Martin Bright

The Last Word on the Katwala-Cohen Row... I Hope

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Shiraz Maher, the former HIzb-ut-Tahrir member turned thoughtful opponent of Islamist ideology has made his position clear on Harry's Place. I commend this article to anyone who wants to understand why large sections of the left have got themselves into a terrible muddle over this issue. Maher was the author of a report on radical Islam for the right-of-centre think tank Policy Exchange. The row erupted because he told Nick Cohen that he could never have written such a report for a left-wing think tank.

This is the key paragraph:

"The real issue  is how a liberal society responds to the challenge of ‘entryist’ groups who    seek to Islamise the public and political space. This was the central argument of my report."As someone who has also written a pamphlet on radical Islam for Policy Exchange, I have a great deal of sympathy for Shiraz's position.

He is right, for example, to identify the following from an article on the IPPR website as drivel:

“Non-violent Islamists are much more likely to come across Al Qaeda recruiters and recruits than moderates, who do not move in those circles. And unlike most mainstream Muslim leaders, Al Qaeda’s Islamist critics have the credentials to make their criticism bite. If, as seasoned former counter-terrorism officer, Bob Lambert, observes, ‘Al Qaeda values dozens of recruits over hundreds of supporters’, can the government really afford to do business only with moderates?”

The supporters of the Islamists' favourite copper, Bob Lambert, always miss the point that it is the very ideology of the Islamists (totalitarian, sectarian and authoritarian) that should be the real concern. If the reason to hug Islamists close is that they might be able, from time to time, to identify those plotting terror, then even I might be able to buy that. But I have never seen any evidence that this is the case.

How many terror suspects has the Muslim Council of Britain identified to the police (perhaps they should publish the number on their website or have a runnning total flashed up on East London mosque)? How many violent Islamists have the leaders of the Muslim Association of Britain turned over to the police? I wonder.

I have a suggestion to take this debate further: the Fabian Society should organise an event to discuss the issue of Islamism and the left. But rather than inviting the usual suspects, he should invite representatives of human rights and women's groups, socialist parties and trade unionists faced with the challenge of the rise of the Islamic radical right across the middle east and South Asia.