‘Ayatollah of the RAF’: Mail on Sunday witch-hunts Joel Hayward

The Mail on Sunday has published an attack on Joel Hayward, dean of the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell (“Ayatollah of the RAF: Academic ‘university’ head is Muslim convert who claims Nazi gas chambers were British propaganda and criticises Libya air strikes”). The story has since been taken up by the Daily Star, under the bizarre headline “RAF pilot converts to Islam”.

The main source for the Mail‘s witch-hunt is a letter headed “The Air Force Ayatollah”, which was sent to the paper by anonymous RAF officers who would obviously rather have Robert Spencer running the college. Apparently students at Cranwell “are in fear” of expressing anti-Muslim sentiments in front of Hayward. Worst of all: “Anyone who fails to follow the line that Islam is a peace-loving religion is hauled into his office for re-education”.

The Mail concurs in finding it sinister that Hayward “has frequently challenged claims of Islamic aggressiveness”. In fact, his views on that subject are so off-the-wall that one of his articles, “The Qur’an and war: Observations on Islamic just war”, was published in the RAF’s own academic journal, Air Power Review.

The anonymous authors of the “Ayatollah” letter complain that Hayward has engaged in “Islamist activities that are nothing to do with the RAF”. But neither the letter writers nor the Mail give any indication of what these “Islamist activities” might be.

Hayward’s article criticising the western governments who pushed for military intervention in Libya, which the Mail finds so scandalous, was in fact published in the Muslim lifestyle magazine Emel, not a publication widely known for its support of Islamist extremism. Of course, the Mail does not see fit to mention this or provide a link to the article, which is a reasoned critique of western policy towards Libya.

The sole “Islamist” connection that the Mail can come up with is the fact that Hayward wrote a paper for the Cordoba Foundation, “described by David Cameron as a front for the Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood”. That would be the same David Cameron who came unstuck after falsely accusing two schools of being fronts for Hizb ut-Tahrir. As for the Muslim Brotherhood, it is of course a mass democratic movement which is poised to play a major governmental role in Egypt after the forthcoming elections to the National Assembly.

In any case, far from aligning himself with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hayward’s links would appear to be with Minhaj-ul-Quran, an organisation that glories in its reputation for moderation and has an unfortunate habit of denouncing other currents within Islam as extremists and promoters of terrorism – a stance that has won the organisation the support of Douglas Murray.

As for Hayward’s notorious MA thesis on Holocaust revisionism, which he wrote twenty years ago, he stated unequivocally in a 2000 addendum to the thesis that “without doubt, millions of Jews perished during World War II, murdered by Nazis and their allies. The perpetrators used a range of methods, including gassing, shooting, physical exhaustion, and starvation, to carry out this monstrous crime”.

The Mail on Sunday report has been seized on by Pamela Geller (“Dean of RAF pilot training college is a Muslim convert, Holocaust denier, jihadist”) and by Jihad Watch where it generated the usual collection of rabid Islamophobic comments (“Would a nazi have been given such a job during WW2? So, why can a present-day equivalent of a nazi hold such a position???”).

Perhaps it’s just as well the Mail on Sunday didn’t publish its witch-hunting article on Dr Hayward a few weeks ago, otherwise Anders Breivik would probably have copied and pasted it into his manifesto, along with all the other reports from the Mail that he so admired.