The Guardian and Islamism - is anybody counting?
Last week The Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) weblog published a robust defence of ‘mainstream Islamists such as Daud Abdullah’ claiming that they were being ‘unjustly demonised and uniquely held out for political attack’. This also illustrated the power of anti-Islamist groups.
Daud Abdullah, the deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), recently attended a conference of Islamic religious scholars, clerics and Hamas officials in Istanbul and signed the conference declaration (see BBC report: Clerics urge new jihad over Gaza).
Following exchanges between the MCB and the Government, The Guardian published a statement by Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, which said:
“ ...we have been asking the MCB to find out whether their deputy secretary general, Dr Abdullah, attended the conference and signed the statement. The MCB has now confirmed he did attend and did sign the declaration. A declaration that supports violence against foreign forces – which could include British naval personnel – as the prime minister has offered British naval support to stop the smuggling of weapons to Gaza; and advocating attacks on Jewish communities all around the world."
Dr Abdullah is now suing the Secretary of State for libel.
Now the interesting thing about The Guardian’s blog piece on this man and Islamists in general is not the defence itself but the comments it elicits.
The defence holds no surprises. We are told, for example:
“ … Islamists are able to work in partnership with mainstream politicians like Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn to present their concerns about UK foreign policy to a wider public.
“British Islamists … reveal … a devotion to social justice and a concern for community needs over individual or corporate ambitions.
“British Islamists are typified by a sense of moral obligation to confront injustice, and they strive, in their own ways, to try to make the world a better place.
“… a sense of an Islamic imperative that is strikingly similar to Tony Benn's interpretation of Jesus' call to active citizenship on behalf of the politically oppressed.”
It makes the point: “This interpretation isn't necessarily universal or representative – both Islam and Christianity have powerful advocates who oppose this view and believe in religion without politics.”
It also says: “Mainstream British Islamists are simultaneously under attack by extremist Muslim groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir and Islam For The UK." These fringes claim that British Islamists have sold out by working within British democracy. They also attack British Islamists for working harmoniously with a wide range of secular activists including gay people and feminists, most notably in campaigns such as the Stop The War coalition. Which is why it's a gross misrepresentation to conflate mainstream British Islamists with Hizb ut-Tahrir, and entirely disingenuous to suggest they serve as a conveyor belt for terrorist movements like al-Qaida.
But it is interesting to read what The Guardian’s bloggers think.
The topic certainly engaged them: it attracted over 290 comments, which is high for a Guardian blog piece and demonstrates the priorities of the paper’s readers.
The blog shows alongside each comment the number of readers who have shown their support for that comment by clicking a ‘recommend’ button (the system prevents readers voting more than once for any one comment).
The table below summarises the first 90 comments indicating whether or not the comment was for or against the defence:
Overwhelmingly, Guardian blog readers are against (95% to be precise). They do not sympathise at all with this defence of ‘mainstream’ Islamists and Daud Abdullah, the deputy secretary general of the MCB.
The comments also show that even those who believe Israel is the greater transgressor regarding Palestine do not sympathise with Islamists because of all the things Islamism represents and purports to stand for.
The full blog and comments can be read at: ‘The demonisation of British Islamism’. Here are extracts (as written) from a small but typical sample of comments:
Prodigy 01 Apr 09, 11:41am
When you say "make the world a better place", don't you mean turn it into a global Caphilate?
Justabloke 01 Apr 09, 11:45am
Hamas is regarded by, amongst others, Canada, the US and the european union as a terrorist organisation. It still has in place its 1988 charter calling for the replacement of the state of Israel with an islamist palestinian state.
If you continue to argue that British foreign policy should be developed from an isalmic perspective, you will continue to be isolated and foolish, no matter how often you use the word mainstream.
Shachtman 01 Apr 09, 11:51am
You say "mainstream". You're joking aren't you ? The Muslim Association of Britain is the UK wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and the British Muslim Initiative isn't much better. I doubt many British Muslims support either group.
thaumaturge 01 Apr 09, 11:54am
Fine words - as long as 'social justice' and 'community needs' … aren't a smokescreen for such inanities as a woman's testimony being worth half a man's.
CetCenseo 01 Apr 09, 11:58am
The further out on the political spectrum extremists get, the more "moderate" others who hold objectionable opinions seem. What we need is not a strategy for engaging with the Islamic centre whatever the Islamic centre says or however far to the right it moves by non-Islamic standards or wherever it drifts over time. We need a firm, principled politics that drags the whole Islamic spectrum back to the left.
MiskatonicUniversity 01 Apr 09, 12:07pm
Have you even read any of this stuff? "Muslim lands"? Giving a free pass to this theocratic madness (roundly rejected by Muslims themselves) is an act of cowardice.
There is plenty to object to in the Islamists view of the world: second-class treatment of women, discrimination against non-Muslims, a discriminatory legal code with barbaric punishments - why on earth would you give them any support?
bulbosaur 01 Apr 09, 12:13pm
This crock of cant leads straight into the West Mids Plods taking a stand against Dispatches, and all that sort of islamo-Stasi stuff that is leading to a powerful reaction from what the authors slander as 'Islamophobes' - that is, the bulk of the population, who frankly do not relish this Sharia power-grab and can see the supremacist, sectarian ideology of most 'Islamists' for what it is - totalitarian, reactionary rot.
aboveusonlysky 01 Apr 09, 12:19pm
What a terrifyingly naive article - they seem to think that Islamists are activists who just happen to be Muslims. The clue is in the word 'Islamist' - they want a society with more Islam.
sarka 01 Apr 09, 12:27pm
… only a minority of "Islamophobes" believe that the gentlemen of the MCB etc. are all secret terrorists. They merely believe that Islamic activism is not progressive and does not tend to making the world a better place (in fact it tends to making the world a more divided, intolerant place), and above all deserves no special favours or respect.
locsen 01 Apr 09, 12:38pm
The fact that Daud Abdullah is considered mainstream compared to other Islamists is just sad.
JackofDiamonds 01 Apr 09, 1:08pm
What is this 'Islamic imperative'? Does it mean eg. shariah law must become part of the legal system or what? Are we meant to nod wisely at the 'striking similarity' to whatever Benn believes Jesus may or may not have meant? Who is politically oppressed? The MCB - they are oppressed? Mr Abdullah is being oppressed? OK - no more government money for the MCB - that is oppression? Get over yourselves.
leftinthedust 01 Apr 09, 1:09pm
"Daud Abdullah is a mainstream British Islamist". Surely that is the problem. The fact that he is not as bad as al-Qaeda does not make him any more endearing. Islamists by their very nature are incompatible with British society. Islamism does not promote the right of freedom of worship, it promotes belief in how society should be structured.
And Abdullah has shown that the cause of Islam (as he sees it) overrides the policies of the elected government of Britain. While one may disagree with those government policies, calling for the use of armed force to oppose those policies is nothing less than treason.
leftleast 01 Apr 09, 1:17pm
Yes, by all means criticise Israel (which the guardian does daily) but in the same way expose the murder, female suppression/oppression and homophobia alongside the many deaths perpetrated against innocents in the name of Islam.
Heresiarch 01 Apr 09, 1:39pm
As an April fool parodying the Guardian's craven attitude towards radical Islam this is actually rather good.
It is a joke, right?
Kotu 01 Apr 09, 1:49pm
Why is there an obsession with Israel and Palestine ? What about the hundreds of thousands killed and enslaved across africa every year in the name of allah ? Why is one palestinian life worth so much more then hundreds of african lives ? Is it because the aggressors are muslim ? I can see no other reason except perhaps hatred for the jews ? This is something I've never understood....
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