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25 January 2007

Bright resurfaces

Ken Livingstone's new interest in world travel leads to a delayed feeling of shellshock

By Martin Bright

A bit delayed, but I thought I should post my thoughts about Ken Livingstone’s World Civilisation or Clash of Civilisations conference last Saturday. I guess participants were supposed to plump for the former, but whose world civilisation I wonder? A world civilisation run by Ken Livingstone or his friends on the Islamic right would be pretty unappetising. But at least Ken’s new interest in foreign policy gives him and his staff plenty of excuses to spend Londoners’ money on lots of juicy trips abroad.

All in all it was a pretty depressing experience as Oliver Kamm wrote.

I caught the end of Kamm’s session with Linda Bellos, Inayat Bunglawala and Ken’s adviser Simon Fletcher (travel seems to have shrivelled his mind). Kamm did rather well despite an absurdly hostile audience. I missed the star attractiion, Daniel Pipes, debating with Ken but there is a good account here. Sunny at Pickled Politics was on the spot as ever and took a hostile view of Pipes, while recognising that he bested Livingstone. Sunny is always worth reading, which is why he’s guest blogging on Bright’s blog.

I spoke on the daft subject “Is there an Islamic Threat?” with Tariq Ramadan and Salma Yaqoob. Of course the answer is no and yes. Islam is not in itself a threat, but there are certain deranged individuals who believe they are driven by Islam to kill people in the West. That is a something of a threat. I argued my usual line about the dangers of courting the Muslim Brotherhood and its front organisations in Europe and America.

I promised myself I would not lose my temper but there were times when I nearly did. Salma accused me of calling her a dangerous Islamist and saying that George W Bush was the lesser of two evils, neither of which I have ever said or written. Ramadan insisted on talking obsessively about Daniel Pipes and then waving his hand towards me, which was baffling.
The conference was entirely misleading in its very conception: ostensibly all-embracing and generous, but, in fact, designed to set people against each other. I went home with a feeling of delayed shellshock.

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