With not particularly sincere apologies to Richard Kerbaj
Secular feminists ‘damaged’ by 'Decent' link
Allies deplore lack of distance from 'apologists for torture and war crimes'
Friends of a number of leading secular feminist organisations have expressed concerns about their failure to publicly distance themselves from the 'Decents', British former leftwingers whose wholesale embrace of a neoconservative world-view after 9/11 has become increasingly angry and paranoid.
Leading 'Decents' such as Melanie Philips and Nick Cohen have been described as "Britain’s most famous supporters of the War on Terror". Others, such as the bloggers at The Spittoon or Harry's Place, have been accused of vigorously championing the right of Christian fundamentalists in the United States and their followers in Europe to launch an illegal war in Iraq, bomb the shit out of civilians in Afghanistan and create a global network of secret prisons where torture is commonplace.
Activists who have considered themselves allies of groups such as Southall Black Sisters, Women Against Fundamentalism and Women Living Under Muslim Laws, in some cases for many years, described 'association' with the pro-war media commentators and apologists for torture and war crimes, in a campaign of vilification of Amnesty International and Moazzam Begg, as an "error of judgement" that "fundamentally damages" their organisations' reputations.
Speaking in east London, one long-standing anti-racist activist, a humanist and fierce critic of the Archbishop of Canterbury's assertion that sharia law in the UK "seems unavoidable", said:
Asked to elaborate further or provide evidence for these accusations, he added
"I believe the way the campaign against Amnesty International and Moazzam Begg has been conducted fundamentally damages these organisations' integrity and, more importantly, is becoming a threat to our collective ability to properly articulate the defence of human rights. Failing to condemn the antics of Britain’s most famous supporters of the "War on Terror" and refusing to challenge them as they continue to irrationally scream about 'Islamists under every bed', is a gross error of judgement."
Another campaigner claimed that many of the 'Decents' have "an agenda that is way beyond concerns about fundamentalism" and have a "set of ideologies that support not only state-sanctioned violence in itself but very very discriminatory behaviour, systematic discrimination against Muslims who don’t agree with them."
"You know, I’ve been concerned about what the pro-war Right and its spokespersons stand for for a long time. But I think the issue that I really have is with allies in secular feminist organisations, because they are a human rights organisations and they should make very very careful decisions about how they associate with people. I can tell you that I asked friends in organisations such as Southall Black Sisters questions about their evidence against Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners that should have been very easily answered".
To date, only one organisation facing criticism from its friends has sought to disassociate itself from the 'Decents', saying in a statement that it "deeply regrets the attempts of some media commentators and apologists for torture and war crimes to hijack this important debate to smear progressive movements, organisations and individuals".
However, the allegations were described "ridiculous" by another source, who added,
Fair? Hell no. But smear campaigns - even parodies of them - never are.
"It's not fair. Just because we make demands of people like Moazzam Begg to disassociate themselves from extremists, that doesn't mean we should be made to do the same".