not actually interested in combating this, and barely any time at the event was allotted to speaking about real threats to Muslims in the UK. The majority of the speeches were spent moaning about Sarkozy’s Burqa comments and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ‘Obama’s bombs’ (for anyone who thought that Bush’s replacement would make everyone happy). Although there were frequent mentions of the BNP, not one speaker was able to provide a coherent argument or programme to combat the real problem of a rise in anti-Muslim bigotry.
One of the essential pillars of the ideology of radical Islam is the idea that Islam is under attack by evil forces who wish to see its downfall. The perpetuation of this narrative is crucial to Islamism, as it is the ideology’s most effective recruiting tool. This is the real purpose of Kafa, and needless to say, the speakers ignored the fact that Britain and the United States are two of the most accommodating countries to all Muslims, not just certain sects. The same cannot be said of many ‘Muslim’ countries: in Pakistan the Ahmadiyya sect is regularly persecuted and considered heretical by the leading Islamist parties; in Saudi Arabia Shiites are often executed for apostasy and ‘witch craft’; in Iran any Muslim who wishes to protest peacefully risks being beaten, killed or disappeared by the regime; Iraq under Saddam (whose demise the StWC regularly mourn) heavily persecuted Shiites and tried to wipe out the Kurds; Afghanistan under the Taliban (again, a regime which the StWC wish was still in power) saw the 1998 massacre of Hazara Shiites in Mazar e-Sharif.
‘Yes’, I hear you saying, ‘but this event was about Islamophobia in Britain, so there was no reason to bring up the treatment of Muslims in other countries.’ That would be a valid argument if the speakers stuck to the same imperative, but they didn’t. All the countries where the west is supposedly persecuting Muslims were mentioned, but of course Iran was off the table. The only mention of Iran was made by Murad Qureshi, a member of the London Assembly, who had a cracking idea for solving the current problems there: apologise for the 1953 overthrow of Mossadeq. So, perhaps we should also ask the Greeks to apologise for Alexander the Great’s conquering of Persia, or, to use a more contemporary example, we could request in return a retraction of the fatwa calling on Muslims to murder a British citizen for writing a book? Maybe we should ask Vladimir Putin to apologise for the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, which was the catalyst for the CIA’s support for the most vicious jihadists in the region. The list could go on forever, and not one suggestion would be constructive or useful in any way whatsoever.
Another ‘clear example’ of British Islamophobia referred to by a number of the speakers was Hazel Blears’ condemnation of Daud Abdullah’s involvement in the Istanbul statement. To them this constituted proof that even in the highest echelons of the British government are infected with Islamophobia. Anas al-Tikriti, head of the Islamist-inspired Cordoba Foundation, which recently gave a platform to Daud Abdullah, said that Abdullah was being persecuted simply because ‘he signed a statement in support of the Palestinian people’. A blatantly disingenuous misrepresentation of that statement, and it’s a wonder that al-Tikriti managed to keep a straight face when he said it. The Istanbul statement was a statement in support of Hamas. I and many other comrades have written extensively about it, so I won’t go into it again, but anyone who is interested can read the full statement here.
Hazel Blears was not attacking Islam when she asked Daud Abdullah to condemn that statement, she was attacking Islamism, a 20th century totalitarian ideology based on a literalist interpretation of Islam. For Islamists there is of course no distinction between the two – their ideology is their religion and vice versa. A key theme in Daud Abdullah’s own speech at the Kafa launch was that no one has the right to define Muslims by differentiating between ‘extremists’ and ‘moderates’. But for anyone with any genuine interest in the history of a great world religion and its approximately 1.6 billion adherents, such distinctions are obvious and indispensable.
In a startlingly revealing speech, Lindsey German managed to slander the Harry’s Place blog by reading out a visitor’s comment on a piece (which had in fact criticised banning the burqa) and presenting it as the view of the author of the piece on which the comment was made (the comment in question suggested that those who wear burqas support terrorism). This shows the depths to which the StWC have sunk, when one of its leaders spends their time furiously scrolling through dozens of unmoderated web comments in order to defame and wilfully misrepresent its opponents. She also missed the Islam-Islamism distinction when she stated that Harry’s Place was ‘against Muslims’, but in her case this was probably born out of pure ignorance as much as cynicism.
Exposing the Kafa project’s extremist supporters will only go so far. The best way to combat them is to provide a sane alternative, with speakers and supporters who are honestly devoted to helping Muslims in this country and who will not push a pro-Islamist and anti-western agenda. Muslims are currently being done a great disservice by the StWC, the MCB, and their cohorts — we must put a stop to this as well as to anti-Muslim discrimination.