The creeping racial bigotry in CJ Werleman’s rhetoric.

May 26, 2015

Over the years of writing articles, of changing my views on certain subjects, softening on some, or hardening on others, the timeless responses to those articles tend always to be very angry because I’ve offended religious or political sensibilities, or supportive for the very same reason. Very rarely does anyone – whether angry or supportive – misrepresent what I’d written. It takes a special kind of dishonesty to do that, someone who cares little for truthful representation of the views and thoughts of others. Enter CJ Werleman:

– It’s important to note from the start, that I’ve never accused, or implied that CJ Werleman is ‘anti-white‘. On the contrary, I think Werleman presents a wholly white privilege narrative. And so with this in mind, I thought I’d clarify – and in much of the article, simply repeat from my previous article – what I took exception to in Werleman’s article for Middle East Eye. Here are the two paragraphs in question:

“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 worth remembering that with such a provocatively absurd title like “Is New Atheism an anti-Muslim, white supremacy movement?”, the point of the article is not to present an intellectually stimulating piece of journalism with integrity, quite the opposite, the point is to be purposely hyperbolic and personally attack opponents. It’s the ‘Your mum is fat!‘ before the schoolyard fight. We find throughout the article, all the emotive buzzwords that possess little thought, do not engage with actual arguments, and are simply designed to poke at the emotions of the reader; “neoconservative”, “neo-Nazi“, “genocidal“, “colonialism” “fascist“, “racist“, “white supremacist“, with a quick dose of “Anders Breivik” and “ethnic cleansing” thrown in, just to make sure the reader knows for certain that Bill Maher is actually Josef Goebbels. The whole piece is reminiscent of Fox News unable to go three minutes without having to refer to the President as a communist, socialist, Marxist, anti-Christian, Muslim born in Kenya and probably gay. It isn’t a respectable form of journalism, it is throwing shit in the hope that some of it sticks. It is also so narrowly focused on attacking the targets (in this case – as in most of Werleman’s recent tantrums – Sam Harris & Ayaan Hirsi Ali, through hideous distortions) that it’s easy for Werleman to not recognise the creeping bigotry in his own rhetoric.

For example, Werleman implies with “Western intervention” & “Western imperialism” being “white supremacist” that Western countries are to be considered white. Far from being “anti-white“, I’m convinced this paragraph represents Werleman’s white privilege narrative. He’ll use that racially-charged narrative, if it helps him in his endless attempts to smear Sam Harris or Ayaan Hirsi Ali. To imply that Western nations are white, disregards human beings who are not white, who daily shape the nation, and the struggles for equality that have influenced the social, philosophical, scientific, & economic framework of Western countries over the years to get to where we are today.

Further, Werleman has created an organised enemy – ‘New Atheists‘ – given it the ‘white supremacist‘ attribute as its core purpose, and now has to explain away the logical inconsistencies that arise. For example, along with the ‘white’ West, why does he dismiss ‘New Atheism‘ as ‘white supremacist’? Does that mean that only atheists with white skin are included in that title? Doesn’t that imply that rhetoric is actually second in importance to skin tone, in Werleman’s definition of a ‘New Atheist‘, because if you’re not white, and argue in tone much like Sam Harris, you don’t fit the definition? Need we a completely separate phrase for those who are as critical of Islam as Sam Harris, but who aren’t white? Why must a phrase for such people be based on ethnicity? The problem as you can see, with the attribute that Werleman gives to ‘New Atheists‘ is that the inconsistencies in this completely false narrative, ultimately betray his own bigotry with the questions that they raise. To claim ‘New Atheists‘ are ‘white supremacists‘ makes that club racially exclusive, according to the criteria of Werleman’s own definition of ‘New Atheists’. In reality, critics of Islam are spread across the World, across cultures, and certainly not anchored to one tone of skin.

The framework upon which I was born in 1986, is one in which white privilege still illegitimately influences everything, though over the years chipped away by the bravest of human beings who put their lives on the line – often resulting in death, as was the case with Dr King jr – to level the playing field, and reshape the framework. The nation that I was born into still has institutionally racist elements, but is far less so than when my great-grandfather was born. In fact, only two decades before I was born, my dad was in his early years when Paul Stephenson, following the example of Rosa Parks, lead a protest against Bristol Omnibus Company for their refusal to employ black and Asian drivers. Even more unbelievable, Eric Holder – the US’s first African American Attorney General – was born 11 months before the death of the Confederacy’s last remaining veteran – Pleasant Crump – who fought to uphold slavery as the great Frederick Douglass was laying the intellectual foundations of a civil rights movement that would grow fearlessly for the next century. The progress in one man’s lifetime to reshape the country away from its white supremacist foundings (and at that time the hypocritical notion that ‘all Men are created equal‘) & human slavery, and the battles that had to be fought by extraordinary human rights campaigners, is exceptional (though still, quite hideously, not even close to being fully remedied). The framework that we today live on, owes everything to those reformers (not just racial reformers, but gender, sexuality, and secular reformers). Western nations benefit from a melting pot of ideas and challenges to authority from those people traditionally oppressed by the illegitimate power of supremacists, so that future generations are less likely to be held back by those same illegitimate restrictions based on ethnicity. The nation belongs to all who live here, not a single ethnicity, or a single gender, or a single sexuality, or eye colour or any other pointless distinction. It may suit the overall narrative that Werleman is dedicated to – ceaselessly trying to cast Sam Harris as the reincarnation of Hitler – but the narrative is loaded with racism itself, in that it disregards anyone who isn’t white.

That leads us to the “clash of civilisations” phrase. Far from new atheists claiming that narrative, Werleman does exactly that when he refers to the West as white, and implies the Middle East, Africa, and Asia is the opposite. I guess President Obama would be banned from leading the “Western imperialist” white-supremacist crusade. Further – as I noted in my previous article – Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s criticisms are included as part of a “case in point” white supremacism. A bizarre form of silencing. One wonders if this also applies to other non-white ex-Muslims across the World, if Werleman absorbs them into a “white supremacist” narrative also. I wonder if they realise that by speaking out, they’ll never get to be “New Atheists” (a solely “white” club, obviously), and that they’re only supporting white supremacy!

Indeed, to push criticism of an idea – political or religious – into a category that is considered solely ‘white‘, despite criticism of that idea, as with practically every idea coming from all different sections of the global community, is to disenfranchise and silence people like Hirsi Ali and others like her, as well as non-white atheists and secularists, before they’ve even told their story or argued their point. Leo Igwe from Nigeria is not a white supremacist, Walid Shoebat is not a white supremacist. Walid Husayin is not a white supremacist. People, again, dismissed by Werleman for not fitting the racially-driven narrative he clings to.

There is nothing liberal, or respectable in trying to smear whom you perceive as opponents, to do so dishonestly and manipulatively, and to do so using racist rhetoric. If you create an undefined organised enemy – like “new Atheists” – that you attribute white supremacism as key to its being, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to dig yourself out of that hole when it’s quite clear that criticism (harsh or otherwise) of that religion you seek to protect, is across seas, ethnicities, and cultures. Your own bigotry will shine through, as it did in Werleman’s article. In short, everything Werleman accuses his opponents of…. he is guilty of himself, to a far greater degree, in these two short paragraphs.

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:

– 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:

Article about Sam Harris, by Reza Aslan.

And Greenwald:

Article about Sam Harris, by Glenn Greenwald.

And 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.