The Conservative party chair, Baroness Warsi, has been banned by David Cameron from attending a major Islamic conference today, igniting a bitter internal row over how the government tackles Islamist extremism.
Warsi, Britain’s first female Muslim cabinet minister, was told by the prime minister to cancel her appearance at the Global Peace and Unity Event, which is being billed as the largest multicultural gathering in Europe.
A Whitehall source said: “She had hoped to attend, but there is a conflict of opinion on how extremists should be dealt with and the prime minister, supported by Theresa May [the home secretary], were adamant no Tories should attend.”
Paul Goodman, the former Tory communities minister, said: “The aim of the organisers is to exploit politicians by using their presence to gain muscle, influence and credibility among British Muslims. Politicians shouldn’t play their game.”
Argument over the most effective strategy to challenge extremism has also led to a schism between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives in the coalition government. While Cameron has prohibited Tories from attending the event at the Excel Centre in Docklands, the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has firmly opposed a boycott by politicians.
If this report presents an accurate picture of divisions within the Tory party over the GPU, as seems likely, then the leadership enforced a boycott while their critics called for participation at the event in order to use it as a platform to denounce “extremism”.
The latter tactic was employed in 2008 by the then shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve, who made an idiot of himself during his speech by condemning the GPU organisers for inviting a “Holocaust-denying anti-Semite” to speak at the event. This was a reference to Yasir Qadhi, who had been the subject of a witch-hunt by the likes of Harry’s Place and Frontpage Magazine.
Instead of checking out the accuracy of the allegations against Qadhi, Grieve swallowed them whole, just as Theresa May did more recently with Zakir Naik. If one section of the Tories has has a better position on the GPU than the other, the differences are clearly marginal.
You’ll note that the Observer still thinks that Yasir Qadhi qualifies as an extremist on the grounds that he believes homosexuality is a sin. If that’s the definition of extremism, then in all consistency Paul Goodman et al should have been calling for a Tory boycott of the Pope’s visit.
According to the Observer, the GPU “is likely to witness clashes between moderate Muslims and extremists. One influential Muslim scholar, Tahir ul-Qadri from Pakistan, will denounce those in the audience who subscribe to terrorism as ‘disbelievers’.”
So, while Qadhi is an extremist, Qadri is a moderate. The Observer omits to mention that if there is hostility shown towards Qadri at the GPU, it will largely be because of the sectarian attacks he has made on rival tendencies within Islam. During a visit to London earlier this year he was treated to a double-page spread by the Evening Standard in which he stated that “every Salafi and Deobandi is not a terrorist but I have no hesitation in saying that every one is a well-wisher of terrorists”.
As for Qadri’s proposal that terrorists and their supporters should be treated as apostates, most Islamic scholars would regard this as entirely counterproductive, as it is the mirror image of the takfiri ideology adopted by the terrorists themselves. Qadri’s aim, however, is not to combat terrorism but rather to promote his own tiny organisation, Minhaj ul-Quran, by portraying himself as the unique voice of moderation and mainstream Muslims as supporters of violent extremism.