This morning we turn to the latest Private Eye, and I am pleased to note an appearance by regular Decent columnist ‘Ratbiter’. This column is usually worth a chuckle or two, although not intentionally one presumes. Unless it’s really a devilishly clever spoof of Nick Cohen…
The target this fortnight is Osama Saeed, with a sideswipe at Alex Salmond. Osama is the Scottish National Party candidate for Glasgow Central, which alone would be enough to raise our columnist’s ire – the thought of running a Muslim candidate in an area with lots of Muslim voters! But Osama is also the boss of an outfit called the Scottish Islamic Foundation (SIF), which spends most of its time lobbying for Muslim faith schools, and in which capacity Osama has received a cheque from Alex Salmond.
Now then. The Decent Left don’t like Alex Salmond, although I suspect they dislike him for the wrong reasons. And they – or at least the denizens of Harry’s Place – really don’t like Osama Saeed, who’s an articulate Muslim critic of British foreign policy, and so obviously an enemy of the people. In fact, at HP Sauce they occasionally like to produce some barking mullah and loudly demand that Osama condemn this mullah, of whom he may or may not have heard.
Anyway, Ratbiter asserts that the SIF is nothing less than a front for the Muslim Brotherhood. He doesn’t actually produce any evidence, but I suppose the chain of reasoning goes like this: Osama’s political background is in the Muslim Association of Britain; the MAB is an offshoot of the Ikhwaan; QED. And, since the Ikhwaan revere Sheikh Qaradawi, this provides an opportunity for Ratbiter to dust off Qaradawi’s more outré pronouncements on wife-beating and female circumcision and use them as a stick to beat Osama, and by extension Alex. You could, I suppose, ask Osama what he thinks on these subjects, but where’s the fun in that?
So, the general thrust is that the Scottish Government is in a coalition with the Muslim Brotherhood. Ratbiter further insinuates that, as Osama has been interviewed on BBC Scotland, the Beeb’s Caledonian operation is also in thrall to the Brotherhood. This seems to show a lack of understanding of how broadcasting works. If Oliver Kamm appears on Newsnight, does that mean the Decent Left controls the BBC? No, it’s because Ollie has something distinctive to say. One can fault the range of voices for being too narrow – it’s nothing short of a scandal that, in the runup to the invasion of Iraq, Scott Ritter couldn’t get on Newsnight despite demonstrably having something important to say – but there’s no need to invoke conspiracy theories.
Some useful background to this was provided a little while back on the invaluable Aaro Watch:
What winds up Scottish Labour (and indeed English Labour) about the SNP and Osama Saeed is not so much that a political Islamist is being allowed to participate in mainstream politics, but that a political Islamist is participating in mainstream politics without the primary aim of delivering block votes for the Labour Party. The latter exist in some numbers but are quietly hidden away, invisible except to the small and insignificant few who closely follow municipal politics. Their grasp of English is also often poor, which prevents them saying anything embarrassing in public.
Quite so. There’s also the assertion that the SIF is unrepresentative, which may or may not be true (I’m not sure they claim to be representative) and a bit of a whine about Muslim groups that haven’t got funding from the Scottish Government. These are unnamed, probably sensibly when you bear in mind the few Muslim groups that do meet the approval of the Decents.
Finally, the really interesting stuff about religion in Scotland is the assiduous courtship of Scottish Catholics by the SNP, which has been trying heroically to shed its Orange patina. That it has made some progress has been evidenced by increasingly friendly coverage in The Universe, and confirmed by the Glasgow East by-election. The SNP’s Muslim outreach is really a subset of the same thing. If pushed, the Decents would probably have a go at the Catholic stuff too, but anti-Catholicism just doesn’t have the same frisson as sticking it to the Muslims.
Rud eile: It may be worth pointing out that the column in question is a more or less straight regurgitation of this article in Democratiya. But don’t put too much money on this blatant plagiarism making it into Street of Shame.