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A contribution from Mark Stevland
I’ve taken a close interest in all of the discussions, debates and arguments regarding Islamic extremism and all things Islam, for at least a decade. This interest has led me to read books and watch videos of Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, BBC programs such as The Big Questions, Daily Politics, Newsnight, etc. as well as radio phone-ins and much more.
Depending what had happened, lots of regular characters were used by the TV, usually Douglas Murray, as well as historians and authors, Maajid Nawaz, Mehdi Hasan, imams and various representatives from Muslim organisations.
What has happened over that decade has been interesting, worrying, frustrating and maddening. It seems to be the same things going on all of the time with the same Deflection, Denial and Deceit used in arguments and the usual generic rebuttals. It sometimes needs a particular type of debate to cut through the nonsense.
The Deflection and Rebuttals
Imagine a radio phone-in where a caller criticises Islamic texts for the purpose of investigating current extremism. The presenter will butt in with, “What about the Bible? There are terrible things in there”.
What is shown here are two things: a) the presenter, in trying to deflect away from Islam being criticised is perfectly happy to criticise Christianity; b) the presenter has no clue that the Koran took on a lot of the Old Testament and some of the old laws found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, they can be found in the Hadith.
The presenter also ignores the whole thing of the here and now and who may choose to follow those old texts. We know the Jews and Christians dumped, ignored or turned into metaphor all of those things, but we know literalism in Islam is a problem.
This fits into the “frustrating” category.
Denial and Deceit
TV and radio presenters generally use the same imams each time they need an opinion; therefore, they get the same answers. If a presenter asks “Is there any radicalisation going on in mosques?” the immediate response is always, “No”, and the presenter accepts it.
What I would ask is, “how can one man know what is going on in 1500+ buildings? He can’t, it’s impossible. Also given that we have the previous evidence of Channel 4 Dispatches “Undercover Mosque” as well as finding out that terrorists had attended mosques, the answer from the imam should be rejected or at least challenged.
A more honest answer would be, “If there is, then we need to root it out and stop it”, but it is rare for a response like that to come.
My take would be, “Given what we have seen, there is a possibility that radicalisation may be going on in some mosques”. That’s not even a hard accusation and might be seen by some as a bit woolly, but it’s closer to the truth than an asserted “No”.
Another frustrating, if not worrying one.
The Charlie Hebdo Slaughter
Far too quickly after the murders at the Charlie Hebdo offices, certain Muslim individuals and organisations turned the subject to “free speech” and far too quickly, our media ran with it. Programs like Newsnight and The Big Questions had representatives invited on who pushed the “free speech” angle. It was clear that they were looking for a “blasphemy” shutdown. Over a little time, we have now seen the emergence of “hate crimes” which appear to cover all sorts of what used to be free speech, i.e. challenge, criticism and satire. In my opinion, one of the sources for this is the outcome of the Charlie Hebdo killings and how free speech came under attack.
ISIS Have Nothing To Do With Islam
This was said by our politicians, as well as US politicians of course, including President Barack Hussein Obama. The purpose of this narrative was to deflect the actions of extremists while simultaneously removing them from the violent inspiration contained within Islamic texts. This was to purposefully annoy and frustrate historians who write articles, books and make TV documentaries, also to make them think twice in revealing the truth, the truth can be “racist” or “Islamophobic.” Who wants to be tarred with that brush? Surely an association of that kind can be career ending?
A massive difference between the journalistic/political/historical approach of truth and propaganda became self-evident to me.
I listened to LBC, and a caller said, “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam”, and the presenter replied, “Nobody would argue with that”.
Then I listened to BBC Asian Network, and a caller said the same thing, but this time the presenter said, “But surely they justify their actions from scriptures”. Woolly uninformed rubbish from the former and honesty from the latter.
At least BBC This Week invited historian/author Tom Holland on, to give his take, which was to state explicitly why ISIS was a manifestation of Islam.
A Tom Holland documentary “ISIS the Origins of Violence” also covered the subject. You can find that HERE.
At least this subject brought interest and expertise into the debate.
The Problems of Verse Quoting
Lee Rigby’s murderer, stood in front of a camera, saying, “The Koran tells us to….”. Over the next few days, there was another objectionable rush to defend the faith. Nick Clegg said on TV, “Islam states if you kill one you kill the whole of mankind”. Mehdi Hasan wrote an article, using the same quote, seemingly suggesting that the killer couldn’t possibly have been using any scripture as justification. At the time I thought that was as silly as a Christian writer saying (about a killer claiming Biblical justification), “He couldn’t possibly have been using Biblical references because it says Thou Shalt Not Kill”. It was daft on that level. But then we kept on hearing the line “If you kill one you kill the whole of mankind” said in all sorts of places.
About a month later, I was watching an interview at Oxford with Irshad Manji (a Canadian female, gay Muslim) and Mehdi Hasan. She brought up “The problems with verse quoting” as a subject and then went on to say, “The line of (if you kill one….) is the last line of a verse which has an ‘unless’ in it”. Mehdi Hasan who had used the line didn’t flinch, but it opened my ears, and I downloaded a Koran.
Sure enough, verse 5:32 effectively says (as a paraphrase) you can kill for manslaughter and corruption in the land, otherwise, don’t. And then of course verse 5:33 has the “kill, crucify and cut hands and feet off” of those who do this “corruption”. And of course, we are left with, “What is meant by corruption anyway?” It could be anything.
As soon as I read the words “corruption in the land” my ears went back to what Michael Adebalajo had said on camera in the street. I knew then that I didn’t want to be fooled by this stuff ever again.
The Hijab and the Burka
If we go back a few years, there were Muslim ladies on TV explaining why they wore the hijab (headscarves). There came a slow societal acceptance of the religious garb, even while other Muslim women were insisting it was borne of oppression and male dominance, however, nobody was willing to listen to them. It seemed like the more “conservative in the religion”, the more “proper” according to the media, which to me has been a problem for quite some time.
It was astonishing how the BBC pushed their narrative of “conservative Islamic head covering.” During the 2016 Olympics, they followed Ibtihaj Muhammad, a female US fencer. By her own words, she said that she had found it difficult to find a sport because of the need to cover up, but fencing allowed that. I wasn’t sure what the BBC expected us to be celebrating – was it the fact that she’d finally found a sport despite religious limitations?
In any case, she won a bronze medal, and the BBC celebrated that.
Another US female Muslim, Dalilah Muhammed, won a gold medal in 2016 and was the first ever US female athlete to win Olympic gold at the 400m hurdles. But there was no such celebrating as there was with Ibtihaj Muhammad. Why? Because she didn’t cover and looked like everyone else.
Over this period, radio presenters would say that they were “perfectly fine” with the hijab, but still have that tentative, “but not so much about the burka”. I thought it’s only a matter of time before that train of thought softens.
So then along comes Boris Johnson. In an article which was mainly about him disagreeing with a ban on the burka in Denmark on the grounds of freedom, he gave his opinion on the dress and everything went mad.
There were calls for his resignation, the subject is still brought up now, nine months later. Never has a man been so vilified for his less than favourable view of a frock. This gave the likes of the BBC what they needed. Suddenly, the burka was being used in the graphics of “modern women”.
How can it be that at a time when we see Iranian women casting off their enforced headscarves and being punished for it, as well as those freed from ISIS, casting off and burning their enforced burkas, we see such support for the clothing from the media in the UK? Could this be one of the successes of the word “Islamophobia”? It probably is.
The “Islamophobia” Word
I can’t remember how long ago it was, but when I heard a BBC TV presenter ask a guest, “Is that Islamophobia?” I knew there was a problem. Did the BBC have a definition, or were they merely accepting what anyone said? The word was being thrown around for everything from the merest criticism of Islam, as well as satire, all the way through to physical violence against the person. It was quite obviously a strategic word in that respect, a word used to shut down debate.
Over time I can see how various people have shied away from speaking their mind, tripping over words, walking on eggshells. This isn’t a natural progression, this Islamophobic narrative has purpose and intent.
Now we have the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) definition of “Islamophobia”. At the time of writing this, the Conservative party have not signed up to it and are facing criticism. But why should any party knee-jerk sign something into law as a “knee-jerk” reaction to political pressures if it has problems?
Outside of the definition bringing “race” into it (which I disagree with), my biggest annoyance is the following.
The definition states:
“Criticism of religion is a fundamental right in an open society and is enshrined in our commitment to freedom of speech. No open society can place religion above criticism, and we do not subscribe to the view that a working definition of Islamophobia can or should be formulated with the purpose of protecting Islam from free and fair criticism or debate.”
So far, so good. But then it goes on to state:
“On the question of what we might understand from fair criticism, we refer in the report to a series of useful tests proposed by Professor Tariq Modood of Bristol University, when it comes to assessing whether what we are dealing with is ‘reasonable criticism’ of Islam and Muslims or a veiled attempt at Islamophobic speech”
Spot the “get out clause”, which should be apparent even to those of the slowest mind. This feels like giving with one hand, then taking away with the other. If the definition as it stands is accepted and finds its way into law, we should realise that this will mean Islam is untouchable, shielded from challenge, criticism and satire at a time where analysis, scrutiny, challenge, criticism and ridicule in the modern world are very much needed.
The “Grooming Gang” Issues
Most people now know what has happened here in the UK. The cover-ups, the ignoring and disparagement of victims, etc. We also know that Sarah Champion lost her job in the Labour Party for daring to mention the racial make-up of the vast majority of the perpetrators. The UK has become insufferably insane due to political correctness.
What do we know about child abuse and paedophilia in the UK?
We know that it has always existed. We know that there are various “types”. We know that in the early 1990’s there were vigilante groups in society, hunting released paedophiles, so much so that the satirical program “Brass Eye” made a program entitled “Paedogeddon” (available on YouTube). We know that since the country is 87% “white” there simply will be more white child abusers because of the majority white demographic, that’s the law of averages for you. We know that online child abuse and paedophile rings exist, nobody in the right mind would suggest otherwise.
With that in mind, we should realise that we have never before seen such a manifestation of a different type of networked gang activity in open society, preying on specific victim types. And we should realise that it comes in huge numbers from a low societal percentage demographic, predominantly Pakistani and Muslim.
So what happens on TV and radio programs?
Presenters do not want the specifics of the perpetrators mentioned.
Presenters lose their way with simple math, always falling back on “there are more white abusers”, forgetting percentages, demographics and the specific type of this crime. How hard can it be to get to grips with numbers versus percentage demographics?
It has become “the crime which cannot be analysed”.
Once again, this is a victory for the word, “Islamophobia”.
There has been so much that has come our way to discuss and debate, equally there have been so many examples of those who try to stifle that specific debate.
The media immediately gravitated to very conservative Muslim individuals or organisations for their views which have since been regarded as “the norm” whereas the media should have been trying hard to promote more secular, more tolerant liberal Muslims.
The question of “integration” has been around for years now, the media and some authorities seem to have done their best to suppress those very Muslims who would help in that process.
Perhaps that is the difference between assimilation and multi-culturalism?