Thursday, January 23, 2014

Galloway's attack on Nawaz plumbs new depths of hypocrisy

[Originally posted at NOW]

I have twice had the honor and pleasure of interacting with Maajid Nawaz; first when he was kind enough to sign my copy of his remarkable memoir, Radical, at the 2012 Edinburgh Book Festival; and second when I interviewed him by phone shortly afterward in NOW’s own pages. On both occasions the winsome charisma and quick intelligence for which he’s renowned were in full evidence.

We didn’t agree on everything – he is a believing Muslim who opposed any kind of intervention in Syria – but these facts, if anything, only make it more outrageous that he should have become the target this week of a takfir campaign launched by Islamist fascists after his tweeting of a cartoon along with the words: “This [...] is not offensive & I’m sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it الله أكبر منه.” The former Hizb ut-Tahrir zealot turned counter-Islamist democracy activist, who recently succeeded in convincing the head of the anti-Muslim ‘English Defence League’ skinhead mob to step down, has now received “credible” death threats, and has felt compelled to issue a statement of “regret.”

Loathsome as this assault is, it’s perhaps only to be expected from the Islamists, who are at least open about their utter rejection of “godless” liberalism and “man-made” democracy. In a sense, their behavior here is fitting, even reassuring (to discover anew that one has made an enemy of the theocratic far-right is, or ought to be, a source of satisfaction). Much less stomachable, however, was the solidarity offered to the scrofulous thugs by MP George Galloway, who took it upon himself to tweet:

“No Muslim will ever vote for the Liberal Democrats anywhere ever unless they ditch the provocateur Majid [sic] Nawaz, cuckold of the EDL.”

It’s just astounding what the man gets away with. Bad enough that Galloway – who is actually a sectarian Roman Catholic, who argues against Scottish independence because the resulting peninsula would contain too many Protestants – supposes himself eligible to speak on behalf of “Muslims.” Far worse that, in so doing, he equates all “Muslims” with the crackpot fringe minority represented by Nawaz’ would-be-murderers (precisely the sort of vile smear that was, incidentally, the stock-in-trade of the EDL).

Yet it’s his rancid hypocrisy that most churns the gut. Galloway has spent the best part of the last three years defending Bashar al-Assad, whose merciless regime has slaughtered tens of thousands of Muslim civilians, as an enlightened and secularist bastion against the “takfiri fanatics” and “beasts” of the Syrian opposition. America, he now tells us, is “in bed with al-Qaeda.” But whenever Galloway is back home, it’s precisely the brethren of those very same takfiris and fanatics who are his dearest comrades. Indeed, he’s even dabbled in the takfir business himself, slandering his Muslim rival in a recent by-election as a hopeless alcoholic, and thundering thuggishly that “God KNOWS who is a Muslim. And he KNOWS who is not […] I, George Galloway, do not drink alcohol and never have. Ask yourself if the other candidate in this election can say that truthfully.”

Then again, there’s a warped sort of consistency here (and not just because, before Galloway started disliking al-Qaeda, he was lauding them as a “resistance” force in Iraq). Much like America’s televangelist millionaires, one never quite knows whether ‘Gorgeous George’ sincerely believes the things he says, or if he’s just doing too well for himself to stop now. There’s reason to think it’s the latter; in other words that he’s found a highly lucrative niche as the go-to propagandist for whichever mass-murderer is the international community’s bogeyman-of-the-day.

For example, a 2007 British parliamentary inquiry found “strong circumstantial evidence” that Galloway received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Saddam Hussein regime; money siphoned out of the UN Oil-for-Food Programme that was, incidentally, supposed to buy relief for Iraqi civilians rendered destitute by years of international sanctions.

And since becoming an MP again in 2012, Galloway has been forced to disclose some other fascinating sources of income, including at least $119,000 a year for his twice-monthly show on the staunchly pro-Assad al-Mayadeen TV station here in Beirut, as well as “several £20,000 ($33,000) payments for presenting programmes on Press TV,” the Iranian state channel, from which platform he memorably declared last year’s chemical weapons attack outside Damascus to have been the work of al-Qaeda in cahoots with Israel (and then lied about it in parliament). No doubt impressed with what they saw, and realizing the potential value of his services, the Putin regime has since given him a weekly slot on their RT channel, in return for as-yet-untold sums.

But at the same time, there’s also reason to believe that what he says comes largely from genuine conviction. He certainly goes above and beyond the call of duty of a mere mercenary. His record on LGBT rights, for instance, is notoriously shady – he both denies that Iran executes gays and says the ones it does execute are either rapists or pedophiles. Rape itself, as it happens, is something he’s willing to pardon as long as the right people are doing it – commenting on the Julian Assange allegations, Galloway shrugged that “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.” And his support for censorship has been expressed repeatedly and unambiguously: “Of course in this country there’s freedom of speech, but it cannot be an unlimited freedom of speech and other freedoms must trump it, including the freedom not to be terrorized in your own home, not to have your prophet insulted, your religion insulted.”

Perhaps these too are purely cynical statements, calibrated solely to win votes and fatten pockets. But I’m tempted to think Galloway is also one of those authoritarians still lurking on the ostensible left for whom the very idea of liberal democracy is a bourgeois abomination. There’s far more “revolutionary” excitement, after all, in the Castros and Chavezes and Saddams of the world, whose despotism, no matter how bloody, can always be excused for the good of the cause (even when “the cause” is nothing more than petty dynastic perpetuation). Ultimately, for Galloway no less than the Islamists, Nawaz’ original sin was committed the moment he put down the black-and-white flag of the caliphate, and turned his back on totalitarianism tout court. It’s incumbent on all who wish to live neither in Stalinist nor Salafist serfdom to offer their full support to Nawaz, and their full contempt to his adversaries.

No comments:

Post a Comment