Fancy that! A court jester?

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Shahid MalikShahid Malik the No.10 court pleaser admonishes the MCB……

Our parliamentarians have taken to running with the hares and hunting with the hounds.

On the one hand they are quick to stand up, hand on heart, before Muslim audiences and claim that the community is their hinterland, a place they come for succour after bruising encounters in the world of politics.

Yet when expedient they are quick to dissociate from the community. Baroness Uddin for example, has declared ‘I have always been very clear that I don’t represent or claim to represent or speak on behalf of a Muslim community, because Muslim community is so full of varieties’ (in Society Today, Winter 2006 issue).

Shahid Malik was parachuted into a relatively safe Labour seat of Dewsbury in the 2005 General election. A few years earlier he could have been spotted seizing all opportunities to grovel up to MCB office bearers seeking their support in his bid to remain a Commissioner of the CRE.

The kind hearted Yousuf Bhailok agreed, confiding to a Home Office minister in January 2002 that Shahid would be a ‘positive role model’ and that ‘he is confident and competent. His national experience and local contacts and respect make him an ideal commissioner who is tried and tested and who commands the respect of the British Muslim community’.

Yet by 2007 Shahid Malik is writing to The Times an article entitled ‘Stop whinging and show leadership – the Labour MP for Dewsbury sends a message to the Muslim Council of Britain (10th February).

His article is a cruder expression of Secretary of State Ruth Kelly’s pressure on the MCB to attend the last Holocaust Memorial Day. The minister deplored ‘some people who don’t feel it right to join in the commemorations of Holocaust Memorial Day even though it has helped raise awareness not just of the Jewish holocaust, but also more contemporary atrocities like the Rwanda genocide. That’s also their right. But I can’t help wondering why those in leadership positions who say they want to achieve religious tolerance and a cohesive society would choose to boycott an event which marks, above all, our common humanity and respect for each other’.(speech, 11 October 2006).

The MCB after a long community-led debate decided not to participate in HMD 2007. It now faces hammer blows, and there are those ready to do their master’s bidding without much thought given to the long-term implications.

Shahid Malik expressing himself like a blustering school prefect admonishing a junior in the Head’s presence states: ‘Ruth Kelly, the Communities Minister, has set down the rules for engagement with government. Attending Holocaust Memorial Day is a prerequisite. The MCB cannot enjoy the privileges of partnership with government without shouldering responsibilities’.

Shahid Malik clearly has little respect for the views of the majority of community organisation representatives who voted in favour of non-attendance. What good does it do the community if it is not given the time and space to evolve its decision-making and consultative mechanisms?

Shahid Malik clearly feels qualified to admonish the MCB because he is a ‘Muslim MP’. He is quick to play the Muslim representative card when necessary, and at others, ready to declare that he does not owe anything to the Muslim vote. In a seat where his majority is 4,615 and the total Muslim population is 14,250 (so an estimate of Muslim voters would be around 6000, conservatively speaking) the joker could well be on the way out! After all there was a swing against Labour of over 40% in the Dewsbury constituency last time round.

When it is next time to vote, Dewsbury Muslims will not just remember his arrogance towards the MCB-  despite the goodwill shown to him in the past – but also his readiness to take up the ‘shariah law’ red herring and so give ammunition to the Islamophobes. Writing in The Sunday Times Shahid Malik declared, ‘Other members of the Muslim community I am sure would have cringed as I did when listening to Dr Syed Aziz Pasha, secretary-general of the Union of Muslim Organisations of the UK and Ireland, who explained his demand for sharia and more holidays. If you don’t like where you’re living you have two choices: either you live elsewhere, or you engage in the political process, attempt to create change and ultimately respect the will of the majority’ (20 August 2006).

That is, according to Shahid Malik, if you believe in the Shariah, leave!

Does this man not know that the Shariah is Islam? Why is he so ready to jump on the New Labour-NeoCon mantra that makes shariah a dirty word? Could he not have sought the advice of other Muslims present at the meeting, who would have told him about Dr Pasha’s hobby horse for the last forty years?

The Muslim community stands grateful to Lord Nazir Ahmed for this pointed rejoinder: ‘Halaal and Kosher meat too is part of Sharia. We allow such slaughter methods in Britain in accordance with Sharia Law. Islamic burials, including purification of the deceased through a prescribed method, is allowed in Britain in accordance with Sharia Law.A few years ago I stood shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish community, especially the women, when they felt a change in British Family Law was required to recognise a Jewish religious divorce. It was unfair that Jewish women had to wait months, sometimes years for the religious divorce to be finalised, when Christian women had the whole thing dealt with in one procedure through the civil courts. It was unequal treatment of British citizens on the grounds of faith. The Law was changed, it was the right change, and it was a legitimate demand. And I didn’t hear a single MP of the Jewish faith asking any Jewish woman to ëgo back to Israelí for making such a demand’ (Muslim Weekly, 22 September 2006).

New Labour manages its Muslim parliamentarians with a velvet glove at the ready to squeeze the pips. Lord Ahmed believes his phone was bugged and he was followed ‘on the orders of government’ (17 December 2001, The Guardian) because of his opposition to military adventures. It is also public knowledge that in October 2002, Denis MacShane, then a minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, crafted a first-person piece [The Observer, 11 November 2001], supposedly by Muslim Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, which expressed the support of British Muslims for the attack on Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and find Osama bin Laden. (28 October 2002).

In time, are we are to find out that Malik the court-pleaser allowed his name to be used in an article drafted by No. 10’s press corps?