Ed Husain and me

This is a cross post by Melanie Phillips from the Spectator

Goyas Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters

On Friday, I wrote about the confused message being put out by the various groups which were taking to London’s streets yesterday, including one led by Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain, to oppose the ‘sharia now’ demonstration by al Muhajiroun. My post provoked an unexpected reaction – an extraordinary ad feminam attack upon me, on the Guardian’s Comment is free blog, by the ‘reformist’ Muslim Ed Husain which accuses me of displaying

zealotry and ignorance

and being filled with

anger, venom and hatred

not to mention also being


Such fame! It could turn a girl’s head.

The first question is why Ed Husain was so exercised by what I wrote. After all, this was not his fight; I had made no mention of him or his ‘anti-Islamist’ Quilliam organisation. Much more astonishing was that he was leaping to the defence of none other than Inayat Bunglawala and the MCB. The MCB is an Islamist body which wants to theocratise Britain according to the precepts of Islam.

Last March, the government suspended links with it after its deputy Secretary-General, Daud Abdullah, signed a declaration that was seen as calling for violence against Israel and condoning attacks on British troops in Iraq. Earlier this year, it boycotted Britain’s annual Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration ceremony. Its Secretary-General, Dr Abdul Bari, has said Britain should adopt Islamic practices such as arranged marriages and that Britons should follow the teachings of Islam. Moderate it is not.

As I reported below, Bunglawala told me himself that he wants Britain to become an Islamic state. Yet Ed Husain, whose Quilliam organisation receives a great deal of money from the government in order to oppose Islamic extremism, actually extols Bunglawala for having moved to embrace liberal attitudes. Ed Husain, who in 2007 vividly described in his own book Bunglawala’s anti-Jewish attitudes, now says Bunglawala should not be held to account for remarks he made in 1993 in support of Islamist extremism and from which he has now ‘distanced himself’.

People must decide for themselves whether Bunglawala’s apparent conversion to the causes of gay rights and freedom of speech is genuine. But what about his declared aim of turning Britain into an Islamic state? Does Ed Husain now think this too is evidence of Bunglawala’s ‘liberal’ attitudes? Or must we assume that Ed Husain too must not be held to account for his previous opposition to this Islamist goal?

Now let’s look at what Ed Husain says about me. His article sits underneath a strapline, almost certainly written by the Guardian rather than by him, which says:

In her McCarthy-style paranoid parallel universe, the Spectator columnist views every Muslim a potential Islamist terrorist.

You really do have to rub your eyes at this. In my blog post which provoked Ed Husain’s article, I praised and welcomed those truly moderate Muslims who were mounting a counter-demonstration against al Muhajiroun, particularly the group British Muslims for a Secular Democracy. I have never said or implied that ‘every Muslim’ is a ‘potential Islamist terrorist’. On the contrary, in everything I have ever written about the subject I have emphasised that there are many Muslims who sign up to secular western values and who are themselves victims of the jihadis.

I have always emphasised that, while jihadi Islamism is a particularly troubling interpretation of Islam because it is based on theology and backed up by the history of Islamic conquest, it is only one interpretation and there are other Muslims who interpret their religion in an entirely peaceful and unthreatening way. To suggest that I have ever said otherwise is not only a demonstrable falsehood but is a smear which is likely to incite hatred against me.

But it is Ed Husain’s account of how we first met and what followed that utterly destroys any claim he has to integrity. This is what he writes:

I first met Melanie two years ago at the Richard and Judy show. Unaware that she was a last-minute, unexpected guest, and aware of the prejudiced views that she has expressed about Muslims in the past, I was unwilling to appear beside her as a complementary contributor; I made my excuses to Richard and left the studio.

However, I believe in the human ability to change and, in that hope of helping Melanie see the flaws in her analysis, I met with her several times in private and appealed to her to stop blaming Islam and Muslim scripture for (the decidedly un-Islamic phenomenon of) terrorism. Why would she and her acolyte Douglas Murray not cease attacks on Muslim scripture that were based on bin Laden’s understanding of Islam? And why would they not support Islam’s inherent pluralism and recognise that Islam per se is not the problem, but iconoclastic interpretations of it.

I would not normally ever reveal what takes place in private conversations. But since Ed Husain has grossly abused this confidence by misrepresenting these exchanges in order falsely to blacken my reputation, I will now reveal what actually happened.

We did indeed first meet in July 2007 in the hospitality ‘green’ room of the Richard and Judy Show, where we were both due to appear on a panel. Upon my arrival in the green room, however, Ed Husain immediately said he would have to leave. I was taken aback, since I had admired his position as a practising Muslim who had renounced his former membership of the jihadi Hizb ut Tahrir and was now fighting Islamist extremism. When I asked him why he felt he could not appear with me, he told me that he could not risk the damage this would do to his reputation amongst other Muslims.

‘They already call me a Zionist’, he said. Of course he was anything but. What he meant was that Islamists who were out to destroy him were using the most lethal form of demonisation that they knew. If he opposed Islamic extremism, he had to be a ‘Zionist’ stooge. He had in fact recently written an article for the Guardian which troubled me very much, in which he wrote:

Zionism and Islamism are both political perversions of ancient Abrahamic faiths of Judaism and Islam… Prior to the Holocaust, Zionism was a pariah movement among Europe’s Jewish communities. Rabbis chastised Zionists for abusing religion and religious identity. And yet, with the inhumane onslaught against European Jews in the 1940s, Zionism gained acceptance and respectability.

I asked him whether the reason he had written this article was similarly to fend off the taunt of ‘Zionist’. ‘Of course’, he said. He was, he said, on the point of encouraging more defections from Hizb ut Tahrir and could not afford to allow anything to jeopardise this delicate mission. So he had written this article mainly as a tactical ploy to deflect the charge that he was a ‘Zionist’ stooge.

‘But’, he added, ‘it was not altogether wrong. There is a core of truth in what I wrote’.

I was appalled to hear this. Cynical, tactical use of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist bigotry to save his own skin was bad enough. But for him to believe that Zionism really was a perversion of Judaism suggested to me that, even though he had renounced the jihad, he was still in the grip of the poisonous Muslim delusions about Israel and the Jewish people.

So it was I who suggested we should meet, in order to discuss this. He enthusiastically agreed; he made plain he had no quarrel with my position on Islam. He appeared keen to strike up a friendly relationship, and wanted to know more about my views on Israel and Zionism which were clearly a point of contention between us. So we met in a cafe, chosen at his request to be in an out of the way place where he would run no risk of being seen with me by anyone who could use this against him.

I gave him a quick history of the Jews and their ancient relationship with the land of Israel, explaining to him the symbiotic relationship between the people, the religion and the land. I ran through the development of political Zionism in the 19th century, the decision by the world community after World War One that the Jews had an unchallengeable and unique right to the land of Palestine where their ancient national home should be reconstructed, and the subsequent attempt by the Arabs to frustrate this aim, the actual cause of some nine decades of conflict in the Middle East.

He was – at times, literally – open-mouthed at all of this. He had clearly never been told any of it before. It threw him. He cavilled at parts of it, not because he had any contrary information but because, he said, he just ‘couldn’t believe it’. But there was one thing I said to which he responded with enthusiasm.

I remarked how amazing it was that the anti-Israel ‘progressive’ Left supported ethnic cleansing in the putative state of Palestine through their core demand that the Israeli settlers had to be removed from that territory. After all, there was in principle no reason why the settlers couldn’t just be left there and become citizens of a state of Palestine whose boundaries could simply be drawn around them. This was impossible, however, because the Palestinian position was that no Jews could be citizens of Palestine – a racist position supported by the ‘anti-racist’ Left.

‘You are absolutely right!’ he exclaimed. ‘What a brilliant point! Why don’t you make it more vigorously?’

We met subsequently on a couple more occasions. The conversation did not return to the subject of Israel but was largely about Ed Husain’s difficulties in fending off the onslaught from Islamists who, he said, were using every trick in the book to isolate, bad-mouth and destroy him, and the manoeuvres he was having to use to outwit them; and how frustrated he was that the government refused to listen to him about the dangers of employing Islamist advisers — and about how imperative it was not to treat the Islamists of the MCB as legitimate interlocutors, since by doing so ministers were cutting the ground from under his own feet. He was anxious; I was sympathetic.

The last such discussion that I had with him some months ago was very different. He tried to persuade me that a certain Islamist who was working as a civil servant in Whitehall, and who I believed to be as dangerous as the government was deluded about him, was a reformed character and had turned into an anti-Islamist activist. I thought Ed Husain had finally been got at by the Muslim Brotherhood who had succeeded in bamboozling him. But I also wondered – as I had done uneasily right from the start – whether, although he had denounced violence, he had never properly renounced Islamic extremism because he could not bring himself to acknowledge its true religious source.

Whether he was a ‘holy fool’ or something worse, it became clear to me at this point that Ed Husain could be viewed no longer as a weapon against Islamist extremism. He should be regarded instead as a potentially lethal boomerang by which the Muslim Brotherhood could bamboozle and manipulate ministers and government officials who had Ed Husain-shaped stars in their eyes – and who were throwing money at him on the basis that he would serve to inoculate young British Muslims against the Islamists.

Let me reiterate that – contrary to his assertion in his Cif article – at no point in any of our discussions did he ever accuse me of ‘blaming Islam and Muslim scripture for (the decidedly un-Islamic phenomenon of) terrorism’ or for not recognising ‘Islam’s inherent pluralism’. On the contrary, it was a given between us that, unlike some other anti-jihadis who did indeed regard all Muslims and Islam as one homogeneous threat, I drew a distinction between moderate Muslims and Islamists and did allow for differences in interpretations of the religion.

The question remains, though, quite why Ed Husain feels so viciously towards me. I think it is indeed because of my support for Israel, on which subject he appears to be unbalanced and obsessional. In his Cif piece about me, he claims of me that anyone

who opposes her views on Israel is either an Islamist or ‘in the Islamists’ camp’.

This is an absurd misrepresentation of my views. What I do say, however, is that anyone – Muslim or not — who endorses and promulgates lies and bigotry about Israel and the Jewish people, scapegoating them for crimes of which they are not only innocent but are in fact the victims, cannot be a true ‘moderate’ or an ally of the free world against the enemies of civilisation.

A number of anti-jihadis told me from the start that my support for Ed Husain was misplaced because he had never properly renounced Islamist extremism. To begin with, I defended him as a naif. Even when he came out with boilerplate bigotry against Israel, I put it down to the fact that he had been brought up in that kind of milieu. He was on a steep learning curve, I said. Everyone can change for the better.

It was I who was naive.

Picture: Goya’s ‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters’

23 replies »

  1. Genuine anti-Jihadi Muslims always had suspicions about Husain. I suggest commenters also comment on Melanie’s blog.

  2. Genuine anti-Jihadi Muslims always had suspicions about Husain. I suggest commenters also comment on Melanie’s blog.

    I did. I was a bit disappointed by the pre moderation though

  3. There is no animal more dangerous than a dying one. Husain knows that the Conservatives will cut Quilliam’s funding and will instead fund a genuine anti-Jihadi Muslim group. So he has nothing to lose by showing his true colours.

    Many of us knew that he was never an authentic moderate Muslim.

    This is about jockeying for position on the Labour Party when it goes into opposition – and self-destructs. It has nothing to do with truth. Melanie is just the catalyst for Husain to ‘come out’.

  4. JerusalemMite

    Melanie premoderates her comments. My guess is she was still working on this article in the small hours.

  5. “Those who wish to destroy western civilisation need to destroy the Jews” – is a good line which is sure to infuriate Guardianistas. Jews are still the litmus-test of civilisation.

    First they came for Israel, and I did nothing because I was an anti-Zionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did nothing, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs, and I did nothing because I wasn’t a Christian, etc. – Finally, they came for the democratic socialists and secularists, but there was no-one left to defend me, so I decided if you can’t beat them, join them !

  6. Superb, Melanie.

    Hussain’s OTT response to your article is proof positive, if any is needed, that you may be able to take the man out of HuT but you can’t invariably take HuT out of the man.

    Seriously, it really p*sses me off that you should need to defend yourself against such a specimen.

    And as for Quilliam, a more fitting example of al-taqiyya I have yet to come across.

  7. OT – apologies but see ‘Writing Jews out of Jerusalem’ – the below the line commentators vie to outdo one another with their loathing of Israel/Jews:

    1. Bakerstreet – if you do not hate and despise Israel/Israelis/Jews – then you must be Jewish and a racist and a hater of Muslims (a variation on Whitaker’s ‘then you must be a paid agent of the state of Israel’) – in response to monnie:

    01 Nov 09, 11:26am (19 minutes ago)

    Except I’m not Jewish.

    Really ?

    You seem to hate Islam. Are you a member of the new Israel friendly BNP ?

    2. Berchmans springs into action, arm raised in salute – he can describe Israelis/Jews as Nazis! Huzzah!:

    01 Nov 09, 11:42am (5 minutes ago)

    ##. Are you ( monnie ) a member of the new Israel friendly BNP ?##

    Three tasks I set for thee…solve hunger …irrigate the Sahara and find a Pro Israeli that sees a problem with the BNP stance. 🙂

  8. If Ed Hussain actually admires and agrees with Melanie’s views, he has to say the opposite to keep right with the people he aims to detach from Islamism. If he is in fact playing a double-game [being actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing], he needs to pose as an admirer of Melanie [scales falling from his eyes etc] to maintain the admiration of liberals. Al teqqia rules OK.

    We must have the greatest sympathy for Ed. He is rapidly turning into Anaximenes’ donkey [sorry if I have the wrong philosopher] – standing equidistantly between two piles of carrots, he dies of starvation through indecision as to which pile to eat.

  9. Hmm… This seems like a long story, but regardless, I would highly recommend regularly checking out Melanie Phillips’ blog on the

    I’ve been reading it for a long time now and she always has sharp and interesting things to say about British and world policy towards Israel, the Middle East, terrorism, etc.

    That’s why people like this Ed Husain fellow find her so intimidating. She has never expressed a single bad word against Islam or Muslim people in general, just against the hijacking of Islam for sinister purposes.

  10. Melanie, this is excellent.

    juliantheprostate – I must reacquaint myself with the classics!

    It’s an excellent analogy and it applies as much to Bunglawala, from whom Hussain admits he had regular lessons in antisemitism, as it does to Hussain himself.

    Bunglawala is an arch example of al-taqiyya in operation as is his disciple. Let’s face it, anyone who sells his soul to CiF has either to be crazy or has been sailing under a false flag from the start.

    This is not to say that I don’t believe that people can change, but it seems that one has only to scratch the likes of Bunglawala and Hussain to find Islamist ideology.

    Thankfully both lack the insight to be able to see themselves as others see them.

  11. John
    And what about this?

    gipsylad (17 recommendations)
    01 Nov 09, 10:53am (about 1 hour ago)
    So, there they go again, the barking apologists of the racist state of Israel. Lies, half true statements, misinformation, propaganda and to top it all, one more re-writing of history. As usual, the criminals shout “No, don’t hurt me! This is not fair…” as he violently attacks his victims.

    And this?

    inkedbloke (8 recommendations)
    01 Nov 09, 11:10am (about 1 hour ago)
    To be honest, I don’t really see why they can’t be written of of Jerusalem’s history, after all, doesn’t the book of Kings tell us that the place was once inhabited by a tribe called the Jebusites (Jerusalem was called Jebus then). I believe that once King David had conquered the city, the Israelites forced the Jebusites to become serfs; sauce for the goose and all that.
    It does seem a bit rich for the modern day Isaeli Jews to base their claim to a patch of dirt on ancient books that clearly state what a bunch of thieving toerags their forefathers were – oh sorry, I forgot. God said they could nick it so that’s alright then.


    And this?

    Quest2008 (15 recommendations)
    01 Nov 09, 11:38am (about 1 hour ago

    ……….Comments like.
    “Palestinian and Muslim leaders must desist from the incitement against Israel and the delegitimisation of the Jewish people’s connection to the land”
    Are a joke, inaffect your saying as a Jew, God gave you Palestine, even though you were born in England.
    As a native of England, where do you loyalties lie, England or Israel ?

    CIF must supply some fun to his faithful on a rainy Sunday….

  12. An excellent and measured article, Melanie, as always.

    “…The question remains, though, quite why Ed Husain feels so viciously towards me. I think it is indeed because of my support for Israel, on which subject he appears to be unbalanced and obsessional. In his Cif piece about me, he claims of me that anyone

    “who opposes her views on Israel is either an Islamist or ‘in the Islamists’ camp’….

    Given what you say that Hussain said to you, it looks like he’s under pressure again, but that shouldn’t be the occasion to libel you. Hussain is pathetic, as are all of his ilk, because they lack the sense of self to stand up against blatant lies and falsehood and are not above employing them themselves, as you have demonstrated, if they feel themselves to be under threat.

    Ask yourself, why did he wilfully misrepresent your conversation with him? Was it to make his point (not beyond such a one, and we witness this often from his mentor in antisemitism, Bunglawala who seems capable of changing his mind as often as the wind changes direction) or did he really believe that what he wrote on CiF is true?

    Under threat, rigid thinkers such as he are quite capable of blanking out what they don’t want to remember because it causes them so much emotional discomfort. Hussain gives himself away about this “coping strategy” when he admits that he has al-taqqeya’d himself out of similar threatening situations before.

    Islamists always have an agenda. Push them and they cannot help but reveal it. You performed a great service, Melanie, by forcing Hussain to reveal his hand.

  13. I have just heard that the march has been cancelled. Can anyone verify and if it has, does anyone know why?

  14. Very interesting story indeed. I remember the Zionism/Islamism article Mel Phillips mentions here; and there was another similar one from this other guy who is Ed Husain’s partner at Quilliam (can’t think of the name right now). So one thing is for sure: when it comes to the “Zionist entity”, their “moderation” consists chiefly in having brought themselves to use “Israel”, the rest is just the jolly ole Islamist stuff.

  15. I’ve admired Melanie’s writings for years and this is an excellent example of her incisive and fact-based writing.

    It is an excellent rebuttal by a rather lonely and courageous voice. One of the few who actually see things as they are and write what they think in a major British newspaper.

    “Comment is Free” should be relabeled “Free Comment is Cheap”. No facts, just endless lies, fallacies, errors, and omissions there. Melanie, on the other hand, sticks to the facts, and presents them as they are.

    BTW, the new Jeremy Sharon thread on CIF, “Writing Jews out of Jerusalem’s History” is a treasure trove of anti-Semitic comments. How the anti-Semites love that site!

  16. The Silverstein article we were threatened with has appeared . All I can say is that it is no wonder that they are paying him less. Thank heavens it is short. Nonetheless it is replete with factual and grammatical absurdities. He confides in us that he is a supporter of Israel, for one thing and expects a peace deal to emerge from a contract where the subjects have to be forced by the cliched ”tough love”..

    He shows his weaknesses as a writer very clearly:
    He uses ”reluctantly” with no subject and no referent to introduce a crippled sentence and significantly, misspells ”peace”.

    Here is another illogical broken sentence leaving us in the dark about what is known to whom: and the metaphor he hints at with ”get to ..” leaves this reader annoyed and unenlightened.
    “Despite knowing, neither side seems able to get to “yes”, which is why the international community has to intercede.”

  17. This poster made a very good response to Berchmans though I must admit I’m rather mystified by her first paragraph.

    1 Nov 09, 6:21pm
    Well B
    Islam allows a genocide against women within their own cultures and by their own families. So no it can’t wait as such violence self perpetuates and then is exported. It also leads to increases of population that no environment can support. Afghanistan nearly has the biocapacity of Rwanda before the genocide.Iraq is even lower.The proof of this are all the stats about violence towards women where there is effective law and where there is not and which countries have signed up to CEDAW without reservations. In countries informed by Islam there is only recently any protective law at all. And people on the ground are telling the truth of what happens. Abuse is rife in Af/Pak and always has been. It was in Iraq and still is. Anywhere there is honor killing there are high levels of abuse.They are murdered in the 10s of thousands by their own countrymen.
    all that is a pre existing condition.No it cant wait until everything is as Muslim men would like it. The way they have been doing things so far has been a disaster.People in the UK can set a lead in doing things better.

  18. One of the differences between Islamism and Zionism is that, from the 1940s, virtually all Muslim peoples were left by the European powers with their own independent nation states. States for which Muslims did not have to fight as Jews had theirs. Palestinian Muslims and Christians thought it more important to deny Jews a state than acquire their own.

    If anything, Islamism served to deny Palestinians a state, in a spectacular own goal. Zionism was content with a Jewish state. Islamism was only content with a Palestinian Arab state in all historical Palestine (minus most of its Jews).

  19. zkharya

    picking up on your point, its interesting to note that the Arabs on the WB, who didn’t, of course, realize they were Palestinians till it became convenient for Arafat and various Arab countries to create the myth, never thought of fighting Jordan for control of the WB – or, for that matter, Jordan, till the days of Black September in 1970.

    Of course, the Hashemite support for a palestinian state on the WB (and Gaza) is really a blind for their efforts to maintain their control of their kingdom – one of the few remaining absolute monarchies in the world.

  20. “States for which Muslims did not have to fight as Jews had theirs.”

    No entirely true. But the fighting often consisted in the “problem” of the wrong minorities living within the wrong borders i.e. ethnic cleansing or displacement. But very few contested the legitimacy of the existence of these states in some form.