Gordon Brown talks tough on terror but, as always with the Brown-Blair years, the actions are very different.
Last year Ruth Kelly – to her credit – broke off relations with the Muslim Council of Britain. She criticised the MCB’s boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day. The MCB’s extremism has been well-documented by the New Statesman’s Martin Bright and by our own Michael Gove in Celsius 7/7. Yesterday, as revealed by The Spectator’s Coffee House blog, Hazel Blears has u-turned on Mrs Kelly’s policy and appears to have restarted engagement with the MCB.
"As you know, Ruth Kelly announced last year in a major speech "a fundamental rebalancing of our relationship with Muslim organisations from now on". She continued: "In future, I am clear that our strategy of funding and engagement must shift significantly towards those organisations that are taking a proactive leadership role in tackling extremism and defending our shared values.". She said that it was "not good enough" to pay lip service to combatiing extremism.
The speech was briefed by the Government as signallling the end of its engagement with the MCB as a partner in preventing extremism. Indeed, Ms Kelly specifically criticised the MCB’s boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day, as follows: "I can’t help wondering why those in leadership positions who say they want to achieve religious tolerance and a cohesive society would choose to boycott an event which marks, above all, our common humanity and respect for each other."
Yesterday, your Department conspicuously failed to deny that the Government has once again engaged the MCB as a partner. This is a significant policy U-turn. I write to ask what’s changed in less than a year. On what basis do you believe that the MCB is now proactively tackling extremism? Does it plan, for example, to attend Holocaust Memorial Day?"
This re-engagement with the MCB follows Gordon Brown’s failure to act against Hizb ut-Tahrir.
On a not unrelated matter ConservativeHome has given space to Michael Ancram to make the case for talking to Hamas. I greatly respect Michael Ancram but I think he’s profoundly wrong on this issue. Hamas must moderate considerably before they can be allowed at the negotiating table. Again on the indispensable Coffee House blog, James Forsyth highlights the following quote from the representative of Hamas that Mr Ancram has met:
“The final goal of the resistance is to wipe that entity [Israel] off the face of the earth. This goal necessitates the development of the resistance until the entity has been destroyed.”