Giles Fraser warns against slippage

Giles Fraser is all in a lather about “Islamophobia.” He quite understands that it’s permissible to criticize Islam as such, sort of, though he’d much rather you didn’t, but still he does realize he has to say you can if you really want to, but

but but but

it’s really not. Actually. Since you ask.

Conversations generally begin with the sort of anxieties that many of us might reasonably share: it cannot be right for women to be denied access to education in some Islamic regimes; the use of the death penalty for apostasy is totally unacceptable; what about the treatment of homosexuals? The conversation then moves on to sharia law or jihad or the burqa, not all of it entirely well informed.

And then and then and then it falls right off a cliff into just plain hating Muslims, so the fact is, you can’t talk about the we might reasonably share items either, because if you do, an invisible cable will attach itself to your ankle and drag you inexorably over that cliff. No discussing women’s rights under Islamist regimes, no discussing the death penalty for apostasy, no discussing sharia or the burqa. Just don’t talk about it at all, if you please, because you do it rong, or you risk doing it rong, and therefore you have to stop before you start.

What can begin as a perfectly legitimate conversation about, say, religious belief and human rights, can drift into a licence for observations that in any other circumstance would be regarded as tantamount to racism. Like the 19th-century link between anti-Catholicism and racism towards the Irish, one can easily bleed into the other.

Racism towards the Irish? “Irish” is a race now?

Never mind. The point is, talking about one thing can lead to talking about another thing, and the other thing is bad, so talking about the first thing is forbidden, lest it lead to the other thing. Clear? And fair? And compatible with notions of the value of free speech and free inquiry? Certainly.

“I treat the Islamic religion with the same respect as the bubble-gum I scrape off my shoe,” suggested one contributor to the website of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, in response to Warsi’s speech.

He means commenter. If it were a contributor, he would of course provide an actual name. He’s so hard up for examples of his one thing leading to another thing that he offers an unnamed commenter on Dawkins’s site. He feels justified in ruling a large and important subject out of bounds because of an anonymous comment on Dawkins’s website.

I think we can safely discount his advice.

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