“Attitudes about how to deal with radical Islam are now shifting so quickly within Whitehall that it is hard to keep up. The detailed announcement from Ruth Kelly, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, on how she will spend £5m on grass-roots hearts and minds projects is a genuine break with the recent past, when ministers preferred to fund self-appointed national representatives of Islam such as the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB)….
“In July of last year, I wrote a controversial pamphlet published by the think-tank Policy Exchange in which I exposed the extent to which the British government and the Foreign Office in particular had made a compact with radical Islam. In the Middle East, this constituted a dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood, which works towards an Islamic state through the democratic process; at home this was largely expressed by the Labour government’s long-standing relationship with the Muslim Council of Britain.
“Leaked Foreign Office documents showed that officials and ministers had adopted a policy of what one diplomat described as ‘engagement for its own sake’ with ostensibly moderate Islamist groups in an attempt to counter the influence of more extreme organisations. This policy had also been allowed to seep into domestic policy, over which the Foreign Office had, until recently, an extraordinary degree of influence. Using a series of articles in this magazine and a documentary on Channel 4, I argued for a change in policy to broaden the scope of the dialogue.
“The influence of Ruth Kelly has been hugely significant in this respect.”
Martin Bright in the New Statesman, 9 April 2007