The Sunday Times today (behind a paywall) breaks the news that Home Office adviser, Sabin Khan, has been suspended.
You will remember that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, excluded the Indian hate preacher, Zakir Naik, from the United Kingdom in May. This is what happened behind the scenes:
Papers he is filing in the High Court allege that Khan told Naik’s team that she and Farr — who view the preacher as a moderate — both opposed the ban. She purportedly said they would do “all they could to enable and encourage Dr Naik’s entry to the UK”.
Farr asked the preacher to provide a rebuttal to claims that he had said “every Muslim should be a terrorist” and that Osama Bin Laden was not behind the 9/11 attacks. In an email, Farr described the reply as “a good strong statement”.
May’s ban appeared to surprise Farr. In an email to Khan later, Naik’s office wrote: “It is heartening to know that both you and Charles Farr are ‘gutted and mortified’.” Khan is then said to have called Naik’s office saying the email “could get me and Charles into serious trouble”
What is curious about the story is this. Khan is not a civil servant with a name for being pro-Islamist. She does have something of a reputation for being ‘all things to all men’. It looks as if she may have been caught out. I wonder who leaked this story to David Leppard, and why.
Farr is a more worrying case. One hopes that he is even handed and neutral on the question of treating with hate preachers and ‘non violent Islamists’ (for which read “supportive of terrorism, but only outside the United Kingdom”). You might remember this, from the evidence he gave to the Home Affairs Select Committee:
In some ways Qaradawi holds views which are certainly extremist by the definition that we suggested earlier. In other words, they are critical of the values on which our society rests.
Equally, Qaradawi is one of the most articulate critics of al-Qaeda in the Islamic world. I think for any government, and I really passionately believe this, this is a real problem. If we refuse him a visa people will come back to us and say, “Hang on a moment. This person is coming here to speak against the organisation which most threatens you. Surely you need to operate within a degree of latitude which allows that”. I do not say that is a compelling argument.
Well, as far as Naik is concerned, behind closed doors, it appears that he does regard the argument for admission as compelling. The reasons may well be that he regards Naik as a bulwark against Al Qaedaism. In other words, he had bought into Lambertism.
“Lambertism” is short hand for the thesis, developed by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank and energetically espoused by the former police officer, Robert Lambert, that by cutting a deal with ‘non violent Islamists’, we can prevent bombs from going off in our cities.
The danger of this approach is encapsulated in the person of Awlaki. Awlaki was a man whose entire religious-political ideology was jihadist. He was very close to every major “non-violent Islamist” institution in the United Kingdom. In partnership with these institutions he was promoted to Muslims, including students, all over this country. Last December, one of those students – Awlaki’s disciple – chose to incinerate his penis on an aeroplane. The best you can say, therefore, is that the non violent Islamists are no good at spotting Al Qaedaists. But it is worse than that. They are actually a vector through which jihadist ideology is promulgated and legitimated. Partnering with these ideologues makes it more likely that British citizens will be exposed to jihadist thinking.
This new revelation is yet another depressing chapter in a very long story. It illustrates a now familiar pattern: of the direct encouragment and support of hate preachers and Islamist politicians by some in the civil service. The last such story was that of Mohammed Abdul Aziz, a Senior Muslim Advisor at DCL and honorary trustee of East London mosque (ELM) and the London Muslim Centre (LMC), who turns out to be an energetic promoter of Lambertism.
The light this story appears to throw on the workings of the Home Office is reminiscent of the situation that Gita Sahgal found herself in at Amnesty: where extreme Salafi jihadi politics was being defended and promoted in the context of human rights by centre Left non Islamists, who were in turn surrounded by others who were unhappy with the approach, but too nervous to put their heads above the parapet.
The pattern of Islamists and hate preachers being defended by the liberal mainstream is now, increasingly, a default position in Britain. It is prevalent within the civil service, from the Home Office and DCLG to the FCO. It is also the default position within a number of civil liberties and human rights groups, and in newspapers like the Guardian and the New Statesman. In some cases, the reason is Lambertism. Worse: there appears to be an emerging consensus in some institutions that Islamism is some sort of exotic liberation theology. To support it is the badge of the progressive.
This is a hugely worrying situation. It suggests that some in the civil service are at odds, ideologically, with the elected politicians they serve. Both the Tories and Labour have taken a clear stand against hate preachers and Islamist politicians. The message has been clear. It is not acceptable to preach hatred of other groups. You are not our friend if you support the killing of British troops. A politics which seeks to establish an Islamic State or Caliphate, in which women and religious minorities are persecuted, apostates and gays killed, and human rights abandoned is not part of the political mainstream, and is the equivalent of the hate politics espoused by White supremacist groups.
To court Naik, and others like him, utterly undermines this message. It says: extreme politics and the promotion of hatred is acceptable in Britain. Effectively we are being told that it is Muslims and liberals who oppose this politics who are out of step.
This is a disastrous politics. For a start, how can this country conceivably promote anti-discrimination and oppose hatred – for example when promoted by other sectarian groups – when the the same politics is deemed acceptable, even useful, when espoused by the likes of Naik and Qaradawi. How can we condemn white or black church groups who preach hatred of gays? How can we oppose Farrakhan? Why should we hold Nick Griffin’s Holocaust denial against him?
More to the point, if it is acceptable for Islamists and hate preachers to whip up loathing of the “kafir”, support the beating of women on theological grounds, or applaud the execution of gays and apostates, how can we effectively oppose groups which take precisely the same sort of disgusting view of Muslims?
Indeed, the official toleration, endorsement and even promotion of those who peddle these views makes the fight against both Islamism and anti Muslim bigotry completely unwinnable. Politicians correctly promote the message that Islam is not a threat to our society and that Muslims reject the hateful views of religious bigots. It is an essential message to get across: not only because it promotes ‘community cohesion’, but because it is true. The religious and political beliefs of my Muslim friends and allies are a million miles away from that of Naik, and they are fearless in their opposition to Mawdudism and the political legacy of Qutb and al Banna.
But, oh, how that message is undermined when we discover that, behind closed doors, some in the civil service seem to regard the likes of Naik and Qaradawi as a potentially good influence on British society! There is a huge disconnect between the two positions. You cannot say that “Islam does not preach hate” while also defending Muslim hate preachers on the basis that they are both mainstream and, indeed, helpful allies!
Which brings me back to the first question: who leaked this email to the Sunday Times, and why?
Tim Montgomerie at Conservative Home is also running the story.