“Government officials will spend thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to attend a lecture by an Islamic extremist whom Jacqui Smith is under pressure to ban from Britain.
“Yesterday, the Mail revealed how the Home Secretary was facing demands to deny a visa to Ibrahim Moussawi – a spokesman for the Lebanese terrorist organisation Hezbollah – to come to speak at a British university. Now it has emerged that the lectures Moussawi plans to deliver are targeted at Whitehall officials who deal in foreign affairs and extremism. They will each spend up to £1,890 of taxpayers’ cash attending the Political Islam event at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) next month.
“Moussawi – who is among the key speakers at the week-long course – is scheduled to address two sessions on March 25 and is expected to be paid for the talks. Another speaker at the event is the UK-based extremist Dr Kamal Helbawy, a former spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood – a group said to have inspired Al Qaeda [sic].
“Last night, Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, a researcher for the Centre for Social Cohesion, a respected think-tank, said: ‘In their willingness to pay extremists like Dr Helbawy and Dr el-Moussawi, SOAS are helping these men present themselves as mainstream figures. ‘It is particularly worrying that the target audience includes Government officials and the police, who may find themselves paying for advice on tackling terrorism from its very exponents’.”
And Daily Mail home affairs editor James Slack writes: “So here comes the acid test: is Jacqui Smith, as she proclaims, an enemy of extremism in all its forms, or a cowardly hypocrite? In October, the Home Secretary announced ‘tough new measures’ to deny entry to Britain to anybody ‘engaged in fostering, encouraging or spreading extremism and hatred.’ In recent weeks she has put them to use by banning a Dutch MP with hugely controversial views on Islam, and a notorious anti-gay US preacher. But will she be prepared to apply the same new standards to Islamic extremists who preach a hatred of Jews?”
Update: Entirely predictably, if a trifle belatedly, the “left-wing” blog Harry’s Place – which is increasingly indistinguishable from the Daily Mail – joins in the witch-hunt.