Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
10 July 2008

Hamas at Olympia

Why I have decided to pull out of IslamExpo this weekend

By Martin Bright

I was very uncomfortable about accepting an invitation to speak at IslamExpo this year. What appears to be a celebration of Islam is, in reality, a rally for a particular brand of Islam based on the thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-i-Islami.

I am particularly concerned about its connections to Mohammed Sawalha, the President of the British Muslim Initiative and a supporter of Hamas. Sawalha is the holder of the domain name for IslamExpo.

The only argument for speaking at an event run by the Islamic far right is to take the debate to these people. But I accept the counter-argument that none of the government ministers and liberal journalists who have agreed to speak at IslamExpo would address a BNP rally. I was due to speak at a debate hosted by the left-wing think tank Demos, so I thought this protected me, to a degree, from this charge.

Now I learn that Sawalha is suing David T of Harry’s Place blog for allegedly suggesting that he was an anti-Semite. The whole sorry business is explained here. The libel laws of this country are the last resort of the scoundrel. As David says, a member of Hamas has no reputation to defend. It is already strange enough that Hamas-UK is having such a rally in central London, but when it starts suing its critics that’s a step too far.

I won’t now be attending IslamExpo on Saturday.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy