Global Peace and Unity
There are lots of ways for the Labour Party and Government to engage with Britain's Muslim communities. Hardworking local MPs do it every week. Good councillors are in tune with their local communities. The Government engages with all faiths, including the various different leaders, groups and ethnically and religiously diverse Muslim community. As well as dealing with Islam as a faith, the Government also tackles violent extremism through a variety of means.
But our willingness to engage shouldn't mean that we talk to anyone and everyone just because they are a Muslim; we need to apply our own political judgements and principles, and ensure that no-one who supports violent extremism in whatever form is given a seat at the table.
At the weekend, the Excel Centre in London is host to a major event - Global Peace and Unity (GPU) - which promises a range of cultural and political sessions.
But a look at the invited speakers makes you wonder how much 'peace & unity' will be on the agenda.
- One speaker Muhammed Ijaz ul-Haq, is a Pakistani MP. The Guardian reported on 18/6/2007 that he had reacted to the awarding of a knighthood to Salman Rushdie with the statement 'If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British Government apologies and withdraws the 'sir' title.'
- William Rodriguez survived the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers; since then he has filed charges against the US Govt, the Vice President, and other agencies claiming that the attacks were not the work of Al-Qaeda, but in fact were a conspiracy by the US Government involving the use of controlled explosions and missiles.
- Sheikh Muhammed Alshareef wrote an article 'Why the Jews were Cursed' which 'explains' why Muslims should shun Jews.
- John Rees, from the Socialist Workers Party.
- Salma Yaqoob from Respect.
- The bloggers' favourite Robert Fisk.
- And of course George Galloway.
There's an interesting debate about GPU over at Harry's Place.
I spent my younger years tackling Trots, so I am no stranger to the concept of 'frontism', the use of seemingly innocuous events to attract an audience, in order to expose them to ideas and messages they would otherwise never hear. In the SWP or Militant's case it might lead to a lifetime spent selling newspapers and going to political meetings. In the case of Islamism, it can lead to something much, much worse. But there's another political concept which I am reminded of when I see Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, and regrettably some Labour people on the speakers' list: Lenin's idea of the 'useful idiot'.