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31 October 2009

Ed Husain versus Melanie Phillips

Former Islamist stands up to Islamist obsessive

By Mehdi Hasan

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.

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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.

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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.