Thursday, October 05, 2006

Those Evil Muuuuslems

Andrew Bartlett: Leak and Spin (via)
The news sources are full of the story that a ‘Muslim’ officer was excused from guarding the Israeli embassy during the recent Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

I have two questions.

First, who leaked this story to the press, and what effect did they hope to produce?

Second, why are news sources concentrating on the fact that the officer was a Muslim?

It seems to me that the important feature of this officer’s identity was not that he was a Muslim, as did not ask to be excused from guarding the Israeli embassy prior to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and once the Israeli bombing of Lebanon ceased he returned to full duties. He was excused from guarding the Israeli embassy during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon because his wife is Lebanese.

Read the rest
Andrew also mentions the heckler who shouted down John "We hope we will leave Afghanistan without firing a single shot" Reid and I have to agree with him. How did Abu Izzadine, a known extremist, get within three metres of the Home Secretary?

Initially I thought of the quotation about not mistaking for conspiracy what can best be explained by stupidity and incompetence. But are those tasked with protecting the Home Secretary really so incompetent? I wasn't sure. One of the few things this government is good at is stage management and control of access.

Reid's speech to the Labour conference pretty much confirmed the truth. That incident was used to support a key part of his message, the hypocritical guff about standing up to bullies. Coincidence? Not likely. Izzadine was allowed to disrupt Reid's speech because Reid wanted him to.

Religious belief isn't the same as race. As I've said before, you can choose your religion but not the colour of your skin. But you should be free to choose your religion. Those who follow a particular religion should be able to follow that religion without being smeared, misrepresented, or persecuted for the crimes of the few. Reid and people like him have forgotten that the right to practice religious beliefs freely is what we're supposed to be defending.

The hostility generated towards Muslims by actions such as this leak and Reid's speech are a victory for bin Laden. As I've said before, he longs for a clash of civilisations. Unfortunately, there are plenty of bigots in this country who are only too happy to help.

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Andrew Bartlett said...

One reason that religion is in many cases very like 'race' is that it is largely something that one is born into. Language, for example, is ostensibly 'chosen' - it not being a genetic characteristic, it being changable - but the persecution of speakers of a particular language could not legitimated by reference to choice.

I would argue that religion is more of a choice than language. But, if I were to construct a scale from the 'determined' to the 'voluntaristic' I would say that religion, and certainly entho-religious identity, would be much further down the determined end of the scale than something such as 'membership of a political party'.

That, of course, doesn't stop relatively mainstream commentators from equating Muslims with fascists.

thabet said...

Just to point out that Abu Izzaddin lives in the Leyton area.

CuriousHamster said...

Andrew, I do agree that there is a strong relationship between race and religion and it seems clear that much of the anti-Muslim sentiment expressed these days is thinly disguised racism.

But as an liberal atheist, I'm opposed to the promotion of the idea that religion is determined by birth. Free will and all that.

In the real world, the deterministic relationship is strong as you say but in my mind, it shouldn't be. It's one of those things which irks me about the promotion of state faith schools - it perpetuates deterministic religious beliefs and damages the ability of individuals to choose their own path.

Anyway, that's part of the reason I prefer not to call anti-religious sentiment racism. I feel we need a seperate word for this sort of bigotry. But I don't think xenoeusebeiaphobia will catch on if I'm honest. (Googled, my knowledge of greek is somewhat sparse.)

CuriousHamster said...

thabet, that explains why he was in the area. The question remains though, how did he get in to the meeting? If you or I turned up at similar meeting of invited guests, it is unlikely that we'd be able to stroll in to disrupt procedings. I'm sure you know that all sorts of people are very angry with this government; if they didn't have proper procedures in place to stop this sort of thing, it'd happen all the time.

Government ministers have security for a start. We'd need to get past them. And the Labour Party also have people who keep a notoriously tight grip on access to ministers. We'd need to get past them too. It is highly unlikely that we'd succeed.

So how did Izzaddin, a known extremist, manage to get past both these sets of people and gatecrash a meeting like that?

NotSaussure said...

I feel we need a separate word for this sort of bigotry. But I don't think xenoeusebeiaphobia will catch on if I'm honest

What's wrong with the phrase 'religious bigotry'? I see little difference in principle between -- say -- Dr Paisley's dislike of Catholics and many people's (including many 'atheists') dislike of Muslims.

There's nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone's religion, though good manners dictate it should be done courteously, but there's a lot wrong with condemning people en masse on the basis of what you take their religion to involve, and I don't see that it makes much difference whether someone's basis for the condemnation is his 'Bible Protestantism' or his thoroughgoing atheism.

Andrew Bartlett said...

I'd like to add that religious bigotry comes so close to racism that it makes no difference when people start talking of 'demographics' and even more nastily, 'demographic problems'.

The defence these bigots use, that religion is a choice, is undone when they move into this kind of rhetorical territory. It means that they have view of religion as a strongly 'heritable' characteristic, much more so, I would argue, than is empirically the case in developed capitalist democracies.

If you witter on about Islam being a 'demographic problem' you are really saying two things - 1) I think of Islam as a racial characteristic, and 2) I am scared of little brown children.

CuriousHamster said...

NotSaussure, that's probably as good as anything. Paisley's dislike of Catholics is very similar to the sort of anti-Muslem sentiment which seems to be so common now. Perhaps we might even call it sectarianism? Possibly.

CuriousHamster said...

Andrew, I agree on that. When people start talking about the demographic threat and fertility rates, they have essentially abandonded the notion that religion is a choice.

I see you even had "The Christopher" demonstrate the point in the comments to that post:
Muslim immigrants who have very high fertility rates continue to arrive. At current trends, Britian will eventually be majority Muslim.

That's nothing to do with the spread of ideology, that's about people.

My feeling is that the demographic argument is still very much a minority opinion in the UK. It seems to have taken hold more over in the US (I've no real evidence either way on that admittedly). Unfortunately, there seem to be plenty of people determined to catch us up with our American cousins by spreading anti-Muslim sentiment. Worrying times.

Sunny said...

This insatiable demand for any Muslim controversy story is really getting out of hand...