Tolerating a libel

7 June 2011

11:06 AM

7 June 2011

11:06 AM

It’s always unpleasant to be libelled and particularly nasty to be defamed by
supporters of totalitarian Islam. Journalists really shouldn’t sue, but sometimes it can get very frustrating, especially when the libel is obviously malign and ill informed. Over the past
couple of weeks I have been examining the close relationship between London Citizens, the “community organisers” so beloved of the political class and the Islamists of East London
Mosque and Islamic Forum Europe. In week one, we looked at London Citizens’ Deputy Chair Junaid Ahmed, who is a supporter of Hamas. Then last week we examined the reaction of  Jewish leaders who have signed up to London Citizens. This is a relatively straightforward story of the left making common cause with
radical Islam, an all-too-familiar story over the past decade. The IFE is not very happy about being rumbled. Azad Ali, an Islamist civil servant who regularly writes on the IFE blog, has now come
up with the following deranged conspiracy theory:

“Martin Bright the ‘self-confessed Islamophobe’ is the editor of the paper which published an article, under the headline “This Was No Peace Activist” by Geoffrey
Alderman, glorifying the killing of an innocent peace activist Vittorio Arrigon “


There is no more truth in the assertion that I am a “self-confessed Islamophobe” than that I am the editor of the Jewish Chronicle. The “evidence” for the first assertion
comes from the self-styled Islamophobia Watch blog and its absurd “amir” Bob Pitt, who claims to have seen me admit as much at a City Hall event. I remember this occasion well just as I
remember explicitly saying that I was not Islamophobic (in fact I consider myself more open to the diversity and contradictions of the Muslim world than the IFE) but that I thought fear of Islam
was completely understandable. Indeed, fear and public criticism of organised religion must be open to citizens in an open and democratic society. However, Azad Ali does provide a useful service in
flushing out Junaid Ahmed’s real views on Hamas and the controversial speech he gave praising it leaders:

“I delivered this speech during the height of the illegal invasion and war against the population of Gaza in 2008/09. Over 1,300 innocent people were killed and evidence emerged that illegal
‘white phosphorous’ chemical bombs were being used against civilian populations. Henceforth, I make no apology for being emotional. My faith teaches me to stand up for justice and speak
against the death of innocent children, women and men.”

Azad Ali and Junaid Ahmed are Hamas supporters and, as a free-speech democrat I support their right to express that support as emotionally as they like. But for me, Hamas is a movement of the
religious extreme right committed to the destruction of the state of Israel. As someone who believes in the rights of leftists, women, homosexuals and Jews to live their lives without fear, unlike
my friends at London Citizens and various north London synagogues, I cannot make common cause with these authoritarian reactionaries. And for that reason, I understand that I will have to tolerate
being libelled by them and their apologists. 

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Nice think.

  • Sterling

    daniel b.d.
    only the orthodox weddings have separation (not the secular, reformist and conservative ones) and we consider them idolaters not Jews – their main practice rests on Ashcenasy tradition which mainly emanates from Christians telling them what not to do.

  • Daniel ben Dov


    You defended the right of Jim Fitzpatrick not to attend a Muslim wedding at which men and women were required to sit separately ( Since you assert that you are not an Islamophobe, presumably you take this position on principle, and would therefore expect him also to decline to attend a Jewish wedding at which men and women were required to sit separately?

  • Stewie

    Well indeed, Islamism has always seemed (to me) to have more in common with Communism. A movement with it’s grass roots in the poor, slavish adherence to a book or doctrine and Demagogues. The Revolutionary Guard might be viewed as an enormous collective. Strong shades of Communism under Mao and Stalin. But, in practice, from the perspective of ordinary Joe, Communism and Fascism look somewhat similar and both are despicable. Iran is simply “despicable” and we can characterise it by traits common to both of the 20th Centure ideologies.
    It’s interesting to cut hairs and speculate whether China is still a Communist state or has morphed into a fascist state. I’d say the latter, with a uniquely Oriental flavour.

  • Oedipus Rex

    If there’s one good thing that can come of this debate it is the miracle (?) that I agree with every single word that Nicholas has posted above.

    Until we ditch the abuse of language in politics and culture we don’t have any clear idea of what we are talking about. Of course, the great essay on this is Eric Blair’s – how deeply offensive it is to have Erica’s rants posted under his name (more or less).

  • elixelx

    Erica, you really shouldn’t expect people to do your dirty work before you do it yourself!
    “However making a progressive case for ethnic cleansing, dispossession, collective punishment and apartheid has proved well beyond his limited talents…”
    You seem to have more talent than Bright. Why don’t YOU make the case for Hamas, rather than always criticizing, ad naseum!

  • daifromwales

    ‘Erica Blair’ follows precisely the same course of action that RocketDog describes – take a person’s statement (‘fear of Islam is understandable’) and turn it on its head (‘I hate Islam and all its adherants therefore I am a crazy racist fascist beast’). This is classical behaviour from the illiberal Left, as is the personal abuse that follows.

    And, like the vast majority of critics of the Jewish State, she willfuly fails to understand that the Jews are merely a convenient bogie man which dictators can use to inspire loyalty to their own regimes.
    Israel is an small country of no consequence on the International Stage save as an object of hatred by millions of people who have been brain washed to do so since birth, and who live in societies wherein thinking for oneself is a criminal act. Rather like the UK today in fact.

    And of course their army is not full of nice people. They’d never have survived if it had been.

  • RocketDog

    More interested in the use of the term Right Wing by the commentator than the whole leftist/Islam debate.

    While listening to Radio 4 Propaganda today I was subjected to a ‘monologue’ that was appearing to try to drag the charismatic Malcom X (originally of the Nation of Islam) into the same warm ‘progressive’ glow normally reserved by the Mass Media for Martin Luther King (and quite rightly so in the case of King!)

    The only way to get any sort of rational debate on any of these tribal/religious issues is to start with a rigorous and rational definition of terms. The consistent equation of the term Right Wing with totalitarian regimes, whatever their political tenor colours this debate (am I allowed to say that?)

    I would say that anyone who dismissed the white population in the way that he did was tending to the totalitarian in their viewpoint. However, when such an individual is presented as ‘progressive’ by the Mass Media, I would say that we are growing ourselves a problem

    The Right needs to define itself in such a way that leftists are unable to try to ‘move the piano’ of their public image across the ‘church hall’ of the public conciousness – inch by inch. Because that is what they are doing, and it is people like Mr Bright who are, wittingly or not, helping them with these sloppy definitions

  • Erica Blair

    Martin ‘Hasbara’ Bright’s job at the JC is ‘Political Editor’. The JC published Alderman’s disgusting remarks and neither Bright nor his boss has condemned them. Apparently drawing attention to uncomfortable facts is now a ‘conspiracy theory’.

    Brights current job is ‘making the progressive case for Israel’. However making a progressive case for ethnic cleansing, dispossession, collective punishment and apartheid has proved well beyond his limited talents.

    Bright is little more than Melanie Phillips in drag.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Nicholas I know I don’t need to explain that if you label someone insane you don’t have to engage their argument. It is an old tactic much used by the left. As is lowering the threshold of the unacceptable so that pretty much any position not approved by the left may not even be raised at all. It is used against the heretics Bright and Cohen all the time.

    I’ll just repeat, for the record, religion is not race, religion is behaviour, and behaviour is subject to criticism and may be held to standards of decency. Such discussion is inherently acceptable, to me.

  • Nicholas

    I really don’t understand the term “Islamophobe”. Is it meant in the literal sense as an irrational fear of Islam? Or is it used in the “New Labour” sense of implying a religious hatred? I understand it is a pejorative either way but if one can’t express concern about the collective activities of any organised group without being labelled a “phobe” how can rational discourse ever take place?

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Fergus, HJE said a lot of things. Things which would get him pigeonholed as a right-wing extremist racist if he posted them on the wall today. The political matrix thing is well-known, I don’t know
    who did it first. is a place where one may test oneself.

    What I mean here, and it is all I claim, is that the idea that any group or persuasion is right-wing because it is authoritarian, or racist, is daft. Also the idea that Hitler and Stalin were opposites who joned up round the back. When you eliminate the racism, what is it in Nazi or Italian Fascist (yes I know they weren’t racist) policies (actual declared policies, not ones ascribed later) which is right-wing? What is it that separates it from Soviet-style communism?

    Oh, and why express religious hegemony in political terms? The Israel vs Islam conflict is essentially religious/racial/tribalist, with political overtones.

    No, I think Martin was using right-wing thoughtlessly as his tribe (lefties, not Jews) is prone to do. None of which has any bearing on his purported Islamophobia, which is an accusation which can’t be supported by any evidence I’ve seen.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Rhoda, H.J. Eysenck produced such a matrix in one of his books forty years ago.

  • Martin Bright

    Is Erica Blair your real name or are you hiding behind a pseudonym which plays on the real name of a person who recognised
    the totalitarian mentality when he saw it?

  • Erica Blair

    ‘And for that reason, I understand that I will have to tolerate being libelled by them and their apologists. ‘

    Or is the real reason that Bob Pitt has hundreds of other witnesses who can back up his version of what you said?

    ps Anyone who doesn’t want to be labelled an ‘Islamophobe’ shouldn’t write articles with the title, ‘The Great Koran Con Trick’

  • Martin Bright

    I think we may have had this discussion before. But I think you are both right (not about Thatcher, but the matter in hand). I don’t think the left-right labels are particularly useful when talking about the authoritarian tendency except in one sense. It is unsettling for my friends on the left who make common cause with Islamists to be told that these people are on the extreme right of the political spectrum.

  • michael crockett


    I completely agree. But since Thatcher, all English politicians of both parties have been wet lying wimps. But I myself feel that labelling Cameron a wet may be a bit premature. He seems to be taking a line about Muslims which recognises that the people are getting fed up, but he does have to operate within the realities of politics. Thank you for your polite reply. I am temporarily seeking political asylum from the Wall.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Michael, I didn’t mean to hijack Martin’s thread, but personally, what makes me angry is not leftism but stupidity, from whatever side. The kind so often demonstrated by those of the political class who are not motivated by principle, left or right, but by tribalism or just plain wetness.

  • michael crockett

    Rhoda Klapp,

    I remember many years ago Bernard Levin writing in the Times of the extremely conservative old men on the Kremlin wall for a military parade. And I thought at the time that really the extreme right and the extreme left sort of meet in the middle, like a circle. By the same token, was Hitler really right or left? I am confused. If it is a question of good solid common sense conservative self help politics, then I am right wing. But the right can get to the point where they lose me, mainly because they are so angry.Do you agree.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Which leaves us only with the conflation of right-wing and totalitarian/authoritarian. It just doesn’t work with the traditional binary two-wing idea, you need a matrix to define a position. Individual vs Collective, Authoritarian vs Free. I believe, and this is opinion only, that when working with actual human beings, you can’t have collective and free at the same time. Which is why I can’t be left-wing.
    Now back to your scheduled programming.

  • Martin Bright

    There is nothing right-wing about Islam. I am talking about authoritarian Islamism, which I see a being on the extreme right of politics. I am on the left and I do not support gulags, the one-party state or terrorism, though I recognise that some on the extreme left do. Perhaps what unites us Rhoda is our opposition to totalitarian politics.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Sorry to be boring or obvious, but can you explain what is right-wing about Islam? I think I am right-wing, but I don’t want to stone anybody or impose my beliefs on them. I believe in freedom. I just don’t see it.

    So please explain. Think of it as a chance to educate Rhoda, because I am genuinely (not just rhetorically) bemused by the reference.