Nick Cohen shows his irrational hatred for the Muslim Brotherhood

Why must we tolerate police spies in our midst? | Nick Cohen | Comment is free | The Observer

Nick Cohen, as long-time readers will know, has a long-standing hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood, as well he might, being an atheist secular liberal while they are a religiously-based party. When hundreds of thousands demonstrated in central London against the Iraq war that he supported, he ignored the people marching and looked only at the organisers — the “enemies of economic freedom” (communists) and the “enemies of sexual freedom” (the Brotherhood). This was a common theme of bourgeois liberal critics of the anti-war alliance. In today’s Observer, he has a long article denouncing police spying on environmental campaigns, setting the scene for another dig at the Muslim Brotherhood, all Muslim groups which included any of their activists, and non-Muslims who supported them. In this case, it was Bob Lambert, a former police spy who was the head of the Muslim Contact Unit from the time it was established in 2002 until he left the force in 2007 and went into academia. He has been exposed as having been an agent provocateur, helping to write the pamphlet that became the focus of the McLibel trial, as well as fathering a child with a member of London Greenpeace, and then abandoning both of them when the police pulled him out.

After his long ramble about the police demanding to know who would be at an environmental debate in Canterbury and Lambert’s role in McLibel, he claims:

There are grounds for believing that Lambert carried on as a provocateur when he went on to run the Met’s Muslim contact unit after 9/11. He allied with the Muslim Brotherhood and other elements on the Islamist right. As the neoconservative writer Douglas Murray noticed this month, he secured their confidence by presenting “a small number of people, including me, as cold war-style enemies of Islam” – a dangerous charge to throw at anyone in fanatical times. Murray wants to know if Lambert was trying “to smoke out radicals by using me and others as bait”. If you believe the official line, the black ops have stopped and thus there cannot be “deep swimmers” in today’s anti-fracking movement urging it to be ever more extreme in the hope of discrediting its cause. All is well with our democracy. There’s no need now for comparisons with Russia.

To compare Lambert’s role in the MCU with being an agent provocateur is preposterous. The American police use such agents; they pose as converts to Islam (or sometimes they come from Muslim backgrounds) and their main tactic is to incite young men to join them in fictitious terrorist plots and then arrest them, or denounce them to their handlers. If the police had wanted to infiltrate the Muslim Council of Britain or any other group, they could have done so by using a fake convert or a compromised individual. Bob Lambert used his own name and took a conciliatory position, and supported the groups that were trusted by the Muslim community (despite theological differences) at a time when outsiders were trying to impose other “representatives”, sectarian outfits like the so-called Sufi Muslim Council, on it.

It would not have been difficult for Lambert or anyone else to portray Douglas Murray, currently editor of Standpoint magazine, as an enemy of Islam or Muslims — there is plenty of evidence of it in his own articles and speeches. Most notoriously, in his Pim Fortuyn Memorial Conference speech in 2006 (reproduced in full here), he advocated withdrawing freedom of speech from Muslims, and punishing any expression of support for Muslim hostility to western countries or western troops abroad with deportation, if not to the country one came from (as that might be the UK) then to the country of origin of a parent or grandparent:

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.

I posted my own response to his speech at The Sharpener, but since that blog closed, I have since re-posted it here. Murray also spent years using his so-called “Centre for Social Cohesion”, supported by Civitas and run out of the same premises as the Tory think-tank Policy Exchange, attempting to infiltrate mosques and Muslim organisations to make it appear as though they were extremist or supporting extremism, and his “exposés” often received a lot of press fanfare, but on closer examination they often turned out to be baseless. Among Murray’s other attempts to stir up baseless hostility to Muslims:

  • An opinion poll (of 600 students!) that ‘revealed’ that a large proportion supported ‘killing in the name of Islam’ (2008)
  • An incident where he pretended to have been ‘ambushed’ into debating with al-Muhajiroun, when in fact the group involved could have easily been identified as such in advance
  • A claim that a Muslim woman quoted in a newspaper was an ‘Islamist’, when no evidence for it existed
  • An attack on a proposal for a so-called “mega-mosque” a few streets away from the former World Trade Centre site (in fact, it was 13 storeys — not at all ‘mega’ for that part of New York — and not run by extremists at all)

You can search for material I’ve written about Murray, or just use this link. I think it demonstrates that he is in fact an enemy of the Muslim community who has been using his platform in the media to foment popular and political hostility against us for years. Murray claimed in his blog on Standpoint’s website that it is possible that his presentations, in which he showed a slide-show of “culprits” including Murray, “constituted some kind of effort to smoke out radicals by using people like [Murray] as bait”. However, if you went home and Googled Murray’s name (that was before most people could have done that with a smartphone in the room), you would find a wealth of material that demonstrated that what Lambert claimed about him was largely true. The worst Murray can find about the results of Lambert’s presentations is that “a contact” had heard a Muslim in the audience say that it was “the time for actions, not words”, so if Lambert’s aim was to “smoke out radicals”, he would have been more effective if he had called himself Rasheed and grown a beard.

Much as I agree that Lambert’s behaviour with London Greenpeace and the mother of his child was despicable, and it meets at least some definitions of rape (not least my Oxford dictionary’s, which includes using “fraudulent means” to obtain sex), I do not actually believe his role with the Muslim Contact Unit was insincere. That Nick Cohen makes this claim demonstrates that he simply has a hatred for the Muslim Brotherhood that goes beyond any rationality. It also, by the way, demonstrates his tactic of writing a long article about an uncontroversial matter or civil liberties or science, for example, then using a spurious parallel to get in a plug for one of his pet causes. For example, in this piece from 1st November, he starts off by praising medics who treated Ebola patients and then defied ‘irrational’ quarantine rules, and then sidetracks it onto attacking people who are against putting flouride in drinking water, which actually is a threat to some people’s health even if not everybody’s, and is unnecessary given that fluoride toothpaste is readily available. His arrogance shows in his liberal use of logical fallacies: the false appeals to authority, the use of snide remarks as a substitute for argument, putting ideas with some merit that he disagrees with alongside plainly baseless ideas (e.g. that global warming is a myth). This is a tired, lazy writer who has long since passed his sell-by date.

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