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Apologise, Livingstone!

Martin Bright’s letter to Ken Livingstone has been published in The Jewish Chronicle.

Dear Ken

I was shocked to see that you had called me “a bit of an Islamophobe” on the Iranian state TV channel Press TV in an interview with Andrew Gilligan. There is no evidence for your claim, which is highly defamatory, deeply upsetting and potentially dangerous.

I have been fiercely critical of some Islamist groups which share the politics of far-right parties in South Asia and the Middle East. I have also challenged the Labour government’s relationship with certain organisations claiming to represent Muslims in Britain. But that is not the same thing as being anti-Muslim or racist, as you imply. Every one of the criticisms I have raised in my journalism in print and on television is of concern to British Muslims, who have themselves led the fight against extremism.

I have written widely on Islam and Muslim culture and you should understand that it is extremely damaging for me to leave claims of Islamophobia unchallenged.

As the political editor of the Jewish Chronicle, whose readers are understandably horrified by racism against ethnic minority communities, I find such a charge particularly distasteful.

I consider myself an Islamophile and have devoted considerable time to the study of the religion and the history of the Muslim world. I suggest you do the same before making such unfounded claims.

As a supporter of reform to the libel laws I have argued that most disputes of this kind do not need to reach the courts. You have clearly libelled me in a very public way and you would find it impossible to justify your assertion.

However, I would be happy to accept an apology and let this matter lie.

Some people suggested that I was wasting my breath asking you to do the honourable thing and apologise for your comments. But I am sure you are big enough to recognise when you have made a mistake.

Martin Bright