I see that Osama Saeed has given favourable coverage on his blog to Peter Tatchell’s New Statesman article defending asylum rights. “He exposes the prejudice and brutality of the asylum system”, Saeed writes, “from the lawyers who don’t care about their refugee clients, to the detention centres where stuff like this is carried out.”
As a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain in Scotland and the author of a recent article in the Guardian proposing a modernised version of the caliphate, Osama Saeed obviously has some deep disagreements with Peter Tatchell. However, where there is common ground over a progressive political cause – in this case, opposition to racist asylum laws – he is ready to express his solidarity with a notorious Islamophobe like Tatchell.
Tatchell, by contrast, has never had a good word to say for the Muslim Association of Britain or its members. Indeed, he rejects in principle any bloc with MAB, whether it is over opposing the Iraq war, defending the right of Muslim women to wear the headscarf or backing candidates in elections. Thus he has denounced the Stop the War Coalition for “forging a strategic alliance with right-wing Islamists like … the MAB”, condemned the Mayor of London for “cosying up to Islamic fundamentalists like … the reactionary Muslim Association of Britain” and attacked Respect for being “in alliance with the right-wing, anti-gay Islamist group, the Muslim Association of Britain”.
It is revealing that a leading representative of a Muslim organisation that Tatchell has repeatedly characterised as backward and barbaric can take an admirably balanced and rational approach to the issue of political solidarity – whereas Tatchell, along with many of his fellow self-styled defenders of Enlightenment values, takes refuge in mindless sectarian bigotry.