We were talking about distorted thinking and the way ideological (including utopian) commitments can cause it. There is some fresh material on the subject today. This review-article of Edward Said by his friend Christopher Hitchens, for example.
As someone who is Said’s distinct inferior as a litterateur, and who knows nothing of music, and could not share in his experience of being an exiled internationalist, I try not to suspect myself of envy when I say that he was at his very weakest when he embarked on the polemical…Said was extremely emotional and very acutely conscious of unfairness and injustice. No shame in that, I hardly need add. But he felt himself obliged to be the unappointed spokesman and interpreter for the unheard and the misunderstood, and this could sometimes tempt him to be propagandistic.
It can do that. With dire consequences. Because, just for one thing – the sad truth is that the unheard and misunderstood are not necessarily therefore the good and righteous and kind. Rather the contrary if anything. Being unheard and misunderstood doesn’t generally improve the character. It’s easy to get confused about that – to think that the underdog is automatically also the sweet dog – but it ain’t so. So feeling oneself obliged to be an interpreter for an underdog group can lead to a temptation to conceal and deny and fuzz over the faults of such groups. Understandably. It can seem like just a reasonable adjustment of life’s unfairness. But it’s not the best way to get at the truth.
We ended up having a bitter personal quarrel over the “regime change” policy of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the disagreement actually began almost a quarter of a century before that, with the publication of easily his worst book: Covering Islam. In that volume, published just after the Khomeini revolution in Iran, he undertook to explain something — Western ignorance of Muslim views — that certainly needed explication. But he ended up inviting us to take some of those Muslim grievances at their own face value. I remember asking him then how he — a secular Anglican with a love of political pluralism and of literary diversity — could hope to find any home, for himself or his principles, in an Islamic republic. He looked at me as if I had mentioned the wrong problem or tried to change the subject.
Yep. And a lot of people are still stuck in the same place – taking some of those Muslim grievances at their own face value. More than some of them, even. There was an article about the Muslim Association of Britain in the Times the other day; I’m linking to the version at Harry’s Place because the Times is behind subscription for those of us not in the UK.
It was the MAB that invited the controversial cleric Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, to London last month. Dr al-Qaradawi is editor-in-chief of Islamonline.net, which insists that it is the duty of Muslims to “achieve supremacy on earth and put their enemies to rout” and “the means for doing so is taking up arms in addition to preparation, financing and planning strategies”…THE MAB rose to national prominence in co-organising the Stop the War Coalition, and launched the pro-hijab campaign to oppose the banning of the Islamic veil in schools. Many leftwingers have joined the campaign on the ground of women’s right to choose, even though they are joining forces with Dr al-Qaradawi, who insists women must be forced to wear the hijab.
This is what I keep marveling at – leftwingers joining forces with Dr al-Qaradawi instead of with the people who resist the hijab, and thinking that’s the somehow leftier thing to do. That it would be ‘Islamophobia’ to do otherwise.
The liberal Left need to ask themselves what they hope to achieve by giving such uncritical support to Islamic extremism. They may believe, in their naivety, that they are helping to combat Islamophobia, which is indeed a real problem. But instead they are encouraging it. The hijacking of legitimate Muslim political activity by extremists will not reduce community tensions in Britain, but exacerbate them.
Anthony Browne who wrote the Times article also wrote a long, interesting post for the Secular Islam site a few weeks ago.
These are curious times. The British Left, long the champion of anti-racism and gay rights, is forging deepening bonds with anti-Semitic homophobes. If these were old-style anti-Semitic homophobes the Left would be campaigning to have them locked up. But instead they are Muslim extremists. What is most unsettling is that the Government, suffering from excessive cultural relativism, is also pandering to Islamic anti-Semitism. Consider the circumstances surrounding a conference to support the Islamic veil next Monday in London. Ken Livingstone, the mayor, is to open the event, organised by the Assembly for the Protection of the Hijab, of which the guest of honour is Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Yeah…I used to think I admired Red Ken, without knowing much about him. Well I don’t admire him any more.
And have a look at this splendid interview by Maryam Namazie. Then try to go on thinking that the left by siding with Islamists is siding with everyone in ‘Muslim’ countries. They’re not, they’re siding with one point of view against another, and the point of view they’re siding with is the reactionary anti-modern anti-secular anti-reason side. And this is left wing? How, exactly?
They are trying to say that there is one culture and one religion and they put everyone together. They say the whole country and the whole population is religious, it’s Islamic, and that they have one culture. The reason they do that, I think, is because they want to justify certain things, since it’s very straightforward to understand what we are talking about. We are talking about fundamental values, which transcend anything religious or cultural. They are universal values. For example, human rights. Those rights are not something that can be conditioned by cultural considerations.
So. Be careful which underdog you decide to support. Some of them bite.