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The Day Islamophobia Exploded

Many observers, bloggers and commentators have been monitoring and logging the rise of Islamophobia in recent years. I, myself, have expressed concern on more than one occasion that unless the acceptability of anti-Muslim sentiment is challenged it will take a tragedy on a large scale to wake people up to the rise of far right extremism. I have been working on a blog post addressing what I see as an impending tipping point for the EDL at their proposed Tower Hamlets demonstration. I’ve been sitting on it due to further developments and partly because I feared my theory would be considered slightly hysterical. In light of events in Norway this week, it appears that my, and many others fears were well founded.

This is part of the post I was going to title ‘The EDL and their East end Crossroads’.

With EDL demos mainly consisting of congregating, drinking, singing the same few songs and leaving, they achieve absolutely nothing in their quest of halting the Islamic jihad. Tower Hamlets could be the one where the violent online rhetoric is transferred into actions. The consequences of this could spell the beginning of the end for them as an organisation. How much longer will they be allowed to disrupt communities, waste police time and tax payers money? The rise in their profile means that more and more members of the general public are becoming aware of their reputation and what they stand for. Some will sympathise, the majority see them for what they are and reject them.

I predict that the Tower Hamlets event will further drive a wedge between the EDL and mainstream society and many members will have to choose which direction they wish to take. If there is large scale disorder I can see harsher restrictions being put on their marches or total bans. This will lead to frustration among the more moderate members who will become disillusioned and abandon the group. If the demo passes without incident due to kettling or lack of reaction from the locals, the more extreme element within the EDL will also be frustrated that what was supposed to be their showpiece demo failed to live up to its billing. Their resentment towards the government, local authorities, the Muslim community and the ‘left’ will grow, and their already unhealthy paranoia will force them to become more militant to satisfy their appetite for action and to achieve their goals. It will be the end of the EDL as we know it.

The organisation will have shed any illusion of inclusiveness and adherence to an obsolete mission statement, and ‘ordinary’ members will be marginalised. There is a real danger that regional divisions could evolve into underground urban militias, stockpiling weapons in readiness for the civil war that will never materialise. Nevertheless the ever changing demographics of the UK will fuel their paranoia and result in sporadic violence and possibly even terrorist attacks. This may sound like pure fantasy, but it’s already happening. In the UK, the last 2 years have seen over 30 recorded incidents of arson, vandalism or attempted bombings of mosques, assaults on individuals outside mosques or vandalism of Muslim graves. This is more than one incident a month, and many incidents go unreported due to fear of reprisals. I don’t see this stopping anytime soon unless serious action is taken or something tragic happens. Islamophobia and far right extremism are on the rise in Europe, and until they are both addressed on a governmental level they will keep on growing, and only a catastrophic event will cause people to treat the issue with the seriousness it warrants.

Maybe I’m being melodramatic, maybe the EDL will just amble along on the fringes of mainstream society until they realise they serve no purpose, and the movement will fizzle out naturally. But the level of hatred and violent rhetoric that comes from a hardcore of members indicates that they won’t go down without a fight. They actually believe they are fighting a domestic war to win their country back. These people won’t just stop feeling the way they do and will exist in some shape or form, EDL or not. This is the reason I feel things will inevitably escalate before they improve. How quickly they escalate will be decided in no small part on September the 3rd 2011. Hopefully then we can help things improve.

I posted an article recently highlighting the relative scarcity of jihadist attacks in Europe and the US compared to other ideologies and how we need to change the perception regarding terrorism and terrorists. The reluctance to acknowledge the threat of domestic terrorism in order to chase the Islamic bogeyman has caused the powers that be to take their eye off the ball with catastrophic consequences.

Here’s an extract from an article I wrote back in April 2011.

In 2011, no one in the mainstream media would dare espouse openly anti-Semitic views akin to those above. No one would express their wishes to return blacks to the status they had in the Jim Crow era, whether they held them or not. Why then, in the 21st century is it acceptable to do both of these with Muslims?

It worries me to imagine how far this could go before it is seen for what it is. Where is the tipping point? What will be the catalyst that forces people to say enough is enough? Unfortunately it will likely be a tragedy on a large scale. It scares me to imagine how large. People are dying daily in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain. Hundreds of detainees remain in Guantanamo Bay without charge. The civilian death toll in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is in the hundreds of thousands. The people of Palestine are still living in a state of apartheid under siege. How much suffering needs to be inflicted before a watershed occurs?

As long as the GWOT continues, as long as Palestinians resist, and as long as there is oil in the middle east, there will be a need to demonise Muslims and Arabs. In recent weeks we have seen anti-Muslim hearings being held and anti-Sharia laws being passed in America. We’ve seen France criminalise 0.003% of it’s population by banning the niqab. Belgium have already done this. Holland is considering the issue of Halal slaughter. Switzerland has already banned the erection of minarets. Gaza has lost women and children with no media outcry, western condemnation or political debate for a no fly zone.

My hope is that making it as uncomfortable as possible to carry out this demonising will go some way to accelerating it’s demise. Don’t let anyone tell you they can’t be racist towards Muslims, because they can and they are. From the lowliest EDL member, to Republican Senators and Heads of State. Let’s not allow them to hide behind the false claims and propaganda. It’s a huge challenge due to the semantics and misinformation in use and the political implications. The influence of the Conservative Christian right and Pro Israel lobby also cannot be underestimated. But the court of public opinion will always hold considerable power. Public opinion needs to be informed to be able to pass judgement. That’s where we come in. Let’s take this opportunity in the age of social networks and internet revolutions to help raise awareness and stop the hate. Forward, share, join, like, tweet and retweet. Let’s become the generation that said ‘Never Again’ and really meant it.

I blogged this in June 2011.

The acquittal of Geert Wilders in an Amsterdam court yesterday was a victory for free speech. It was also a victory for hate and hypocrisy……What will this mean for Muslims in Holland, across Europe and the West? A report from Belgium shows that Islamophobia is at an all time high there, while anti-Muslim attacks are on the rise in the UK and US, ranging from verbal abuse, to mosque vandalism and physical attacks. France and Switzerland have also introduced legislation that infringe on Muslims practicing their faith. This legal victory will no doubt fortify those who share his views, and I would venture that we can expect some attention seekers to attempt to capitalise on it.

It seems insensitive to say I told you so at a time like this, but many of us did. The only surprise for me was the fact that the attack didn’t focus on Muslims. But something else that has struck me recently is that if there is one set of people the far right despise more than Muslims, it’s ‘the left’. Whether it’s because they see them as dhimmis, traitors, enablers or the manufacturers of the multicultural society they abhor. In some perverse way, the fact that white Europeans were the victims could be less damaging in the long term. It may sound callous, but with Caucasian natives being murdered it may bring home the gravity of the threat to the ruling elite, the media and general public in a way that the deaths of immigrants couldn’t. Also, the bombing of a mosque or immigration centre, with an equal number of Muslim casualties could spark continent wide race riots with dire implications for community relations which could take a generation to rebuild. The most fitting tribute the people of Europe could pay to these innocent kids and their families is to promise not to let this happen again, to anyone.

The only way we can do this is by ensuring that politicians, the media and anyone else with influence are aware of the problem. A good start would be to shine the spotlight as brightly as possible on the anti-Muslim ideologues that inspired Breivik’s imagination and actions. Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Geert Wilders, Daniel Pipes, Fjordman, Bat Ye’or, Brigitte Gabriel, Frank Gaffney, Walid Shoebat, Andrew Bostom, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Melanie Phillips, David Horowitz and Front Page, Steve Emerson, Ibn Warraq, Gate of Vienna, SIOE among others all need to feel the heat. Whilst not directly responsible for the atrocity, their influence is undeniable. Whilst each and every one of them attempts to distance themselves from Breivik’s actions, their words of hate towards Muslims and liberals are freely available to observe on the world wide web.

Robert Spencer – “The girl is right: do not fear. Fight back against the jihad. Fear hands the jihadis a weapon.”

Pamela Geller“And I pray dearly that in the ungodly event that Tehran or its jihadi proxies (Hez’ballah, Hamas etc) target Israel with a nuke, that she retaliate with everything she has at Tehran, Mecca, and Medina…………… Not to mention Europe.” 

Geert Wilders – “We need a spirit of resistance, because resistance to evil is our moral duty.”

Daniel Pipes – “Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene…. All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.”

Walid Shoebat – “Kill them (Muslims)… including the children … “

Bat Ye’or“Those churches know perfectly well the dire condition of Christians in Muslim lands. But instead of denouncing it, they adopt the militancy of the Janissaries, those Christian slave militias that were the spearhead of the Islamic war against Christianity.”

Mark Steyn – “The Serbs figured that out–as other Continentals will in the years ahead: If you can’t outbreed the enemy, cull ’em. The problem that Europe faces is that Bosnia’s demographic profile is now the model for the entire continent.”

David Horowitz – “What other people wouldn’t be stringing up the people who were responsible or who they thought to be responsible.”

Brigitte Gabriel –  “America and the West are doomed to failure in this war unless they stand up and identify the real enemy: Islam.”

“It is not yet politically correct to talk about a religious war. But this is exactly what we are facing: a religious war declared by devout Muslims….It’s not radical Islam. It’s what Islam is at its core.” 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali – “No. Islam, period. Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace.  I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. Islam can be defeated in many ways. You look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.”

This is just the tip of the Islamophobic iceberg. So far, this warmongering rhetoric has gone without the disapproval that would greet similar sentiments about blacks or Jews. Despite the rise in Islamophobic incidents, this brand of hate speech has been tolerated or ignored. Many of us who have been casting a more critical and analytical eye over developments have suspected it would only be a matter of time before some radicalised extremist took the only step left to take. Now it’s happened, we’ll see whether they will continue their irresponsible hate mongering. The attack by Breivik is seen by him as the start of a war, one that the aforementioned ‘counter jihadists’ have been using to spread fear and paranoia for years. The reaction of many of them has been one of surprise, as if the holy war they predicted was just a propaganda tool that they never seriously envisaged happening. Well, whether it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy or not, it’s here now and the words and actions of these figureheads and their disciples will be scrutinised to the nth degree. They need to be held accountable and made to answer. If they truly condemn and regret the horrific events of last Friday, they must now enter meaningful dialogue to prove it. Does their humanity outweigh their hate? Are they willing to put their selfish agenda’s aside for the sake of peace? We shall see, as somehow I doubt this is the last I’ll blog on this subject.

For more articles on the threat of the far right and its ideologues I’ve linked some below.


Speak And Let Speak

The acquittal of Geert Wilders in an Amsterdam court yesterday was a victory for free speech. It was also a victory for hate and hypocrisy. I don’t believe that any religion should be exempt from criticism in a modern democracy, and critics should be able to voice their concerns without fear of physical reprisals. But what Wilders produces is more than criticism, it crosses all boundaries of respect and strides into full blown hate mongering. Some might argue that freedom of speech should also allow us to express our dislikes without censorship. I’d go along with this, but there needs to be a crucial caveat in my opinion. If you’re going to take advantage of your right to free speech, what you say needs to be based on facts. Especially if the facts are unpleasant and controversial. Much of what Wilders says is unpleasant and controversial, but not all of it is rooted in the truth. His views may be offensive to many people, but he has a right to air them. I argue though that he should also have an obligation to justify these views with fact based evidence. If he thinks women who chose to wear the hijab should be taxed, that’s his right, but his reasoning needs to be sound otherwise he just looks like another Islamophobic bigot. When asked if he would extend the tax to Orthodox Christian head scarves, he said no. So already we can see a clear anti-Muslim bias. Also, calling it a ‘head-rag’  probably doesn’t help his case.

Other views he has expressed include comparing of the Qur’an to Mein Kampf, the view that Holland should halt immigration from all Muslim countries and Muslims living in Holland should be repatriated, that the possibility of Dutch cities becoming majority non-white is a bad thing, and he supports the occupation, theft of land, displacement and violence against Palestinians. These views probably don’t differ a great deal from any other far right group, including our beloved EDL, and as much as I disagree with them and will challenge them, I support their right to express them. Beyond the standard right wing, anti-immigration fare though there lies a more sinister and devious rhetoric that we’re unaccustomed to from British politicians, and is more akin to American Christian evangelists and Zionists. He specialises in the demonisation of Islam and Muslims in a manner which is inflammatory and provocative, offensive and insulting, and wholly misleading and dishonest. Here is a selection of quotes from Wilders:

Islam is not a religion… the Quran is a book that calls for hatred, that calls for violence, for murder, for terrorism, for war, and submission…We should also stop pretending that Islam is a religion…the right to religious freedom should not apply to Islam.”

“It is not a coincidence that every terroristic act, almost every terroristic act, aimed and based on this fascist book, the Koran, and this wrong ideology, Islam, unfortunately has been done by people from Islamic [background]“

(Completely false, and a claim I will put to bed in a future post)

“I don’t believe in a moderate Islam.  I don’t believe in what some people call a European Islam. I don’t think there will be [a moderate Islam] and if there will be, in time, it will be in two or three thousand years.”

“Madam Chairman, this country has an excise tax on petrol and diesel, it has parking permits and a dog tax, it has an airline ticket tax and has a packaging tax, so why not tax the headscarf? A Head Rag Tax.”

“The Quran asks, commands Muslims to kill non-Muslims.”

“The purest joy in Islam is to kill and be killed.”

“Muhammad was a warlord. In establishing Islam he preached violence, he preached the slaughter of non-Muslims.”

“Europe is beginning to look, slowly but gradually like Arabia.” (VERY slowly. There are approx. 45m Muslims in Europe, only 5m are Arabs. 9% of a Muslim population that accounts for 6% of the total.)

“We need a spirit of resistance, because resistance to evil is our moral duty.”

“The media call it an Arab Spring, I call it an Arab Winter. Islam and freedom, Islam and democracy are incompatible.”

The claim that there is no moderate Islam, and other accusations of violently homicidal tendencies inherent to Islam will be news to anyone who has read the extracts below in the Qur’an, which Wilders claims is not open to interpretation.

There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. [2:256] 

“And do not kill yourselves, for God has been merciful to you.” (4:29)

‘He who has killed one innocent soul, it is as if he has killed all humanity. And he who has saved one soul, it is as if he has saved all humanity . . .’ (Quran 5:32)

“…Take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.” (al-An’am 6:151)

“Nor take life – which Allah has made sacred – except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, We have given his heir authority (to demand Qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the law)” (al-Isra’ 17:33)

“Whoever hurts a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys God.” (Bukhari)

All accusations can be refuted at the drop of a hat. It’s scaremongering at it’s worst, and if it’s not hate speech I don’t know what is. His views and proposals are blatantly constructed to discriminate against one section of society. He endorses the overt targeting of Muslims for unequal treatment. He wants to ban the building of new Mosques, ban Madrassas, ban the Qur’an, introduce a licence for the hijab, ban Halal slaughter, ban Muslim immigration, repatriate existing Muslims, enforce assimilation to his idea of western culture, the list goes on. All of this based on a totally false and distorted image of Islam.

The irony of him being the leader of the Freedom Party seems lost on him. It appears that basic human rights of freedom of speech, worship, expression or any other kind isn’t extended to Muslims in his world. Not just Muslims either though. This is where his hypocrisy becomes laughable. Wilders supported the rights of a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten to publish insulting cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, yet when a Dutch website hosted an illustration of Wilders manning a Nazi style concentration camp for Muslims, he called for their suppression and bullied them into removing it. He has also condemned criticism from opposition parties and demanded apologies for what he deems to be insults. He actually succeeded in getting a prominent philosopher banned from criticising his party in a University lecture. These double standards are fairly typical for far right groups who purport to champion free speech.

It’s tempting to imagine how much leeway would be given to Wilders if he was demonising Jews for example. Consider that he recently spoke at a Christian college in Toronto, while the same Canadian city’s council has unanimously voted to outlaw criticism of Israel. Anti-Semitic hate speech is quite rightly off limits, as it seems is pointing out the transgressions of an apartheid state, but blatant Islamophobia is apparently acceptable.

Unsurprisingly, Wilders supporters were jubilant at his acquittal. Not only is it a triumph for free speech, but indicates to them that comparing Islam to Nazism is “…acceptable within the context of the public debate.”

What will this mean for Muslims in Holland, across Europe and the West? A report from Belgium shows that Islamophobia is at an all time high there, while anti-Muslim attacks are on the rise in the UK and US, ranging from verbal abuse, to mosque vandalism and physical attacks. France and Switzerland have also introduced legislation that infringe on Muslims practicing their faith. This legal victory will no doubt fortify those who share his views, and I would venture that we can expect some attention seekers to attempt to capitalise on it.

Despite initially being dismayed at the decision, and angry at the reaction from the usual candidates, I’ve taken stock. I now wish to issue a challenge to the supposed free speech advocates on the far right. I accept and respect your right to speak your mind, no matter how hateful. Now that the precedent has been set, I expect you to abide by the same ethos. Don’t like what us liberals have to say? Tough. Don’t like whatever rubbish MAC are spouting? Deal with it. Don’t want to be called fascist? Prove you’re not. Freedom of speech works both ways. We all have the right to it. I also urge you to remember this. Challenging what you say isn’t stopping you, state your case but expect me to state mine. It’s how a debate works, if you have a valid case there shouldn’t be an issue. Shouting people down, smearing, insulting and abusing them doesn’t prove your point or win an argument, quite the opposite. If you want this country to be the free democracy you claim Muslims are trying to put an end to, speak and let speak.

The Unlikely Bigot

One of the most disappointing things to happen whilst researching for my blog was confirming my suspicions that someone I respected and admired was as intolerant and ignorant as the religious literalists he’s so critical of. I’d heard others accuse him of arrogance, and being too confrontational and militant. I always found him to be fairly reasonable, softly spoken and even a little timid in his television appearances. This could be because what he was saying articulated what I was feeling at the time. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to be objective. I still find him a fascinating person to read or listen to in his areas of expertise, but I’ve lost a great deal of respect for him. Disappointment is the overwhelming feeling I have.

I’m referring to Richard Dawkins. Celebrity atheist and evolutionary biologist. His 2006 book The God Delusion is his most popular and controversial to date, is an international best seller and was my introduction to his work. As I’ve blogged previously, already being an atheist, this book illustrated my attitude to religion perfectly. Not only that, but it consolidated and exacerbated it. I say exacerbated, because I believe that an extreme intolerance of anything is unhealthy. Particularly if it’s clouded by a lack of knowledge or understanding. In hindsight, this is where I was. But it wasn’t directed at any one in particular, just organised religions in general.

I’ve also explained how and why my attitude has softened over the last couple of years. I believe this has enabled me to see the issue from a different perspective, more compassionately. As a passionate scientist I get the impression that Dawkins takes personal offence from people’s devotion to religion. There’s a condescending overtone and mocking nature to much of what I hear from him now. A few years ago I would have approved, but now I just find it infantile and unnecessary.

He’s also a secular Humanist, and is Vice President of the British Humanist Association. I also consider myself to be a humanist of some description. I support and agree with much of what they believe in and campaign for. For instance, a reform of Religious Education so that “all pupils in all types of school should have the opportunity to consider philosophical and fundamental questions, and that in a pluralist society we should learn about each other’s beliefs, including humanist ones”.

Their campaign for the repealing of the blasphemy law, their support of human rights and free speech, their pro-choice stance on abortion and defence of stem cell research. A quick scan of notable supporters reassures me that my lefty credentials are intact. Stephen Fry, Richard Herring, Stewart Lee, Ed Byrne, Prof. Brian Cox, Jon Ronson and Robin Ince are all present.

Their Wikipedia page also states the following:

The British Humanist Association campaigns for a number of causes. It campaigns for legal provision against discrimination on grounds of religious belief or sexual orientation. It has called for unification of existing anti-discrimination legislation and has contributed to the Discrimination Law Review which developed the Equality Act 2010.

How could anyone representing these values possibly be smeared as a bigot? The same way as anyone else can be bigoted despite being well intentioned. Through a lack of knowledge, understanding and empathy. Woah! Who am I to question the knowledge of a fellow of New College, Oxford, and former Professor for Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford? Doubt the understanding of the inventor of the concept of the meme, and a winner of countless honours and awards?

Good point. My argument is; he’s only human. He’s not immune to having blind spots caused by prejudice, or exempt from negative human traits such as stubbornness, or arrogance. My opinion is that his militant atheism, his distrust and dislike of organised religion, is clouding his otherwise brilliant mind. His refusal to make any attempt to appreciate and understand the complexity of certain religions, and only look for reasons to condemn them is shameful and embarrassing.

I first became aware of the unlikely bigotry sometime last year. I heard that he’d been extremely critical of Islam, but thought it’d probably been taken out of context or someone was being hyper-sensitive. Why would an atheist single out one particular religion, and surely someone like Dawkins would be intelligent and perceptive enough to not jump on the bandwagon?

Whilst looking for information for one of my posts, I stumbled across the website. I decided to browse the site out of curiosity and became both confused and angry. I must stress this isn’t Dawkins’ personal website, it’s run by The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, of which he is the founder, but it is official. He does contribute to it, and is aware of its content. As well as articles by Dawkins and other regular contributors, the bulk of the site consists of items from the global media that are considered newsworthy for atheists, secularists and humanists. Some are truly fascinating pieces about nature, science, and the human mind. But a huge portion is dedicated to articles cherry picked to highlight the dark side of religion, or rather the dark side of people or organisations claiming to represent religion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m passionate about exposing the crimes committed by Catholic priests, the abuse of human rights that exist in Wahabist Saudi Arabia, the persecution of homosexuals in Uganda, Zionist expansion into Palestine and the variety of unpleasant views expressed by religious extremists. But to use them as examples of why religion is inherently ‘bad’, as if the crimes are committed by religion and not people, is missing the point entirely in my view.

Some of the names that crop up on a regular basis on the website will be quite familiar to keen followers of Islamophobia. People that are lauded by the websites readers as robust and brave critics of Islam, but in reality are nothing more than agenda driven right-wing bigots. Just two of these people are Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Pat Condell. Ali is an Islamophobes wet dream. A female Somali ‘ex-Muslim’ who fled her native country to escape from an arranged marriage and honour killing, to become a born again atheist and radical anti-Muslim.

Pat Condell is a UKIP supporting, BNP and EDL approved ‘comedian’ who at one time was fairly even-handed in his criticism of religions, but seems to have focused 100% of his vitriol on Islam recently. He perpetuates misconceptions and myths for laughs whilst his supporters applaud him for ‘telling it like it is’. Which to me translates as ‘using the privilege of free speech to be tactless and offensive, whilst using gross generalisations and exaggerations’.

To concentrate on Condell for the time being. A number of people actually complained about his YouTube monologues being posted on the website. This was the reply from Dawkins:

“I believe Pat Condell deserves a hearing. He may sound extreme, but that could just reflect the extremes he is fighting against. I don’t know the corresponding figures for America, but polls in Britain suggest that an alarmingly high percentage of young British Muslims support the terrorists of 9/11 and 7/7, and some 40% of Muslims want Sharia Law introduced into Britain. Disquietingly high percentages supported the death sentence against Salman Rushdie and the threats of violence against the Danish cartoonists. Even ‘moderate’ Muslim leaders support the principle that apostasy deserves the death penalty, even if they are too nice to carry out the sentence themselves. I think it is well arguable that Islam is the greatest man-made force for evil in the world today. Pat Condell is one of the few with the courage to say so.”

It reads like a more eloquent version of any number of EDL rants. I’m not going to get side tracked by pointing out the inaccuracies and untruths in his statement, but the fact he’s using much the same well-worn clichés parroted by right-wing extremists speaks volumes. Here’s another sycophantic gushing from Dawkins:

“Pat Condell is unique. Nobody can match his extraordinary blend of suavity and savagery. With his articulate intelligence he runs rings around the religious wingnuts that are the targets of his merciless humour. Thank goodness he is on our side”.

Depressing. I won’t go into an in-depth analysis of the content of Condell’s diatribes; I’m hoping that my series on Islamophobic misconceptions will do that job in due course.

The story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali is far more exciting than that of a grumpy, middle-aged bigot. She’s exotic, intelligent and articulate, with a colourful history. But she also has some extremely unsavoury friends, and is a growing presence on the Islamophobic circuit. Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu and moved between Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya with her politician father. She claimed political asylum in Holland in 1992. Her asylum application was based on her claim that her father was forcing her into a marriage with a cousin, and would face an honour killing if she refused. She also claimed to have fled the Somalian capital to escape the civil wars she had witnessed, and was forced to live in refugee camps. Her family denies all accusations made against them, and she herself admits to lying in order to gain asylum. In the meantime she had earned a master’s degree in political science and forged links with the centre-left PvdA party.

She later suffered a crisis of faith and eventually renounced Islam in 2002. She wrote her first book criticising Islam shortly after, and began receiving death threats. She also wrote a screenplay for a short film called ‘Submission’ which controversially depicted the abuse of a Muslim woman at the hands of her husband, and seemed to infer this behaviour was encouraged by the Qur’an. In 2004 the producer of this film Theo Van Gogh was murdered by a Dutch-Moroccan member of a terrorist cell. A five-page letter was pinned to Van Gogh’s chest with a butcher’s knife that amounted to a fatwa on Hirsi Ali, forcing her into hiding. During this period Hirsi Ali had become an elected member of Dutch Parliament as part of the VVD party, where she became a colleague of Geert Wilders.

In 2006 her admission of making a fraudulent application for asylum forced her resignation from politics, and her Dutch citizenship was nearly revoked. Since then she has been working in the USA for a right-wing think tank and earning a pretty penny playing the martyr and cozying up to the A list of the Islamophoberatti. During this time her anti-Muslim comments have been prolific, here is a small collection:

Hirsi Ali: I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars…. you look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.
Reason: Militarily?
Hirsi Ali: In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed.
Reason: You’re in favor of civil liberties, but applied selectively?
Hirsi Ali: No.
Reason: In Holland, you wanted to introduce a special permit system for Islamic schools, correct?
Hirsi Ali: I wanted to get rid of them. …
Reason: Well, your proposal went against Article 23 of the Dutch Constitution.
Reason: Here in the United States, you’d advocate the abolition of—
Hirsi Ali: All Muslim schools. Close them down.
Hirsi Ali: There is no moderate Islam.

“It is a totalitarian method. The Nazis tried it using women as incubators, literally to give birth to soldiers. Islam is now doing it.”

On women who chose to wear the niqab: “They are the female equivalent of the radical young men who travel to Pakistan and come back wanting to blow up trains.”

“The Prophet would have not have disapproved of 9/11, because it was carried out in his example.”

“Muhammad is, seen by our Western standards, a pervert”

There’s also the standard fare of comparisons between Islam and Nazism.

While Dawkins and other people who should know better have been, or still are fawning over Hirsi Ali, progressive Muslim scholars and thinkers have challenged her, the Dutch Muslim women were happy to see the back of her, and she’s been exposed as a died in the wool neo-con. The scale of her hypocrisy and double standards are laughable. Despite being a Muslim refugee that was granted asylum on a false premise she went on to represent a political party that would have denied her application, and seeks to persecute Muslims. She also proposes the following measures for the EU:

Admission of immigrants on the basis of their contribution to the economy. The current system “is designed to attract the highest number of people with truly heartbreaking stories”.

Diplomatic, economic and military interventions in countries which risk causing large migrant flows.

And like many atheists she doesn’t seem to offer a bad word for any religion other than Islam. In fact she goes out of her way to be complimentary about some of them. It comes as no surprise at all then that her views on the Israel-Palestine issue aren’t entirely balanced or sympathetic.

In perusing Dawkins’ website I also discovered a new name. Yet again his story fitted exactly what I’d come to expect of this strange breed of humanists. Sam Harris is another secular atheist that reserves particular disdain for Islam. The article below contains pretty much every generalisation and misconception you could ask of from an Islamophobe.

The only future devout Muslims can envisage—as Muslims—is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed.

In Islam, it is the moderate who is left to split hairs, because the basic thrust of the doctrine is undeniable: convert, subjugate, or kill unbelievers; kill apostates; and conquer the world.

They must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling. It is simply a fact that the greatest predictor of terrorist behavior anywhere in the world (with the exception of the island Sri Lanka) is whether or not a person believes that Allah is the only god and Muhammad is his prophet.

The outrage that Muslims feel over U.S. and British foreign policy is primarily the product of theological concerns. Devout Muslims consider it a sacrilege for infidels to depose a Muslim tyrant and occupy Muslim lands—no matter how well-intentioned the infidels or malevolent the tyrant.

It is time we admitted that we are not at war with “terrorism”; we are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran.

The idea that Islam is a “peaceful religion hijacked by extremists” is a dangerous fantasy—and it is now a particularly dangerous fantasy for moderate Muslims to indulge.

The arrogance, condescension and ignorance are almost too much to put into words.

On the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’:

But the margin between what is legal and what is desirable, or even decent, leaves room for many projects that well-intentioned people might still find offensive. If you can raise the requisite $100 million, you might also build a shrine to Satan on this spot, complete with the names of all the non-believing victims of 9/11 destined to suffer for eternity in Hell.

Equating Islam with Satanism? Nice. Hang on what’s this?

Harris was raised in a secular Jewish home by a Jewish mother. Harris also defends Israel and its military actions in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and is critical of liberals who do not:

“For instance, [liberals] ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. Muslims routinely use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause; the political discourse throughout much of the Muslim world, especially with respect to Jews, is explicitly and unabashedly genocidal. Given these distinctions, there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict.”

Indeed, it is telling that the people who speak with the greatest moral clarity about the current wars in the Middle East are members of the Christian right.

In the article below he espouses support for Geert ‘The Most Dangerous Man in Europe’ Wilders.

Are these really the words of a humanist liberal? Let’s look at some quotes from Dawkins himself.

“I do feel visceral revulsion at the burka because for me it is a symbol of the oppression of women.”

He calls the burka the “full bin-liner thing”.

“It is possible to see Europe as a haven of civilisation, with the pincer movement of Islam on one side and the US on the other.”

“This is historically a Christian country. I’m a cultural Christian….  I’m not one of those who wants to purge our society of our Christian history. If there’s any threat to these sorts of things, I think you will find it comes from rival religions and not from atheists.”

“The Government could do more but it doesn’t want to because it is fanatical about multiculturalism and the need to respect the different traditions from which these children come.”

“It seems as though teachers are terribly frightened of being thought racist. It’s almost impossible to say anything against Islam in this country because if you do you are accused of being racist or Islamophobic.”

‘Because we are all brought up to respect faith, it leaves open a gap through which fanatics can charge’

“The young men whom you call ‘radicalised Britons’ and ‘extremists’ are just honest Muslims who take their scriptures seriously.”

There is precious little difference between these comments and those we hear from the likes of the EDL and other right-wing bigots preceded by the caveat “I’m not being racist but….”

Elsewhere on the site the articles are reproduced from their source uncritically. There’s no moderation with regards to the accuracy or bias. Take this one for example. In an obvious attempt to discredit someone they view as an ‘Islamic apologist’ they unwittingly side with and give credence to British nutjob Anjem Choudary.

Recently, Christianne Amanpour hosted a panel discussion meant to explore the misunderstood delineation between moderate and extremist Islam.

She likely sought to support the notion that Islam is peaceful, and to advance the belief that only a small contingent of radicals corrupts the faith. To those ends, she enlisted guests of Christian and Muslim backgrounds for her panel.

It’s the standard stuff that tends to make Christians look intolerant and Muslims look misunderstood.

When Amanpour addresses the ideas of Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary, she has the audacity to question his ideas about Islamic domination.

Then, in an effort to convey that Islam can live in peace with the Western world, he concludes, “We do believe as Muslims that the east and the west will one day be governed by the Sharia. Indeed we believe that one day the flag of Islam will fly over the White House.”

So a Muslim woman in the panel decided to take Choudary to task for his reckless and inflammatory statements, and she went on to instruct him that Islam is a faith of pluralism, and that it provides an allowance of other faiths to exist in a state of equal importance.

But my guess is that she forgot that she was speaking with someone who had given far more study to the Quran and Hadith than most Christian theologians.

To her assumption of Islamic tolerance of other faiths and legal systems, Choudary simply suggests that she knows nothing of what Islam desires or requires.

He even makes the comparison that she is a Muslim in the same way that a person who occasionally eats beef burgers is a vegetarian.

This exchange reveals that cleric Anjem Choudary practices fundamental adherence to Islam in an effort to live in reflection of and submission to the prophet.

While it is important to note that moderate Muslims do exist, it is imperative that we keep that fact within the proper global context.  Amanpour and liberal pundits the world over can host hundreds of panels comprised of thousands of Muslims that have embraced Western culture, and that will not change the fact that such voices are irrelevant in the Islamic worldThe millions and millions of Muslims that share Choudary’s literal belief in fundamental Islam are ultimately compelled to achieve the goal of universal Sharia, or die trying.

I their haste to discredit someone who clearly has the intention of portraying a balanced and positive image of Muslims, they have assumed that a leader of a proscribed group who supports terrorism is the voice of Islam. Someone who is regarded as a joke and a nuisance among the 2.5 million Muslims in the UK. A brief scan of the ‘About’ page of the blog reveals:

The right to exist and the survival of the State of Israel are of great importance to us.

Sigh. Ignorance? Coincidence?

The Dawkins website also had a Bad Faith Awards in 2010. Predominantly made up of figures that had made distasteful comments, or were at odds with atheism. But in 8th place was Lauren Booth who had converted to Islam. The rationale?

8th place: Lauren Booth (286 votes)

Perhaps readers viewed Cherie Blair’s sister’s very public conversion to Islam as an act worthy of ridicule rather than the Bad Faith Award.

Another minor quibble that, whilst being relatively trivial, is another indication of Islam’s special place in the websites crosshairs, is the fact that it has its own search tag. Islam has only 5 pages of search results whilst ‘Religion’ has 132. Take the Islam related articles out and you have 128 articles associated with other religions, yet none are singled out with their own tag. As I say, it may seem pedantic, but hints at an underlying prejudice which becomes more apparent on closer inspection.

There seems to be an attitude among atheists whereby the urge to criticise religion is so overpowering, they abandon their propensity for critical thought and prefer instead to believe the propaganda and lies peddled by Neo-cons, Zionists, Islamophobes and racists. Instead of being allies in the battle against bigotry, the militant atheists and secularists seem to have chosen to use their rational thought process to do the opposite.

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