Reject the support of Islamists

By David Toube, April 18, 2008
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Labour and Lib-Dem politicians should condemn endorsements from radical Muslims

A few 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 Iranian-style 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 non-
extremist 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 (hurryupharry.org)

    Last updated: 5:03pm, May 13 2008