Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party has come under significant criticism in relation to antisemitism. It is difficult to identify the lowest point in the past month’s saga. The protracted wrangling over the adoption of the internationally recognised International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, the assertion that British Zionists – the vast majority of Jews – don’t understand English irony or Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to lay wreaths on the graves of those who planned the Munich Massacre, each have a respectable claim to that title.
My friend and fellow Board Member at Quilliam, Maajid Nawaz has called the Labour Party institutionally racist. However, that is only one half of the story. Almost unnoticed over the past twelve months, Jeremy Corbyn’s New “New Labour” has become institutionally supportive of extremists.
Exhibit A: Labour’s recently anointed MP for Gorton, Afzal Khan who was appointed by JC as Shadow Immigration Minister within the Shadow Home Office team has no problem with attending Islamist conferences. At an event entitled “38th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran“, a rally in Manchester organised by supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeni backing the Iranian regime, Khan said:
“It’s a pleasure to be here, I was a young man when the revolution actually happened, one of those who was excited… almost everything has been thrown towards Iran, even the kitchen sink, but what we’ve seen is that despite this long period, despite all these different challenges, that Iran has systematically been moving forward, getting stronger… may Allah bless Iran…”
God help us if Khan becomes Immigration Minister.
Exhibit B: The top performer in Labour’s NEC Elections results was Manchester Councillor, Yasmin Dhar. At the same conference that Khan attended, Yasmin Dar said the following
“It’s an absolute honour… honourable guests here today thank you so much for this opportunity… we’re here for a celebration, a happy time, 38 years of the Iranian Islamic revolution so I’m absolutely happy, it’s the third year that I’ve been coming… I keep it in my diary and make sure that I’m here… I feel I am absolutely proud when I listen to the stories about – Iran was based on diplomacy. It wasn’t based on war or the sword or revenge. It was about peace, justice. And also the values that we need to share with one another.”
It would once been remarkable to have heard a senior Labour politician characterise the Islamic Republic of Iran in this manner. Nowadays, it is commonplace.
Exhibit C: The Labour MP for Bolton South East, Yasmin Qureshi invited to the House of Commons, and accordingly legitimised, political activists with extreme views that would not be tolerated were the speakers white supremacists or purveyors of anti-Muslim hatred. Twelve hours prior to the Paris attacks by Islamic State, Yasmin Qureshi hosted a meeting with Baroness Warsi and others from the political establishment with representatives of the Islamist-aligned Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND). The meeting also included members of the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE); 5pillars, an Islamist supporting news organisation; affiliates of the now-discredited CAGE organisation, and the Claystone think tank. The entire meeting can be viewed here.
Again, it would once have been shocking to hear a prominent Labour politician supporting a group which in another era, and in a previous incarnation was rejected by Parliament for its associations with Islamist hate preachers.
We are right to be concerned with Jeremy Corbyn’s sympathies for terrorists, his support of Islamists, and his role in making anti-Semitism mainstream in the Labour Party. However, many of Jeremy Corbyn’s parliamentary comrades are cut from the very same cloth as their leader. They have not yet properly been exposed to scrutiny. Yet it is Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to surround himself with like-minded politicians which has emboldened him, and made his politics mainstream within the Labour Party.
The attempt to address the poison that is spreading through the veins of the Labour Party has been half-hearted. Some Labour activists are still in denial as to its magnitude. Others are facing de-selection from posts and positions. A few like Frank Field have resigned. But many in the Labour Party are untroubled, or supportive of this new politics.
It is time to face facts. Her Majesty’s Opposition is now institutionally aligned with hatemongers and extremists. There is little prospect of that changing, under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Haras Rafiq is Chief Executive of Quilliam International.