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The Mayor's Fateful Error
Last uploaded : Wednesday 16th Feb 2005 at 04:48
Contributed by : Simon Waldman


Ken Livingstone?s refusal to acknowledge that he was wrong to welcome the extremist Muslim cleric Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi in July 2004 is a demonstration of his disregard to the concerns some of London?s diverse communities.

Livingstone was presented with a 214-page dossier compiled by the LCC, a group comprised of 13 groups such as the Board of Deputies for British Jews, the Hindu Forum of Britain and the gay rights group Outrage! Outlined was evidence to support their opposition to Livingstone?s red carpet treatment to the suicide bombing advocator, women?s rights suppressor, anti-gay adherent of the militant Wuhhabi interpretation of Islam advocated by al-Qaradawi, a ?moderate? in Livingstone?s eyes.

The LCC gave evidence in their dossier of some of al-Qaradawi?s venomous remarks and positions. He refused to condemn the beheading of Nicholas Berg by militants in Iraq, described homosexuality as an ?abdominal practice? and ?a disease? whose offenders should be put to death to ?maintain the purity of Islamic society?. The cleric used his authority in Islamic theology to give his seal of approval for suicide bombers in Israel who target Israeli civilians, and gave his support to the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. He condoned practices of female circumcision and okayed domestic abuse but ?in no case should he resort to using a stick? that might cause pain or injury?. More recently, Livingstone?s favorite cleric commented, as reported in The Times and the BBC on 11 January, that the victims of the Asian tsunami deserved to die.

In response the mayor compiled his own dossier that went to great lengths to portray al-Qaradawi as a moderate excusing comments advocating the oppression of women, homophobia and his support for suicide bombings in Israel, dismissing the fact that al- Qaradawi?s suspected ties with terrorist groups led to the cleric?s entry to the United States to be denied. The dossier failed to acknowledge that al-Qaradawi preaches extremism usually when addressing an Arab audience, but moderates his venom when speaking to the west.

But the icing on the cake, the big fat cherry on top was Livingstone?s fantastical claims that the LCC had been duped by a ?Zionist front organization?. He was referring to the Arabic translation service MEMRI, which was cited in the dossier. In the section entitled ?A ?case? built on inaccurate ?evidence?? Livingstone argues that the translation service of MEMRI was particularly relied on. Not true. Only 14 of the 95 citations of the LCC?s dossier were from MEMRI. Livingstone?s attack on the MEMRI organization stands on shaky grounds. He cites critiques by bipartisan observers whose works appear on websites that identify staunchly with Palestinian and radical left stances. Used was an Email debate that featured on the Guardian Unlimited website between MEMRI?s co-founder Yigal Carmon and Brian Whitaker, the Guardian?s Middle East editor.

Livingstone should take note that Yigal Carmon chastised Whitaker for only finding a fault in one of MEMRI?s thousands of translations plus an omission of the location of an author in another translation. Big deal, the occasional misinterpretation or omission of words can happen in the work of a translator. It was noted that Carmon regularly appears on the Arabic news network Al-Jazeera and that MEMRI has been praised by many journalists and academics for offering a reliable, in depth translation and analysis of the media in the Middle East.

No doubt this must strike fear into the hearts of Islamic fundamentalists and their apologists and, of course, Red Ken himself.

Livingstone argued, possibly out of ignorance or more probably out of desperation to save his image, that the critics of his meeting with al-Qaradawi were advocators of an ?Islamic Conspiracy? theory and were ?caught up by a Zionist front organization?. This could not be a more apt example of what has been called of late the ?new anti-Semitism? or ?Judeophopbia?, the belief that there is a sinister plot coming from those who sympathize or identify with the Jewish state of Israel and that Jews, using their power, using their state, conspire against Islam. It is ironic that the mayor?s attempt to defend a radical Islamic preacher is filled with Judeophobic rhetoric, that a ?Zionist front organization? has duped the LCC and fooled some of the world?s leading journalists and commentators into thinking that Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi is not a moderate.

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