Fiyaz Mughal

Why I signed the Guardian letter opposing Jeremy Corbyn as PM

There comes a time when you have to draw a line and that time is now, writes Fiyaz Mughal

November 22, 2019 12:34

Along with 24 other signatories, I made clear in a letter to The Guardian that I could not in any way shape or form back a Corbyn-led Labour Government. In fact, I should have added that I simply cannot stomach seeing Corbyn as the Prime Minister of our country.

I have worked for over 20 years delivering practical social projects on countering extremism, tackling anti-Muslim hate crimes and promoting social cohesion under successive Labour Governments.

These have also been delivered under the previous coalition Government, and through the former Conservative administration.

I have therefore worked with various ministers from varying political persuasions. However, if Corbyn comes to power, my time working with any Labour minister will come to an end.

I cannot work to prop up or deliver any work under his leadership. This is particularly depressing since I am a social liberal – values that should naturally resonate with any Labour administration.

So why did I sign the letter openly voicing the fact that Corbyn would be a disaster for our country?

Firstly, Corbyn has been a lightning rod to attract people to Labour whose world view strongly hinges on the Israel and Palestine conflict. That is not a problem, but it has become a problem since some of these activists are openly antisemitic and see all Jews as being "the other"; as the cover-all term, many of these activists liberally use the term ‘Zionists’ to smear British Jews who simply disagree with them.

By drawing in these activists, Corbyn’s leadership has then acted in a snail-like fashion to tackle complaints of antisemitism and, in some instances, his office has actively got involved in the complaints process and influenced decisions. He has called terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah "friends" and then gone on to say that he regretted saying this.

Yet, the fact is that any simple Google search will show the scale and ferocity of the terrorist violence that Hamas and Hezbollah have been involved in, including areas like Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

For example, in June 1985, Hezbollah members hijacked TWA flight 847 where hostages were held for weeks. The group separated passengers with Jewish sounding names and they then murdered one hostage, a diver named Robert Stethem, before throwing his body onto the landing apron.

One of the gunmen was identified as Hezbollah operative Mohammed Ali Hamadi, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment in Germany. Or, take the fact that in March 1992, Hezbollah operatives carried out a truck bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires killing 29 people and wounding 242 others. So how could Corbyn even consider calling such groups "friends", unless he agreed with their anti-Israeli and anti-American ideologies?

Or, take the fact Corbyn has actively made a point of turning up, legitimising and speaking at events held by divisive groups. For instance, he attended an event held by the group MEND, which he spoke at in November 2017.

This is a group that the former Home Secretary recently said wasn’t “always as intolerant of intolerance as they claim to be.”

The recent excellent report by the Commission for Countering Extremism, headed up by the formidable Sara Khan, said the following of MEND: “Staff from another organisation, MEND, have posted hostile messages on Twitter relating to several politically and socially liberal Muslims, especially those involved in counter extremism work.

One MEND tweet labels some Muslims groups as “Uncle Toms”; and the public messaging of MEND’s founder describes civil society groups involved in counter extremism as “government stooges”. 

Furthermore, at the Colin Cramphorn Memorial lecture in February 2018, Sir Mark Rowley, the former Assistant Commissioner of the Met Police said that Muslim bodies such as MEND foster grievances and just earlier this week, the Board of Deputies of British Jews said of MEND that it is, “a highly problematic organisation whose activities risk increasing hostility and suspicion between Muslim and Jewish communities”.

Yet, this is the organisation whose event Corbyn turned up to, thereby legitimising them to many. Neither did Corbyn turn up to question such an organisation. In fact, he seemed very comfortable at the event – so much for being a consistent equalities campaigner…

At a time when antisemitic hate crimes are at their highest, and when British Jews are feeling alienated and isolated within a Labour Party that they helped to build over decades, you would think that the party's leadership would do all that is possible to address the situation. Yet, Corbyn has repeatedly sided with groups who are abhorrent in their views of Jews.

You would think that he would carry out some due diligence on groups, instead of feigning ignorance and deflective one-liners when questioned on these groups. It is the "anti-imperialism" and anti-Americanism of Islamist groups that resonates with the hard left. This "anti-imperialism" will certainly resonate with people like Corbyn.

So, as a British Muslim who believes in liberal and progressive values, I cannot sit back and accept the world views of Corbyn. I cannot accept the fact that another set of communities – British Jews – feel threatened by his previous actions and by the ‘friends he keeps’.

I cannot stand back and keep quiet when Corbyn turns up to divisive groups who risk increasing hostility between British Muslims and Jews and who build and enhance grievances. As someone who has worked on countering extremism for over two decades, I have seen where unchecked grievances lead to.

Lastly, I cannot stand back and let British Jews feel that they are alone in this struggle. They are not. And even if it means that my engagement with Government ends in a future Corbyn administration, so be it.

There comes a time when you have to draw a line and that time is now. British Jews are part and parcel of the fabric of our country, while Corbyn’s hard left world views are not.

Fiyaz Mughal OBE is the founder and director of Faith Matters and founded Muslims Against Antisemitism.

November 22, 2019 12:34

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