A legitimate and much-needed debate among British Muslims about a distinctive expression of Islam in a non-Muslim country has been hijacked and poisonously distorted. Journalists need to be very careful: we are entering a new era of McCarthyism...Thus Madeleine Bunting. One of the things she summons in evidence of poisonous distortion and McCarthyism is last night's edition of Panorama. Bunting and I must have been watching two different programmes. Because what I saw, over and again, was John Ware posing a clear question to Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, and failing - over and again - to get a straightforward answer. Or perhaps they weren't two different programmes after all. Bunting allows, for example, that...
where the campaign [sic] makes a legitimate accusation is that there is a virulent strain of anti-semitism and anti-Christian sentiment that appears in some Saudi-influenced strands of Islam. Ware points out that a Saudi imam invited to the East London Mosque had preached in just such terms in Saudi Arabia in sermons subsequently published on the web.And:
There are plenty of legitimate criticisms to make of the MCB and Sacranie - and Ware details some of them - such as Sacranie's reprehensible refusal to attend the Holocaust memorial service last January and his decision to attend a memorial service for the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin.But, you know, everybody makes 'mistakes' - Bunting's preferred mode of interpretation of such stuff. With evidence of mistakes of this sort from Sacranie and other Muslim spokesmen John Ware's programme was replete. Perhaps Madeleine Bunting takes a more relaxed view of those mistakes than do some of the rest of us because of her analysis of extremism:
[T]he main inspiration for British Muslim extremists is not their local mosques but television footage of Palestine and Iraq.Does she mean the inspiration provided by beheadings and suicide bombings? I doubt it. But, in any event, grievances are the 'main inspiration'. Which means ideas are always secondary and explainable (away).