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MEND, Labour MPs, and “Engagement”

“I understand that some of the allegations against Tommy Robinson are disputed and I look forward to him restating that he is not a bigot when I go to his meeting in Parliament.”

Any MP saying something like this would probably face ridicule.

In real life, ridicule is what Labour MP Wes Streeting deserves. Here he is on meeting the Islamist agitators of MEND in Parliament tomorrow:

He said he was aware of the “serious concerns about comments alleged to have been made” by MEND staff, though he said some of the comments were disputed.

Furthermore:

“I think it is really important to have political engagement with as wide a breadth of society as possible,” the MP said, adding that he regretted the controversy around the meeting. He hoped that in the light of the controversy, MEND would “take the opportunity and the responsibility to restate its opposition to prejudice in all its forms”.

While some “political engagement” is just, well, er, “different”, I suppose:

Turning back to MEND, Streeting added:

Mr Streeting told the JN: “I am committed to this event because of the huge surge in prejudice against Muslims, both verbal and physical, in recent months”.

Yes, there are some nasty attacks on Muslims these days. Look at the outrageous record of MEND, for example. It targets the liberal, secularist and anti-extremist Muslims who need and deserve support. Streeting, by contrast, is betraying them by bestowing legitimacy on their extremist tormentors.

And here’s Mr Streeting in the Jewish Chronicle:

It has been my experience at every local and national event I’ve attended, that Mend officials have talked about the importance of tackling antisemitism, homophobia and other forms of prejudice alongside Islamophobia, which is an approach I can support.

Oh please. Just one line from MEND’s founder, sole shareholder and former CEO should set you straight here, Mr Streeting. Here’s Sufyan Ismail attacking Tell Mama, the anti-Muslim hatred monitoring group which has been backed by the CST and Peter Tatchell. Note just how Ismail does it, if you don’t mind.

We don’t want the Government to fob us off with some phony thing called Tell MAMA, which has got a made pro-Zionist pretty much heading it or in a very senior capacity and is making all sorts of comments we might not agree with when it comes to homosexuality, to be recording Islamophobia.

What about “battering the 300 year-old Israeli lobby”? Is that “tackling antisemitism”?

I would hope that Stephen Kinnock MP will take note too. Like Mr Streeting, he plans to attend the meeting in the name of “engagement”. To his credit, his critical language is strong, especially in the Labour context. But he is still making a mistake.

You see, the evidence against MEND is simply overwhelming now. Have a look at this new report by the Henry Jackson Society for yet more. The report’s executive summary is worth reproducing in full:

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* Mend officials and volunteers have expressed highly concerning views on terrorism. This has ranged from downplaying the terrorist nature of various Islamist terror attacks, or promoting conspiracy theories in relation to those attacks, to suggesting that those returning from fighting in Syria should not be prosecuted, and advocating that British mosques hold prayers for the Mujahedeen (Islamic militias), and, in the case of one senior individual, legitimising the killing of British troops in Iraq.

* Mend has regularly hosted illiberal, intolerant and extremist Islamist speakers at public events. This has included those who have promoted Jihad, homophobia and anti-Semitism, as well as those who have legitimised the killing of adulterers and “infidels”. Mend and its officials have voiced support for Islamist hate preachers banned from entering the UK, and have opposed government policy on this.

* Mend and senior figures in Mend have praised and/or partnered with other groups linked to extremism, such as iERA, Friends of Al Aqsa and, most regularly, the pro-terrorist group Cage. Mend has often promoted Cage’s work, while Mend’s officials have spoken at Cage’s events and alongside its leading figures.

* Mend and its employees and volunteers have attacked liberal Muslim groups and Muslims engaged in counter-extremism, and on occasion Mend volunteers have expressed intolerance towards other Muslim denominations. In particular, groups such as Quilliam and Tell Mama have come under attack, as has a new initiative by British Imams to create a national body promoting progressive Islamic rulings.

* Mend has consistently opposed the government’s counter-terrorism and counter-extremism legislation, usually without proposing credible alternatives. Mend often casts these measures as an attack on civil liberties, as targeting British Muslims and as an attack on normative Islamic practices. The organisation has played a particularly prominent role in demonising and spreading misinformation about the national counter-radicalisation strategy Prevent.

* Despite this opposition to Prevent, in 2014, when Mend was known as iEngage, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets paid £25,262.40 to iEngage when the organisation was commissioned to evaluate the borough’s “No Place for Hate” campaign, which was part of the borough council’s implementation of the Prevent strategy.

* Mend’s activities on Islamophobia have at times featured the promotion of conspiratorial narratives that have encouraged the belief that Islamophobia is intentionally driven by government policies, the media and other powerful interest groups. Some of these claims have included anti-Semitic components, such as a series of events run by Mend alleging that Zionist groups are one of five interest groups manufacturing Islamophobia.

* A number of the figures in Mend, including senior employees and volunteers, have promoted anti-Semitism and demonisation of Israel, particularly engaging in hate speech and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories over social media, as well as at Mend events.

* Despite the statutory Prevent duty for public bodies, an increasing number of those tasked with upholding the duty have been engaging with Mend. This has particularly been the case with local police forces, Police and Crime Commissioners, and some local councils. Mend’s position on the Manchester Ending Islamophobia Action Planning Group gives the organisation particular influence, working alongside Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester Police. Mend has also increasingly been looking to move into working with schools.

* Mend has been active in seeking to influence electoral politics, running fringe events at party conferences as well as arranging hustings at election times. However, its officials have previously been recorded advocating a strategy of mobilising a specifically Muslim vote, claiming that this would be the most powerful vote in the country, able to determine which party governs. Clerics who have been associated with Mend have advocated Muslim participation in elections for the purpose of imposing Islamic values on wider society. In the past, one of Mend’s senior figures indicated that he did not agree with democracy if it came at the expense of not implementing sharia law.

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What is there to “engage” with here, Mr Streeting and Mr Kinnock?