The Evening Standard has been busily making mischief, or, if you prefer, drawing the attention of Londoners to the Islamist credentials of some of those behind the "Muslims4Ken" pressure group which is attempting to mobilise the vote for the Islamophile incumbent. And, more particularly, distributing evidence of Boris Johnson's alleged Islamophobia. "Websites have been bombarded with selected quotes from his journalism," the report claims.

Indeed they have. One such website, cryto-Islamist blog Ummah Pulse, carries a small selection of Borisisms. Including this one on the Iraq war, from 2003, which while far from Islamophobic has a somewhat unfortunate appearance in retrospect:

"If we know the Pentagon, there must be a very good chance that this will be an outstandingly successful and stress-free war."

Still, London isn't electing a fortune-teller. It is also, like many of these quotes, taken completely out of context. It comes from a Telegraph column he wrote at Christmas 2002, which goes on to say,

At every key moment in the Iraq drama, there is a little Whitehall-generated drum-roll of alarm about a terrorist threat in London. Last week, the Americans declared that Iraq was in material breach of UN resolution 1441. The war came closer! And offstage, as if by magic, government sources muttered about anthrax on the Tube, smallpox in the water supply, etc.

It is a cynical and ludicrous attempt at Pavlovian conditioning. War in Iraq! Terrorist threat! War in Iraq! Terrorist threat! On it will go until the poor mutton-headed public believes that only the first will obviate the threat of the second.

It is a belief for which, alas, there is no evidence whatever. Try as he may, Blair has been unable to link Saddam with September 11, and we have no good grounds for thinking a war on Saddam will make future al-Qa'eda attacks less likely.

Which isn't bad soothsaying. Although he was among those calling for the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Boris was never a whole-hearted proponent of the Iraq war. Nor is he one of those (many on the "Left", whatever that means) in long-term denial about its justification or aftermath. Here he is in 2005, for example:

Whatever we achieve in Iraq, we will not have made our own world safer, or made the risk of terrorism less likely: quite the reverse. Perhaps it is just my paranoia, but there was something too neat about the way the British authorities released the new pictures of the four suicide bombers this week, not just to take the heat out of the Basra story, but also subliminally to remind the public of the claim with which Blair invaded Iraq - that it was part of the "war on terror". That claim was a lie, and whatever good may come out of the Iraq war, we should never forget that it was based on that lie.

Apart from the high quality of the prose, that could almost be Ken talking.

I was, though, particularly struck by this comment, left on Ummah Pulse by someone calling himself "Coolness of Hind".

Yes, Borris Johnson. I sat down with him once. He wanted to gauge the understanding of a young Muslim and try to figure out why educated people would blow themselves up. At the time no criminal convictions were made. I raised the inconsistencies in the reportings, the distinct lack of evidence, and pointers to suggest that the suspects were in fact innocent; distinctly opposite take on what the media was regurgitating at the time.

Through the entire meeting he gave me "dirty looks" (you know the ones which start off fights). He then chose to ask why women were subjugated/segregated and made to wear the veil. I asked why he had an affair...

In essence, I could see his hatred spewing out in his uneasy gestures and "dirty" looks.

I gathered the man knows absolutely nothing about Islam. I invited him to the Deen, and gave him a Quran. May Allah guide him.

I wonder if Boris managed to get very far with the Koran. He's a busy man, after all.


Anonymous said…
Heresiarch, I don't know why you do all this cheerleading for Boris (or perhaps I do - he's not Ken). I've watched all the televised mayoral debates and it's clear Boris is out of his depth - a great writer isn't necessarily a great politician. It's hard to trust his abilities after hearing his fantasies about bringing in buses that don't exist. What's made me sad during this election run-up is that when I tell people I'm voting Paddick they say "Oh, you're wasting your vote." But that's the whole point of the 2nd preference! As in the botched Scottish elections, voters do not understand the electoral system they are using.
Heresiarch said…
He's an unknown quantity, it's true. But this mayoral race is very important to the Conservatives. There's no danger of Boris screwing up because Cameron will make sure he has a strong team behind him. I don't think BJ would be nearly so controlling and dominant a figure as Livingstone has been. More of a figurehead. A bit of a gamble, though, I agree.

As for being "out of his depth": possibly. But he's a quick learner. And he has the immense advantage of being blithely unconcerned about conforming to the ways things are supposed to be done. I suppose it's that anarchist streak I really like. Long term, possibly dangerous. But in the short term, there's an awful lot of crap that needs to be cut.
Anonymous said…
Boris was on one of the weekend politics shows completely backtracking over some "Islam is violent" type comments he made a few years ago, trotting out the "Islam a peaceful religion that is twisted by extremists" line. Paddick was the only one prepared to say look - Ismlamic regimes murder innocent women and homosexuals.
Heresiarch said…
I missed that one. Well done Paddick. Though perhaps he's less vulnerable than BJ to the smears of the M4K people. The accusation of Islamophobia is a dangerous one that has to be neutralised because of the large number of votes at stake.

What everyone wants, surely, is for Muslims, en masse, to buy into liberalism: to stop thinking that such things as death sentences for apostasy or "honour killings" are in any sense Islamic. The question is, how is this best achieved? By repeating the "Islam is a peaceful religion with a few extremists" line often enough that Muslims themselves start to believe it - not in a complacent way, but by actively repudiating the more radical elements? Or by stressing the violence and the oppression in a way that can sound insensitive but which might provoke such cognitive dissonance in the minds of the majority that they embrace liberal modernity propelled by a kind of repugnance? That, presumably, is what Ayaan Hirsi Ali and those who think like her are trying to achieve, and intellectually I think it's the more coherent position. But I understand why politicians would find it difficult to enunciate.
Anonymous said…
I agree completely. It would be helpful if British Muslims distanced themselves from repressive Islamic regimes. Perhaps Amnesty in the UK could concentrate on educating British Muslims of the horrors that are done in the name of their religion in these regimes. Perhaps the mosques themselves could do this?! That Ken embraced Al-Qaradawi, who is the embodiment of the kind of Islam which goes against everything London stands for literally disgusts me. I hope the pink vote goes completely against Ken for this.
Anonymous said…
Good piece but in truth i can't stand either. If I was in London I would go for Paddick but secondly for the awful Boris just because I think it' time to throw a different rascal in.
AA Gill is good on KL in Sunday times & suggests maybe identity politics. has had its day. Think this is right. The Glasgow Muslims I know have very diverse views just as non-Muslims do and most of us resent being approached as if we were a special offer bunch of parsley.

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