The Muslim Council of Britain has demanded a public apology from the BBC over the broadcasting of a Panorama programme last night which they have castigated as a “travesty“. A quick glance at their statement throws light upon their concerns, namely, that the programme aims to undermine the Islamic faith by presenting imams as extremists and that it is designed to “sabotage” the political participation of Muslims in the British mainstream. The most telling quote is,
It seems that to qualify as so-called ‘moderates’ Muslims are required to remain silent about Israeli crimes in Palestine, otherwise they are automatically labelled as ‘extremists’.
The refutation of the MCB’s position is clear. In a society which values free debate, the Muslim Council of Britain should engage with the issues raised. Instead, they have imported the arguments prevalent in the Middle East, which damns all criticism as a Zionist conspiracy designed to undermine Islam. Muslims do not have to remain quiet about Israeli actions that they perceive as criminal. The problem lies with those who justify terror and the deaths of innocents by referring to Israeli actions and tarring every Jew and Israeli Arab with ‘collective guilt’.
This rhetoric is not new, but the platform that Muslim political institutions are gaining in the mainstream media provides a testament to the paradox that they are increasingly confident and increasingly defensive. The popular demonstrations of the anti-war movement and the dividends reaped from the flanking alliance that Muslim organisations arranged with the hard left has gained the political wing of Islam legislative promises such as the outlawing of statements that are deemed offensive. By rubbishing the Panorama programme, the Muslim Council of Britain wishes to build upon these achievements by narrowing the public discussion of Islam in the mainstream media and excising a ‘critical school’ that does not accept their arguments or values.
The terrorist attacks of July 7th have proved to be an opportunity for Muslim organisations regarded as ‘mainstream’. Their spokesmen have been co-opted into government programmes providing channels of communication and extra sources of patronage. However, the terrorist attacks have also raised the profile of these spokesmen. Buoyed by the popularity of the anti-war movement, they have overestimated the depth of support for their views in Middle Britain, confusing the liberals who marched against the Iraqi war with the hard left. That is why we hear the overconfidence of Muslim anti-Zionists in our midst and a growing realisation in certain parts of the Labour Party that members of the Muslim Council of Britain hold illiberal views.