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Arguing the World

Red Ken Livingstone tries to reconcile Socialism and Islamism.

11:00 PM, Jan 24, 2007 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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LAST SATURDAY, the mayor of London, "Red Ken" Livingstonee, hosted one of the more bizarre events of recent times: a massively-promoted debate between himself and the Middle East Forum's Daniel Pipes. The official title of the event, which lasted all day and included many more speakers of less distinction, was "A World Civilization or a Clash of Civilizations?"

Livingstone opened by asserting that the Cold War had been started by the United States and that every action of the West for the last 60 years had been based on support for corrupt dictatorships. He preened over the diversity of London's populace and treated the July 2005 bombings, which are now the subject of a court proceeding, as a mere footnote.

Pipes took the subject of the debate more seriously, pointing out that although he and Livingstone agreed on the evils of terrorism, they proposed different ways of dealing with it. For London's mayor, Pipes explained, terrorism is to be solved with more multiculturalism. For his own part, Pipes believes that in a war between civilization and barbarism, the defenders of civilization--including decent, moderate Muslims--must prevail.

Pipes also noted that British authorities have demonstrated that terrorists planning attacks--including those of September 11, 2001--as well as others in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Algeria, Morocco, Russia, France, and Spain, all seem to have made stopovers in London. Livingstone responded by seeming to treat such visits as part of London's commercial success.

Pipes then homed in on the strangest aspect of the present British situation: the alliance between the U.K.'s radical Left and fundamentalist Islamist ideology. Pipes identified the latter as a phenomenon distinct from, and contrary to, the traditions of the Islamic faith. The absurdity of the relationship between Islamism and Marxism--given that leftists are strident in their defense of modernism and feminism--was nicely illustrated by Livingstone's choice of debating partner. The mayor chose Salma Yacoob, who represents the Respect party--best known as the shelter for George Galloway--in a local council in Birmingham. Yacoob appeared wearing a hijab, even though the Respect party is, in theory, an arm of the secularist Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

Late in the discussion, Livingstone declaimed his atheism and proposed that British parents should have no chance to opt their children out of the state school system in order to receive faith-based education. It would seem that these sorts of attitudes should make the Marxist-Muslim alliance trickier than it appears.

But of course, the British left's adulation for Islamic fundamentalism is restricted to that single variety of religious experience. While Livingstone flatters reactionary Muslim clerics such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, much of the Labour party spends its time assailing Catholic adoption agencies for declining to turn children over to homosexual couples. (Islam is generally opposed to adoption except by familial relatives, which might help square this particular circle for Britain's leftists; although Qaradawi has publicly called for homosexuals to be executed.)

Livingstone's debate with Daniel Pipes only amplified the British left's bizarre cognitive-intellectual dissonance.

Stephen Schwartz is a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.