Muhajiroun versus Murray revisited

After writing my last entry linking to Yahya Birt’s response to the abortive “debate” at Conway Hall, London, between Anjum Choudhary of al-Muhajiroun and Douglas Murray of the so-called Centre for Social Cohesion, my attention was drawn to Murray’s blowing of his own trumpet at Comment is Free. As Yahya noted, Murray claims he acted in good faith, communicating with the “Global Issues Society” and realising only on arriving at Conway Hall that the whole thing was an “ambush”. I find the explanation implausible to say the least.

As is so often the case with implausible denials of responsibility, Murray’s explanation is not an adequate excuse in itself, because it does not explain why he and his organisation did not do the necessary homework beyond communicating with the virtual unknowns of the “Global Issues Society”. As Yahya Birt points out:

  1. They registered with the venue as a students’ society at Queen Mary’s, but neither the college nor the Islamic society had any record of them;
  2. Nobody familiar with the Muslim activist scene in London knew anything of them;
  3. All their events had featured Muhajiroun representatives;
  4. Al-Muhajiroun had heavily promoted the event, both on paper and online.

Murray complains that the “security” staff at the event turned out to be al-Muhajiroun men who seemed to be only there to enforce the segregation of men and women. This is a serious matter, since the security industry is regulated, and you have to register with the Security Industry Authority to work as a doorman of any kind. Were the goons enforcing segregation registered? If not, the organisers could well have been breaking the law.

If Murray suspected them of being a front group, the question must be asked why he did not follow these instincts rather than allow himself to be “led” by them in to an “ambush”. One possible explanation is that to simply turn the invitation down would have meant much less publicity both for them and for al-Muhajiroun, and the media generally seem overly keen to give this group publicity, because the rantings of Choudhary and his associates always make for a good story, as is the notion of a group of Muslims who want to blow everyone up, however tiny and unrepresentative they are.

Murray gives the excuse that to refuse debate is contrary to the idea of free speech, but his own record on Muslim free speech belies this. As he said in his Pim Fortuyn Memorial Lecture in March 2006 (reproduced in full here:

It is late in the day, but Europe still has time to turn around the demographic time-bomb which will soon see a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities. It has to. All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop. In the case of a further genocide such as that in the Balkans, sanctuary would be given on a strictly temporary basis. This should also be enacted retrospectively. Those who are currently in Europe having fled tyrannies should be persuaded back to the countries which they fled from once the tyrannies that were the cause of their flight have been removed. And of course it should go without saying that Muslims in Europe who for any reason take part in, plot, assist or condone violence against the West (not just the country they happen to have found sanctuary in, but any country in the West or Western troops) must be forcibly deported back to their place of origin. … Where a person was born in the West, they should be deported to the country of origin of their parent or grandparent.

While many people would have no problem with punishing those who involve themselves in terrorism, and not tolerating those who immigrate, or take asylum, and then cause trouble in this country, requiring all Muslims living in the UK to refrain from condoning violence against any western country, or any western forces anywhere, goes far beyond this and is not compatible with free speech. Depending on how you define “the west”, it could easily make Muslims liable for deportation for supporting Turkey against Greece, or supporting any Muslim separatist movement against Russia or any action by any Palestinian resistance movement.

It seems that Murray’s intention was to draw incriminating or discrediting material out of Choudhary, possibly to build the case for a ban, but possibly simply to raise “awareness” of the threat the Muhajiroun supposedly pose. However, neither the threat to ban them, nor the actual bans on their two successor groups, have shut them down; rather they have simply been forced to operate without a formal name (and people still cause them al-Muhajiroun and have been doing so for several years). On top of this, the Muhajiroun’s media profile is vastly out of proportion to its size or its influence within the Muslim community, which has grown increasingly sick of its antics as demonstrated in Luton recently. There is a big difference between free speech and obsessively shining the spotlight on a small fringe group which provides easy headlines.

Finally, in light of the association of the “Centre for Social Cohesion” and Policy Exchange, and the tendency of both groups to produce reports attacking Muslims on dubious grounds, we should ask whether the CSC and “good faith” go together. Murray’s excuse is pretty poor, and I don’t believe it anyway.

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