This is a guest post by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens and Shiraz Maher
Robert Lambert has been busy these last few months interviewing Islamists and is now defending the Muslim Council of Britain over at the Guardian. As many of you will already be aware, Lambert was previously involved with the Muslim Contact Unit at the Metropolitan Police, and is now at Exeter University.
But, like a clumsy and inappropriately clad tourist with alabaster skin stumbling through a downtown Cairo souk, he just doesn’t quite get it.
“an unnecessary schism has been created between government and British Islamists”.
On the contrary, such a schism was entirely necessary. The text of the Istanbul statement made clear threats against the Royal Navy and endorsed almost perpetual jihad against Israel. In this context, Hazel Blears’ actions were invested with great moral courage because she lay down a clear marker about the bounds of acceptability when engaging with the British state.
Lambert would probably disagree with that and seems to favour engagement with everyone other than al-Qaeda. Of course, the language used in the Istanbul conference is almost identical to that of bin Laden and his cohorts. The Istanbul statement rejects the Palestinian Authority because it has given up violent jihad, saying:
“We affirm in full conviction that the Palestinian Authority, whose mandate is coming to an end, is not eligible to represent the Palestinian people. It stands outside the will of its people, and has given up the choice of jihad in the way of Allah Almighty as an effective means in defeating the occupation and the liberation of the Islamic holy places.”
Now look at what bin Laden had to say about the Saudi’s.
“What the West desires is that we abandon jihad. This is the very essence of the request and desire for of us. Do the intellectuals, then, think it’s actually possible for Muslims to abandon these two commandments simply to coexist with the West?”
Language aside, Lambert suggests that “British Islamists are typified by a sense of moral obligation to confront injustice, and they strive, in their own ways, to try to make the world a better place “
Of course Islamists love to employ the idioms of ‘social justice’ and ‘moral obligation’ when confronting their enemies – but here’s what happened when the ICC recently issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir?
“The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) expresses its profound rejection of the ICC position, regarding its decision to level charges against the Sudanese president, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, in issuing a warrant for his arrest; a step that reflects mismanagement on the part of the international order in dealing with the Darfur crisis and its repercussions.” –
Hmm, anyone else getting a sense of selective outrage here? What happened to protests in Trafalgar Square in the name of justice? Were there no demonstrators who were so outraged that they tried to storm the Sudanese embassy after Bashir’s injustices came to light?
In truth, Islamist anger is not the product of a libertarian desire for equity – and frustration when it is not achieved – but an ideological outrage directed against those whose political agendas they oppose.
Lambert and his co-author also proudly state that:
“In the months ahead, democratic and peaceful political Islamist activism in Britain will continue to focus on the injustices suffered by Palestinians at the hands of Israel, and call for Hamas to be treated on an equal footing to Israel.”
Without realising it, Lambert provides his readers with yet another reason not to support Islamists: they call on Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, to be treated the same as UN member state without asking for any preconditions about changing the founding charter which includes statements like:
“There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavours.”
Incidentally, does anyone see the similarity between this and what the Istanbul statement says about those who pursue peace over jihad?
Lambert’s main point however is that engaging Islamists in British politics will act as
“…a bulwark against those seeking to disengage and potentially those who seek to promote violence”.
Yet, the Istanbul conference made thinly veiled threats against the Royal Navy and condemned those who eschew violence in the region.
Lambert suggests that such voices represent the mainstream – they do not. The very fringe that he wants to see government dismiss is precisely those voices he has been spending so long listening to.
Hazel Blears was right to initiate change.