Thursday, 5 November 2009

REPOST Islam, racism, multiculturalism and why the far right pisses me off

(BNP=Daily Mail=far right is a short hand for racists who oppose Islam because it is the religion of non-white immigrants, the guardian is shorthand for people suffering post-colonial middle-class gilt who support Islam because it is the religion of non-white immigrants, neither label refers to all people who read either paper and should be considered simply a label of convenience).

I object to the BNP and the Daily mail and the rest of the far right. I object to them for all the obvious reasons, and for calling me a communist, but I also object that they hold opinions I agree with. I object to having to agree with the Daily Mail gang about anything but on one issue they're right … or rather they aren't, but they cast things in such a light as to make them seem like they are.

Let's start at the top. About 600CE an Arab (a person whose immediate family are originally from the Arabian peninsula and surrounding area) thought up a brilliant new idea. Basically he got stoned in a cave and invented Islam, a religion that had all the hallmarks of a new and world changing faith. Things started out reasonably well, the holy text of this religion includes an injunction to study the world to learn more about god, so Islamic science (just about the only science of importance going at the time) flourished. Al-gebra, later algebra, al-chemy, later chemistry, geometry, biology, physics and the rest were all expanded at a huge rate. Islam looked like a religion that could do science a great deal of good, and so humanity a great deal of good.

However, there are mixed messages in all religious texts. The morality of Islam is, you must remember, one set down by an illiterate paedophile in the 600's, not very sophisticated. And this is where the problems start. Islam as it is practised in large sections of the middle east, from Saudi Arabia to Iran via Afghanistan has twisted this not very sophisticated morality into one that is genuinely evil. This sort of Islam, that practices horrific corporal punishment, includes thought crimes, repressions of minorities, of women and which is supported by theocratic regimes, for short I will call this Wahhabi, many scholars will disagree with this but it'll do for now. So he's where I fear the Daily Mail fan club and I agree, we both believe that Wahhabi is a monstrous abomination and for the good of all mankind should be utterly destroyed.

I dont worry to much that this agreement reflects a moral failing of mine, though it does make me pause for thought, and here's why, our logic is totally different. The Daily Mail dont object to Wahhabi because it is an abomination, they say it is an abomination because they object to it, and why do they object to it, because it is foreign. And not even that it's of a different race. The BNP gang sees Arabs in this country and finds this offensive. A great many people of the far right are no doubt quite content for Wahhabi to be practised in the middle east as much as they may like so long as they dont have to see Arabs on the street. The BNP gang has leapt on Islamophobia, not out of an intellectual opposition to Wahhabi or Islam in general, but out of opposition to Arabs. This is only possible because of the great confusion that exists and is created by such far right groups and by those who oppose them:

The Daily Mail gang equates Islamic with Arabic, they do this because racism leads easily to over-generalisations, so the received opinion that most Arabs are Muslims and vice versa (neither true really, the reverse most defiantly not so) becomes Arab=Muslim=bad. In response to this guardian readers have invented the concept of Islamophobia, a word to describe the far right's views on this issue. This is a bad word, it's not the Islam that the BNP gang fears, it's the Arabs. Arabophobia is a terrible thing, and like all other forms of racism should be stamped out. But just because those who practice it equate Arabs and Muslims does not mean we should. There is widespread Arabophobia in the UK, there is a widespread belief spread by both sides that this is equivalent to Islamophobia, it's not. When nice fluffy guardian readers attack the Daily Mail for Islamophobia what they mean is that the Mail should stop being racist. This is a good thing, we should be stamping out racism everywhere it occurs, but saying that opposition to a religion is the same as opposition to a race of people is not correct. You cant attack someone's race in the same way as their beliefs, if I attack a German for being German then I am a racist and this is an error, if I attack (verbally of course I'm talking about opposition in debate here) the same person for believing that Hitler was a nice guy I'm not making the same error.

So, I object to the way a lot of people portray the debate about Islam. Being a Muslim is not the same as being an Arab and does not deserve the same protection. Someone who is opposed in any way for being an Arab is a victim of racism and needs protection, someone who is opposed in debate and argument for being a Muslim has had a disagreement, someone thinks that their moral system should be corrected. This is a totally different type of thought. In general the second sort of opposition needs to be done sparingly and with good reasons, but it is of a different kind to the first.

The next question is multiculturalism, the blurring between Arabophobia and Islamophobia is a distaste for multiculturalism. What should I, who accepts migration as fine and who is happy to see people of many races on the street but who objects to Wahhabi and to all the horrors that implies, think about the culture of Muslim people. It is vital that we respect people, (note people not their beliefs), if people believe crazy and stupid things that is their right, no person should stop them doing this by force. We are entitled to stop them believing stupid things by argument and persuasion, but not by force. So we should be happy for people to go to mosques 5 times a day, and set them up near us. This is something that the Daily Mail gang opposes, they see such buildings as places where lots of scary people get together, that makes the scary people seem more scary, so they oppose Mosque building because of Arabophobia and so further blur the line between it and Islamophobia. I should be fine indeed with the outward signs of religion, yes even with the burka, in the situation where anyone else would be entitled to wear the same sort of mask. We should not oppose things that are done because of religion, no more than we should support those done in it's name. We should treat people's culture as simply one out of many motivations. If people for whatever reason want to wear a mask (or a dagger in the case of Sikhs but that's another question) that's fine with me whenever it is legal for anyone else.

The Daily Mail lot want to get rid of the burka as it is a sign of otherness, and they oppose all otherness. The guardian support the burka for the same reason, we must support all displays of otherness they say in the name of multiculturalism. What we think of the burka must be because it is a mask, not because it is a mask worn by Arabs. In all questions of Sharia law, halal food, etc. etc. we must ensure that the culture and religions of the people in this country are given exaclty zero weight. A point of view in debate should be considered on its merits in exactly the same way if presented by someone from an insane cult, or the head of a respected institution or religion or if it's just an ordinary guy with no affiliation. What I'm advocating is not a guardian style knee-jerk right for people to do whatever their culture dictates, we have law for a reason, that reason is Mill's harm principle, we need to stop people who want to harm others. But once those limits are in place I'm not advocating a Daily Mail ban on people doing things that aren't white enough. I want to see a public debate held on strictly neutral terms.

We need to stop Wahhabi, be it in the middle east or anywhere else, it is evil. Mill's harm principle and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that is its intellectual descendent tells us that we must prevent the evil atrocities that are being done in the name of Wahhabi, it is a crime against humanity and must be stopped. I object that the guardian doesn't agree, they are too scared of racism to tackle evil of a similar scale, and I object that the BNP does agree, they come at it from exactly the opposite repressive end of ideas and oppose it out of confusion and Arabophobia. I want to be able to welcome with open arms Afghan refugees who are fleeing from the kind of evil that I am simultaneously arguing hard to end. Is that such a contradiction?

As ever please lots of comments, I want to see how people react, is anyone interesting, do you want more of this stuff or should i stop posting them?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feedback always welcome.