Around six months ago, I wrote that pro-Israeli activists were involved in strenuous efforts to try and hobble a new All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia that had been set up at the initiative of ENGAGE.
Their efforts centred around portraying ENGAGE as a hotbed of ‘Islamists’ and some wild claims were made.
Using the cloak of parliamentary immunity, Robert Halfon MP, a former chair of the Conservative Friends of Israel, raised this question in the House of Commons:
“Will the Leader of the House find time for an urgent statement on iEngage, the secretariat of the newly formed all-party parliamentary group on Islamophobia? iEngage has a track record of being aggressively anti-Semitic and homophobic, and has extensive links with terrorism in Tunisia and the middle east.”
Halfon could only get away with making such an outrageous and defamatory accusation because he was speaking inside the House of Commons where he enjoys parliamentary privilege which grants him full immunity to any libel claims.
I challenged him at the time to repeat his allegations in public. He has yet to find the courage to do so.
As I said at the time:
“You can be sure that the likes of Martin Bright, Robert Halfon, Harry’s Place, Paul Goodman and Policy Exchange will not stop in their attempts to get ENGAGE removed as the secretariat. Indeed, in his latest blog, Goodman seems to hint that the PM David Cameron ought to take action against Tory MPs who supported ENGAGE and also call for action by Labour leader Ed Miliband against Sadiq Khan MP who supported ENGAGE.”
And, lo!, it came to pass. For on Monday 18th July, as the Jewish Chronicle reported, ENGAGE were removed as the secretariat of the APPG on Islamophobia. This has led to a lot of gloating in the expected quarters such as Harry’s Place, The Spittoon, Paul Goodman of Conservative Home etc.
Amidst all this, the bigger picture appears to have been somewhat obscured. ENGAGE at their inception in 2008 aimed to get parliament to establish a group to look at the serious issue of Islamophobia - in the same way that MPs had established an APPG on anti-semitism. ENGAGE lobbied various MPs and got promises from them in the run up to the 2010 general elections about setting up such a group. This has now been achieved. An APPG on Islamophobia now exists with many MPs as members.
This is an important achievement. I know that a few years back some UK Muslims approached the APPG on anti-semitism to request them to extend their remit to also cover anti-Muslim prejudice but were firmly rebuffed.
It now remains for all UK Muslims to ensure they lobby their MPs to take an active part in the APPG on Islamophobia. We will see if these MPs seek to challenge anti-Muslim prejudice in our society with the same vigour that they seek to challenge anti-semitism and other forms of discrimination.
Just take a look at these recent worrying incidents:
17 July 2011: EDL supporters call for bombing of Dudley mosque
16 July 2011: Three convicted after racist attack on Islamic college
14 July 2011: Arson attack on Accrington mosque
13 July 2011: Man who ripped off burqa sentenced for attack
7 July 2011: Pig’s head thrown on site of proposed mosque
6 July 2011: Six arrests after EDL Huddersfield demo
Isn’t it astonishing that up until now – when ENGAGE helped set up the APPG on Islamophobia – our MPs had not established any group to examine this outright anti-Muslim bigotry and find ways to tackle it?
ENGAGE have, alhamdulillah, played and continue to play a vital role in cataloguing reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes right across the UK by trawling through local news reports all over the country. So does the superb website Islamophobia Watch. May their efforts find pleasure in the sight of our Creator, ameen.
Update: ‘Tory MPs packed APPG on Islamophobia meeting to remove ENGAGE’ – Islamophobia Watch
Update 2: Bob Pitt of Islamophobia Watch has posted a very firm response to Chris Allen on Allen’s blog. Allen wrote the report that gave the Islamophobes just what they needed. Here is Bob’s response in full.