From my story in the print edition of today’s paper:
Two members of the Cabinet are to speak at the same event as a leading Muslim radical who has justified the killing of British soldiers in Iraq, praised a spiritual leader of al-Qaeda, and denied the Mumbai attacks were “terrorism.”
Azad Ali will speak at today’s “Progressive London” conference organised by Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, alongside Harriet Harman, the leader of the House of Commons and Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary.
Mr Ali, a civil servant for the Treasury, was suspended from his job last year after praising Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s key mentor. Writing on his blog, he described Azzam as one of the “few Muslims who promote the understanding of the term jihad in its comprehensive glory” as both a doctrine of “self-purification” and of “warfare.”
He quoted Azzam’s son, approvingly, as saying: “If I saw an American or British man wearing a soldier’s uniform inside Iraq, I would kill him because that is my obligation… I respect this as the main instruction in my religion for jihad.” Mr Ali said: “There are some Muslims who go out of their way to deny the full meaning and understanding of the term jihad.”
He added: “Self-censorship has taken many Muslims to the point where you can almost feel the contempt they have for jihad. We have had campaign after campaign that tells people Islam is peace… What peace does a man have when he is oppressed?”
Earlier this week Mr Ali lost a libel action against a newspaper which reported his comments. Ruling against him, the judge, Mr Justice Eady, said that Ali “was indeed… taking the position that the killing of American and British troops in Iraq would be justified.”
Mr Ali has now been reinstated to his Whitehall job despite calling for the replacement of British-style democratic government with a “caliphate,” or Islamic superstate. His speaking at the conference also appears to breach the civil service code on impartiality. The event’s official purpose is given as being to “stop the Right in 2010,” and Mr Ali will be speaking at a session which attacks the Government’s “imperialism.”
Spokesmen for the ministers said they would not be sharing a platform with Mr Ali and pointed out that who the organisers invited was “a matter for them.” Mr Ali did not return calls.