It is increasingly hard to draw a line between the agendas of the violent and non-violent

The hidden face of political Islamism Islam

Dean Godson/Times Online

*  Dean Godson takes a look at the ridiculous Da’awa Expo organized by the slaves of Allah, where the usual Islamic terrorists believers do their best to put lipstick on a pig, which prompts the Bunglawussi to smear him in what Muslims call ‘self-defense’:

“Dean Godson of the CIA  – sorry, I meant Policy Exchange – continues the witch-hunt against Islam Expo, and throws in an attack on Osama Saeed for good measure.

Who says that Islamists can’t learn a trick or two from the West when they have to? Take a glance at the glossy brochure of Islam Expo – billed as Europe’s “biggest Islamic cultural festival” – which ended at Olympia yesterday. You could be forgiven for thinking that you were looking at the catalogue for the forthcoming Boden sale that comes to the venerable London exhibition centre in a few weeks’ time.

* Lets take a look at what Osama Saed has to say: The return of the caliphate

Visitors to Islam Expo would have witnessed such innocent activities as an Islamic arts and crafts workshop for under 12s, live Islamic storytelling performances and lute-playing and poetry recitals in the pomegranate and date gardens.

* What they don’t show you in the Islam Expo: how AP stringers make snuff movies for the Taliban. Killing women is a small matter for the soldiers of Allah…

The old Comintern would have instantly recognised the first rate tradecraft involved in organising all this. Just as Moscow and its allies knew how to organise a “popular front” to draw non-communist progressives and liberals into their orbit of influence, so some Islamists have honed a keen sense of how to present a non-threatening face to the West and to the many hundreds of decent, apolitical Muslims who turned up for a family day out.

But behind the cultural soft power of Islam Expo, there is political hard power, and some of it comes in quite raw, unpalatable forms. The organisers gave floor space in the exhibition section to the genocidal regime in Sudan (festooned with pictures of happy-looking black Africans) and to the “Cultural Section” of the Iranian Embassy (representing an aspirant genocidal regime) and the Algerian junta (no spring picnic on human rights).

This perhaps becomes less surprising when one examines some of the directors of Islam Expo. All oppose al-Qaeda violence, but they are anything but moderate Muslims. They include Azzam Tamimi, a supporter of Hamas suicide bombings in Israel and an admirer of Ayatollah Khomeini; and Ismail Adam Patel, who believes that women in the West who are raped share responsibility with their attackers.

Consider also the views of one of the expo’s speakers: “Prof Zaghloul al Naggar, professor of geology and director of the London-based Markfield Institute of Higher Education has rightly told IslamOnline that many Westerners – some of them homosexual – convert to Islam in order to appeal to Islamic communities and spread sinful behaviour among Muslims, thus shaking their belief,” according to the website.

No wonder Hazel Blears, the feisty Secretary of State for Communities, decided last week that this was not a place where any minister should be seen. Most of her Muslim colleagues in the Labour Party backed her, including the MPs Sadiq Khan and Khalid Mahmood.

But another minister, Shahid Malik, MP for Dewsbury, had other ideas and sought to attend in a personal capacity. He was persuaded not to attend Islam Expo only with the greatest difficulty – after heavy pressure from his departmental chief at International Development, Douglas Alexander, the Chief Whip and the Cabinet Secretary, who invoked Cabinet Office guidelines on engagement with Islamic groups.

Ms Blears is probably the member of the Cabinet readiest to uphold a strict interpretation of those criteria. She has also dealt vigorously with senior officials whom she believes have been naive in their approach to Islamist-friendly groups.

But policing the boundaries of respectable discourse is hard work. While ministers were forbidden to go, the Foreign Office-funded British Satellite News was publicising an entirely positive image of Islam Expo for overseas consumption.

This time the Government has had a narrow escape from the political Islamists of Islam Expo.

Its relief must be compounded by what has happened over the past 48 hours to Alex Salmond. Scotland’s First Minister has landed himself in serious trouble over a grant of £215,000 given to the Scottish Islamic Foundation, which is headed by one of his advisers, Osama Saeed. Other Muslim groups in Scotland are upset by what they see as favouritism to the best-known political Islamist in the Scottish National Party.

Mr Saeed, an SNP parliamentary candidate and also a speaker at Islam Expo, has described Hamas suicide attacks as “martyrdom operations” and has supported the creation of a modern caliphate, or pan-Islamic state. The row could cost the SNP victory in the Glasgow East by-election next week.

The fashionable take on deradicalising angry young Muslim men is that only political Islamists, such as Mr Saeed, have the credibility to stop them going over the deep end. This reasoning is doubtful. The opposition of political Islamists to al-Qaeda violence in the West does not mean that they are actually friends of the West. Rather, they know that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

The boundaries between violent and non-violent Islamists deserve greater exploration. Are non-violent political Islamists part of the solution or, as figures such as Hazel Blears and David Cameron increasingly suspect, part of the problem?

* Remember: our definition of ‘moderate Muslim’ is one who stands by and watches while the ‘radical’ cuts your throat…

Dean Godson is research director of Policy Exchange think tank

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