The writing on the wall

Submitted by Anon on 18 June, 2003 - 1:00

• Ken’s favourite Muslim?
• Stone or flog? Mmmm...
• Two Jags strikes again
• Ayatollahs not so bad?

Ken’s favourite Muslim?

Members of the Greater London Assembly are to launch a formal investigation into Ken Livingstone’s “execution of his community responsibilities”, following his decision to invite the political Islamist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, to speak at City Hall.

Green Party GLA members and others are concerned about homophobic and sexist statements made by al-Qaradawi and by islamonline.net (not to be confused with islamonline.com), a website he founded which proudly states that every word on it is vetted for religious correctness by a committee headed by al-Qaradawi. A coalition of Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, gay people, students and some Muslims is sending all 25 members of the London assembly a dossier on al-Qaradawi, but Livingstone has refused to meet them and his political assistant Anni Marjoram has pressured members of the GLA’s LGBT Forum not to vote on a motion criticising the invitation.

Ken Livingstone has strongly defended both his decision and al-Qaradawi himself. describing him as “moderate” and saying “I welcomed him to London just as I would the leader of any of the other great world religions to promote understanding between London’s diverse communities”.

Stone or flog? Mmmm...

Note to ex-Red Ken: al-Qaradawi is not “the leader” of the world’s Muslims! Is Livingstone’s claim that Qaradawi is “moderate” any more justified?

Livingstone: “‘Al Qaradawi does not advocate killing gay people. The Sheikh summarised his view to the Guardian on 13 July; ‘Muslims have no right to punish homosexuals or mistreat them as individuals’.”

Islam Online: “Verily, the punishment here is the burning of both homosexuals (the actor and acted upon) or stoning them with rocks till death because Allah Most High stoned the people of Lut after demolishing their village.”

Al-Qaradawi: “Muslim jurists hold different opinions concerning the punishment for this abominable practice. Should it be the same as the punishment for fornication [i.e.flogging] or should both the active and passive participants be put to death? While such punishments may seem cruel, they have been suggested to maintain the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements.” (Al-Qaradawi quotes the Koranic passage referred to in the last quotation, so it is clear which side of the debate he is on).

Livingstone: “‘He made it clear that he is opposed to domestic violence, he is quoted in the Guardian, for example, as stating: ‘The respectable and honest Muslim man does not beat his wife’.”

Al-Qaradawi: “It is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts. In no case should he resort to using a stick or any other instrument that might cause pain and injury.”

Livingstone admits that his guest endorses suicide bombing in Israel, but implies that Qaradawi does this reluctantly, only because the imbalance of firepower leaves the Palestinians with no other means of resistance to the occupation. But this is not what al-Qaradawi says at all. He describes Israeli civilian victims as “not civilians or innocent” — all Israeli Jews are guilty — and he called the death of a Palestinian woman in a suicide bomb attack “the death we welcome”.

Livingstone’s welcome of this bigot and description of him as a “representative” of Islam fuels racism, strengthens reaction in both Muslim and non-Muslim communities and betrays all workers, women, LGBT and progressive people from a Muslim background and in mainly-Muslim societies.

Two Jags strikes again

John Prescott, the first dumpling ever to become a Labour Cabinet Minister, is not exactly renowned for practising sweet reason — but this time he has really surpassed himself.

The Defend Council Housing campaign (DCH), after two major recent successes in tenants’ votes against privatisation, has stepped up the fight for council housing to stay under public control but still get public funding for improvements (the so-called “fourth option”). The last Labour Party Conference passed a motion supporting the “fourth option”, and Prescott had made a public statement in favour of it.

On 28 October, however, the Labour MP Austin Mitchell, who is heavily involved in DCH, received a letter from Prescott explaining why he had unilaterally decided to break off negotiations.“The review mentioned in your letter was explicitly conditional on the mover of [the pro-council housing motion] at the Labour Party Conference agreeing to withdraw. The mover refused, so I will be taking no further action on this matter. There is not and will not be a ‘fourth option’.”

So, if Labour Party Conference had not passed policy in favour of funding for public ownership of council housing, Prescott would have implemented it — but since it did (by a margin of eight to one) he won’t even consider it!

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think Prezza’s missing something there...

Ayatollahs not so bad?

Recently Socialist Worker has come in for some stick about women’s rights — for example because of George Galloway’s opposition to abortion rights. Anxious to prove the critics wrong Elane Heffernan gave us a brief tour of the advances women have gained and the problems women still face in the 6 November issue of Socialist Worker. Here’s what she said about Iran:

“Since the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979, many women have looked to Islam and chosen to wear the veil. This has not stopped Iranian women playing an active role in all areas of public life.

Yassamine Mather of Workers’ Left Unity Iran gave Heffernan’s “analysis” short shrift in the Weekly Worker (11 November), listing the truth about women’s lives under the theocracy of Iran’s Islamic Republic.

Young women are flogged for wearing a “poor” hijab. Work outside the home has been made very difficult. There is segregation in health and education. Where women have been active it has been in opposition to the role of religion in private life — women want freedom to decide what they wear.

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