Martin Bright’s C4 Documentary: Part of a Campaign to Divide and Rule

13 Jul 2006

Having viewed an advance copy of the Channel Four documentary ‘Who Speaks For British Muslims’ due to be aired this Friday at 7.30pm it is clear that this is just the latest in a series of rather desperate attempts that have been made in recent months to try and divide British Muslims on sectarian grounds. It is a tactic which has been tried before and failed and we are certain will fail again.

The presenter of the C4 documentary, Martin Bright, is well known to British Muslims for his Islamophobic views and is the author of a notorious and discredited cover story in the New Statesman entitled ‘The Great Koran Con Trick’ which was famously repudiated by Bright’s very own former tutor at the School of Oriental and African studies, Professor Gerald Hawting.

Bright’s production of the C4 documentary and the publication this week of his Policy Exchange booklet is clearly aimed at campaigning for the imposition of a new Muslim leadership which is pro-Israel and will not speak up for legitimate rights.

‘Martin Bright argues that it is wrong for our government to speak to popular democratic Islamic groups in the Muslim world. We are puzzled by this line of thinking. Surely, we should be building peaceful ties with the Muslim world, not cutting them off. In addition, Bright’s contention that most Muslims are ‘largely apolitical’ is clearly a case of wishful thinking and an attempt to forestall the increased participation of British Muslims in our political process in the UK. It is also firmly refuted by the findings of the latest PEW Global Attitudes Survey,’ said Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain.

For his documentary, Bright wheels out a motley crew of some discredited and some unknown figures to support his ludicrous arguments. One figure, from the so-called Sufi Muslim Council was quoted on Radio 4’s The World This Weekend last Sunday[1] as claiming that his new body was backed by several non-Muslim organisations, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, when surely he should have been questioned about what level of support – if any – he actually had within the Muslim communities across the UK which he is now claiming to represent.

Martin Bright is part of a circle of pernicious Islamophobic commentators that includes Nick Cohen, Michael Gove, John Ware and Melanie Phillips, among others, who have tried to use the 7/7 atrocities as an opportunity to advance their anti-Muslim agenda.

In an astonishing recent outburst[2] Melanie Phillips stated that the ‘litmus test’ of so-called ‘moderate Muslims’ is whether they ‘understand that fundamentally Israel is the victim in the Middle East.’ In her strange worldview, those whose land is occupied are to be regarded as aggressors, and those who routinely defy international law and recklessly deploy American supplied firepower against civilian areas are the victims. We suspect most sane people would happily fail Ms Phillips’ ‘litmus test’.

In a revealing passage from his new booklet published on Wednesday 12th July 2006 by the right-wing think tank, Policy Exchange[3], Martin Bright argues that ‘it should no longer be acceptable for the British government to deal with the leadership of the MCB’ while it regards the Ahmadis as non-Muslims.

Unfortunately for Bright our position on Ahmadis is not restricted to the MCB or indeed to British Muslims. It is actually a global consensus among Muslim scholars from all the main schools of thought that the belief in the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) is a central tenet of faith in Islam. Those who do not accept this, and believe in other prophets after Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) are entitled to their views, but they are not regarded as Muslims.

The Muslim Council of Britain reiterates that it will not be intimidated into silence by this latest attack just as it was not intimidated by the blinkered John Ware Panorama programme last year which spectacularly backfired on its makers. We will continue to campaign on issues of justice and fair treatment. This is an Islamic obligation and a civic duty that we believe is beneficial for all citizens of our country, non-Muslims and Muslims. One we believe will contribute to further enhancing the position of the MCB both nationally and internationally.