Sadiq Khan has a standard line these days when he is challenged on his record: “I have been fighting extremism all my life”.
It is not true. The record does not match the rhetoric.
Here is another episode worth recounting. It’s August 2006. The security services and the police have just stopped one of the most frightening terrorist plots since 9/11 – the plan to bomb several airliners over the Atlantic after they departed the UK. The death toll could have reached thousands.
Many extremists reacted to the news of the arrests with ill-tempered remarks rather than the praise which was due to the security forces for their brilliant work. Some resorted to ludicrous conspiracy theories. Azzam Tamimi, then a leader of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), was one of them. Here he is claiming the whole plot was “a hoax”.
Just three days after the arrests of the bomb plotters, some Muslim leaders thought it was an appropriate time to send a crabby letter to the government. They were against terrorism, of course, but the government should do just what the terrorists wanted – change its foreign policy. Here is the full text of the letter:
As British Muslims we urge you to do more to fight against all those who target civilians with violence, whenever and wherever that happens.
It is our view that current British government policy risks putting civilians at increased risk both in the UK and abroad.
To combat terror the government has focused extensively on domestic legislation. While some of this will have an impact, the government must not ignore the role of its foreign policy.
The debacle of Iraq and now the failure to do more to secure an immediate end to the attacks on civilians in the Middle East not only increases the risk to ordinary people in that region, it is also ammunition to extremists who threaten us all.
Attacking civilians is never justified. This message is a global one. We urge the Prime Minister to redouble his efforts to tackle terror and extremism and change our foreign policy to show the world that we value the lives of civilians wherever they live and whatever their religion.
Such a move would make us all safer.
The Labour government of the time was learning fast and its patience was running out. The U.S. Embassy in London summed up Labour leaders’ robust reactions to the letter in a report to the State Department:
HMG reacted sharply to the letter. A spokesman for PM Blair (currently on holiday in Barbados), noting that al-Qaida terrorist attacks began well before Iraq, said, “To imply al-Qaida is driven by an honest disagreement over foreign policy is a mistake.” Home Secretary John Reid told the BBC, “I’m not going to question the motives of anyone who has signed this letter, but I think it is a dreadful misjudgment if we believe the foreign policy of this country should be shaped in part, or in whole, under the threat of terrorist activity if we do not have a foreign policy with which the terrorists happen to agree.” Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander echoed these sentiments, saying “No government worth its salt should allow its foreign policy to be dictated to under the threat of terrorism.” Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said it would be “the gravest possible error” to blame foreign policy for the threat of terrorism. “This is part of a distorted view of the world, a distorted view of life,” she said. “Let’s put the blame where it belongs: with people who wantonly want to take innocent lives.” Other ministers called the letter “facile,” “dangerous,” and “foolish.”
Here’s another comment at the time from John Reid:
“No government worth its salt would stay in power in my view, and no government worth its salt, would be supported by the British people if our foreign policy or any other aspect of policy was being dictated by terrorists.”
“That is not the British way, it is antithetical to our very central values. We decide things in this country by democracy, not under the threat of terrorism.”
Here’s more from Kim Howells, then a Foreign Office minister:
“I have no doubt that there are many issues which incite people to loath government policies but not to strap explosives to themselves and go out and murder innocent people. There is no way of rationalising that. I think it is very, very dangerous when people who call themselves community leaders make some assumption that somehow that there’s a rational connection between these two things.”
Spot on, not least because many of the letter’s signatories were obviously part of the problem and already known as such, starting with Azzam Tamimi’s MAB. The MAB was a very active UK front for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in those days and a close ally of the “Stop the War Coalition”, which was busy backing the terrorists murdering British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Other extremist signatories included the Islamist student group FOSIS; the East London-based Islamic Forum of Europe; the Muslim Council of Britain, led at the time by the head of the East London Mosque; the Muslim Council of Wales, which was closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood; the UK Islamic Mission, which was a British operation of the Taliban supporters of the Pakistani extremist group Jamaat-e-Islami; and Labour’s Lord Ahmed, yet to be fully disgraced but already a notable figure on the Islamist political infiltration scene.
In sum, the kind of company no reasonable and decent person should keep.
So, who was the first signatory listed in the letter? Labour MP Sadiq Khan.
His comments at the time made him a natural signatory, really. It was about “justice”, you see:
MP Sadiq Khan, who signed the letter, said British foreign policy was seen by many as unfair and unjust.
“Whether we like it or not such a sense of injustice plays into the hands of extremists,” he said.
“As moderates we will do all we can to fight extremism. We hope the government will join us in this, not just by changing the rules on hand luggage, but by showing itself as an advocate for justice in the world.”
The government was the problem:
Labour MP Sadiq Khan said the community feels “let down” by HMG efforts to date, particularly the “Preventing Extremism Together” task forces, which the Home Office created after the 7/7 attacks. Very few of the 64 measures recommended by Muslim leaders on the task force have been implemented, Khan said, creating an “air of despondency” and leading the community to believe that the entire exercise was just a publicity stunt.
Specifically, foreign policy:
“We have not said that there is a link between foreign policy and acts of terrorism but rather that there is a link with the sort of materials that are used to radicalise young people. Many of us feel that we are trying to address these issues but it seems that we are in a boat trying to empty out water and that the vessel has a massive hole in it which is our foreign policy.”
In that report you will see that Khan’s fellow Muslim Labour MP Khalid Mahmood was not fooled:
But Khalid Mahmood, the Muslim MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham, said he had refused to sign the letter and accused those behind it of “grandstanding”.”It is just an attempt to raise their own individual profiles so they can … appease some of the more radical elements of Islam.”
If Sadiq Khan wants to be truthful, he should say something like this: “I have done very little to fight extremism for almost all of my political my life. Actually, I have helped extremists”.
This will not happen, of course. A decade on from that noxious letter, today’s Labour orthodoxy demands that scrutiny of the record be angrily dismissed as “racism”.
Do what these men want!