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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Questions For The Home Secretary

Charles Moore: It is Muslims who have most to fear from Islamists.

On Wednesday, I wrote a letter to David Blunkett. As he resigned 15 minutes after my fax arrived (I cannot claim the two events were related), I do not complain that I have not yet received an answer, either from him, or from his successor, Charles Clarke. But an early response, as they say on bills, would be appreciated.

What I asked the Home Secretary concerned his department's proposed law against "religious hatred". Readers may remember that, last week in this column, I defended the right of people to say - though it is not a proposition with which I agree - that the Prophet Mohammed was a paedophile.

So my question to whoever happens to be Home Secretary is whether it would be an offence under the new law to assert this proposition. Muslims are also very offended by any pictorial depiction of the Prophet; so I asked whether such depictions would also be an offence under the law.

Fiona Mactaggart, who is minister for race equality, has accused critics of the new law of a misunderstanding. It is not a blasphemy law, she says. You can say anything you like about the beliefs: what you will not be allowed to do is to insult the believers because of what they believe. I do not see how this distinction will be possible to maintain: it is certainly not one which Muslims accept.

On this page on Tuesday , Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, clearly saw the law as a way of preventing "the vilification of dearly cherished beliefs". He sees attacks on the Prophet as attacks on all Muslims - therefore, in his view, they should be banned. That is what Muslims think Labour has promised them.

The reaction to my own article shows the problem. The Muslim Association of Britain (not to be confused with the MCB) said that what I had written was "repulsive", composed out of an "arrogance borne by only the most zealous of racists". Because of my "filth and drivel", I should be dismissed from The Daily Telegraph, and the paper should apologise. Just in case the point was missed, the MAB reminded the paper of the lessons of the Salman Rushdie affair.

It also referred readers to a website, IslamOnline.net which globalises the denunciation of my column with a Cairo dateline and offers a link to a discussion of what should happen to non-Muslims who insult the Prophet ("In Islam, it is well known that the punishment for the one who insults the Prophet is to be killed… However, we Muslims are advised to be forgiving and pardoning.")

Who are the Muslim Association of Britain? I've been looking them up. They have close links to the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, one of whose leaders, Qutb, advocated takfir, the branding of all Muslims as infidels unless they conform to sharia. Some MAB activists support Hamas and its policy of suicide bombing.

One of its senior chaps, Azzam Tamimi, has boasted of this "human bomb" against the Israelis: "We love death, they love life." The IslamOnline website is the mouthpiece of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. It debates, among other things, whether the best treatment for homosexuals is 100 lashes or chucking them over a cliff, and Qaradawi rejects interfaith dialogue in favour of "the language of the sword and force".

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