‘Tackling the Islamists’

This is the rather misleading title that the New Statesman gives to an exchange of views between Bob Lambert of the European Muslim Research Centre and Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation on the question of whether the state should be willing to work with groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Bob Lambert sets out a reasoned case for the affirmative, based on his experience as head of the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit and on the ousting of Abu Hamza from the Finsbury Park Mosque in particular (described in greater detail in his book Countering Al-Qaeda in London). He demolishes the idiotic notion promoted by Michael Gove and evidently adopted by David Cameron that groups like the British Muslim Initiative and Muslim Association of Britain are the political equivalent of the fascist British National Party.

Nawaz offers a pretentious, rambling reply which is more about himself than the subject under discussion (“I am a proud Muslim, but I am also a liberal, a Briton, a Pakistani, a Londoner, a father, a product of the globalised world who speaks English, Arabic and Urdu”). He presents an argument against the state having relations not just with Islamists of any variety but with any group claiming to represent any section of the Muslim community.

This is not of course a view that prevented Nawaz and his friends at Quilliam from accepting generous state funding under the last Labour government, on the spurious grounds that they represented a tendency within the Muslim community that could assist in the campaign against terrorism. And if the principle of rejecting co-operation with Ikhwan-associated political organisations were applied to foreign policy it would lead to the UK breaking relations with Tunisia and Egypt. Not an approach that William Hague is likely to adopt, I think.