My attempt to protest Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky

Recently I wrote:

An anti-Semite by the name of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky will be addressing an otherwise very respectable Mosque tonight in my local area of Kilburn.

He is the head of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), the website of which has an article clearly demonstrating the extent to which he views Jews as plotters. An article on that website details a recent seminar given by a deeply dubious character Sheikh Yusuf Ali who talks about the Zionist plot against Muslims; then clearly details Zakzaky noting “the Jewish plot against Islam is manifested in Iraq as they sent Bush to capture Iraq for them”. There is of course the obligatory reference to the “protocols”.

According to his biography on the official website of the IMN:

The goal of the Islamic movement is to enlighten the Muslims as to their duties as individuals and as a community. The movement owns more than three hundred primary/secondary schools located in different places mainly in the northern part of the country. They are known by the name of Fudiyyah Schools. This is in addition to many Islamic centers and other institutions. The movement also owns the Nigeria’s most widely circulated newspaper, Al Mizan, in the Hausa language.

It also details Zakzaky’s arrests, which the site claims were “for his ideas”.

The Jerusalem Post – one of the few publications with details of Zakzaky’s visit – mentions details of the host of the conference, the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). They say:

The IHRC is a Hezbollah and Islamic Republic supporting organization. At an anti-Israel rally in Hyde Park during the Second Lebanon War, its chair Massoud Shadjareh wore a Hezbollah flag as did research director Reza Kazim, who was seen chanting phrases like “We are all Hezbollah” and “Bomb, bomb Tel Aviv.” At a pro- Israel rally in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2008, Kazim was ejected by the police for filming within the roped off area.

According to an article written by the Middle East Strategic Information written in 2009:

  • Zakzaky’s IMN is growing popular among impoverished Nigerian Muslims
  • He believes Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden do not exist, acts of terrorism in the west are organised by western intelligence services, and that Tony Blair was behind the 7/7 bombings
  • He claims Nigeria’s secularist leaders perform ritual sacrifices removing unborn babies from their Mother’s wombs by ripping them out
  • He believes Jews are “”dastardly infidels” and draws inspiration from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and the deceased Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin

He has been and gone now, but came almost unnoticed.

I hate to come across all Eustonite or “decent” but if Geert Wilders or Le Pen or someone dreadful like that came to our town, we’d be all over them like a rash, but with figures such as Zakzaky – who is not small beer by the way, he is the head of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) – we give it a miss.

Some may say that Zakzaky has never committed terror himself, which is why it is not important, but this does not disprove his threat. Some may say, in his words, he does not cause terror. This is questionable, but I’m careful not to make claims I cannot substantiate. During the conference season, the Quilliam Foundation held an event on how non-violent extremism can be just as dangerous as violent extremism. Whether directly or indirectly, Zakzaky has sounded off to the tune of racial discrimination and religious violence, and this should not be sniffed at.

Some will perhaps accuse me, and have done before, of making straw man of whom to knock down. The point here is that I’m not accusing anyone of supporting Zakzaky – though there obviously are some who do - and I’m certainly not saying that in the absence of an anti-fascist picket of him, that I should therefore deduce the anti-fascists in fact support Islamic fascists. It is not true. But I have difficulty understanding why people like Zakzaky don’t wind them up to the point of protest, whereas smaller targets like David Irving, do.

Now let me quickly qualifiy this before I get myself into trouble. Of course Irving is bad news, and has dangerous ideas, but at least he is an army of one; him and maybe some idiots in the National Front or Combat 18. His words are largely ignored by the vast amount of thinking human beings, and are taken on board by a small group of twits that if they express their counterfactual opinions, land themselves in court. Zakzaky, on the other hand, is the head of a church, has many followers and is fiercely anti-Semitic – context, here, is all.

In my quest to get more airplay on Zakzaky, I wrote to three individuals/organisations that I thought could maybe help; Peter Tatchell, Hope not Hate and Unite Against Fascism.

I requested their help in numbers to picket the arrival of Zakzaky and ask questions of the mosque why they felt it responsible to invite someone with a evident history of anti-Semitism and crime.

I saw something on him at the Jerusalem Post and some bits on Harry’s Place blog here and here, as well as a cross-post on the Spittoon website, but when I read next to nothing about him in the mainstream press I wrote to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jewish Chronicle – as well as tweeting Martin Bright and Stephen Pollard – Hampstead and Highgate Express and the Kilburn Times.

The only response I got from any of these places was Peter Tatchell to tell me he was ill and had no campaign funds. Tatchell in his email recommended I contact the Board of Deputies of British Jews and contact local news sources – which I had done. It is a great credit to the man for at least writing back to me and taking my email seriously; there indeed is someone who will not allow sentimentalities affect his principles, and I can’t talk highly of him for doing so.

Tatchell’s first line said it all: “I share your anger about Mosques hosting extremist clerics and preachers. It is no better than having a right wing white racist speaking.”

There is no such thing as a “decent” left. There are leftwingers and rightwingers, with some mixing in the middle, and there are hypocrites and those who allow confused politics affect principles. I do not level this charge at anyone in particular, but in the fight against fascism in all its forms, we can’t just sit on our hands, we should be pulling our fingers out.

In the end I went down to the mosque by myself, and I was ineffective and nervous about getting on the wrong side of anyone. But were I backed up with the same level of energy certain organisations reserve for other far rightwingers, we could have told a number of people what we think about foul ideas infiltrating vulnerable communities.

Finding Mecca and theology on the hoof

Bad news: Idonesian Muslims, who are approximately 86%, or about 200 million, of its population, have been praying the wrong way; not towards Mecca – the intended destination, but Somalia, in Africa.

But the most fantastic thing to come out of this all was the words of Ma’ruf Amin from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI). After admitting the council made a mistake last March when calculating where Muslims should turn to when praying, Amin said “God understands that humans make mistakes. Allah always hears their prayers.”

This sounds like theology on the hoof.

Is this not the “no limbo” moment that the Catholic Church had in 2006. In October of that year the Pope had decided that limbo should be abolished for children.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he was on record as saying that “Limbo has no place in modern Catholicism.”

The Mail reported that:

In 1984, he told Vittorio Messori, the Catholic author, that Limbo had “never been a definitive truth of the faith”.

He said: “Personally, I would let it drop, since it has always been only a theological hypothesis.”

When A.C. Grayling talks about the dropping of limbo he uses it to exemplify the stupidity of religion, but actually Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has it correct, or at least half so, when he mentions the theological hypothesis.

I’m not sure how one would reach such a hypothesis, but a hypothesis it is: one based on thin air. But this asks more questions of the limits in human knowledge, more so than the truth of religion – which is the stuff beyond testing, thus, unverifiable.

However, if Islam has had it’s “no limbo” moment, what does this do for the rift between a clerics’ knowledge, and the truth of the Koran, a problematic which divides factions within Islam itself?

Ma’ruf Amin’s theology on the hoof will provide much laughter for those who have suspicion of the “authorities” of the subject.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he presided over the commission?s first sessions. He is on record as saying that Limbo has no place in modern Catholicism.

“Secular Humanists” vs. Far right extremists, or where is the EDL civil war then?

I had the great fortune to engage in a twitter debate not so long ago with a twit (or tweeter) who goes by the name Jack Kerouac and twit name @EDLDoverFerry. It was an enlightening experience as I’m sure anyone can guess, but it wasn’t entirely what I expected from someone so ardent about their support for a group that has been noted in the press for their violence, racism and Islamophobia.

Kerouac was very keen to point out that he feels the English Defence League is a secularist, humanist group with the interests of women, gays and kufr (nonbelievers, or those who deny “truth”) at heart. The oiks and thugs that the media show on the telly and in the newspapers spoil it for the other honest members, and they are the bane of the EDL security guards’ lives, for it is they who have to try and bring order and peace to the demonstrations the EDL put on, and this simply cannot be done when numpties scream colourful and vile language (“I hate P*kis more than you“) on the streets and kids with bitter eyes wave the fascist salute.

Kerouac’s point was the EDL are not the BNP and are just trying to protest against sharia law.

This would be all the more believable if there weren’t one or two problems with the EDL (see also PP on this subject):

There is a BNP presence in the EDL, and it exists at the top, not limited to those who go out on the street for the fight. The Stirrer revealed that Chris Renton, a BNP activist who lives in Weston-super-Mare, set up the EDL website. Further, Paul Ray, a spokesperson for the EDL admitted in an interview knowing about Renton’s links, and dismissed it by saying that “people’s political views are their own affair.”

Ray, during the interview conducted by The Stirrer’s editor Adrian Goldberg on Talksport, revealed, however, that it is not just Islamic extremism that he takes a disliking too. The entry explains:

During the course of the interview, it became apparent that Ray’s own view of Islamic extremism isn’t limited to suicide bombers and hook handed preachers of hate.

He argued that the Qu’ran teaches all its advocates to wage jihad or holy war in non-Muslim countries, and acknowledged that on this basis, all devout or practising Muslims in Britain, are – in his words – “at war with our country.”

When pressed, he said:  “They’re ultimately engaged in converting our country to an Islamic state…that is the religious mandate of the Qu’ran that all Muslims must adhere too.”

The EDL are bankrolled by a man who wants:

full-scale persecution of Muslims in Britain, including forcing them to live in Third Reich-style poverty-stricken ghettos within 20 years, killing any Muslims who attempted to leave these restricted starvation-ridden areas, and implementing summary executions for white British “race traitors

The EDL aim to set up a “Jewish division,” sparked off by the Gaza flotilla incident, “encouraging members of the community to “lead the counter-Jihad fight in England”.”

Jon Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “The EDL’s supposed ‘support’ for Israel is empty and duplicitous. It is built on a foundation of Islamophobia and hatred which we reject entirely.”

For some reason, the less proud members of this odd gang want to paint themselves as vigilantes for progressive causes like gender and sexual equality, under scrutiny by fanatics. But it doesn’t stand up when you look at the EDL for just a second.

Any group that is aware of its links with the BNP; any group that isn’t able to distinguish the minority of Islamists from mainstream, traditional or liberal Islamic movements, and certainly does nothing to attract those latter Muslims whose communities are most damaged by extremism; any group that seeks only to provoke should only be viewed with caution and disgust.

Review of Pascal Bruckner’s The Tyranny of Guilt

Erik Erikson, a Danish-German-American psychoanalyst, linked guilt with the feelings a child is overcome with when learning to make his own way in the world, usually between the ages of 4-6 when initiative becomes a part of a child’s daily purpose.

It is the third of eight stages in a child’s psychosexual development, where a child has increased confidence in doing things and making mistakes without being necessarily reliant upon an adult to whom the child is emotionally attached. Though what comes from this turn of events is a new found development of guilt, a link that the child’s autonomy in decisions will increase the level of wrongdoing the child is doing.

It follows that with the genesis of autonomy in a child comes an inability to properly judge boundaries and where the child might act out of turn, under which circumstances guilt is heightened.

In an adult a compulsion towards guilt might be seen less as a valid element of self-development, and more as being a compulsion towards masochism, the characteristic of pleasure being taken from pain or abuse. This, at least, is how Pascal Bruckner explains away the phenomenon of guilt in his book The Tyranny of Guilt, translated this year, as a compulsion towards masochism, using guilt as a way to retain a hierarchical attitude towards, for example, the third world, the lumpenproletariat, the illegal immigrant or the homo sacer (an individual who may have once been killed by anyone around the time of Roman law. The concept has been updated by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben as a person not able to enjoy the law, like, say, a Guantanamo Bay inmate) by allowing themselves to be put in a frame of mind where people’s misery is a product of the guilty person’s power over them.

As such Bruckner sees guilt as linked to megalomania or hubris, perhaps even as a substitute for power for the middle class European individual in a post-empire age, or a way to appear to reverse the co-ordinates of power relations in society, when in fact the presence of guilt firmly keeps those relations in place.

The guilt that Bruckner identifies is characterised by a wallowing in pity, which in turn is linked to Judeo-Christian notions of remorse and even sin. Bruckner points out that his native France has found truth hard to swallow in the years after the independence of Algeria. Where the Catholic and Monarchic traditions in France are usually seen to side with attitudes on the right, Bruckner notes that they are not entirely absent on the left, although it is often not recognised as such.

In the years after Algerian independence the left, usually the promoters of a single culture of universal human rights, and a nation under the banner of republican and egalitarian principles, chose instead to accept the entrapment of closed immigrant communities, and would excuse unpalatable acts that ran into conflict with some secular or anti-clerical principles.

This sea-change and eagerness to appease has been born, according to Bruckner, out of a guilt attributed, not to the pushing forward of enlightenment values, so crucial to progressive politics, but out of an arrogant bourgeois urge to bear the burden of blame, and this decadent urge is actually doing more damage to the pursuit of international left wing politics than good.

Inevitably Bruckner talks about the left at the time of the Iraq war. This is where he is at his most crucial, but where he is at most dangerous to overgeneralise. Certainly Bruckner is correct in identifying his use of the word guilt in accordance with particular portions of the Left who claim to uphold principles of tolerance when simultaneously giving a soapbox to far right Islamists, like those of the middle class left-liberals and Socialist Workers Party members in the UK who were happy marching alongside supporters of the Muslim Association of Britain and anti-Semitic sects, unconsciously under the principle my enemy’s enemy is a friend.

Bruckner’s use of the word guilt proves useful to hold up against times when Galloway praises the Hizbollah and Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, or Lindsey German when she says, differences aside, she’d sooner be in the same camp as Hamas and the Hizbollah if she lived in somewhere like Palestine or Lebanon. The Stop the War Coalition was a very big conglomeration of leftwingers and peace activists, and fronting this organisation were people who excused heinous crimes as a product of Western decadence, not being able for one second to see that their compulsion to do this is based on decadence too, on guilt.

But this attitude is not the sum total of the left, and with the electoral disasters of Galloway, and the mocking that follows him and the Respect party, perhaps it is now time for the willing left to hold a light up to people in his shadow, for the willing left that see it as more important for human rights organisations to maintain good relations with feminists than with self-described jihadis who happened to served in prisons that should also be called into question. An enemy’s enemy is not always a friend, and it can quite often be a dead weight.

Lots of charges have been thrown towards Brucker, not least the call that he is a neo-conservative philosopher. Whether he identifies himself as such is up to him, but it would be a huge error for sections of the left intent on characterising Bruckner as such to ignore the conclusions made in this book, it might also teach them some uncomfortable truths about themselves.

Don’t vote Respect

The Respect party bus keeps driving up and down Limeharbour, on the road where I work next to Canary Wharf. I hear the voice of George Galloway bellowing incoherent drool for about three seconds every so often, before turning to look seeing a red blur in motion with the face of their Bethnal Green and Bow candidate Abjol Miah.

A man holding a peace sign waves, but I don’t wave back for two reasons, one serious the other not so serious.

The not so serious reason is that George Galloway recently said to the Wharf newspaper “Tim Archer says Canary Wharf is part of us but there are about 100,000 people working there and just seven per cent live in Tower Hamlets”.

I feel slightly implied in this, but I just generally feel this is a bad move. He follows it up by saying that ASBOs should be rolled out to bankers, which for the ones that gamble and steal our paddles when we drift off into the shit creek might be letting them off lightly, but I can’t see what he means by saying this – are Canary Wharf workers settlers-cum-beneficiaries of imperialist arms deals? Not me sir.

The second reason why I didn’t wave back is because I feel Respect is a symbol of a great deal wrong with the modern left.

The Respect party is still grounded on some very disturbing attitudes and is allied with some disturbing characters.

To go through them all here would be too much like repeating the same old hat, but I will note a few elements that may have been missed or forgotten about while thinking about “bigotgate“:

George Galloway, the firearm of the Respect party, once said:

Hizbollah is leading that resistance [in Palestine]. I do not hesitate to say, and Blair and his law officers may take note, that I glorify that resistance.

I glorify the Hizbollah national resistance movement, and I glorify the leader of Hizbollah, Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

Were this just a SWaPpy flunky then you might simply call him or her stupid for applying that ever-dangerous rule my enemy’s enemy is my friend. But this is Galloway; no idiot – why should he glorify Sheikh Sayed Hassan Nasrallah?

This chap said that implementing Khomeini’s fatwa on Rushdie would have curbed all future insults to the prophet.

He also goes further than most on the subject of Jews. Two examples given on his wikipedia page quote him as saying:

  • According to Shaul Shai, Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech delivered in Beirut and aired on Al-Manar TV in September 28, 2001: “What do the Jews want? They want security and money. Throughout history the Jews have been Allah’s most cowardly and avaricious creatures. If you look all over the world, you will find no one more miserly or greedy than they are.”.
  • In a 1998 speech marking the Day of Ashura, and published in what was Hassan Nasrallah’s official website at that time, Nasrallah referred to Israel as “the state of the grandsons of apes and pigs – the Zionist Jews” and condemned them as “the murderers of the prophets. “The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a pro-Israel media watchdog group, MEMRI, and Shaul Shai interpret this language as broadly antisemitic.

Respect have split ways with Lindsey German now, but not for reasons of extremism. She has said before:

whatever disagreements I have with Hamas and Hezbollah, I would rather be in their camp”. And if she lived in Palestine or Lebanon, she probably would be – quite literally. She condemned the language of imperialism, which pretends that “they want democracy. Democracy in the Middle East is Hamas, is Hezbollah.

This is simply a crazy line; and is not absurd to hear among the ranks of SWaPpies/Respect.

Another that Respect has not made efforts to distance from is Dr Azzam Tamimi. To his credit his support of Hamas is on the condition that they change their anti-Semitic charter. Great. But this is not to justify further comments, namely:

“Killing Civilians is fine if it produces results”

“Dying for your beliefs is just”

“Arab women “ask for” domestic violence, and believes thieves should be punished by cutting off their hands”

Bottom line. Respect is not a party of the left; it is a party of nuts.

The Fallacy of Sharia Law

As was proven by Sigmund Freud, in his final book on Moses, the best way to undercut someone’s argument is by repositioning that which their critique rests upon; for example Freud had a clear choice when the Nazi’s went from intimidating Jewish households to eliminating them – he could hurl abuse at Nazism, or radically rearticulate the grounds on which Judaism were built upon.

He chose the latter; the writing of one psychoanalyst could not take down a whole army, so he decided to turn the pen on himself, and his race, in order to knock off balance the understanding of Jewish history that the Nazi’s thought they had nailed.

Moses, Freud mentions in his book, written while exiled in Britain before he died, was an Egyptian priest of Akhenaten, and not, as is erroneously assumed, originally Hebrew. As such, he told Arnold Zweig in a letter, “Moses created the Jews” as well as noting that “it was not God who chose the Jews … but Moses.”

Instead of writing antagonistic polemic towards the fascists, like many other exiled Jews had, he aimed to show that everything the Nazi’s thought they knew about the Jews was wrong, instead of accepting the Nazi’s knowledge and arguing from the perspective of justice alone (if there was anyone who could attack the psyche in such a way, it was Freud).

It is one thing simply to put up a defense to someone’s crazy ideas; but the real way in which to throw their argument off course is to show that everything they know is wrong, even by searching from within the tradition that they ascribe themselves to, in order to show that everything they know even about themselves is wrong.

This is what I aimed to do on the subject of the far right within Islam – and what I continue to do with Freud’s method as my mentoring method – throw off the enemy’s argument by creating conditions where they doubt their knowledge, and furthermore their self-knowledge.

But this time it is on sharia law, and how Muslims interact with it in so-called non-Muslim jurisdictions (such as the UK).

In February 2008, in response to Rowan Williams’ comment on the (“unavoidable”) role sharia law has in UK law, Professor Shaheen Ali of Warwick university commented on the “current debate around the place of ‘Islamic Law’ within the UK legal framework“. She noted some very interesting things which I will outline here, but still recommend following the above link and listening to for yourself.

In her introduction to what Sharia law is, to put the argument in its correct context, she pointed out that:

  • sharia by defintion is a code of life; but not legally enforceable rules and principles
  • there are 7 denominations from where the so-called Islamic law can be ascertained; 4 on the Sunni side, as well as the many sets and subsets that exist within the Shia strain of though – and they very much fail to find convergence between themselves
  • there are 57 muslim jurisdictions in the world that appeal to different legal precepts – varying significantly from schools of thought from in Iran to Malaysia to Saudi Arabia
  • to try and introduce all those different perspectives in to the UK legal system by the 10% + of Muslims in UK would be very problematic indeed

And with regard to what the laws have to say about how a Muslim is to conduct oneself in a non-Muslim country, Shaheen Ali contests that:

  • there is already a code of practice on how a Muslim conducts themselves and what  their obligations viz-a-viz the country to which they now call home
  • Britain affords a legal system to all its habitants and is therefore congruent with Islam and social justice
  • Britain does not put a curb on the practice of the 5 pillars of Islam (Shahada – the professing of oneself to be a Muslim; Salat – prayer; Zakat – to give to charity; Sawm – the ritual fasting; Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca), therefore the laws here must be respected by Muslims, stipulated, Professor Ali states, by “Islamic law”.

Bridget Prentice, Justic Minister, at a Westminster Hall debate, said on the subject:

Nothing in the law in England and Wales prevents people from abiding by sharia principles if they wish to do so, provided that it does not conflict with the law in England and Wales. If it did, the law in England and Wales would prevail.

For Professor Ali sharia principles are personal codes regarding religious codes, but the stereotypes of cutting limbs off as punishment, and the social exclusion of women is what is thought of by sharia – a point she blames the media for.

But that is not to say these stereotypes are not perpetuated by some Muslims themselves; only Professor Ali is doing as Freud did and formulating an argument that questions the foundations of the enemy’s knowledge. For those to whom sharia law means Islamicising Europe should have their argument stunted significantly by the words of Shaheen Ali.

Another marker we might also like to look out for is what counts as official Islamophobia (a term subject to much debate and confusion). To want to do damage to one who insults Islam is wrong beyond comprehension and inadvertently suggests the inability of such a person to debate on intellectual terms (it is no coincidence that sentiments such as this one shortly follow views that sharia law replace all existing forms of law – like a pluralistic law which is able to inhabit sharia law closer to how Ali terms it, and how Prentice, above, noted it). For Ali the only time when a Muslim should feel they can’t be a Muslim and respect the law of the country in which they inhabit is when they are unable to practice the 5 pillars as mentioned above.

Although what Ali has said won’t stop unpalatable views from far right elements within Islam that the UK is un-Islamic and that “soldiers of Islam” should rise up, it does show how wrong they are, not simply from one meeker opinion to theirs, but is even wrong within the context of Islam, which they are supposedly voicing.

Freud did not simply say to the Nazi’s that they were wrong in his opinion; he showed how the grounds for their knowledge were obscured, and it is precisely this which Professor Shaheen Ali has done to dangerous voices on the conservative and fascistic schools of thought within Islam; for which we on the side of democracy and justice should be grateful.

Amnesty and Jihadis

Nick Cohen has written on his Standpoint blog today that

Gita Sahgal, its women’s officer, has finally decided to resign [from Amnesty International]. In her resignation statement she says that Amnesty remains unconcerned that its poster boy Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo detainee, is now involved with an organisation called Cageprisoners which has championed the views of jihadists.

It’s not hard to find out why it is, in the words of Salman Rushdie, abhorrent to hold [the cageprisoners] up as human rights advocates. The same organisation which championed Anwar al-Awlaki who has not only a long history of prosecutions for soliciting prostitutes but was the spiritual leader for two 9/11 planners Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Khalid Almihdhar.

According to this article he also visited radical Islamic cleric Ali al-Timimi, and asked him about recruiting young Muslims for violent jihad, before recruiting in Britain alongside the Muslim Association of Britain, bedfellows of Britain’s leftwing front the Socialist Workers Party.

According to an article in the Times in January, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a transatlantic jet on Christmas Day, “invited two speakers from Cageprisoners to an event that he organised as president of the Islamic Society at University College London (UCL).”

These people are not simply radicalised by the war on terror, or are simply pro-Palestine; their respective networks have organised and sought terror for years; it is no mere reaction to what they see as an unjust war, what they stand for is something dangerous and more apocalyptic and Amnesty should back well away if it wants to support human rights.

And this is something on which Nick Cohen and Conor Foley, a humanitarian aid worker who works with many different organisations including amnesty International, and critic of Cohen’s (see here and here), can agree.

Sara Hossain (and many others), a lawyer who practices in the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, questioned what Claudio Cordone of Amnesty recently defended as ‘defensive jihad’ – Cordone’s words are Are such views [defensive jihad] antithetical to human rights? Our answer is no, even if we may disagree with them.

Foley wants ‘defensive jihad’ defined but concludes by saying that if Moazzam Begg defines the Taliban’s campaign as ‘defensive’ then Amnesty should not be giving him a platform. I think as printed above there is enough reason already not to give him a platform, even on account of his applying the deranged rule my enemy’s enemy is my friend (that is the most optimistic way of looking at Begg’s relations).

Victory for the Surrey Headteacher: The Return of the Islamophobia Debate

The so-called ‘Islamophobe’ Erica Connor has been awarded £400,000 (David T called of HuH called for her to receive a payment last year, a small victory for him – although I now learn this victory will be short lived) by a Surrey Court, on the grounds of stress owing to her being branded a cruel and flabbily defined word for opposing 2 governors with heavily-tinged religious ideological plans for a state school. That school is said to be 85% Muslim, but this remains far from the point, the governing body of a school is well defined, and does not include within its remit the ideological infrastructure of its curriculum.

A Times article has said:

Erica Connor, 57, the former head teacher of the New Monument primary school in Woking, Surrey, was forced to leave the school because of stress after she was accused of Islamophobia [...] Paul Martin, a Muslim convert [and one of the two Muslim governors], tried to stir up disaffection in the community against the school and Mumtaz Saleem was verbally abusive in school meetings, it was said in court.

What Erica did or did not do in the run up of her stress period is not of my concern, but rather this court decision should restore that timely debate: what is Islamophobia?

There has been a brief history of leftists trying to champion what they perceive as Islamofascism, or notions of theocratic thought – and it has been their mission to take this stance back to where it belongs; left wing thought. Nick Cohen is one of these thinkers, Johann Hari is another, but many on the left ridicule their position as neo-conservative, and the right by and large seem to have this all tied up – who to blame?

Even at a basic level; Paul Goodman MP, for the ConservativeHome website, has at least noted:

There’s a difference between Islamophobia and the hatred of Muslims – although the two are indisputably linked.  The target of the first is a religion.  The target of the second is people.

There are grounds for some convergence here for left and right thinking; but it is important for the left to get there perception of Islam in perspective. For example, though Ayaan Hirsi Ali (in case you don’t know – see here) has recently been championed as a feminist opponent of an agressive streak that runs through certain parts of Islam, particularly with regards to women, though her claim that Islamophobia is a myth should not be taken lightly.

She made note of this as a way of saying that unlike anti-Semitism, Islam is not a race. Here she misses the point; even Paul Goodman saw the indisputable link between what is a racially motivated attack, and one which identifies Islam, but the co-ordinates of the two are not necessarily linked – by which is meant criticism of Islam is not necessarily a racist criticism.

What those above leftist polemicists have noted is that the charge Islamophobia often obscures the terms of the debate, but their worry – and mine too – is that a large proportion of the obscuring has come from the left (the Salman Rushdie affair is one key player in this, another is the Eagleton and Amis argument, and more recently the ICA, Chris Morris and Iain McEwan – also see here and here) which has meant the right has swooped in and championed the case for logical thinking on this subject (yes, I know, logical thinking).

But with regards to the Surrey case, one thing could have helped: on a local level, the council might have stepped in against the two ideological governors who were doing more than was required of their role, and stopped the head teacher from being scapegoated. On national level, there needs to be more than just a Conservative like Paul Goodman (with a political role in communities and local government) challenging the terms of the debate on Islamophobia, or else more people who are uncomfortable with the ideology of militant religious discourse will be vilified, a High Court settling should not be the only way to battle this peculiar aversion, born on the soppy left.

Is Nick Cohen a Neoconservative?

Nick Cohen is now very much in the business of criticising leftists who, according to him are in ‘bad faith’ about a number of issues, namely our opinions on Muslims, the Middle Eastern far-right and the war on terror. Sunder Katwala, who applied the term bad faith to the way Cohen viewed the left, had his lion’s share of the attack, when Cohen accused the Fabian Society of never having, or planning to promote the work of Muslim liberals who criticise fundamentalists. Responses back and forth ensued as Katwala pointed out that Cohen had shared the stage with one such Muslim at a ‘Future of Britishness’ conference held by the Fabian society in 2006.

Katwala picked out another important detail in his retaliatory attack, that ‘We also have here the well-known phenomenon of the zeal of the convert. That is why several of the keenest neo-cons and Thatcherites had been Marxists’. There is a lot of weight in this comment, much of which has been dealt with by political philosopher John Gray (there is some minor convergence here that might as well be pointed out, that though Gray and Katwala are very different politically, Gray is formerly of the LSE, the school founded in 1895 by Beatrice and Sydney Webb, early members of the Fabian society).

In the twentieth century, according to John Gray, most notably in his book Black Mass, owing to a kind of spiritual vacuum, whether rightly or wrongly as a by-product of an age of scientific rationalism, faith-based utopian cults were the preserve of certain political projects. The two most obvious examples are Soviet Communism and Nazism. Gray points out that inherent to these projects is a disavowed desire for what is known as Abrahamic End-Time – a common theme in all three monotheistic religions that sees all who give themselves to God be purified and strengthened by persecution, a short period of time before the return of the Messiah – in Communism this is structured around the Hegelian influenced end-of-history – the end point of socioeconomic evolution – and in Nazism it is the subsequent dominance of the white race, and destruction of the Jews.

Unable to operate without religiously inspired ideas, secularism, according to Gray, is doomed to forever be consumed by Christian eschatology, or the view that society and the economy will eventually converge. John Gray identifies this notion not just in political projects of old, but in concurrent projects also, namely the neoconservative attempts to install democracy in the Middle East. Even if you ignore for the moment George Bush’s pursuit for evil – and the seriously questionable tones of the voice of God telling him to go to war – the war effort in Iraq had as its intellectual infrastructure ideas grounded in utopianism and convergence of social values, two things that were never on the cards any time soon in Iraq. The appeals to Christian End-Time were never more apparent than when Lt Col Brandl alarmingly stated that ‘The enemy has got a face – he’s called Satan, he’s in Falluja, and we’re going to destroy him’.

As John Gray himself has said:

Invading and occupying Iraq was never justified by any clear national interest. Since the end of the first Gulf War, Saddam has posed no serious threat to the US or to Britain. No evidence has ever existed of a connection between him and al-Qa’ida – though in the chaos of post-war Iraq the remnants of the regime may be linking up with radical Islamists to attack US forces.

Saddam was a tyrant, but the coordinates for the liberal intervention were predicated on the fact that it was of national interest, which, of course it was not.

Neoconservatism is a utopian-based political project much like the terror of Robespierre or the murderous regimes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Hitler. Forces were sent to deliver “freedom” without any evidence of Iraq ever taking kindly to an installed liberal democratic programme and without any substantial evidence that attack was in ‘national interest. Despite what Cohen would have you believe, this opinion is not informed by cultural relativism or denial that evil doing had taken place under Saddam’s watch, but it is a question of the motives of the war, and whether the effort could viably safeguard against the mobilisation of fundamentalism in the aftermath, which I’m tempted to say it can not.

For those who say Nick Cohen has moved to the right I say hold back. Cohen has actually operated a utopianism common to neoconservatism and elements of left wing thinking that has unfortunately taken End-Time out of its Christian context and applied it to an existing version of secularism that can only be identified as doomed to failure. As Geoffrey Wheatcroft has alluded to about Cohen, via the Euston Manifesto signatories, why doesn’t he just come out as imperialist, after all he’d be in familiar company, ‘Mill, Macaulay and even Marx made approving noises about British rule in India’?

Poor old Welsh Defence League

Must be a right pain in the arse when you’re trying to hold a peaceful demonstration about your hatred towards muslims when all these buggers start flashing their nazi salutes, ruining everything. Really ruins a calm event held by people who all they really want is a quick whip round for the christmas bash and leaflet money, a quick march, a chinwag with likeminded folk and an ale to finish up. Poor ol’ English Welsh Defence League

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