Above: secular campaigners of all races. ‘Cardinal’ Newman doesn’t like this.
The misnamed Socialist Unity blog seeks to witch-hunt a Labour Party woman who dares to fight for secularism:
The increasingly bizarre religious apologist Andy ‘Cardinal’ Newman writes:
I first came across Anne Marie Waters when she put herself forwards for the South Swindon selection, and very unusually for a Labour politician Waters gave as her personal reference a Central Committee member of the Worker Communist Party of Iran, Maryam Namazie. It was also very difficult to get a straight answer from Ms Waters what she actually does for a living, and how it is funded.
Both Namazie and Anne Marie Waters signed a letter in 2010 to the Guardian opposing the state visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the UK.
I would submit that Newman’s use of the title “His Holiness” tells us all we need to know about this character’s attitude to religion.
Newman gives his filthy, reactionary, little game away when he admits: “alongside her bigoted anti-religious views she is also a pro-NHS campaigner, there is a danger that the left and some unions may support her for the Labour candidacy.”
The liar Newman deliberately misrepresents Waters when he suggests she made an anti-immigration broadcast. Watch it for yourself, and you’ll see she makes it absolutely clear that she’s not arguing against immigration.
Mind you, if you did want to find an example of anti-immigration agitation within the labour movement at the moment, you could do worse than check out the resolutions passed at the recent GMB congress (Mr Newman is an enthusiastic supporter of the GMB leadership), and especially motion 239 (passed with support from the leadership):
“This Congress calls on the GMB, along with the Labour Party, to present a constructive policy on future immigration, in time for the next election, to stop the growth of the smaller political parties, which in most cases are anti-trade union and racist.”
I’m sure we call all work out what that really means.
So Newman’s a rank hypocrite as well as a religious bigot and enemy of democracy, the enlightenment, and secularism.
From the archive: Rumy Hasan’s 2003 article arguing against electoral pacts with ‘Muslim groups’ (he plainly means ‘Islamist groups’) and the left’s use of the word “Islamophobia.’ At the time he wrote it, Rumy was a member of the SWP and active in the Socialist Alliance. We don’t agree with every last detail of the piece (eg Rumy’s enthusiasm for the Scottish Socialist Party), but its main thrust, in my opinion, remains sound: the prospect of the left making further electoral pacts with Islamist groups has receded since the demise of ‘Respect’, but Rumy’s central point about the the left’s approach to Islamist groups, and use of the word ‘Islamophobia’ still needs to be repeated and argued for amongst the left and anti-racist campaigners.
‘Islamophobia’ and Electoral Pacts with Muslim Groups
Above: Rees, Murray and Galloway: prime movers in promoting Islamism on the “left”
By Rumy Hasan
SINCE 11 SEPTEMBER 2001, the epithet “Islamophobia” has increasingly become in vogue in Britain – not only from Muslims but also, surprisingly, from wide layers of the left, yet the term is seldom elaborated upon or placed in a proper context. Invariably, it is used unwisely and irresponsibly and my argument is that the left should refrain from using it.
Shockingly, some on the left have, on occasion, even resorted to using it as a term of rebuke against left, secular, critics of reactionary aspects of Muslim involvement in the anti-war movement. So what does the term mean? Literally, “fear of Islam” but, more accurately, a dislike or hatred of Muslims, analogous to “anti-Semitism”. Since September 11, there has undoubtedly been an increasing resentment and hostility by some sections of the media towards Muslims in Britain and more generally in the West that, in turn, has also given rise to some popular hostility. But this is rarely made explicitly – rather it is coded as an attack on asylum seekers, refugees, and potential “terrorists”, above all, on Arabs from North Africa and the Middle East. This has been most intense in America, where there has been systematic harassment of Arabs for almost two years.
Surprisingly, however, all sections of the media, including the gutter press, have largely refrained from open attacks on British Muslims. In terms of physical attacks, including fatalities, to my knowledge these have been relatively few. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of September 11, it was a Sikh man who was murdered in the US because he wore a turban in the manner of Bin Laden. But there were certainly attacks – both on individuals and on mosques – in Britain, especially in Northern towns, probably by BNP thugs; and other notorious acts such as leaving a pig’s head outside a mosque. But these largely abated soon after, though such incidents still periodically occur. Hence there is certainly no room for complacency. But does all this amount to Islamophobia? Clearly not: we are not dealing with a situation comparable to the Jews under the Nazis in the 1930s, nor even of Muslims in Gujarat, India, that is currently run by a de facto Hindu fascist regime. Arguably, the situation in the 1970s, when the National Front was becoming a real menace in Britain, was more dangerous for Muslims and non-Muslim ethnic minorities alike.
Moreover, perhaps as a counter-balance, the more responsible TV and press media have, in fact, been portraying a number of, if anything, over-positive images of Islam and Muslims (examples include the BBC’s series on Islam – which was a whitewash; a highly sympathetic week-long account of Birmingham Central Mosque; and a 2-week long daily slot on the Hajj by Channel 4 that downplayed the appalling death toll which occurs there every year). An establishment paper such as the Financial Times has had front-page photos of the Hajj and of anti-war placards of the Muslim Association of Britain. Soon after September 11, both political leaders and the media – out of concern for the backlash this was likely to generate, dropped the term “Islamic fundamentalist” from usage. In the same vein, Bush invited an imam to the special religious service held soon after S11 in Washington; and Blair met Muslim leaders in Britain. This was a symbolism that went down well with Muslim leaders in these countries.
Nonetheless, many Muslims still believe that the US-led “war on terror” is in fact a war against Islam and therefore is the clearest expression of Islamophobia. But such reasoning overlooks some uncomfortable realities. The country at the forefront of this “war” is of course the US. Let us, therefore, summarise briefly its relations with the “Islamic” world:
i. The US has long propped up the Saudi regime, a crucial ally in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has the most sacred sites of Islam. But there has never been a squeak of protest by the US government against the brutality and oppressiveness of this barbaric society – rather, the US has gone out of its way not to criticise it out of “respect for Islamic values and culture”. This, of course, is humbug, but the fact remains;
ii. The second largest recipient of US aid (after Israel) is Egypt – a Muslim country;
iii. In 1991, the US-led coalition “liberated” Kuwait, a Muslim country – with the help of practically all the Muslim Gulf states;
iv. In 1999, the US and its NATO allies “liberated” Kosovo – a predominantly Muslim province, from “Christian” Serbia. The ex-Serb President Milosevic is undergoing a show-trial in The Hague for “crimes against humanity” (specifically, against Kosovar Muslims);
v. The US armed, trained, and funded the Islamic fundamentalists of the Afghan Mujahideen in the fight against the Russians. This included nurturing one Osama Bin Laden.
vi. The US had no problems of the takeover of Afghanistan in 1996 by the Taliban – the creation largely of Pakistan, a strong ally of the US and an avowedly “Islamic Republic”.
vii. The US has been strongly pushing for Turkey’s membership of the EU – though Turkey is a secular state, most Turks are, nominally at least, Muslims.
The list could go on. One might, therefore, wonder where is the “war on Islam” or “Islamophobia” of US foreign policy? It is not for nothing that leaders of Muslim countries rarely talk about “Islamophobia”. Moreover, it is a rarely stated fact that Muslims say from the Indian sub-continent or East Asia are likely to experience much harsher treatment and discrimination at the hands of “fellow Muslims” in Arab (especially Gulf) countries than they are in the West. So, woe betide those who parrot the Islamophobic argument against the Western right – for those foolish enough to do so will surely be in for a serious hammering. Moreover, by so doing, they will let the imperialists off the hook. In reality, US imperialism does not give a damn about the religion of a country as long as its economic and strategic interests are served. It has long supported the most reactionary, dictatorial regimes in the Muslim world – as long as they do its bidding. If they fall out of line, as with Iraq, then they are subjected to the full imperial onslaught. At most, we could say that there has been a degree of Anti-Arab hostility that has spilled over into anti-Muslim sentiment as one of the justifications for this. But this does not alter that fact that, both domestically and internationally, there is simply no material basis to “Islamophobia”. Read the rest of this entry »
“Again, nothing infuriates the current crop of evangelical atheists more than the suggestion that militant unbelief has many of the attributes of religion. Yet, in asserting that the rejection of theism could produce a better world, they are denying the clear evidence of history, which shows the pursuit of uniformity in word-view to to be itself the cause of conflict. Whether held by the religious or by enemies of religion, the idea that universal conversion to (or from) any belief system could vastly improve the human ot is an act of faith. Illustrationg Nietzsche’s observations about the tonic properties of false beliefs, these atheists are seeking existential consolation just as much as religious observers” - John Gray in the New Statesman, 30/11/12)
Here at Shiraz, we’ve previously had occasion to identify him as probably the most profoundly reactionary writer in respectable, mainstream journalism today. Gray can be difficult to follow precisely because his writing is vague, evasive and often illogical. In the New Statesman article from which the quote at the top of this piece is taken, for instance, it is difficult to discern even what he understands by the word “toleration” (as opposed, for instance, to “indifference”) and why he seems to think that irrational beliefs are a positively good thing. His repeated approving references to Nietzsche do, however, provide a telling clue.
Like Nietzsche, Gray despises humanity in general, and enlightenment humanism in particular. I’m not sure whether Gray would share his hero’s dismissal of democracy (“liberal” / “bourgeois” or otherwise) in favour of the artistocratic ideal of the Übermensch. Gray certainly seems attracted to Nietzsche’s emphasis (present from the first in in Die Geburt der Tragödie) on the unconscious, voluntaristsic ‘Dionysian’ side of human nature, as opposed to the rational ‘Apollonian’ side. Also, like Nietzsche, Gray is in fact an atheist, but seems to regard this as being entirely unconnected to any rational belief system, and simply a personal judgement that the ignorant masses cannot be expected to understand.
Gray’s contempt for humanism (and humanity) was well expressed in an earlier piece he wrote for the New Statesman:
“The idea that humankind has a special place in the scheme of things persists among secular thinkers. They tell us that human beings emerged by chance and insist that ‘humanity’ can inject purpose into the world. But, in a strictly naturalistic philosophy, the human species has no purpose. There are only human beings, with their conflicting impulses and goals. Using science, human beings are transforming the planet. But ‘humanity’ cannot use its growing knowledge to improve the world, for humanity does not exist.” - John Gray, ‘Humanity doesn’t exist’, New Statesman (10/02/11)
I’m not arguing, by the way that Gray’s views shouldn”t be published, or are unworthy of debate. I would question, however, what such an enemy of the Enlightement is doing as lead book reviewer in a publication whose strap-line is “Enlightened Thinking for a change.”
By the way, Nietzsche’s thinking contains an essential contradiction (explained by Antony Flew, thus): “Of course, Nietzsche goes on to use his views about the essentially ‘falsifying’ nature of language, and therefore of rational thought, to give theoretical backing to his favourite belief in the superior veracity of action and ‘will’. But here the central paradox in Nietzsche’s theory of knowledge emerges: he cannot himself, in all consistency, take that theory too seriously.”
Or as a letter to the New Statesman in response to Gray’s article, put it: “It is amusing to read yet again a rational man, John Gray on this occasion (‘Giant Leaps for mankind’, 30 November), arguing rationally for how very irrational we all are.”
Ophelia (“Butterflies and Wheels’) Benson on Gray, here
Very occasionally (about once every five years of so), the Graun carries a sensible, balanced and thought-provoking article that I am able to unreservedly recommend. It happened on Saturday (print edition), when Jonathan Freedland asked “We condemn Israel. So why the silence on Syria?”
Freedland contrasts the protest, publicity and outrage over Israel’s Operation Cast Lead four years ago, with the general lack of interest over the Syrian government’s ongoing atrocities; here’s a flavour:
There is no such clamour now. The Stop the War Coalition is not summoning thousands to central London to demand an end to the fighting, as it did then. On the contrary, its statements are content simply to oppose western intervention – of which there is next to no prospect – while politely refusing to condemn Assad’s war on his own people. Caryl Churchill has not written a new play, Seven Syrian Children, exploring the curious mindset of the Alawite people that makes them capable of such horrors, the way she rushed to the stage to probe the Jewish psyche in 2009. The slaughter in Syria has similarly failed to move the poet Tom Paulin to pick up his pen. Apparently, these Syrian deaths are not worthy of artistic note. The contrast has struck Robert Fisk, no defender of Israel. He puts it baldly: “[T]he message that goes out is simple: we demand justice and the right to life for Arabs if they are butchered by the west and its Israeli allies, but not when they are being butchered by their fellow Arabs.”
Read the full article here.
Inevitably, Freedland’s argument provoked the usual response from the loons, conspiracy theorists, professional Israel-haters and outright antisemites who frequent Comment Is Free. It also resulted in a typically stupid letter from Baroness Jenny Tonge, the Lib Dem’s and House of Lords’ resident anti-Israel thicko and fanatic. The most charitable thing that can be said is that she seems to completely misunderstand Freedland’s central point:
Jonathan Freedland makes the usual plea “why condemn Israel?”. Israel claims to be a western-style democracy that respects human rights and international law. The US and the EU, as well as our own country, have social, academic, cultural and trade links with Israel, and many of us have friends or colleagues in Israel. To many UK citizens, it is their home too. Israel drove the Palestinians from their homeland and livelihoods in 1948 and for 45 years Israel has occupied the West Bank. The treatment of the Palestinians is brutal and humiliating, as I have witnessed. We are right to condemn Israel for its actions. We are right to demand a higher standard of behaviour from Israel than from Arab states that are only now struggling to achieve political change. I have been to Syria. Does Mr Freedland really want Israel to be judged by the same standards by which we judge Syria?
Prof Norm delivers a devastating riposte here.
But it’s not Tonge’s stupidity that I particularly want to draw to your attention, but this strange and (I would submit) sinister comment from Lindsey German of Stop the War (and the objectively pro-Assad ‘Counterfire’), quoted by Freedland:
Anxious for answers, I called Lindsey German of Stop the War, who told me the organisation was not active on Syria because that “isn’t Stop the War’s job”. Its focus is on what “Britain and the US are doing”. Why, then, was it so vocal on Gaza? Because the west “was very much in support of the Israelis, so it was very different”. (In fact, Britain did not support Operation Cast Lead but called for a ceasefire.) She adds that the Palestinian question “has its own dynamic, which isn’t true of any other country”.
Assuming that Freedland quoted her accurately, what on earth did German mean by the Palestinian question having “its own dynamic, which isn’t true of any other country”? After all, the Palestians do not have a “country” – which is, of course, the root cause of their tragedy. Can anyone suggest what German means by that particular statement?
PS: hidden away in the foul madness that is the Comment Is Free “discussion” that followed Freedland’s piece, is a reasonably sensible debate between one David Pavett and ‘Aloevera’ that drew my attention to this fascinating interview given by the late Fred Halliday in April 2010. Recommended.
“Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently” – Rosa Luxemburg
An unpleasant-sounding character called Barry Thew wore the t-shirt shown below, in the Manchester area, on the day that two women police officers were murdered there. He has now been given a four month jail sentence for the crime of giving “insult” under Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act.
Mehdi Hasan, political director of The Huffington Post UK, called for a crackdown on the culture of Islamophobia and argued freedom of speech was not an “absolute right” during a debate on Thursday.
Speaking opposite Times columnist David Aaronovitch at a HuffPost/Polis debate, on the right to offend, Mr Hasan argued free speech was being “fetishized” and claimed many free-speech campaigners in the west were guilty of “brazen hypocrisy.”
“We have a civic duty not to offend others,” he told the a packed audience at the London School of Economics.
“How can you construct a civilised, cohesive society if we go round encouraging everyone to insult each other willy nilly?
“Yes we do have a right to offend but it’s not the same as having a duty to be offensive. You have a responsibility not to go out of your way to piss people off.
“I have the right to fart in a lift, but I don’t do it because it is offensive.
“Some people want the right to be offensive but then get cross when people are offended.”
[NB: Peter Tatchell on the Barry Thew case and "the right to be offensive" here]
The piece below is from today’s Graun (print edition) and is essential reading. It should (but probably won’t) put to shame all those (including some Graun contributors) who try to make out that the Taliban is some sort of legitimate national liberation movement, or is simply a movement that responds (understandably) to “imperialism.” First, here’s a video edited from a New York Times documentary about this young hero and her incredibly brave stand against the gynophobic clerical fascists:
Why they hate Malala
The attempted assassination of a 14-year-old girl was driven by a pathological hatred of women – not by politics, as the Taliban claim
‘I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban.” So began the diary of Malala Yousafzai, an 11-year-old girl living in Pakistan’s Swat region in 2009 while the Taliban had de facto control and female education was banned. The BBC website published the diary, and a few months later a New York Times documentary revealed more about the girl behind the pen.
Today, as Malala Yousafzai remains critical but stable in hospital following an assassination attempt by the Taliban, I watched the laughing, wise, determined 11-year-old in that video and thought of the Urdu phrase, “kis mitti kay banee ho” – “from what clay were you fashioned?”
It’s an expression that changes meaning according to context. Sometimes, as when applied to Malala Yousafzai, it’s a compliment, alluding to a person’s exceptional qualities. At other times it indicates some element of humanity that’s missing. From what clay were you fashioned, I’d like to say to the TTP (the Pakistan Taliban), in a tone quite different to that in which I’d direct it to the 14-year-old girl they shot “because of her pioneering role in preaching secularism and so-called enlightened moderation” and who, according to their spokesman, they intend to target again.
The truth is both Malala Yousafzai and the Taliban were fashioned from the clay of Pakistan. When I say this about Malala it is not in a statement of patriotism about my homeland but instead an echo of a sentiment expressed by the novelist Nadeem Aslam: “Pakistan produces people of extraordinary bravery. But no nation should ever require its citizens to be that brave.”
Because the state of Pakistan allowed the Taliban to exist, and to grow in strength, Malala Yousafzai couldn’t simply be a schoolgirl who displayed courage in facing down school bullies but one who, instead, appeared on talk shows in Pakistan less than a year ago to discuss the possibility of her own death at the hands of the Taliban.
“Sometimes I imagine I’m going along and the Taliban stop me. I take my sandal and hit them on the face and say what you’re doing is wrong. Education is our right, don’t take it from us. There is this quality in me – I’m ready for all situations. So even if (God let this not happen) they kill me, I’ll first say to them, what you’re doing is wrong.”
It’s only right to acknowledge that if different decisions had been made about Pakistan’s history, primarily by those within the country but also by those outside it, the men issuing statements justifying assassination attempts on a young girl would also have been doing something else with their lives.
It isn’t the clay from which they were fashioned, but the patch of earth in which they grew up which made them what they now are. But what do we do with this piece of information? Yes, of course, the Taliban exists because of political decisions dating back to the 1980s; and of course the mess that is the “war on terror” has only added to the TTP’s ranks.
There’s no need for the Taliban to invent propaganda against the American and Pakistan state (although they do) – both governments supply an excess of recruitment material for those who hate them. So if you view the Taliban simply through the prism of the war on terror and Pakistan and the United States, it’s possible to think the process can be reversed; policies can be changed; everyone can stop being murderous and duplicitous.
But then there’s Malala Yousafzai, standing in for all the women attacked, oppressed, condemned by the Taliban. What role have women played in creating the Taliban? Which of their failures is tied to the Taliban’s strength? What grave responsibility, what terrible guilt do they carry around which explains the reprisals against them?
For political differences, seek political solutions. But what do you do in the face of an enemy with a pathological hatred of woman? What is it that you’re saying if you say (and I do, in this case) there can be no starting point for negotiations? I believe in due process of law; I know violence begets violence. But as I keep clicking my Twitter feed for updates on Malala Yousafzai’s condition, and find instead one statement after another from the government, political parties, and the army (writing in capital letters) condemning the attack, I find myself thinking, do any of you know the way forward? Today, I’m unable to see it. But Malala, I’m sure, would tell me I’m wrong. Let her wake up, and do that
“What should we learn from the case of Shafilea Ahmed? At first glance, it might seem simple. A young girl is murdered by by her father because she refuses to submit her sexuality to his law.”
So begins a piece in today’s (print) Guardian by Jaqueline Rose, professor of English at Queen Mary, University of London. For a professor of English, Rose’s language is (to me, at least) remarkably opaque and the point(s) she is seeking to make almost impossible to discern. That first paragraph, is however, the only section of the article with which a reasonable person can simply and without reservation agree. But the words “at first glance” are a giveaway: Rose doesn’t really think the case is that clear-cut at all.
I take it that readers are familiar with what Rose calls “the case of Shafilea Ahmed”, but for anyone who isn’t, here’s a painfully detailed and accurate account of her tragic life and terrible death.
I also take it that readers (well, most readers anyway) will agree with me that while it’s clearly important to examine the social and cultural background to the murder, it would be an obscenity to attempt to use it to score points or to whip up hostility towards Asians and/or Muslims in general. I may be missing something, but I’m not aware of anyone (even the usual suspects of the right-wing press) doing that, despite Barbara Ellen’s strange, illogical and irrelevant defence of “liberal lefties” in the Observer this Sunday.
In the light of the undeniable fact that Shafilea’s death did not come out of the blue and that social services and police had plenty of warnings that something was badly wrong in the Ahmed household, the suggestion that misplaced cultural sensitivity and/or fear of the accusation of racism may have been factors in her death, cannot be dismissed. Sarah Khan, director of ‘Inspire‘, a Muslim women’s rights group, is clear on this:
“It has been suggested that south Asian women are more likely to suffer severe abuse, and over a longer period of time than white women. They also experience higher rates of suicide and self-harm. Ethnic minority women can face multiple barriers and injustices: racism in society, and misogyny within their homes and communities. And ‘community leaders’, through their denial and inactivity, can compound this victimisation and marginalisation.
“A lack of will by public bodies to address these issues compounds their suffering, increases their vulnerability and results in them being less likely to seek help. They feel they’ve been systematically ignored and forgotten by mainstream feminist organisations and the state itself. I’ve been asked: ‘Are we any less British because of our ethnicity, our colour or our faith?’ Unfortunately, in 21st-century Britain, this seems to be precisely the case.”
Let’s hope that these wise words carry the day, and that Shafilea’s death will lead to real action in support of all abused women in Britian – and not least British Pakistani women trapped in their homes and subjected to the cultural norms of Mirpuri villages.
What Asian women can most certainly do without is the evasive, insulting, pseudo-academic relativist waffle of Jacqueline Rose, who ends her Guardian piece with the following truly extraordinary passage, which I had to read several times before working out exactly what is being said:
“Recognising this complexity might also be a way of avoiding the most obvious cultural cliches that attach to the idea of ‘honour’ crimes. Repeatedly the prosecution insisted, with a certain relish, that this was a case of a Pakistani family refusing to accept the reality of modern life – one more migrant family failing to keep up with the times. Without question Shafilea wanted educational, sexual and professional freedom as a woman. Going to university allowed Alesha fully to recognise that life in her family was ‘wrong’. We can support those freedoms – and celebrate the justice Shafilea has now received – without using the case to stigmatise a minority community, or as proof that west is best. Rather than attribute a crime like this to backwardness, we would do better to see how deeply it is woven into the fabric of migration and modernity in which all of us are implicated.”
Frankly, words fail me. Fortunately, a Guardian/CIF reader has provided an appropriate response:
“No this will not do, the people who are implicated in this are the parents of Shafilea and the disgraceful hand wringing by the authorities which allowed her father to get away with murder for so long.
“To try and apportion any of the blame onto the rest of us is utterly perverse and flies in the face of any reasonable examination, blame the parents & blame the authorities but don’t dare try and put any of the blame on the ordinary citizen or indeed the huge majority of migrants who would have no truck with these so called honour killings or would tolerate members of the same family getting away with murder.”
Above: Fraser: pompous, sanctimonious and ignorant
“Yet the circumcision of babies cuts against one of the basic assumptions of the liberal mindset. Informed consent lies at the heart of choice and choice lies at the heart of the liberal society. Without informed consent, circumcision is regarded as a form of violence and a violation of the fundamental rights of the child. Which is why I regard the liberal mindset as a diminished form of the moral imagination. There is more to right and wrong than mere choice.
“Indeed, making choice the gold standard in every circumstance is to concede to the moral language of capitalism” Giles Fraser in today’s (print) Graun.
You can read the rest of Fraser’s drivel here.
In his sanctimonious but incoherent attempt to justify violence against babies and toddlers in the name of “identity” Fraser never gets round the central issue that he himself raised early in the piece: that the child has no rights in the matter, no ability to choose and no means of protecting himself from this physical violation. The thought inevitably arises: would he make the same case for female circumcision, which (it is argued) is also central to certain cultures?
Of course, both male and female cicumcision is child abuse, plain and simple.
Fraser’s half-baked attempt to denigrate children’s rights (ie: “choice”) as somehow symptomatic of “the moral language of capitalism” and “liberalism” with “no sense of history” just shows how backward and ignorant this semi-educated but pompous ex-SWP’er-turned god-botherer is. And how debased his conception of “morality” is.
Mind you, the fact that he himself is circumcised as a result of being part-Jewish, comes in handy when turning a blind eye to the CofE’s antisemitism and claiming to be some sort of authority on Israel/Palestine.
“Circumcision identifies me” is the title of the piece in the Graun‘s print edition today. To which I’d reply, not entirely Giles: in most respects you remain a complete prick.
Nick Cohen has written some shite over the years and his uncritical enthusiasm for liberal interventionism is not shared by anyone at Shiraz. But, like the little girl in the poem, when he’s good, he’s very, very good.
If you don’t read anything else today, read his latest Observer column, Tales of hope from modern young Muslims. It’s absolutely spot-on:
Is opposition to reaction, reactionary? Or a loathing of religious bigotry, bigoted? To slam “Islam as oppressive of gay and women’s rights”, said a Guardian columnist last week, is to manifest the “progressives’ prejudice”. True liberals did not criticise illiberal religion. They denounced criticism of prejudice as prejudiced.
Arguing against what has become orthodoxy is difficult because most of the people who hold to its tenets are not malicious, just indolent and a little frightened. They have a genuine fear of racism, however ill thought through, and that speaks to their credit. Argument must be joined, however, because supporters of identity politics bundle the objects of their concern into racial and religious boxes, and label them “handle with care”.
They deny individuality. They ignore conflicts within ethnic minorities. They behave as if women with brown skins should not have the same rights as women with white skins, although they lack the intellectual honesty to make their racism of low expectations explicit. For all the excuses you can make for them, theirs is a species of malice, albeit closer to a sin of omission than commission.
This week sees a reply that is also an admonishment with the publication of the summer’s second “escape memoir” – if I may coin the term. Despite its title, Alom Shaha’s The Young Atheist’s Handbook is as much an autobiography as an argument against religion…
…Read the rest here
There’s a first time for everything: the Graun publishes a letter from yours truly (though they did edit out my use of the term “clerical fascist” and the print version omits the final paragraph):
It is not necessary to be either a supporter of the war in Afghanistan or an opponent of free speech to find the publication of Poetry of the Taliban, and Robin Yassin-Kassab’s puff-piece for it (The gentle, flowery side of the Taliban, G2, 14 May), sickening. Lest we forget, this is an ultra-reactionary movement [edited out: I would argue, clerical fascist] whose agenda involves the denial of elementary human rights to 50% of the Afghan population. UN Women and Amnesty International have for some time been expressing concern at the evident willingness of western governments, in the name of peace, to sacrifice the already fragile women’s rights established following the overthrow of the Taliban.
Reaching a workable peace settlement may well involve some horrible concessions to these implacable mysogynists and enemies of human rights, but let’s not prettify them in the name of some relativist glorification of “the Other”.
Guardianists and other relativists must always be reminded of this;