John Ware

The MCB are not in a position to judge Boris

John Ware says that the Muslim Council of Britain should not judge the ex-Foreign Secretary too harshly

August 17, 2018 14:22

The Muslim Council of Britain that seeks to represent Muslims was right about Burqagate: there will be “consequences” for niqab and burqa-clad women from Boris Johnson likening them in his weekly column to “letter boxes” and “armed robbers”. They will face more verbal and physical abuse.

As ex-Foreign Secretary, he should have thought of that before playing it for laughs. There’s nothing funny about being on the receiving end of public baiting, as Jews know only too well.

Johnson had to “understand the consequences” of his words, the MCB’s Assistant Secretary General Miqaad Versi told the BBC. “These words are used by the far right.”

Just as words like “Zionist” and “Neo-con”, routinely used for years by the MCB and its affiliates, have been the core lexicon of violent and nonviolent extremists and, of course, antisemites.

A quick Google parse shows a succession of senior MCB officials referring to the Middle East as having a “neo-Conservative-Zionist design”; the Board of Deputies as a “Zionist lobby; “Zionists” out to “deliberately denigrate and malign Islam”; “Zionist fanatics…carrying out their rape of Lebanon”; journalists dismissed as “Zionists” and “enemies of Islam”; “Zionists” having a “slick PR machine”; a “malicious Jewish-Zionist war over Gaza”; the “Zionist enemy”. And so on.

No distinction between most Jews for whom Zionism has simply meant a secure refuge from racism, and other Zionists motivated by a more extreme expansionist ideology. Just “Zionism” as intrinsically racist and malign.

And then there were those MCB affiliates: the Muslim Association of Britain with its placards equating Zionism with Nazi Germany.

“There are consequences for the words used,” intoned Mr Versi for the fifth time. It’s just a shame that his acute moral imperative about the importance of verbal precision deserted his predecessors.

Not one peep do I ever recall from the MCB at any of its affiliates’ public displays of antisemitism or their adulation for blatant antisemites like Sayeed Qutb who said after the Holocaust that the “purity” of Islam had been defiled by “Jewish “filth”.

Mr Versi demands there be no “whitewash” by the Conservative party’s inquiry into Boris Johnson, though he seems to have already decided he’s guilty: Johnson “deliberately” tried to “stoke up this hatred” against Muslims.

Unlikely, say comment editors who have handled Johnson’s copy. More likely he dashed it off at the last minute, carelessly flinging in “a few un-PC jokes… to gee this serious subject up for the older readers. Press send.”

Still, abandoning the presumption of Johnson’s innocence until proven guilty is consistent with the MCB’s sometimes unorthodox approach to evidence.

In 2005, for BBC Panorama, I asked MCB Secretary General Sir Iqbal Sacranie why he’d paid homage at the Central Mosque to the assassinated founder of Hamas. Sir Iqbal replied: “I attended, bearing in mind the respect I had for what he had been fighting for.”

Later, the MCB said: “We can find no mention in our records of him having attended a memorial service for Shaykh Ahmad Yasin. Please could the Panorama team clarify where they obtained this information from?”

So, we did — a press release recording Sacranie’s address in which he conveyed “the deepest condolences of the British Muslim community”.

In 2015, a BBC journalist found leaflets at an MCB affiliate, Stockwell Green Mosque, demanding death to Ahmadi Muslims should they refuse to convert to mainstream Islam. Ahmadis have been butchered to death in both Pakistan and Britain for “apostasy”.

The MCB convened what it called an “independent panel” of inquiry, despite at least one panellist having made highly derogatory remarks about Ahmadis.

When challenged by the BBC, a mosque trustee suggested the BBC journalist must have planted the leaflets because he was “from the Ahmadiyya group”.

The “Inquiry” Panel concluded there was “no independent evidence” that the leaflets had been left at the mosque —without ever questioning the reporter who found them. Now that’s what I call a whitewash!

In 2016, the High Court found the Chief Imam of another MCB affiliate, Lewisham Islamic Centre, “clearly promotes and encourages violence in support of Islam.” Shakeel Begg was a “Jekyll and Hyde character”: a benign face to the local and interfaith community, but an ideologically extreme one to receptive Muslim audiences.

Ignoring the Court’s 92-page evidential summary, the MCB plumped for Begg’s “benign face” by inviting him to address a conference this year to “help redefine the Muslim presence in the UK”.

By dignifying an imam like Begg, the MCB have normalised his hateful speeches with consequences far worse than anything Boris Johnson wrote.

The MCB now demand the Prime Minister order an “independent and transparent inquiry into Islamophobia”, into the whole of society.

Anti-Muslim hatred does indeed exist. But the MCB are the last people to be lecturing anyone on the “consequences” of ill-chosen words, or how to avoid “whitewashing” racism — or any other kind of misconduct for that matter — through “independent” and “transparent” investigation.


August 17, 2018 14:22

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