ENGAGE writes to the JC

ENGAGE has written to the Jewish Chronicle to complain about Martin Bright’s report on ENGAGE’s relations with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia. They state:

“It is the machinations of journalists like Martin Bright who have through their disreputable work sought to advance the ‘good (apolitical) Muslim’/’bad (politically active) Muslim’ dichotomy that has created a situation in which Muslims who challenge and demur from the sham discourse on ‘Islamism’ are derisively treated and cast beyond the pale. It will be a long time before we take lessons on democratic engagement and widening the parameters of political participation from individuals like Martin Bright and we will continue to work to empower British Muslims to actively participate in our politics and media.”

The JC‘s enthusiasm for discrediting politically active Muslims is of course not unconnected with the fact that politically active Muslims are almost all supporters of the Palestinian cause. The importance the JC attaches to this issue is demonstrated by the fact that they not only offered Martin Bright a job, but even went so far as to invent the new position of political editor specifically for him. The one qualification for this post that Bright possessed – he had not previously shown any other expertise in reporting issues affecting the Jewish community – was his obsessive hostility towards political Islam.

Incidentally, Bright wrote to us last week to complain about our coverage of his JC report on ENGAGE and the APPG on Islamophobia. “You again describe me as an Islamophobe”, he wrote. “This is highly defamatory and inaccurate. You produce no evidence to back up your claim. I would appreciate if you removed this from your site immediately.”

As it happens, in that particular post we didn’t actually accuse Bright of being an Islamophobe. He just didn’t take the time to read the article properly. But Bright does have a sore spot when it comes to accusations of Islamophobia. Last year he threatened ENGAGE with legal action after they published a piece accusing him of being an Islamophobe. In response, I wrote:

“I can remember Bright telling a FOSIS conference at City Hall back in August 2005 that he had no problem being described as an Islamophobe – because, he said, there is a lot in Islam to be afraid of. He got himself booed, as you might expect. Around a hundred people were at the conference, so there is no lack of witnesses who can attest to this.”

I’ve consulted others who were present at that conference and I didn’t get it exactly right. Bright in fact told the FOSIS conference that he couldn’t see anything wrong with Islamophobia – because there is a lot in Islam to be afraid of. As I noted, he was roundly booed and a number of people criticised his remarks. In reply to the discussion, Bright did apologise and said he was in fact a great admirer of Islam.

If Bright thinks that made everything all right, he should perhaps consider what the response would have been if he had told a UJS conference that he saw nothing wrong with antisemitism because it was legitimate to have a fear of Judaism. Would have have been forgiven if he had followed this with an apology and claimed that some of his best friends were Jewish?

One thing is for certain – there’s no way he would have been offered his present cushy job at the Jewish Chronicle.