In “Right showing left the way on radical Islam,” Martin Bright in The Guardian/Observer (thanks to Crickman) says: “It’s fascism by any other name and it’s time that all political factions joined forces to fight it.” Well, that’s what I’ve been saying for years. It’s nice to see The Guardian getting close (very close) to the truth.
I am being feted by the right. As the political editor of the New Statesman and usually written off by conservative thinkers as a dangerous, pinko liberal, this is a novel and rather awkward position in which to find myself.
Two weeks ago, Channel 4 screened a programme I presented concerning Whitehall’s love affair with radical Islam. It was based on a stream of Foreign Office leaks first published in The Observer and the New Statesman which showed that mandarins were prepared to open lines of communication with organisations such Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, the right-wing plaudits for my work keep coming in, not just in this country but from America, too, where none other than David Frum, the neoconservative Bush adviser credited with coining ‘axis of evil’, has begun quoting my work approvingly. Neocon journal American Thinker ran a 2,500-word analysis of my findings. While any attention is always welcome, these offers of solidarity are also a challenge.
The programme was accompanied by a pamphlet I wrote for the centre-right ‘Cameroon’ think-tank, Policy Exchange, which identified an ongoing Foreign Office policy to develop links with Islamists abroad and in Britain. I argued that progressives on the left and right of British politics should view this with concern, especially in the domestic context, where mainstream voices were being kept from dialogue with government by groups ideologically linked to Islamists in the Middle East such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its south Asian equivalent, Jamaat-i-Islami. Chief among these is the Muslim Council of Britain, whose leadership has established sympathies for the Jamaat-i-Islami in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Both the Brotherhood and the Jamaat believe in the creation of an Islamic state and the establishment of Sharia law.
Conservative commentators in Britain were also quick to take up the cause. Peter Dobbie praised the programme in the Mail on Sunday for ‘lifting the lid’ on the Foreign Office’s dalliance with the radicals. Frank Johnson, Telegraph columnist and former Spectator editor, described the Policy Exchange document, rather generously, as ‘one of the most important pamphlets for decades’ and said that I had ‘presided over a fine… documentary’. Writing in the Spectator, former Telegraph editor Charles Moore said: ‘Sorry to praise the New Statesman in these pages, but its political editor, Martin Bright, has just produced an excellent pamphlet.’ I realise that their reaction does not come without an agenda. There is no doubt that at it has fed into the perception in some circles on the left, encouraged by the MCB, that I am part of some Islamophobic campaign to ‘divide and rule’ Britain’s Muslims.
It is depressing that so few on the left have been prepared to engage with the issue of the Foreign Office appeasement of radical Islam except to minimise its significance. In contrast, the responses on the right have been largely measured. Moore, for instance, fitted the Foreign Office’s search for radical figures it could do business with, such as Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual head, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, into a wider historical perspective. In the 1930s, we adopted a similar strategy with the Mufti of Jerusalem to ‘deliver’ Muslim opinion. The Mufti went on to support the Nazis.
Read it all.