Re­ject the sup­port of Is­lamists

Labour and LibDem politi­cians should con­demn en­dorse­ments from rad­i­cal Mus­lims


AFEW WEEKS ago, Tory may­oral can­di­date Boris John­son re­ceived an un­ex­pected and un­wel­come en­dorse­ment from the Bri­tish Na­tional Party. His re­sponse was swift, short, and sweet: “I ut­terly and un­re­servedly con­demn the BNP and have no de­sire what­so­ever to re­ceive a sin­gle sec­ond-pref­er­ence vote from a BNP sup­porter.” This week, Labour and Lib­eral Democrats were placed in an iden­ti­cal sit­u­a­tion by the Mus­lim As­so­ci­a­tion of Bri­tain. Lon­don As­sem­bly can­di­dates should like­wise re­ject with alacrity the en­dorse­ment of this ex­treme right-wing or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The MAB is the sis­ter or­gan­i­sa­tion to the Egyp­tian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Founded by prom­i­nent Broth­er­hood ac­tivist Ka­mal Hel­bawy, it is in ef­fect the Bri­tish sec­tion of that or­gan­i­sa­tion. The MAB is mealy-mouthed about its con­nec­tion with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood be­cause of the in­volve­ment of that party in ter­ror­ism. Ac­cord­ingly, the MAB says that al­though they “re­serve the right to dis­agree with... the opin­ion and line of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood”, they also “re­serve the right to be proud of the hu­mane no­tions and prin­ci­ples of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, which has proven to be an in­spi­ra­tion to Mus­lims for many decades”.

In Egypt, the Broth­er­hood re­cently pub­lished a “blue­print” for gov­ern­ment which amounts to an Ira­ni­anstyle theoc­racy, in which women and Chris­tians are to be banned from the top of­fice of state, with a coun­cil of cler­ics with the power to strike down leg­is­la­tion in­com­pat­i­ble with Sharia. One Egyp­tian lib­eral called the blue­print an “as­sas­si­na­tion” of the civic state.

The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s spir­i­tual leader, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, au­thored the fat­was which made it law­ful for his fol­low­ers in Ha­mas, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s Pales­tinian sec­tion, to com­mit sui­cide bomb­ings against Is­raeli civil­ians. Qaradawi has been banned from en­ter­ing this coun­try by the Home Sec­re­tary, Jac­qui Smith, much to the fury of the MAB, which de­scribed his ex­clu­sion as an “in­sult to Mus­lims in Bri­tain, Europe, and ev­ery­where”.

Like the BNP, the MAB/Mus­lim Broth­er­hood is des­per­ate to par­tic­i­pate in main­stream pol­i­tics, and to be recog­nised as the pre-em­i­nent mod­er­ate Is­lamist voice, ca­pa­ble of act­ing as a bul­wark against al Qaida. That is rather like turn­ing to the BNP in the hope that they’ll help hold back fas­cist ter­ror­ist groups like Com­bat 18. In this coun­try at least, the at­tempt to re­po­si­tion the MAB as a nonex­trem­ist group has largely failed. The only main­stream politi­cian to have worked with the MAB and Qaradawi is Ken Liv­ing­stone. More­over, most Mus­lims in Bri­tain have no time for the MAB. A year ago, a Pop­u­lus poll in­di­cated that only one per cent of Bri­tish Mus­lims iden­ti­fied the MAB as “best rep­re­sent­ing your views on Is­lam”.

Labour Party can­di­dates en­dorsed by the MAB in­clude Ken Liv­ing­stone and Nicky Gavron. In the Lib­eral Democrats, the MAB have backed Far­rukh Is­lam, Shas Shee­han and Stephen Knight. As one might ex­pect, Ge­orge Gal­loway and Hanif Ab­dul­muhit from Re­spect re­ceive the MAB’s sup­port. A sec­ond-place vote to the Greens’ Sian Berry is rec­om­mended. In­ter­est­ingly, the MAB have de­clined to en­dorse any can­di­date in Lon­don West Cen­tral, where Labour’s Mu­rad Qureshi is stand­ing for the As­sem­bly. Qureshi is the only Mus­lim mem­ber of the As­sem­bly, and a strong op­po­nent of sep­a­ratism and ex­trem­ism. He would no more ac­cept the MAB’s sup­port than the MAB would en­dorse him.

This en­dorse­ment by the MAB/Mus­lim Broth­er­hood is ut­terly worth­less. The MAB group has lit­tle trac­tion in this coun­try, and few vot­ers, if any, will be in­flu­enced by their sup­port. How­ever, for two rea­sons, Labour and Lib­eral Democrats should make it clear that they ut­terly re­ject the sup­port of this ex­treme right-wing or­gan­i­sa­tion. First, the en­dorse­ment of th­ese can­di­dates is part of the MAB/ Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s strat­egy to in­sin­u­ate them­selves into the po­lit­i­cal main­stream. They should not be al­lowed to cre­ate the false il­lu­sion that they are a re­spectable or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Se­condly, this en­dorse­ment has the abil­ity to dam­age the can­di­dates who have re­ceived, but have not pub­licly re­jected, the MAB’s sup­port. Imag­ine what would have hap­pened to Boris John­son had he re­acted with equa­nim­ity to the BNP’s en­dorse­ment?

My im­me­di­ate re­sponse, upon read­ing the MAB’s list of en­dorse­ment, was to think that the can­di­dates had asked for, or vol­un­tar­ily ac­cepted, the MAB’s sup­port. Both Ge­orge Gal­loway and Ken Liv­ing­stone have worked with, and pub­licly courted, the sup­port of the MAB/Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, and so I as­sumed that other can­di­dates had also been build­ing links with this or­gan­i­sa­tion. That is not nec­es­sar­ily the case. I spoke to one of the can­di­dates on the MAB’s list last Sun­day morn­ing, and he told me that he had not asked for their sup­port, and cer­tainly did not wel­come it. How­ever, un­less can­di­dates openly re­ject the MAB’s sup­port, vot­ers may be left with the im­pres­sion that there is some re­la­tion­ship be­tween the can­di­dates and the MAB.

Labour, the Lib­eral Democrats and the Green Party should move quickly to make it clear that main­stream pol­i­tics can do with­out the sup­port of fas­cists. David Toube writes on the blog Harry’s Place (hur­

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