John Reid

The more I think about the John Reid story yesterday, the more angry I get. Yesterday, John Reid address an audience of specially-invited Muslims in Leytonstone. I wasn’t happy with this yesterday. After all, Charles Clarke had problems with Rachel North’s dad – though as the latter is an honorary Canon, which makes him a) what New Labour would call “a community leader” and b) very unlikely to be a murderous extremist. He was also c) a constituent, which made Clarke’s attempts to ignore unforgivable.

Now Reid had this to say:

Mr Reid was at the meeting to ask parents to search for signs that their children are being recruited by fanatics who will brainwash them and convince them to serve as suicide bombers.

So one might think that he hoped to address parents who were, in the cant phrase of the moment, moderates. Funnily enough, he was heckled

He was interrupted by activist Abu Izzadeen, who said he was furious about “state terrorism by British police”. …
The protester, also known as Omar Brooks, denies being a member of the banned al-Ghurabaa group.
He accused the minister of being an enemy of Islam before he was led from the building by police and stewards.

The astute reader will have noticed a few things. Mr Izzadeen appears not to be a moderate. He may even be a member of a banned group. He was also very quickly identified by the press. One might almost suspect the hacks in attendance were briefed, Watch this guy, this could be fun.
The Telegraph has more.

During a speech in east London he was shouted down by Abu Izzadeen, a well-known fundamentalist who has been linked to a now banned organisation and who praised the martyrdom of suicide bombers after the July 7 attacks in London last year.

Not a nice guy, one thinks.

“I am furious. I am absolutely furious – John Reid should not come to a Muslim area. We do not want to see him. Shame on all of us for sitting down and listening to him.”

Er, so he came, he saw, and he shouted. But unless I’ve misunderstood the meaning of an audience of specially-invited Muslims in Leytonstone, he was asked to attend. His age is given as 30 by the Telegraph. He could be a parent of a teenager, but he seems a little young. And if he is, he doesn’t sound the sort who would discourage his son from becoming a terrorist just because John Reid asked him to.
So why was he invited? Could it be so we have headlines like: ‘Martyrdom is praiseworthy’, Reid’s message to Muslims is drowned out by radicals, and John Reid shouted down at Muslim meeting.
Mr Izzadeen’s politics seem somewhat cartoonish to me. He’s a convert, and converts can be extremists. They can also be infiltrators.
Would it be really paranoid of me to suspect dirty tricks at work here? Now Muslims look bad and unreasonable.
Update: I’m grateful to Andrew Brown in the comments for pointing that I was (possibly) wrong. I say possibly only in part because I am a sore loser. The evidence for Andrew’s correction comes from tehgrauniad which I no longer find reliable. Andrew quoted the first sentence of the final paragraph. This is the whole thing:

The Home Office said the audience had been invited by the council and it was an open community meeting which others could attend. There had been no security threat. Mr Reid heard complaints about discriminatory stop and search, the effect of foreign policy, the Pope’s remarks about Islam, and the danger of racial profiling. He responded by saying that in his communist youth, the US would not allow him a visa to move outside any airport.

I find that very unsatisfactory. It feels like it has been typed up from near illegible notes. There is no flow. Dr Reid’s answer (to what? racial profiling? but he was profiled – correctly – as a member of an organisation hostile to the United States: we choose our political affiliations; we do not choose our ethnicity) is an opaque non-sequitur.
Since I insist on being paranoid, my surprise at the universal recognition of Mr Izzadeen by the press pack is undiminished.
David Tate asks in the comments, cui bono? I don’t know what he thinks the answer is, but I’m sure it’s John Reid. He won favourable headlines in all the broadsheets. Reid under fire, comes out well is how I would precis all of them. (I don’t believe I have to say this but I will: John Reid’s answer to Mr Izzadeen – that as Home Secretary he can go where he damn well pleases (as can all of us, I hope) – is of course right.)
I am aware that I’m open to the charge of liberal Pollyannaism or whatever you want to call it. I think everyone is, more or less, a rational agent, and Mr Izzadeen’s outburst was immature and silly. (It may have, to address David T’s point, impressed teenagers.) I can’t take it seriously.
BTW, I think John Reid was utterly wrong to give this speech. Many of my friends have teenagers. They [the parents] report that they [the teenagers] are truculent, mercurial, rude, oversensitive, and on occasion, certifiably insane. They [again the parents, the teenagers don’t notice] remain concerned about their children’s happiness, well-being, relationships, health, and all the rest of that stuff. This is what good (ie normal) parents do. I don’t (being, roughly, a liberal humanist and universalist) think that Muslim parents are likely to be any different. Of course they’ll be concerned if young Abdul decides that the fitting conclusion of the past sixteen years of their love and care is for him to rip himself apart with some homemade explosive. Even if they believe in jihad they’ll find themselves saying something like Yes, the West is full of decadent infadels, but that doesn’t mean you have to be on the front line. Can’t you be a doctor or something useful? Shorter me: parents John Reid would recognise as moderate don’t need to be told to be concerned: they already are – and much much more than the State can ever be.
My faith that this was a set-up has been shaken by Andrew’s comment. But not destroyed. I find tehgrauniad’s reporting lazy, often blatantly cribbing government handouts rather than checking everything. The Home Office said … yada yada yada, but you didn’t find out, did you? Spin Doctor: The NHS Trust failed to meet its targets because velociraptors ran amuck in the wards. This was, of course, an unpredictable contingency, and velociraptor proof fences are being built around all hospitals by Haliburton. Grauniad hack: How are you spelling velociraptor, sir? John Reid gains by this: he looks good, Muslims in Leytonstone look bad.
John Reid was asked about the Pope. Apposite for someone who denied he wanted the top job in British politics. Readers who have read about the very first holder of Benedict’s office will know that Dr Reid has two more denials to go.

  1. If you’re paranoid can I be naive in pointing out that according to The Guardian:

    “The Home Office said the audience had been invited by the council and it was an open community meeting which others could attend.”

    I’m sure that agent provocateur stuff happens, but not for these sorts of press headlines surely.

  2. David T said:

    cui bono eh?

  3. Robert said:

    I think you are very right to be suspicious. The comments of Abu Izzadeen gave the BBC some nice soundbites, so they invited him onto the Today programme for 10 minutes and got a whole day’s worth of soundbites from that. To top it all, Reid was able to declare ‘no no-go areas in Britain’ in his conference speech and get himself an applause and a change in his leadership odds from 7:1 to 7:2.

    I wish hecklers would leave all that stuff alone for a bit and just ask for the 7/7 evidence to be shown. That would produce a day’s soundbites worth hearing – though the BBC would probably go a lot quieter on that matter.

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  5. Lopakhin said:

    His age is given as 30 by the Telegraph. He could be a parent of a teenager, but he seems a little young.

    FWIW, Darcus Howe seems to think that Izzy has a son, who attended the meeting with him.