Martin Bright

Libel: The New Jihad

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Let's make one thing crystal clear. When I refer to jihad in the headline of this piece, I mean it in the non-violent sense of "holy struggle", rather than the nastier "holy war" kind. This is an important distinction and I'm happy to make it straight away. You can't be too careful these days.

I waded into serious "dar al-harb" (land of conflict - the Islamic scholars among you will understand) by taking issue with the individuals who signed a letter to the Observer calling on Nick Cohen to find another column to write. Their leader, Sunder Katwala of the Fabian Society, has always insisted that his intention was not to silence Nick.  But aren't there better things for the left to do?

Where, for example, is the letter-writing campaign to defend Hazel Blears from a libel action from Daud Abdullah, the self-styled "deputy secretary general" of the Muslim Council of Britain. Clearly it's for more important to attack a fellow member of the left than to take up cudgels for an elected politician under attack from a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Blears has objected to Abdullah signing up to the Istanbul declaration against Isreal's action in Gaza.

Paragraph 8 of the declaration is of particular concern as the Royal Navy is now committed to peacekeeping duties off the coast of Gaza:

 The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters, claiming to control the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms to Gaza, as a declaration of war, a new occupation, sinful aggression, and a clear violation of the sovereignty of the Nation. This must be rejected and fought by all means and ways.

Abdullah's action is part of a worring tendency to use Britain's outmoded libel laws to stifle debate in this area. It might be interesting if those defamed is "Islamophobic" resorted to the same tactics.

Harry's Place blo.g has been very good on this story and they correctly point out that the defenders of Abdullah are a motley bunch indeed. So where are the defenders of Blears? Time for another letter perhaps,