22 June 2017
Well this is interesting. I had got used to the standard response to terror. I had thought that when 22 young people get blown up by a suicide bomber in Manchester we were meant to say that it made ‘no sense’, that it ‘wouldn’t change us’ and that ‘love’ must overcome ‘hate’.
I thought that when a crowd of people get run over and a policeman stabbed to death we were meant to say ‘We may never know’ what caused such an outrage’. And that when people slit the throats of Londoners while shouting ‘This is for Allah’ we agreed that only perpetrators themselves were responsible for such inexplicable actions? At most, weren’t we just meant to rouse ourselves to a chorus of‘Don’t look back in anger’ and move on?
Well what a very different standard applies when the victims are a group of Muslims exiting a mosque. Since that despicable attack I have watched with astonishment as British Islamists and the British left who are so insistent that we should all refrain from ‘pointing fingers’ after any Islamist attack have taken both their fists out for this one.
On Monday’sBBC Daily Politics, a spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain – Miqdaad Versi – chose to leap right on in and name me as a hate preacher who should not be allowed to speak in public. I am quite certain that there is no score-settling going on here. I’m sure that this statement has nothing to do with the MCB’s ongoing bitterness about being barred from engagement with the British government – a stance which has held since one of the MCB’s leaders signed a declaration approving of attack on British ships. And I’m sure that Miqdaad’s strange equation of me with the jailed preacher Anjem Choudary has nothing to do with my previous calling out of his own penchant for dodgy facts.
Later on Monday the BBC allowed it to happen again. The BBC chose to interview Massoud Shadjareh about the previous night’s terror attack in Finsbury Park. Mr Shadjareh is one of the leaders of the IHRC (Islamic Human Rights Commission). The IHRC is a group which, as I have said here before, is ‘farcically misnamed’. In his brief vox pop Shadjareh made sure to get straight down to business, swiftly naming the Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz and yours truly as ‘hate preachers’ who must be silenced. Again, I am sure that Mr Shadjareh was not just settling scores.
For instance I am sure he has forgotten the fact that I called his organisation out two years ago when they organised an event to defame and laugh at the murdered staff of Charlie Hebdo. I am sure he has forgotten the time when he tried to complain to my editor for the wholly accurate manner in which he and his organisation were described.
The MCB and IRHC’s contention that people like Maajid Nawaz and me are in fact the moral equivalents of Anjem Choudary only further demonstrates their own extremism.
Naturally they struggle to find anyone we have radicalised, any people we have sent to go and behead people or any occasions when we have called for people to drive trucks into crowds of pedestrians. What all this does point to is one of the central sicknesses of our time.
As I have mentioned for many years, when some far-right neo-Nazi does something we all know precisely what to do. We find out who their circle is, find out who radicalised them, who told them to go and kill people and work out how to counter their views.
With Islamic terrorism a different response is applied. As I wrote here the other week, when it emerges that the mosque a suicide bomber went to has been handing out anti-Western leaflets we shut down the member of the public who raises the point and applaud the people who say it’s not true and wish the facts away. In my recent book I describe this as a problem of primary and secondary problems. We are excellent and adept at addressing secondary problems, while confused and disorientated about how to deal with the primary ones.
Elsewhere, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has cited this piece of mine as an example of the ‘dehumanising of Muslims’ while refraining from mentioning that the piece just happens to criticise her. And I see that the radio host James O’Brien has joined in too. I’m sure this has nothing to do with a piece I wrote in February which criticised his ignorant attack on a female Muslim reformer who is a friend of mine.
And then there’s Owen Jones. Owen has spent most of the last week trying to present the Conservative party as deliberately burning British citizens to death. His other major occupation of late has been presenting the DUP as the biggest threat to gay people since the last band of Christian conservatives he could find. He decided to share a tweet by someone called Matt Zarb-Cousin, who also called me a hate preacher. Yet whatever names I am called it remains my view that an ideology which would have both Owen and me hanged is worse than an ideology that could refuse to bake our wedding cakes.
Of course the striking thing about this is that if, hypothetically, I were to go on the BBC and say that the MCB or IHRC were basically jihadists the words wouldn’t be out of my mouth before I would be (rightly) shut down by the presenter.
But the same standards do not apply in reverse. We seem to live in an era where anything at all can be said in one direction.
On the Daily Politics Jo Coburn tried to remedy the free-pass she gave to MCBon Monday by allowing some defence of me. I am grateful to her. However she still seems to think that pointing out that the larger a country’s Muslim population the larger the number of extremists there are numerically likely to be, is a lie and akin to hate speech. It also seemed to be her view that unless you say you would like ‘more Islam’ in the public square then you are a potential hate preacher. And it still seemed to be her view that if you worry that the reformers in Islam (however much you should still support them) might not win – a consideration on which our future security could depend – then you are a hate-preacher.
Today the BBC has been forced to interrupt their news broadcasts to issue a formal apology to me for allowing their guest to defame me on air earlier this week. It follows a similar apology the BBC has had to issue to Maajid Nawaz.
I am grateful to the BBC for correcting the record and apologising for their terrible error. For me this closes that episode. But it does not change the bigger picture in which it becomes increasingly clear that the far-left and their allies in Britain are prepared to do and say absolutely anything in order to win. I am sorry for that. But in response I will not become so irresponsible as to pretend that everyone who does not agree with me is a criminal and a terrorist. I am sorry that my critics have decided to adopt a lower standard of their own.