Blogger, heal thyself

21 Jun 2011 by CST

Inayat Bunglawala has written a predictable blogpost attacking the government's new Prevent strategy; predictable in that he blames "Zionists" for influencing the government's new position.

There is one line in his article which, although almost an aside, caused me to catch my breath. He writes:

As I argued in my previous blog, Zionists view any political progress made by Muslims (or ‘Islamists’ as they term them) as detrimental to their interests.

Putting to one side for a moment the conspiracy theory about "Zionists" attacking Muslims, which seems to be a core belief of both Bunglawala and the iEngage lobby group which he founded, the allegation that people who campaign against Islamism use it as a code for Muslims is simply untrue.

Firstly, it is untrue because plenty of well-known Islamists use the word quite freely to describe themselves. For example, Yusuf al-Qaradawi of the Muslim Brotherhood, writing in the magazine of the Federation Of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) in 1990, warned that "Islamists must pay special attention to the preparation of competent cadres." In 1995, when addressing a meeting of the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, the Tunisian Islamist Rashid Ghannouchi, told his audience that he "prefers to be described as an Islamist." Kamal Helbawy, also of the Muslim Brotherhood, even founded a magazine called Islamism Digest.

Secondly, it is untrue because Islam is a religion and Islamism is a political ideology and movement, and it must be possible to critique and criticise the latter in a way that does not automatically include an attack on the former. To argue otherwise is both evidence and fuel for Islamophobia.

And thirdly, if Bunglawala really believes that "Islamist" is just used as a codeword for "Muslim", then he really ought to look at his own use of the word "Zionist", because he leaves himself open to the charge of hypocrisy.

For example, writing in the magazine Trends in 1992, Bunglawala presented evidence of what he considered to be excessive Jewish influence over the UK media:

The chairman of Carlton Communications is Michael Green, of the tribe of Judah. He has joined an elite club whose members include fellow Jews Michael Grade (Chief Executive at Channel Four) and Alan Yentob (Controller at BBC2 and friend of Salman Rushdie). The three are reported to be "close friends" (The Times, Oct. 17). So that's what they mean by a "free media"!

When challenged on this by the Daily Telegraph in 2005, Bunglawala said:

 Those comments were made some 12 or 13 years ago. All of us may hold opinions which are objectionable, but they change over time. I certainly would not defend those comments today.

Fair enough: as he says, plenty of people hold extreme views in their youth that they regret as they mature. But what, then, should we make of this paragraph, in his blogpost yesterday:

Alhamdulillah, despite their considerable influence in the mainstream media – influence which they routinely use to smear and bully politicians and senior civil servants that regard anti-Muslim policies as wrong and detrimental in the real struggle against AQ-inspired terrorism – the Zionists seem clearly destined to lose this battle.

It may be true that Bunglawala considers it objectionable to claim there is some sort of Jewish media conspiracy, but he regularly claims there is a Zionist one. And it may also be true that he does not consider a person's religion to be relevant, although he did imply that Lord Carlisle was not credible partly because he told the Jewish Chronicle that "he was proud of his “100 per cent Jewish ancestry” and that he was a strong supporter of Israel." But given Bunglawala's blanket assumption that all Zionists use "Islamist" as a synonym for "Muslim", he can't be surprised if some of those "Zionists" think he uses that particular label as a synonym for "Jew".

UPDATE 22 June:

On 21 June Middle East Monitor (MEMO) held a "roundtable meeting in the Houses of Parliament" for Sheikh Rashid Ghanoushi, leader of Tunisia's Al-Nahda party and possibly the most senior Islamist to have been resident as a dissident in Britain, until his recent return to Tunisia following political change there.

MEMO is a pro-Muslim Brotherhood outfit that is increasingly central to Britain's Islamist scene. Its Director is Daud Abdullah, who was general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain when Inayat Bunglawala was spokesman for that group. (For example, see here.) 

MEMO also seem somewhat confused over their terminology. Their report of the Ghanoushi meeting variously describes Al-Nahda and similar as "moderate Islamic groups", "Islamic forces" and "the Islamists":

popularity of moderate Islamic groups such as Al-Nahda...

...While it would no longer be possible to marginalize the Islamic forces, the Nahda leader acknowledges the Islamists cannot lead Tunisia by themselves.

Should Inayat Bunglawala's next memo be to MEMO?


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