An encounter with radical Islam

Last Friday, I was on the panel at City Circle, an impressive discussion group of young professional Muslims. The subject was Muslim representation and the programme I made for Channel 4, Who Represents Muslims, screened on Channel 4 on Friday 14 July.

Also on the panel with me were Sir Iqbal Sacranie, former head of the Muslim Council of Britain, Yahya Birt, from the Islamic Foundation and Madeleine Bunting the new director of Demos.

The discussion between Sir Iqbal and myself grew heated and I lost my temper with the Islamist knight on several occasions (Bunting intervened to suggest we should all be much nicer to each other). I was particularly irritated by Sir Iqbal’s response when I asked him what meetings he had had with the victims of 7/7 (I should have said survivors). At this point he said that he himself was a victim of 7/7: an astonishing display of arrogance and insensitivity.

Challenged by Bunting, he reiterated his comments at the height of the Rushdie affair that death was too good for the author of the Satantic Verses. (His actual words were: “Death, perhaps, is a bit too easy for him … his mind must be tormented for the rest of his life unless he asks for forgiveness to Almighty Allah.”) He then went on to express his support for Pakistan’s Hudood Ordinances, a series of brutal “sharia-inspired” laws introduced by the former dictator General Zia al-Huq. Under the laws women must have four witnesses to prove a charge of rape or face a charge of adultery herself. Sacranie argued that it was not for those in the West to say that such laws were wrong if they were accepted by the people of the country where they were imposed. He refused to be drawn on whether the sentence of stoning was one he approved of in such cases.

However, he did confirm that the Islamist Jamaat-i-Islami party, which has been accused of human rights abuses in Pakistan and Bangladesh was represented in Britain by the UK Islamic Mission, an affiliate of the MCB.

Sacranie's credentials as an apologist for the more unpleasant aspects of political Islam were confirmed for me that night. But the links of his Bangladeshi successor, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, to Jamaat politics may be more direct. He is president of East London Mosque, a focus for Jamaat-i-Islami sympathisers in Britain. The mosque and the London Muslim Centre, which adjoins it, have regularly played host to Delwar Hossein Sayeedi, the hell-fire Bangladeshi MP, whose abortive fund-raising visit to Britain caused such a stir earlier this month.

Getty
Show Hide image

Will Jeremy Corbyn stand down if Labour loses the general election?

Defeat at the polls might not be the end of Corbyn’s leadership.

The latest polls suggest that Labour is headed for heavy defeat in the June general election. Usually a general election loss would be the trigger for a leader to quit: Michael Foot, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband all stood down after their first defeat, although Neil Kinnock saw out two losses before resigning in 1992.

It’s possible, if unlikely, that Corbyn could become prime minister. If that prospect doesn’t materialise, however, the question is: will Corbyn follow the majority of his predecessors and resign, or will he hang on in office?

Will Corbyn stand down? The rules

There is no formal process for the parliamentary Labour party to oust its leader, as it discovered in the 2016 leadership challenge. Even after a majority of his MPs had voted no confidence in him, Corbyn stayed on, ultimately winning his second leadership contest after it was decided that the current leader should be automatically included on the ballot.

This year’s conference will vote on to reform the leadership selection process that would make it easier for a left-wing candidate to get on the ballot (nicknamed the “McDonnell amendment” by centrists): Corbyn could be waiting for this motion to pass before he resigns.

Will Corbyn stand down? The membership

Corbyn’s support in the membership is still strong. Without an equally compelling candidate to put before the party, Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP are unlikely to initiate another leadership battle they’re likely to lose.

That said, a general election loss could change that. Polling from March suggests that half of Labour members wanted Corbyn to stand down either immediately or before the general election.

Will Corbyn stand down? The rumours

Sources close to Corbyn have said that he might not stand down, even if he leads Labour to a crushing defeat this June. They mention Kinnock’s survival after the 1987 general election as a precedent (although at the 1987 election, Labour did gain seats).

Will Corbyn stand down? The verdict

Given his struggles to manage his own MPs and the example of other leaders, it would be remarkable if Corbyn did not stand down should Labour lose the general election. However, staying on after a vote of no-confidence in 2016 was also remarkable, and the mooted changes to the leadership election process give him a reason to hold on until September in order to secure a left-wing succession.

0800 7318496