Is there any degree of radicalism that disqualifies someone from holding a sensitive government post in the UK? Probably. But it would be difficult to tell based on two recent stories.
First, Treasury official Azad Ali has begun advising the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on combating Islamic extremism. Apparently his suspension earlier this year for blog entries steeped in — you guessed it — Islamic extremism presented no barrier to his joining the "community involvement" panel chaired by the CPS anti-terror chief. In addition to naming radical imam Anwar al-Awlaki, the email pal of Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan, as "one of my favorite speakers and scholars," Ali's musings include these gems:
On his blog … Ali said he found "much truth" in an interview with an Islamic militant who said: "If I saw an American or British wearing a soldier's uniform inside Iraq I would kill him because that is my obligation."
He has also used his blog to praise Abdullah Azzam, regarded as a key spiritual mentor to Osama bin Laden, saying Azzam was one of the "few Muslims who promote the understanding of the term 'jihad' in its comprehensive glory" as both a doctrine of "self-purification" and of "warfare."
Ali has also used his blog to deny that the Mumbai attacks last November, in which 173 people were killed, were an act of terrorism.
Second, there is Asim Hafeez, the new "head of intervention" at the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism of the Home Office, where he is charged with "divert[ing] fellow Muslims from the path of violence." However, Hafeez has been described by a knowledgeable colleague as a "hardcore Salafi," one who follows a puritanical form of Islam. According to Harry's Place:
A number of Hafeez's talks are available online which appear to not only back up [these] accusations but also to suggest that Hafeez might additionally be a hard-line Islamist who wishes to replace the British constitution with "the Koran and the Sunnah."
These two cases recall revelations a few years ago about Mockbul Ali, the Islamic affairs guru at the Foreign Office who once served as the political editor of a Muslim student newspaper when it lauded Palestinian suicide bombers. True to Ali's "straightforward Islamist" worldview, his government work has involved promoting dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood and arguing in favor of granting entry visas to radical clerics such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. In April, IW noted glimmers of hope as the UK government moved to discard its fanciful attempts to marginalize violent Islamists by empowering nonviolent ones. But like those thick London fogs, Islamists keep rolling back in.