"How can extremism be defined? Admittedly, that is a difficult task, but page 60 of the Government’s strategy document gives an indication by listing some of the engagement criteria for organisations. However, the criteria are rather vague and should be clarified. One definer of extremism might be support for attacks on our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. Another might be campaigning for the establishment of separate sharia jurisdictions under British law. Yet another might be the incitement of violence against women, gay people or non-Muslims.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) has left no doubt about his view. He has called for the banning of Hizb ut-Tahrir and the barring from Britain of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi—a lead that the Government eventually followed. He has also called for us to prevent public money and support from flowing to bodies such as the Cordoba Foundation and the Muslim Brotherhood. My noble Friend Baroness Neville-Jones made a similar critique in her report "Uniting the Country". My noble Friend Baroness Warsi noted that partnership arrangements with special interest groups are wrong, partly because "some such groups often hold ambiguous views on cohesion and integration."
What is the Government’s view? I ask that because the Muslim Brotherhood appears to be making a push for influence and acceptance and because Ministers are sending out mixed messages. For example, I recently questioned the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on the Floor of the House. She said: "The local authority in Tower Hamlets" – I was raising a particular case – "was going to engage with the Cordoba Foundation; it decided not to, and that was absolutely the right decision."
However, she knows that one of the leading lights of the Cordoba Foundation—Anas Altikriti is the gentleman I have in mind—has never denied being a leading light in the Muslim Association of Britain, which has itself never denied being, in effect, the British wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. When questioned only a few moments before condemning the Cordoba Foundation in the quotation that I have just cited, however, the Secretary of State failed to comment on the presence of the MAB on the mosques and imams advisory committee. What is going on here? Are organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood suitable partners, or not?"
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