Nick Cohen informs us that Tell Mama is being torn apart by Islamists usurping Tell Mama’s liberal message.
Tell Mama is Britain’s most prominent opponent of anti-Muslim prejudice. It monitors everything from criminal assaults to everyday abuse. The far right loathes it, and the Conservative press sells the grotesque pretence that the group exaggerates prejudice to divert attention from the horror of Islamist violence.
But attacks from the right only wound. Tell Mama’s ‘friends’ in the Muslim community have turned out to be far more dangerous and are threatening to destroy the organisation. ‘I am on a knife edge,’ one activist told me. ‘I may just leave. I’m so fed up.’
There’s the presence of Islamists in Baroness Warsi’s Whitehall working group on anti-Muslim hatred, for one thing.
Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Tell Mama and a former adviser to Nick Clegg, told the Sunday Telegraph he was so concerned ‘about the kinds of groups some of the members had connections with, and some of the groups they were recommending be brought into government’ that he left Warsi’s committee.
Warsi is attempting to push Fiyaz Mughal back into line, Nick says.
While pressure was applied in private, a public campaign began on Twitter under the hashtag ‘Don’t Tell Mama’. It urged Muslims to wreck the organisation by boycotting it. Tell Mama’s critics accused it of being soft on the ‘heretical’ Ahmadi sect, soft on liberal Muslims who say cartoons of Mohammed don’t offend them, and soft on Jews.
In other words, liberal. Islamists don’t want no stinkin liberal.
Tell Mama knows a truth that it has taken my generation of liberal leftists half a lifetime to learn: there are two far rights in Britain. The group documents the behaviour of mainly white racists: thugs who spit at women in headscarves. But because it believes in universal values, it works with all who are victims of bigotry. Tell Mama’s board includes a Muslim support group for lesbians and gays, and Peter Tatchell, that indomitable fighter against homophobia, is also on it. Just as Tell Mama attacks prejudices against Muslims, so it defends homosexuals when Muslim clerics compare them to murderers and paedophiles.
Universal values and universal rights.
…the group’s enemies care nothing for consistent principles. They want others to condemn hatred against Muslims from white extremists, but not Muslim extremists’ hatred of Ahmadis, liberal Muslims or Jews.
Tell Mama may win through. But the people I’m talking to sound as if the stress is too much for them. If they go under, we will measure the triumph of sectarianism in yet more demands for double standards and restrictions on free speech, and yet more excuses for terror. In ways too few appreciate, however, we will also measure the awful consequences for British Muslims. In the East End of London, just down the road from where I am writing, the unemployment rate among Bangladeshis is astonishingly high. Hardly anyone talks about it, because blocks of British Asians are now identified as ‘the Muslims’, men and women interested only in religion.
It’s a deflection, in other words. Poverty and unemployment don’t matter, as long as no one is “offended” by a cartoon. That’s bad politics any way you look at it.