Another thing about the archbishop. He suggests, you remember, that we should ‘exercise a little imagination’ about the Muslims in West Yorkshire who were angry about Salman Rushdie’s book – who “know only that one of their most overpoweringly significant sources of identity is being held up to public scorn.” Well I think it’s the archbishop who needs to exercise some imagination here, or perhaps rather some rational thought along with some knowledge. He phrases that as if all West Yorks Muslims or at least West Yorks Muslims in general knew only that, but in fact 1) he doesn’t know that and 2) in fact it isn’t true, because the anger was political: it was Islamist anger, not Muslim anger, and it’s not reasonable or sensible to assume that all Muslims shared the Islamist view of the matter. You can’t just assume that if some people in X ‘community’ are angry about something that means that actually all people in X ‘community’ are angry about that something but most of them are too busy or distracted or tired or apathetic to go outside and scream about it. That’s not reasonable, it’s not fair, it’s not good epistemology, it’s not good politics, it’s not good anything. That’s especially important to remember when the thing that some people are angry about is not a thing it is reasonable to be angry about. The archbishop’s argument here rests on the assumption that this feeling was pervasive if not universal and therefore should be treated with sympathy even if it was unreasonable. Well – he doesn’t know how pervasive it was, and it was utterly unreasonable, so it shouldn’t be treated with sympathy.
Bad archbishop, no archbishop biscuit.