Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

How should the Labour party respond to Islamists?

Event report: On Monday 6 September, Progress held a joint event at the House of Commons with Quilliam. The event was entitled ‘How should the Labour party respond to 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).

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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.)

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Lucy James

is a research fellow at Quilliam


  • This premise of this report is as farcical as the New Labour project. What is Islamism? Who defines it and on what terms? It is interesting that this so called conference report chose not to define what it is. Islamism has been defined loosely to lump moderate Muslims who are politically engaged and real, violent extremists. If Labour is to learn anything from its time engaging with Muslims it is this: stop pandering to the racist sentiment. Soon after 7/7 the New Labour establishment succumbed to the drip-feed cynicism of demagogues such as Melanie Phillips and divisive pressure groups such as the Centre for Social Cohesion and the Policy Exchange. What we saw is people such as Hazel Blears and his advisor Paul Richards (a contributor to this website) agreeing with the new narrative of British Muslims civil society, and started to exploit their cynicism for their own ends. The chief hallmark of this was the pursuit of shocking sectarianism with Labour ministers and advises pitting Muslim sect against Muslim sect, and forming ‘compliant interlocutors’ to achieve a more amenable outcome. The Quilliam Foundation is a product of that discredited policy.

  • “including that Islamism is a problematic ideology” islamism (as is islamist) is a construct created by neo conservative leaning think tanks and individuals, it is almost wholly propagated by these think tanks and their affiliates. i have yet to hear of it from an alternative source. it serves the political needs of neo conservatives and their ideologues (affiliates) , it requires a demonisation and dehumanisation that superficially attempts to discredit certain sections of communities but its underlying target is islam and muslims and the means to control each. so whilst the real issue is about a political grievance which is being wholly over looked , there is instead conspiracies by the self informed experts (well funded) with regard to islamism/islamists. these so called experts define the object of concern, they create the supposed threat, and then they provide the solutions.the desires of their masters so to speak. it is a convenient and lucrative closed shop. if it was really about wanting to have debate with muslims , this would clearly not be the way forward. as for the edl, it has been the policies of labour and now the coalition, the media affiliates and the deceits of the preferred think tanks that has encouraged fascistic groups to feel they are singing from the same hymn sheet as some mainstream politicans and media. if labour really wants to progress, then it will understand that its not about religion, its not about islam , its about deceits and lies, demonisation and being told that they are not stakeholders within british society.

  • “The chief hallmark of this was the pursuit of shocking sectarianism with Labour ministers and advises pitting Muslim sect against Muslim sect, and forming ‘compliant interlocutors’ to achieve a more amenable outcome.” well the coalition believed it worked in iraq, after 3 years of taunting shia and sunni, after 3 years of black ops against significant parts of the religious infrastructure , including individuals they managed to get the civil war that they wanted – more importantly the political control. that is it is in the interest of quilliam and like minded to create the basis for the racist policy , to create the scapegoat for bad policy and the lack of real understanding of the very real political grievances.

  • and the Shia attempt to annihilate the Kurds ? probably because of lack of oil deposits in their own territory ?

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