To summarise: I have been smeared by a Scottish newspaper. Most of the words they attribute to me I did indeed say, but they have decontextualised and selected to such an extent that they make me say things I do not believe – for instance that September 11th was a good thing, or that the Taliban should take over Afghanistan. What follows is a rather long description of meeting the man from the gutter press, which I hope will set the record a little straighter. Yesterday, meanwhile, 33 civilians were killed by NATO bombs in Afghanistan.
I was doorstepped the other morning. A young man wearing a suit and an apologetic manner wanted to ask some questions on behalf of the Scottish Mail on Sunday.
What? Stumbling down the stairs in my thermal underwear, wild-haired and bestubbled, I dream for a passing moment that I’ve become as important to the world as Tiger Woods or Amy Winehouse. Perhaps even now press vermin are going through my rubbish bin. Perhaps paparazzi are crowding the front garden.
Alas, our aspiring hack, young Oliver Tree (for so he called himself), hasn’t yet graduated to the tabloid heights, and neither have I. It soon becomes clear that his mission is much more mundane, is indeed the everyday grind of papers like the Mail: to create outrage where there was none before, to smear, misrepresent and decontextualise, in order to strangle the possibility of real debate.
Some strands of feminism have a long history of serving as adjuncts of Western imperialism. Today they also enable domestic prejudice. Gore Vidal once mocked George Bush’s idea of democracy promotion as being synonymous with: ‘Be free! Or I’ll kill you’. In a similar vein, some feminists today want to ‘liberate’ Arab-Muslim women by constraining their freedoms. These women can’t possibly know what they really want, you see. The European feminists, like Bush, know what’s best for them. What could my sister — who studied at a co-ed university (in Peshawar!) but turned to wearing the hijab after moving to Canada — know about her interests? She must be told by the enlightened Westerner. She must be liberated.
Ignorance and racism combine in this potent form of messianism to sanction prejudice which increasingly targets Europe’s immigrant communities. Like the Orientalists of yore, this brand of feminism insists on seeing the brown or black woman in the subordinate role, wistfully awaiting a Westerner liberator. They are childlike, they must be protected in the same manner that a responsible parent protects an unruly nestling. They must be saved from the hijab, or — God forbid! — the veil. To protect their freedom of choice, their freedom to choose must be revoked.
In the classic French novel, Adolphe, Benjamin Constant writes:
There are things that for a long time remain unsaid, but once they are spoken, one never ceases to repeat them.
How true this is of so many of the things we keep inside for a time. Think, for example, of how an argument with a loved one often reveals the things that we have felt, but carefully hidden from them. Once spoken, those words repeat themselves with a frequency that suggests that we are seeking vengeance for the time they spent in silence.
The same is true of our secret prejudices, which often remain unsaid until the moment ‘feels right’ or circumstances seemingly produce the ‘necessity’ for their articulation.
It appears that circumstances today have produced a space in which articulating anti-Islamic sentiment both ‘feels right’ and ‘necessary’. It is an environment marked by series of events invoked as evidence in the ever-growing case against Islam.
I deeply missed June Jordan today. Back in Fall 1995 (or was it 96?) the acclaimed poet read not her own poems, but those of her Arab students, at the first ever Berkeley “Poetry at Lunch” event. I adored her, and adored her even more when she courageously asserted that Arabs/Muslims were one of last groups it was explicitly kosher (read: not un-PC) to be racist or prejudiced towards in any given circle. Way before 9/11…
Tunku Varadarajan, a professor at NYU’s Stern Business School and a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, recently wrote a piece “Going Muslim: America after Fort Hood.”(1) He coins the phrase “Going Muslim” to “describe the turn of events where a seemingly integrated Muslim-American—a friendly donut vendor in New York, say, or an officer in the U.S. Army at Fort Hood—discards his apparent integration into American society and elects to vindicate his religion in an act of messianic violence against his fellow Americans.”(2)
If the Irish vote to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, Tony Blair, former British prime minister and current lecturer on faith, peace, and Palestinian submission, is expected to become the European Union’s first president. I wrote the following hymn to Blair in October 2007, when the unpleasant prospect of his presidency was first raised.
I’ve often thought that Abu Hamza al-Masri, the ex-imam of Finsbury Park mosque, must have been designed in a CIA laboratory. Not only did he – before his imprisonment – fulminate in a shower of spittle against various brands of kuffar, he also had an eye patch and a hook for a hand. You can’t imagine a more photogenic Islamist villain.
If my supposition is correct, then Tony Blair may well have been invented by the Iranian secret service, for of all the neo-cons he’s the one who most looks the part. I refer to the physiognomic combination of weakness and fury, the slight chin wobbling beneath that eye with its wild glint of certainty – the staring left eye, fixed on something the rest of us can’t see, something that makes reality irrelevant – and the teeth both fierce and mouselike, and the shininess of both forehead and suit. Most politicians wear suits, but few suits declare ‘hollow salesman’ so much as Blair’s. The voice too – the hurried speech and breathy tones of a public schoolboy approaching orgasm – that repulsive aural mix of complacency, stubbornness and privilege.
There are two sets of population statistics about Europe, writes Eliot Weinberger in a post on the London Review Blog: ‘those of the Islamophobes and those of everyone else.’ Weinberger is commenting on the recent of flurry of books trading in the ‘Islamic threat’, among them one by neoconservative writer Christopher Caldwell. In his encomium to Caldwell, Scott McConnell couldn’t possibly have been referring to the statistics of ‘everyone else’. It would be hard otherwise to elevate a minority of 3.6 percent into a civilizational threat. So presumably he accepts the numbers of the Islamophobes. But he does more; he also echoes their assumptions. Small wonder then that he should consider ‘nuanced’ a book that describes Muslims as ‘conquering Europe’s cities, street by street’.
But before we get to Caldwell lets address McConnell’s own assumptions.
McConnell splits ‘the West’ and ‘the Muslims’ into opposing camps, and understands their relationship only in terms of harm. ‘Had I to weigh the extent to which the Islamic world is more victim or victimizer of America and the West’, he opines, ‘the scales would tilt decisively towards America as the more guilty party’. American crimes include the Iraq war and support for Israeli conquest of ‘the Arab sections’ of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Support for dictators, the proponderance of military bases, the exploitation of resources, Somalia, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and support for the Israeli conquest of the ‘Arab sections’ of Tel Abib and Yaffa, clearly do not factor in McConnell’s narrow vision. But it’s fair enough in itself. Where logic fails McConnell entirely, or rather where he fails logic and turns to racism instead, is where he places Muslim immigration into Europe ‘on the other side of the ledger’.
Investigations by Spinwatch reveal that a group of freelance terror trackers who promote stories about the threat from violent Islamists have been involved in exaggerating and even fabricating such stories, which they then comment on in the national press and on network television and radio. The group – which has now fallen apart – was centred on freelance spy Glen Jenvey and Conservative Party member Dominic Wightman, who uses the pseudonym ‘Whiteman’.
The barrage of stories from official sources and from terror ‘experts’ suggesting that Britain is under serious and extensive threat from Islamists and that Islam as a religion is particularly prone to extremism has been boosted by some stories that have little basis in fact. These have included:
An alleged attempt to plant a story about terrorist grannies planning to blow themselves up in British supermarkets
An attempt to suggest – quite falsely – that campaigners against the Israeli attack on Gaza were actually planning to target British Jews
The creation of a fake allegedly Islamist website in a bid to entrap suspects.
Spying on Tamil activists in the UK.
A fraudulent fundraising effort in the 1980s which was claimed to be to aid the African National Congress
I don’t usually subject myself to it, but a few days ago I found myself near a television in the act of broadcasting the BBC news. One of the headline stories, carefully selected for relevance from this world of trouble, concerned a bleach attack on the boyfriend of a married woman. The woman and her boyfriend were both British Muslims, so the newscaster expected the attack to put the focus back on ‘honour crimes in the Muslim community’. I wonder how many ‘native’ white males were glassed or bottled in Britain last Saturday night for looking at somebody’s girlfriend the wrong way. I wonder when the focus will be directed (it can’t be ‘put back’ because it wasn’t there in the first place) on Anglo honour crimes, on show right now in a pub near you.
Next little episode: Jim Fitzpatrick MP, whose east London constituency is a third Muslim, walked out of a constituent’s wedding party when he discovered – to his horror – that men and women were asked to sit in separate areas. Many comment-posters on the ‘liberal’ Guardian supported Fitzpatrick’s action, because gender segregation is not something we do in this country. Absolutely. If it weren’t for the Muslim cultural invasion, proper Brits wouldn’t have picked up the foreign habit of the stag and hen night.
Abdullah Quilliam was a 19th Century British convert to Islam, the founder of a mosque in Liverpool. He was also an anti-imperialist and a supporter of the Caliphate. He argued that Muslims should not fight Muslims on behalf of European powers, citing specifically Britain’s enlistment of Muslim soldiers against the resistance in Sudan. If Quilliam were alive today he would, at very least, be kept under observation by the British intelligence services.
It is ironic, then, that this activist Muslim’s good name has been appropriated by the government-backed and funded Quilliam Foundation, established in April 2008, supposedly to counter extremism in Muslim communities.
Those who read my stuff will know that I despise Wahhabism, and still more Wahhabi-nihilism. I oppose Islamic political projects which aim to capture control of the repressive mechanisms of contemporary Muslim states. I am stunned by the stupidity of such slogans as “Islam is the solution.” I take issue with anyone who attempts to impose a dress code or an interpretation of morality on anyone else, and I loathe those puritanical ideologies which fail to recognise the value of music, art, mysticism, philosophy, and popular and local cultures in the Muslim world. It is obvious that political Islam has often been exploited for very unIslamic purposes by the American empire and its client dictators in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and elsewhere. Nominally Islamic political parties bear a great weight of responsibility for diverting the Iraqi resistance into a disastrous sectarian war. The terrorist attacks on London in July 2007 were abominable crimes and a catastrophe for all British Muslims. I know all that, yet I oppose the Quilliam Foundation.