Stop The War Coalition: How to be a good Jew.

August 13, 2014

There is a wonderful scene from the sketch show comedy ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’ in which Jesus is telling his disciples the story of ‘The Good Samaritan’. Half way through, one of the disciples perceptively notes the inherent racism of the story. The fact that a Samaritan doing something ‘good’ – by Jesus’s standard – warranted a story, implies that Jesus doesn’t consider Samaritans good in the first place. As if it’s a big shock that a Samaritan could do a good deed. I was reminded of this clip this morning, after reading David Wilson’s article for The Stop The War Coalition.

Wilson’s article blurs the lines between two separate issues, as if they’re one in the same. He begins his piece by mentioning the protests against recent Israeli action in Gaza, before quickly switching to the issue of existence of a state of Israel in the first place:

“Numerous Jewish groups joined the march. They marched as Jews to show their opposition to the state of Israel, which for 66 years has endlessly stolen Palestinian land and imposed the most brutal occupation and siege on Palestinians. Jewish marchers saying “not in my name” included, the Jewish Bloc, The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Jews Against the war on Gaza.

These Jewish marchers were part of a long and honourable tradition. Many prominent Jewish figures over the past century — from Albert Einstein to holocaust survivor Primo Levi — have opposed the idea of an ethnically exclusive Israeli state.”

- There is a manipulation going on here. Those Jewish protesters – such as “Jews For Justice For Palestinians” – marching to protest Israeli foreign policy in 2014, are conflated with more radical groups like The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and names from the past who to some degree disapproved of a state of Israel existing in the first place (though the article massively oversimplifies Einstein’s beliefs). Despite the plethora of views represented, they are one long tradition, according to Wilson. This is clearly not the case, when we note what “Jews For Justice For Palestinians” say on their website:

“Jews for Justice for Palestinians is a network of Jews who are British or live in Britain, practising and secular, Zionist and not. We oppose Israeli policies that undermine the livelihoods, human, civil and political rights of the Palestinian people.
We support the right of Israelis to live in freedom and security within Israel’s 1967 borders.”

- Despite Wilson’s implied unity between Jewish groups at the march, and the list of Jewish names he throws forward opposing the existing of the state of Israel, “Jews For Justice For Palestinians” represent a web of views from the Jewish community, and support the existence of a state of Israel. Conflating the two – Israeli policy toward Gaza in 2014, and the existence of a state of Israel in the first place – betrays Wilson’s willingness to manipulate the thoughts and motives of a diverse community for his own ends, used to strengthen his own prejudices. Blurring the lines between the two issues also allows for the false suggestion that those of us critical of the STWC tactics and rhetoric are in fact using the cry of anti-Semitism at any criticism of Israeli policy in Gaza. I’ve seen that excuse a lot recently.

The obvious conclusion most of us would make, is that the Jewish community – like atheists, Christians, Muslims, tall people, people with blue eyes – are a vast group of individuals, all with different beliefs, motives, experiences, memories, from different cultural, economic, and social settings, differing hugely at some points or with more nuanced differences at others depending on the issue. From left to right, from orthodox to non-practicising. This is true of all communities, not worthy of a story in itself, and so I’d suggest Wilson’s article – a sort of patronising “this might surprise you…” article – is his very own ‘Good Samaritan’ moment.

After manipulating the thoughts and motives of such a vast and diverse group to appear to confirm his own ideals, Wilson then goes about creating a false dichotomy that only digs his increasingly anti-Semitic hole much, much larger. Those Jewish folk who opposed the existence of a state of Israel, he refers to as “honourable“. The good Jews, if you will. The implication being that if Jewish folk do not oppose the existence of a state of Israel – or as it seems, disagree with David Wilson – they are less than honourable. The bad Jews. Wilson’s own political beliefs are now the benchmark to judge the ‘honour’ of the entire Jewish community against. A framework of right and wrong for Jews alone, with the moral base being David Wilson’s own political beliefs. If they conform to Wilson’s beliefs, they get a spot at the ‘honourable’ Jew table. In the meantime, he’s prepared a handy “look at these good Jews!” list for Jewish folk everywhere to aspire. It isn’t a new dichotomy, it has its roots in a view of Jews as inherently bad, and has been commented on by Ilana Angel of New Jersey Jewish News:

“It is offensive when people say I am one of the ‘good Jews’. What does that mean? Is the implication that Jews are bad people, but I managed to somehow not be? Is there a private club of ‘good Jews’? How do you qualify to make it into this elite group of chosen people?”

- This is what David Wilson’s article works to accomplish. At first, it blurs the lines between two completely separate issues, secondly it manipulates the plethora of views of the Jewish marchers to seem to be in line with his own, and thirdly it creates a dichotomy of good and bad, right and wrong, based entirely on his own political thoughts. In short, if you’re Jewish, you might want to check with David Wilson at The Stop The War Coalition to find out if you’re the right kind of Jew or not. If you’re lucky, he might even pat you on the head.


Israel & Gaza; It isn’t “being selective” that is the issue…. it’s the motive for the selection.

August 11, 2014

I’ve been writing on this blog for several years now, and every now and again I’ll be asked “why do you focus so much on….” The question is usually followed by “Islam?“, “Christianity?“, “God, even though you don’t believe in Him?“, “The GOP?“, “Tories?“. And for the most part, those people are right. It’s not a big selection of issues that I tend to focus on. I am selective. I focus on religion, because I’m a secular atheist interested and critical of all things religion. I focus on the US Republicans, because I find their shift to the far right to have created an intriguing atmosphere in US domestic politics. I focus on the Tory Party, because, well, I don’t like them. It’s that simple. I am selective. But I’m clear in my motives and my prejudices and on such issues that don’t have a clear right or wrong, I expect a lot of disagreement from others.

In Owen Jones’s latest article for The Guardian on the rise anti-semitism, I tended to agree with much of what he wrote, but some of it I found to be more excuses for his own recent motives. He was correct when he points out that during the protests, a section of the Western right-wing attempted to paint all of those attending, as anti-Semites, which completely dilutes the term ‘anti-semitic’. It was a hideous misrepresentation of many well meaning people with genuine concerns and a wish to see the end of immense human suffering in Gaza. Where Owen slips up, is in his characterisation of the criticisms that I and others have regarding the selective outrage of sections of the Western left. Owen writes:

“The response of many supporters of Israel’s attack has been instructive. In a world where there is so much injustice and bloodshed, they say, why not march against the sectarian murderers of Islamic State (Isis) or Boko Haram? This is known as “whataboutery”: an attempt to deflect from one injustice by referring to the suffering of others. Some defenders of Israel’s governments believe the supposed special attention received by the conflict is itself evidence of antisemitism. But Israel’s atrocities attract this attention because the state is armed to the teeth and backed by western governments, rendering them directly complicit; IS and Boko Haram, on the other hand, are (quite rightly) opposed by our rulers. Demonstrations and protests are generally a means of exercising influence over supposedly democratically accountable governments.”

- This paragraph highlights my point throughout this debate entirely. It’s probably worth noting that taking issue with Owen’s selective outrage does not make one a “supporter of Israel’s attack” nor a “defender of Israel’s government“. To subtly hint at such, is as ridiculous as suggesting that criticism of Israeli policy, comes from “supporters of Hamas“. It is not worth dignifying with a full retort.

Next, the entire paragraph is irrelevant in an article on the rise of anti-Semitism, there is no reason to include it, and so I suspect the entire article was written as a response to the criticisms Jones has faced in recent weeks. (Mehdi Hasan attempted a similar excuse, which I wrote on here.) It also fails, because whilst he’s correct that demonstrations and protests are a means of exercising influence over a government, there’s no reason – nor precedent – for protests being solely connected to whom the UK/US/West funds and/or arms. The conclusion to his paragraph therefore, does not follow from his overall argument. Protests against the Sri Lankan Civil War urged World leader’s to push Sri Lanka to declare ceasefire. Their motivation wasn’t that the UK had grotesquely sold almost £14mn in arms to Sri Lanka in the recent years of the conflict (that knowledge came later), it was a concern for human rights and a possible genocide. The Global Day of Action for Burma did not include in its demands any reference to funding being the sole justification for their protest, and instead focused on raising awareness and working to pressure governments of the World into taking action. The ‘Stop Kony’ fad of 2012 – whilst it didn’t achieve its key goal, and was doubtless a fashionable fad for many rather than a protest – did achieve significant goals. It raised awareness, leading to Human Rights Watch saying:

“We’ve spent years investigating the horrors perpetrated by the LRA in central Africa – Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan. We gathered evidence at massacre sites – wooden clubs covered in dried blood, rubber strips from bicycle tires used to tie up the victims, and freshly dug graves – and spoke to hundreds of boys and girls forced to fight for his army or held captive as sex slaves. And we’re elated that #stopKony is a trending topic on Twitter – if anyone deserves global notoriety it’s Kony.”

- It also led to Senators Jim Inhofe and Chris Coons raising the issue in the US Senate and pledging the US’s support for governments in Africa trying to track down leaders of the LRA. It led to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees noting an unprecedented reaction to the atrocities and new commitments to stop the LRA. To a large extent, it worked. Mobilising, protesting, using the power of social media, and all forms of pressure do not require first analysing the financial transactions of the UK. Which leads me to point two:

I am not keen on this new excuse that amounts to a sort “we don’t fund them, so we’re not that fussed” reaction. This is not how the international left traditionally went about its business, and as seen with prior protests, has not been a major theme. It didn’t strike off the list all of those human rights abusing nations or groups that weren’t receiving Western aid. It wasn’t a primary concern, and I’m not sure why it is now. It is also a badly crafted excuse and I don’t buy it as the real motive. Pakistan is one of the biggest recipients of bilateral aid, with a large chunk from the UK, despite Pakistan’s violent grip on Balochistan, to no protests whatsoever from the Western Left. The US funded the gangland regime in Honduras for years, which in turn created a brewing humanitarian crisis on the US/Mexico border with very little registering on the US Left. Afghanistan with its awful Shia Family Law, corruption within the PA, Congo, Jordan, the list goes on, and the murderous, oppressive regimes receive little protest from the left. It is a self-evidently weak excuse, and still fails to do its job, because the selective outrage is still applied inconsistently. Those conflicts may involve the US to a degree (when isolated from all other context), but they don’t directly involve Israel, so the outrage may be limited to a few words of condemnation, in perhaps a Tweet or two about how it’s all the US’s fault. I would also argue that this inconsistency and a tendency to single out Israel under a daily microscope, whilst making excuses for that, has fuelled the rise of the very anti-semitism Jones now rightly argues against.

Thirdly, my criticism is not that Owen and others like him are selective in their outrage. We all do that. I do that. Whether on foreign issues like Gaza, or domestic issues like the Bedroom Tax, we’re all selective and we all have our motives for being selective. Being selective is not a negative in itself. It would be ridiculous of anyone to demand we register equal protest and outrage at every conflict in every part of the World on every single day. That appears to be what Owen believes we’re doing, but it simply isn’t the criticism I have. I am clear with my criticism, and it is based on motive. Motive drives us all in how we select, and that is no different for that particular section of the Left. My criticism is that there is a significant section of the Left that increasingly selects its moral outrage and how it chooses to protest, on the basis of whether or not the crisis and the victims can be used as a vehicle to progress a rabid anti-US/UK/Blair/Israel sentiment. Through this, I am frustrated by their rewriting of history to filter out surrounding context, by underplaying the contribution to the crisis from figures other than the US/UK/Israel, by sharing images that do not show what they purport to show, and articles that are far less than accurate and cannot be dismissed as simple oversight. The motive is not primarily concern for victims (though I don’t doubt that concern for victims plays its part, I’m not suggesting Owen’s section of the Left lacks empathy), nor is it the traditional Left’s motive of fighting oppression where ever it is found. It is the cynical use of conflicts, to progress the underlying narrative of anti-US/Israel/West, that forms the bases of my criticisms.

When such a dogmatic motive for a very narrow narrative lies just beneath the surface, it may not be formed through conscious bigotry, but it manifests itself in simplistic analysis, and manipulative rhetoric that perpetuates bigotry (see Galloway’s recent comments). As previously mentioned, Mo Ansar played to that crowd when working to underplay the devastation caused by Hamas rocket fire. This is also evident in Owen’s past articles. For example, in his article entitled “Why the left must speak up about the persecution of Christians” – a noble fight – it doesn’t take Owen long to simplistically blame the US and UK, betraying the original point of the article:

“It is, unsurprisingly, the Middle East where the situation for Christians has dramatically deteriorated in recent years. One of the legacies of the invasion of Iraq has been the purging of a Christian community that has lived there for up to two millennia.”

- Yup. It’s the West’s fault. For the rest of us, it is the ‘legacy’ of a plethora of causes, that to an extent includes the incompetent conducting of and the aftermath of the invasion, the sectarian and disuniting policies of Maliki’s government, but those are given their strength by religious turmoil for centuries including the massacre of Assyrian Christians in the 1930s, private funding for groups like ISIS from donors elsewhere, Saddam’s relocation of Christians away from strategic resources and an emphasis on the notion that Christians are to be ‘tolerated’ in those areas, rather than considered equal. It is not simply ‘legacy of invasion, blame the US’. The problems are rooted far deeper. The context far wider.

When it came to the crisis with the self-titled ‘Islamic State’ – ISIS – in Iraq, the focus for Jones was another overly simplistic analysis, in which surrounding context can just be dismissed, in a quest to blame the US/UK. This time, the self-serving motive was less subtle: “We anti-war protestors were right; the Iraq invasion has led to bloody chaos”. It’s almost as if there wasn’t bloody chaos – a couple of genocides, nothing to see here – prior to the Iraq invasion. In his incredibly reductive analysis, Jones chooses to ignore the Iraq that Saddam left behind devoid of any semblance of democratic institutions, a massive Syrian civil war, ignore the Arab Spring, ignore a power play between Saudi Arabia – seeking to weaken Maliki whilst also opposing Jihadists at home – and Iran in Iraq & Syria, ignore what seems to be support for anti-Shia groups in Syria from private donors in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, ignore a largely heavy handed Shi’ite security force in Iraq, ignore the fight for a resurrected Caliphate from extreme elements within Islam for decades (it’s difficult to blame Blair for the popularity of al-Nabhani’s ideas and the strength of Hizb in the 1980s/90s across the globe), ignore centuries of sectarianism (including Saddam’s hideous massacre of around 100,000 Shi’ite Muslims in and around Karbala and al-Najaf a year before Blair took over as leader of Labour), ignores al-Maliki’s sectarian governance, ignores a weak Iraqi constitution, ignores the tensions between ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. All surrounding context is filtered out, because it doesn’t indicate a line directly from Blair to ISIS.

So, we can discount the ‘we fund them’ excuse, because it doesn’t seem to extend far beyond Israel, and still leaves us with the same criticism of the motives for selection. We can discount the ‘we protest to pressure the government’ because that is the case with most protest movements regardless of whether or not we fund the culprits. We can discount the ‘whataboutery’ complaint, because it isn’t the criticism we actually have in the first place. My conclusion remains the same; there is a purpose in working to oversimplify conflicts in the manner that the Galloway-left often does. Being selective is not the issue. The motive is the issue. In this case, ‘being selective’ is focused entirely on how a crisis can be used to progress an anti-US/Israel narrative. Manipulated and reductive history, dismissal of all surrounding context, blatantly false or emotive images and information, and awful excuses, are all utilised to that end. And I’m fine with that motive, if only they’d admit it, because at the moment it gives the rest of us on the Left a bad name.


As the Yazidi face extermination by ISIS: Where are the Western Left?

August 7, 2014

Vian Dakheel Saeed Khadher MP making an impassioned and emotional plea in the Iraqi Parliament for humanitarian solidarity in confronting the extermination of the Yazidi population by ISIS.

Where are the protests in the streets of London and beyond for the people trapped on Sinjar? Where is the Western outrage? Where is the solidarity movement? Where are the angry demands for the right to return for the thousands displaced from their stolen lands? Where is Mehdi Hasan (currently Tweeting his distaste at ‘Conservative Friends of Israel’)? Where is Owen Jones (currently blaming the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East on the war in Iraq, obviously)? Where are the Ministerial resignations from a government remaining silent on constant torture, beheadings, and mass slaughters? Where are the ‘Free Iraq’ banners? Where is the pressure on the UN to uphold its human rights declaration and protect the most vulnerable? Where are the constant stream of images showing the grotesque result of what is slowly turning into a genocide? Where is the solidarity with the Kurds resisting ISIS? Will the Galloway’s of the World be cynically using the slaughter of the Yazidi people as a badly masked pretext to express how much they dislike Blair again? What use is a modern left that traditionally transcended international borders, if it now picks and chooses its relentless fight for basic human rights, based entirely on that population’s relation to US/UK foreign policy? The crisis in Syria and Iraq with ISIS is quickly highlighting the failures of the 21st Century Western Galloway-left’s outrage machine. It is a machine that is focused entirely on expressing its distaste for the US/Israel/Blair and will seemingly, and without a sense of shame, use any crisis to highlight that distaste. It is a left I no longer identify with.

The quickness in which the Western left springs into collective action became apparent over the past two weeks, when it responded with pictures, demands, articles, leaflets, debates, protests, and pressure over Israel’s violent incursion into Gaza and the awful human suffering that followed. This response from the Western left was admirable at times, and manipulative and slightly unsettling at others. It saw Mo Ansar try to underplay the effects of Hamas’s rockets. It also saw writers like Mehdi Hasan and musicians like Brian Eno try to justify a lack of anything close to a similar reaction to any other humanitarian crisis when that crisis doesn’t directly involve Israel or the US. A cynical attempt to justify singling out people, based on incredibly faulty, desperate logic, that may lead one to conclude that behind the poor justifications, lies the stench of bigotry. Because right now, ISIS has captured an area larger than Great Britain, controlling the lives of 6,000,000 people, whilst tens of thousands of innocent human beings – many children – from a religious minority are stuck on Mount Sinjar, threatened with starvation and dehydration if they stay, or execution for apostasy by ISIS if they leave. The women and young girls face enslavement. The men face slaughter. A further 130,000 have fled to the Kurdish north to escape death, forcing a humanitarian refugee crisis in the north of Iraq. Amnesty has noted how desperate the displaced people are for aid in the region. Unicef noted the deaths of 40 children as a result of dehydration and violence. This isn’t a crisis that the World can ignore. As ISIS spreads its net further, more human lives will absolutely fall into its hands to be crushed. It threatens to engulf the region, and beyond, and we have seen what this group is capable of. It is a crisis of massive proportions, and through it all, there is barely a mention from the Galloway, Jones, Hasan Western Left, unless they can find a way to use the human suffering to express their dislike of Blair or the US. A whole new meaning to the term ‘disproportionate response’.

After witnessing how quickly people can mobilise – especially in the age of social media – when it came to the crisis in Gaza and the constant stream of anger from protesters across the World, the quickness by which images were shared (some manipulated from previous conflicts) to create a sense of outrage, article after article, news report after news report, and international pressure rightly put on Israel for its violent incursion, I am left wondering why that Western liberal left moral compass has now been securely locked away during one of the biggest humanitarian crises in living memory.


The US border crisis: Fleeing Honduras.

August 6, 2014

The 2009 Presidential coup in Honduras increased the cycle of poverty and violence.

The 2009 Presidential coup in Honduras increased the cycle of poverty and violence.

It seems easy to forget that amid the political wrangling in Washington, the deceptive rhetoric, the mixed signals, the inability to forge a sensible and workable policy on the US border, thousands of children sit waiting to know whether or not they’re about to be sent back to the violent hellholes – slowly becoming failed states – that they fled. It is important to understand why it is those people are fleeing.

Since October, 57,000 Central American children have arrived at the US border fleeing violence and poverty on a growing scale. The murder rate of children in Honduras continues to rise. They have very little choice but to be forced into violent street gangs, or flee. They often hike through dangerous terrain, with no food or water, their lives at risk for the desire to be free. Indeed, the desire to be free, and to live in peace and with dignity will always push people to brave the harshest of conditions in order to reach that light at the end of the tunnel. For children to do so unaccompanied, indicates a crisis on a massive scale. It seems to me to be the duty of countries that push for human rights improvements across the World, to protect those children when their homelands cannot do so.

In 2011, UNHCR released a report titled ‘Children on the Run’ that concluded:

“… the many compelling narratives gathered in this study – only some of which are relayed in this report –demonstrate unequivocally that many of these displaced children faced grave danger and hardship in their countries of origin. Fourth, there are significant gaps in the existing protection mechanisms currently in place for these displaced children. The extent of these gaps is not fully known because much of what happens to these children is not recorded or reported anywhere. As such, it is reasonable to infer that the gaps may be even wider than what the available data indicates.”

“Forty-eight percent of the displaced children interviewed for this study shared experiences of how they had been personally affected by the augmented violence in the region by organized armed criminal actors, including drug cartels and gangs or by State actors. Twenty-one percent of the children confided that they had survived abuse and violence in their homes by their caretakers.”

- Displaced children are often forgotten, as indicated by the UNHCR report noting that their status back in their home countries, is not recorded anywhere. Deporting children back to the countries they fled, knowing there are no real institutional mechanisms to protect them once they return, is to freely hand them back to the gangs that abuse them. The humanitarian concerns are real, the mechanisms by which the international community protects those children are failing.

More than 2000 children arrived at the US-Mexico border from San Pedro Sula in Honduras, a city that has the highest homicide rate in the World. Political and security force corruption and instability between branches of government was visible when the Lobo Presidency voted to oust four Supreme Court judges who rejected the President’s plan to deal with a very corrupt police force. A police force responsible for 149 deaths in just two years, and with ties to organised crime in the region. When the vote came to depose the judges, Sergio Castellanos of the Democratic Unification party said:

“We don’t know when we leave after the vote if there will be prosecutors waiting to detain us. Here you have to be ready for anything.”

The situation in Honduras deteriorated after the 2009 coup that saw the Honduran Army on orders from the Supreme Court, oust President Manuel Zelaya and send him into exile. After the coup, and even after the inauguration of President Porfirio Lobo Sosa in 2010 (an election that saw allegations of voter intimidation) Human Rights Watch noted that security services in Honduras were engaged in attacks on dissenters especially journalists opposed to the coup. Six months after Lobo became President, Human Rights Watch noted:

“… at least eight journalists and ten members of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP)—a political group that opposed the 2009 removal from office of the then president and advocated the reinstatement of the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya — have been killed since President Lobo assumed power on January 27, 2010.”

- The violence isn’t contained to the journalism profession either. Several reports – most notably by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – indicate that the children of those on the anti-coup side of the political fence were kidnapped as an incentive to silence dissent. Of the obscenely high levels of violent crime in the country, only 20% are investigated. Those abuses committed by security forces tend to go almost entirely ignored, including the murder of 15 year old Ebed Yánez, shot dead at an army checkpoint in Tegucigalpa.

The new Honduran President – Juan Orlando Hernandez – seems to be expecting the US to take the lead role, and has made little effort to end the gang violence, political corruption and soaring crime rate, whilst the US Congress tries to find cheaper and easier ways to deport. We should expect no more from Hernandez, who himself was a key player in the 2009 coup that led to a terror that would have impressed Robespierre. He was the coup-candidate. Hernandez was elected promising to increase the power of the already corrupt security services, and through an election that many reported intimidation, threats, and the deaths of at least 18 activists from the opposing LIBRE Party. He was President of the National Party-controlled Congress, and worked to consolidate power for that particular Party, by reshaping the Justice Department as a National Party friendly department.

The violent situation in Honduras, the political fight between the military, courts, and the Presidency, and the suppression of dissent, is exacerbated by short-sighted free trade agreements (most notably with Canada) and the fact that in 2010, 60% of the population was living in poverty, and 40% in extreme poverty. Further, the Garifuna people – a people living on the Caribbean coast for over 200 years – seeking to protect their land from a relentless campaign for agricultural and tourism land by big business in Honduras, live in fear of displacement, through – among other things – a reclassification of their status from ‘Garifuna’ to ‘Afro-Honduran and Afro-descendants’ for the sake of reducing their claims to land. This, despite UNESCO among others recognising the language, art, music, and culture of the Garifuna as:

“… a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Belize”.

- As tends to be the case, the human rights of actual human beings, often conflicts with the desires of big business. In 2011, Canadian businessman Roy Jorgensen used intimidating tactics to cheaply buy up the land in and around Barrio Cristales, Río Negro, and Trujillo in order to build a Panamax cruise ship pier and centre. Miriam Miranda, General Coordinator of OFRANEH, an indigenous Garifuna federation said:

“The last people who refused to sell [their land] were told ‘if you don’t sell, we’ll take your land away.’”

- The Garifuna are a target for big tourism. In 2013 Juan Peres and Williams Alvarado, members of the Peasant Movement for the Recovery of the Aguán – a group committed to protecting co-ops of peasant farmers – were murdered by paramilitary units. Members of similar groups seeking to protect the rights and the land of peasants have been kidnapped, threatened, tortured, or killed, as the land grab is dehumanised with familiar terms like “large scale land acquisitions”. Honduran newspaper La Tribuna noted:

“In Garifuna communities on the north coast of the country, many children are dropping out of classes because they are leaving the country with their parents or private persons, en route to the United States.”

- Political instability, big business threatening livelihoods, and gangs operating ruthlessly in the area combines to create the atmosphere in which fleeing for a better life is the only option for many.

Drugs cartels and other criminal gangs have control of much of the poorer areas of Honduras. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops conducted research in Honduras and noted:

“The report cites accounts of gang members infiltrating schools and forcing children to either join their ranks or risk violent retribution to them or their families. Even in prisons, incarcerated gang members are able to order violence against members of the community”.

“…law enforcement collaborated with the gangs.”

- The report goes on to note that 58% of children fleeing to the US border had been violently abused by adults before arriving at the border. There are several gangs each fighting for supremacy, in a country lacking strong political institutions, and corrupt security services. The violence that accompanies drug gangs works to push families and young people out of the area, many having to flee for their lives, or live in fear, which works to the advantage of the drug gangs, because those same people are expected to be deported back to that country, and so the cycle perpetuates.

After making the devastating decision to flee, with all the psychological trauma that accompanies such a decision, those children then tend to come up against people smugglers – the very same groups controlling the drugs trade in the country they just fled – who charge them a fortune for safe passage, or turn them into drug smugglers themselves. President Hernandez noted in his interview with CNN, that many of the young girls fleeing are caught and given birth control pills by human smugglers, to be sexually abused. Ted Carpenter for CNN reported:

“Since the cartels have seized control of human smuggling routes through Mexico, often charging refugees several thousand dollars for passage, the flood of undocumented immigrants significantly supplements the revenue that the drug gangs have long enjoyed from trafficking in illegal drugs. Would-be immigrants who can’t pay are pressed into service to carry drugs into the United States. And the surge of unaccompanied minors helps distract the already strained U.S. Border Patrol, making it easier for the drug lords to avoid having their products intercepted.”

- The lives of these children are hell. They have no choice. If those fleeing happen to make it safely to the US border, it isn’t long before they’re deported back to the very places they’re fleeing, with little to no institutional mechanisms by which they’re protected.

Gangs in Honduras have created an atmosphere – cemented by political corruption and weak institutions, along with a lack of direction in the US – in which it pays to create a humanitarian crises focused on children. Indeed, the gangs tend to target children for recruitment to their ranks. 17 year old Mario told Vox:

“I left because I had problems with the gangs. They hung out by a field that I had to pass to get to school. They said if I didn’t join them, they would kill me. I have many friends who were killed or disappeared because they refused to join the gang. I told the gang I didn’t want to. Their life is only death and jail, and I didn’t want that for myself. I want a future.”

- In May 2013, Honduras announced it was investigating the deaths of seven children murdered for refusing to join a gang. The children of central America are pawns in a gang land fight for supremacy in Central America, the failure of the war on drugs, and incompetent political wrangling in Washington.

All of the above factors in Honduras; the 2009 coup, political corruption, a power struggle between the courts and Presidency, institutional state weakness, the suppression of dissent and expression, displacement of communities for the sake of big business, the power of the drug cartels in Honduras, and the failure of the war on drugs throughout the region, have contributed to the huge numbers of children making the life threatening journey to the US border, in the desperate hope for a better life.

They are scared, they are vulnerable, and they’re being protected and shielded by no one. The child predators in their home countries, and on the journey to the US border are winning and actually profiting from a lack of coherent policy in North America, whilst the Congress of the United States enjoys a five week holiday after achieving nothing, and the authorities in Honduras remain too weak to deal with the hideous power of child abusing gangs, corruption in the security services, and big business. The children are the responsibility of the entire international community, not just the US – trying to fix the problem through reviewing work permit arrangements is a small band aid – or the countries in which they were born. The situation is a massive humanitarian crisis that envelopes the whole of the North American continent, lacks institutional mechanisms to protect those children, and will require all of those nations to work together, rather than passing the buck and treating children like pawns.


Israel & Palestine: The underlying racism.

July 26, 2014

For most, it is doubtless the case that what fuels their interest in the conflict in Gaza and Israel, is a desire to see a peaceful resolution, with the region secure for all who live on the land. I have no doubt that the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians just want to live a peaceful co-existence. But for others – including many in the leadership of both Israel and Palestine – the fuel is Messianic conquest; a desire to see the region controlled by their faith and their faith alone. Basic civil rights and protection of the people are a secondary concern. With this religiously motivated superiority complex, comes a familiar dehumanisation process aimed at those deemed to be the enemy. This comes from both sides of the aisle.

In the Arab world, it takes just one inoffensive cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad to spark off a campaign of violent reprisals. Yet, Arab-Muslim media outlets daily print cartoons portraying Jews (not Israelis) in the most offensive tone possible. The caricatures of Jews follows centuries of anti-semitism from the Catholic Church, appropriated by the Arab World. In 2002, Tishrin in Syria printed a cartoon of the Statue of Liberty smashed to pieces and replaced by a statue of a Jewish stereotype; a man with a long beard, and hat, crooked nose, holding the Torah in place of the Constitution, suggesting a Jewish takeover of the United States. In 2005, Al-Yawm in Saudi Arabia published a photo of the Jewish star of David interlaced with the words “Born to Kill”. In Qatar in 2006. Al-Watan published a cartoon of crooked nosed monstrous-looking villain chiseling a star of David underneath the Dome of the Rock. Most hideously of all, the website of the Arab European League published a cartoon of Hitler in bed with Anne Frank, and the caption: “Write this one in your diary, Anne“. The racist cartoons published by the Arab press help to perpetuate a narrative that has existed for centuries, that insists that Jewish people are inherently evil, seeking to dominate the World (ironic, given the oppressive dominance of Islam over the functions of state in many of those countries). In 1543 Martin Luther wrote:

“I have read and heard many stories about the Jews which agree with this judgment of Christ, namely, how they have poisoned wells, made assassinations, kidnaped children, as related before. I have heard that one Jew sent another Jew, and this by means of a Christian, a pot of blood, with a barrel of wine, in which when drunk empty, a dead Jew was found. There are many other similar stories.”

- Blood libel, caricaturing the Jewish people as inherently monstrous and murderous. This hasn’t stopped. It simply moved to a new form of media. Cartoons, alongside educational material in Palestinian textbooks for children that frame Jewish folk as the enemy, and horrifying pictures posted almost daily on social media of those killed in the Syrian civil war, reframed to look as if they were killed by Israeli troops. Also on social media, we see those deeply partisan few posting completely false statements by Israelis, to give credit to their deeply partisan comment:

gaza
– The irony of this specific Tweet, is that the quote is massively exaggerated, and works to perpetuate racist narratives that portray Jews as seeking complete domination. The Ben Gurion letter is a blueprint for his Zionist vision, and anti-Arab in tone. But the quote above, is wildly inaccurate and works to suggest a much more violent tone to the letter. Ben-Gurion – According to ‘Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting In America’ (CAMERA) actually said:

“We do not wish, we do not need to expel the Arabs and take their place. All our aspirations are built upon the assumption — proven throughout all our activity in the Land — that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs in the land [of Israel]. And if we will have to use force, not for the sake of evicting the Arabs of the Negev or Transjordan, but rather in order to secure the right that belongs to us to settle there, force will be available to us.”

- The blatant misrepresentations, the cartoons, the pictures from other conflicts that someone somewhere has sat and purposely manipulated, are all a continuation of centuries of anti-semitism, and it all plays into the hands of a group like Hamas, whose main goal isn’t the safety and security of the Palestinian people (their method of using civilians as shields for their weapons is evidence enough of that), but complete dominance of the entire region that they’re convinced was divinely ordained for they alone.

This racist and supremacist attitude is of course not restricted to the Arab side of the conflict. In Israel, Professor Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University studied 124 school textbooks on history, citizenship, and literature, concluding that the textbooks of the 1950s through to the 1970s told of an ancient industrious land of Palestine, ruined by the Arabs, and now to be saved by the returning Jewish people. Bar-Tal says the textbooks insisted that Jewish people were there primarily:

“…improving the country in ways they believe the Arabs are incapable of.”

- Bar-Tal goes on to say that the Israeli textbooks were portraying Arabs as:

“…tribal, vengeful, exotic, poor, sick, dirty, noisy, colored”
“…they burn, murder, destroy, and are easily inflamed.”

- Eli Yishai – ex-Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, and former leader of Shas – grew up as these textbooks that worked to dehumanise the Arab population of Palestine were prevalent. It is no surprise that Yishai now has an awful lack of consideration for human beings in Gaza. In 2012, Yishai said:

“The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years.”

- This horrendous attitude was reflected by Gilad Sharon – son of Ariel Sharon – who also in 2012 said:

“We need to flatten all of Gaza. The American’s didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough – so they hit Nagasaki too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire.”

- It takes a special kind of desensitisation to human suffering in order to advocate the comple ‘flattening’ of a city, invoking the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as desirable. Further, a poll of students in Israel conducted in 2010 by Israeli research institution Maagar Mochot, found that over half of those surveyed believed Arab-Israelis should not be banned from election to the Knesset. The majority of those who wished to see Arabs banned from the Knesset, were very religious, whilst almost half of secular Israeli teens also concurred that Arabs should be banned. Therefore, almost half of the secular students surveyed, along with a vast majority of religious students supported the institutionalisation of racism.

The lack of moral decency from the racists on both sides isn’t confined to a few supremacists. It is entrenched in media outlets, it shapes the debate, it ensures a new generation are ingrained with the same hatred through school textbooks, it goes viral on social media, it pushes ordinary people to embrace the extremes like Hamas, it empowers the religious supremacists, it serves a victim mentality used to justify sadistic acts of violence against innocents, and so by extension, it prevents a peaceful resolution.


Mehdi Hasan and the nature of complicity.

July 17, 2014

The horrifying stories and pictures coming out of Gaza as Hamas launch rockets indiscriminately across the border, and Israel bombard the isolated region resulting in innocent lives lost and fear gripping both sides, rightfully strike at our collective sense of humanity. But it is the romanticised notion of a David and Goliath situation, and the bizarre attempts to either refuse to acknowledge the crimes of Hamas (upon Palestinians as well as Israelis), any wrongdoing whatsoever on the Palestinian side, or to explain away anti-Israeli sentiment whilst willfully silent on abuses elsewhere when they crop up, that seems to be the centre of the Galloway-left response.

Mehdi Hasan’s article for Huffington Post, entitled “We Single Israel Out Because We in the West Are Shamefully Complicit in Its Crimes” was one such attempt to justify a moral compass that only swings into action on human rights and oppression, when it involves Israel or the West in general, isolated from all surrounding context. Hasan says:

“According to the likes of Ben-Ami, there are much more vile regimes, and more violent groups, elsewhere in the world. Why pick on plucky Israel? What about the Chinas, Russias, Syrias, Saudi Arabias, Irans, Sudans and Burmas? Where are the protests against Isis, Boko Haram or the Pakistani Taliban?”

- The criticism from ‘the likes of Ben-Ami’ is a correct one. Western faux-liberals are essentially silent on the crimes of ISIS or Boko Haram, or Hamas. If they do offer criticisms, it’s very quickly glossed over with a criticism of the US or Israel. A sort of “Yeah ISIS is bad, but Blair…” mentality. There are very few willing to stand up for those lives threatened and lost due to blasphemy laws across the religious World, instead having a collective meltdown whenever someone publishes a cartoon of Muhammad. There isn’t a care in the World for the people of Balochistan. The hideous treatment of the LGBT community in the Middle East and Uganda only gets a passing mention by Hasan in a horrifyingly self serving article, in which they’re just a tool to explain to the reader why he doesn’t consider himself a homophobe. Mehdi goes to great lengths to explain why it is he feels the need to focus so much time and energy on Israel. I don’t buy his excuses.

One of Hasan’s ‘complicity’ points in his new article, is that Israel is funded to a large degree by the US. This is of course true, but it is also true – to a much less extent, but still represents ‘complicity’ in the same form – of the Palestinian Authority. By 2010, the main contributors to the Palestinian Authority – amounting to around $1.8bn in 2008, and $1.4bn in 2004 – were the EU and the US. This, despite a ‘Middle East Monitor’ (MEMO)report on widespread corruption within the PA. MEMO, referencing an EU report, quotes a figure of $2bn in aid to the PA, lost to corruption. It quotes a Kuwaiti newspaper in 2005, that accused Arafat of transferring large amounts of aid money to foreign bank accounts. A senior official at the Ministry of Finance in Palestine was caught trying to flee to Jordan with $100mn. In 2012, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights released a report accusing the Palestinian Authority of:

“…inhumane practices and human rights violations.”

- In 2013, blogger Anas Awwad – a critic of the PNA – was arrested and charged with “extending his tongue” against the policies of the PA and President Abbas. Similarly, Ismat Abdul-Khaleq – a lecturer at a university in the West Bank – was arrested for criticising Abbas. If the EU and US is complicit in the crimes of the Israeli leadership, which in turn means we should single out Israel, then they are also complicit in the crimes of the Palestinian leadership , as are those offering their unquestioning support for the Palestinian leadership, and so by implication, we should single the PA leadership out too. A leadership that has enriched itself, to the detriment of the Palestinian people.

According to the World Bank, Pakistan is one of the biggest receivers of US aid, with $3508.6mn in 2011 alone. Why no outrage at the Pakistani treatment of the Baloch region? Why very little mention of the millions displaced people from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas? Are we not complicit in that and should we be therefore singling Pakistan out for special criticism? Should we be less outraged, because less money (even though it’s still a huge amount) is given to Pakistan than Israel? If so, by Mehdi’s standards, we should be marching on London right this second.

In 2011, $977.8mn of US aid went to Jordan. Human Rights Watch reported that Jordan had been turning away Syrian refugees who happen to be of Palestinian heritage, or sending them to holding camps near Ramtha, simply for being Palestinian. Jordan also prohibits the right to convert from Islam. Are we not complicit in that too? Should we be singling out Jordan for their anti-apostasy laws, and their ill treatment of Palestinians?

The Democratic Republican of Congo received $5532.5mn in US aid in 2011, despite torture of civilians by authorities, and members of the army using rape as a way to punish those from communities they dislike. Are we complicit with those too, and should Hasan therefore be more vocal in his criticism?

Let’s also not forgot that George Galloway handed £25,000 to Hamas live on TV a few years back. That was in 2009. On April 7th 2011, Hamas shot a Kornet anti-tank missile at a school bus in southern Israel, killing 16 year old Daniel Viflic. If even a penny of that £25,000 went to procuring the missile that killed Viflic – or any act of violence since 2009 by Hamas – Galloway is complicit, and Hasan remains silent.

Hasan goes on to ask:

“Which other country is in receipt of $3billion a year in US aid, despite maintaining a 47-year military occupation in violation of international law?”

“Which other country’s prime minister could “humiliate” – to quote the newspaper Ma’ariv – a sitting US vice-president on his visit to Israel in March 2010, yet still receive 29 standing ovations from Congress on his own visit to the US a year later?”

- Well, they’re very specific comparative criticisms. He’s right. No other country has maintained a 47-year military occupation, receiving $3bn in US aid. However, that particular crime (and it is a crime) doesn’t negate the crimes of other nations receiving similar amounts. It’s just one specific crime he mentions. For example, Whilst the US gave just over $3bn in aid to Israel in 2012, it gave over $12bn in economic and military aid to Afghanistan in 2012. This, despite Aghanistan’s National Security Agency accused of torturing suspects, and harassing journalists, and despite the LGBT community facing long jail terms and despite Karzai signing into law the hideously misogynistic ‘Shia Family Law’. Israel may be occupying a region, but in Afghanistan, religious supremacists occupy the entire country, by enshrining its unjustifiably privileged position into the function of state. To rephrase Hasan’s question, which other country is in receipt of $12bn in US aid, despite enshrining religious supremacy to the point where women and the LGBT community are relegated to second class, and criminals?

He’s also right again. No other Prime Minister received 29 standing ovations after humiliating the Vice President. Because that’s a very specific criticism. However, according to Kenya News Online and The Daily Caller, President Karzai humiliated the President of the United States, more than once. Very specific comparative criticisms posed in this way, do not add any credit to the overall point, and appear weak when placed into context.

Indeed, we could also argue that statements Mehdi has made in the past (non-believers lacking intelligence, living like animals, whilst Muslims have the moral high ground), render him complicit in the perpetuation of religious supremacist narratives that continue to manifest as human rights abuses. Complicity, like every other point of debate in the Israel and Palestine conflict, is easy to use against those so deeply partisan on the subject on both sides. In this case, the argument from Mehdi did not seem to be a high quality, well reasoned argument, solely because that wasn’t its aim. Its aim was to absolve Mehdi of his inconsistent moral compass, that lays dormant until a global event that involves Israel or the US appears, at which point, his moral compass spins wildly out of control.


The Island of Secular, Liberal, Democracy.

July 15, 2014

Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800

Involving myself in several debates this week with members of Hizb and their supporters threw up one consistent theme; secular liberal democracy oppresses Muslims, and so by advocating a return of Khilafah, they are in fact fighting oppression (nothing says ‘fighting oppression’ quite like ISIS beheading ordinary people). The obvious question then becomes; how does a system that advocates – according to Hizb’s constitution as drafted by al-Nabhani – the execution of the ex-Muslims (essentially, genocide), and the oppression of the LGBT community, whilst forcing non-Muslims to pay to uphold it and disallowing women from holding high office, get to be considered anything but oppressive?

The response was predictably deflective, the points raised were not addressed (save for the ill-informed “being gay is unnatural” argument often used to defend the hideous oppression of the gay community by religious supremacists), instead opting on far more occasions than I ever considered possible, to just keep insisting that secular, liberal, democracy is in fact an oppressive religion itself. Whilst I’ve argued the case for secular, liberal democracy on several occasions pertaining to the specifics – the veil, or sexuality, free expression, or the building of mosques – I thought I’d use this article to explain my fundamental reasoning behind why I believe secular, liberal, democracy is the opposite of oppression.

Let us imagine there are ten of us on a desert island. We propose to come up with a governing system. Two of the new inhabitants are Muslim. Two Atheist. Two Christian. Two Hindu. Two FutileReligion (my new faith for the purpose of this article). The ten on the island consists heterosexual people, homosexual people, bisexual people, men and women, lighter toned skin and darker toned skin, red haired, blonde haired, blue eyed, green eyed people.

When coming up with our system, we all agree that the green eyed people – on account of having green eyes – have no inherent right to state privilege, nor the blue eye’d people, nor the blonde haired people, nor those with light toned skin. If we were to suggest that green eyed people are entitled the distinct privilege of law making, we imply that no one else is capable. We imply the superiority of one eye colour, to the inferiority of all others. We do so, without any reasonable justification. We therefore not only chain the rights of others whilst privileging green eyed people, we also chain green eyed people who could have their lives improved by the ideas in the minds of the non-green eyed people for improving island living. It is an absurdity. We acknowledge the equality of all when it comes to eye colour. And so we must then ask; if we accept that one particular eye colour isn’t naturally privileged, nor do we accept that the island is naturally a white supremacist island, why would we presume one particular faith must be granted state privilege and supremacy? And if we do believe one particular faith should be permitted an inherent right to state privilege, whose religion shall it be?

Well, the FutileBelievers believe the state should be theirs, and so all Christians and Muslims should be executed immediately for their sinful religion, because FutileGod insists that they are in fact unnatural. We presume that if we call it “God’s law“, it somehow permits it a privileged position to control and punish according to its rules, even those who don’t consider it to be “God’s law“. According to the two Muslims, the state should be Islamic with everyone else paying jizya to uphold the system and that the three gay people on the island should be immediately executed, and the four women disqualified from high office. The four women and the three gay people aren’t given a say in this, because the Muslims automatically presume a right to control those lives, simply on the basis of their personal religious belief. Again, an absurdity. The Christians believe the system should be completely controlled by Christians, with no Muslim being allowed high office, they also seek to burn any condoms they find and your private sex life will essentially be handed over to the two Christians. Muslims don’t get a say over whether they are allowed power in this Christian state, they simply have to deal with being institutionally inferior to their Christian rulers, who have taken it upon themselves to declare supremacy. So, who in this scenario gets to enshrine their particular religion into the framework of state?

Contrary to Hizb and other religious supremacists bizarre notions of oppression, you may note that secular, liberal, democracy enshrines the right to believe whatever it is you choose to believe. It protects that right fully for the individual. No single sect can take that away from you, in a secular, liberal, democracy. It is not anti-religious, it is anti-religious supremacy and privilege. To achieve a state that enshrines religious privilege, and supremacy, requires force and it requires the institutional subduing of others. It is the definition of oppression.

Let us be clear; by privilege I mean the institutionalising of one belief – and so, the power of state handed to two people on the island at all times – into the framework of state; perhaps insisting that gender and sexuality of all inhabitants must be subject to the rules of one faith. I do not mean banning those people from invoking their beliefs when it comes to island debate. Simply, the institutionalising of one belief; The perpetual chaining of everyone to the dictates of the faith of those two. Who gets to make that decision? How might we expect the other 8 react, if the two FutileBelievers were to say “… right, we’re in charge, we now run this place. First thing’s first, all Qur’ans and Bibles are to be burnt“. I imagine they’d react in the same way Catholics reacted when Protestants permitted themselves state privilege and oppression ensued. Or how Shia react when Sunni permit themselves state privilege and oppression ensues. It is a recipe for perpetual oppression and inevitable conflict, because it relies on the oppressed staying quiet and resigning themselves to an inferior status, and history teaches us that if you chain people to the privileged few, those in chains will fight to break them.

We have a situation in which ten people are currently free and equal. Eye colour does not get to control other eye colours, hair colour does not affect our right to participate in society and to an individual life. We extend that principle to belief. The freedoms are equal to all. There are no barriers erected to our liberty. None of those people were born attached to the religious beliefs of any of the others. Therefore, the burden is on those seeking to chain others to their religious beliefs, to convince others to hand over their liberty to that particular belief. As of yet – not just on our island, but on the entire planet – no one has succeeded in convincing others to become subservient to the beliefs of one individual, through anything other than threat and force.

So, how do we develop this impasse into a framework of state? Well, we could all insist that our particular religion is deserving of institutionalised state privilege, that others must be chained to our supernatural beliefs, thus putting us in constant conflict with everyone else on the island who similarly believe themselves privileged, and everyone else subordinate. This is unlikely to end in anything other than violence, when those threatened with the rules of the faith of the other start to break the chains. Or, we could enshrine into the framework, our acceptance that we should all be free to practice our own religion where it does not encroach on the same freedom for others, and where our freedom on the island is not chained to the beliefs of anyone else. We devise a system that is constituted firstly to protect each other, from each other. That is the primary basis of a free and equal society. The freedom of Person A – regardless of sexuality, or gender, ethnicity, or faith – does not end where the religion of Person B begins.

Once individual liberty, to pursue our own goals, is protected through a constitutional framework, we can then all jointly involve ourselves in the political process. The structure of the democratic institutions – be them Parliamentary, or Presidential, direct or representative, comes next. We compromise on decisions that effect us all, we split power, we get it wrong at times, but we learn and we move forward, and our participation in the political process is in no way dependent on our belief, gender, sexuality, hair colour, eye colour, ethnicity, if we’re missing a toe on one foot, or any other biological trait. All of those are irrelevant to our ideas and our participation within society, and so the initial protection of us all is the only possible way to allow everyone our full potential without fear of repression. The burden is on those who seek to remove our liberties, to explain why we should be forced to give them up.

The 10 person society is run on the basis of compromise and free and open debate and discussion. We can inquire, scrutinise, and progress without our ideas and creativity and contribution withheld simply because we have a particular eye colour, gender, or sexuality. If you disagree with a policy, you are free to protest, to run for office on your platform, to scrutinise, to mock, to critique. This is as true for you, as it is for me. This is secular, liberal democracy. It isn’t a religion, and it privileges no single individual or belief above any other. It is the neutral protection of all, from all, and the freedom for all to participate in the process of state. The governing of state in no way inflicts restrictions upon your right to live according to your religion, where your religion does not damage the liberty of anyone else.

To believe secular, liberal democracy is oppressing you, is simply another way to say you believe your faith should be granted state privilege to harm the liberty of others. This isn’t oppressing you, this is denying your determination to oppress others. And on that charge, I absolutely agree, and that is exactly why liberal, secular democratic institutions are the only way to guarantee civil protections for all.


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