Archive for the ‘Free Speech’ Category
Richard Seymour : “When people say, ‘The system works,’ they mean ‘The system works for me.’ The slags. “
Russell Brand “Have you been out in society recently? ‘Cause it’s SHIT. But when I was asked to discourse with Richard Seymour I said yes because it was a beautiful woman asking me. I chose the subject of revolution because comrade Seymour is a political genius and I am a genius, and imagining the overthrow of the current political system is the only way I can be enthused about politics.
It’s difficult to believe in yourself because the idea of self is an artificial construction. You are, in fact, part of the glorious oneness of the universe. Everything beautiful in the world is within you. No one really feels self-confident deep down because it’s an artificial idea. Really, people aren’t that worried about what you’re doing or what you’re saying, so you can drift around the world relatively anonymously: you must not feel persecuted and examined. Liberate yourself from that idea that people are watching you.
Richard Seymour. “To the switherers, who are thinking of throwing their energies into the the revolution what do you suggest? I would simply suggest this – give it a week, go along to one of the Left Unity or other meetings about the way forward. You might find, or find yourself able to make, something better.”
Russell Brand. “I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a privileged bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.”
Richard Seymour, “I profoundly disagree with the language of “privilege”. The discourse seems inadequate to the complex realities of racial, gender, and national inequalities for example. It also tends, in concrete politics, toward an unhelpfully moralistic language – checking your privilege, and so on. Not to mention agonistic apathetic aporias.”
Russell Brand, “There’s little point bemoaning this apathy. Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people. A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve. To me a potent and triumphant leftist movement, aside from the glorious Occupy rumble, is a faint, idealistic whisper from sepia rebels.
If I my quote my own words, “Until today two things gave me great pleasure in life. Wanking into the breasts of a bisexual nymphomaniac as she recites Simone de Beauvoir, and sparking an anti-capitalist revolution by my own revolt against the prevailing oppressive system of oppression what that oppress people”
Richard Seymour, “So it might be with “male privilege” referred to in this sense. Adapting Hall, one might speak of “those apparently naturalised representations of events and situations relating to sex and gender, whether ‘factual’ or ‘fictional’, which have sexist premisses and propositions inscribed in them as a set of unquestioned assumptions” and which “enable sexist statements to be formulated without ever bringing into awareness the sexist predicates on which the statements are grounded.”
Russell Brand “All penguins are the same below the surface, which I think is as perfect an analogy as we’re likely to get for the futility of sexism, racism and capitalism.”
Bob Lambert Receives Islamic Human Rights Award (2007).
Lambert is in the news again, for what reason?
Well this was his most recent appearance (September 2014).
Ministers have been urged to enlist the help of several controversial Muslim groups to stem the flow of British jihadists to Iraq and Syria.
Calls are growing for Whitehall to restore ties in particular with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), one of the country’s largest Islamic organisations. The group, which once enjoyed a close relationship with the government, has been ostracised since 2009 when one of its officials signed a declaration supporting Hamas and calling on Muslims to destroy “foreign warships” preventing arms smuggling into Gaza.
Robert Lambert, a former head of the Metropolitan police Muslim contact unit who is now a lecturer in terrorism studies at the University of St Andrews, said that the MCB and other Muslim groups could be valuable partners in the struggle against home-grown jihad….”
Originally in the Times (yesterday) – Hat-tip DT.
But on this occasion it’s not to develop the failures that resulted from the policy of co-operating with ‘moderate’ (hard-right) Islamists that he expounded in Countering Al Qaeda in London: Police and Muslims in Partnerships (2011).
It’s Lambert’s past and the great wrong that he has done that’s in the news.
Today we learn.
The Metropolitan Police is to pay £425,000 to a woman whose child was fathered by a man who she did not know was an undercover police officer.
The unprecedented payment comes after a legal battle with women who say they were duped into relationships with officers who were spying on them.
Scotland Yard says it “unreservedly apologises for any pain and suffering”.
The woman told BBC News she had received psychiatric care after learning the officer’s real identity.
Married with children
The Met’s payment is part of an agreement for her to drop her legal action alleging assault, negligence, deceit and misconduct by senior officers.
Scotland Yard statement
The force faces further possible claims from other women who say they were tricked into relationships with Special Demonstration Squad officers.
The SDS ran long-term undercover operations designed to infiltrate protest groups, including animal rights organisations.
One of its key officers, former Special Branch detective Bob Lambert, used the pseudonym Bob Robinson, and was tasked with infiltrating the Animal Liberation Front.
During that operation in the mid 1980s, he formed a relationship with a 22-year-old activist called Jacqui – even though he was already married with children. In 1985 she gave birth – but when the boy was two years old, the father vanished.
Jacqui only discovered the real identity of her son’s father in 2012 after he had been outed by other campaigners.
Scotland Yard had refused to confirm or deny whether Bob Lambert was an SDS operative, despite his own admissions to journalists, until it was forced to change its position in August.
We note with concern that this individual is still a Lecturer in ‘Terrorism Studies’ at St Andrews University.
The University sees fit to publish this (link) about the past for which the Met now has had to pay out a hefty sum,
For the bulk of his police service (1977–2007) Robert Lambert worked in counter-terrorism, gaining operational experience of all forms of violent political threats to the UK, from Irish republican to the many strands of international terrorism that include what may now best be described as the al-Qaida movement. One common denominator in all the many and varied terrorist recruitment strategies he witnessed over the years is the exploitation of a sense of political injustice amongst susceptible youth. Throughout his police career Lambert placed value on street or grass roots perspectives over more rigid top down security approaches to counter-terrorism.
We helpfully note that there is something…missing in this account.
One hopes that a number of glaring absences are swiftly replaced by a fuller account of Lambert’s ‘career’.
The word “exploitation” is also particularly unfortunate.
Ideal Happy Suffolk Library User.
In 2012 Suffolk LIbraries were taken away from public ownership (‘divested’) and direct control by elected councillors under a hard-right leadership of Suffolk County Council. They were given to an Industrial and Provident Society
Or as they put it,
In the first arrangement of its type in the UK, and after extensive consultation with the people of Suffolk, on Wednesday 1 August 2012, all of Suffolk’s 44 libraries and the mobile, school and prison library services were put under the direct control of the Suffolk’s Libraries IPS Ltd, an independent company registered as a charity.
Suffolk’s Libraries has a long-term contract with Suffolk County Council to ensure the service is delivered to an agreed specification and to work with local community groups to develop locally-focused services at each library.
The county council remains the statutory library authority, and monitors the performance of the library service through a framework that forms part of the contract.
As a member of the Ipswich Friends, who are on the list, I would be interested to know how this election took place – certainly it would be hard to recall being consulted, let alone presented with a ballot paper.
It would be possible to go further into this arrangement, whose transparency has been unfavourably compared to the Kremlin’s under Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev.
Our concern is the future of the libraries.
It would seem that a number of problems have come to a head: Ipswich Library is opening late tomorrow, because a special ‘Staff Meeting’ is taking place.
It is known (I have seen a copy of the, non-public, minutes of the meeting) that part of the Library is to be transferred to a business ‘hub’ of some kind (as if Ipswich needs another one….).
Appropriately commerce will replace part of the Arts section.
In the meantime a large number of books from all over the Central Library are ‘disappearing’ and some books on the shelves are ‘not-recognised’ – about to be withdrawn for sale.
One loyal member of staff say that these volumes have gone to a better, happier, place.
Others, less favourable to management, suggest that the “disappeared” will never be seen again.
The computer provision, which last year’s annual public report (a rare glimpse into the Provy’s workings) needs upgrading, is in a mess.
Some new terminals are available (though 2 have already broken down) with super, indeed excellent, service, exist (though their censorship filter blocks some left-wing sites).
Some of the old ones still function.
There is a shortage of free computers and great competition to use them – an essential activity for Jobseekers.
But near to them are the dead carcasses of extinct terminals, a sad reminder of former days.
We suspect a funding crisis is in the offing and “profit centres” are seen as the way out.
Note the word “suspect“, not “certain”.
It is said – from the Management – that “nothing has been decided yet” about the libraries’ future.
We have heard that one before: it is no doubt taught in many ‘dealing with a crisis’ master classes for managers.
As student supporters of the NUS decision not to back the Kurdish struggle against Islamist genociders claim that the motion to commit them would “outsource” NUS campaigning to “MI5 and MI6″ we get the following claim,
the bottom line is that Malia promised to, and has, rewritten the motion to fully condemn ISIS https://www.facebook.com/malia.bouattia/posts/10154739200655331?fref=nf …
Well, it’s a claim, but her supporters seem a lot, a real lot, more concerned to “defend” Malia than to anything to defend the Kurds.
Now, this crops up.
From The Tab (October the 15th).
A motion was proposed at the Goldsmiths Students’ Assembly yesterday to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day and victims of genocide.
Education officer Sarah El-alfy urged students to vote against the proposal, rejecting it as “eurocentric”.
One student added: “The motion would force people to remember things they may not want to remember.”
Another suggested she couldn’t commemorate the Holocaust because she thought the Union was explicitly “anti-Zionist”.
One of the students present said the proposal should be voted against as it would affect the Union’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The unfortunately-named President Howard Littler said after: “Someone brought up Israel-Palestine out of the blue but I made a point of information and said I didn’t want to conflate the two.”
He later audaciously added that the whole thing is just “a storm in a teacup”.
This report should be treated with extreme caution but here is the following.
The Tab asks.
Would you vote for or against the motion? Read it in full and have your say
Motion for the Student Union to commemorate the victims of genocide, totalitarianism and racial hatred
The Student Union recognises the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, of the other genocides, of totalitarianism and racial hatred. It further recognises that commemorating the victims of genocide, racial hatred and totalitarianism, and promoting public awareness of these crimes against humanity, is essential to sustaining and defending democratic culture and civil society, especially in the face of a resurgence of neo-fascism, racial hatred and neo-Stalinism across Europe.
The Student Union shall organise commemorative events for students and members of the public on Holocaust Memorial Day (27th of January), on the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism (23rd of August annually), on the Holodomor Genocide Memorial Day Act (4th Saturday in November, Annually) and on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day (24th April annually).
The motion fell by one vote.
The report continues.
The SU have yet to release minutes as they agree on the contents for the next meeting on 18th November.
But those attending are encouraged to live-tweet the event using the hashtag “GSUAssembly”.
One student named T. Walpole, present at the Assembly, objected: “Our union is anti-Zionist.”
They added: “This is a colonialist motion. Vote it down.
“White people should not be proposing motions to condemn genocides without a lot of thought. This does not have that thought.”
Now let’s disregard these (reported) morally cretinous comments.
The fact is that Holocaust Memorial day is not just about the Shoah,
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) is the charity which promotes and supports Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). 27 January is the day for everyone to remember the millions of people killed in the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.
The trust does not include the Ukraine (Holodomor) or the Armenian genocide (Turkey).
Bu Goldsmith does not include, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.
Or, something many consider a genocide, by Pakistan and its Islamist allies, Bangladesh in 1971.
In this light, and the complications that this could cause, and vagueness about ‘civil society’, the motion appears badly worded (Hat-tip Bob B).
But the issue of how to commemorate these mass killings, even by ‘white people’, and, by people of different political ideologies and faiths or none at all, is obscured by something which cannot be wished away.
This is what the College’s “Education officer” tweeted,
She now comments (I checked on the Tweet), with no further explanation whatsoever,
Goldsmith’s SU has a lot of answering to do.
More including some (evasive) ‘explanations’ from the union on the Huffington Post.
And by the Students’ Union.
On Tuesday night a Motion was voted down by a majority at Goldsmiths Students’ Union’s Students Assembly – a democratic meeting in which all students are invited to discuss and vote on issues that are important to them.
Subsequently The Tab wrote a piece entitled ‘vile SU refuse to commemorate Holocaust [sic]’. It is worth noting at this point that the article was co-authored by the proposer of the original motion, both of whose motions were voted down at the Student Assembly.
Many baseless claims are made, however the central tenet is that the Students Assembly and the Students’ Union opposed remembering the victims of the Holocaust. This is an insulting misrepresentation. We have in the past commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day and will in the future.
A nuanced discussion about how best to effectively and collectively remember these events was had at Students Assembly. Re-drafting motions and re-entering them at a later date isn’t unusual in Students’ Unions and shouldn’t be misinterpreted as opposition. Sarah El-alfy, GSU Education officer, offered to help the proposer re-draft the motion and bring it to the next Student Assembly and this reflected the positivity in the room about the motion with the ambition to strengthen it further. A motion that includes remembering the Holocaust will be brought to the next Student Assembly in November. We feel these facts have been ignored in the subsequent reporting.
We will be writing to the Editor of The Tab in due course to seek correction of many of the factual inaccuracies in the report. Seperately, The Tab, in their article misgendered one of our students. We would like to ask for this to be corrected along with the rest of the article.
Goldsmiths SU executive team
Misgendering is the least of their problems.
What about the Tweets, starting with the one by Sarah El-alfy?
Islamism: Discipline and Punish.
To much of the world the British daily, the Guardian is the best known English-language paper of the liberal-left.
It is important to emphasise the word ‘liberal’ (the Guardian advocated voting for the Liberal Democrats at the last election).
But the hyphen attaching the word to the ‘left’ is indissoluble.
Guardian writers, above all in the Comment in Free Section, shows the limits of what this left believes in.
The section, (run between 2001 and 2007 by former Communist Party of Great Britain member Seumas Milne), are, in the majority, consensus believers in a number of liberal values.
Some of the principles these people stand for are admirable, such as freedom of speech, promotion of diversity, human rights, gender equality, social equality, and tolerance.
Their advocacy of liberty extends to letting a range of people expressing their opinions in the paper who have very different interpretations of these ideas.
But they are heavily modified when it comes to one political and cultural issue, the nature of Islamism.
A couple of days ago the daily published an article by George Monbiot, Why stop at Isis when we could bomb the whole Muslim world?
The author, who has previously compared European recruits to the genociders of ISIS to volunteers who defended the Spanish Republic, argues,
“Humanitarian arguments, if consistently applied, could be used to flatten the entire Middle East.”
Let’s bomb the Muslim world – all of it – to save the lives of its people. Surely this is the only consistent moral course? Why stop at Islamic State (Isis), when the Syrian government has murdered and tortured so many? This, after all, was last year’s moral imperative. What’s changed?
Nothing, according to Monbiot, the latest US-led bombing will all end in disaster, killing, and destruction by the “destroying angels of the west”. He ends his article with the observation that politicians “scatter bombs like fairy dust.”
Monbiot now deigns to mention that the group amongst the Syrian rebels, which he compared to the Spanish Republican democrats – Isis – has its faults, “the agenda and practices of Isis are disgusting. It murders and tortures, terrorises and threatens. As Obama says, it is a “network of death”(14).
But it’s one of many networks of death.
Worse still, a western crusade appears to be exactly what it wants.
So it’s just one of many. And attacking them would make them worse.
Monbiot then fails to mention any form of physical military reaction to Isis that he could support.
Sound the alarm, run to the hills, the world is about to be flattened!
We can’t do anything at all!
Today the Guardian publishes Seamus Milne.
He begins well,
Theresa May devoted over three quarters of her speech in Birmingham to Muslims and the threat of a catch-all “Islamist extremism”.
Drawing on the tricks of Tony Blair’s invasion-prone government and Thatcher’s failed campaign against the IRA, she promised yet more anti-terror laws: this time to ban nonviolent “extremists” from television and protests, and to proscribe groups with no links to terrorism.
The package amounts to a straightforward attack on freedom of speech and democracy – in the name of the “functioning of democracy”. It would alienate Muslims from mainstream politics still further and create a new, all-purpose collection of thought crimes, allowing the authorities to ban views or activities they deem likely to cause “alarm” or “distress”.
Milne is now a defender of free speech.
He would have done well at this point to oppose something he once backed, to make causing offence to religious faiths a crime. (1)
But he doesn’t.
And, in the wider news, perhaps I missed this bit,
The justifications were straight out of the Blair playbook too: from May’s insistence that we are at war with an “ideology” and that “they” hate our values rather than our violent interventions in the Muslim world – to the claim that Isis could develop weapons of mass destruction to attack us“within a few hours’ flying time of our country”.
Yes I did miss that one, because it’s from the far-right Daily Express’s spin on the May speech….
I suppose Islamic State’s tortures, rapes, genocide and the threat to hundreds of thousands of Kurds would have merited a mention from anybody with genuine left-wing feeling.
In a sense they do get mentioned,
Like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya before it, the bombing has been sold as a response to a humanitarian catastrophe and imminent threat but already shows every sign of spreading the terror it is supposed to stop. Mission creep is already upon us, as Cameron softens the public up to join the US campaign in Syria. As in the past, the war is projected to last years, has been launched against our own mutant creation, and is fanning reverse sectarian cleansing on the ground. Revenge terror attacks at home are once again seen as almost certain.
Ah, “sold as a response to a humanitarian catastrophe”.
What Milne’s views on this catastrophe are, part from the fact that they have been “sold”, remain in decent obscurity.
One thing sticks out: no mention of the need to back the Kurdish and other fighters on the ground battling Islamic State/Isis!
But the prize for feeble-minded analysis of Islamism must go to a piece by Antony Loewenstein.
Speaking of how people treat recruits to the genociders in Australia he laments a “sudden terror panic“. Loewenstein uses a Muslim interlocutor to express the dismay.:
“There’s a lack of context, lack of spirituality and understanding, combined with impatience. Many Isis fighters are newly converted, newly pious … these men have grown a beard in three months and they don’t give Islam time to be understood.”
He is tired of having to defend his religion against bigots who take these instant Islamists to be the authentic representation of Islam.
“Keyboard warriors often ask: “Where is the universal Muslim condemnation of terror acts?” We’re distancing ourselves, so why do you keep asking? People just aren’t listening.”
“It’s been the same narrative of apology for decades and we’re sick of it. It’s like the probation the media is trying to grant me. I want to stand back, it’s got nothing to do with me and it’s nothing to do with Islam. I don’t need to come out and prove my innocence.”
Indeed, it is remarkable that those who trumpet their religious belief, in Islam and the Qu’ran, should be called to express disapproval of those who trumpet their religious belief in Islam and the Qu’ran – Isis.
As he continues in the vein we weary.
But there is some truth in this, though “dis-empowered” – an expression now confined to ageing social workers – is not perhaps the right word.
The pressure on the Australian Muslim community is immense, a feeling of being outsiders, exacerbated by a message that they’re different and under suspicion. Many Muslim women in particular feel disempowered and not trusted by the wider, white majority. Islamophobia is now unofficial government policy and some media’s central world-view
Muslims have ample reason to be sceptical towards government and intelligence services; real journalists would investigate why. Sadly, most in the media are failing in their basic duty to question.
Islamophobia is an ageing and muddled term as well: it tries to conflate opposition to islamism with prejudice, and offers no way to distinguish them.
This will not help clear up what ‘Islam’ is.
“Islam isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Samir says. His religion, just like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and others, is complex, contradictory and open to various interpretations – but figuring that out can’t be done in an instant.
I will, as will most readers, give up at this point….
Why does this matter?
We could say that a paper that publishes Richard Seymour is a fun journal, a good laugh, and that nobody takes the ideology in these articles seriously.
But what is striking is that not a single Guardian commentator has come close to analysing Islamism in any depth whatsoever.
That is a extreme-right-wing ideology, with a very material institutional basis, support in the pious Muslim bourgeoisie, and wider roots in the class structures of many Middle Eastern countries.
Or the rich critique of Islamism, democratic, socialist and secular, offered by the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan groups such as the Worker Communist parties (Mansoor Hekmat) and other left individuals and organisations in the Moslem world.
We could, for those interested in ‘Gender and Queer’ studies, also look at Michael Foucault’s concept of ‘micro-powers’ – intimate oppressive apparatuses that create a religious prison, in para-states and actual states.
Foucault’s Discipline and Punish is perhaps a good starting point to the operation of the Sharia, along with Nietzsche The Genealogy of Morals. (2)
We could look at its (or rather), since Islamism is a plural formation, their patriarchal roots, and its creation of sexual apartheid.
We might even mention that every single form of Islamism is viciously oppressive towards gays.
That it is anti-democratic and ‘communitarian’ on the template of 1930s ‘organic’ far-right.
We might even consider that its religion is a load of utter cack.
But nobody in the Guardian’s comment articles says that.
(1) “But for showing solidarity and working with Muslim organisations – whether in the anti-war movement or in campaigns against Islamophobia – leftwing groups and politicians such as the London mayor, Ken Livingstone, are now routinely damned by liberal secularists (many of whom have been keen supporters of the war in Iraq) for “betraying the enlightenment” and making common cause with “Islamofascists”, homophobes and misogynists. The pitch of these denunciations has been heightened further by the government’s plan to introduce a new criminal offence of incitement to religious hatred. This measure would extend to the most vulnerable community in the country the very modest protection already offered by race hate legislation to black people, Jews, Sikhs and all religious communities in Northern Ireland. It is not a new blasphemy law; it would not lead to a ban on Monty Python’s Life of Brian film; or rule out jokes about Ayatollah Khomeini’s contact lenses; or cover ridicule or attacks on any religion (unlike the broader Australian legislation) – but would only outlaw incitement of hatred against people because of their faith.” Guardian. December 2004)
This bill was thrown up precisely because it was a new “blasphemy law”. Does Milne back its return?
(2) I am all too aware of Foucault’s morally cretinous welcome to Khomeini, What are the Iranians Dreaming About (1978). More relevant to Isis is the way their beheadings of hostages could be compared to the violent and chaotic public torture of Robert-François Damiens analysed in Discipline and Punish (1975).
Teresa May Outlines Plans to Clamp down on ‘Harmful Individuals’.
Very Short Treatise on Intolerance.
Nietzsche wrote somewhere that the greatest haters, with the longest memories and deepest grudges, are learned religious men. (1) The contrary can easily be found. But malevolent violence in the Middle East – inspired and carried out by those who see themselves as holy – is something thrust in front of us every single day.
That this affects Europe was equally brought home quickly. It is not an exaggeration to say that the world of social media and instant media reporting, has worn away the sense of distance. That thousands of European volunteers, including hundreds of British citizens, have joined the Jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq became news in weeks. For those who follow the right sites, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, more information piled up every day.
From these sources the oppressions and crimes of the Islamist forces rapidly became known. In Iraq and Syria the Islamic State and Isis began to carry out ethnic and religious cleansing, tortured, raped, and committed acts of genocide.
Clamp-down on ‘harmful individuals”.
That there are those who continue to justify the Jihadists, here and now, is equally public. The British Conservative Party has announced that it intends, if elected in 2015, to legislate. It will issue “banning orders” on “extremist” groups. It will ratchet up its ‘anti-terrorism’ strategy and ‘anti-extremism’ programme. There will be ‘terrorism Asbos’ – extreme disruption orders, that will restrict the actions of named individuals, including a ban on their media appearances. (BBC)
Opponents of the proposals will state that it not possible to ban a version of a faith, which is a private matter. But the liberal argument in defence of free speech appears to hit a wall at this point. The Jihadists’ behaviour is not confined to “self-regarding acts” (John Stuart Mill). It is anything but limited to the individual: they are carrying out the Word of god, as spoken by their own authorities, to bring the world into line with their ideas.
Jihadists and Violence.
If we argue that the consequences of Jihadist ideology are violent few would disagree. The link could not be plainer and self-designated. They appear to be, and are intolerance incarnate. But if Mill’s doctrine has its faults, a much greater one is to “augment the authority of whatever sacerdotal or legislative body (that) may represent the majority”, as John Morley pointed out. (On Compromise. 1886)
Give those in government and their functionaries that power and it is not hard to see that Teresa May’s laws would open the door to abuses. A floodgate of malicious accusations (anonymous or Tabloid inspired). As somebody who has been the target of a ‘moderate’ Islamist – soon proved false – claims, one also see the scope for factional warfare between Muslim groups and their opponents, secularists or otherwise, opening up. And that is before we consider the potential for racists and other hate groups using the legislation for their own purposes. That the idea appears to encompass “extremisms” as a whole – left, right, religious and otherwise – rings others alarm bells. As David Davis (Conservative) observed, these measures “quite incredible powers to limit democratic rights”. Or as Padraig Reidy puts in the Tory Telegraph, “The concept of extremism has become rather like fascism: a catch-all term for things we don’t like.”
It would be hard to find any organised religion (with the possible exception of the Society of Friends) that did not claim special powers over other people and society. If we oppose this claim then it’s not the individual who’s the problem but the institutions that would bring compulsory rules over other people’s lives. The Conservatives’ proposals come close to this, very close indeed for anybody suspected of “extremism”.
By contrast those who consider that there is no special place for religion in our common political institutions, would not consider the public body the best authority make the ultimate decision over what is and what is not an acceptable “moderate” religious belief. Secularists would leave the faithful to battle amongst themselves over whether they are hard-liners or reasonable. This would leave the rest of us free to exist as human beings, at liberty to adopt, to approve, to mock or to criticise any religious belief that tries to impinge on our lives.
There remains the problem of Islamism. Some simply deny that there is any connection between Islam and ISIS/Islamic State. We have seen the attempt by some to get the media to call the Islamic State the “un” or “so-called” Islamic State. It’s as if Trotskyists demanded that the old Soviet Union be always referred to by its “proper” name, as a “degenerated/deformed workers’ state”.
The analogy can be extended. Some commentators have compared the reaction of political Islamists, including those in government, as in Turkey, to the left’s difficult coming to terms with Stalin’s blood-drenched rule. This is not an easy process, and it has not ended yet.
One thing is certain coming to terms with the crimes of the Islamists in the Middle East will not be helped by fine-sounding phrases that instantly dismiss any connection between their ideology and Islam. This is a claim shared by Teresa May who states, ” Islam is a religion of peace.” We would wish for evidence to back this assertion.
It may be said that those who loudly clamoured for bans on books and publications, which “offended” Islam, from the Satanic Verses onwards, are not in a good position to demand freedom of expression. That is indeed a rod of their own making.
Intolerance of the Intolerant.
None of this implies any let up on the pressure on violent Islamists. Those who follow the tradition of Voltaire’s Traité sur la tolérance (1763) are not tolerant of fanaticism. The crimes of Isis/Islamic State, including those committed by European Jihadists, should be answerable to courts and due process. We can, already, clamp down on incitement to violence and religious hatred. The means to bring to account those actively involved in Jihad exist. The killers in the service of the Assad regime deserve the same treatment – bringing up a subject which, to examine properly, would extend this ‘short’ treatise by several pages.
What we do not need is increased “authority” to legislate on what is, and what is not, ‘extremism.”
(1) “The really great Haters in History have always been priests, but also the cleverest haters – in comparison with the cleverness of priestly revenge every other piece of cleverness is practically negligible” Genealogy of Morals. 1887.
The Home Secretary revealed the new “extremism disruption orders” would ban those who “spread hate but do not break existing laws” from the airwaves and make it easier to formally proscribe groups deemed to be linked to terrorism.
The orders will apply to those who “spread or incite hatred” of gender, race or religion as well as those who engage in “harmful activities” for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”. That’s prompted fears the laws could be used on non-violent political groups and the political enemies of those in power.
Critics said the powers were draconian and mocked the notion of banning those who are not proven to have broken the law, while human rights Liberty said the powers were “worthy of a caliphate”.
The eurosceptic party that is jeopardising the Tories’ chance of winning the next election – and to which two MPs and other prominent politicians have already defected – also suggested it could be banned with such an order.
Suzanne Evans, deputy chair of Ukip, told a fringe event at the Tory Party conference that the power could be used to close down her party, the BBC’s Norman Smith reported.
Hope Not Hate call for contributions to debate on “To ban or not to ban?” : here.
How should society tackle extremism?
There will be various streams to this debate, so ideas and contributions on them all will be useful:
- What is extremism?
- Where does extremism come from?
- How should the Government tackle extremism?
- How should communities tackle extremism?
- What are the limits of freedom of speech?