The involvement of Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Britain in the movement against the Iraq War in 2003 helped bring more Muslims into public democratic politics than anything before or since.
David Cameron's announcement that he is to launch an "inquiry" into the Muslim Brotherhood, allied to briefing that he might consider banning the organisation in Britain, is dangerous on several levels.
First, it is a threat to freedom to probe a legitimate political party. The evidence that the Brotherhood is a "terrorist" network amounts to little more than the self-interested propaganda from the military despots ruling Egypt and the Saudi Arabian kleptocracy.
The former – having overthrown the elected Brotherhood government in Cairo last year in order to restore in all essentials the Mubarak regime – can only justify their own repressive rule by demonising the Brotherhood. The Saudis feel threatened by any movement in Arab political life that they cannot subordinate to their own reactionary agenda, turning exclusively on the preservation of the ruling Royal family in power, and particularly a movement that prefers to rely on popular votes rather than the blessings of Wahhabi clerics for legitimacy.
The case that the Brotherhood are terrorists rests entirely on the allegation that members were involved in the death of three bus passengers in Egypt. Even if true – and few are very definite on the point –this pales alongside the around 2,000 killed by Cairo's military junta since last July, not to mention the 549 death sentences handed down by an Egyptian Court last week in a single judgement relating to a single death.
While there is – unsurprisingly – violent resistance to the dictatorship in Egypt, particularly in Sinai, nearly all experts agree that it is carried out by groups unaffiliated to the Brotherhood. In fact, the Brotherhood has been endeavouring to support their agenda through elections where possible in Tunisia, Turkey, Palestine and, until the coup, Egypt.
One does not need to endorse that agenda, either in principle or in its practical implementation, to recognise that the Brotherhood has deep roots in many Muslim societies and should have the right to freely campaign for its values. A ban in Britain would affront our values too.
Second, Cameron's inquiry represents a further egregious intervention by the Saudi regime into the conduct of British public life. Blandishments by Riyadh over-rode the rule of law when an amenable Tony Blair agreed to wind down a Serious Fraud Office enquiry which was following a trail of Saudi royal corruption in arms deals.
And there can be little doubt that this latest probe is likewise a product of Saudi pressure. The fact that the investigation is to be conducted by the British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia – presumably while ensconced at his post in Riyadh in easy reach of Saudi intelligence, leaving others to knock on doors in Cricklewood Broadway in search of terrifying Muslims to underwrite his conclusions – rather gives the game away.
A more robust democrat than the Prime Minister would be ashamed at having to kowtow to a dictatorship whose control of oil supplies and value as a purchaser of weapons in no way obscures their complete lack of any worthwhile contribution to human civilisation or any regard for human dignity.
Third, the mere announcement of the probe, whether or not it eventually leads to police action, can only stimulate Muslim-baiting attitudes here, however much Cameron disavows that intention. Once again, the word "Muslim" will be unfairly linked with a suspicion of something dodgy going on. If Mr Cameron really just wanted to find out more about the Brotherhood, he surely has the means to hand to enlarge his education without making a grand-standing public announcement of an investigation.
Alongside the rather contrived attempt by the BBC to smear Tower Hamlet's independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman as a communalist (rather than the social democrat he is) and the hullabaloo around Birmingham schools the cumulative message is to try to drive British Muslims out of public life and political activity, at least outside tightly circumscribed parameters.
Finally, it should be noted that the Muslim Brotherhood's supporters in Britain were among the strongest supporters and most committed organisers of the movement against the Iraq War in 2003. Their involvement helped bring more Muslims into public democratic politics in Britain than anything or anyone before or since.
Some people in power doubtless found that a disturbing development. The rest of us, however much we may disagree with the Brotherhood's position on many issues, correspondingly owe them our solidarity now, in the face of a sinister smear campaign with worrying implications for the rights of everyone.
Source: Stop the War Coalition
We call on the UK government to demand the withdrawal of the deaths sentences in the Egyptian show trial
The death sentence handed down to 529 protesters by an Egyptian court (Report, 24 March) should have produced much more than mumbled regret from the British government.
This was a political show trial in which less than half the defendants were present in court. Their defence lawyers were not in the court either. The trial has been condemned by Amnesty International.
The protesters were not, as reports have routinely claimed, all supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and revulsion at the verdict stretches across the political spectrum to include all but the most determined supporters of Field Marshall El Sisi.
All this takes place against the background of the outright banning of Egypt's largest opposition group, which followed the shooting by the Egyptian army of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters last year. The British government should call in the Egyptian ambassador and demand that this judgment is withdrawn with immediate effect.
Mark Serwotka General secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union
Steve Turner Assistant general secretary, Unite the Union
Ken Loach Film director
Helena Kennedy QC
Alaa Mohamed Chair, British Egyptians 4 Democracy
Basma Muhammad Co-ordinator, International Anti-Coup Pro-Democracy Alliance
Andrew Murray Chief of staff, Unite the Union
John Rees Co-founder, Stop the War Coalition
Mohammad Soudan UK representative, Freedom and Justice Party
Louise Christian Human rights lawyer
Bernard Regan Chair, Sertuc international committee
Caryl Churchill Playwright
Peter Oborne Chief political commentator, Daily Telegraph
Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
Carl Arrindell Head of current affairs, Islam Channel
Paul Mackney Former general secretary Natfhe/UCU
Chris Nineham National secretary, Counterfire
Steve Bell Treasurer, Stop the War Coalition
Cherry Sewell Officer, Greek Solidarity Campaign
Source: The Guardian