Witch-hunt of Azad Ali continues, courtesy of Andrew Gilligan

Andrew Gilligan 2Mayor Boris Johnson has given at least £30,000 of taxpayers’ money to an organisation co-controlled by an Islamist “extremist”, the Standard can reveal.

Azad Ali praises a spiritual leader of al Qaeda on his blog, denies the Mumbai attacks were “terrorism” and quotes, apparently approvingly, a statement advocating the killing of British troops in Iraq. He also criticises those Muslims who “tell people that Islam is a religion of peace”. He describes non-Muslims as “sinners” and says Muslims should “hate [non-Muslims’] disbelieving actions”.

Mr Ali is the founding chairman, and current treasurer, of the Muslim Safety Forum, a group that has received at least £30,000 from City Hall since Mr Johnson’s election last May. He is also one of the Forum’s two directors and its nominated contact for the Charity Commission.

The Forum’s website says it was set up to challenge the “unfair focus on the Muslim community when it came to policing activities and enforcement of anti-terror policing legislation”. It holds regular meetings with the police.

Mr Ali was suspended from his job as a civil servant in January after some of his views came to the attention of his employers.

However, City Hall payment lists seen by the Standard show that in the same month, his organisation received the latest of its £10,000 quarterly payments from the GLA. It also received £10,000 in July and October last year, as well as at least £70,000 under the previous Mayor, Ken Livingstone. Its annual general meeting, in July, was addressed by Mr Johnson’s deputy mayor, Richard Barnes.

Evening Standard, 12 March 2009

Gilligan also refers to an exchange between Azad Ali and “Sid”, a blogger who posts at Pickled Politics, where he acts as Little Mr Echo to the demented David Toube of Harry’s Place.

Sid (as usual, taking his line from a piece by Toube) has a post on Gilligan’s article at Pickled Politics today, where he summarises Azad Ali’s position as follows: “After all, Britain is of the Dar al Harb (‘Land of War’) which is why here, anything goes.”

In fact, if you read what Azad Ali actually wrote at Between the Lines, the Islamic Forum of Europe blog, you’ll find that he was arguing precisely the opposite. His point was that violent resistance is legitimate only in Muslim countries that are under foreign occupation, not elsewhere.

He quoted a statement by Abdullah Azzam’s wife that her husband “was against attacks outside the battlefield. The enemy had to be clear and known and you didn’t leave the battlefield to attack elsewhere”. He also quoted Abdullah Azzam’s son saying that his father “always warned people to stay away from the extremists, he even put it in his will. What is happening today with Al-Qaeda is not his way.”

In another post, replying to a series of ranting attacks on him by Toube at Harry’s Place, Azad Ali repeated the latter point: “The fact that Abdullah Azzam rejected Osama and his ideas seems to have completely escaped David T’s mind.”

And Andrew Gilligan’s mind too. When Gilligan writes that “Mr Ali wrote in praise of Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s key mentor”, in order to suggest to the reader that Azad Ali is a supporter of Al Qaida, he too is attributing to Azad a view that is the exact opposite of the one he actually holds.

Gilligan at least has the sense to use weasel words that avoid making an explicit accusation against Azad Ali. Writing in today’s Daily Mail, however, Richard Littlejohn has no hesitation in describing Azad as “a prominent al Qaeda cheerleader” – providing excellent grounds for legal action against the Daily Mail, I would say. Hopefully, Azad Ali is on the phone to Carter-Ruck even as we speak.

Gilligan also misrepresents Azad Ali’s position on the Mumbai massacre, implying that he refused to issue an outright condemnation of this atrocity. What Azad in fact objected to was Melanie Phillips’ piece on Mumbai which attempted to identify terrorism with Islamism. His objections were understandable – since, as we have seen, Azad Ali embraces a form of Islamism that rejects terrorism.

He quoted Phillips as writing: “The Islamists want to murder as many Americans, Brits, Hindus and Jews as possible. That is because they are waging all-out war against civilisation.” Azad commented: “Job done for Mel, from ‘terrorists’ or more precisely the criminals that committed the atrocities we have now moved quite far along the ‘conveyor belt’ and we can now comfortably blame the ‘Islamists’!”

In the subsequent discussion with “Sid”, Azad Ali repeatedly made this point: “Mad Mel is wrong to use the word Islamist to describe these people, as she uses the same word to describe those that are non violent or commit acts of murder. She is deliberately conflating the two with this term….”

Sid’s refusal to accept this point stemmed from the fact that he shares Mad Mel’s aim of misrepresenting all Islamists as extremists and potential terrorists. In Phillips’ case this is motivated by her right-wing Zionist politics. In Sid’s case it arises from the fact that he is an opponent of the Bangladeshi political party Jamaat-e-Islami, with which the Islamic Forum of Europe is associated.

Rather than address the actual role that JI-associated activists play in Britain, and particularly London’s East End, in countering the appeal of terrorist groupuscules or of sectarian movements like Hizb ut-Tahrir, Phillips and Sid want to distort the situation in pursuit of their own positions on the politics of Israel or Bangladesh.

The fact that this leads to witch-hunts against individuals, undermines mainstream Muslim organisations that are combating terrorism and assists in the demonisation of the entire Muslim community is something they’re both evidently happy to live with.