Ed Husain versus Melanie Phillips

Former Islamist stands up to Islamist obsessive

She once described the ex-Hizb ut-Tahrir activist and self-confessed one-time "Islamist" Ed Husain as a "brave Muslim", who should be "applauded for his courage . . . intellectual honesty and guts", before turning on him for opposing the Israeli war on Gaza and accusing him of adopting "the very narrative and rhetoric that are driving Muslims to mass murder". But now Melanie Phillips has had a taste of her own bilious medicine in the form of a harsh, biting and brilliant takedown from Husain himself in a piece entitled "The personal jihad of Melanie Phillips".

Husain slams the Daily Mail columnist and Spectator blogger for her "zealotry and ignorance . . . anger, venom and hatred" and "ludicrous, illogical lines of thought", before accusing her of travelling on a "journey into darkness and ignorance".

His central criticism of the swivel-eyed Phillips revolves around her obsession with Israel, and the "Israel First" test that she sees fit to impose on self-described Muslim "moderates":

In Melanie's world, anybody -- non-Muslim (Barack Obama) or Muslim (me) -- who opposes her views on Israel is either an Islamist or "in the Islamists' camp". I reject Islamism on grounds of principle, experience, faith and political philosophy -- and I refuse to pass the "Israel First" test. That is a perfectly coherent, normative political stance.

An Israel First mindset is about supporting Israel regardless of whether its behaviour is right or wrong, whether it is victim or oppressor; it also involves holding political activists hostage with accusations of anti-Semitism and/or Islamism in seeking to gain unconditional support for Israel.

The Israel First test, which she seeks to impose on British Muslims (as well as an American president), reeks of racism. Why is Israel more important than any other country in the world? With leading British Muslims increasingly supporting a secular state, democracy, women's rights, gay rights and liberal pluralism, and opposing Islamist extremism -- then still be attacked as "extremists" or "Islamist" because they don't support Likud's plans for Israel -- is bullying and uncompromising in the extreme. How dare she?

Bravo! I've had my own disagreements with Ed Husain in the past but, on this matter, I cannot help but nod, agree and applaud. He is right to call out Melanie and others on their own "jihad" against British Muslims, be they "moderate", "extreme", "secular or "Islamist".

My one humble piece of advice for Ed would be to use this opportunity to take a long and hard look at those he calls his friends and allies. He has, belatedly, dumped Phillips. But does he have the wisdom -- and the guts -- to dump the rest of the liberal-left, Israel-first, pro-war hawks who have gathered around him in recent years? I suspect he will never have real credibility in Britain's Muslim communities until he does so.

 

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Britain's largest communications union to affiliate to Momentum

The CWU, one of Corbyn's earliest backers, will formally affliate to the organisation.

One of Labour’s largest trade unions is set to affiliate to Momentum after the ruling executive of the Communications Workers Union voted unanimously to join the organisation.

The CWU, Britain’s largest communications union and the fifth largest affiliate to Labour, was one of the earliest backers of Jeremy Corbyn. 

Dave Ward, the union’s general secretary, told the New Statesman that “the general election showed the value of Momentum as part of the wider labour movement”, and that the body, which emerged out of Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 leadership campaign, was now “a major political force in the UK”, saying it had a  “key role to play in securing a transformative Labour government”.

The NEC’s vote will now go to a ratifying vote by the CWU’s annual conference. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.