With his absurd conspiracy claims, the peer is an embarrassment to British Pakistanis
Lord Ahmed is a buffoon. I cannot put it in plainer words than this. The man is an embarrassment to this country. Instead of accepting responsibility for the prison sentence imposed when he killed a 27-year-old man on Christmas Day 2007 by ploughing his Jaguar into a stationary car after sending a text, the Labour peer seems to have decided his sentence is evidence of a Jewish conspiracy.In an interview on Pakistani TV he claimed that his sentence was a result of pressure on the courts by Jews “who own newspapers and TV channels”.
Labour has suspended the party whip, pending an investigation. But this is far too little, too late. Last year, again on Pakistani TV, Lord Ahmed showed that he was unfit for public office by drawing a moral equivalence between Tony Blair and the leader of the terrorist group behind the 2008 Mumbai atrocities: “America has just said that they will give a reward of $10 million to anyone who arrests or hands over Hafiz Saeed. Even if I have to beg I am willing to raise and offer £10 million so that George W. Bush and Tony Blair can be brought to the ICC for justice on war crimes charges.” It was in fact Mr Blair who appointed him to the House of the Lords in the first place in the hope that he would be, in Lord Ahmed’s words, “a voice for the community”.
Anti-Semitism is indeed a serious problem in the UK. For the past four years the Community Security Trust (CST) has reported between 600 and 1,000 anti-Semitic incidents annually; that’s two or three a day. About 10-15 per cent of these incidents were violent. The majority — 53 per cent — of the perpetrators are “white European” but that still means that Muslims are likely to be disproportionately represented among the purveyors of prejudice.
Perhaps, we should not be surprised that this is the case when so-called “community leaders” such as Lord Ahmed give vent to obnoxious views or host book launches in the House of Lords for anti-Semites. His respectable veneer gives space for a tiny minority to pretend that their extremist views are mainstream.
This is the whole problem with “communalism” — the approach towards ethnic minorities taken by the authorities over the past couple of decades. People are ennobled as if they were local chieftains who can represent this community or that religious group. This can quickly descend into the poisonous world of identity politics in which, in order to retain credibility as local leaders, they have to pander to the most vocal, most organised minority within the “community” — and for many Muslim peers, that means Islamists. That’s why communalism only causes mistrust between communities.
Lord Ahmed’s latest buffoonery damages the nation’s Muslims and in particular British-Pakistani Muslims like me. His outburst reinforces the stereotype that all Muslims secretly harbour medieval anti-Jewish, homophobic and misogynistic views. This only increases discrimination against Muslims and Pakistanis. From gaffe to gaffe, Lord Ahmed continues to promote the false notion — for those who seek it out — that even successful, wealthy Muslims cannot possibly integrate.
I know that there are British- Pakistanis in all fields of life who can and do present a much better face. But I wait in vain for the day that I can turn on the TV without a leading Muslim figure in Britain saying something that makes those of my cultural background cringe or be stigmatised.Until that day, I do have a solution to the problem of Lord Ahmed. Your Lordship, if you refuse to believe in the basic values of anti-racism that were responsible for your very elevation, kindly give up your peerage and your passport, and go and give as many interviews to Pakistani TV as you like.
Maajid Nawaz is chairman of the Quilliam Foundation and author of Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening
This article was published in ‘the Times’ newspaper on Friday 15th March.