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  • Where Pickled Politics goes from here…


    by Sunny
    7th July, 2008 at 6:27 am    

    Last week the Guardian asked me to write about what Liberty meant to me, so I did with the summary: “Liberty should be about ensuring the weakest in any society can stand up to the strongest.“. Not my strongest piece ever, but it does the job somewhat.

    Below it, someone made a comment that has now been taken off, saying (and I paraphrase): “Sunny, you used to be good earlier by writing about taking on community leaders and what not, and now you’ve just become an apologist and talk about brown people voting Tory, and what not. What happened to you?”

    I want to address this not only because the two (my article and the comment) are related, but because it encapsulates something I’ve wanted to write about for a while on PP. Call it a change in direction if you wish.

    In the ‘mission statement‘ bit of PP, it points out that we face a battle on two fronts: the community leaders and the bigots. Squeezed in the middle were ethnic / religious minority Britons who just wanted to get on with their lives. This was a progressive voice to challenge outdated ideas and policies. The mission statement hasn’t changed but I think the atmosphere has.

    In most cases the ‘community leaders’ paradigm that was popular with the national media and politicians has mostly been demolished. New Labour has moved on and the newspapers have mostly realised the foolishness of their ways. We played a part in that. It exists more locally but there’s little that can be done about that centrally.

    At the same time, the nasty bigotry of the press and the political classes hasn’t gone away but become louder. The danger to British Muslims now isn’t from community leaders seeking to represent them while offering silly recommendations, but by the government passing draconian legislation that will impact them. And our politicians know they can get away by simply stating Well, if you’ve got nothing to hide, why are you complaining?, or by saying this will only affect terrorists, because they know most people have Muslims in mind when thinking about this and shrug their shoulders.

    At the same time, the media classes that once used the Omg, Muslim community leader says something outrageousstick to beat Muslims, now carries on twisting little stories into front page outrages that then get regurgitated by outright xenophobes like Melanie Phillips, Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes etc into the age old racist narrative that these people are taking over our country and we’ll soon be their slaves. And then you have the proxy wars being played by the likes of Bishop Nazir Ali for their own agenda.

    So here are my points:

    1) First, I’ve largely abandoned the editorial policy of bashing the MCB/Sikh Federation types, mostly because they’ve become largely inconsequential and less harmful. Plus, their benefactors like Ken Livingstone have left or others within New Labour have learnt from their mistakes - and so I find little point in flogging a dead horse.

    2) The consequences of these stupid stories do matter, much as some bloggers may like to pretend otherwise. Even if Muslims keep their heads down, these stories won’t go away. As the Daily Mail’s Peter Oborne (the only guy worth reading the Mail for), will point out in a documentary to be shown tonight:

    There is a reason for this blindness in the media. The systematic demonisation of Muslims has become an important part of the central narrative of the British political and media class; it is so entrenched, so much part of normal discussion, that almost nobody notices. Protests go unheard and unnoticed.

    Anti-Semitism is recognised as an evil, noxious creed, and its adherents are barred from mainstream society and respectable organs of opinion. Not so Islamophobia. Its practitioners say Islamophobia cannot be regarded as the same as anti-Semitism because the former is hatred of an ideology or a religion, not Muslims themselves. This means there is no social, political or cultural protection for Muslims: as far as the British political, media and literary establishment is concerned the normal rules of engagement are suspended.

    Also see his Daily Mail article. The tide of filth has become so big, so much so that even some leftwing bloggers think its without consequence, that I’ve decided not to partake in it any more. There’s too many other bloggers and commentators shrieking over twisted-around stories for me to want to add to it. This blog was about protecting minority groups as part of a larger agenda, not demonising them further.

    3) That isn’t to say my agenda is only about brown/Muslim people vs the world sort of radical action. The original point about challenging old race narratives and the community leaders was so we could all find a language to live better together as Britons. The same applies here. A society riven by fear and paranoia is not a society at ease with itself. And the anti-terrorism legislation will almost certainly be used against all of us without our explicit approval. There are already signs of this happening.

    4) This means I’m also going to spend more time attacking anti-civil liberties legislation. I’m also trying to figure out what real world activism can be done on this front.

    Peter Oborne’s Dispatches film, “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Muslim”, will be screened on Channel 4 at 8pm on Monday. The pamphlet Muslims Under Siege, by Peter Oborne and James Jones, is published next week by Democratic Audit


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    1. Unitalian — on 7th July, 2008 at 8:13 am  

      Sunny, you know far more about this than I (a rare admission). From what little I know, government has learned to be more aware of the Islamist bloc, which most people would see as a positive step. Has “Islamophobia”, though, really become as bad as Peter Oborne suggests? Witnessing the brickbats hurled at Amis and McEwan hardly suggests that it is common currency in literary circles.

      Living as I do in Italy, I only read the web, Guardian and Times. The Times and Guardian tend to balance their editorial line out, atthough I only began reading the Times after a lifetime with the Gruaniad after feeling so bludgeoned by their editorial line. I don’t know about the Mail, etc.

      There was - and remains as far as I can see - a concerted effort among the left-liberal media to close down discussion about Islam by labelling it Islamophobia and therefore, pace Bob Pitt, racist. Yet Jews remain considerably more likely to be subject to assault or abuse than Muslims, as was debated recently on this blog.

      To me, the left means socialism. To others it may mean something else. But to me it includes a belief in absolute equality of the individual. Personally I would like this to extend to schooling and health for example, but in this context, as someone who supports equality between the sexes, and sexualities, why should I be any less offended by the cultural practice of Muslims than anyone else? To me, this would be racism. To me, as a socialist, to excuse any culture - catholicism, hinduism, and so on - which restricts the equality of the individual, whether it is about abortions or whatever, is not acceptable.

      So if I am smeared with the racist brush for criticising Islam I find it particularly offensive because my argument is with aspects of the religion or culture on behalf of the people, not against them.

      It’s here we have the fault line between the left - between those on the left who - like you I think? - identify your politics with defending the weakest, as you put it, by defending them as a cultural group, and those, I suppose like me, who stand for the same thing - but believe they defend them by insisting on their equality regardless of any cultural or religious differnce.

    2. marvin — on 7th July, 2008 at 9:53 am  

      The biggest victims of Islamic or very old cultural type thinking, are of course those who grow up in those communities. So strong v weak would almost certainly mean those within the same cultural group.

      I think the Islam obssesed Spencer, Phillips etc would be amongst the first to admit this.

      There’s a very strong tendency in the left to latch onto the very outmoded thinking were ‘the strong’ simply equals white males who are oppressing the weaker. Hence all the kneejerk and quiet hysterical Tory hatred.

      Really, they are just living in their middle class bubbles and not really doing much oppression at all.

      Where’s the violence? Honour killings (and admirably this is regularly covered at PP) and stabbings and shootings (not covered - it is not particularly relavent to the Asian community, I am presuming)

    3. marvin — on 7th July, 2008 at 9:58 am  

      *though having said that the middle class, often white, are living in their middle class bubbles, they could do a lot more, and in what new Tory policy refers to as the Third sector where those with wealth are encouraged to volunteer and contribute to their community, as was some of the thinking of the appointment of Ray Lewis who used £20,000 of his “own money” to start his youth project.

    4. douglas clark — on 7th July, 2008 at 10:12 am  

      Sunny,

      As a long term admirer of what this blog stood for, I’ll admit that the fact you had stopped knocking, or flogging the dead horse of the MCB, etc, had passed me by.

      Now you say it, it is obvious.

      It is, in fact, a huge victory for you. You were right and they were wrong. The fact that ‘community leaders’ have been marginalised is something that might get a footnote in history…

      I’ve watched all this without realising the scale of the victory.

      But you are right, I think, to say:

      That isn’t to say my agenda is only about brown/Muslim people vs the world sort of radical action. The original point about challenging old race narratives and the community leaders was so we could all find a language to live better together as Britons. The same applies here. A society riven by fear and paranoia is not a society at ease with itself. And the anti-terrorism legislation will almost certainly be used against all of us without our explicit approval. There are already signs of this happening.

      I found myself, quite easily, onside with the agenda you set way back then. And I have never thought you were on anything less than an epic journey. I am a trifle astonished that I hadn’t noticed the policy change!

      I couldn’t agree more. We are sleepwalking into a police state. Legislation effects everyone. Legislation is about the power of the state over the individual and should be evaluated by us on the immediate assumption that it will apply to us. If David Davies achieves nothing else in H & H it will be to make us re-evaluate the relationship between the individual and the state.

      Lastly, @4, why don’t you let all your chums into the debate on your internal network, where daft ideas could be compressed into diamonds? There is more genuine intelligence and humanity to be found in the comment threads here than you will find anywhere else. It is why I keep hanging.

      And, no, I’m not going to name names. Ouch, that hurt the last time. But they know who they are….

    5. soru — on 7th July, 2008 at 11:45 am  

      We are sleepwalking into a police state.

      Sorry but that’s not only lazy and cliched, but much more importantly it’s pointing in a direction approximately 180 degrees from the truth.

      The real danger is a policeless state, one where the rule of law and acceptance of legitimate authority is not abused, but absent. One where, while there may be people still _called_ police, they will not _be_ police.

      The real nightmare is a terror state, where the techniques of exemplary terror and physical intimidation are not reserved for fringe groups, but become the weapons of first resort for the powerful. Zimbabwe is not Zimbabwe because it passed certain laws, but because when the local party boss tells the local police chief he wants someone beaten up, the existing laws are ignored, not obeyed.

      The real model is not occupied France or North Korea, but Pakistan, Turkey, Russia, 1970s italy.

      Forget Orwell for the moment, read MacCleod.

    6. Sid — on 7th July, 2008 at 12:04 pm  

      Forget Orwell for the moment, read MacCleod.

      I went to the link and the book’s strapline is “The War on Terror is Over…Terror Won”

      Either that line is also either “lazy and cliched, but much more importantly it’s pointing in a direction approximately 180 degrees from the truth” or it was written by a paranoiac like Melanie Phillips.

    7. Unitalian — on 7th July, 2008 at 12:06 pm  

      Talking of police states, Italy has almost exactly twice as many police officers per head of population as the UK.

    8. marvin — on 7th July, 2008 at 12:51 pm  

      …It recounts vicious stories of horrific, racist brutality against Muslims, not the extremist ones, but the ordinary, law-abiding ones; stories that are rarely reported in the press.

      Yet the fact is Jews are four times more likely to be physically attacked for their religion/race.

      The old prejudices are far more prevalent in society.

      It is Jews who truly keep their head down. But there’s only about 300,000 left in this country. So we don’t need to worry abut them. That’s why Ken had no worries about keeping the Jewish vote.

    9. marvin — on 7th July, 2008 at 1:00 pm  

      There’s racism and prejudice in and against every race/religion/community in this country.

      It’s terrible that innocent people get blown up or beaten or called names.

      But one can’t help but feel the most intolerant of people in this country are the tiny minority of Muslim extremists (about 2000) who are plotting to kill in the name of their ideology, and the larger subset of Islamists who are openly biased against women and non-Muslims.

      They aren’t the only ones of course. We have lone nazis every now and then plotting some horrific attack.

      Is there REALLY an actual DEMONISATION? Or is this just a general moaning about certain Muslims or the establishment curtailing to certain reactionary elements in the Muslim community?

    10. shariq — on 7th July, 2008 at 1:04 pm  

      Soru, its true that in many countries it is policeless states which are the real danger.

      However, in 21st century Britain this is not true. You can have an effective police securing the country without the need to lock people up for 42 days without trial.

      Just because Britain is not going to be a terror state along the lines of Zimbabwe, doesn’t mean that we are wrong to protest the erosion of habeas corpus.

    11. soru — on 7th July, 2008 at 1:16 pm  

      or it was written by a paranoiac like Melanie Phillips

      Or perhaps you, not having read the book, just don’t get the premise, don’t get the angle it is coming from.

      ‘Terror wins’ means not that bin Laden leads an army of jihadists out of the mountains, but pretty much the opposite.

      Terror is a tactic, not a side. ‘terror wins’ means that that tactic becomes the routine choice of all sides. The British invented tanks, armoured warfare tactics, but all sides in WWII used them.

      ‘Terror wins’ means you replace replace uniformed men just doing their job with nutters like ‘flipside’.

      Given popular culture and the internet, the production of such weaponised nutters could easily be done on an industrial scale, like Roosevelt building Victory ships by the thousand.

      Like _1984_, it’s not so much a directly possible future as a warning, a description of the way other countries currently are, relocated to here.

      But it’s not paranoid to say that elements of that style of government could be adopted, could lead to an unpleasant few decades, especially if people are blindsided by the possibility, look only in the other direction.

    12. Unitalian — on 7th July, 2008 at 1:21 pm  

      On the whole I think Marvin’s comment has a lot going for it.

      Some Muslims commit an act of terrorism and the left’s immediate response is - we must protect the innocent majority! Which is fine, but protecting the innocent majority has morphed into the - and I paraphrase - terrible levels of islamophobia in our society!

      Of course if some Jewish (Zionist?) terrorists had planted a bomb and killed 55 people, I wonder - would the “left” have rushed to defend British Jews from anti-semitism? Now there’s an interesting question…

      And given, as Marvin points out, Jews are 4 times more likely to be attacked, why isn’t PP and the rest of the left crying out about this? Four times more often, to be exact?

    13. Random Guy — on 7th July, 2008 at 1:31 pm  

      flipside, what is the purpose of your posts #6 and #9?

      Are you trying to insinuate that because of a bunch of random verses (probably out of context), and some selective misinformation, that all muslims everywhere deserve to be villified?

    14. flipside — on 7th July, 2008 at 1:43 pm  

      yes

    15. alana — on 7th July, 2008 at 1:45 pm  

      As a Jew, it is certainly news to me that Jews are 4 times more likely to be attacked! Source please!

      Marvin and Unitalian’s comments reveal a profound misconceptualisation of racism. Racism, or specifically Islamophobia in this case, works by extending a cliche or stereotype about a group of people and reifying the whole group on that grounds. The stereotype is seen as being inherent in all people identified as belonging to the group (whether or not they actually do - hence Sikhs being killed after 9/11 presumed to be Muslims).
      And I am reading alot of stereotypes in your blanket association of Muslims with extremism.

    16. Unitalian — on 7th July, 2008 at 1:50 pm  

      Is there such a word as misconceptualisation? I don’t know, but I like it!

      Can you explain to me how I have done that it in any of my posts please Alana?

    17. marvin — on 7th July, 2008 at 2:06 pm  

      And I am reading alot of stereotypes in your blanket association of Muslims with extremism.

      That will be your problem then, not mine. Try reading my comments. I go out of my way to avoid your type of misreading. Just goes to show some folk will see what they want!

      I understand fully that ‘islamophobia’ can and is used as a proxy for race. I do not do that. I an not an ‘islamophobe’ or a racist.

    18. marvin — on 7th July, 2008 at 2:07 pm  

      Alan, you did ask very nicely, even though I felt your were… a tad patronising

      Here you go

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1537128/Jews-far-more-likely-to-be-victims-of-faith-hatred-than-Muslims.html

    19. marvin — on 7th July, 2008 at 2:08 pm  

      *a

    20. MaidMarian — on 7th July, 2008 at 2:13 pm  

      Sunny – perhaps put this a slightly different way. Maybe all of us are moving to a ‘current affairs’ (for want of a better term!) where the shadow of terror (let’s say it – code for Islamist terror), 9/11, Iraq and indeed George Bush are starting to fade and debate moves on. One small sign, a newspaper at the weekend carried a poll showing that knife crime was more in the public mind than terror. As we move on so people like the MCB and others take on a lesser significance.

      On this level Sunny you are spot on that the more eccentric ideas of groups like the MCB are of less import. Perhaps more than that, over focussing on them has become unhelpful and I strongly agree with douglas clark (4) on this point. A wider view is now needed.

      Now for the flipside, and the thoroughly wrong-headed second part of the article. Sunny, I realise that you care about 42 days to the extent that you will go off on one and support a gay-bashing, union loathing hanger and flogger. I respect the depth of conviction, but perspective is needed.

      I would hate to see PP descend into the spittle-flecked hysteria, faux-Orwellian worldliness and knee-jerk indulgence that wrecked CiF. When I read guff like, ‘the anti-terrorism legislation will almost certainly be used against all of us without our explicit approval,’ I start to worry. Sunny, if you think Britain is a police state, I strongly suggest that you go and speak to someone that has actually lived in the real deal.

      Like it or not, whether the issue is terror, kids with knives or anything else, the imperative out there is that something must be done. Kicking away at government and its legislation is not too different to saying that the public sentiment should be ignored. Treating everything done by government with inherent suspicion does not seem to me the most intuitive way of making society at ease with itself.

      To my mind, what is needed is a leftist website. To me leftism is an inherent belief in the power of government to do good. What is needed is not a message that something must be done, but a clearer statement of what should specifically be done by everyone, not just government, and it won’t always be a palatable message. I want to be more positive, but I get a faint sense that you are thinking in terms that I would describe as the worst of all worlds here. A strangely limited vision of leftism that both creates and ignores concerns. Indeed, you might even be running the risk of creating divisions.

      And on a separate point – 1984 must be the most overrated, overquoted book there is. Blair wrote in 1948 with National Socialism and the Spanish fascists firmly in mind. It is not difficult to see what his thinking was and it was not a work of great prophecy.

    21. Sid — on 7th July, 2008 at 2:15 pm  

      ‘Terror wins’ means you replace replace uniformed men just doing their job with nutters like ‘flipside’.

      Oh ok, now that you’ve explained it and qualified it, I see the point. On other hand, haven’t you just explained the premise of the “police state”?

      For me, and for most people who like me, who tend to judge books by their straplines, the sentence “The War on Terror is Over…Terror Won” on a book cover would mean I would give the book a very wide berth. Isn’t it sad that good books are damned to the bargain bucket because of crappy straplines that look like they could have been written by Unitalian or marvin, or Martin Amis, for that matter?

    22. halima — on 7th July, 2008 at 2:44 pm  

      Sunny

      I was going to say to infinity and beyond but realise this is a very serious topic ..

      Think it’s great to have the focus on civil liberties, or lack of. During different stages of history, different minorities will lose their civil rights more than others, but law will eventually be used to lock up everybody, and if in this particular moment we focus more on that group’s interests, great, recognising, too, that another challenge might present itself and we should be ready to move on it.

    23. Random Guy — on 7th July, 2008 at 2:56 pm  

      Flipside @ 16: I knew you were a nutter. Your comments are worthless.

    24. Sunny — on 7th July, 2008 at 3:08 pm  

      Where’s the violence? Honour killings (and admirably this is regularly covered at PP) and stabbings and shootings (not covered - it is not particularly relavent to the Asian community, I am presuming)

      Marvin, I don’t really want to sit here and deconstruct the attacks faced by Jews v attacks faced by Muslims and then confer “the biggest victimised minority” status on anyone and then take up their charge.

      I think most ordinary people (in London mostly) know a Muslim or two and realise that they are ordinary people just getting on with their lives.

      The point here is about the racist narrative in the media and by politicians.

      The point here is that its easy to be Islamophobic in the way its not politically correct to be anti-semitic even though the two are the same (and please don’t give me the ‘Jews are a race’ rubbish). And its also about how newspapers conjur up false stories about Muslims and get away with it constantly.

      and its also true that many Muslims don’t necessarily report the attacks they face. Either way, I’m not going to be drawn into a Jews v Muslims narrative. I’ll oppose anti-semitism where I see it too.

    25. soru — on 7th July, 2008 at 3:22 pm  

      That’s kind of the nature of soundbites and short quotes - they have little signal, you can read into them whatever noise you want.

    26. Sunny — on 7th July, 2008 at 3:23 pm  

      Witnessing the brickbats hurled at Amis and McEwan hardly suggests that it is common currency in literary circles.

      and for the right reasons too. Amis is an idiot, and McEwan his useful idiot. I suggest that if you want to go ahead defending those guys, then do so but you won’t be convincing anyone.

      and if in this particular moment we focus more on that group’s interests, great, recognising, too, that another challenge might present itself and we should be ready to move on it.

      Halima, I agree. I’m not saying civil liberties is the only challenge, but to me the point is minority groups, especially Muslims, now face more danger from govt legislation than community leaders.

      MaidMarian:
      When I read guff like, ‘the anti-terrorism legislation will almost certainly be used against all of us without our explicit approval,’ I start to worry. Sunny, if you think Britain is a police state, I strongly suggest that you go and speak to someone that has actually lived in the real deal.

      Well, if you’ve got councils using anti-terror legislation to snoop on people regarding rubbish bins, I suggest there’s a strong element of the law being abused here. and there are probably many more instances. Protests are being stifled again using anti-terror legislation.

      the point isn’t that this is a police state… but there is a vast space between what is a police state and societies where the role of the govt is severely checked and tightly defined. And we’re definitely not moving towards the latter.

      To my mind, what is needed is a leftist website. To me leftism is an inherent belief in the power of government to do good.

      I’m sorry, I don’t buy this. To my view, leftism should be a distrust of the state and its power, because it usually acts in the favour of the powerful. We should argue as much as possible for the state to be minimal and for civil society to take its place where people can have more influence by banding together and organising themselves. Relying on the state for support is a bad idea.

    27. halima — on 7th July, 2008 at 3:34 pm  

      “’m not saying civil liberties is the only challenge, but to me the point is minority groups, especially Muslims, now face more danger from govt legislation than community leaders.”

      I like the new Sunny, not so much different from the old one, but much sharper, slicker in your analysis!

      And yes, any movement on the left should be critical of both the market and the state - and represent the views of civil society/individual. That’s the last accountability trick in my book when both market and state act against the interests of minorities.

    28. Unitalian — on 7th July, 2008 at 3:41 pm  

      “Isn’t it sad that good books are damned to the bargain bucket because of crappy straplines that look like they could have been written by Unitalian or marvin, or Martin Amis, for that matter”

      Now I would take that as an insult, if I didn’t take it as a compliment ;-)

      Sunny - I’m presuming that your statement that islamophobia is the same as anti-semitism - means islamophobia = hatred of Muslims. When in your book does criticism of Islam and Islamism become hatred of Muslims?

      Without wishing to troll, I think it is quite a difficult distinction to make - surely one can hate a religion, and the people who practice that religion in a way one finds offensive, yet still not be racist?

      There is plenty of critcism here for example of Hindu extremism. The same could be said for Christian. I hate Christian extremists who raise their kids as bigots, particularly in N. Ireland. Does this make me anti-Irish?

      I agree that racist parties can exploit a fear of Islam for their purposes, but that does not necessarily mean dislike of Islam is racist?

      A good example of perceived islamophobia in the media is the recent puppy story. But is that actively racist (as you would have it) or just a good story? Because it is a good story - a police force takes down an ad of a puppy because a councellor claims it causes offence to islam. It could have been Buddhism or Christianity - i’m sure the Mail would have printed it just the same. But the Mail did not invent, to my knowledge, the story. It happened. And it was “man bites dog” so they published it.

    29. Mangles — on 7th July, 2008 at 4:12 pm  

      Sunny

      ‘Even if Muslims keep their heads down, these stories won’t go away’ - not to be simplistic- perhaps your revision of priorities indirectly recognises groups you have opposed(MCB/Sikh Federation) themselves may be reacting to the bigger issues that you too are responding to- but clearly from different philosophical or political perspectives, and in their own often naive and narrowly focused ways.

    30. Sid — on 7th July, 2008 at 4:16 pm  

      Unitalian:

      And given, as Marvin points out, Jews are 4 times more likely to be attacked, why isn’t PP and the rest of the left crying out about this? Four times more often, to be exact?

      That’s a cheap misrepresentation. I’ve written on the rising attacks on Jewish people on this blog myself. I just can’t find it right now. :)

      What I find hilarious about the “I’m not a racist, I just hate Muslims” ilk is that their suggestion that Islamophobia is less real than anti-semitism because statistically it occurs less. It’s come up on this thread and the posters who do so think that this is a perfectly legitimate reaction.

    31. MaidMarian — on 7th July, 2008 at 4:19 pm  

      Sunny (26) – Thank you for taking the time to reply.

      There is a world of difference between the Mail going off on one, tapping into public dissent about biweekly rubbish collections and the vacuous ‘police state’ that some seem to think we live in. Granted, I’m not comfortable with the idea and I would like to see legislation better defined (poorly written laws have been one of New Labour’s biggest hidden failings) but it just is not something that is going to be the single defining feature of my political outlook.

      I do not doubt the passions aroused in some by civil liberties issues, but it is not enough to preach to the converted on PP. The stark reality is that, ‘something must be done,’ is a powerful message. I believe that support for civil liberties is wide but thin – the next (let’s hope not) terror extravaganza will leave the liberties argument looking threadbare. I see nothing in the article that takes the argument to the Great British public. You seem to want government to make the unpopular decisions to indulge the argument you wish were true. It is you that needs to face down the ‘something must be done’-ers.

      ‘We should argue as much as possible for the state to be minimal and for civil society to take its place where people can have more influence by banding together and organising themselves.’

      Very well said!!! But that did not come out in the article above. This is what I would like to see more of – civil society building. Not something a blog is inherently good at I fear but I would like to see more thought put into making civil society stronger. I do not believe that the people can be strong unless there is a strong civil society. Moreover, I don’t think that mutual hate of government is a good place to build a coherent civil society either.

      Indeed, out of interest – what’s your solution? This is what I loathe about so many blogs today – all long on criticism but what about answers? You have identified a problem where you feel the state is taking inappropriate action. How would you stop bin collections being abused and what should we be doing? I’d like to think that there’s a civil society solution but I don’t see it forthcoming around here. And before anyone says it, yes I do think that some people abuse bin collections.

    32. Unitalian — on 7th July, 2008 at 4:20 pm  

      I didn’t make the suggestion “that islamophobia is less real than anti semitism because it occurs less”, if that’s what you’re inferring sid.

    33. Sid — on 7th July, 2008 at 4:24 pm  

      before we get off on another round of “oh no i didn’t” and “oh yes you did”, why mention it then?

    34. marvin — on 7th July, 2008 at 4:26 pm  

      I thought I’d try re-wording to see if it’s me being bigoted.

      There is a reason for this blindness in the media. The systematic demonisation of Christians has become an important part of the central narrative of the British political and media class; it is so entrenched, so much part of normal discussion, that almost nobody notices. Protests go unheard and unnoticed.
      …
      Anti-Semitism is recognised as an evil, noxious creed, and its adherents are barred from mainstream society and respectable organs of opinion. Not so Christenophobia. Its practitioners say Christenophobia cannot be regarded as the same as anti-Semitism because the former is hatred of an ideology or a religion, not Christians themselves. This means there is no social, political or cultural protection for Christians: as far as the British political, media and literary establishment is concerned the normal rules of engagement are suspended.

      Nope. Still dislike Christianity. Still like Christians.

    35. Unitalian — on 7th July, 2008 at 4:27 pm  

      You’re misconceptualising me sid!

    36. soru — on 7th July, 2008 at 4:27 pm  

      the point isn’t that this is a police state… but there is a vast space between what is a police state and societies where the role of the govt is severely checked and tightly defined. And we’re definitely not moving towards the latter.

      That’s certainly conventional wisdom, but doesn’t seem to actually match the available facts very well. Look at conviction rates, the nature and deeds of people currently walking free, versus those banged up in the 1970s. Compare Dixon of Dock Green and Kidulthood, or just watch Life on Mars.

      Does it honestly seem plausible to you that the UK is moving in the direction of an East Germany or a Singapore? Or it is more likely that innovative forms of free market, privatised and deregulated violence are increasingly in a position of competitive advantage when compared to the old-fashioned state monopolies?

      To continue the WWII analogies, it really seems to me that most of the civil liberties lobby are making the same mistake as the French Army on the Maginot line, pointing their guns in the direction of the simplest and most dirct attack, instead of the most likely one.

    37. marvin — on 7th July, 2008 at 4:28 pm  

      We can play Jerry Springer the Opera on BBC1, but absolutely no reproduction of Cartoons mocking the holy Prophet.

      Double/Different standards? Why???

      Either all religion is fair game, or it isn’t.

      It’s ok to say one dislikes Christianity. But, what if one to say that about That Religion?

    38. marvin — on 7th July, 2008 at 4:30 pm  

      I agree firmly on Civil Liberties though chaps.

      We do NOT dramtically change the law or our standards without caution and good reason because of Religious eejits trying to maim or oppress.

    39. Sunny — on 7th July, 2008 at 5:00 pm  

      It’s ok to say one dislikes Christianity. But, what if one to say that about That Religion?

      I have to keep explaining this to you Marvin…

      I have no problem with people pointing out theological problems they have with Islam. After all, the issues aren’t that different from what can be taken from the Old Testament or New Testament to say the same. You can also argue that the problem is that some Muslims are actively acting on what those lines from the Qu’ran say, and you won’t be wrong. I don’t like religious nuts any more than you do, despite havig been exposed to them much more.

      My points here relate to:
      1) Generalising about Muslims
      2) Pushing the paranoid / racist narrative that Muslims are taking over our society
      3) Advocating legislation that will specifically be used to target Muslims that no tolerant, liberal society should have in place (42 days, Gitmo Bay, Martin Amis’ “thought experiment”)

      You’re playing the Ian McEwan game - making out that you’re only criticising Islamic theology and are being called a racist as a result. Neither of that is taking place.

    40. Sunny — on 7th July, 2008 at 5:02 pm  

      This is a good example of such generalising racist drivel being published on a mainstream site:
      http://conservativehome.blogs.com/centreright/2008/06/ten-questions-f.html

    41. douglas clark — on 7th July, 2008 at 5:08 pm  

      Am I missing something? I’m not seeing any real, general, disagreement with what Sunny has said. Am I?

      Who is willing to argue against what is said here?

      Even folk that come looking for an arguement seem to agree with the general idea.

      Bloody hell!

    42. Unitalian — on 7th July, 2008 at 5:08 pm  

      Hello, so are you an islamophobe if you support 42 days now?

    43. Sid — on 7th July, 2008 at 5:10 pm  

      Only if you suggest that only Muslims will resist it, en-bloc. :)

    44. BenSix — on 7th July, 2008 at 5:19 pm  

      “This means there is no social, political or cultural protection for Christians: as far as the British political, media and literary establishment is concerned the normal rules of engagement are suspended..”

      How would you feel about having Imams in the House of Lords, Marvin?

      ;)

      Ben

    45. douglas clark — on 7th July, 2008 at 5:20 pm  

      Unitalian,

      No.

      Hello, so are you an islamophobe if you support 42 days now?

      You are not an islamophobe, you are a mere idiot. The state will apply, in whatever way it wants, the jurisdiction it takes over you. And you can be as sure as God made little green apples that it will miss apply the rules that it takes unto itself.

      Welcome to the new state, better than the old state.

      We give up our liberty to easily, I think.

    46. Sid — on 7th July, 2008 at 5:21 pm  

      That’s not being fair to marvin. Even I find that deplorable. As bad as having a bunch of Christian clerical types in there as well.

    47. BenSix — on 7th July, 2008 at 5:29 pm  

      “That’s not being fair to marvin. Even I find that deplorable. As bad as having a bunch of Christian clerical types in there as well.”

      I was a little obscurantist.

      All the blustery intrusions of religion into politics should be dismissed, but the fact that there are bishops in the House of Lords suggests that Christianaphobia is not exactly rife, let alone institutional.

      Sorry for the lack of clarity.

      Ben

    48. douglas clark — on 7th July, 2008 at 5:54 pm  

      Sid,

      I am being unfair to marvin? Frankly I stand by what I said about giving up out liberties too easily, which was the crux of my arguement.

      Correct me if I am wrong….

    49. soru — on 7th July, 2008 at 6:23 pm  

      You’re playing the Ian McEwan game - making out that you’re only criticising Islamic theology and are being called a racist as a result. Neither of that is taking place.

      Labelling that ‘the McEwan game’ directly contradicts the point you are trying to make. You really can’t simultaneously use someone’s name as a synonom for ‘Pushing a paranoid / racist narrative’ while claiming, in the same paragraph, you are not calling them a racist.

      Are you confused, or just lacking self-awareness about what you are saying, how people will react to it?

    50. marvin — on 7th July, 2008 at 7:33 pm  

      Oddly, I think we’re all roughly in agreement, we just have pretty different ways of expressing ourselves and going about things :D

      This is a good example of such generalising racist drivel being published on a mainstream site:
      http://conservativehome.blogs.com/centreright/2008/06/ten-questions-f.html

      I find the article somewhat distasteful and offensive to polite intercourse. I dislike his lumping in all Muslims in the same way I don’t like to be labelled myself because of my colour, nationality or religion (or lack thereof).

      I don’t think it’s racist because being a Muslim is not the same as being White or Black or Asian. At least in this country, your religion is NOT imposed upon you. You are free to change your beliefs and your religion.

      The author of the article says

      In my job as a human rights campaigner and as a journalist (and I worked full-time as a journalist for the first six years of my career), asking questions is a central aspect of my work. On this subject of Islamism, I have some questions for our Muslim friends

      Here is a making a distinction between Islamism and Muslims.

      for Muslims on all sides of the spectrum, democrat and extremist, progressive and Islamist. These are not grenades to be lobbed, but rather honest, simple questions requiring honest answers, in a spirit of inquiry.

      I don’t think anybody expects the Muslim inquisition…

      but I think he should be free to ask the questions. I personally gave up asking such question quite some time ago. I question the validity of hypothetical questions and their given answers anyway.

      Doubtless many Muslims will have questions about the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of Western liberal democracies, misunderstandings about Christianity and concerns about secularism and materialism.

      He seems to me to be quite fair here; he’s saying he too wants to be questioned on the pitfalls of his culture and identity. He wants debate.

      On some of these themes, we may find common ground with Muslims. And I would welcome questions about Christianity or Judeo-Christian values from Muslims, or any non-Christian. There would be some I could attempt to answer, others I would be unable to answer, and some which would trouble me as much as they trouble the questioner. The point is, I would welcome the questions as part of an honest dialogue and inquiry

      Really again this seems not unfair to me.


      Why do Muslims make such a noise about Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya, but seldom campaign against Muslim-on-Muslim abuse

      I am uncomfortable with this. Muslims are not one monolithic bloc of thought and action. Though if a Muslim said why do non-Muslims seem to not care about the lives of Muslims in the Middle East then I wouldn’t say he or she were being discriminatory or racist against non-Muslims, I would think they need to be told that I for one do care and a great deal of other Westerners do. They would stand corrected.

      I can’t be arsed to go through the whole article. I think there a number of undeveloped points and a tendency to be reactive and talk unthoughtfully about the issues.

      I don’t like it, but there are some valid points in his polemic, as well as some pretty badly made points.

      It’s not like the Protocols of the Elders of the Ummah. I’m sure there’s something akin out there, though.

      I find it unhelpful to instantly dismiss a laboured prose as ‘racist drivel’.

      There are pieces of ‘racist drivel’ out there, most by neo-nazis.

      Ben Rogers, for all his right-wing, insensitive, and reactionary and incorrect prose, he is no racist.

    51. Sunny — on 7th July, 2008 at 8:48 pm  

      I find it unhelpful to instantly dismiss a laboured prose as ‘racist drivel’.

      There are pieces of ‘racist drivel’ out there, most by neo-nazis.

      The point is, as soon as you start generalising and start asking questions, which are rather quite facile when you think about them, of about an entire group, then you’re feeding into the same age-old narratives.

      You don’t think if someone kept on going on about how many Jews worked in the city or were in politics, and the influence of AIPAC, that you’d think they were a bit loopy? You don’t think if someone kept on going on about the influence of the Pope here and about Catholics adhering to the Pope, then you wouldn’t think thats racist?

    52. Kulvinder — on 7th July, 2008 at 9:11 pm  

      I don’t think it’s racist because being a Muslim is not the same as being White or Black or Asian. At least in this country, your religion is NOT imposed upon you. You are free to change your beliefs and your religion.

      Tangential to the debate but ive never understood this line of reasoning. Ultimately everyone does choose whether they are white, black or brown(!?).

      Even if you accept an a priori defintion of ‘races’ problems arise whenever there is a child from relationships between those ‘races’ (one drop rule etc); if there isn’t a clearly delineated, objective and universally accepted definition of ‘race’ then everyone ‘chooses’ what they are.

      As a case in point in the 60s and 70s when differences between ethnic minorities weren’t as widely known there was an apparent tendency to say that if you weren’t white you were black (i believe anti-racist campaigns were set up in this manner). Once the asian population become more widely known the ‘asian race’ was introduced alongside ‘whites’ and ‘blacks’ - this despite the fact that the concept of ‘asianess’ has always been defined by convention rather than any strict criteria; indeed there are Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims who detest being referred to in that way.

      Ultimately the idea of ‘whiteness’ ‘blackness’ ‘browness’ ‘asianess’ ‘yellownes’ ‘blueness’ are just social conventions that are changeable - they aren’t things you’re born with.

      There not much anyone can do if i say that from this day on im white, and i shall damn well tick the ‘white box’ on every form i fill out. You can disagree with me, but you can’t do anything about it and that disagreement just highlights the fact its a matter of opinion rather than a universal truth.

    53. marvin — on 7th July, 2008 at 9:26 pm  

      Sunny, yes I would think them silly. As far as I know MI5 are not tracking 2,000 Jewish people suspected of plotting terrorist outrages, (or Buddhist or Christian or flying spaghetti monster)

      Yes, people are obsessed with Muslims and Islam. But it’s not entirely irrational. Christ on a bike, you must concede that??? Yes there’s nutters, who supposedly oppose the Other Nutters, yes there’s plain out and out racists like Griffin, yes some of the right wing press sensationalise and aren’t helping the ordinary Muslims…

      Yes there’s a lot of nutters.

      But to liberal-left ears ALL you hear is RACISM. Boring and untrue! Lets address the issues. Are they untrue? Then rebutt them! . There’s a often grain of truth often in these tabloid stories. Sometimes there’s not. Sometimes they are entirely true!

      I despair.

      Are you watching Ch4 now? It’s about what happened 3 years ago. 52 people dead. IN the name of Islam.

      We are going round in circles!! People complain about Islam, they fear it, and rather than address legitimate fears you and others focus on a few obsessives in the media that are stuck in a doomsday mindset!! It’s boring to hell.

      Any Muslims reading this have actually been attacked?? is the Daily Mail getting people killed?? There are 1.6 million+ Muslims in the country. Of course there’s racist attacks. But it works ALL ways. Jews are mostly likely to be attacked in highly muslim populated areas. Did you see the documentary where the Jewish school Ooop North has HEAVY security due to threats from the Muslim community?? Are there any Muslim schools under high security due to threats from Daily Mail readers?

      Conversely, I the most RACIST areas of the UK are in 95% white areas! What’s your freaking point dude?? Is there an epidemic of your Muslim friends being physically attacked or not? Or perhaps even just one in the past 3 years?

      Are Muslims the new Jews? Apparently not! Whites are getting attacked! Blacks by Asians! Christ is this a victimhood competition? Do you think Muslims are really a helpless and defenceless minority constantly under siege by Nazis who’ve taken over the tabloids!?

      I feel like Douglas Adams after he has been transported back millions of years in to the pre-historic era. Every morning he wakes up screaming as he realises where he is….

      /rant

    54. MaidMarian — on 7th July, 2008 at 10:20 pm  

      Marvin (53) - Point (however hysterically made) well taken, but…

      ‘Are there any Muslim schools under high security due to threats from Daily Mail readers?’ One would hope not, but surely there is a point that the media over the past ten years have indeed been a factor in making this country less at ease with iteself, in the terms of the article?

      It goes well beyond Muslims to immigrants of pretty much any stripe or standing. I make no value judgements on individuals. But by that token I struggle to believe that the ten year drip-drip of bile from the media was accident and I struggle to believe that the vitriol has not on some level come from the media.

      I accept that there is something in your accusations of victimhood but by that token, that sentiment did not just appear out of thin air. I believe that muslims are 1.6-ish% of the UK population - consider that % against the % of media converage.

      Possibly one factor has been the rise of these talk-threads where hot-air and vitriol are free, cheap, easy and self-reinforcing? Perhaps the media more widely have fed on these threads?

      What I would like to see is a calming of debate, but I won’t be holding my breath.

    55. Ravi Naik — on 8th July, 2008 at 2:02 am  

      This is the sort of thing that Muslim organisations could do: sue the Sun or the Mail for publishing these stories, when these turn out to be blatant lies. They are clearly written with malice. The one about the dog and poster is another example: good journalism would imply talking to the shopkeepers and finding out how many people actually complained, or ask the councillor where he got this information. And pin this clown for lying.

      This constant demonisation, which helps sell newspapers to stupid masses, needs to stop.

    56. chairwoman — on 8th July, 2008 at 11:12 am  

      “Anti-Semitism is recognised as an evil, noxious creed, and its adherents are barred from mainstream society and respectable organs of opinion.”

      Officially, perhaps, but in reality people no longer give a damn what they say about, in front of, and behind the backs of Jews.

      From my hospital bed, where I am finally getting the treatment I have been waiting for. My blog will be regenerated on my discharge.

    57. halima — on 8th July, 2008 at 2:13 pm  

      The Runnymede Trust had two commissisons looking at anti-semitism and Islamophobia - reports published before 9/11. It would be interesting to note how much worse the situation is now …

      Hope your treatment is going well.

      http://www.runnymedetrust.org/publications/currentPublications.html#aVeryLightSleeper

      http://www.runnymedetrust.org/projects/commissionOnBritishMuslims.html

    58. sabinaahmed — on 8th July, 2008 at 2:22 pm  

      Chairwoman

      Sorry to hear that you are in hospital. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. And hope the problems are sorted out.

    59. Sid — on 8th July, 2008 at 2:55 pm  

      hey there Chairwoman, hope to see you back on here ASAP, post-treatment.

    60. Hermes123 — on 8th July, 2008 at 2:56 pm  

      Sunny,

      You take yourself far too seriously…there are no more than about a dozen names on this blog who keep writing and commenting on every thread you start. Let’s multiply that by 10 to account for those who just read the stuff and you have an audience of probably around 100 ‘followers’. That is nothing but a band of ‘Dave Spartans’ seriously in danger of disappearing up their own rectums

    61. Sid — on 8th July, 2008 at 3:01 pm  

      Hermes123, you take my rectum far too seriously.

    62. Hermes123 — on 8th July, 2008 at 3:12 pm  

      Sid,

      Are you offering? hehe

    63. bananabrain — on 8th July, 2008 at 4:55 pm  

      sunny:

      To my view, leftism should be a distrust of the state and its power, because it usually acts in the favour of the powerful. We should argue as much as possible for the state to be minimal and for civil society to take its place where people can have more influence by banding together and organising themselves. Relying on the state for support is a bad idea.

      to my mind, this is by far the most interesting thing you have said on the thread. in fact, it may just be the most interesting thing you have ever said - because it’s so completely different from what the “right” say AND completely different from what much of the “left” say - the former leave us all to shift for ourselves and the brightest and richest end up with all the apples and the rest of society gets screwed, the latter centralise and give more and more power to the state and government “in the name of society” and end up constructing a vast edifice of state expenditure and oppression. i don’t agree with either. what you have just said, though, is an entirely different view of what it means to be “left”, whilst also being clearly different from the “new labour” project. it’s something i would *truly* view as “progressive”. ironically, i would have quite a lot of difficulty telling the difference between what you’ve said here and where i think dave cameron is trying to take the tories.

      marvin@#53: ok, quite shrill, but i can see why you’re getting so wound up - nobody seems to be able to appreciate what you’re saying and i agree with most of it.

      ravi@#55: spot on! hold these lazy, worthless scaremongering parasites to account.

      chairwoman@#56, lovely to hear from you, you’re still on my refuah shleima list. and right on, too.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    64. Sunny — on 9th July, 2008 at 1:20 am  

      bananabrain:
      it’s something i would *truly* view as “progressive”. ironically, i would have quite a lot of difficulty telling the difference between what you’ve said here and where i think dave cameron is trying to take the tories.

      Yes, possibly, though I disagree with him on how policy should be implemented in many cases.

      Hermes123 - possibly.., though according to Google Analytics we get 36,000 absolute unique visitors a month to this blog.

    65. douglas clark — on 9th July, 2008 at 10:59 pm  

      Sunny,

      It is up to you how you take this forward. However, if you listen to folk, and I think you do, you would see a change, I think, in the attitudes of your regulars over time. I’d think it was fair to say that the thinking that goes on here has changed a lot. There is far less mutual aggression, there is far less straight ought hate.

      For instance, I, an out and out disbeliever, would stand up for Anas or Bananabrain. In certain circumstances…

      Not that either of them are right. Hell no. But they should both be able to speak.

      A year or two ago, that would be a ridiculous comparison. They probably see it as ludicrous, but I’d bet many do not.

      “The joyfulness of attacking each other in your own stupidity”

    66. bananabrain — on 22nd July, 2008 at 1:28 pm  

      i’d hate to think that people think i’m as unreasonable as i think anas is (on i/p, at any rate) - it is about being able to understand where the other person is coming from and appreciate their narrative, even if you don’t agree with it. i’m not sure i get that from anas, even now, so keen is he on attacking israel and everything to do with it and denying that it has any validity or does anything good; i can hardly be accused of doing the same with regard to palestine and the palestinians.

      i hope.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

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