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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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