I wasn't going to post on this as I thought it would be more widely reported than it was (Harry's Place did their usual reliable job, however). So, for what it's worth, I bring it to your attention.
A letter was written last week to The Guardian. It protested against a supposed threat to democracy posed most immediately by a Channel Four Dispatches documentary. This film alleged, very convincingly in my view, infiltration of the East London Mosque by Islamists.
So how do you manage to present as anti-democratic a film that alleges dangerously extremist - and anti-democratic - linkages in a purportedly mainstream institution that is a centre for teaching and instruction and is also in receipt of public funds? Rather Alice Through The Looking Glass isn't it?
Well, all it takes is a few imaginative parallels and collapsed definitions: Islamism is conflated with Islam; the documentary was therefore an attack on Islam; this is comparable to the attacks on East End Jews in the 1930s by Mosley's Blackshirts; the documentary therefore sits in an anti-democratic tradition of forcibly denying representation of minorities. Pathetically ingenious and totally shameless, particularly in its co-option of the experiences of London's Jewish community, a group which doesn't typically sit high in the affections of Islamists.
If the signatories were the usual lot of Islamist apologists - such as Galloway and the Muslim Council of Britain - then it wouldn't be worth noting. But whilst this galère is inevitably represented they're joined by a number of people who I really thought would know better. And not just because the argument is transparently shoddy but because you'd think these people would find it so obviously wrong-headed to share a platform with Galloway's lot.
Bonnie Greer, for instance, whose beautifully-modulated tones I will never listen to again on Newnight Review with the same attention. Avi Shlaim is another, an Oxford revisionist historian of Israel whose civilised, mop-topped head would swiftly be detached from the rest of his body after the establishment of a Woodstock Road* caliphate (Greer might just get away with full burka and the giving up of her books, articles and plays).
Along with these academic-types, some other signatories are interestingly similar in profile to another set of fellow travelling apologists, those of the Soviet Union: a handful of trade unionists (including Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson), the chair of CND, anti-war types, Livingstone, etc. It seems that these people will travel a long and convoluted way from their purported values in order to show sympathy to a cause - any cause - which sets out to undermine their home country, whether it's totalitarian communism or fundamentalist Islam. Or are a few of them merely dupes?
In any event, shame on them. And please don't forget to discount in future whatever this lot say about anything. Someone who's going to sign up to such a manifestly disingenuous and disgraceful argument, alongside such a bunch of extremists and apologists for clerical fascism, isn't worth taking seriously about anything.
* Home of his college (and my alma mater), St Antony's.
UPDATE: Here's a response from some lefties (and one or two others) who really do believe in democracy.