‘Bob Pitt Watch’

“Former Workers Revolutionary Party member and now editor of What Next, Bob Pitt, is a very industrious bloke. He single-handedly runs a website called ‘Islamophobia Watch’ in which he pours vituperative criticism, mainly on people of a Muslim background who dare to criticise their religion of birth or its cultural practises. The spectacle of a white, middle-aged, middle-class male denouncing Muslims and ex-Muslims (many of them women) who speak out against homophobia and misogyny inside the Muslim community as ‘racists’ is very bizarre.”

Yours truly is denounced in the Alliance for Workers Liberty’s paper Solidarity, 20 October 2005

I don’t in fact run this website single-handedly – it was set up by Eddie Truman, who does all the technical work on it as well as posting. The accusation that our criticisms are concentrated “mainly on people of a Muslim background” is plainly false, as a cursory examination of the site will reveal. The charge against members of the Worker Communist Party of Iran (some, though not all, of whom come from a Muslim background) and against individuals like Irshad Manji is not that they are racists but that their antics play into the hands of the Islamophobic Right, who clearly recognise them as fellow spirits. Hence the enthusiastic endorsement of Maryam Namazie by Jihad Watch, Homa Arjomand by Front Page Magazine and Irshad Manji by Daniel Pipes and Melanie Phillips.

The fact that I have on occasion linked to material on the Muslim Public Affairs Committee site is hardly an endorsement of their ideas, still less of the views expressed by non-MPACUK members in their discussion forum. I’ve also linked to articles on Hizb ut-Tahrir sites. Does that make me a supporter of their ideas too?

I didn’t support the hanging of two young men in Mashhad – I backed the Amnesty and Human Rights Watch view that there is no evidence for the claim that they were executed merely for being gay rather than for gang-raping a 13-year-old boy at knife-point – which is the crime they were convicted of. I would add that I find it odd that the AWL, Outrage and others concentrate on condemning the homophobia of the Iranian government but have almost nothing to say about the significantly worse treatment of gay men in Saudi Arabia – particularly in view of the fact that, unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran is currently under threat of attack by the US government.

The proposal that Muslims in Ontario should have the same right to state-sponsored religious tribunals that already existed for Christians and Jews was made by the former minister for women’s issues in the Ontario government, Marion Boyd. Personally, I was neutral on the proposal. My objection was to the Islamophobic hysteria that was whipped up by opponents of that measure, notably by Homa Arjomand and her comrades in the WPI. Yet again, they played into the hands of the racist Right.

Qaradawi is a leading reformist influence among Muslims in the Middle East as a result of his hugely popular weekly programme on Al-Jazeera. Details can be found in Hugh Miles’ comprehensive study Al-Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the World. John Esposito, the leading Western academic expert in Islamic studies, supports this view of Qaradawi, as do Karen Armstrong, Noah Feldman, Marc Lynch, the Foreign Office’s Islamic issues adviser Mockbul Ali – and indeed anyone with progressive politics who knows something about the subject. The AWL and their co-thinkers in Outrage, by contrast, find themselves in an anti-Qaradawi bloc with the likes of Jihad Watch, Daniel Pipes and Melanie Phillips.

It is, however, entirely true that I used to be a member of the WRP. Around a quarter of a century ago.