Radical Islamists and Western Governments

A shocking program aired on British TV’s Channel 4 recently that should give pause to every Western government concerned about their domestic terror threat and raise questions from citizens about who their elected representatives are seeking advice and guidance from regarding Islam and terrorism.


The half-hour program, Who Speaks for Muslims, presented by New Statesman political editor, Martin Bright, reveals that high ranking officials in the Foreign Office of the Blair Administration are openly advocating dialogue with some of the most radical international jihadist elements, allowing them to enter the UK after re-labeling them as “moderate” and “mainstream”; in addition to the administration’s close alliance with the Muslim Council of Britain, an organization dominated by radical Islamists and which is far from actually representative of British Muslims.


On July 12th, two days before the program was aired, a publication was released by the UK-based think tank, Policy Exchange, authored by Martin Bright, When Progressives Treat with Reactionaries: the British State’s Flirtation with Radical Islamism. This pamphlet includes a number of top-secret Foreign Office documents provided to Bright by anonymous sources and cited in the Channel 4 documentary.


These documents clearly demonstrate an effort by officials in Whitehall to mainstream two extremist clerics with direct terrorist ties: Youssef Qaradawi, the international spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and advocate of Palestinian suicide bombings; and Bangladeshi MP Delwar Hossein Sayeedi, who the Channel 4 program shows preaching a sermon saying that all British and US soldiers in Iraq need to either be converted to Islam, or sent back home in coffins. Those comments notwithstanding, a top Foreign Office official, Mockbul Ali, defends Sayeedi in the documents released by Bright saying that he is among the “mainstream” in Bangladesh, despite the fact that his political party only received 6 percent of the vote in the last election.


That the British Foreign Office has given the imprimatur to these two jihadi preachers – both of whom have been banned from entering the US because of their terrorist ties – is evidenced by the visas issued by the British government to both men. In 2004, Qaradawi, who issued the fatwa permitting Hamas suicide bombings yet is described in Foreign Office documents as “a respected scholar of Islam”, was allowed to enter the country and preach in London despite fierce protests from British Jewish groups. And earlier this week, Sayeedi was permitted by the Foreign Office to enter the country and speak at mosques in London and Luton.


Furthermore, it was revealed earlier this month that the British Government paid for Qaradawi and his wife to attend a recent two-day conference in Istanbul at a five-star resort sponsored by British taxpayers to the tune of £300,000. This despite a promise given by Prime Minister Tony Blair to fellow MPs two years ago, when he said, “Let me make it absolutely clear. We want nothing to do with people who support suicide bombers in Palestine, or elsewhere or support terrorism.”


But the most explosive charge made in the Channel 4 program concerned the alliance between Blair and the Muslim Council of Britain. Despite having over 175 British Muslim organizations among its membership, according to Bright, the group is dominated by officials from radical Islamic organizations. In particular, the Muslim Association of Britain advocates an engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest radical Islamic organization in the world; and the Islamic Foundation, which was founded by senior officials of the extremist Jamaat-i-Islami, a political party committed to implementing shari’a law in Pakistan. Perhaps not coincidently, the Islamic Foundation recently announced that two staff members had been appointed to prominent British government positions.


The Channel 4 program is not the first to note the close association between Blair’s administration and the MCB, and the acceptance by the British government of the MCB as the sole voice of representation of British Muslims. Last August, Bright wrote a piece for The Observer noting the Blair/MCB alliance:


The MCB was officially founded in November 1997, shortly after Tony Blair came to power, and has had a close relationship with the Labour government ever since. Its detractors claim it was the creature of Jack Straw, but his predecessor as Home Secretary, Michael Howard, also played a role in its establishment as a semi-official channel of communication with British Muslims. It remains particularly influential within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which has a little-known outreach department which works with Britain’s Muslims. The FCO pamphlet Muslims in Britain is essentially an MCB publication and the official ministerial celebration of the Muslim festival of Eid is organised jointly with the MCB.


A week after Bright’s report last year, the BBC aired an exposé on its’ Panorama program, A Question of Leadership, which charged that government leaders and the officials of the MCB were still dismissive of the rise of radical Islam within Britain even after the 7/7 London suicide bombings.


One MCB official that became the focus of the BBC Panorama broadcast was then-MCB Secretary General, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, who in the program likened Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Yassin to Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, despite his authorization and justification of suicide bombings targeting innocent Israeli citizens.


Those who fight oppression, those who fight occupation, cannot be termed as terrorist, they are freedom fighters, in the same way as Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid, in the say way as Gandhi and many others fought the British rule in India. There are people in different parts of the world who today, in terms of historical side of it, those who fought oppression are now the real leaders of the world.


Under Sacranie’s watch at MCB, in 2001 the organization began to loudly boycott the annual January 27th Holocaust Day ceremonies in England. In a 2001 press release (no longer available on their website), the MCB cited the absence of recognition of genocide in Palestine, Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the “alleged Armenian genocide” among its reasons for boycotting the event (the Government of Turkey still refusing to acknowledge the massacre of 1-2 million Armenians in 1915, apparently along with the MCB).


In 2003, the group explained that they would not participate in any Holocaust commemoration that did not include recognition of “the Palestinian Genocide” by Israel. After taking heat each year for their boycott, in 2005 Sacranie enlarged his explanation, writing in The Guardian that the event was “too exclusive”, because it did not recognize similar genocidal campaigns in Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Chechnya and Darfur (ironically, perpetrated by Sudanese Muslims). Earlier this year, they refused to participate in a 60th anniversary service remembering the liberation of Auschwitz.


Sir Iqbal first gained notoriety in 1989, when as head of the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs he spoke out against Salman Rushdie and his book, The Satanic Verses, saying, “Death, perhaps, is a bit too easy for him … his mind must be tormented for the rest of his life unless he asks for forgiveness to Almighty Allah.” Sacranie was in Iran at the time that Ayatollah Khomeini issued the infamous fatwa calling for Rushdie’s murder, and many commentators then believed that Sacranie had a hand in Khomeini’s pronouncement. In a Washington Post editorial last August, The Right Time for An Islamic Reformation, Rushdie shot back at his old nemesis, saying bluntly, “If Sir Iqbal Sacranie is the best Blair can offer in the way of a good Muslim, we have a problem.”


Notwithstanding his Holocaust Day boycotts, calls for legislation banning speech “defaming Islam”, and hailing Palestinian terrorists as “freedom fighters”, in July 2005, Sacranie received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth, “for services to the Muslim Community, to Charities and the Community Relations.” This appointment was seen by many as an effort by the Blair government to rehabilitate the public image of one of their closest Muslim allies.


Inayat Bunglawala, the Media Secretary of the MCB, is another of Tony Blair’s favorites. Last August, in the wake of the 7/7 terror attacks, Bunglawala was appointed by Blair as one of seven “conveners” of an official government task force charged with tackling extremism among Muslim youth in Britain. And yet Bunglawala has a long history of making explicit anti-Semitic statements, accusing British media of being “Zionist controlled”, praising convicted 1993 World Trade Center Bombing accomplice Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, and hailing Osama bin Laden as a “freedom fighter” just months before 9/11 while distributing hundreds of copies of bin Laden’s statements and writings.


Needless to say, last year’s BBC exposé and last week’s Channel 4 program has been met with considerable criticism by the MCB and the Blair Administration. Just prior to airing Bright’s documentary last Friday, the Daily Mail reported that Foreign Office Permanent Secretary Sir Michael Jay demanded heavy edits to the program – a request that Channel 4 refused. Needless to say, the Blair and his ministers refused to allow anyone to appear on the program to respond to the publication of the Foreign Office secret documents.


Even before the program was broadcast, the MCB issued a statement charging that Martin Bright was “well known to British Muslims for his Islamophobic views”, and saying that in the program “Bright wheels out a motley crew of some discredited and some unknown figures to support his ludicrous arguments,” specifically identifying an official from the Sufi Muslim Council, a competing organization that was formed because of the MCB’s radical policies and to give a voice to more moderate Muslims.


Bright responded quickly to MCB’s charges last Friday in The Guardian, before the airing of the program later that evening, arguing that the conduct of the government, not the existence of the MCB, was the real issue:


A series of leaked Foreign Office documents, demonstrate that the mandarins dealing with the Middle East believe we have no choice but to engage with the radical religious right, such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Officials seem to think that Islamists are the coming force in the Middle East and so dialogue is necessary. But what most people don’t know is that the same officials, based in a department called Engaging with the Islamic World, also deal with British Muslim issues. My argument is that the government’s engagement strategy has become poisoned by the Foreign Office’s inaccurate picture of moderate, mainstream British Muslim opinion.


It is clear from the evidence that Bright presents in his that something is rotten in both Whitehall and Number 10, and the British media are demanding answers about the government’s connections to radical Islamic groups and the Foreign Office’s mainstreaming jihadi clerics that openly promote violence and terror. A new book published in England late last month, Celsius 7/7, by British journalist Michael Gove, also accuses Blair of allowing these extremist elements to dominate and direct the national debate after the 7/7 terror attacks in London.


Sadly, however, England is not alone among America’s closest allies in the War on Terror in promoting and associating with Islamic extremists. Earlier this week it was revealed by The Australian that the mufti of Australia, Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, one of Prime Minister John Howard’s closest Muslim allies and a member of the government’s Muslim Community Reference Group, was secretly recorded last November saying that the Holocaust was “a Zionist lie” in a series of fiery sermons that also lashed out at the West, and the US in particular, for the occupation of Iraq.


The Bush Administration is not immune from the charge that it has associated itself with organizations advancing a radical Islamic agenda or openly supporting Islamic terrorism. In recent months, Daniel Pipes and Joe Kaufman have both issued reports documenting numerous instances of contact and cooperation between the FBI and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which even Democratic Senators Chuck Shumer and Dick Durban admit has known ties to Islamic terrorist organizations and foreign governments in the Middle East.


According to a 2003 report by Paul Sperry, FBI Director Robert Mueller mandated “Enrichment Training Sessions” led by representatives of Islamic advocacy groups and mosques with questionable associations and extremist agendas, despite the 9/11 Commission’s findings that the FBI did not pursue leads prior to the Sept. 11th attacks because they were reluctant to investigate a Washington DC-area imam. Sperry also notes that in 2002, Mueller was the keynote speaker for the American Muslim Council’s annual conference – an organization that has openly promoted the terrorist activities of Hamas and Hezbollah.


A Washington Post article by John Mintz and Douglas Farah published in 2004 on the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, In Search of Friends Among the Foes, quotes CIA and State Department officials as saying that the US should begin to engage radical Islamic organizations with terror ties, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the organization’s advocacy and material support of terrorism throughout the Middle East. One former CIA official cited in the article, Graham E. Fuller, was quoted as saying about the Muslim Brotherhood, “It is the preeminent movement in the Muslim world. It’s something we can work with,” and concluding that demonizing the group, “would be foolhardy in the extreme.”


This thinking of engaging and embracing organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood – thinking which is apparently pandemic among diplomats and analysts of Western governments – can only be suicidal in the long run. As Israel has seen in its engagement with the PLO over the past decade, a policy forced on it by the American and European governments, when extremist elements are recognized and given legitimacy, the result has not been less extremism, but the institutionalization and entrenchment of extremism. We can see in the events of the past week the results of this tragic policy.


Furthermore, as is the case with the PLO, and now the MCB in Britain, giving legitimacy to these organizations is tacit authorization for them to speak on behalf of all Muslims, which inevitably results in the silencing of moderate voices, sometimes through violence. These radical organizations are given permission to dictate policy regardless of whether they represent the majority of Muslims, which they rarely do. Because the West gave the PLO legitimacy (and billions of dollars in aid), the situation is such that the PLO – once the extremists – is now the voice of “moderation” in opposition to the Hamas-led Palestinian government. What a sad day we live in.


This issue of engaging extremists is hardly a moot point for the US as many in the State Department and a number of talking heads are recommending that we back the “moderates” within the new Islamist government in Somalia. On Tuesday last week, the Washington Times reported that several former senior US diplomats were telling the State Department to ease off the Islamic Courts Union, which received praise earlier this month in the most recent public statement from Osama bin Laden. Herman Cohen, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, warned that applying pressure on the radical Islamic regime would create only more radicalization. This from the same people that brought us the previous Somalia debacle in 1993, when they said that taking out the warlords would buy us good will with the Somalis and end the humanitarian crisis. We would do well to remember how that all worked out.


There is also the issue of honesty to be considered. What exactly are all the ripple effects of the conflicting messages given by Western leaders who loudly denounce terrorism, but ally themselves with terrorist supporters and extremist organizations at home for the sake of political correctness and electoral politics? If anything, it is the loss of moral authority in conducting the War on Terror.


The fact that our two closest allies in fighting the global terrorist threat – Britain and Australia – are openly and unapologetically allowing their foreign and domestic policies to be influenced and shaped by radical Islamists themselves should give us occasion to hold up the mirror and look at our reflection to soberly consider own government’s policies and our failings in this regard.


That the country who was victim of the murderous 9/11 attacks would not only still be reluctant to publicly heap open scorn on organizations like CAIR and others like it, but allow them access to train our top law enforcement officials and be sought after to speak to our state legislatures and Congress to help determine our policies is an open indictment of ourselves. There is certainly no room for us to mock and jeer at our Limey and Aussie cousins for their respective sideshows. That we see the radical Islamic elements they have climbed into bed with should provide us with a moment of clarity to consider how we have been sleeping with the enemy ourselves.