Two weeks ago, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, hosted a group of British Muslim clergymen for tea and cake at Lambeth Palace, his official residence. Among those in attendance were Mohammad Ali Shomali, a former representative of Iran whose organization is currently under investigation by UK authorities, and Mohammed Kozbar, who has praised Hamas, associated with notorious anti-Semitic Islamists, and is the deputy head of a group that has been boycotted by the British government since 2009 for its pro-terrorism stance. Stephen Pollard comments:
I don’t for a moment think that Welby is even remotely sympathetic to the views of Shomali or Kozbar. But the fact that he is happy to host them at Lambeth Palace points to the fundamental flaw in so much interfaith dialogue. For one thing the word dialogue is a misnomer, because this is not a serious exchange between people openly sharing their views. It is, rather, a form of hekhsher, [a kosher certification]. For the likes of Shomali and Kozbar, it’s a mechanism by which they can, bit by bit, normalize their public standing.
That’s because all too often, as we see in this instance, those who invite people with such views for tea or its equivalent don’t do anything resembling due diligence about what their guests actually say and believe. Worse—and I think this is more often the case—they don’t even care, because they naively think that “it’s good to talk”—that somehow if we all sit round and talk that must be a good thing in itself, when the act of sitting together and talking can, in reality, be a very bad thing.
Worse still, Pollard observes, such exercises often undermine “all those moderate Muslim voices who despair that organizations like the [Kozbar’s Muslim Council of Britain] are seen as being the appropriate representative of British Muslims.”