Friday, March 24, 2006

Galloway and the Rise of the British Islamic Left

Commentary by Martin Kelly
December 9, 2004

One of the greatest English hymns is William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’.

Like many in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, Blake was radically opposed to the Industrial Revolution – in ‘Jerusalem’, he refers to ‘dark Satanic Mills’, although his reaction was not as bad as that of the ultra-conservative Pope Gregory XVI, who remarked on the invention of the railroad – ‘Chemin de fer? Chemin d’infer!’

However, ‘Jerusalem’, ends with the one of the most stirringly patriotic stanzas in the Canon of the Church of England –

‘I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant land’

The outcome of George Galloway’s December 2 libel victory against the ‘Daily Telegraph’ is that it may lead to the rise of something else in the green and pleasant land - an established voting bloc of Islamic left. At the moment, he is leading a charge in that direction, a real ‘chemin d’infer’, and it’s been facilitated by the neocons.

In April 2003, the ‘Telegraph’ had published allegations, based on documents found in the burned out Iraqi Foreign Ministry, that Galloway, the Member of Parliament for Glasgow Kelvin who was expelled from the Labour Party in 2003, had been in the pay of the Saddam regime. American readers, accustomed to the protections of the First Amendment, must be clear that under English law, Mr. Justice Eady’s decision to find in Galloway’s favour was absolutely correct.

Galloway did not contest the authenticity of the documents. Instead, the ‘Telegraph’ was on the back foot, basing their defence on the ‘Reynolds principles’, whereby publication that might be libellous is justified as being in the public interest. Mr. Justice Eady, sitting without a jury by consent of both parties, held that the ‘Telegraph’ had failed meet seven of the 10 ‘Reynolds’ tests, and specifically that they had failed to give Galloway adequate opportunity to respond prior to publication, nor should they have published an editorial calling him ‘Saddam’s little helper’ containing the word ‘treason’. As a result, Galloway has been enriched by $300,000.

The publication of the allegations occurred while the disgraced rabid neoconservative Conrad Black was the owner of the ‘Daily Telegraph’. I do not believe for a moment that the editor of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ would not make some effort to consult his proprietor prior to the publication of a story that could have resulted in the fall of a Member of Parliament. He must have known of the story before the then editor, Charles Moore, went to press. It is hard to articulate the anger one feels towards this man Black; that, having been granted the privilege of owning great institutions like the ‘Daily Telegraph’ and the ‘Spectator’, that he should turn them down market and mire them in scandal; that he should then be alleged to have stolen from them is worse; but to have so thoroughly subverted ‘The Daily Telegraph’ into nothing but a mouthpiece for neoconservative fascism is unforgivable. This story again proves that it is never the corrupt who pay – when Galloway gets his damages, as he will, the money will not be coming out of Black’s pockets, but those of his stockholders who inherited his liabilities.

Over the past year, Galloway has collected nearly $500,000 by winning libel cases. His story is an interesting paradigm of the changes in the sort of people who have become Labour politicians over the last 80 years – the greatest of all Labour politicians to date has been the late Ernest Bevin, Foreign Secretary in the first Labour government after World War Two, one of the founders of NATO and the man who made sure Her Majesty had the bomb. During the 1920’s Bevin had been a leader of the longshoremens’ union, and earned the nickname ‘The Dockers’ King’s Counsel’ for the eloquence with which he pled their case. One wonders what a man like Ernie Bevin would think of a sometime Labour MP being skilled at the art of winning of libel actions.

Of course, Galloway was not expelled from Labour over these allegations, but for criticising party policy. His criticism included an interview with Al-Jazeera TV on September 28 2002, when he said,

“Will they (the Arab states) send forces to defend Iraq this time in 2002 or will they allow the use of their forces, air space and land by the Crusaders and foreigners to attack Iraq and start a fire in an Arab, Muslim country that is part of their big entity…Will they allow this entity to be torn and paralysed? If they do, then they
deserve what is awaiting them in the next 100 years.”

In 1994, Galloway, by that time a Labour MP for seven years, went to Iraq and publicly saluted Saddam’s ‘indefatigability’. At that time, Saddam was the leader of a country with which the United Kingdom was still officially engaged in hostilities – the 1991 ceasefire was in place. Doing that wasn’t bad enough to get him expelled from the Labour Party. Publicly criticising Tony Blair and party policy was.

Since his expulsion, Galloway has founded a party called the ‘Respect and Unity Coalition’. The Glasgow Kelvin seat is due to disappear at the next General Election, and Galloway’s expulsion happened, oddly enough, just in time to save Labour a damaging selection battle for the nomination between Galloway and Mohammed Sarwar, the UK’s first Muslim MP. Expelling Galloway has left Sarwar with a clear run at the ball.

The absence of Galloway will be no great loss to the people of Glasgow Kelvin – he did not maintain a home in the constituency, and more often than not his surgeries were taken by staffers. With $300,000 of the ‘Telegraph’s money in his pocket, his sights are firmly fixed elsewhere.

The East End of London has seen radical politics before - during the 1930’s, incidents like the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ marked the advent of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists into our culture. Galloway has announced that he will be contesting the East End seat of Bethnal Green and Bow.

Bethnal Green and Bow is represented by Oona King, an ultra-Blairite. This would make it a tempting target in itself – it’s also much closer to his south London home, and much more convenient than having to trail 500 miles in-country every weekend to listen to us Glaswegian rubes bitch about roadworks on Gibson Street. However, for a calculating man like Galloway, it has one massive advantage that he is probably gambling will come to his assistance, and vote for him in force – one of the UK’s highest concentrations of Bangladeshi Muslims, every man jack of them opposed to the war. Not even Abu Hamza al-Masri, the Fakir of Finsbury Park, could have ever hoped to use Muslims as Muslims in such a directly political way as this.

Galloway’s ambitions are not limited to taking the seat – he has predicted that within three years, Respect will control the local council, Tower Hamlets.

It is to the eternal shame of the Labour Party that they kept Galloway in their ranks for so long. It makes it even more ironic that, had they not expelled him on the most specious of grounds after his greater sin of 1994, Respect would not exist, Oona King would not be under threat and Galloway might not be on the verge of creating an Islamic leftist voting bloc.

If this succeeds, Galloway will really have unleashed the djinn of political Islam in the United Kingdom, and the creation of the Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets will only give succour to those who wish to build Al-Quds in England’s green and pleasant land. Why would somebody from the old mill town of Dundee want to do such a thing?

There is one possibility that cannot easily be dismissed.

He has spoken all of his life in support of Arab causes, flying the Palestinian flag from Dundee City Chambers when he was leader of the council. He has been a frequent traveller to the Middle East. He claims to be opposed to the tyrannies of the Middle East, speaking out against the House of Saud. He has referred to Coalition forces as ‘Crusaders’, and the Arab states as a ‘big entity’. His second wife, Dr. Amina Abu Zaid, is a Palestinian.

Has George Galloway converted to Islam?