The venomous media voices who think no Muslim is worth talking to

With the government’s policy of engagement with Muslim community under strain, Madeleine Bunting takes on the “media commentators pouring out a flood of venomous advice on exactly why no Muslim is worth talking to anyway”. She points out that “there are many people in this country who have no interest in listening to any Muslim unless they can chorus their own loathing and suspicion of Islam – the former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the case par excellence”.

Bunting writes: “Some of this armchair advice to government can be pretty briskly dismissed, such as the paranoid fantasies of the rightwing Daily Mail commentator Melanie Phillips in her book Londonistan or those of the Conservative MP Michael Gove in his book Celsius 7/7. Both authors haven’t troubled themselves to get much beyond revived imperial delusions of demented, violent Muslims (check out Britain’s history in India, Sudan or Egypt).

“More insidious is the comprehensive attack on Whitehall’s policy towards the Muslim community over the last decade by the New Statesman‘s political editor, Martin Bright. He argues that the government should have no truck with any Muslim organisation in the UK that has had any involvement with any person who has ever been influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, the political Islamist organisation.

“That rules out the Muslim Council of Britain, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies and other mainstays of the government’s ‘engagement’ policy of the last 10 years. It would even include intellectuals such as Professor Tariq Ramadan (grandson, no less, of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood), who was a member of the government taskforce set up to tackle Islamist extremism last year, and a star turn on its travelling roadshow for young Muslims.

“We are talking sweeping here. In fact, implement Bright’s advice and you’ve got a pretty small tea party for your next round of engagement.”

Guardian, 16 August 2006

In response, right-wing blogger Scott Burgess rallies to the defence of “Martin Bright’s groundbreaking work” and denounces Bunting as one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “British fifth columnists “.

Daily Ablution, 16 August 2006