On Monday 6th September, Quilliam held a joint event at the House of Commons with Progress, an organisation of Labour party members . The event was entitled ‘How should the Labour Party engage with Islamists?’ and the panel consisted of Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP (former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government), Rt Hon Jim Fitzpatrick MP (MP for Poplar and Limehouse), Mehdi Hasan (Senior Editor (politics), New Statesman) and Mohamed Tarraf (student Labour activist, University of Leeds). The event was chaired by Rachel Saunders (Tower Hamlets councillor).
The panel broadly agreed on some of the key issues, including that Islamism is a problematic ideology which contradicts key Labour values, that the previous Labour government made mistakes in its policy towards Islamists, and that the Labour Party needs to engage with Islamists on some level in order to challenge this ideology. There was also a general consensus that different forms of Islamism require different political responses from Labour, particularly in terms of violent and non-violent Islamists.
A lively debate followed about the precise terms by which Islamism and Islamists should be defined, and the difference between Islamism and religious conservatism. The discussion also covered broader topics, including how Labour should positively engage with Muslim citizens and the dangers of pandering to ‘bloc votes’. Issues of integration, social cohesion and other forms of extremisms, particularly the threat of groups like the English Defence League, were also touched upon during the ensuing lively question and answer session.
(Please note: Quilliam’s latest report, Skin-Deep Democracy: How race, religion and ethnicity continue to affect Westminster politics, details the hazards of treating voters as though they belong to racial or religious bloc votes rather than as individual citizens. To view this report click here.)