Tag Archives: islam

Clash of Civilizations, or War of World-views?

(Neil’s Note: I was preparing an essay in response to the recent atrocities in Paris, when I realized that almost 10 years ago – in April 2006, to be precise – I had written a screed on the subject of Islamic terrorism. So I got it out, and decided that despite its age, it might be of interest to the denizens of this forum; if only to give a sense of how far the issue is stuck in a mental morass of plus ça change.) Read more


(Rushed) Thoughts on 2014 and a Few Predictions for 2015

Keir Martland

While it’s still with us, and before the noisy and inconvenient midnight frolicking begins (making it almost impossible to write this later on), I thought I’d quickly offer a round-up of 2014. I must first make it clear that I do not watch the news; only since early December have I been paying the slightest bit of attention to it. If I have missed something, or if I am grossly misrepresenting some event, please jump in and correct me. Happy New Year!

2014: where to start? I won’t do it consecutively, since I can’t think of anything at the present moment that happened in the first months of the year.

Read more

Jesus and Mo: it’s time to pick a horse


By Lawyers’ Secular Society Secretary Charlie Klendjian (H/T Old Holborn for the link)

A few weeks ago I appeared on the BBC1 programme The Big Questions to discuss, well, a big question: “Should human rights always outweigh religious rights?” You can watch it on YouTube here.

I very much enjoyed the experience, and not just because of the limitless KitKats the production company generously laid on. What I haven’t found so enjoyable, though, is subsequent events.

On the programme were two friends of mine, Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis of the LSE Students Union Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society. They were on the programme because they had recently got into trouble with their university for the hideous crime of…wearing “Jesus and Mo” t-shirts at the LSE Freshers’ Fair in October of last year.

The LSS fully and unequivocally supported Chris and Abhishek and we condemned the LSE’s disgraceful reaction to such a harmless act (see herehere and here). I’m pleased to report that Chris and Abhishek did eventually receive something resembling an apology from the LSE but unfortunately this was only after my student friends had formally instructed a Matrix QC and Leigh Day solicitors to help them. You can read Chris and Abhishek’s joint statements about what happened at Freshers’ Fair here (day 1) and here(day 2); you can read Abhishek’s fantastic blog post about it here; and you can read their joint statement in response to what they see as LSE’s “half-apology” here.

The Big Questions showed the t-shirts Chris and Abhishek were wearing, though they didn’t show any close-ups. Sitting next to me on the programme was Maajid Nawaz, who is the Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn and the co-founder and chair of the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think tank. Nawaz made it very clear on the programme that he, as a Muslim, had no objection to the t-shirts.

Shortly after the programme went out Nawaz tweeted a picture of one of the Jesus and Mo cartoons from the t-shirts – the same picture at the top of this blog post – saying:

“This Jesus & Mo @JandMo cartoon is not offensive&I’m sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it الله أكبر منه”.

And then things got crazy: there were death threats against Nawaz and a petition calling for his de-selection as a PPC.

So far, so bad.

Then things got crazier.

Last week two of our flagship news programmes, Channel 4 News and BBC’s Newsnight, in covering Nawaz’s plight, refused to show the cartoon he had tweeted. Displaying an inexplicable impatience to get into the Easter spirit in January, Channel 4 News decided to use what looked like a “black egg” to cover the image of Mohammed:

J and Mo.jpg censored

Newsnight didn’t even do that; they just avoided it completely. As the eccentric Christian blogger “Archbishop Cranmer” put it, this is how Newsnight depicted the cartoon:

Jesus and Mo BBC

In censoring themselves Channel 4 News and Newsnight not only failed in their task of reporting the news to their viewers – to enable their viewers to form their own opinion about the cartoon – but they also reinforced the very religious taboo that Nawaz had received death threats for challenging and which had landed Chris and Abhishek in hot water with the Libyan School of Economics – sorry, the London School of Economics. As Nawaz tweeted:

“Thank you @Channel4News you just pushed us liberal Muslims further into a ditch #LynchMobFreeZone #TeamNawaz”.

I am appalled at the treatment of Nawaz and I am appalled at the editorial decisions ofChannel 4 News and Newsnight to censor the Jesus and Mo cartoon. Religious censorship is bad even on a good day, but when it prevents discussion of the actual news item at hand it becomes surreal.

It’s high time we all faced up to a very unsettling reality here: sharia law is alive and kicking in the United Kingdom in 2014, and so is its deadly blasphemy code. After Nawaz had tweeted the picture Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation referred to him as “Gustake Rasool”, which means “Defamer of Prophets”. This is a religious and legal charge punishable by a death sentence in Pakistan. Nawaz travels regularly to Pakistan and has family there. Shafiq also tweeted that:

“We will notify all muslim organisations in the UK of his despicable behaviour and also notify Islamic countries”.

It’s tempting to think this is a difficult legal or moral conundrum. It isn’t. There are difficult legal and moral issues out there but this is not one of them. The question before us is very simple: do we have the right to depict Mohammed? It’s a simple question and so it deserves a simple answer. The answer is either yes or no. My answer is yes. If your answer is “yes, but”, then sorry that’s just not good enough. If you have to pause for thought before answering the question then you’ve probably already decided the answer is no.

“Oh but we have to be respectful because depiction of the prophet Mohammed is forbidden in Islam and so it’s offensive to Muslims”, I hear you say, clutching your dusty GCSE Religious Studies certificate proudly (I have an ‘A’ grade myself; it was one of my favourite subjects).

You’re wrong.

Point 1: there is a history within some strands of Islam of depicting Mohammed.

Point 2: all Muslims are individuals. Some of them will find a depiction of Mohammed offensive and some won’t. Why are you more concerned about the Muslims that want to enforce blasphemy codes rather than those challenging them, often at great risk? In choosing to instinctively sympathise with those seeking to enforce blasphemy codes you make it even harder for liberal and secular Muslims to rise up. As Nawaz says, you push them “further into a ditch.” You side with the oppressor rather than the victim. Think about that, carefully.

Point 3: notice how you just belittled all Muslims as unhinged individuals with hair-trigger tempers who cannot handle their ideas being challenged – in this case a picture of a man with a beard. Which other group of people would you treat like that? Is that showing “respect” towards Muslims? Or is it showing disrespect? Or is it possibly even de-humanising them?

Point 4: if someone is offended, so what? Do you know how offended some men (and women) were at the idea of women having the vote in this country? Do you know how offended some white people were at the idea of racial equality in the US and South Africa? Do you know how offended some Christians were at the Life of Brian and the work of the wonderfully irreverent late comedian Dave Allen (Allen also received death threats, incidentally)? Do you know how offended some religious people are at the idea of gay couples marrying? Challenging power always offends those who hold the power, or those who benefit from the power, that’s being challenged.

Point 5: this isn’t just about a cartoon, or Maajid Nawaz, or LSE students. It’s about our democracy asserting the vital principle that no idea is beyond challenge, criticism or even ridicule. Free speech and free expression are our safety mechanisms; without it there is no limit to harm.

Point 6: if you say we should censor these images out of “respect”, is that really the right word? Or when you say “respect” do you really mean “fear”? As I have said before, if you’re scared about something then for goodness sake just say you’re scared. There’s no shame in that whatsoever. But there is shame in saying you respect something when actually you don’t respect it, or when you’re scared of it.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Ok, so what can I do?” Well here’s the good news. The solution is simple. You just have to be honest when talking about religion, and in particular Islam. And when I say honest, I mean ruthlessly honest. If you find the enforcement of sharia law in the UK abhorrent, please say so. If you find the willingness of 18 out of 56 UK mosques to conduct child marriages abhorrent, please say so. If you find the al-Madinah school in Derby abhorrent, please say so. If you find gender segregation in UK universitiesabhorrent, please say so. And if you find the imposition of Islamic blasphemy codes byChannel 4 News and Newsnight abhorrent, please say so.

Don’t think you can straddle both sides of the Jesus and Mo argument, arguing in one breath how free speech and free expression are important but in another breath how we have to be “respectful” and not cause offence, like a Hollywood stuntman expertly riding two horses. At some point those horses will go their separate ways. Pick a horse now – while you still have something of a choice.

The events of the last few weeks have demonstrated something that secularists are only too aware of: the urgent need for absolute honesty when it comes to discussing religion. After we had finished filming The Big Questions a gentleman from the audience came up to speak to me. It’s fair to say we were on different sides of the debate. When I told him I was a secularist he remarked dismissively and mockingly, and almost salivating at his own quick wit, “well I suppose someone has to be”.

Yes, he’s bloody right.

Someone has to be.


Views expressed are not necessarily those of the LSS.

You can sign a petition in support of Maajid Nawaz here.

Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadis have been jointly short-listed for the National Secular Society’s “Secularist of the Year” award. More details here.

Very bad law

David Davis

This will play into the hands of the more fanatical Islamists who are playing into the hands of the GramscoFabiaNazi fat-controllers.

If a woman is (a) either happy to wear a burkha, or (b) is fool enough to go along with her mail-chauvinist “partner” in being forced to wear one, it is no business of ours or Nicolas Sarkozy’s or of the French Government.

Personally, I think Burkhas are  a very very silly and immature thing to want to wear. It signals nothing but distrust by men in other men, and in their own women. It is also impractical I think, if a woman wants to go to the toilet (I do not know.) It is a hangover from a barbarian pre-liberal age. But it’s not our business. However, murdering butchers, anywhere in the world, are and ought always to be our business whether or not we have any “vital interest”. Like Saddam, whom we happily caused to be hung some years ago.

Apologising for slavery

David Davis

This caught my eye quite accidentally: I was not intending to write anything about slavery today, with the possible exception of a suitable comment about true things that White People are not allowed to say.

It occurs to me that _if_ West African Tribal Bigmen had refused to trade their (own slaves) people for Spanish and Portuguese money and beads, then history might have been different. Absolutely all the helots would have got carted off by their ears either way (The HispanoPortuguesi had guns by then) and ther tribal Big-guys would have been slaughtered, but then at least “antislavery campaigners” would have been able to absolutely claim the moral high-ground from the very beginning. WE’d not have fallen, through being asleep on the ideological job, into the trap of being _blamed for slavery_ through being the dominant Atlantic-Maritime power in the times when we were trying actually to abolish this pre-capitalist, pre-liberal, Euro-Imperium-friendly barbarism.

It riles me, that _we_ have had to “apologise” for slavery, when _we_ were the first nation to unilaterally outlaw it everywhere and for all time, planetwide. Naturally, there is no mention whatever of the role played either by tribal chiefs, or by the Arabs, who as is well known, still “do” slavery bigtime, and who were not bit-players in the atlantic slavetrade either, with their trans-African communications.

Libertarians of course don’t agree with slavery. You own yourself and your justly-acquired goods, and can dispose of either as you will. But I think an exception could be made for major GramscoFabiocrats and their children (the Koran says that it says so) in the event of a libertarian revolution that’s far-reaching enough and rapid enough. There are after all things posing as “religions” which allow slavery and regulate it as a means of social intercourse. Either, these are religions and can therefore enforce behaviour-codes on willing submitters, or else they are not relgions and their strictures and codes can be disregarded. If the Libertarian “Minsiter of Human Skills Co-ordination” (a tautology) was to convert to Islam, then he could indent all ex-“Hospital Trust Managers” (for example) as (his) slaves, and they’d have to do his bidding at all times. if he can’t do that, then Islam is not a religion, but something else, and we have to start that deiscussion.

My quote of the day: from Charles Moore in the DT, on Afghanistan

David Davis

I have called this one _MY_ quote, because I know that a majority of libertarians, especially in Britain, think we ought not to be militarily involved in Afghanistan – or anywhere else for that matter. Therefore I will not annoy and insult these people by calling it the “Libertarian Alliance Quote of the Day” (although it ought to be.) I take responsibility for it instead of the august think-tank for which I have the privilege to be allowed to blog.

These libertarians, and others, know that I have never failed to support war in Iraq, or Afghanistan, and that I say [regularly] that the West _must_ take war, if need be everywhere that is required, to all those who cheerfully, frankly and materially oppose individual liberty anywhere. The people the West is trying to resist are not “insurgents”. They are not even “terrorists”, which is why the notion of “The War On Terror” is so glib, shallow and meaningless – these people are willing soldiers for a cause, they really believe what they are saying and they mean to destroy us: they are the willing agents of purposeful and committed deconstructors of everything they think we stand for and love.

Here’s Charles Moore:-

If we truly want to win the war in Afghanistan, we need to challenge its opponents much more fiercely. Politicians such as Nick Clegg, who congratulate themselves on asking the necessary, awkward questions, need to be interrogated about what they actually want. Do they want the first defeat of the most powerful military alliance in history at the hands of a small band of fanatics armed with little more than rifles and IEDs?

Do they have any conception of what such a defeat would mean for the world order, for the stability of countries in the region, or for civil peace in every European city? Do they not understand that this fight will be seen all over the world not as a battle for control of some jagged mountains, but between values, and that, if our values do not win, they will lose?

Please read old Charlie Moore on the whole thing: he puts some sharp perspectives on war, its roles – good or bad they may be – in intercivilisational conflict, and where we ought to go from here. I already said a couple of days ago that the alternatives are only (and ever) victory or defeat, and what it will mean. He’s probably read Sir John Keegan. I doubt most of our present politicians have even heard of the bugger.

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