In previous editions, we have covered anti-Semitic cartoonists, terrorist leaders and hate preachers. So it was with some abhorrence, but little surprise, that today I read a piece by the Guardian (and former Telegraph) columnist Peter Oborne, with Abdul Wahid, the British leader of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an awful proto-extremist organisation with typical apologia for the usual Islamist terrorists.
Oborne is so consistently wrong with almost everything that he writes, of course, he generally provides a useful service to readers of what not to think. But even for him, this was pretty dire.
It is not so much the fact that he interviewed him - journalists should, of course, interview all sorts of people, including unpleasant ones - it is more the tone of the narrative which tries to strikes a weaselly balance between saying "of course, I don't agree with him" and "but he's so misunderstood". In particular, Oborne tries to dress up the suggestion that Cameron or others might want to ban his organisation as a free speech issue.
But it is a straw man: no-one is saying that Wahid's personal speech should be curtailed as an individual. The debate is about whether he is allowed to run an organisation, raise money and so on, in a way which multiplies the power of his and other similar voices in a way that might influence others, ultimately, to violence. There is a huge difference.
Wahid, with his oh-so-plausible bedside manner (he is a respectable doctor in his day job), goes on smoothly to defend all the usual regressive tenets of Islamist oppression such as separating men and women; he refuses to denounce an anti-Semitic pamphlet; when confronted with challenges on attitudes to democracy and sexism, he resorts to whataboutery ("ah, yes, but what about this country?"); and so on. But the reality of his organisation is worse.
It may not be as directly murderous as ISIS, but he still talks calmly about his desire to build a theocratic caliphate. It is an entryist organisation, too, looking to get its people in influential places towards that end. You can find more about its general unpleasantness at a selection of Harry's Place links here, including its charming "purify the earth of Jewish filth" press release.
As former radical Ed Husain put it:
"Britain remains vital to the Hizb, for it gives the group access to the global media and provides a fertile recruiting ground at mosques and universities."And then there is the clincher: the casual line that they sometimes he and Oborne had dinner together. As the excellent Tom Owolade put it:
Ah, but racist extremism can only exist on the far right, can't it?Imagine if a Guardian writer interviewing Nick Griffin had said they occasionally have dinner together. pic.twitter.com/8RrKG5K02H— Tom Owolade (@owolade14) July 24, 2015
UPDATE 25JUL: Thanks to Tom Holland for pointing out the draft constitution for the Caliphate, which includes such things as execution for apostasy (article 7c) and, er, legalised slavery (article 19).