Dead Men Left

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Wait 'til they see who's coming...

And so it begins. The London Evening Standard, yesterday:

Mayor gives activists free travel on the Tube

Ken Livingstone is to give free travelcards worth up to £400,000 to Left-wing activists attending a conference in the capital next month. Less than a week after announcing that Tube and bus fares will rise next year, the Mayor has decided that up to 20,000 delegates at the "global justice" event will get three days of unlimited travel in zones 1-6.

Backers of the plan say it will cost a fraction of the headline cost as no extra Tube or bus services will be laid on. But the Mayor's office admits the bill will be "in the low tens of thousands of pounds". The Tory group on the London Assembly today attacked the move as "a scandalous waste of money".

The European Social Forum conference, to debate capitalism's impact on human rights, is already costing the Greater London Authority about £400,000.

Redmond O'Neill, one of the Mayor's advisers, said: "A lot of people will not be able to come if we don't reduce their costs."

If the MoD cansubsidise an arms fair in the East End to the tune of £400,000, I don't see why the Mayor shouldn't support an anti-capitalist, anti-war conference, particularly when this nominal amount is set aside all the effort and expense going into the (doomed) London Olympics bid.

Still, it's all good publicity for the ESF, and there will be plenty more of it once the Tory press cotton on to who is being invited to speak. I was proud, just over a week ago, that amongst representatives from NGOs, protest organisations, faith groups, trade unions and non-aligned activists thrashing out the list of headline speakers for the event, there was total unanimity on the necessity of bringing Tariq Ramadan to London.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), however, is less keen on the man. Quite why they chose to deny him a visa to teach at Notre Dame University has not yet been made clear to Ramadan himself, let alone the rest of us. However, Daniel Pipes, a well-known defender of academic freedom, has helpfully compiled a list of complaints: Ramadan supports terrorism, has probably met Osama Bin Laden, secretly promotes jihad... he is, in short, just the sort of person liable to inspire Catholic seminarians to charge upon the White House screaming "Death to America!"

Unfortunately, every single one of his allegations turned out to be demonstrably false; and more than just false, based often on extraordinary misreadings of the French, as shown by A Fistful of Euros. (Ramadan has also pertintently responded to refute Pipes' allegations.) Scrub "terrorist" or even "supporter of terrorists" from the list of DHS complaints.

Accusations of "antisemitism" have been made on Ramadan's part. They were thrown at him by some in France, following the wide circulation of one of Ramadan's short commentaries. MWU! deals with it well:

Which leaves the infamous email (here's the original posting in French) which his critics make sound like a wild diatribe but which was in actuality a sober and rather cerebral critique of the politics of a rival ideological faction within French policy circles. In it, Ramadan argued that a specific group of mostly Jewish intellectuals—whom he listed by name, along with his reasons for including them under this rubric—had been inconsistent in supporting the US war in Iraq after having passionately opposed the US on principle in so many other recent conflicts. Seems like pretty tame stuff, especially compared to the noxious "commentary" on Islam that one regularly encounters in the mainstream media these days—the patriotism and/or objectivity of Muslims Americans are routinely questioned in American political life today. In fact, the worst epithet that he used—and only in France can these be considered fighting words—was that these individuals—he did not generalize about all Jews—had been "communal" rather than "universal" in advocating Israel's interests in the conflict.

Ramadan has consistently opposed antisemitism, saving a particularly withering scorn for that occuring in the Muslim community. The charge, frankly, is pretty absurd; I do not agree with Ramadan's analysis, and I think he is treading a fine line with this one statement - but if set against the entirety of his public output, it is plainly daft to accuse Ramadan of anti-Jewish hatred. He denounces it in the email at the centre of the row. Interviewed by the liberal Israeli daily, Ha'aretz, Ramadan said:

"To my regret, anti-Semitic utterances have been heard not only from frustrated and confused young Muslims, but also from certain Muslim intellectuals and imams," he says, "who in every crisis or political backsliding see the hand of the `Jewish lobby.' There is nothing in Islam that gives legitimization to Judeophobia, xenophobia and the rejection of any human being because of his religion or the group to which he belongs. Anti-Semitism has no justification in Islam, the message of which demands respect for the Jewish religion and spirit, which are considered a noble expression of the People of the Book."


"Despite what is happening today in Israel and Palestine, despite [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's policy, despite the feelings of anger and frustration - those responsible for all the Muslim political and social organizations must open a clear dialogue that distinguishes between criticism of Israel's policy, and anti-Semitic and Judeophobic statements and actions. This is lacking today and this is a great responsibility."

Scrub, too, "antisemitism". We are left with what must be the Department for Homeland Security's trump card: Ramadan's grandad, Hasan el-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Here is Foaud Ajami, "the bigot's favourite native", defending Ramadan's exclusion in the Wall Street Journal (subscription needed):

The genealogy of Tariq Ramadan was fundamental to his ascendancy to power and prominence: Nasab (acquired merit through one's ancestors) is one of the pillars of Arab-Islamic society.

Devastating. The Daily Mail will have a fit.