Martin Bright

Ken Livingstone stoops to new levels

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Thanks to Richard Millett who has alerted me to the latest outburst from Labour's failed mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone on Irainian state-funded Press TV. In an interview with Andrew Gilligan, Livingstone comes close to condoning suicide bombing in his defence of Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the controversial cleric. “There would not be any Palestine suicide bombers if Israel withdrew from the occupied lands. If Israel wants peace it should withdraw from the occupied territories and dismantle its nuclear weapons,” he says. Millett goes on to say:  "Livingstone also refers to Martin Bright... as 'a bit of an Islamophobe'. Gilligan suggests that Livingstone makes the 'Islamophobia' accusation too readily against people who disagree with his views and reminded him that he recently had to apologise and pay damages to Michael Keith for making a similar accusation."

I must say I am growing tired of this charge from Livingstone and his cronies such as Bob Pitt at the absurd but unpleasantly sectarian Islamophobia Watch website. (When I last checked, Pitt still works at City Hall). 

Livingstone has become an increasingly sad figure, but there is still the possibility that he will be Labour's candidate at the next London mayoral election. He is also an influential public figure who should not throw around such unfounded and potentially dangerous charges. 

For the record I am an Islamophile, not an Islamophobe. i have spent considerable time studying Islam, including three years on an MA at the School of Oriental and African studies while working at the Guardian and the Observer. I have written widely on the subject of the Islamic extreme right and travelled across north Africa and the middle east to do so. The charge of Islamophobe is a serious one, that could have serious consequences for my future work.

I will be writing to Ken Livingstone to ask him to withdraw this defamatory and groundless statement. I hope he does the decent thing and apologises.