The CJ Werleman & Max Blumenthal Privilege.

May 22, 2015

Joining hands with Islamists and attempting to silence her, CJ Werleman in his latest article mentions Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In a speech in which she refers to Anders Breivik as an abhorrent neo-fascist – Werleman paints quite a different picture, purposely editing what she actually said, and insisting that she:

“…expressed sympathy for Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.”

– On this often repeated manipulation by the illiberal liberals, Ali had to defend herself, and explain why those illiberals – like the Islamists that came before them – are wrong in attacking her:

Well, on the topic of Breivik, it goes without saying that I was horrified by his actions. He is one of the worst mass murderers in history, and there’s no question about that. Like most people, I had never heard of him before he went on his killing spree. However, he did write a thousand-page manifesto in which he quoted John Stuart Mill and other thinkers, and even me. Trying to use other people to justify your own actions is not unusual in mass murderers. Osama bin Laden quoted Noam Chomsky with approval. Does that make Chomsky in any way culpable for the behavior of bin Laden? Of course not. Just as no one quoted by Breivik is responsible for him.

In any case, I gave a speech at an award ceremony in Berlin, in the spring of 2012, on the shortcomings of policies based on the theory of “multiculturalism,” and I said that Breivik was one deeply unfortunate product of these policies, as are the rising number of European jihadis. They are unintended products, to be sure, because multiculturalism is all about good intentions.

– Ali echoes my thoughts exactly. When you protect one idea from criticism, from satire, from mocking, when you imply that those who do, are simply bigoted, when you offer that single idea a level of privileged protection that no other idea on the planet is afforded, you make a taboo out of it, and that is incredibly dangerous. This is not to be interpreted as “expressing sympathy” for far-right mass murdering terrorists. To distort the argument in such an emotive way, is so incredibly wrong. It is a dishonest attempt to silence the criticism. We blame the policy of the illiberals in trying to silence criticism, for the rise in far-right violence…. much like the illiberals blame the policy of Western governments for the rise in Islamist violence. I wont be so absurd as to claim Werleman has sympathy for al-Zaqawi though.

The equally as illiberal Max Blumenthal is not happy that his similar article on Ayaan Hirsi Ali was picked apart for its vast manipulations – like the one above – so easy to discredit (I wrote on the manipulations in his article). He has a theory! He isn’t quite willing to apologise for the gross distortions he presented – because then we might have to look at other reasons that he might have chosen to be so dishonest, like bigotry – so instead he’s chosen to insist that any complaints about his article, could only possibly be the result of neoconservatives unable to bring themselves to accept that colonialism happened. In an article by the equally illiberal Chris Werleman – provocatively entitled “Is New Atheism an anti-Muslim, white supremacy movement?” (no, no it isn’t) – we’re told:

“On last week’s episode of my podcast Foreign Object, I asked journalist Max Blumenthal why our recent respective criticisms of Hirsi Ali have generated so much blowback hate, particularly from New Atheists and neoconservatives. “The narrative Hirsi Ali tells is … very comforting to Americans. It tells them that they’re good. That they’re inherently good. That they’re peaceful. That all these wars they’ve been involved in have been forced upon them. That their hands are clean. That they’re in a religious conflict with no political roots that requires a nuanced discussion or historical context. That colonialism never happened. That lies about WMDs never happened. That all of these are just left-wing lies, and it is they who speak in a clear, comforting language. [The reason we are hated] is we are interrupting that narrative.”

– We’ve been busted by Blumenthal! Quite obviously the reason that I thoroughly disliked the article that Blumenthal wrote isn’t because it was full of distortions presented as fact, or the victim-blaming mentality of the entire piece, or the bigotry it takes to completely misrepresent the facts in order to smear her, or the misrepresentations of comments, not that he’s utterly obsessed with trying to discredit an ex-Muslim (a female, African ex-Muslim at that; the bigotry is pretty clear) rather than the ideological system that abused her in the first place, and willing to manipulate in order to do so…. no… it’s because I must believe that colonialism never happened. That must be it.

To reiterate, Blumenthal says that to highlight Hirsi Ali’s story, tells us:

“That they’re in a religious conflict with no political roots that requires a nuanced discussion or historical context”

– This is of course, not the case. We accept there’s always a political root, and that it is simply dishonest to imply that religion doesn’t inform the political and social context. It is those who refuse to accept a religious element to conflict, who seek to explain away a web of variables by ceaselessly parroting how much they dislike George Bush, who refuse to accept that perhaps anchoring right and wrong to a specific set of doctrines codified centuries ago might be problematic regardless of the political element, who insist that the narrative be limited to a ‘historical’ discussion, split for religion, that begins in March 2003.

The article then takes a bizarre turn that in my opinion, highlights Werleman’s own bigotry. I think this is the key to understanding the pathology of the illiberal liberals. Here, he says:

“Moreover, New Atheists enthusiastically, and often unintentionally, promote western imperialism, and any individual who supports an erroneous narrative (“clash of civilisations” is the theme of New Atheism) that, by design, attempts to justify western intervention in the Middle East, Africa, or Asia is, ergo ipso facto, a white supremacist.

Case in point: Somali-born, anti-Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali is feted by the New Atheist movement. Her most staunch supporters include celebrity New Atheists Harris, Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins. Last weekend, Hirsi Ali was the keynote speaker at the largest annual gathering of atheists – the American Atheists convention, despite the fact both her fictitious biography and anti-Muslim bigotry are well documented.

– It’s odd to me that Werleman equates Western nations, with being white. Instantly vast swathes of the population of Europe and the US are dismissed. Instantly those – who are not ‘white’ – who shaped the cultural and social framework upon which we were born, are dismissed. It’s also important to note that it absolutely is not a “fact” that Hirsi Ali’s biography is “fictitious“. The subtle implication – by linking both paragraphs with a “case in point:” – is that the story that Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells about her life, is a wholly owned white supremacist narrative – because Western nations are ‘white’ nations – designed to justify what he calls “Western imperialism” (the irony being that most of the Middle East is under constitutional frameworks that enshrine and privilege one religion; the epitome of imperialism & supremacism), that only white people think like this, that those who aren’t white couldn’t possibly come to similar conclusions, under conditions outside of a Western colonial attitude, even if they directly suffered under the system that so viciously harmed Hirsi Ali. Further, to push criticism of an idea into a category that is considered solely ‘white‘, is to disenfranchise and silence people like Hirsi Ali and others like her, before they’ve even told their story. The fear being, if they tell their story, they’ll be dismissed as liars whilst those who support her considered ‘white supremacists‘. It’s a victim-blaming, white privilege; to assign a particular colourless narrative and criticism, to a single skin tone in order to try to discredit it.

When you become so obsessed with trying to discredit people you dislike so much, to the point that you’re willing to distort so badly, you neglect to notice the creeping bigotry that becomes a product of those distortions. There is an unnerving tone throughout Werleman’s piece. Instead of owning up to the falsehoods, and their quick leap to call everyone a nazi, they instead choose to incorporate the dissent into the overall – subtly bigoted – narrative; if you think Blumenthal vastly distorted the facts, it’s because you’re a white supremacist (forgot about those who aren’t white, they’re just influenced by white supremacists, the poor, unthinking souls) wanting to believe colonialism never happened, and you probably want to invade Iran. You’re basically Hitler.


Greenwald, Aslan, & Werleman: The Sam Harris Obsession.

May 21, 2015

It may sometimes seem as if I’m eternally irritated by dishonest Western illiberals who insist on their liberalism, and the glaring manipulations they often share. Whilst that eternal irritation may be true, I am thankful to them for providing me with endless material to blog. To give you an example, CJ Werleman recently wrote a long article for Middle East Eye – which I’ll cover in greater detail in the coming days – in which he interviews political commentator Cenk Uygur. One specific sentence stood out to me. When speaking on those of us who criticise the illiberal tactics and rhetoric of those like Werleman, Cenk says:

“They are rabid, man. Everyday they do it online. Everyday. They’re relentless.”

– Cenk echoes an earlier deeply held concern raised by Reza Aslan, when in February he wrote:

reza
– Take that in for a second… Reza is worried that Sam Harris is obsessed with him, and that he and Greenwald simply don’t give Harris a second thought. Remember that as you read all the obsessive times Reza Aslan, Glenn Greenwald, and CJ Werleman have taken to social media, to remind us of how much they rabidly dislike Sam Harris:

aslan2
Article about Sam Harris, by Reza Aslan.

And Greenwald:

greenwald
Article about Sam Harris, by Glenn Greenwald.

And Werleman:

werleman
Article about Sam Harris, by CJ Werleman.

I guess “rabid” and “relentless” are words that only apply to those you’re endlessly trying to smear, misrepresent, or to silence, and never to you, regardless of how rabid and relentless you are.


Rula Jebreal and the redefining of liberalism.

May 20, 2015

It seems clear to me that any discussion of Islamism and its root causes is incomplete if it relies solely on the geopolitical context, disconnecting it from the problem of religious dogma (and vice versa). As if religious dogma is entirely insignificant, or can be dismissed as a small band of crazy Wahhabi’s. To me, the idea that morality can be anchored to a single time & place (in this case, 7th century Arabia) without any problems, or any negative affects centuries later – when the World vastly outgrows the morality of the dogma – is so incredibly flawed, and more often than not represents nothing more than liberals with their hearts in the right place, trying hard to argue that Islam is not problematic, requires protecting, is a victim, and that everything surrounding it is the problem.

Liberalism is the promotion of the equal civil rights of all, the privilege of none, and the challenging of illiberal ideologies and dogma. We liberals must support those progressive Muslims who are arguing for reform within Islam; Maajid Nawaz, Irshad Manji, and the wonderful ‘Muslims for Progressive Values’, to name a couple. But recently, foreign policy analyst Rula Jebreal decided she was going to narrowly redefine the parameters of liberalism, to suit her narrative:

“A liberal person is somebody that challenges policies and sees the connection between policies and radicalization.”

– If policies were solely responsible for radicalisation, it would seem obvious that the Middle East should be overrun with radical gay, atheist, and apostate groups. Nevertheless, here, Jabreal – ripping up anything ever written by Mill – has decided that the term ‘liberal’ must only apply to those who focus entirely on the geopolitical context of any discussion, and consciously ignore the religious element. One wonders if Muslims arguing for liberal reforms within Islam – without focusing entirely on the foreign policy of the United States – are to be considered illiberal for not narrowly focusing on what Jebreal demands of a good, wholesome liberal. If this is to include Muslims as well, then Jabreal’s argument – whilst wrong, and very narrow – is complete. But if Jabreal believes Muslims can be liberal and critical of interpretations of Islam without focusing on the US, then there’s no reason to categorise non-Muslims who do the same, as not liberal.

The agenda is simple; in order to silence criticism of Islam – without outright calling for blasphemy laws, though the goal is the same; to protect one religion from ‘offense’ – one must first cast the idea of criticism of Islam, as something inherently undesirable, illiberal, bigoted (Glenn Greenwald did this in his illiberal rant in support of Jabreal, demanding we all be very nationalist in our approach to who we choose to criticise, whilst bizarrely simultaneously being angry at nationalism). Jabreal closes down the idea of a liberal critique of Islam, as oxymoronic. Indeed, according to Jebreal’s narrow redefinition, to challenge illiberal dogma that informs the extreme narrative itself, is to be, by definition, illiberal. She is of course, wrong. To be liberal is indeed to challenge policies, it is also to challenge illiberal narratives, and illiberal ideals. To challenge ideologies that promote homophobia, that limit free expression, that dehumanise ex-believers, that in any way contain directions on how to control the lives of others, to challenge ideologies that include state control for that particular ideology, Or to criticise & satirise ideas that include people like me burning in hell for eternity for non-belief and taught to children, to defend and promote individual civil liberties against those who would cage us all in a second.

An ideology cannot be disconnected from the time and context in which it exists. Indeed, the social context itself, cannot be disconnected from the plethora of ideologies and ideals that inform it. And so both must be included in any discussion on extremism, because the two inform each other. It is a fallacy to suggest that focusing on the invasion of Iraq is the height of liberalism, whilst focusing on religious dogma is illiberalism. To pretend Islam is entirely dependent on the surrounding context of the time and ‘outside’ forces, rather than inherent issues with the religion itself to the point where we cannot and should not focus at all on its dogma, is to imply that Islam really isn’t anything on its own, and has no significant anchor transcending the time period. If Islam is to be considered anything at all, it must be open to criticism, and we must accept that it is problematic, like every other man-made ideological structure. At the moment, Jabreal plays to the illiberal idea that anyone criticising the content of the ideology – rather than just the geopolitics that surrounds it – is to be labelled a bigot (which we’ll see Jabreal – in predictable fashion – moves on to do). Islam as an ideological structure, is not to be ignored, for the sake of blaming the US for absolutely every problem that Islam plays a role in. To be liberal is not to focus solely on the social conditions of the time and place only, but also the illiberal content of the ideology itself. It worries me that Jabreal begins from the premise that Islam is perfect. Once that position is adopted, everyone else is wrong, bigoted, racist, illiberal (pick whichever) for disagreeing.

A few weeks back, Tim Wise misrepresented the poisonous ideology of Hamas, to aid his narrative. Here, Jabreal does the same, and breaks her own definition of ‘liberal’ by failing to challenge actual policy, instead choosing to misrepresent it. Earlier, in a discussion with Bill Maher on apostasy in the Muslim World, Jabreal acted as if it wasn’t an issue, and misrepresented the problem, by misrepresenting Jordan’s apostasy issue. When Maher asked what would happen if you left your religion, Jabreal replied:

“….you can do it in Jordan, you can do it in Lebanon.”

– Not true. In Jordan, any member of the community can take you to an Islamic court for suspected apostasy. The court has the power to void the marriage of anyone they convict of apostasy, and to deny the right of the apostate to inherit from Muslim relatives. Let’s also not forget that both Lebanon and Jordan punish blasphemy, meaning if you are an apostate, you better keep quiet. The two states that Jabreal specifically mentions, are not Saudi Arabia. Let us be clear; Jabreal is consciously glossing over religious supremacism that controls and oppresses in the states she mentions. In no other context – racial supremacy for example – would that be considered the mark of a great liberal. That aside, to deny Islam has an apostasy problem when Hirsi Ali is threatened with death any time she talks, and there are ex-Muslim councils across the World dedicated to protecting and helping those victims of apostasy ideas, is shockingly illiberal, and an abandonment of human beings for the sake of protecting a religion.

She then didn’t tell the whole story on Tunisia, neglecting to note that the President is required to be Muslim, or that marriage between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is strictly forbidden, or that same-sex relationships are entirely banned:

“I look at the reality on the ground. Tunisia, for example, voted for Islamists – and then they voted them out. And you had the [Islamist] Ennahda party calling the opposition, congratulating them. But we don’t want to see that. We want to see that every Muslim is an enemy.”

– I was in Tunisia recently. Whilst a religious supremacist country, it is also a beautiful country, and incredibly lovely people. On account of me having a beard, one gentleman – after jokingly calling me ‘Bin Laden’ and later ‘Fidel Castro’ – asked me if I pray. I said no. He then asked me if I have read the Qur’an. I said yes. He then asked me why I didn’t believe in it, and at that point, I was strongly aware that ‘proselytising’ – that is, if I were to explain my logic behind my atheism in a way that might suggest attempting to convert the guy – is illegal. So no, Jabreal doesn’t look “at the reality on the ground” unless it suits her simplistic victim-hood narrative to do so, hypocritically ignoring the real victims, of her religion.

Later, when speaking of Bill Maher, Jebreal said:

“He’s a tyrant when it comes to this… don’t agree with me, you’re shunned aside and you’re the enemy. I find that horrifying,”

– A perhaps hypocritical statement, given her quickness to cast anyone who challenges the content of her religion as necessarily illiberal. Even more hypocritical, given that she then uses this awful straw man to shut down anyone who disagrees with her:

“I find it racist…. As if the Middle East doesn’t deserve an opportunity and a chance, as if people in the Middle East are inferior.”

– Misleading. The Middle East is not to be conflated with Islam. Much like anti-Muslim hate is not to be conflated with criticism of Islam. Islam is an idea. It is not to be protected from criticism, satire, or contempt. It is an imperialist mentality, to conflate an entire region with the religion that controls much of it. By contrast, I would argue that the Middle East comprises all who live there; including all those that states that enshrine Islam try hard to persecute (Not just Wahhabi-ridden states, as Jabreal uses as a go to excuse). That any state that enshrines Islam, is by definition, oppressive.

Contrary to her misrepresentation of liberals, We liberals actually believe the Middle East deserves secular, civil liberties that protect all – regardless of belief, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, eye colour, and any other arbitrary human distinction. We do not conflate Islam with an entire region. We believe that religion – no single sect, or interpretation – has caused far too much suffering throughout history, that Islam isn’t the “pluralistic” ideology that Jabreal later claims, that it isn’t respecting of human rights or civil liberties where ever it is given an ounce of power, and that it must not be granted state privileges (both Islam and Christianity violate basic human rights the moment they have any power, this is not the fault of the US, and neither is it confined to Wahhabi sects). We believe ex-Muslims have a right to be heard. We believe homosexuality is love, the rights of whom must be protected. We believe blasphemy is simply the protection of religious privilege and power. We call out the illiberal dogma that oppresses so many, regardless of the ideology that informs it. Islam informs oppression, because Islam is anchored to the moral musings of human beings centuries ago.

Jabreal – whilst abandoning victims of her religion, because she can’t bring herself to accept it might not be perfect – is doing exactly what she accuses her critics of doing. She is focusing entirely on one piece of a very complex puzzle, and then shutting down all those who focus on other pieces of the same puzzle, as illiberal, bigoted, racists. She simply doesn’t like her faith to be criticised. This is incredibly dangerous, and is not to be confused with liberalism. The illiberal liberals are at it again.


The Conservative Hypocrisy.

May 10, 2015

Being it against my character to occupy a half-hearted position of neutrality on politics, it will surprise few readers of this blog, that I hold wholly negative views of Conservative Party ideals and the rhetoric that it uses to engage the public. I am conscious that whenever they talk, far from being a complex tapestry of enlightened ideas streaming from their mouths, political & religious conservatives have and always will rely  primarily on dehumanising the powerless in order to justify and whip up outraged public support for the ideological system that follows. It requires constant anger to be accepted, and that’s incredibly dangerous. 

It is the inherent weakness in rabid individualism; it is so unnatural, so simplistic an analysis of human nature, recognising ‘no such thing as society’ – despite cooperative social connections and compassion, as much as individual endeavour, being inherent to human survival – that it relies on negatively portraying those who inevitably suffer from its implementation. That is its inherent failure; if you must first use a privileged platform to dehumanise those who have no real platform to defend themselves, to justify your economic & social goals, you’ve already failed. You will perhaps note the significance in the fact that austerity never seems to negatively affect those who advocate and implement it. You might also note the power of language; if we take from the poor, it is “making tough decisions”, if we take from those with an abundance, it is “class warfare”.

From the very fringes of the far right – who still have a bizarre obsession with a vast Jewish conspiracy – to what we now refer to as the centre-right. Whether it be the Chancellor’s constant referrals to those on any sort of welfare – those who have very little public room to respond – as having their curtains drawn whilst ‘hard working’ people venture to work as the bearers of true British values, or the Daily Mail’s (and a number of Tory MPs) grotesque analysis of the Philpott murders as a symptom of the Welfare state; or the insistence that the lack of affordable housing and a strained health service is the product of job stealing HIV-infested immigrants rather than vast underfunding from very wealthy figures in central government who have no love for state housing or health provision in the first place, selling off both to the highest bidder in a suit; or millionaires with massive country estates stretching acres across vast swathes of land that I imagine a young Theodore Roosevelt might have considered too vast for his exploring eyes, telling those already struggling in tiny council houses that they have one too many bedrooms; or the cowardly refusal of conservatives in the Department of Work & Pensions to have the decency to face the families of those whose suicides followed a vindictive regime of harsh benefit sanctions; or in more recent days; the Scots are coming! Everyone hide!

 We have become so desensitised to the suffering that the powerful inflict upon the powerless (who, further, are told to blame equally powerless people for their plight, rather than those who framed the system in the first place), and to the victim-blaming rhetoric of those with obscenely imbalanced power, that to advocate – and vote – for a continuation of those hideous policies accompanies a morally bankrupt demand for the rest of us to offer an unquestioning respect for those views condensed as a simple “difference of opinion”. To put it a simpler way; It is as if they understand that without demanding unquestioning respect, it simply isn’t a respectable view on its own merits. It is an insult to basic human decency.

Following the Conservative Party’s unexpected general election victory, a rather odd theme emerged across social media channels. Conservatives suddenly became aggressively sensitive to others disparaging their views. To be clear, being a liberal secular democrat, whilst my side lost the argument, I respect the outcome of the election. The atmosphere – which I believe is a largely manipulated and distorted atmosphere – in the UK is nevertheless favourable to the right wing. Left leaning parties failed to challenge that atmosphere adequately. Further, and more relevant to this post, I believe all views have an equal right to be heard, with no view institutionally suppressed by anyone else. The right to a view according to one’s conscience must be respected. If I expect my right to my view to be protected, I must defend that same principle for everyone else, from devout Islamists to avowed Communists. Whilst the right to a belief and to express that belief must be respected, the actual substance of the belief itself commands no inherent respect from individuals, and can – and should – be open to criticism, satire, and contempt, if it is to also be open to admiration, and loyalty. And as it stands, I’m quite convinced that the view of the wealthiest of conservatives is far more prominent, with much more media attention (the Marr Show had no-one sat on the couch who suffered the Bedroom Tax, but had Myleen Klaas explaining why a £2,000,000 house is in fact tiny with the mansion tax proposal being deeply unfair) offering an extremely distorted and negative view of the least wealthy, than vice versa, and that this is deeply unnerving and unhealthy for a democracy. It is a hypocrisy that sees those on benefits sanctioned for the smallest of misgivings to placate an audience of constantly outraged ‘hard working’ Daily Mail readers, whilst those actively and consciously avoiding tax promoted to senior governmental positions. Those that defend and vote for the continuation of that situation, I have very little time for, and won’t be told that I must respect. So with that said, whilst I respect a conservative’s right to believe whatever they choose, and do not seek in any way to restrict their right to expression, I simultaneously consider those views to be cancerous to the core. There is little room for nuance with me when it comes to political conservatism, as there is little room for nuance with me when it comes to religious conservatism; the ideas upon which their ideological structure is based – the extraordinary amount of effort required to desensitise the public to the suffering of the most vulnerable, essentially victim blaming by rich men in the religious-like robes of business attire – is hideous that I simply cannot bring myself to offer even the slightest respect to those who advocate and vote for a party of multi-millionaires who epitomise that wildly sociopathic mindset.
It is this conservative voter’s insecure – and massively hypocritical, given their history of disrespect for absolutely anyone who isn’t George Osborne – demand for respect in recent days that summarises the mindset perfectly; when human beings already struggling to eat are threatened with eviction for having a spare bedroom, and/or forced to attend food banks during their free time on a zero hour contract in the World’s sixth largest economy placing unimaginable stress on vulnerable families, Conservatives register no concern, there are no vast melancholy paragraphs registering their sensitive unhappiness (instead making awful excuses; food banks exist because benevolent Tories told people they exist). Yet, conversely, When one refers to the policies and beliefs that lead to that misery as utterly hideous, Conservatives – as if they couldn’t get any more contemptible – have a multi-paragraph, pathetic tantrum and demand respect for those views. It is as if they just want to kick the most vulnerable in peace, and to challenge it, is to, in some alternate Tory universe, actually victimise the abusers. The hypocrisy is intense, but common to both the political right wing and religious right wing. It is why the US Christian-right is convinced that empowering those typically oppressed by Christian dogma, is to simultaneously oppress Christians. Conservative Party religious-like dogma and the dehumanising rhetoric that necessarily accompanies it, requires those who are dispossessed and disempowered by it, to shut up and accept that they are to blame, to challenge the prevailing Tory discourse is to upset and ‘offend’ conservatives who just want respect for views that necessarily harm the most vulnerable. To my mind, there is very little worth respecting less than such a position. It is why the Conservative Party richly deserves the “nasty party” title that has surrounded the Party for so long. The rabid individualism of their economic outlook, is matched only by their inward looking defensive and what appears to be a display of sensitivity only when their own religious-like views are scrutinised, or – straight from the religious fanatic handbook – ‘offended’. The desire is to be free to dehumanise those without power and influence, whilst themselves – and the powerful they so lovingly defend – protected from the same such treatment (see UKIPs rhetoric on that; happy to invent all sorts of vicious nonsense about Bulgarians that Farage would be unhappy living next door to, whilst at the same threatening ‘Have I Got News For You’ with the police for satirising UKIP). For the rest of us to capitulate and offer respect for those beliefs, is to capitulate and accept that those deeply hypocritical & most importantly, inhuman beliefs are normalised rather than incredibly extreme and damaging, and beneficial to one group of people to the detriment of everyone else. Indeed, to victimise the powerless for the sake of legitimising an economic & social system that benefits those who advocate it – the powerful – is not the Conservative mantra of “making tough decisions”, it is making long dreamed of ideologically driven decisions, that also happen to be excruitiatingly cowardly, whilst hypocritically demanding respect for it. I don’t, and absolutely never will. 

Nafeez Ahmed and the hypocrisy of guilt by association.

May 1, 2015

Guilt by association is a wonderful thing for those desperate to smear others. After a wildly manipulative attempt to smear Ayaan Hirsi Ali a few weeks back, AlterNet have decided to take aim at Quilliam and Maajid Nawaz in particular, commenting on links to the US right wing, and the Ted Cruz’ campaign. In his latest piece titled “How violent extremists hijacked London based counter extremism think tanks“, Nafeez Ahmed says:

“In January 2011, the same year Nawaz appointed Chad Sweet to the Quilliam Foundation’s US board of directors, Sweet set up a nonprofit corporation in Texas, Ted Cruz for Senate, where he remains a director. In that capacity, Sweet played a lead role in the campaign that led Republican maverick Ted Cruz to win election to the Senate in 2012.”

– Also playing a role in that campaign, was the Tea Party effort to whip up hysteria around the Affordable Care Act, using manipulated data. In the same year – 2011 – that Ahmed references, Ted Cruz gave a speech and highlighted a hugely dubious report from the consultancy firm McKinsey & Company in his campaign against the Affordable Care Act. Cruz said:

“Indeed, McKinsey & Company estimated that only 11 percent of those who have signed up for insurance under Obamacare were uninsured. That’s roughly 330,000 Americans. So that contrasts to over 5 million who lost their health insurance.”

– Keeping McKinsey & Co in mind, it’s perhaps worth noting that AlterNet has in the past received donations from The Ford Foundation whose President between 2008 and 2013 was a man named Luis A. Ubinas. Previous to his role as President at The Ford Foundation, Ubinas spent 18 years, and was – between 2002 – 2008 – a company executive at… McKinsey & Company, the company whose dubious report was utilised by Ted Cruz. More significantly, during the years that Ubinas played a key role at McKinsey, according to Open Secrets McKinsey had donated to the campaign funds of several Republicans including the GOP candidate for US Senate in 2006 Mike McGavick – who advocated teaching ‘intelligent design’ in schools, and in 2004, they donated $40,550 to the campaign of AlterNet’s much despised George W Bush. Also in 2004, they donated to the campaign of that other Tea Party favourite, Bobby Jindal. So, The Ford Foundation – one of AlterNet’s key donors – could have chosen a new President from anywhere in the World, but chose a guy at the top of a consultancy firm that had donated to big names in the Republican and Tea Party movement. Further, In 2011, Bobby Jindal was awarded the 2011 Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award by the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). I bring this up, because in 2009 a man named Jeffrey Lane was a member of the Private Enterprise Board of Directors at ALEC. Coincidentally, Lane – in 2008 – happened to be a Partner at…. McKinsey & Co. And to come full circle, here is Ted Cruz giving a speech at ALEC’s 2013 States and Nation Policy Summit:

– Hypocritical guilt by association and weak links is a wonderful, wonderful thing.


PEN & the illiberal boycott of Charlie Hebdo.

April 29, 2015

In explaining away his decision – along with five other writers – to boycott the PEN American Center Gala after PEN planned a tribute and a Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo on May 5th, Peter Carey said:

“‘PEN’s seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population’.”

– The wonderful thing about Carey expressing himself here, is that he’s not likely to be killed for it.

Carey has decided that free expression has a specific task if it is to be considered for recognition; a ‘moral obligation‘ to champion those who Carey considers to be disempowered (this apparently doesn’t cover those most disempowered, who were murdered for a cartoon) anything short of that, deserves no award for free expression… even if it ends in death. On this, of course Carey is wrong. It is determined by the individual what it is they consider to be the ‘moral obligation‘ behind their expression, not Peter Carey, hence the word ‘free’.

In my view – and I suspect I differ from Carey on this – there is a significant ‘moral obligation‘ in challenging, mocking, & criticising any idea or dogma that can result in death for doing so. Across the World blasphemy laws continue to chain the lips of millions, whilst persecuting those brave enough to fight back. The freedom for a large portion of the World to speak, is so violently restricted by the religious sensibilities of others. Following the massacre in Paris, media outlets across the World refused to show the image that Charlie Hebdo staff were killed for printing. Thus, protecting free expression became a secondary concern to protecting a single religion. And so in short; any concept that brings with it the opposite of liberty, must be challenged, because to protect it, is to empower it. There is a distinct bravery – whether you like the content or not – in not only satirising ideas that result in threats to your life, but also continuing to do so after the most violent attempts are made to silence you. To disagree with presenting a Free Expression & Courage award to a publication that endured a massacre to silence it, is bizarre to me. But to boycott it, is to abandon the principle upon which PEN was established, and so it’s probably best if Peter Carey wasn’t there. He absolutely shouldn’t be.

Further, Carey is also wrong in attempting to redefine the parameters in which Hebdo operates. He insisted that PEN was ‘blind‘ to France not recognising its obligation to a disempowered section of the population. Whether right or wrong, it – by association, and the subject – implies Charlie Hebdo focuses on that ‘disempowered’ section also. On the contrary, Hebdo is not simply dedicated to satirising Islam (though even if it were, that would be fine…. ‘Life of Brian’ satirised Christianity without having to mention the ‘cultural arrogance’ of the nation in which it was conceived). Hebdo is famed for satirising a variety of power structures. For example, here:

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– And here:

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– And here:

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– Indeed, Hebdo has satirised the French government, the German Chancellor, the Papacy, the Front National, the UN, the US, Christianity, and plenty of other power bases. And so it seems to me that Carey – in his dishonest representation of what Hebdo does – is simply uncomfortable with Islam being subjected to that same form of criticism. He – like far too many calling themselves liberal – appear to consider Islam a victim that requires protecting, wrongly conflating Muslims as human beings, with Islam as an idea. In doing so, they not only disempower a basic concept of liberty that isn’t afforded to much of the World, but they empower a single religious idea above all others, implying that it is different, and should therefore be treated differently. This is exceptionally dangerous.

Carey’s thoughts were echoed by former President of PEN – and also not happy at the recognition Hebdo is receiving – Francine Prose. Prose article in the Guardian was one long confusion between content she disapproves of, and the principle of free expression itself. For example, she explains:

“Perhaps my sense of this will be clearer if I mention the sort of writers and whistleblowers whom I think would be appropriate candidates: Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, the journalists who have risked (and in some cases lost) their lives to report on the wars in the Middle East.”

– Journalists who have ‘risked their lives‘ is a hugely inappropriate comment, given that the award is going to a publication whose journalists actually lost their lives in a massive terrorist attack intended to silence them. After insisting she admires the bravery of Hebdo, and is fine with blasphemy, Prose said:

“Our job, in presenting an award, is to honor writers and journalists who are saying things that need to be said, who are working actively to tell us the truth about the world in which we live. That is important work that requires perseverance and courage. And this is not quite the same as drawing crude caricatures and mocking religion.”

– By doing this, Prose is presenting a deeply illiberal principle. She sets a sort of bar to be surpassed before she’d consider the expression worthy of an award. A confused bar at that, given that Manning and Snowden aren’t actually journalists. Prose seems to imply that challenging an idea that results in death for those expressing the challenge (and continuing to, even after a massacre), if it targets religion, through satire, does not ‘need to be said‘. That exercising of a form of expression denied to millions, even though you might die for it, does not reach the bar she sets. To dismiss satire of religion so easily, is to dismiss the real danger to human lives risked by satirising religion. For Prose, it seems an unimportant topic, if you want to be considered a ‘writer or journalist who tells the truth‘. In reality, anchoring moral principles to a single time and place – or, ‘religion’ as it’s popularly referred – has been and continues to be one of the greatest barriers to individual liberty the World has known.

Prose ends with:

“The narrative of the Charlie Hebdo murders – white Europeans killed in their offices by Muslim extremists – is one that feeds neatly into the cultural prejudices that have allowed our government to make so many disastrous mistakes in the Middle East.”

– I don’t know what this has to do with honouring people killed for their right to express, because this is not at all a narrative PEN is advocating. Two further things strike me about this comment; Firstly, I would argue that attempt to protect Islam from free expression of critics, feeds the extremist narrative across the World that Islam is a privileged concept, which in turn, is the basis upon which blasphemy laws are conceived, and cartoonists are murdered. It therefore has the opposite effect of what liberals are perhaps trying to achieve. It is wrong to say that Prose sides with extremists on this (as some have said), but her position certainly feeds their deluded sense of privilege. Secondly, Prose’s ending seems like a bit of an irrelevant Chomsky-esque after thought. And a hideously wrong one at that, given that Mustapha Ourrad – the copyeditor with Charlie Hebdo, and one of the victims of the massacre – was born in Algeria, and that Georges Wolinski – a cartoonist with Charlie Hebdo, and one of the victims of the massacre – was born in Tunisia. PEN is not dedicating an award to cultural prejudices that harm the civil rights of Muslims. Nor is it commenting on Western foreign policy. To conflate anti-Muslim hate, with challenging religious narratives that can result in death, is a huge manipulation. PEN is dedicated – as any liberal should be – to open and free expression and enquiry, in which no dogma is considered sacred. Human beings deserve rights & protections… Ideas don’t.


Tim Wise: Misrepresenting Hamas.

April 27, 2015

There is a tendency – since passions are high in the debate – for the partisans on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict to creep into the realms of bigotry to make their case. With anti-Semitism on the rise across the World, it is sad to see those who ordinarily stand against bigotry and privilege, crossing the line into a subtle anti-Semitism in order to strengthen their position. To highlight this, I had noticed that Tim Wise – the usually excellent anti-racial privilege writer – had attempted to completely rewrite the goals of Hamas, downplaying their bigoted & supremacist intentions and history, in order to strengthen his own position:

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– Here, Tim Wise has compared the goals of Hamas to the goals of Einstein and secularists. He stops at that. Hamas want an end to a Jewish state. This is a wildly simplistic and manipulative re-imagining of what it is Hamas actually wants; the basis of which is articulated – contrary to any secular thought processes – in Article 14 of Hamas’ Charter declares:

“For Palestine is an Islamic land…”

– A reader with a basic grasp of 20th Century European & Middle Eastern History will understand that far from having anything in common with secularism – or Einstein, who supported a bi-national state that favoured no single group or religion above any other – Hamas and their ideological struggle – as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood – are the product of 1930s/40s Western Fascism infused with a delusional sense of religious ownership of land.

Far from the implication that Hamas share common goals with secularists, in reality, Hamas are an extension of the political far-right, fused with religious dogma; an obsession with a global Jewish conspiracy, that has its birth in Medieval Christendom, perpetuated hideously by the Catholic Church – especially in Germany – only to be exported by the Nazis, and Haj Muhammad Amin el-Husseini – Grand Mufti – to the Muslim World in the 20th Century, and appropriated by the Brotherhood. For the Mufti, anti-Semitism was a religious duty. For the Fascists, it was a socially racist necessity. The mixing of the two gives us Hamas. Mahmoud Al-Zahar of Hamas epitomises that link perfectly. As well as insisting that religious persecution of Jews throughout history, is there own fault (a victim-blaming narrative entirely), al-Zahar had this genocidal warning for the future:

“…there is no place for you among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed for annihilation.”

– The desire to eradicate Jewish people has been the thread (and often successful – as with the massacres in Baghdad, of Jews in 1941) that has held Brotherhood offshoots – like Hamas – to the Mufti’s ideals and the Brotherhood since its early days. Indeed, in the 1920s, the Grand Mufti – prior to his support for the holocaust – disseminated literature that included the phrase:

“O Arabs, do not forget that the Jew is your worst enemy and has been the enemy of your forefathers.”

– Further, as the Nazi’s were making their way through Egypt in the mid-1940s, the Mufti was given free reign to air radio broadcasts direct from Berlin. In one example, he stated:

“kill Jews wherever you find them for the love of God, history and religion.”

– Alongside the Mufti, the Muslim Brotherhood were instrumental in translating both the anti-Semitic forgery ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and ‘Mein Kampf‘ into Arabic, and continue to spread both. Hamas references the Protocols in its Charter here:

“Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present [conduct] is the best proof of what is said there.”

– The Brotherhood obsession with a global Jewish conspiracy is reflected not just with Hamas, but also in Egypt – the birthplace of Islamism (not Saudi, as many believe) – after the fall of Morsi and his Brotherhood supporters. Both sides of the fight for power have accused the other of being ‘Jewish’ and attempting to implement the Protocols. Hamas continues to do the same.

Contrary to Wise’s misrepresentation, Hamas’ Charter doesn’t simply call for the end to a “uniquely Jewish State“. Allow me to highlight exactly what Hamas’ Charter states:

“As to the objectives: discarding the evil, crushing it and defeating it, so that truth may prevail, homelands revert [to their owners], calls for prayer be heard from their mosques, announcing the reinstitution of the Muslim state. Thus, people and things will revert to their true place.”

– It continues:

“The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it.”

– Waqf, in this context, means owned by that single religion. Hamas’ opposes a Jewish state, because it believes the entire region must be subjected to the rules and regulations of their one sect of their one faith. They are religious supremacists. This is reflected in how they police areas in which Hamas has control. For example, Shaul Ganon, of Agudah, a gay rights group in the region, said:

“I know of two cases in the last three years where people were tried explicitly for being homosexuals,they were both beheaded.”

– But what about any peace initiative? Any at all:

“[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion.”

– Unless a peace initiative is designed to completely eradicate Israel, with power in the hands of one religion, and its believers, Hamas are not going to support a peace settlement.

“Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the nonbelievers as arbitrators in the lands of Islam. Since when did the Unbelievers do justice to the Believers? “And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed. Say: Lo! the guidance of Allah [himself] is the Guidance. And if you should follow their desires after the knowledge which has come unto thee, then you would have from Allah no protecting friend nor helper.” Sura 2 (the Cow), verse 120 There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.”

– Here, the reason given for opposing a secular and inclusive structure to a Palestinian settlement, is the Jews, and Christians. It is backed by a victim narrative. The Charter isn’t finished with simply declaring the entire region Islamic – and all who live in it, which never ends well for the LGBT community or apostates forced to live under such brutal Theocracies – it then explains who its enemies are. You’ll perhaps note that it has very little to do with an Israeli occupation, and far more to do with the ethnicity of the people, as is consistent with a Brotherhood/Nazi obsession with eradicating Jews:

“Within the circle of the conflict with world Zionism, the Hamas regards itself the spearhead and the avant-garde. It joins its efforts to all those who are active on the Palestinian scene, but more steps need to be taken by the Arab and Islamic peoples and Islamic associations throughout the Arab and Islamic world in order to make possible the next round with the Jews, the merchants of war. “We have cast among them enmity and hatred till the day of Resurrection. As often as they light a fire for war, Allah extinguishes it. Their effort is for corruption in the land, and Allah loves not corrupters.” Sura V (Al-Ma’idah—the Table spread), verse 64.”

– Hamas’ issue with Israel is not simply with perceived oppression in the territories, but with Jews in general. Hamas, in Article 32 of their Charter, calls upon Muslims across the World to oppose the Jewish population, as a precursor to a religiously-ordained ‘next round’ with the ‘merchants of war’.

Article 7 of Hamas Charter quotes Bukhari:

“The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).”

– Two key themes run through Hamas’ Charter, as ran through the Muslim Brotherhood’s purpose. Firstly, the entire region must be brought under the control of one religion. A Theocracy. Secondly, supported by their own interpretation of religious dogma, and mixed with 20th Century fascism; Jews are the enemy. Not Israel. Jews. To both ends, Hamas uses the same anti-Semitic propaganda, the same victim of Jewish aggression narrative, the same Jewish global conspiracy narrative, and a call to fight Jews, to further its end-goal of the region entirely engulfed by their particular brand of religious supremacy. Hamas inherited and furthered the 20th Century Islamist & Nazi narrative. They have nothing in common with secularists. For Tim Wise to downplay the role of religious supremacy and its Fascist origins in Hamas’ Charter – and thus, downplay almost a century of genocidal Brotherhood intentions that inform Hamas – is so vastly dishonest, offensive to the principles of secular liberty, and quite clearly crosses the line into anti-Semitism.


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