BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS
Jim Fitzpatrick, the Labour MP for Poplar and Canning town was offended this week when he was asked to sit separately from his wife at a private Muslim wedding. He has taken the wrong fight to the right people.
Yesterday, the Evening Standard and the Daily Telegraph reported that Fitzpatrick was outraged when he entered the London Muslim Centre to find that his constituent's wedding was to be a gender segregated affair. He stated that:
The segregation of men and women didn't used to be as much of a strong feature. We've been attending Muslim weddings together for years but only recently has this strict line been taken. It is an indication of the stricter application of rules that is taking place.
The London Muslim Centre is part of the East London Mosque (ELM), an institute which has very strong ties with the clerical Islamists of the Jamaat e-Islami (JI). There are many problems with the ELM's connections with the JI, but gender segregation at weddings is not one of them.
I have attended a number of Muslim weddings, and gender segregation is commonplace and at the discretion of those organising the event. It's not what I would do, but this event was private and it is not for opportunistic politicians to feign outrage about.
Fitzpatrick has managed to criticise the right place for the wrong reasons, not something unknown from a Labour politician, or any politician for that matter.
If Fitzpatrick really had the stomach to take on the ELM, he would have criticised them for hosting the Saudi hate-cleric, Abdul Rahman al-Sudais on the 5th of August. Sudais is well known for his extreme rhetoric, and in 2002 he used a Friday jumaa prayer in Mecca to ask God to ‘terminate' the Jews. He is a man who has in the past rejected any possibility of peace with Israel, and he believes that Jews are the descendents of pigs and monkeys (incidentally, is it not strange that people who don't believe in evolution say that they believe Jews were descended from apes and pigs?).
It is puzzling that Fitzpatrick chose to ignore the presence of a genocidal extremist in his constituency and instead decided to attack a private wedding for observing a well known religious, as well as cultural, custom.
In any case, the government has no leg to stand on in this matter as it has sponsored and supported public events in public venues where gender segregation was enforced. Last year, an event called the Global Peace and Unity (GPU), which I have written about before, enforced gender segregation (click here for a picture of the seating plan). I attended with my girlfriend and was told by some pimple faced cretin that I was not allowed to sit with her. This was held at London's Excel exhibition centre and was attended by ministers from all three major parties and included a video message of endorsement from Jack Straw. The event organiser was also given £10,000 by the Metropolitan Police.
Fitzpatrick's absurd outburst is both unhelpful and inappropriate and is symptomatic of a political party in its final death throws.
Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.
Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.
Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London. He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon.
To contact the authors, click here
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