Boris Johnson was today forced to defend his stance on Islam, insisting he believed it was a "religion of peace".What an original way of looking at it!
The Conservatives candidate for London mayor, Mr Johnson, has been criticised for an article he wrote in the wake of the 7/7 London terror attacks in 2005 claiming "Islam is the problem".No trite platitudes from independent-minded Boris! He really does offer a fresh perspective. And isn't it impressive that he knows so much more about the correct context for Koranic verses than, you know, actual Muslims?
But in a televised debate today, Mr Johnson said the problem was extremists taking the words of the Koran out of context.
In fairness, Johnson did then follow up by suggesting that "there has certainly been too much uncounted and unfunded immigration into London". Which is correct. However, one might be inclined to take him rather more seriously on immigration, had he not repeatedly called for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Note to Johnson: you do not reduce immigration by rewarding people for entering the country illegally.
But Johnson's genius was more than matched by the wisdom of the incumbent:
The current Mayor, Labour's Ken Livingstone, said London could be a "model for the world" in terms of its ethnic diversity.
But he was forced to justify his decision to share a platform with the controversial preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
The cleric has described homosexuality as an "unnatural and evil practice" and said the Koran permitted wife-beating as "a possibility" in certain circumstances.
He's also expressed support for suicide bombers.
However, I think that, on this occasion, the award for most idiotic candidate has to go to Brian Paddick, formerly Britain's most senior homosexual policeman, and also, we now discover, a renowned Islamic scholar:
Mr Livingstone said: "He is a man who is prepared to say al Qaida is wrong and to be very strong in that condemnation."
Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick, a former deputy assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, said: "What I said in the immediate aftermath of July 7 was that the term Islamic terrorism, as far as I was concerned, is a contradiction in terms.
"In that there is nothing in the Koran to justify the murder of 52 innocent men, women and children."
First, that's patently untrue. There are plenty of verses in the Koran which could be, and are, used by practising Muslims (a category which does not include Brian Paddick), to justify the use of violence against non-Muslims. There are also plenty of Islamic scholars who are prepared to endorse such violence. On what basis, I wonder, does Paddick assert that his knowledge and understanding of Islam is greater than theirs?
Secondly, it it deeply disingenuous to suggest that when devout Muslims commit acts of terrorism, in the name of Islam, it should be called anything other than "Islamic terrorism". But presumably Paddick prefers Jacqui Smith's Newspeak definition of such atrocities as "anti-Islamic activity".
At a time when the majority of British people see Islam - not a "tiny minority of extremists", but the religion as a whole - as a threat to our country, the three leading contenders for the mayoralty of our capital city are bending over backwards, and performing all sorts of linguistic contortions, to avoid saying anything that might conceivably upset any Muslim. On the fortieth anniversary of Enoch Powell's great speech, when the nation is crying out for someone to take a similar stand against Islam, craven politicians of all parties are merely spouting meaningless platitudes about "religions of peace". This applies not only to the mayoral candidates, but to the overwhelming majority of politicians, and certainly to the senior figures in all three main parties. I have no idea whether Livingstone or Johnson will emerge victorious on polling day (at least it won't be Paddick, thank Heavens). But I can be sure of one thing: whoever wins, London and Britain will lose.