Under the headline “Radical links of UK’s ‘moderate’ Muslim group” (note the use of ironic quotation marks around “moderate”), the Observer tries to paint the Muslim Council of Britain as some sort of extremist organisation.
Predictably, the author Martin Bright quotes a comment from Salman Rushdie’s recent, much-reprinted article (see here) on the need for Islamic reform: “If Sir Iqbal Sacranie is the best Mr Blair can offer in the way of a good Muslim, we have a problem.”
A BBC Panorama documentary due to be screened next Sunday will apparently continue the campaign against the MCB, and it is the MCB’s protest about the content of that programme – see (pdf) here – that provides the hook for the Observer piece. See here.
The level of argument in the article is illustrated by this piece of “analysis” by Bright:
“The strain of Islamic ideology favoured by the MCB leadership and many of its affiliate organisations is inspired by Maulana Maududi, a 20th-century Islamic scholar little known in the West but hugely significant as a thinker across the Muslim world. His writings, which call for a global Islamic revival, influenced Sayyid Qutb, usually credited as the founding father of modern Islamic radicalism and one of the inspirations for al-Qaeda.”
So, by means of this amalgam, the MCB is associated with Osama bin Laden. The fact that Jamaat-i-Islami, the Pakistani party founded by Maududi, is a pragmatic, reformist, constitutionalist organisation that is part of mainstream politics in Pakistan and has participated in coalition governments – and whose methods are thus a million miles removed from the small-group terrorism of Al-Qaida – is carefully obscured. Instead, Bright tells us that Jamaat-i-Islami is “a radical party committed to the establishment of an Islamic state in Pakistan ruled by sharia law”.
The sheer ignorance of the Observer‘s take on the MCB is illustrated by an editorial comment on the Martin Bright “exposé”, which tells us that “young Muslims deserve to be heard”, and that they are not adequately represented by the “out-of-touch elders” of the MCB. See here.
Though it is nonsense to suggest that the MCB with its 400 affiliated organisations is an unrepresentative body, it is of course true that many young Muslims believe that the MCB leadership does not speak for them. But it seems to have escaped the attention of the Observer‘s editorial writers that one of the main objections younger activists have to the MCB is precisely over what they regard as its ingrained moderation and search for respectability. In particular, they criticise the MCB for not confronting more aggressively the government’s efforts to pin the blame for the London bombings on the supposed failings of Britain’s Muslim communities rather than on the consequences of Blair’s foreign policy.
No doubt Jihad Watch and like-minded right-wing websites will be crowing at the embrace of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim witch-hunting by a section of the British liberal establishment.
Oh, and in response to Bright’s assertion that “the BBC has not been known for its pro-Israeli stance”, see here.