It should be very difficult to support Ken Livingstone again

Tonight is the Labour mayoral candidate hustings, taking place in Neasdon, North West London, and will see Ken Livingstone and Oona King argue the case for why Labour members should back their candidacy.

It’s not an easy decision to make between the two; they’re both good people, they’re both key figures of London politics and anyone is better than Boris.

As a socialist it should be a no-brainer that I root for Ken, the candidate more to the left, but it certainly isn’t that simple.

Oona has since turned her back on support for the war in Iraq (despite this being trvially due to the US government’s reaction to Hurrican Katrina), and has pledged to make 50% of all housing development in London social housing .

Ken is of course a veteran of the left, which is why it is hard to be dubious of him. But, of course, there was the incident.

I’m not talking about the phone call with the Jewish hack from the Standard, for me, that Ken was called to question on that was trivial in itself, clearly he was not being anti-Semitic towards the journalist, or even being personally offensive to him, but made some wild statements towards the newspaper, owned by the Daily Mail, which did suppot Oswald’s Blackshirts in the 1930s.

I never ever felt that because some journalist took this comment personally, despite Livingstone’s ignorance of the racial background of the man he was speaking to, that Ken should have been in the doghouse.

Further, it is not because of the connections with Socialist Action that I am not jumping with enthusiasm for Ken.

The incident is inviting Muslim Brotherhood figurehead Yusuf al-Qaradawi to speak at a conference about a woman’s right to wear the hijab.

As Peter Tatchell pointed out in protest at Livingstone’s decision, al-Qaradawi has in the past openly pledged his support for “female genital mutilation, wife-beating, the execution of homosexuals in Islamic states, the destruction of the Jewish people, the use of suicide bombs against innocent civilians and the blaming of rape victims who do not dress with sufficient modesty”.

But Livingstone was not just inviting al-Qaradawi to add to the debate, he had invited him because, in Ken’s words, of his “eminence as “one of the most authoritative Muslim scholars in the world today” who “has done most to combat socially regressive interpretations of Islam on issues like women’s rights and relations with other religions”.”

It’s very nice of al-Qaradawi to assert a woman’s right to wear something that signifies her as a second class citizen, and worse the right to wear something that has nothing to do with her religion, but an awful, patriarchal and prohibitive interpretation of the Koran’s insistence that women dress modestly.

Alexandra Sokolowski, writing for the Centre for Social Cohesion blog, notes a couple of other opinons by al-Qaradawi. She notes that:

This is the same cleric who declared that Hitler was a divine punishment against the Jews:

“Allah has imposed upon the Jews, people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler […] he managed to put them in their place. […] this was divine punishment for them.”

The same Islamist who called for jihad against Jews and their “allies”:

“Deal with the arrogant tyrants and aggressors against Muslims, oppressive Zionists and arrogant Americans. O God, deal with every oppressor of Muslims. O God, deal with them powerfully.”

“The Israelis might have nuclear bombs but we have the children bomb and these human bombs must continue until liberation”

Interestingly for a Labour politician, and following from a blog post I penned yesterday, al-Qaradawi inspired a blog post by Azad Ali (which, it seems, can only be opened through a cached version) suggesting that Muslims should participate in European politics through “approach” and not through theological endeavour, that is, as an entryist.

The post, as Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens explains, “is also critical of Hizb ut-Tahrir for distributing a leaflet which states that the recent IFE episode shows the futility of political participation and that “Islam does NOT allow joining secular political parties, especially when they promote policies that directly contradict Islamic values…” ”

Not critical in the way one would hope, but critical becasue Hizb ut-Tahrir’s position doesn’t allow for entryism, to influence decision making from inside.

This approach was thusly taken by Lutfur Rahman and the Islamic Forum Europe (IFE), whose aims at entryism within the Labour party were rejected for the third time yesterday, and hopefully for the last.

One of the MPs most perceptive of these incidents was Jim Fitzpatrick -who just happens to be backing Oona for mayor.

Ken could have apologised for his decision to invite al-Qaradawi by now, but instead chose to stand by his decision on the basis that he should listen to all community leaders, even if he doesn’t agree with them.

Two problems with this; firstly Ken invited al-Qaradawi as an expert voice and a representative of Islam, which should be challenged, and secondly it does little to curb the image of the radical Muslim as a representative, that, since Ken is a multicultural man, should be in his interest to promote.

This incident, for me, should not be viewed as a one-off, but part of Ken’s blind spot, which is why I may throw my eggs in Oona’s basket.

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