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Travesty in London By: Carol Gould
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Just over a year ago, I attended the ‘Global Peace and Unity Conference’ at the Excel Centre in London’s Canary Wharf. Sponsored by the bizarre triumvirate comprised of the Islam Channel, Western Union and the Metropolitan Police, the conference was advertised as a celebration of Islamic culture, but it degenerated into a frightening Nuremberg-style hate-fest against Israel, Zionists and the United States, with an attack on the British ‘jackboot’ police ( the sponsors!) by Respect Party member Yvonne Ridley for good measure. The event was so intimidating that I am convinced my subsequent attack of shingles was a result of my utter shock at what I witnessed that day.

A year later, on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2007, I attended a conference hosted by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, entitled "World Civilization-Clash of Civilizations," to which the eminent American scholar Dr. Daniel Pipes had been invited. During the past year as I have read mind-boggling websites and blogs that refer to Dr Pipes as a ‘Zionist pervert’ and other delightful monikers, I wondered what would happen to this brave man, based in my hometown, Philadelphia, were he to cross the ocean. When I learned of the Mayor’s event, I have to confess I was deeply worried that harm would come to Daniel Pipes in England. To my amazement, Dr. Pipes was greeted with respect and decorum. It didn’t last, however.

Livingstone’s address opened with a reference to the grotesque national news story revolving around Jade Goody’s abysmal behavior towards Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on "Celebrity Big Brother."  He noted that 82 percent of the callers to Channel Four complained of Goody’s racism and that this is indicative of how the UK has changed; thirty years ago this would not have happened. (Well, yes, Ken, but thirty years ago when I arrived in Britain a ‘celebrity’ was a Peggy Ashcroft, a Lawrence Olivier, a Joan Sutherland, an Isaiah Berlin or a Margot Fonteyn.) 

 

Because of the heavy investment in London by India, Livingstone said he would have had to go there to do damage control. Considering that whenever he opens his mouth he usually has to do damage control…. The Mayor rambled about Singapore, where he had traveled for the Olympic bid; he said it was immaculate and crime-free. Perhaps I lost his thread but he observed that one does not have to be a Muslim or Christian to be involved in free choice. The Mayor quoted John Stuart Mill, “live as you wish as long as you do not hurt anyone.” Inasmuch as the conference was held on the Jewish Sabbath, he might have exercised free choice and scheduled the main event with Pipes for a time convenient to observant Jews.

 

From his youth traveling across Nepal to the present day, his narrative informed us that 200 languages are spoken in New York and 300 in London; 62 percent of Londoners are not UK-born and one in twenty is of mixed race.

 

Livingstone moved on to the Cold War, in which he said 22 million lives were lost.  In 1943, before the CIA was established, the American Office of Strategic Services said, “we are a nation of nations and our way of thinking should be spread around and dominate the world,” and in 1945, 45 percent of the world productivity came from the USA. This was meant to be greeted by hisses and boos, of which a few broke out near me (I was seated amongst a large contingent from the many Muslim organizations of Britain). It might be worth noting here that there are still some who feel that the United States promoting its values and aspirations to the rest of the world is admirable.

 

Livingstone then went on to mention that for 500 years Europe and the USA have dominated the world and that there is no nexus around the White House, Washington and Wall Street as they try to impose their culture on the world. He concluded by saying that the 'Islamophobic' media in the UK are trying to show that a “lower culture is taking over,” but in fact 90 percent of British Pakistani 16-year-old girls say their parents do expect them not to get married and have children, but instead to have careers.

 

If the media are Islamophobic, how is it that Shami Chakrabarti, Abdel Bari Atwan, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Dr Azzam 'I want to be a suicide bomber in Israel' Tammimi, Yasmin Alibhai Brown, Ghada Karmi, Rageh Omaar, Asghar Bukhari, the aforementioned Salma Yaqoub, Halima Hussain, Faisal Bodi, Ahdaf Soueif, Tariq Ali, Tariq Ramadan and many others are an integral part of our daily media broadcasts and newsprint in Great Britain?

 

After Mayor Livinsgtone came Daniel Pipes. His dignity and aplomb were breathtaking. He looked not unlike our British Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, and had the same sort of decorous style of delivery. One could hear a pin drop.

 

Pipes reminded us that we are in a clash of civilizations and that Samuel Huntington said the dominating clash will be cultural. The Khomenei-Salman Rushdie fatwa, he said, was complex -  Muslims supported one or the other of the protagonists. The ‘Clash’ of the title of the conference, Pipes added, is between the civilized, ethical cultures and ideological barbarism. With the large audience still silent, he said that in the previous century the West had fought Fascism and Marxism; today, it fights radical Islam.

 

The Mayor, Pipes noted, "wants everyone to get along" while "I want to defeat a terrible enemy." Multiculturalism, he continued, is breeding radical Islam -- and Britain is becoming a danger to the world: British terrorists have committed terrorist acts in fifteen countries. The biggest threat, from the Pipes perspective, is not from Iraq or Afghanistan but from London (I have been saying this for years and even my neocon friends do not grasp this scenario).  What we are talking about is Islamic-flavored totalitarianism.

 

He added that George Galloway and the Progressives have the three same enemies: the USA, the UK and Israel (There was applause when Pipes quoted Galloway). To illustrate his point about London being the centre of Jihad, he observed that on the 16th of February 2003 in Hyde Park there was a rally to promote radical ideas. Pipes quoted the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who said that 9/11 was the greatest work of art in the whole cosmos.

 

Daniel Pipes concluded by asserting, “We must defeat Islamic radicalism as we defeated Nazism and Fascism in 1945” to which there was considerable applause.  But when he listed

Islamic moderates who deserve support, many laughed. Later in the day this was wheeled out time and again to show that Pipes was promoting "mouthpieces of the Republicans and neoconservatives who had received payoffs."

 

Douglas Murray, head of the Social Affairs Unit, and Respect Party councilor Salma Yaqoub opened the panel. Murray was hand-picked by Pipes to play spoiler to Yaqoub. The moderator was BBC anchorman Gavin Esler.

 

Salma Yaqoub got off to a roaring start by announcing that terror attacks such as the July 7, 2005 tube and bus bombings in London were actually "Reprisal events."  It is not Muslims, but the neocons who “present a problem as a culture clash.” It is Western foreign policy that has caused millions of lives to be destroyed in the Middle East, or better still, “Western state terrorism.” A truly acid moment came when Yaqoub said, “there is no minute of silence for the Muslim dead because of Western state terrorism.”

 

Sir Martin Gilbert was given the floor. He stood up and addressed the audience, “Miss Yaqoub, my son was caught up in Kings’ Cross on the day of the London bombings. What ‘reprisal’ did people like my son merit?”

 

She was flustered. Yaqoub, who is very young and obviously knows little in the way of world history, said that “Pre-9/11 the Muslims had no quarrel with the West.”

 

I wanted to ask if she had heard of the Munich Olympics massacre of the Israeli athletes, of the countless PLO hijackings? What about the Achille Lauro hijacking or the hideous murder of wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer? Does she know nothing of Lockerbie and the 241 dead Marines in Lebanon? What about the Khobar Towers? Bali? Madrid? The 1998 African Embassy bombs? When I was threatened with death in 1998 when my students wanted to make a film about the London Central Mosque what was the ‘quarrel’ then? I had my hand up for an hour but I was never given the floor.

 

Yaqoub said the American plan to re-map the Middle East is a “weapon of mass destruction” and that the neoconservatives pose the biggest threat to civilization. She ended with a statistic: the Iraq war has so far cost $2 trillion while 50,000 children die every day of poverty.

 

Next, Douglas Murray took the microphone and set about to demolish the many assertions of Yaqoub, and he made fine work of her indeed.  After an acerbic comment about the Mayor being generous with other people’s money, he said, “Far too many Muslims are being elevated from the wrong end of Islam.”

 

For readers not familiar with the internecine strife in Britain amongst the scores of well-funded Muslim groups now operating throughout the United Kingdom, this referred to the power the Muslim Council of Britain has over national policy. The MCB's most recent chair, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, has expressed his loathing of homosexuals, sympathy with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and has boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day three years running. One hears of the power of the "Zionist lobby" at least once a day in the British media and even from ordinary people on phone-in programs, but the plethora of Muslim pressure groups in Britain is nothing short of staggering.

 

Leaning against the podium and addressing his comments in the direction of Salma Yaqoub, Murray asked, “Why are Muslims killing Muslims all over the world? Was Bertrand Delano, the Mayor of Paris not stabbed by a Muslim because he was gay?” Emphasizing the “backward norms of Islam,” Murray reminded the audience that Muslims are being killed by other Muslims if they do not submit to these norms.

 

A powerful moment unfolded when Murray asked, “How is multiculturalism going in Saudi Arabia?” -- which was greeted with laughter and applause. “Are there any synagogues or churches there?” More applause and laughter.

 

Murray added that there will never, ever be sharia law here in Britain, but that some countries will have it, sadly. He berated the Mayor for inviting the suicide-bomber sympathiser Yusuf al Qaradawi to London and added that one should not roll out a red carpet for such radicals.

 

Facing Yaqoub, Murray informed the audience that she had been associated with the central Birmingham Mosque, which had featured so prominently in the Channel Four documentary about extremist Imams, including one who says the July 7th London bombings were not perpetrated by Muslims. Murray completed his assault on Yaqoub by reminding the audience that she had been a member of the ‘Yemen 7‘  and was a member of the Respect Party, which supports the insurgency in Iraq.

 

*

 

Unbelievably, Mayor Livingstone asserted in the question period that Yusuf al Qaradawi was the “strongest force for modernization of Islam - he is the future of Islam.” This would be like saying a drug dealer is the best candidate to run a pharmaceuticals empire. Various hostile audience members asked questions about the ‘Clash of fundamentalisms’ and suggested that Pipes was an advocate of violence.

 

Then came Mayor Livingstone’s moment of the day, when an audience member who had confronted him in a London suburb quoted him as saying: “Israel should never have been created in the first place.” Livingstone calmly replied to this: “I would not have created an Israel; it was a travesty, the creation of Israel. The UK and USA should have opened its doors to Jewish refugees and not displaced Arabs for sixty years.”

 

Immediately following this, an audience member sitting near me shouted, “Mr. Pipes and his supporters have ‘blood on their hands!” They then shouted “shame” when Pipes answered.

 

Monica Crowley, an American news correspondent, observed that Britain now has two linked-in groups: the Left wing base and the Islamic constituency. She asked the mayor how they seek to ease the issues on which they are diametrically opposed – such as the rights of women and homosexuals. Are they on a collision course? This was interrupted by an audience member from the Kurdish community who shouted, “Winston Churchill was a heavy drunkard and there are now forty million Kurds without a homeland.”

 

A youngster against religious education made his voice heard and then Livingstone made a priceless crack about the huge majority of Britons who do not go to church but who then clamor for places in Church of England schools, which he thinks is "an obscenity."

 

A member of the audience bellowed, “600,000 Iraqis have been killed by the US and UK” and was followed on by an Afro-Caribbean woman who chanted, “God Bless America! God Bless America!” At this point the magnanimous Ms. Yaqoub agreed to bless the USA, the UK, Arabs and Palestinians, but not Israel. People near me shouted, “Bless Israel!” and she again refused, but said “I bless the Jews.”

 

After the opening session an absolutely furious Palestinian woman came down to the front and for a fleeting moment I thought Dr Pipes would be in mortal danger. But he was surrounded by well-wishers and I took her on. Her rage was frightening and even when I took her arm she was impossible to deal with. No matter how I tried to reason with her she raged at me. There I was, a well-meaning theatre and film artist and great-granddaughter of Rabbis and here she was, telling me how murderous all Jews are.

 

*

 

In the second session, absurd allegations against the West that absolved Muslim terrorism proliferated.  According to Salma Yaqoub, Bin Laden had no military hardware and he and his followers are “resisting legitimately.” She was furious that Douglas Murray had attacked the Muslim Council of Britain and said they were not a barrier to integration. Oh, really? Imagine how well Anglo Jewry is integrating with Muslims when their main governing body boycotts Holocaust Memorial Day. Yaqoub issued the standard mantra about western imperial ambitions being Weapons of Mass Destruction and was given a boost by a loud audience member near me yelling, “Legitimate resistance against barbarism!”

 

Yaqoub went on to tell us that the Right is gaining power because of people like Martin Bright, the Channel Four journalist on the panel, who was an adviser to the team that had produced the recent documentary about the proliferation of radicalized British mosques.

 

A featherweight young man named Denis Fernando, a gay Muslim, accused Rupert Murdoch of being at the helm of Islamophobia along with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the USA. I would love to ask Mr. Fernando how long he would last intact in a Muslim country. He could get a job with a Murdoch company tomorrow and visit the World Bank and IMF without anyone arresting and torturing him. Might he like to try visiting some Muslim countries while sitting on a panel as the leader of a gay and lesbian pressure group?

 

He seemed to believe that Britain and the west were suffering from “overwhelming Islamophobia.” If so, how is it that so many Muslims had places of honor at today’s conference? And is not the former head of the Muslim Council, Iqbal Sacranie, a British Knight?

 

Fernando lamented the conflict of gay and lesbian Palestinians against Muslim homophobia, but then hatefully attacked Irshad Manji, the gay Muslim woman who, he says, “got a healthy payoff by supporting Republicans.” He also ridiculed Daniel Pipes for mentioning liberal Arabs, one of whom is actually a Coptic Christian. What was the purpose of this? So what if someone liberal is a Christian? Pipes was trying to illustrate that there are people of Middle eastern descent who would not castrate men like Fernando for being gay.

 

I would like to suggest to Fernando that Daniel Pipes would happily invite him to his home in Philadelphia but that the reverse would not happen in most Muslim countries, as the late Daniel Pearl found out. He quoted a headline in the Sun newspaper about a radical imam, ‘Mustafa Gaybasher’ illustrating the hypocrisy of the tabloids, which are usually homophobic. Yes, but again, Fernando, is the paper, published in a dynamic democracy, recommending that the British authorities round up gays and chop them up? I think not.

 

Martin Bright, the journalist involved with two recent documentaries about radical Islam in Britain, seemed distinctly uncomfortable and I did wonder if he might be assassinated at any moment, considering the bile written about him in the radical press.  While he gave a brief presentation, an audience member near me shouted, “Pipes is lying!”

 

Salma Yaqoub  finished things off with another one of her gems: “Are we having a discussion on ‘The Christian Threat? --  bin Laden and Bush share the same ideology but bin Laden has no hardware -- both seek world domination.”

 

*

 

The Third session was chaired by a representative of the Mayor's office, Lee Jasper, clad in a baseball cap and t-shirt. The speakers were barely audible, and unfortunately the head of the Muslim Council, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, was so hard to understand that the poor woman doing the screen-projected subtitles was producing something like this: ‘te efits twas multicm shewasa gruth …’ If the Muslim community wishes to create a warm and fuzzy feeling in Britain they need a head man who can speak in public.

 

A Sheffield-based Professor, Danny Dorling, not a great public speaker himself, said 60 percent of Muslims in Britain live under the poverty level compared to 22 percent of whites. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets is now 90-95 percent Bangladeshi.  He made the important point that during the recent elections in London the Bangladeshis and Somalis voted even though local radicals told them they would become ‘kaffir’ (a derogatory term for non-Muslims) if they voted.

 

Interestingly, the Professor pointed out that the area of Britain most segregated by faith is Scotland and the second is Northern Ireland.

 

Dr. Abdul Bari said the recent Channel Four ‘Dispatches’ program about the abundance of radical Imams populating the mosques of Great Britain was an attempt to “create divisions.” Does Dr Abdul Bari not understand that this is a dynamic democracy where all subjects are discussed in the open? Would Dr Abdul Bari have liked instead to have explained why imans in Britain are urging their impressionable young followers, as the excellent program clearly showed, to go out and repudiate gays, Jews and non-believers? The program broadcast video of an imam imitating the snorting of a pig to illustrate the way Jews communicate. How is this an attempt to ‘create divisions?’ This is superb British documentary-making at its most courageous.

 

Dr. Abdul Bari made the point that his mosque lives happily next door to a synagogue. But when I was called on to ask why the radicals at my local mosque threatened to kill me, and why our local shopkeeper was antagonizing every resident of my neighborhood by refusing to stock goods that offend Islam, I was heckled and shouted down, and Lee Jasper muttered a joke at my expense.

 

It was notable that Abdul Bari could not deal with an audience comment about Iqbal Sacranie’s support for the fatwa against Salman Rushdie in a comment made at City Circle in July 06; he beat around the bush and seemed totally unconcerned when a Jewish audience member said synagogues and Jewish schools now live in fear since the rise of radical Islam in Britain. The man in the audience said that his family had been Londoners for several generations and had lived happily side by side with the non-Jewish community but now had to employ 24-hour security because of the rhetoric being used in many mosques and on UK- generated websites. So much for multiculturalism.

 

*

 

The final plenary session was disturbing and noisy. Perhaps this was because of a bizarre incident after the afternoon sessions, when hundreds of attendees had been kept behind barriers for what seemed an eternity as mountains of Kosher food (supplied to accommodate the Jewish attendees who were arriving after the Sabbath) were laid out on tables in the main dining room. By the time the person in charge had decided to let the barriers down, there was a terrifying stampede and within five minutes the fruit and every last drop of liquid was gone. One otherwise elegant woman came up to the food table and growled, “Aacchhh! I will NOT eat Kosher food!” and stomped off. I suppose in Ken Livingstone’s multicultural London people have never seen Kosher food before.  There was not enough to eat or drink by vast margins, hence the ill-tempered atmosphere of the final session.

 

In the final session, the host, a radio broadcaster named Anita Anand asked, “Are we in a city poised to tear itself apart?”

 

Jonathan Freedland seemed to have arrived from a parallel universe with his chirpy view of bustling, happy-go-lucky multicultural London. I began to think he was going to ask us to get up and hug the person next to us as one might do in an evangelical church. He made a glaring error by saying that in 2001 despite the riots in Oldham, Bradford and Burnley, there was no violence in London. What planet did he live on in summer 2001? Does he not remember Nasser Hussain, Captain of the England cricket team, begging British-born Pakistan fans to support England and not to shout, ‘Death to England!’ from the stands? Does he not remember the Pakistan fan throwing a full beer can at Australian Michael Bevan at Lord's, seriously injuring him? Does he not know that St. John’s Wood residents had never before seen a police blockade, but that one was put up outside Lord’s because of the tensions between British-born Pakistan fans and England fans?

 

There was violence at Trent Bridge, Edgbaston and Headingley in the 2001 cricket season, including a groundsman being beaten so badly that his spleen was ruptured.  In summer 2001, an angry young British Muslim wrote an impassioned article in the Observer expressing his rage at British foreign policy and support for Israel, explaining that by shouting from the stands at Lord’s and the Oval in his grandfather’s dialect they could let off steam without offending England fans. But Nasser Hussain, bless him, understood and accordingly chastised these angry young men.

 

Why are Jewish boys in London not angry about the Holocaust? Why are Chinese boys in London not angry about injustice in China and the West’s alliances with the Communist regime? Why are black Londoners not angry about injustices in their native lands? I will never understand ‘Muslim rage’ and why it has to be brought to the streets of this green and pleasant land.

 

It was notable that there was a distinct lack of representation at the Mayor’s conference by the Afro-Caribbean community, but the Senegalese UN Reporter on Racism, Doudou Diene, gave an eloquent talk. My only objection was his picture of blacks in the USA; he referred to a legacy of racism and ‘slaughter.’ Notwithstanding the terrible slavery of the South, non-Americans do not appreciate that blacks in the USA had a major role in the nation’s history as far back as the colonial period, when they as free men were merchants, doctors and artists. Also, I challenge any European country, including Britain, to compare the strides made in black achievement to those in my native USA. When I was in high school forty years ago, our vice principal was a black woman. My late mother taught in a school back in the 1960s with a majority of black teachers. No European country has had a Chairman of joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State as Colin Powell, nor is there a British or European Condi Rice, Oprah Winfrey, Jesse Jackson or Barack Obama. 

 

Tariq Ramadan wanted to reach out to all communities, and had I had the floor I would have said a start would be for the Anglo-Muslim community to cease its hideous boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day. He and Diene said that we have to have projects together and that in the schools context British memory is British memories. British history is British histories -- no ‘white’ history acceptable anymore. I am not so sure. When an immigrant arrives in the United States, historically the first thing he or she has done is to learn about American history and take citizenship classes. British history is the backbone of being a citizen of this great nation.  I am an American immigrant and would be baffled if the government decided to start teaching American history because 300,000 of us live here.

 

The day ended with a furious gentleman being forcibly ejected from the hall because he felt the day had not dealt with the issues of the deaths of thousands of Muslims in Iraq and Palestine.

 

A Jewish conference delegate, Adrian Cohen, said he had to arrive late because the Mayor had scheduled the day’s events on Shabbat but that he hoped that during the course of the day there had been a discourse on anti-Semitism inasmuch as Jewish schools have to be guarded 24/7.  A man shouted, “If you had been here all day you’d have heard it discussed.”

 

So much for Ken Livingstone’s London. I left feeling offended, confused and deeply, deeply angry. Daniel Pipes was brave to have crossed the ocean to address this crowd, but it is doubtful he changed the minds of the pathologically hate-filled Israel and USA-bashers. In the corridors of the venue were stalls promoting Hugo Chavez and various causes that would fit into Ken Livingstone’s narrow Marxist-redux remit. Heaven forbid there might have been a stall to promote a Jewish charity.

 

What is so sad is that a mayor of a major world metropolis can so deeply hurt the souls of the Jewish community with his inexcusable pronouncements about their sole nation on earth by rejecting its creation, by bringing as his sidekick a known radical and by scheduling the event to effectively exclude participation by Jewish clergy, communal leaders and community members.

 

Shame on him.

 

*

 

Further reading: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/in_depth/2001/natwest_series/1394236.stm

 

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Carol Gould is a Drama and documentary producer based in London, and the author of Spitfire Girls.


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