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Marko Attila Hoare on Douglas Murray and the Henry Jackson Society

Marko Attila Hoare has published an account of his reasons for severing his association with the Henry Jackson Society, citing concerns about leadership, procedure, direction – and the involvement of Douglas Murray:

Murray was and is also the director of another outfit, the ‘Centre for Social Cohesion’. Or rather, he is the Centre for Social Cohesion… In April 2011, the Centre for Social Cohesion merged with the HJS… The merger was incongruous, since whereas the HJS was intended to be a bi-partisan organisation promoting democratic geopolitics, Murray’s interest lay in opposing Islam and immigration.

…I was shocked that someone with such extreme views about Muslims and Islam should be appointed Associate Director of the HJS. I published an article on my blog… condemning his views on Muslims and Islam… After this article was published, [Executive Director Alan] Mendoza phoned me to try to pressurise me to remove it, claiming that Murray would otherwise sue me for libel. By way of warning, he pointed out that Murray had previously threatened legal action against Sunny Hundal, editor of Liberal Conspiracy, forcing him to remove a reference to him on Hundal’s website. On another occasion, he had apparently pressurised the Huffington Post into removing references to him as well. In the words of The Commentator, the website of senior HJS staff-member Robin Shepherd: ‘Murray warned the Huffpo that its time in Britain would be short if it persisted in libeling people in this manner. At which point, the Huffington Post agreed to remove references to Murray from the story.’

I refused to delete or substantially alter the content of my article, but I agreed to make some minor changes. I had quoted some not entirely unambiguously negative comments that Murray had made about the English Defence League (EDL), and at Mendoza’s express request, I agreed to insert into the text a somewhat more negative statement that Murray had previously made about the EDL. The modified article therefore balanced the less-than-negative statements that Murray had made about the EDL with a more negative one, so did greater justice to his vacillating opinion on this organisation. Mendoza also asked me to delete my description of Murray’s views on Islam as ‘bigoted and intolerant’; I agreed to delete ‘bigoted’ but refused to delete ‘intolerant’…

…Murray’s behaviour, in this instance and in the others mentioned above, was somewhat hypocritical, given that he has appeared as a speaker at entire conferences dedicated to attacking Muslims for employing libel ‘lawfare’ to silence criticism of Islam.

The charge of hypocrisy is arguable; it is quite possible be opposed to “lawfare” while continuing to assert that the law should protect reputations from false accusations. However, it is troubling to see that libel threats have apparently been made quite so aggressively.

The dispute with Sunny refers to an incident which occurred in 2009, when Robert Spencer visited the UK along with activists from the Christian Action Network. CAN’s schedule included an interview with three balaclava-wearing EDL leaders (this was before Stephen Yaxley-Lennon became the public face of the group), and the activists decided to invite them along to a pre-arranged meal at a restaurant involving Murray and Spencer. After I wrote about this, I received a clarification from the Centre for Social Cohesion:

CAN asked Douglas to do an interview with them – upon seeing the presence of the EDL at the CAN discussion he refused to deal with them and left the venue. He did however give an interview to CAN at another location on the water front. He didn’t actually know who the CAN were, and always says yes to interviews, hence his appearances on other dubious channels such as the Islam Channel.

Murray apparently felt that Sunny had misrepresented his position on this point. Robert Spencer was also unhappy, and made noises about libel in the USA when a reference to the dinner appeared on Charles Johnson’s Little Green Footballs website.

But three years is a very long time: as well as Murray’s subsequent “not entirely unambiguously negative comments” about the EDL (one of which was publicised by Spencer as “Douglas Murray defends EDL against guilt-by-association smears”), Spencer has recently entered into a full-on alliance with with EDL.

Of course, it should go without saying that just because there are controversies over Murray’s opinions and actions, that certainly does not in itself invalidate the CSC’s reports and studies. However, I am aware of one CSC report co-written by Murray which is tainted by association with the now-defunct “VIGIL Network”. This was a self-described on-line “terror tracking” organisation, and was run run by a man who has subsequently shown himself to be dishonest and irrational at a personal level. This man’s association with the CSC goes beyond mere opinion-mongering, and raises concerns over matters of fact; it would be helpful if Murray could clarify to what extent he retains confidence in VIGIL-sourced information.

(H/T Sunny Hundal)