Why are we still fêting radicals?

Ministers were right to shun IslamExpo. But too many politicians still consort with extremists


There are, apparently, two ways to interpret the Hamas Covenant: "The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him...'"

According to some, signatories to that genocidal call to arms against Jews are not all extremists. They are, in fact, the very people we should embrace to defeat militant Islamists.

Last week, IslamExpo was staged at Olympia in London. The event was, the organisers maintained, "Europe's largest celebration of Islamic culture, tradition, innovation and art". Among those not joining the celebrations, however, were government ministers who had accepted invitations to speak. At the last minute, Stephen Timms and Shahid Malik, as well as Conservative politicians due to attend, pulled out.

Why? Because the British Muslim Initiative - the organiser of IslamExpo - is effectively the British franchise of Hamas and its father organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood. And, at last, the penny has started to drop that embracing those who sign up to the murder of the Jews and who seek to establish the caliphate in Britain is not the most sensible approach to defeating Islamism and the threat it poses.

IslamExpo is the brainchild of Mohammed Sawalha, president of the British Muslim Initiative. But Mr Sawalha is not just that; the Muslim Brotherhood's website describes him as "manager of the political committee of the International Organisation of the Brothers [the Muslim Brotherhood] in Britain". And, as the BBC's Panorama showed in 2006, he is also a key Hamas activist. The documentary revealed that he "masterminded much of Hamas's political and military strategy" and in London "is alleged to have directed funds, both for Hamas's armed wing, and for spreading its missionary dawah [summons]".

The tactic is simple. Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are pushing the notion that there are two types of Islamism - moderate and extreme. They represent, they would have us believe, the moderates. IslamExpo had all sorts of fun activities - art, football, and lovely food. It supposedly showed how peaceable and unthreatening they are. And if that is not persuasive enough, there is also an implicit threat: if we don't throw in our lot with them, we'll be left only with the real extremists, Al Qaeda.

Until recently, their tactic seemed to be working. Ministers such as Tessa Jowell and Mr Timms spoke at the original IslamExpo in 2006, even though the organisers' links were known. But Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are not an ally against extremism; they are the extremists.

This year, however, there seems to be an acknowledgement that their moderate Islamism is a contradiction in terms; some Islamists wish to establish Islamic rule through force, while others simply use a more wily tactic. Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has been clear that there is no such thing as a moderate who supports the murder of Jews. In a speech the day after IslamExpo, she explained why it had to be shunned: "Because of the views of some of the organisers, and because of the nature of some of the exhibitors, this was an event that no minister should attend. Organisers like Anas Altikriti, who believes in boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day. Or speakers like Azzam Tamimi, who has sought to justify suicide bombing."

But there remain many mainstream politicians who will readily mix with terror supporters. The Scottish Administration recently gave a £215,000 grant to the Scottish Islamic Foundation, which is headed by Osama Saeed, an adviser to Alex Salmond and a leading Scottish Islamist. He believes that Hamas suicide murderers are carrying out "martyrdom operations" and has called for the creation of a modern caliphate. Mr Saeed was a speaker at IslamExpo.

Two weeks ago, the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (EISCA) was launched in the House of Commons with a lecture by Jim Murphy, the Minister for Europe. He was asked about Baroness Tonge, the infamous suicide-bomber-empathising Lib Dem peer, who was happy to share a platform at IslamExpo with Azzam Tamimi, described by the Malaysian news agency as "Hamas's Special Envoy".

Mr Murphy was admirably unambiguous: "There can never be - never, never, never, never, never be - any excuse ever for suicide bombing ever under any circumstances whatsoever, regardless of where, when or how. Never. And politicians that even give a whispered, implied understanding: it's too loud when it comes to offering any sort of empathy for the motivation of suicide bombing."

But there are weak links: British Satellite News, funded by Mr Murphy's own Foreign Office, pushed a gushing image of IslamExpo for overseas viewers. The battle to defend liberty - and our lives - is too important to allow any such slips. If we are to defeat the threat of Islamism, there is only room for outright rejection of Islamists.

Stephen Pollard chairs the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (www.eisca.eu)
    Last updated: 12:39pm, July 24 2008