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Douglas Murray, the EDL, Dodgy Videos and Me

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After having tried to smear me as some sort of Muslim extremist live on BBC1 on Sunday morning, proud neocon Douglas Murray has been having another go at me on his Spectator blog this morning.

First, some background. Poor Douglas wasn't pleased when TellMama's Fiyaz Mughal, joining the Sunday Morning Live discussion via Skype, reminded viewers of the former's February 2006 speech in Holland in which he demanded that "conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board" and "all immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop". Douglas also told his Dutch audience that Islam in Europe should be viewed as an "opportunist infection" and called for mosques accused of spreading "hate" to be "pulled down".

This, some might say, sounds like the language of fascism. Indeed the speech prompted the then shadow homeland security spokesman, Paul Goodman MP, to tell Murray that the Conservative Party frontbench would be cutting its ties with him. (Paul has written extensively on the subject, and on Douglas' extreme views, here and here.)

Douglas' defence of these remarks on Sunday was to rather sheepishly say that he "made those comments in a very, very angry time" and that "we all say things that we get wrong". Ah, he was angry. That's okay then, right? Right? I'm sure Anjem Choudary will enjoy using the 'I was angry' defence over his own extreme remarks from now on - and Douglas, I guess, will have to excuse/defend him when he does. The words 'hoist' and 'petard' come to mind..

Douglas then tried to accuse me of making extreme remarks in the past (more on this a little later). And what really annoyed him was that I responded by reminding him how there is a video online in which he can be seen defending the English Defence League (EDL) and referring to it as the kind of "grassroots response" to Islamism he would like to see.

Douglas, in his blogpost this morning, calls this a "smear" and an "extraordinary claim" - yet then reproduces quotes from said video (which, conveniently, he didn't link to but, happily, I will) which include (on the EDL):

"If you were ever going to have a grassroots response from non-Muslims to Islamism that would be how you would want it, surely."

And:

"They [the EDL] have tried to kick out BNP elements. Does that mean that they aren't racists? I'm not making a definitive point."

And:

"These things are extremely complex and we ought to be careful before dismissing whole swathes of people [i.e. EDL members]."

I leave it to you to decide whether such remarks merit my description of Douglas having "defended" the EDL. I happen to think they do (while conceding that Douglas has, on other, earlier occasions, criticised the EDL, too).

And so too, it seems, does the EDL, which says on its own blog: "Luckily there are a few members of the middle and establishment classes who believe that the EDL at least deserve a fair hearing. One of these is the British writer and former director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, Douglas Murray.. It's a pity there aren't more public figures like Douglas Murray.. Thank you for being right Mr Murray."

Oh, and since we're on the subject, here is another video of Douglas, again speaking abroad, where he is asked 'Should we support the EDL?'. A simple question to which he seems unable to give an unequivocal 'No we bloody shouldn't' answer. Instead, Douglas ums and ahs and says things like: "You have to give [the EDL] the benefit of the doubt.. it's a nascent grassroots statting-off, young movement.. they are learning as they go along." Nice, huh?

I should add that Douglas - who can be seen here with Robert Spencer, the far-right US Islamophobe banned from Britain by Theresa May's Home Office, and who refers to Douglas as a "friend" - seems as keen on immigrants as he is on the "opportunist infection" of Islam. Check out this astonishing Standpoint essay from March, which includes the very generous sentence "Of course gang-rape and child abuse are not the preserve of immigrants". Why thank you, Douglas! As the academic Marko Attila Hoare, who worked with Douglas at the Henry Jackson Society, has observed: "[T]he problem is not his use of the term 'white British'; it is his claim that 'London has become a foreign country' because 'in 23 of London's 33 boroughs "white Britons" are now in a minority'. This suggests the problem lies in there being too many British citizens with black, brown or yellow skin, or with white skin but whose families originate outside the UK."

Now, turning to my own remarks, yes I did use the word 'cattle' in a speech to a bunch of Muslim students four or five years ago, but - contrary to Douglas' claim - I used it to describe both Muslims and non-Muslims - it happens to be a quote from the Quran, which uses the word 'cattle' metaphorically to refer to groups of unthinking, incurious people, regardless of race or religion.

As for the "animals" remark that Douglas highlights in his blogpost, from another ancient speech of mine to Muslim students, I was trying to make a point about people, Muslims and non-Muslims, who live like animals, without morals or laws, but the phraseology, of course, as I have said before, was "ill-judged, ill-advised and inappropriate". I have discussed these regrettable, badly-phrased and - I should add - out-of-context remarks, here and here and here - and on BBC and LBC radio. I'm happy to apologise again for any (unintended) offence caused. I believe in the equality of all men and women, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality, and I abhor the demonisation of any group of people, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. But, as someone once said, "we all say things that we get wrong". Right, Douglas?

(Ironically, it's not just Douglas who has been making hay over the "animals" quote - last week, the EDL's Tommy Robinson tweeted out a fake quote from me involving the word "animals". Great minds, eh?)

See, the problem for Douglas and his fellow travellers is that I'm not an extremist, none of my writings suggest I'm an extremist and none of my colleagues or former colleagues would ever say that I'm an extremist. With Douglas, however, the opposite seems to be the case. I've mentioned Hoare already, but consider also the verdict of James Brandon, who worked with Douglas at the Centre for Social Cohesion from 2007 onwards and who has referred to him as an "extremist": "My time there was a constant struggle to 'de-radicalise' Murray and to ensure that the centre's output targeted only Islamists - and not Muslims as a whole."

"Muslims as a whole"? Sheesh.

Perhaps BBC producers should watch some of Douglas' finest moments on YouTube, and have a quick word with Brandon and Hoare, before they next invite the Spectator's neocon-in-chief onto their shows to fill the 'mainstream, centre-right pundit' spot. Murray, as Goodman, among others, has pointed out, is far from mainstream and far from centre-right.