In November, I disclosed how the new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Islamophobia had unwittingly appointed a group of Islamist sympathisers called Engage (or iEngage) to act as its secretariat.
Engage are an extremely dubious bunch of people who have repeatedly attacked Muslim moderates and defended extremists. After I publicised the evidence on this blog (detailed below) the chair, the Tory MP Kris Hopkins, and the vice-chair, Labour’s Lord Janner, requested the sacking of Engage as the secretariat to the all-party group.
Now, however, after what is described as an “orchestrated lobbying campaign,” Engage have apparently convinced a number of the more gullible members of the APPG that they are authentic representatives of Britain’s Muslim communities. They appear to have been reinstated as the secretariat. Their “head of research,” Shenaz Bunglawala, has been given a Commons pass allowing her unrestricted access to the building without passing through security checks.
Mr Hopkins and Lord Janner on Friday resigned both from their positions and from the group.
In an email circulated to members, they say: “It is our belief that the Group needs to be seen as above reproach and political leaning in order to maintain trust and confidence in its work.
“Whilst iEngage are perfectly entitled to express their views, we did not believe it appropriate for them to do so whilst continuing to act for the Group.
“An orchestrated lobbying campaign on behalf of iEngage since we issued our statement has only served to reinforce our opinion.
“However, after consulting with several colleagues since Parliament’s return from recess, it appears that this campaign has also persuaded some that iEngage should remain in place.
“Whilst it is obviously a matter for members to decide on what – if any – role iEngage should play in the Group, we no longer feel able to remain a part of it.
“We have therefore decided to relinquish our positions as Chair and Vice Chair, and our memberships, with immediate effect.”
iEngage has consistently defended fundamentalist organisations such as the East London Mosque and the Islamic Forum of Europe. It routinely attacks all criticism of them as “Islamophobic.”
It attacked the BBC’s recent Panorama documentary on racist Muslim schools – showing that some children are being taught anti-Semitism and Sharia punishments – as a “witch-hunt.” Typically, it launched its attack before even seeing the programme. It was almost alone in this criticism – faced with Panorama’s clear evidence, even some of the usual Islamist suspects kept quiet.
It attacked me for writing about the East London Mosque’s hosting of the terrorist preacher, Anwar al-Awlaki, in 2009 – advertised with a poster showing New York under bombardment. It peddled the straightforward lie told by the mosque that no-one had realised Awlaki was a bad egg at that stage. In fact, Awlaki had been identified by the US government two months before as a spiritual leader of the 9/11 hijackers – and the mosque knew this.
iEngage’s chief executive, and secretary of the new parliamentary group, Mohammed Asif, wrote to the Home Secretary to protest against the ban on the extremist preacher, Zakir Naik. Mr Naik has stated that “every Muslim should be a terrorist.” But Mr Asif and iEngage said that Naik’s exclusion would “put at risk good community relations.”
iEngage publicised a grotesquely misleading report issued by another Islamist-sympathising group, iEra, purporting to show that three-quarters of non-Muslims believe Islam is negative for Britain. As I demonstrated, this result – massively more than the true figure – was only achieved by systematically twisting the data as part of iEra’s agenda to sow suspicion and discord between communities.
iEngage has attacked the Independent columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, one of the country’s major voices of moderate Islam, for her opposition to the niqab and the burka. She is far from the only Muslim to be attacked by iEngage. It is interesting that no Muslim MPs attended the launch of the all-party group.
There are countless other examples.
Acting as the secretariat will give iEngage a key role in preparing the APPG’s reports. These will no doubt now follow Engage’s agenda of claiming a “rising tide of Islamophobia” in Britain - even though, as I detailed, the available evidence simply does not support this.
Haras Rafique, of the anti-extremist thinktank, Centri, said: “If Engage is promoted, it will not only undermine any attempt to tackle anti-Muslim bigotry, but will boost precisely the kind of extremist Islamist groups whose activities fuel anti-Muslim hatred.”
The feebleness of the remaining members of the APPG and their willingness to bow to an “orchestrated campaign” by Islamists has dealt a fatal blow to the credibility of the group. No report it produces can now be taken seriously and no credible MP or peer should wish to be associated with it.