ASSERTING the primacy of principles such as freedom of expression or secularism was shown to be too costly for the left. It was expensive in terms of potential votes. And it proved impossible for them in a multi-cultural society to reject the views of organized groups from within an ethnic minority community. In academia, the situation is as bad or worse.
Internationally petro-monarchies of the Gulf fund much of the research into the disputed concept of ‘Islamophobia’. British academics find little difficulty making a living in this field. For a period, many joined forces with sections of the state they supposedly despised. Bob Lambert became head of Scotland Yard’s Muslim Contact Unit. Yet he is better known now for the significant breaches of human rights he organised and committed as a secret policeman - including fathering a child by an activist – whilst heading up the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad. Lambert needed little subterfuge to be accepted in a post-police career as a ‘progressive’ lecturer. Academics Lambert worked with such as Professor David Miller knew Lambert had been a secret policeman for a quarter of a century, but cared little due to his influence in the Muslim community and willingness to join leftist academics in denouncing any actual or perceived critic of Islam.
The curious interaction of the left, the state, academia and Islamism is most pronounced in one of the Middle East’s most important conservative religious organizations. The Muslim Brotherhood has played a sophisticated political game in Britain this century. Following the intervention of Lambert’s Muslim Contact Unit, the Brotherhood ended up controlling Finsbury Park Mosque, after the state finally acted against Abu Hamza – currently serving life in a US gaol for terror offences - and the various Algerian and Al-Qaeda jihadists located there.
But the Brotherhood – or Ikhwaan as it is known in the Middle East - can also face left when it is in its interests to do so. The Labour MP for Islington North and Finsbury Park, Jeremy Corbyn, holds constituency surgeries at the mosque. The related Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) played a central role in the Stop the War Coalition, and its one-time president Anas al-Tikriti (whose father led the Iraqi Islamic Party) even stood for the Respect party in the 2004 European elections.
Any compromise in these marriages comes from the left. The MAB dissuaded Stop the War from having music at its giant 2003 march against invading Iraq, threatening to boycott the event. As smooth as a cat’s whiskers, Anas al-Tikriti in 2014 was part of an Iraqi Islamic delegation meeting President Obama in the White House.
The Muslim Brotherhood dominate the relationship between the left and Islam. For example, a series of groups, usually with connections to the Ikhwaan’sCordoba Foundation – which al-Tikriti founded - have funded research by academics based around the left-leaning Public Interest Investigations, responsible for prominent websites Powerbase and Spinwatch. The anti-lobbying Spinwatch is unlikely to speak truth to power where the Muslim Brotherhood is concerned, having taken £15,000 from the Cordoba Foundation in 2010-14. Other big hitters in the Islamist scene, such as MEND (recently hosted in Parliament by Yasmin Qureshi MP, Shadow Minister for Justice) and Friends of Al-Aqsa, have provided it with similar sums. He who pays the piper…
Whilst it is too early to judge Corbynism, his political career has been spent around the new left, elements of the trades union bureaucracy and Islamists. Logically, young activists joining Labour are more likely to concentrate on critiquing the Tories than questioning the alliance they have joined. But the latter part of that alliance is already showing itself capable of tarnishing the party’s image. Few had high expectations of Shami Chakrabarti’s investigation into anti-Semitism in the Labour party. Whilst some of the incidents which forced the inquiry were genuinely shocking, today’s Labour party has limited appetite for critically evaluating attitudes on the left to anti-Semitism. It has even less for examining the anti-Semitism within British Islam which characterises some of its Muslim members. Ms Chakrabarti certainly did not want to go there, just as a generation ago, as related in Salman Rushdie's autobiography Joseph Anton (p. 6), Keith Vaz realised it was too much trouble to go out of his way for Rushdie, even when constituents solicited the author’s murder.
The left can have a relationship with Islamists, or it can have a relationship with the broad working class, in all its shapes, sizes, beliefs and colours. It cannot have a long-term relationship with both, because their values and aspirations clash. The working class does not want or understand segregation, or restrictions on freedom of speech to avoid ‘offence’. It will not accept or excuse jihadi violence. It is bewildered by a Labour party which now contains people who, on social media, venerate Hitler or the transportation of Jews. It has nothing in common with the Muslim Brotherhood, no matter how good it is at buying up sections of our intelligentsia.
To the existential crisis of the British left, we must add one more component: the threat to its very existence brought about by engagement with, and passive acceptance of, Islamism.