Racist accusations fly during heated Islam debate

Remarks made during a panel debate on how to tackle radical Islam in Britain led to the allegations of racism from Professor Mohamed El-Gomati, counsellor to Muslim students.

The remarks were made by Douglas Murray, Britain’s best known neoconservative, when he said that “we have to put up with the most intolerable filth about Jews from the Islamic world” as an example for the needs of universal free-speech. The two other panelists were Baroness Haleh Afshar, an Iranian born feminist professor at the University, and Guffah Hussein, a former member of Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Murray responded that if the allegations were made in public, “I would sue you in a court of law and I would win.”

What started as a discussion on radical Islam and the roots of fundamentalism in Britain quickly turned into a foreign policy debate and a blame game, with each member of the panel referring to the others’ understanding of Islam as overly-simplistic.

The debate started with a ten minute speech from each panelist in which they outlined their own views on what radical Islam was and what should be done about it, and led into a heated and lively discussion with questions from the audience. Tom Merry, who organised and chaired the debate, spent the majority of his time trying to prevent the questions turning into opinionated monologues, and keeping the focus on domestic issues and solutions.

The reasons for the growth and nurturing of radical Islam throughout the evening ranged from an ideological vacuum created by Muslim parents and society, through the outworkings of British Imperialism, to the loss of God-consciousness from society.

While Hussein blamed part of the problem on “resource-weak Muslim communities with Imams who don’t speak English” and Afshar attributed the problem to “young British-born muslims being labelled as immigrants”, Murray controversially said that “the problem is rooted in Islam – a religion that has violence built up in it.”

He continued; “most Muslims do not do this, because they recognise as human beings that they should ignore it. All people of faith, including Muslims, do not have the right to have their faith respected or revered. If you believe in Scientology then you must expect to have to put up with my ridicule of you.”

As the reasons for fundamentalism were different, so were the solutions offered. Afshar, who remained adamant throughout that extremism was a simplistic label attached to Muslims, noted that “Islam is not a disease with a cure, but we need a process of dialogue. There is no instant solution.” Hussein, however, maintained that Islamist ideology was to blame as a key factor for radicalising young Muslims, and said that it should be defeated in debate.

Murray, ever the stirrer, said that the British Government should not meddle in Islam at all, but that there should be a line of what was and was not acceptable to say, thus allowing people to know where they stand. “The government can’t do anything, and theology is the area in which they are least qualified. The removal of religion from the public sphere is the greatest achievement in British liberty.”

While the breadth and strength of opinion throughout the evening was noticeably high, the debate was both lively and entertaining for all, and certainly gave room for thought about the wide range of topics mentioned and referenced.

Tom Merry, organiser of the evening, said that he thought that the evening went well. “We had a very good natured debate, and I think that people got a real argument from both sides. We covered a good number of topics, and there was a healthy emphasis on free speech. It was really good to have controversial speakers who challenged a lot of people’s perceptions. Ultimately, if people enjoyed themselves, then it was a good event.”

33 comments

  1. Britain’s best known neoconservative? Rofl

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  2. 3 Feb ’09 at 6:43 pm

    Timothy Nutmeg

    Amen! The right to free speech includes the right not just to endorse or recommend, but also to criticize and ridicule. The right to free practice of religion means the government has no right to interfere with your beliefs – it does not protect you from criticism.

    I wouldn’t want to live in a society where certain privileged philosophies are legally protected from criticism. That’s how fascism and tyranny starts.

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  3. There is very little difference between “fascism and tyranny” and the dominant brand of Islam that resides in the UK today, if any difference.

    The intolerance of the Muslim councillor was apparent for all to see. How he is funded by the university is frankly ridiculous. Haleh Afshar commenting that she “was in regular email correspondence” with members of Hizb ut-Tahrir was also personally deeply concerning and something I shall be taking up with senior university figures.

    Incidentally Jason, I didn’t see you at the talk. Football shirts to iron? If you can name a better known British neo-con, then do. If not, contribute something more mature and beneficial to other people than your now predictable childish and immature comments, as shown above.

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  4. I am just trying to figure out how the words “best” and “neoconservative” can possibly appear in the same sentence.

    All I have to say is congratulations> You managed to deeply offend the university’s Islamic community and your level of blind intolerance reached a new level of paroxysm.

    Will Dan Taylor finally be expelled for being an intolerant, racist and sexist bigot?

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  5. Dan, There is very little difference between how offensive, inflammatory, inappropriate, misguided and unprofessional your ‘now predictable childish and immature comments’ are, and the comments of the Muslim councellor in question.

    You messed up Dan, because I think many leant toward agreeing that the Muslim councellor had behaved inappropriately in the context of an academic discussion. But by being abhorently offensive (and hilariously ignorant) yourself by suggesting the *dominant* brand of Islam in the UK is fascist and tyrannical – you’ve totally undermined your statement in its entirety – (a problem you seem to frequently have, best work on your contributions a bit more in future)

    Additionally, on the night itself, I felt that your unnecessary and disrespectful jibe at Baroness Afshar (when you simperingly begged Douglas to take your word that she didn’t represent the Politics Department at York) was ill-suited to an academic discussion. Respectful disagreement goes a long way in getting people to consider you an intelligent and worthy discussion partner rather than an attention-loving, stirrer.

    Regarding Haleh’s regular email contact with Hizb ut-Tahrir; It is hardly unknown for influential academics and politicians to interview, meet with, and debate contentious figures involved with problems or crises in their field. She is obviously in discussion with them as a professional, not a follower. To suggest otherwise reflects your gross misunderstanding of Muslims and Islam. I’m not convinced you would be as concerned of the correspondence if she were not a Muslim.

    Aside from that, EVEN IF she were in contact with them as a private person (which she is very clearly not – note her many links with religious/political organisations on every side of the spectrum) – she is exercising her rights of free speech and association. Members of the BNP are immersed in our society in positions of authority and power. The leaked list included policeman and other such figures. That scares me- but I value the foundation of free speech and association in this country and therefore accept the possibility that my lecturer/employer/doctor could be a member of the BNP and I have no ground to take action against them for it. Hizb-ut-Tahrir are not banned, and are as legal as the BNP in this country. There is no legal basis for your concern at her being in contact with them even if you want to be ridiculous and suggest she is doing so as a Muslim.

    I do not speak as a Muslim, I’m a secularist agnostic, and do hold that the Muslim community contributes to our social cohesion problem alongside the issues that Haleh highlighted in her speech. I do not speak as a Haleh-supporter either, I disagree with her constantly – namely on the above issue; I do believe the Muslim community needs to look inwards in many ways.

    There is a fair, reasonable way to disagree with people. The Muslim counsellor doesn’t know how to do it, and neither do you.

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  6. Baroness Afshar’s conduct, I found to be despicable. She would descend into giggles whenever Douglas was speaking as if ‘she was the academic in the HoL’ and everything he said was simply wrong. Quite clearly, it was not. Her own responses represented this academic snobbery; “that question is too complicated to answer.” That is an insult to our own intelligence. I was equally annoyed with how she seemed to speak of “her students in the academic department.” Almost an orientalist in herself! Ironic for a soldier of Ed Said.

    The comparison with the BNP and Hizb ut-Tahrir is simply not there to be had. Whilst the BNP’s ideas may be abhorrent and ideas I find politically wrong, they are not in the same field of the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir. I suggest you take a look on their website. Let me say this much, you really would much rather live under the BNP than Hizb ut-Tahrir, if God forbid we were given such a heinous choice to make.

    ‘Nad Raylot’: you embody everything about intolerance. So what if people were offended? As Douglas said, I get offended when I read a Nouse article, turn on the TV, see your comment. What’s your point? Your reaction being “expel him” and the usual outcry of “sexism, racism etc” is absolute rubbish. Typical reaction of someone driven by ideas of intolerance because they are unwilling to argue them out.

    The Cllr. was a prime example of what I meant in my comment. Alleged ‘moderates’ in positions of influence in Mosques and Universities turn out to be extremist demagogues pedalling the language of ‘racism’ whenever criticism is directed their way. As Dan Coen asked in his question, Islam seems to have a monopoly on grievance (as well as an inability to take criticism) and the Cllr. embodied this extremist and intolerant brand that Haleh and many in the audience seemed to reject even existed.

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  7. It is not academic snobbery to highlight the fact that this is a complicated issue and there is no black and white way of looking at it. A lot of the questions demanded some absolute answer to the ‘root cause of the problem’, as if there is just one. There are obviously many contributing factors and several layers to any national problem, each speaker could merely highlight the one or two that they felt were most prominent. Following from this, I think Haleh was simply demonstrating her belief, in response to a question about a solution to the problem, that it is a complicated matter with no clear policy solution to be given as an answer. It did not come across, to me, as patronising. We can agree to disagree.

    In terms of her acting like everything Douglas said was wrong – thats what having a different opinion means. They are on totally opposite sides of the debate and thats what makes it an interesting discussion. If she doesn’t want to take on any of his points, thats in her right. You can dislike it and think its to her detriment (as I do), but its not inherantly wrong in any way. You of all people can hardly speak of others being too far in their corner to be able to see into another.

    Haleh’s giggles could be seen as inappropriate, I accept that. But so could Douglas’ eye rolling. Whatever your view on how the panel should or shouldn’t conduct themselves, it doesn’t validate inapproproate behaviour on your part as a member of the audience. If you so deeply felt that Douglas needed to hear your simperings, you could have saved it for the bar afterwards.

    The comparison between the BNP and Hizb-ut-Tahrir is most definitely there. You ignore the fact that most people don’t care about YOUR value judgements on the BNP vs the Hizb ut-Tahrir, they care about their own. Plenty of people would see the BNP as a greater threat – but that misses the point (as you have, again). It doesn’t matter which is better or worse or who you or I would want to live under. What matters is that both groups exist legally in this country. Until either is banned, you simply can not seek to criminalise people in contact with them. You seeking to ‘take up the matter with senior university figures’ suggests a rather nanny-state-esque desire to thwart the very freedoms you seem to hold so dear.

    What you said in your comment was not that some people in positions of influence are extremists – thats a fact. What you said was the dominant brand of Islam in the UK is fascist and tyrannical. If this were the case, we wouldn’t have had a handful of extremist 7/7 bombers – we’d have had the majority of a 2.4 million sized bit of the population.

    Alleged ‘moderates’ such as yourself peddle the language of extremism at every turn, to the detriment of this country. This is a very heavy label to throw around and you undermine its meaning by using it incorrectly.

    We do have a problem with extremists in this country. This Councellor is not an extremist – but his inability to engage in a proper academic dialogue contributes to the problems of tackling the extremists that do exist. He does not personally espouse views that fall under the umbrella of ‘extreme’ – world domination, anti-semetism, etc.

    Your inability to differentiate between those who are extremists, by far the minority of the Muslim population, and those who reject the villification of the entire Muslim community because of such extremists – is a problem.

    A factor in the social cohesion problem in the UK stems from people like you who are too arrogantly ignorant to educate themselves about the nature of the extremists in this country, and on the back of that, villify an entire population.

    There *are* extremists in positions of influence, and they are a problem. But you’re going to miss them if you are looking at all, or most of, the 2.4 million Muslims in the UK.

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  8. 5 Feb ’09 at 11:44 pm

    richard the lionheart

    Just go read ‘The God Delusion’ and have a sensible debate instead..shakes head

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  9. “Football shirts to iron? If you can name a better known British neo-con, then do. If not, contribute something more mature and beneficial to other people than your now predictable childish and immature comments, as shown above.”

    Right. Because suggesting that I have football shirts to iron isn’t predictable or childish. Fail.

    As for the reason that I wasn’t there. I’m afraid that I was at the Battle of the Bands with URY.

    Name a better-known British neoconservative? Ok. Roger Scruton. Though he didn’t define himself as neoconservative he was key in moving through British neoconservatism. He was editor for two decades of the Salisbury Review…

    Ok, that was more influential. Better known? Margaret Thatcher without a shadow of a doubt. The fact that she doesn’t fit into mainstream “British neoconservatism” doesn’t mean she doesn’t fit into the broader ideology of neoconservatism as a whole – and that wasn the question, after all.

    Comment edited by a Moderator

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  10. 6 Feb ’09 at 9:43 pm

    A. Catsambas

    Building on what Maz said – it seems that Dan Taylor has reached the stage of producing the KKK effect (as seen in South Park): whatever he says, even if he is partially right, people disagree and oppose it, just because it is he who said it!
    A.

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  11. Dan Taylor making a fool of himself again. How original.

    In a way, he is very much like an emo; he whines about everything, he finds fault in everyone but himself, he does everything for attention, people think he has issues and nobody takes him seriously.

    A lot of frustration and teenage angst there Dan, you may need to start considering alternatives. So how about dying your hair black, getting a fringe, listening to crappy music and writing shit poetry?

    You’d contribute just as much to society, and you wouldn’t be breaking our balls. It’s a win-win situation.

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  12. Jason Rose, yet again you excel at being completely and utterly wrong. How criticism of Islam is racist, I don’t know. Islam is a religion, not a race. Get it right. Call me an ‘Islamaphobe’ or something equally ridiculous that doesn’t conform to your way of thinking.

    If you criticise me, do it with some academic vigour. Not with ridiculous debate-closing soundbites like “racist” which simply are not true. If you had any knowledge of me, you would know that many of my best friends are not ‘white-British’ like yourself. Then again, it just shows how little you do know me. I guess you never met my half-Turkish ex-girlfriend?

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  13. I’m pretty sure Jason Rose labelling Dan T “racist” in a public arena is libellous…

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  14. Incidentally, I find it hilarious that you describe Thatcher as a “neo-con”.

    Stick to Physics.

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  15. Firstly, to Dan: you know that most people use the term “racist” to mean “xenophobe”, or to describe anyone who is offensive to other religions. I know that typically it is incorrect, but let us not be pedantic please, everyone gets the point.
    To “epic fail”: being overly offensive does not make you better than Dan. I realise I also made a comment unrelated to the debate, but it was meant as a light hearted joke.
    Generally, to everyone: please try not to be unreasonable. Don’t challenge whatever Dan says, just because it is he who says it, it is not conductive. If it was someone else who had the same opinions, you would not resort to personal insults, would you?
    A.

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  16. Aris, I happen to think it’s important to be pedantic about branding someone a “racist”. It’s not an accusation one should throw around mindlessly, as critics often do of anyone that initiates an immigration debate, questions religions etc.

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  17. 7 Feb ’09 at 1:06 pm

    A. Catsambas

    Why is it important? You know the meaning of words evolves over time. Yes, racists, as the name so obviously suggests, defines someone who is intolerant to people who belong to other races. But you know that it has come to be that racism as a term has grown to encompass all sorts of antipathy for people of other ethnicity, religion, race etc.
    A.

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  18. “Will Dan Taylor finally be expelled for being an intolerant, racist and sexist bigot?”

    Strange that my comment was moderated without my permission and this wasn’t.

    “Typical reaction of someone driven by ideas of intolerance because they are unwilling to argue them out.”

    I see… so saying that Islam is evil is tolerance now? Get a grip.

    “Jason Rose, yet again you excel at being completely and utterly wrong. How criticism of Islam is racist, I don’t know. Islam is a religion, not a race. Get it right. Call me an ‘Islamaphobe’ or something equally ridiculous that doesn’t conform to your way of thinking. If you criticise me, do it with some academic vigour. Not with ridiculous debate-closing soundbites like “racist” which simply are not true. If you had any knowledge of me, you would know that many of my best friends are not ‘white-British’ like yourself. Then again, it just shows how little you do know me. I guess you never met my half-Turkish ex-girlfriend?”

    Having friends who are of non-British descent doesn’t make you less racist. You can still believe that they are of an inferior background and regardless, racism is against a specific section – not necessarily against all people outside of Britain.

    “Incidentally, I find it hilarious that you describe Thatcher as a “neo-con”.

    Stick to Physics”

    Jonathan Clarke, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, proposed the following as the “main characteristics of neoconservatism”:
    * a tendency to see the world in binary good/evil terms
    * low tolerance for diplomacy
    * readiness to use military force
    * emphasis on US unilateral action
    * disdain for multilateral organisations

    Thatcher, of course, doesn’t fit the US unilateral action but does fit British unilateral action. She did have a binary worldview, used military force instead of diplomacy in the Falklands and disliked the EU (multilateralish) so she fits the bill fairly well.

    Neoconservatism is all about using the military unnecessarily, attempting to reintroduce imperialism and patriotism, getting unilaterally involved in other countries and privatisation, among other things. She fits the bill fairly well.

    Now stick to your insulting people that have OBEs for services to equal opportunities and calling them a “disgrace” and your other usual routines.

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  19. 7 Feb ’09 at 1:28 pm

    Anonymous Massive!

    Dan Taylor – “If you had any knowledge of me, you would know that many of my best friends are not ‘white-British’ like yourself. Then again, it just shows how little you do know me. I guess you never met my half-Turkish ex-girlfriend?”

    Anonymous Massive! can’t be sexist, because Mummy Anonoymous Massive! is a woman!

    Also, HALF-Turkish EX-girlfriend. Wow. That’s some impressive creds there Danny boy

    Unfortunately I missed the debate: I was ironing Jason Rose’s football shirts and oiling Dan Taylor’s leathers…

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  20. 7 Feb ’09 at 2:40 pm

    Ben Middlemiss

    Mr Rose,

    You are one of the most ignorant and misinformed people I have ever come across. For a start, Dan Taylor is right. Thatcher was not a neo-conservative. I like to think, having done a thesis on neo-conservatism and its place within offensive-realism, that I have some authority on the subject.

    As for calling people racists, it really is immature and doesn’t reflect too well on you. Such personal insults are reflective of someone insecure of their own ideas. I happen to know (and like) Dan. Whilst I don’t subscribe to his admittedly ‘different’ views on Islam, he is most certainly not a ‘racist’ and it is wrong to term him as one, put simply.

    I suggest in the future that you articulate your arguments in a less arrogant (and misinformed) manner and withdraw from personal tirades against an individual who happens to be extremely intelligent and well read on particular areas in politics, even if you happen to disagree with him.

    Ben

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  21. Can we get back to the point?
    It’s so frustrating that we don’t seem to be able to talk about substantive ideas, ideologies, facts, beliefs or views for long without decending into ‘Dan Taylor is a racist’ vs. ‘Dan Taylor is my bathtime buddy and I’m black/brown/purple skinned’….

    To me, the obsession with DT’s words and the issues raised at the radical islam debate come down to certain things that are really worth discussing:

    1) We have a social cohesion problem in the UK and the most pressing issue under that umbrella is the issue of Muslims in the UK in light of the growth of their population and the recent issues relating to terrorism.

    2) At the talk, and during this comment discussion, there’s a demonstration of many of the contributing attitudes that maintain this problem.

    3) What weight do we give each of these attitudes in terms of their negative effects in relation to social cohesion?

    Whoever Dan Taylor is, and whatever his bathtime tendencies, I’m concerned only with the fact that he happened to espouse one of the attitudes I feel contributes to our social cohesion problem. That view is constantly underestimated in how much of a negative effect it has on social cohesion. I hold that more weight needs to be given to the effects of this view when talking about ‘what causes our problems’ and ‘how do we fix it’?

    The Muslim Councellor *also* behaved in a manner that contributes to our social cohesion problem. He had an underlying valid point but his overblown and inappropriate rhetoric drowned that out. I believe that this attitude is also a problem, but that too much weight is given to it by some (those similar to DT) and too little is given to it by others (those similar to Haleh Afshar).

    Those that brand DT a ‘racist’ without supporting the assertion with academic arguments also contribute to our problems alongside people like DT espousing the factually inaccurate, extreme idea that ‘the dominant brand of Islam in this country’ is ‘fascist and tyrannical’.

    Debate and discussion are the only way policies can be brought as close to perfection as possible… so…

    Clearly criticism of a race is wrong and illegal, but – How far can we go in our criticism of a *religion*? Incitement to violence/racism etc are already covered in our laws.

    Does the fact that the religion of Islam is predominantly followed by people of a certain skin colour bring extra baggage to the discussion of it? How do we avoid getitng bogged down in the blurry line of racism and ‘Islamophobia’? Is it a blurry line?

    Most importantly, in my mind :
    Is integration desirable? If so, how do we move forward with the process of it? Where is the line between accomodation of the varying beliefs/lifestyles in our population and maintaining our own values for a British nation/culture?
    e.g. Sharia Law, I feel undermines the salience of the British nation in that it compromises our legal system and the secular nature of our justice system.
    Enforcing a national curriculum that ensures our children are taught about a variety of religions is a good response to the changes in our society. Allowing girls to wear headscarves if they so choose, etc.

    Where do you stand?

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  22. 7 Feb ’09 at 6:26 pm

    A. Catsambas

    From what I gather, one of the speakers of the event was very intolerant of criticism on Islam. Which is obviously wrong.
    Religion, just like any other ideology has to be open to criticism. Being closed to arguments against any religion is a very uneducated approach. Why is religion to be held under a protective umbrella? Even worse, why are only some religion thus protected? Why is it that if I, in seriousness, proclaim to follow the Jedi way I will be ridiculed, while claiming that one person can turn water into wine and walk on water is perfectly legitimate?
    Don’t get me wrong, personally I label myself a Christian, but I am open to criticism. And I think that everyone else should do so, as well.
    A.

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  23. “You are one of the most ignorant and misinformed people I have ever come across…I happen to know (and like) Dan.”

    I’m not even going to state the obvious on that one.

    And if you have studied neoconservatism then you would be probably of a similar vein of me; Douglas Murray doesn’t really fit the standard criteria for neoconservatism. British neoconservatism is a failure.

    And yes, I know that Thatcher was a neoliberal. My point was that she does fit the criteria for neoconservatism very well.

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  24. Maryah:

    Some interesting points to think about. I had a pretty comprehensive religious education, but i realise that because the RE curriculum isn’t set nationally (i dont think, feel free to correct me) schools do get to choose what religions they teach about. It is possible to get a GCSE and A level RE without touching anything except christianity.

    The religion / race line should be ignored, eradicated by all sides of the spectrum. Those who dislike islam shouldn’t then translate those (possibly logical) beliefs into their views on arabs, men with long beards, north africans etc…

    Similarly people of faith should not link their religion to race. Crying racism at criticism of a religion is despicable behaviour.

    Religions deserve questioning, criticism and ridicule. Those religions that are strong enough will stand up to the critics and defend themselves. Those religions that are a sham will expose themselves as such by refusing to enter into a debate or be transparent. Scientology’s attitude to the media and outsiders is a perfect example of this.

    I think another major problem with cohesion is that religious leaders are seen as representitive of secular communities. Nonbelievers, agnostics and passive believers who go to church once a year have no voice. Community relations talks often come down to imams, priests and rabbis. Very few people are this orthadox about their faith. Cohesion means more than a difference in religious practises.

    I think a pluralistic society is preferable. The monoculturists forget that centuries before mass immigration, there was no defined british culture. Urban culture is not rural culture, for example.

    The way to do this is not to ‘impose’ culture from government down. ‘Britishness day’ is a silly idea. Governments can’t just impress a culture upon a people. If people choose to be multicultural, so be it. If people choose to be british, so be it. If people like a mix of the two, so be it.

    Of all the things we fight over in this world, culture shouldn’t be one of them.

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  25. “It is possible to get a GCSE and A level RE without touching anything except christianity.”

    I’m quite confident that the national curriculum states that one non-Christian (or maybe one non-monotheistic) religion has to be taught but it’s up to the teachers as to which ones they are.

    And again, I’m not saying that someone who is anti-Islam is racist. The two are often linked but there is a difference. Of course when you get down to the bottom of most racists they’re also generally nationalists, ‘religionists’ and ‘ethnicists’ too. And probably often the most sexist and homophobic too, judging by the people that I’ve met in the last decade or two.

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  26. 8 Feb ’09 at 7:03 pm

    A. Catsambas

    Were you able to pass such judgements on people, and distinguish sexists, homophobes, racists and nationalists when you were 10 years old Jason?
    I am impressed!
    A.

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  27. Here is something I disrespect about Islam.

    Islam is both a religion and a political movement. Unlike other political parties who attempt to separate religion from politics, Islam directly and explicitly mixes the two. But when criticised either religiously or politically, Muslims run and cower behind that greatest of all liberal taboos, the claim their opponents are “racist”. And at that claim the liberals tremble, and slip away from confrontation.

    Please understand that I disrespect the Islam of white, blond haired Arians, just as much as I disrespect the Islam of Asians or Africans.

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  28. Even though intolerance towards a particular religion is not technically racism, the fact of the matter is that embracing Murray’s anti-Islam rhetoric in practice means nothing less than a comprehensive hostility to most Arabs alive.

    Murray’s Islamophobia, though carefully disguised as religious criticism, could be viewed as part of an extreme, reactionist mindset that promotes blind intolerance against the entire Arab world. It wouldn’t bee too far-fetched to see that as racism.

    Similarly, we can safely assume that if someone expressed the belief that the followers of Judaism are global conspirators seeking to subvert humanity, then that someone would probably be classified by most as an antisemite.

    So, to get things straight; well-meaning criticism is one thing, no matter how firm, but blind intolerance with not-so-thinly disguised racial undertones is another.

    Incidentally Dan, I can recall more than one occasion where you labeled people as antisemites (i.e. as racists) because of their opposition to Zionism or to the actions of the state of Israel. A rather heavy accusation, as you admit, which you used mindlessly against those who do not conform to your way of thinking, as you now accuse others of doing.

    In any case. There is no belief or system of beliefs, either political, religious or other, that is above criticism. However, grossly generalising and deeply offensive assertions that label large groups of people as followers of fascism and tyranny have no place in a serious discussion and only serve to polarise.

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  29. 9 Feb ’09 at 9:43 am

    A. Catsambas

    I disagree with you George, even such assertions, as branding followers of a specific religion followers of tyranny, should be acceptable.
    Would any sane person doubt that the rule of the Catholic Church in the middle ages was tyrannic? Would anyone approve the witch hunts, or the brutal murders of “heretics”?
    Of course not. Similarly, it is not completely unjustifiable to claim that in some cases (extreme they may be, but they are also far more frequent than they should), Islam is also a tyrannic religion? Is it not tyranny stoning a girl who was raped, for having premarital sex?!
    I do not condone, as you well know, any sort of irrational hartred for other religions or races.
    However, criticism, no matter how harsh, should never be censored.
    A.

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  30. I never said that there are no extreme elements within any given religion, it’d be impossible to argue that.

    In fact, as I’ve told Baroness Haleh Afshar in the ‘Islam and Feminism’ lecture without getting a convincing reply, in my view organised religion itself is the problem; either it is Islam, Christianity or whatever.

    We seem to be forgetting the Indian ‘untouchables’, the Middle Ages, the Inquisition and the kind of intolerance and ultra-conservatism that religious institutions all over the world have promoted and, to a large extent, continue to promote. Be it Catholics, Evangelists, Protestants, Greek-Orthodox, Hindus or Muslims, the real difference lies in the relative prosperity that each group enjoys; the worse the living conditions, the greater the influence and pervasiveness of religious fundamentalism.

    On your other point, there’s a great difference between saying that ‘the rule of the Catholic church was tyrannical’ and saying that the majority of people following a religion are fascists and tyrants. The difference is quite fundamental; on the former case it is implied that something needs to be done about the way the Catholic church is ruled, on the latter case it is implied that something needs to be done about those damn ‘X’. When X describes an entire ethnic group, we flirt dangerously with the likes of BNP.

    Of course someone has the right to express that opinion anyway, extreme as it may be, but that someone should expect a backlash for his aggressive and blindly intolerant attitude.

    And nobody spoke of ‘censoring’, I only said that such comments contribute nothing other than polarisation.

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  31. This encompasses a lot of what we’ve been talking about:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article5712737.ece

    I think its shocking that he is being denied entry to this country… he is not inciting or promoting violence or unjust actions!

    But, he is mistaken in suggesting that the *dominant* interpretation of the religion is ‘extremist’.. as I said… that would mean we had the majority of a 2.4million sized population seeking to do us damage… clearly, not the case! He does threaten social cohesion in that case, by further alienating and angering that population and contributing to the false, misguided notions of those that tend to his thinking.

    This debate we have been having is essentially the same as the one this nation and its government is having right now… and thats why its so important and interesting… I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s views.

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  32. This is probably the most interesting Discussion i have read in a while.
    i have to say just by reading it i feel a lot of respect to you Maryah. Your oppinions on this touchy topic are very immpressive. if we all followed your veiws this problem would be resolved.

    in response to your ideas of things worth discussing; i do beleive (not all) but the majority of muslims living in britain, and the rest of the world must learn to take in criticism and advice from other people and use it to make there community better. Some muslims beleive that islam is Right and anything said about Islam even constructive criticism is wrong and they will just completely ignore what anyone says about the topic .This has to change if we are to make a better society.

    .

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  33. We can ‘debate’ all we like about topics similar to this, it doesn’t drive at the core issue of religion.

    If we permit organised religion, we allow organised nonsense backed by people with much ‘higher’ permission than we could ever grant them.

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