The hysterical reaction to Sayeeda Warsi’s speech


by Sunny
21st January, 2011 at 10:47 am    

Sayeeda Warsi was of course right to say that Islamophobia has become the last piece of accepted bigotry in the UK. You only have to read the right-wing press and their continuing obsession with ‘Muslim demographics’ to see the obvious. The Daily Mail, Telegraph, Express and even the Spectator don’t even bother hiding it.

Also predictable was the hysterical reaction from the same quarters: ‘ZOMG how dare she insult us all!!!‘. As usual, Peter Oborne, about the only intelligent and worth-reading Tory left in the British press, has it spot on:

What she said yesterday has desperately needed saying by a mainstream politician for a very long time. I know this because, over the past few years, I have visited many Muslim communities and spoken to scores of Muslim leaders. With very few exceptions (such as Anjem Choudary, the fanatic who tried to organise a protest march by British Muslims through Wootton Bassett) they are decent people. Many have come from countries which persecute their citizens and trash human rights. So they are even more keenly aware of what it means to be a British citizen.

But – and this is why what Baroness Warsi has to say is so important – British Muslims get spat at, abused, insulted and physically attacked. Vandalism and mosque burnings are common, and often unrecorded. The far?Right in Britain has changed its nature. In the 1980s, organisations such as the National Front and the BNP concentrated their hatred and odium on blacks and Jews. Today, racist organisations such as the English Defence League focus on Muslim immigrants.

Over at the Spectator, they’ve gone with the ‘OMG, she didn’t clear that speech with No. 10!‘. I wonder why the Spectator had that reaction huh?

Over at Harry’s Place, Edmund Standing patronisingly claims that Warsi’s comments are a ‘gift to Islamists‘ and cites several Muslims who he thinks would disagree. Except that, er, Mona Eltahawy has tweeted it approvingly and the Quilliam Foundation have come out in support of her comments. Nice try.

Now the narrative has become that Warsi is accumulating enemies within the Conservative party and will soon be turfed out. I highly doubt it. Tories hysterically jump from applauding her like the next coming of Christ when she says something they agree with, and take out the knives when she doesn’t. I suspect the more liberal Cameron team are less jumpy about this than the ideological Tory frothing-at-the-mouth activists who inhabit the online discourse.


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  1. earwicga — on 21st January, 2011 at 11:04 am  

    Sayeeda Warsi was of course right to say that Islamophobia has become the last piece of accepted bigotry in the UK

    No she wasn’t. Try being trans in the UK.

  2. meatpie — on 21st January, 2011 at 11:32 am  

    Poor little rice girl with here inherited wealth and privilege.
    And she proves what circles she moves in ‘dinner parties’ ha ha

  3. Arif — on 21st January, 2011 at 12:36 pm  

    Interesting comments under the Peter Oborne piece. The main trope is:

    Muslims are attacking us, so fearing and attacking them is rational. It is also therefore not a phobia and it is not prejudice.

    Interesting how obviously similar it is to the arguments of terrorists who claim justification in their videos because Islam or innocent Muslims are under attack.

    There is understandable fear on both sides, because there is violence and terror on both sides, but it is still bigotry fueled by fear. Anyone who points this out is met with mindless repetition of the same argument:

    They attack us, so we are entitled to defend ourselves.

    The attacks are not being denied by Baroness Warsi (who discusses them as well as the need to defend ourselves from them in the very same speech). But she wants to talk about how we defend ourselves without becoming bigoted ourselves.

    Although I disagree with the nationalist terms of her counter-discourse, she has a made a reasonable case which deserves a response going beyond repeating the same old justifications for prejudice that can be used against any religious group. Or indeed attacks on her class background for mentioning “dinner parties”.

  4. Rumbold — on 21st January, 2011 at 1:13 pm  

    Earwiga (#1) is right, and there are other ‘acceptable bigotries’ still going strong. Baroness Warsi was also correct to raise the spectre of Islamaphobia.

  5. Rumbold — on 21st January, 2011 at 1:14 pm  

    Good points Arif.

  6. MaidMarian — on 21st January, 2011 at 1:22 pm  

    This will likely go down like a sack of cement – but here we go….

    Sunny – I happen to take Warsi’s point, even if I don’t happen to agree with her emphasis. But to say this is a problem of the right is short-sighted. Sure, the right-wing press have a pretty unpalatable take on this. But I really do not like the arguments deployed (by both left and right) that somehow acts of terror and cultural chips on shoulders are all somehow, ‘understandable,’ or, ‘justified,’ because of a person’s religion.

    This is like saying that Islam puts a radicalism switch in people’s head and when flicked these people are likely to react to slights by strapping bombs to themselves. Is this dubious picture really any worse than what is in the right-wing media?

    Look at the protests against Iraq. There were Muslims, the elderly, white people, all nationalities. If a pensioner went down the act of terror route, would it be seen as, ‘legitimate,’ because of, ‘pensioner anger.’ Treating, ‘muslim anger,’ as special or different only reinforces cultural divides.

    Would it be, ‘understandable,’ or, ‘legitimate,’ for a person to attack gay people because they claim to have been, ‘radicalised,’ by government policy on equality? Of course not!

    Oborne is also right about what he calls decent muslim leaders. But what this misses is the sense that has become common currency (rightly or wrongly) that somehow Islam and people who follow it are immune from criticism on pain of a shout of racism. This sense of preferencing does need to be tackled.

    My view, which I have put on here before, is that the answer lies in a far more inclusive civil society. This may, of course, exist outside the fetid airs of internet talkboards. And is is, or should be, incumbent on all people to make the effort to engage in civil society rather than just sit in the bunker mentality of their own culture.

  7. Katy Newton — on 21st January, 2011 at 1:31 pm  

    @ earwicga or being female or gay or fat or black or white or religious or an atheist, for that matter.

    I am not a fan of the phrase “last acceptable prejudice” as applied to any prejudice. It’s not a competition.

  8. damon — on 21st January, 2011 at 1:41 pm  

    This was Warsi defending faith in general:

    One telling example of this occurred in 2005, when Ruth Kelly was made Education Secretary.
    Now of course, it’s reasonable to scrutinise that appointment and have a discussion about whether Ruth Kelly was up to the job.
    But was it really right that her faith formed such a big part of that inquiry?
    And was the appropriate language about her Catholicism used?
    At its extreme, this kind of bigotry descends into absurd caricatures.
    Where all Catholicism becomes “dodgy Priests in Ireland”.

    And this was Laurie Penny on the anti-pope demonstrations in London.
    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/laurie-penny/2010/09/pope-state-home-rights-social

    I think it depends on who Baroness Warsi’s intended audience was. For the Tory party it might do some good. But I don’t think I need to be told that a devoutly religious person is not an extremist.

    I am confused though why it seems that ”extremists” like Bilal Philips, Hussein Yee and Zakir Naik have such a large following in this country. I think it’s the ambiguity that people don’t get. I don’t understand it either. I heard a mental sermon about ”the Zionist entity” in a Dublin mosque last year.
    And I found the experience troubling. Who wouldn’t?

  9. Arif — on 21st January, 2011 at 1:46 pm  

    MaidMarian, while there might be arguments that someone’s religion entitles them to commit acts of terror or to have a cultural chip on their shoulder, it isn’t one I have come across. Nor the argument that Islam puts a radicalism switch in people’s head is also not one I come across.

    However, I do agree that if you read some rightwing or leftwing commentators their arguments may sometimes seem to hold such assumptions behind them.

    As I read such arguments on the left, they are mirrors of arguments on the right: people have justifiable reasons for anger and a sense of threat (for example seeing people they identify with being blown up regularly) and therefore their anger needs to be understood as responses to perceived injustices which get channeled into religious, nationalist or racial bigotry.

    Claims to have been “radicalised” are like claims to have been “victimised” or to have been “bullied to insanity” etc etc. Some people are genuinely bullied, victimised or treated unjustly. Morally considerate people want to take that into account in interpreting their behaviour and in finding redress to their grievances.

    However the widespread recognition of such problems and dynamics can also then be exploited and manipulated by others who wish to avoid sanctions for anti-social behaviour, or to shift responsibility for their actions to others.

    The insoluble (but very important) problem as I see it is how to distinguish those acting in good faith and those acting in bad faith when painting a picture of the context of their actions. I assume that a lot of courtroom arguments come down to this.

    And the problem also encompasses how we interpret both the common currency of crying “racism” and the common currency of crying “censorship” when accused of “racism”.

    So I agree with you, but I think you are focusing on only one side of the coin. And I hope you feel that engaging in civil society will help us all see both sides of that coin. There is a real fear of islamophobia and a real fear of Islamic supremacism, and I think insisting that one fear is always expressed in good faith and the other is always bad faith is aligning oneself with bigotry. Whether in good faith or not!

  10. MaidMarian — on 21st January, 2011 at 1:55 pm  

    Arif – Thank you for a thoughtful reply.

    ‘However the widespread recognition of such problems and dynamics can also then be exploited and manipulated by others who wish to avoid sanctions for anti-social behaviour, or to shift responsibility for their actions to others.

    The insoluble (but very important) problem as I see it is how to distinguish those acting in good faith and those acting in bad faith when painting a picture of the context of their actions. I assume that a lot of courtroom arguments come down to this.’

    This is exactly right. Now, I do wonder how far some of the issues that underpin all this are real, and how far they are magnified by the internet. But I fully agree.

    ‘There is a real fear of islamophobia and a real fear of Islamic supremacism, and I think insisting that one fear is always expressed in good faith and the other is always bad faith is aligning oneself with bigotry. Whether in good faith or not’

    I think that this is what I, in a rather clumsy way, was trying to say. But I think that civil society should look to remove the coin wholsale – there are no sides or fears, just a (dare I say it?) big society.

  11. Sunny — on 21st January, 2011 at 2:57 pm  

    allright allright, I withdraw the phrase that it is the last acceptable group to demonise. I forgot Roma people too.

  12. Boyo — on 21st January, 2011 at 3:06 pm  

    Chavs.

  13. damon — on 21st January, 2011 at 3:28 pm  

    Roma and transgender are not good examples.
    They are complex issues in their own right.
    There is a set of trafic lights right outside my building, which local Roma are working every day selling the Big Issue to cars stopped at the lights.
    If people are a bit fed up with them after a year of them doing this every day, it’s not because of their race or the country they come from, but that people don’t like being asked to buy something when sitting in their cars.

  14. Leon — on 21st January, 2011 at 5:33 pm  

    Katy at comment 7 sums up my thoughts perfectly.

  15. Trofim — on 21st January, 2011 at 5:51 pm  

    “Islamophobia has become the last piece of accepted bigotry in the UK” – no, it’s niveomediogenomasculophobia – the demonising of white middle class males.

  16. Don — on 21st January, 2011 at 6:21 pm  

    Trofim,

    You’re often better than that. That’s pathetic.

  17. Trofim — on 21st January, 2011 at 7:01 pm  

    Thanks for the compliment, Don.

  18. Don — on 21st January, 2011 at 7:35 pm  

    Da nada, Trofim.

  19. Boyo — on 21st January, 2011 at 8:20 pm  

    Chavs!

  20. Don — on 21st January, 2011 at 8:37 pm  

    Back to the point. I didn’t find the Baroness’s analysis to be particularly perceptive or persuasive. Obviously we have had very different life experiences so to say that I don’t recognise what she describes as relecting the attitudes of my friends and colleagues is inevitably subjective on my part. But I don’t recognise it. And I have a pretty wide social circle.

    I think ‘the dinner party test’ is probably the most ill-chosen phrase since ‘the cricket test’.

    But at least this may have moved into the mainstream a question which has been raisd on some blogs for some time. Do we even know the meaning of the words we are using?

    We talk of moderates, extremists, fundamentalists, radicals. We really do need to define these terms or we are all arguing from different premises. If we don’t even agree on what the words mean, what is the point of debate?

    Disliking, criticising and opposing the influence of Islam is a perfectly valid position. Being unpleasant to muslims is not. Islam and Christianity are, broadly speaking, the only religions that proseletyse, that insist that you play by their rules, that claim a universal divinely sancioned supremacy. That is a position I’m against. Get in my face about that and I’ll explain exactly how wrong you are.

    But most people don’t do that. They just get on with life and work and family. Are they moderates? I don’t know. They might also believe in the literal truth of their texts, which would make them fundamentalists. So they are moderate fundamentalists? Or what? How they live with that belief is a very personal matter and in is no way my business. Unless it impacts on others, in which case I have a civic responisibilty to at least point it out. As have we all.

  21. joe90 — on 21st January, 2011 at 9:45 pm  

    If warsi is serious then she should take a close look at her own party, which has been fueling a lot of the hatred.

    she made a generalised statement but never once mentioned names like her boss cameron or opposition mp’s like jack straw from labour or the daily mail, telegrapgh etc who all make regular comments demonizing muslims as terrorists or extremists.

    It will be business as usual for the tabloids and politicians, muslims should not expect anything less.

  22. earwicga — on 21st January, 2011 at 10:04 pm  

    Having now read the speech (thanks for the link) and it’s ok. Nothing special. The examples used from the Old Testament are so old-hat that they look pathetic in a speech from a tory cabinet member. And I expect she is quoting Polly Toynbee out of context.

    I think the most important lines are:

    where free discussion is drowned out by a sensationalist media
    Controversial stories are inflated by the media

    So I guess Warsi will be pushing for something to be done about media lies then? I’m not holding my breath.

  23. earwicga — on 21st January, 2011 at 10:09 pm  

    Agreed Katy. I chose transphobia specifically though. For example, most schools will have policies in writing to deal with religion, gender equality, sexuality etc. And there will be training in place to have raised awareness about these things. It is a very rare school, or indeed educational psychologist, which even knows about gender dysphoria, and almost unheard of that policies would be in place to deal with transphobia or accomodating a child who wishes to transition during school years. In the most part hostility from staff is the norm if they are asked to accomodate a child with gender dysphoria.

  24. Don — on 22nd January, 2011 at 12:34 am  

    In the most part hostility from staff is the norm if they are asked to accomodate a child with gender dysphoria

    Evidence?

  25. earwicga — on 22nd January, 2011 at 12:35 am  

    I can’t give you evidence Don, or even specific examples. It comes from parents of trans children, who never speak out publicly because they can’t. What I have heard from parents in the last 6 months is absolutely shocking.

    I believe that Simon Hughes is beginning to do some work with regard to this, and it can’t come a minute sooner.

  26. Sarah AB — on 22nd January, 2011 at 7:23 am  

    I read the speech and I thought it made some fair points (eg the one about the halal cafe in a university and how that story was reported) but also offered too many opportunities for counterargument. One weak point (not central to her argument) I thought, was the one about religion and rationality. Another weak point, partly because it wasn’t clear quite what point she was trying to make, was her assertion that it wasn’t helpful to split Muslims into extremists and moderates.

    Another good point was her suggestion that it would be very useful to have a Muslim equivalent of the CST.

  27. Sarah AB — on 22nd January, 2011 at 7:53 am  

    The West Wing bit seemed another hostage to fortune, in that Jews and Christians cherry pick those laws from the OT, generally softening some and ignoring others. Perhaps a better way into the point I suppose she wanted to make would have been to note that in Christian countries where there are severe punishments for homosexuality critics don’t tend to invoke the religion of that country. But as things stand she quoted someone invoking the punishment of stoning, leaving it open for people to say ‘but Jewish and Christian countries don’t stone people – Muslim ones do’.

  28. Boyo — on 22nd January, 2011 at 8:46 am  

    @20, very well said. I read Toynbee’s piece and she made it clear she would be just as Christianphobic if Christianity were not a spent force. It’s perfectly okay to get pissed off with people pressing their views upon you. As per the Salafi/ AM thread it is also perfectly okay to find people’s views offensive even if they are not proselytising. It is when this bleeds into abuse by either side that it becomes unacceptable.

    Warsi talks of the undoubted offences against Muslims, but this goes both ways – attacks on Jews are higher than ever before. Equally, why should terrorist attacks in the name of Islam somehow be regarded as different from firebombing a mosque – the perpetrators are the same kind of extremists.

  29. Konnu — on 22nd January, 2011 at 8:54 am  

    I think her use of the phrase ‘dinner party test’ was not only appropriate, it was brave. This is not a reflection of her own lifestyle, as some have implied, but rather the group she is targeting; not ordinary, working class people but the higher echelons who have more say in society – she’s really confronting her own party.

  30. Boyo — on 22nd January, 2011 at 8:57 am  

    Adding to Don’s point, I would suggets that – if it means adhering to the “rules” – most Muslims could be viewed as fundamentalists. But what’s wrong with that? Fundamentalist Christianity means literally believing a lot of spooky stuff, but Islam (as I understand it) is less about belief but more about the way you live?

    In the 17th Century, Quakers were viewed as a fundamentalist sect, and officially persecuted by the state. As i said in the previous thread, the UK has a long tradition of accommodating religious minorities. Providing they recruit by example alone, then that is for the good – we are a country built on the strength of example (our democracy/ legal system etc). It is only when coercion becomes involved that it crosses the line. And Quakers used to have beards too….

  31. Trofim — on 22nd January, 2011 at 10:48 am  

    konnu @ 29:
    “not ordinary, working class people but the higher echelons who have more say in society”

    You mean only Conservatives have dinner parties? Do any non-Conservatives have more say in society?

  32. Konnu — on 22nd January, 2011 at 12:20 pm  

    Trofim @31

    What little influence she has is probably in her party – and then not much. But I’m certainly not saying this should only be directed at Tories. Rather, I just think her choice of phrase, which has been criticised above, it actually quite an appropriate way of saying how prejudice is seen at normal at a certain level of society.

  33. damon — on 22nd January, 2011 at 4:37 pm  

    Is this thread just about the ”ZOMG how dare she insult us all!!!” reaction to Warsi’s speech?
    If it is then it’s only going to remain shallow … like the speech itself really.
    Peter Oborne is is right about some of the things he says and so is Warsi, but they are only talking about one section of the wider possible debate.

    Baroness Warsi says for example that women wearing a niqab/burka do not prevent Muslim women from ‘engaging in everyday life’ in Britain. And that it was a choice issue and that was it.

    And says nothing of the MCB, the Islamic Forum in Europe, i-Engage and even the likes of the Salafis at Luton Islamic Centre.

    Maybe she just can’t, as like with Jack Straw, she knows the area is such a sectarian minefield.

    But because she can’t, she has to be considered a bit of a lightweight.

  34. Niels Christensen — on 22nd January, 2011 at 6:21 pm  

    We discuss islam because it’s a important factor in our society; it’s no more than a fortnight ago that a pakistan politician was murdered because of religion, and even mainstream pakistani muslims expressed their joy, thats also our problem. Making a joke about muslims religious feelings may seem inappropriate in case, but thats one way of coping with things you simply don’t understand.

    A small example. Not few muslims in Denmark don’t allow their girls to participate in mixed sports lessons ( swimming) or in school trips; What people often forget is, that the introduction of this didn’t fall from the sky, but the mixed education is a result of a long hard cultural and political fight, where not a few religious feelings ( christian by the way) was hurt. The mixed politics was implemented because, the majority thought it made a better society.
    Now when it’s muslims you can’t discuss it. Of course you can. Our societies has developed through
    political and cultural discussions and fights ( and earlier on wars), it seems that because people are muslims they are outside this social fabric.
    They aren’t.
    They aren’t because in the modern welfare society everyone’s life and economics are intertwined. We pay a lot of tax to secure welfare benefits, free hospital, schools and so on;
    And that’s one of the reasons so many muslims migrate to this society; the consequence is that the society have the right to make some guidelines of behavior and of which behavior is right to secure the society. A part of this is of course that ‘odd’ behavior can be discussed even at diner parties. Call it gossip, but even gossip contains relevant information.
    Nearly half of muslim immigrants in Denmark are outside the labour market among women it’s a lot more than that. Thats an economic and social problem.
    We have the right to discuss this, even if it means discussing their religion. Thats what we do in western societies, we discuss problems.

  35. damon — on 22nd January, 2011 at 7:17 pm  

    Instead of just doing a set piece speech, Baroness Warsi should try to talk people through some of the more confusing aspects of Islam itself, and how much a good muslim is meant to take literally, or allowed leeway to pick the parts they want to follow or not.

    A good example of this would be to explain the reader’s reply on i-Engage’s website which had the Baroness Warsi story about her opinion on niqab/burka wearing.

    It’s here, and I thought very interesting, but a bit bonkers too. If this is a common view amongst muslims then there is always going to be a bit of an issue.
    http://www.iengage.org.uk/component/content/article/1-news/988-baroness-warsi-defends-right-to-wear-burqa

    A careful reading of the Qur’an shows that just about everything Western feminists fought for in the 1970s was available 1,400 years ago to Muslim women, who are considered equal to men in spirituality, education and worth. When Islam offers women so much, why are Western men so obsessed with Muslim women’s attire?

    I’d ask Ms Warsi if that was a mainstream opinion, and if I should be expected to respect somebody who held that opinion, even if it was only held by a minority of people.

    A broadly secular person is always going to find a debate like this on a Sunni forum a bit weird.
    http://www.sunniforum.com/forum/showthread.php?51604-Leeds-Grand-Mosque…salafi

    And maybe if you are at university and you observe the Islamic Society students hanging around together, you might wonder if that is the kind of thing that takes up so much of their time and attention.

    The poster @4 just says about the opening post: ”Here we go again.Another Beard topic.” and you wonder if they spend a lot of time talking about beards.
    That is always going to be as ‘odd’ in secular Britain as Ned Flanders, the born again christian character in the Simpsons is.

  36. Konnu — on 22nd January, 2011 at 8:16 pm  

    Niels @34

    The example of mixed schools is interesting and pertinent. Yes, the 20th century saw a move towards mixed schools in Britain, but a minority of British people wanted to retain single-sex schools, even in the state sector. The wishes of that minority have been respected; of course, in the private sector, supply and demand has meant a greater proportion of single-sex schools.

    So why, I wonder, does it become more contentious when some Muslims want single-sex education? Here in Britain, regardless of religion, every year the debate about the relative merits of mixed vs single-sex continues, not least when the results come out. Part of being a healthy democracy means that for some issues, even if the majority decide one way is best, still the view of the minority if catered for, and mixed schools is an excellent example.

    Muslims, as individuals or as a group, should be entitled to argue against established British traditions, just as anti-hunt campaigners and anti- House of Lords have successfully done in recent years. If they fail to convince, so be it, as with any other group. The idea that they don’t like something that’s changed means they are backward shouldn’t necessarily hold.

  37. me — on 22nd January, 2011 at 9:41 pm  

    Niels Christensen
    “We have the right to discuss this, even if it means discussing their religion. Thats what we do in western societies, we discuss problems.”

    “We” in the west also demonise minorities as “problems” and eventually commit genocide against them

  38. Niels Christensen — on 22nd January, 2011 at 10:22 pm  

    #Konnu

    My knowledge of the british school system is limited to the paper I wrote 30 years ago on schooling in the industrial revolution.
    In Denmark as in Sweden people have the right to create their own school,and take the typical cost for a pupil with them. In Denmark about 15%
    of all pupils are enrolled in some sort of private school.
    But the general rules for schooling should be followed ( f.ex. promoting equality between sexes), which means as far as I know that sex segrated schools isn’t in principle allowed.
    Muslim have the right to create schools , and put in their ideas. Some of the muslim schools is among the best in the country. But of course like other private schools they have the right to kick out children who don’t fit in ( behave well), and they do that.

  39. douglas clark — on 22nd January, 2011 at 10:59 pm  

    Konnu @ 36,

    I come from the West of Scotland where the religious split predated muslims being around in any significant numbers.

    It was argued by catholics back then, much as it is by muslims nowadays, that they got a poorer education and were discriminated against and consequently got their own schools. What a phyrric victory!

    My entire society still has that difference which isn’t worth the candle. Amusingly enough, our local catholic primary school was likely to close due to declining birth rates. They opened their doors to the muslim community! Which, I put it to you, is a tad hypocritical.

    It is for that reason that I think any claims for separate education – whether it is paid for or not – is discriminatory against social cohesion and should be rejected at each and every opportunity.

  40. Konnu — on 23rd January, 2011 at 8:32 am  

    Niels @38, douglas @39

    I didn’t make a case for Muslims schools (a separate issue), rather for single-sex schools. There are at least 5 single-sex state secondary schools here in Tower Hamlets, one or two with a Christian basis, the others secular, and they’re quite popular in the Muslim community.

    On the issue of religious schools, I get the impression that they’re extremely varied, with some giving children an amazing educational experience, and others absolutely terrible. I went to a state school, and I couldn’t wait to grow up and leave!

  41. Boyo — on 23rd January, 2011 at 9:24 am  

    The great shame is, faced with reforms on education, we did not secularise all schooling. Ten years down the road it will be too late – extending the right to religious schools to Muslims will further promote segregation and mutual incomprehension. It’s much harder to take rights away than grant them. So our society steps further down the road to balkanisation.

  42. Sarah AB — on 23rd January, 2011 at 11:05 am  

    Boyo – instinctively I agree with you but was rather swayed by some very eloquent arguments made by bananabrain on that issue.

  43. joe90 — on 23rd January, 2011 at 11:51 am  

    post #34

    I doubt any sensible person has issue of discussing a problem in a civil manner.

    However making fun of muslim women, drawing cartoons of prophets with bombs on their heads, politicians and media in tag team effort against a particular community is not discussion in my view. It’s turned into a drip drip hate campaign and spreading fear making it them and us, it’s gone way beyond discussion and turned into vilification.

  44. damon — on 23rd January, 2011 at 2:45 pm  

    In today’s Observer.

    Sayeeda Warsi: A matter of pride and prejudice

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2011/jan/23/observer-profile-baroness-warsi-islamophobia

  45. Boyo — on 23rd January, 2011 at 2:52 pm  

    “However making fun of muslim women, drawing cartoons of prophets with bombs on their heads, politicians and media in tag team effort against a particular community is not discussion in my view.”

    So, where did this satire spring from Joe90? Western prejudice against Islam or Islamic prejudice against Western values? I seem to recall a certain fatwa against a British writer in the 80s in which now prominent “community leaders” lined up to burn books (highly offensive to many Westerners) and call for his execution. Then there was Van Gogh, who tried to “discuss” his harmless film with his assassin before being stabbed to death.

    The West has been viciously satirising all aspects of its society for centuries. This may offend some Muslims living in the West, but this is an aspect of Western society which we all have to accept. One cannot “pick and mix”, shaping society to please oneself. Because it then no longer becomes a Western society.

    The cartoons etc emerge from Western society precisely as a provocation to those who wish to curb its freedoms and pervert its identity. If they complained – and intimidated – less, then no doubt they would have less to complain, and intimidate, about.

  46. Konnu — on 23rd January, 2011 at 3:18 pm  

    Boyo @45

    “The West has been viciously satirising all aspects of its society for centuries. This may offend some Muslims living in the West, but this is an aspect of Western society which we all have to accept. One cannot “pick and mix”, shaping society to please oneself. Because it then no longer becomes a Western society.”

    Why should we all have to accept this if some believe it to be wrong? This is what they used to say about ‘racial humour’ until comparatively recently, because although many said it’s just a laugh and people should be able to take a joke, some thought otherwise and went about trying to change what people thought.

    Muslims in Britain are entitled as much as anyone else to try to change society. I think we’ve moved beyond ‘put up and shut up’.

  47. pete — on 23rd January, 2011 at 3:26 pm  

    Boyo

    The West has been viciously satirising all aspects of its society for centuries. This may offend some Muslims living in the West, but this is an aspect of Western society which we all have to accept. One cannot “pick and mix”, shaping society to please oneself. Because it then no longer becomes a Western society.

    Really? No one dare say about say the Jewish community what they say about Muslims. When are topics like the Holocaust satirised?

    Recall that at the same time as Rushdie published his book , a play by Jim Allen ‘Perdition’ about Jewish collaboration with the Nazis was banned, to zero outrage. As Allen himself said ‘There are some groups you can offend and others you cant”

  48. Boyo — on 23rd January, 2011 at 3:40 pm  

    Certainly 46, and indeed, 47, but I don’t recall black or Jewish community leaders calling for the murder of said satirists, or indeed carrying it out.

    People can complain, and satirise, all they like. That’s what the West is about. What it’s not about is using intimidation to silence dissent, in which case it needs to have the piss taken out of it all the more.

    You ignored the first part of my comment – So, where did this satire spring from Joe90? Western prejudice against Islam or Islamic prejudice against Western values? – because it didn’t suit you. You would prefer, as one of our resident Islamists does, to paint this as plain racism. But you ignore any form of causality that does not support your prejudice.

  49. Boyo — on 23rd January, 2011 at 3:51 pm  

    Just in case you really don’t get it – translators of the Satanic Verses were MURDERED.

    “On 17 September 2005, the Danish newspaper Politiken ran an article under the headline “Dyb angst for kritik af islam” (“Profound anxiety about criticism of Islam”).

    “The article in Politiken was the basis of a Ritzau article from the day before written by journalist Troels Pedersen. The article by Ritzau discussed the difficulty encountered by the writer Kåre Bluitgen, who was initially unable to find an illustrator prepared to work with Bluitgen on his children’s book Koranen og profeten Muhammeds liv (English: The Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad). Three artists declined Bluitgen’s proposal before one agreed to assist anonymously.

    “According to Bluitgen:

    One [artist declined], with reference to the murder in Amsterdam of the film director Theo van Gogh, while another [declined, citing the attack on] the lecturer at the Carsten Niebuhr Institute in Copenhagen.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyllands-Posten_Muhammad_cartoons_controversy#Debate_about_self-censorship

    This was then deliberately whipped up in to a controversy by certain groups for their own purposes. To ignore this and paint it as plain racism is juvenile and of great comfort to fascists.

  50. Konnu — on 23rd January, 2011 at 6:11 pm  

    Boyo @49

    I understand your disgust at the incidents you describe, but just because extremists do outrageous actions, doesn’t negate the rights or the sensibilities of the vast majority of ordinary Muslims who don’t issue death threats, don’t burn books, and can do nothing about those who do – whose protests and opposition are entirely lawful. The problem here is that you seem to be denying something for all Muslims in Britain based on the actions of a very few or, in some of the cases you cite, the actions of people overseas.

    I think it’s perfectly proper for Muslims, say, to object to the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, to write to their MP or to newspapers, or even to march peacefully to express their opposition, without being told that they have to accept this as a Western value.

  51. Sarah AB — on 23rd January, 2011 at 7:08 pm  

    konnu – I think I agree with you, and from what I’ve seen of the cartoons they seemed offensive and not particularly funny. But I strongly feel that people should be able to publish such things if they wish to. I can think of things I find offensive, and would write against, perhaps even protest against, but which I’d be horrified to see banned – and even more horrified if those responsible were harmed or threatened.

  52. Konnu — on 23rd January, 2011 at 9:39 pm  

    Sarah, this is of course about where we draw the line. There any number of matters deemed so offensive that countries bring in laws to prevent them despite cherishing freedom of speech. Leaving aside obvious matters involving children, in this country we are nowadays quite strong on racist materials, on the continent some countries are strong against Holocaust denial, others will not tolerate desecration of the national flag.

    In recent times in the UK religious boundaries have been tested by films like The Life of Brian and The Last Temptation of Christ. It is hard to convey the level of offence Muslims feel when deliberate insult is heaped on Prophet Muhammad. There’s no justifying violent reaction, but I’d like to believe that a truly civilised society could agree that such attacks on the most deeply held religious sensitivities should not be able to hide behind freedom of speech.

  53. Sarah AB — on 23rd January, 2011 at 9:59 pm  

    I am opposed to making Holocaust denial illegal. I find expressions of homophobia offensive, and all sorts of other things too, but I don’t want to ban such discourse (unless it shades into incitement). I’m not opposed to the ‘political correctness’ which is often just a matter of being considerate and civil and not ‘gone mad’ at all – but although I think it would be welcome if people voluntarily demonstrated consideration for other people’s sensitivities, I do think freedom of speech is important although like most people I don’t believe in *absolute* freedom of speech and acknowledge that any cut off point we impose is necessarily a bit arbitrary.

  54. halima — on 24th January, 2011 at 2:05 am  

    I think there is a big difference between satires like the Life of Brian and the prejudice that is about laughing with Christians as opposed to laughing at Christians. That’s the point about satire and jokes. The prejudice that Warsi talks about isn’t of the same order as the Life of Brian. Then there is the issue of whether Christians will face negative stigma in a majority Christian country – most probably not. I go about my daily life as a South Asian with western dress and don’t feel particularly at unease with other white people’s reactions, but when I dress in Salwar Kameez or hang out with friends who wear the hijab, then I start seeing the reaction that Warsi describes.

    We might acknowledge that this type of prejudice on every day streets is unacceptable, without going into the issue of how much offence Muslims take when cartoons and satires criticise Islam. To me, the former is much more important. Prejudice against ‘visible’ Muslims happens, as it does most probably with visible Jewish people, and other visible minorities. That’s what Warsi is driving at. I didn’t think it was that novel or that controversial.

  55. Boyo — on 24th January, 2011 at 7:26 am  

    “I think it’s perfectly proper for Muslims, say, to object to the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, to write to their MP or to newspapers, or even to march peacefully to express their opposition, without being told that they have to accept this as a Western value.”

    I agree, and disagree. Certainly blasphemy in the UK used to be taken seriously a few hundred years ago, but we have moved on from that. Had we not done so, we would have struggled to develop as a society. Certainly Muslims have the right to take offence and seek to have redress within the law.

    Where I suppose I disagree is on the slightly more subtle Life of Brian point – Halima mentions Christian stigma in a Christian-majority country, but the point is that apart from some isolated protests, little happened. This is because as a society, the West has, IMHO, moved on from taking these matters seriously, be they Christians or not. The strength of offence around this religious issue (and indeed others) is therefore something that is not “Western”.

  56. Arif — on 24th January, 2011 at 9:28 am  

    Boyo #45: “If they complained – and intimidated – less, then no doubt they would have less to complain, and intimidate, about.”

    This is the point I wish to make (in both directions). But I think some people (on both sides) stoke the hysteria of mutual fear for their own power interests. Taking any side is then (in my opinion) allying with those power interests or with bigotry.

    The fears are real and justifiable (on both sides) – but not an excuse for dehumanising those with fears on the other side. I think Baroness Warsi wants people to think more clearly through their understandable fears, and if people can’t do that in what I assume to be the comfortable unthreatening contexts of “dinner parties” then what hope is there?

  57. halima — on 24th January, 2011 at 1:43 pm  

    One of the most powerful satires I have seen in recent times is ‘Four Lions’, by Chris Morris, who is well known for his irony and satire going a step too far. Four Lions for the benefit of those who haven’t seen it, is a quite hard-hitting spoof about a group of young British Pakistan men who want to blow bomb in British city, and do actually head off to Afghanistan to train with extremists. The Life of Brian is easy viewing compared to Four Lions which pushes the audience’s comfort zone on terrorism considerably. Most Muslims I know haven’t protested about this, because it’s laughing with Muslims, not at them.

  58. Boyo — on 24th January, 2011 at 2:14 pm  

    Ah, four lions. Yes, a good film, although I thought, ironically, inadvertently Islamophobic – the depiction of the leader of the pack and his missus i thought, while trying not to fall into cliches, actually promoted the idea that that charming, integrated, attractive Muslim couple were in fact committed to murdering their fellow citizens. So who could you trust?!

    Although i could see what they were trying to achieve – ie, the leader of the 7/7 lot was like that – i thought it went too far. They were simply not extreme enough to be extremists…

  59. halima — on 24th January, 2011 at 4:21 pm  

    Boyo, I found this movie to be brilliant, and not at all Islamophobic.

    Wasn’t it satire? The point of satire is to draw attention to the negativity of what’s being presented and create tension with the audience who may hold such views.

    It went too far? That’s Chris Morris for you, it’s his trade mark.

  60. Boyo — on 24th January, 2011 at 4:59 pm  

    Hm, yes, I thought it was unintentionally Islamophobic, for the reason above – it was trying so hard not to be, that it kind of ended up being so. But never mind – maybe that was the intention and i just didn’t get it. It just seemed a bit sad to me.

  61. joe90 — on 24th January, 2011 at 7:21 pm  

    post #45

    you often mention death of van gough or fatwa against a british author but your memory goes blank when your much loved western governments have blanket bombed countries and killed hundreds of thousands of civillians why the hypocrisy? or do you not place a value on people in asia or africa being liquidated or disabled by missiles and chemicals?

    If you think discussing a problem like islamaphonia is best solved by drawing a cartoon of their prophet or making fun of minorities shows what a moron you really are.

  62. Sarah AB — on 24th January, 2011 at 7:36 pm  

    Interesting on 4lions which I haven’t seen – yes, it could be a satire on those who think all Muslims are terrorists (rather than Islamophobic) – sounds nicely edgy.

  63. Boyo — on 24th January, 2011 at 8:08 pm  

    @61 Sorry Joe 90, aren’t you the resident moron, as illustrated by your post? You conflate one argument with another. Certainly my “much loved Western governments” have done plenty wrong (and I have marched frequently over the years against more or less every war they have prosecuted, and was actually present at a couple, including Kosovo, which Islamists like you conveniently overlook as it falls outside your Islam-the-victim-of-the-evil-West narrative) but one wrong does not make another right.

    It was as mindless to invade Iraq as it was to murder Theo Van Gogh. Can you handle that concept? Somehow I doubt it.

  64. joe90 — on 24th January, 2011 at 8:16 pm  

    post #63

    no its quiet clear your the one and only moron on this thread.

    Your solution to a problem is to inflame it even more well done dimwit.

    what’s that kosovo you did who favour? in the middle of europe you went after russian interests and you equate that do doing muslims a favour lol.

    stop preaching from that spitshit website we heard all that propaganda years ago.

  65. Boyo — on 24th January, 2011 at 8:56 pm  

    ah, that’s the spin is it? “russian interests”. Always got an answer!

  66. Kismet Hardy — on 24th January, 2011 at 9:04 pm  

    Four Lions wasn’t islamaphobic. It’s a piss-take of individuals who are complete twats, like all good satire should be

  67. halima — on 24th January, 2011 at 9:06 pm  

    “It just seemed a bit sad to me.” Agreed, it was really depressing.

  68. Trofim — on 24th January, 2011 at 9:59 pm  

    I see those Quakers are at it again – this time, Domodedovo airport.

  69. Sarah AB — on 4th February, 2011 at 10:01 pm  

    By chance I have just seen 4 Lions (discussed a little further up this thread) – and found it quite disturbing. It is certainly open to different interpretations but I think I now agree with Boyo @58 – I had no sense of being invited to think the portrayal of the ‘nice’ family was a kind of satire on Islamophobic fears about genuinely ‘nice’ people.

  70. KB Player — on 4th February, 2011 at 11:33 pm  

    I found Four Lions all over the place. It was sometimes weak slapstick and sometimes just straight drama. The ringleader and his pretty wife and cute son – what were they about?

    I mean those arseholes lecturing us on videos with their wagging fingers and then blowing up random people – they are ripe for satirical comedy. Four Lions wasn’t it.

    I did a review of it over here:-

    http://arts.hurryupharry.org/page/2/

  71. Sarah AB — on 5th February, 2011 at 9:02 am  

    Hello – I remembered your review so reread it after watching the film. I suppose I had a rather different take on it – which oddly mirrored my response to Seven Jewish Children – I can see that you *could* excavate a reading of the film which satirised antimuslim bigotry as well as (perfectly properly of course) attacked violent extremism – but that didn’t seem to me to be the easiest reading and I can imagine some people having their view of Muslims as potential terrorists supported by the film.

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