Martin Bright has the scoop.
A new parliamentary group set up to tackle Islamophobia has been forced to end its partnership with a controversial Muslim organisation which has campaigned against “Zionist” teachings at Jewish schools. It has also defended radical Islamist preachers and targeted moderate Muslim groups which raised concerns about the rise of Islamist politics in Britain.
Eyebrows were raised last month when the new group, chaired by Conservative MP Kris Hopkins, announced that Engage would provide its administrative secretariat. However, Mr Hopkins was this week persuaded to ask the organisation, (not to be confused with the identically-named antisemitism monitoring group), to withdraw its offer of support. The change of heart followed a detailed online attack on the organisation by former Tory MP and communities spokesman Paul Goodman, who is now executive editor of the Conservative Home website.
This is an absolute disaster for iENGAGE, the Bunglawala family who run it, and for the Islam Channel’s Mohammed Ali Harrath, who is its director.
I do think that there is a good argument for an APPG to look at attacks on, and the whipping up of hatred against, Muslims. Sometimes the motivation is racism. Sometimes it is bigotry against Muslims. Sometimes it is conspiracism about Islam which I think can fairly be described as Islamophobia. However you describe it, it is the enemy of an integrated and cohesive society.
So too are the activities of a handful of extremist Islamist political parties, which themselves whip up hatred against other minorities: notably women, Jews, gays and non-Islamist Muslims. Unfortunately, iENGAGE’s output over the last few years shows that it sees one of its major functions as being the defence of those Islamist parties, and indeed a number of hate preachers.
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat MP, emerges very badly from this business. He continues, even now, to defend iENGAGE:
Simon Hughes issued a statement backing the organisation:
“Engage is an organisation which promotes the participation and engagement of young Muslims in the public sphere. Occasionally this may mean that the group represents views that others may disagree with.
“But as long as they stay within the law and enter into the sprit of a democratic dialogue, I have no problem with them providing support to the APPG on Islamophobia, a group which exists precisely to advance reasoned debate on faith issues in our country.”
That is a serious misdescription of iENGAGE. Hughes must know it. Yet, Hughes has form as a supporter of Islamist politics. He is a regular speaker at the Islam Channel’s Global Peace and Unity Event, which showcases hate preachers. This is quite remarkable – Simon Hughes is a gay man and, supposedly, a liberal. Yet, he consistently allies himself with political groups which attack liberal Muslims, are virulently homophobic and would like to establish a state in which gay men would be executed. What is wrong with him?
You can imagine what the reaction of iENGAGE will be to this. They will claim to be a victim of Islamophobia. They’re not.
Alec adds – oh, Bungles.