Tag Archives: All Party Parliamentary Group

Parliamentarians duped over Islamophobia part 2

In Nov 2018 the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims (APPG) published their report Islamophobia Defined. This was the definition they came up with:

     “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness
      or perceived Muslimness.”

There are many shortcomings both in the definition itself and the process of arriving at it, as pointed out in Part 1. This post will look in more detail at two aspects (my highlighting in bold type throughout):

1. The confused and confusing relation between religion (but only one religion) and race.

2. The unavoidably subjective distinctions which will have to be made by those in a position to apply the definition in practice, between free speech and “a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness”.

1. Religion and Race

In chapter 2 of the report we see how definitions of Islamophobia evolved from the original Runnymede Trust definition of 1997:

     ”…a useful shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam – and, therefore, to fear or
      dislike all or most Muslims.”

to their 2017 update in which they baldly stated that:

     “Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism.”

In 2018, as we have seen, the APPG declared that:

     “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism….”

At the start of chapter 3 the group say this of their contributors:

     “The contributors – academics, activists, NGOs, think tanks, experts and practitioners – tend to
      agree that the term Islamophobia is the most appropriate one, as it encompasses a variety of
      manifestations and practices that can comfortably be localised within what is generally
      understood as anti-Muslim racism.”

I contend that Islamophobia certainly is not generally understood as anti-Muslim racism but only by Muslim activists and certain academics within the field. Here is a small but very representative selection of their contributions to the inquiry:

On p29 Dr Imran Awan and Dr Irene Zempi say Islamophobia is:

     ”…motivated by institutional, ideological, political and religious hostility that transcends
      into structural and cultural racism
which targets the symbols and markers of a being a
      Muslim.”

On p30 Akeela Ahmed MBE points out:

     ”…the ‘structural nature of Islamophobia’ – which concerns “every aspect of a British Muslim
      person’s life” such as education, employment and representation in the Criminal Justice System
      – and the ‘intersectional nature of Islamophobia’ – which concerns its intersection with
      racism and sexism – would not to be captured if we were to understand and define
      Islamophobia solely as religious hate crime.”

On p39 Dr Omar Khan of the Runnymede Trust explains that:

     “Islamophobia is positioned within a social and cultural space that homogenises Muslims and
      places them at disadvantage vis-à-vis society, on the basis of their belonging to a specific group
      perceived to carry certain characteristics. The process is known as ‘racialisation’ and, as
      Massoumi, Miller, Mills, and Aked argue: “Racialisation describes process by which certain groups
      become signified as ‘races’ within specific social contexts. European colonisation relied on
      pseudo-scientific theories of races to categorise people into different racial hierarchies, today we
      rely on more culturalist explanations. Muslim appearances, behaviours and assumed
      practices are taken as a sign of inferiority – this is the process of racialisation. If ‘race’ is a
      fiction created when certain ethnic heritage or cultural practices attach to social
      advantage or disadvantage, it is hard to see religious identity as ontologically distinct from
      ‘race’. For good reason then, racialisation is increasingly used to explain Islamophobia as a
      form of racism.”

On p41 Professor Kallis declares that:

     “Race is not about phenotype, race exists first and foremost in the eyes of the racist. Race
      is a group that is defined by the person that makes a generalisation.”

and
      “It is the racist who creates the race”.

What this boils down to is the claim that A looks like B therefore A is B (or a kind of B). This is plain bad logic to anyone but academics who beguile themselves with ten dollar words. If a person disparages groups because of their culture rather than their race then their attitude should properly be called something like “culturism”*, not “racism” or the hybrid “cultural racism”. One can see why people seeking enhanced victim status on account of one form of discrimination might want to link it to the gold standard of discriminations, racism, but it only works if you can persuade enough people to believe something which is simply not true.

* NB It appears that there is a long established term for discrimination on the basis of culture, ethnocentrism, but I think I’ll stick with culturism because it’s snappier and because the link with culture is obvious.

To spread the idea wider, is discrimination against gay people racist? Why not? To paraphrase one of the statements above:

     “Gay appearances, behaviours and assumed practices are taken as a sign of inferiority
      – this is the process of racialisation. If ‘race’ is a fiction created when certain ethnic
      heritage or cultural practices attach to social advantage or disadvantage, it is hard to see
      sexual identity as ontologically distinct from ‘race’. For good reason then, racialisation
      is increasingly used to explain homophobia as a form of racism.”

It works just as well, or badly, doesn’t it?

Here is another aspect to all this. No other racially heterogeneous group attempts to claim that discrimination against themselves is racist, not even other religions. When Christians are persecuted in Nigeria, Egypt or Pakistan – or derided in Britain – they never make this claim. The fact that Muslims do makes one suspect something less than straightforward is going on. The phobes among us will see this inquiry as merely another example of what Muslims do best, claiming victim status in order to gain special treatment and therefore political advantage, summed up in the Arabic saying “Show a victim’s face and you will take over”. It is exactly what Mohammed did in Medina when he fled there as a “refugee”, after all. The extraordinary thing is how the APPG members lapped it up, although perhaps not quite so extraordinary when you consider that the majority of them are Muslims themselves.

Also, Muslims should be careful what they ascribe to others because it can be turned back on them and their religion. For instance, it is surely beyond doubt that Allah is a hateful religious bigot. How else can you describe a being who refers to those who don’t believe in him as “the vilest of creatures” and who boasts throughout the Koran of the hideous tortures they will suffer once he gets his hands on them? Clearly, according to this new concept of “cultural racism”, he must now also be a racist.

Which brings us on to:

2. The unavoidably subjective distinctions which will have to be made by those in a position to apply the definition in practice, between free speech and “a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness”.

On p11 of the Executive summary the APPG tell us:

     “…the aim of establishing a working definition of Islamophobia has neither been motivated by,
      nor is intended to curtail, free speech or criticism of Islam as a religion. Evidence read
      and heard by the group clearly delineated between the desirability of criticism, debate and free
      discussion of Islam as a religion – by Muslims and non-Muslim participants in the inquiry
      – and the victimisation of Muslims through the targeting of expressions of Muslimness to deny or
      impair their fundamental freedoms and human rights.”

So that’s okay then, I can criticise Islam, presumably including its god, as long as I do not target Muslims’ expressions of Muslimness.

Except that on p35 they endorse these views from two of their contributors:

      “Ali and Witham further their concern about the boundaries between Islamophobia and free
      speech by arguing that “there is no ‘good faith’ criticism of Islam”. Central in their argument is
      the concept of inseparability of race and religion, whereby an attack on the religion cannot
      be separated from an attack on the race
because both concepts are constructs adopted “as a
      means of categorising colonial subjects”. As such, the recourse to the notion of free speech
      and a supposed right to criticise Islam results in nothing more than another subtle form of
      anti-Muslim racism, whereby the criticism humiliates, marginalises, and stigmatises
      Muslims.
One, real life example of this concerns the issue of ‘grooming gangs’: “Participants
      reported being told that ‘Mohammed is a paedophile’, for instance. This comment does
      not,in a strictly grammatical sense, have the victim themselves as subject, but is rather an
      example of the ‘criticism of Islam’ as it is actually articulated and experienced. Yet, clearly,
      it is aimed at (and can achieve) harm to individual Muslims, and is not rooted in any
      meaningful theological debate but rather in a racist attempt to ‘other’ Muslims in general
,
      associating them with the crime our society sees as most abhorrent of all.”

and on p57 of the Conclusion they describe calling Mohammed a paedophile (along with several other arguably factual statements about Islam and Muslims) as a “symbol associated with classic Islamophobia”.

I maintain that the characters of both Allah and Mohammed are central to the theological debate about the truth or falsity of the religion of Islam. In my view Allah’s all too human character flaws make him an unlikely candidate for the position of Creator of the Universe. Likewise Mohammed’s rap sheet, including much more than paedophilia, is an indication of his untrustworthiness as the sole witness to the supposed Creator’s revelation.

But the APPG appear to regard making such claims as unavoidably directed at Muslims and therefore Islamophobic. I wonder what criticisms I can make of Islam that are not trumped by concern for the sensibilities of Muslims.

At best, the verdict on such criticisms will depend on the judgment of the individuals in authority armed with this definition. If it becomes officially accepted, and some councils have already accepted it, your fate, if you dare to express an opinion about Islam, will depend on the subjective interpretation of any social workers, teachers, policemen, employers etc you have dealings with.

At worst, despite the APPG’s protestations about free speech, we could find ourselves subject to official sanctions, and their enforcers, against any criticism of Islam. There is a word for such an arrangement…Sharia.

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Parliamentarians duped over Islamophobia part 1

I have long thought that Islamophobia is a word in search of a thing, merely a thought-paralysing device to discourage people from criticising or even investigating Islam. That being so this is an apt definition:

     “Islamophobia is the state of knowing more than one should about Islam”.

The word should have died of embarrassment long ago, but it hasn’t. In fact it has gone from strength to strength and now the great and good of the land have taken the trouble to produce a new substantive definition:

     “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of
      Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

It appeared in the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims (APPG) Nov 2018 report
Islamophobia Defined.

One important question not addressed in it is why does Islam need its own special word when Hinduism and Sikhism do not?

Since the major populations in Britain of adherents of the three faiths originate from the same region (India/Pakistan) would it not be reasonable to ask whether the undoubted ill feeling which exists towards Islam and Muslims, but not towards Hinduism and Hindus or Sikhism and Sikhs, has something to do with Islam and Muslims?

Another question is if Islamophobia really exists and deserves examining then why not its obvious counterpart Kafirphobia?

Considering the many hateful sentiments about non-Muslims expressed by Mohammed himself in the Koran, and how seriously devout Muslims take his example, perhaps it might have been worth considering the possibility that prejudice is far from a one way street. For one example, in 2012 Lord Nazir Ahmed, a member of the APPG himself, blamed a Jewish conspiracy for a driving conviction in Britain. For another, here is the account of the racism encountered in the Muslim community of Glasgow by a half Scottish half Pakistani girl, and the racism she did not encounter after she left and lived among indigenous Glaswegians.

The really shocking thing about the report though is that after publication it soon became clear that it had been heavily influenced, even largely taken over, by Islamist activists and their allies seeking always to put Muslims in the position of victims of a hostile British society. As we shall see, the parliamentarians of the APPG were either duped or complicit in the process.

But to start at the beginning:

The APPG introduce themselves (p4)

     “The Group was established to highlight the aspirations and challenges facing British
      Muslims; to celebrate the contributions of Muslim communities to Britain and to
      investigate prejudice, discrimination and hatred against Muslims in the UK.”

So they declare their position at the outset. The existence of prejudice and hatred against Muslims is accepted uncritically with no thought given to the possibility of prejudice and hatred on the part of Muslims against non-Muslims. Some people are of the opinion that the former is largely a response to the latter.

Executive Summary (p9)

The group reassure us that:

     “…the aim of establishing a working definition of Islamophobia has neither been
      motivated by, nor is intended to curtail, free speech or criticism of Islam as a religion.
      Evidence read and heard by the group clearly delineated between the desirability of
      criticism, debate and free discussion of Islam as a religion – by Muslims and
      non-Muslim participants in the inquiry – and the victimisation of Muslims through the
      targeting of expressions of Muslimness to deny or impair their fundamental freedoms
      and human rights.”

Here we run straight into a major problem with the APPG’s definition, the concept of Muslimness. The problem of defining one abstraction, Islamophobia, is solved by referring it to another, novel, abstraction. But Muslimness is defined nowhere in the report, only supposed examples of it are given such as skin colour, clothing, dietary rules and the “radical otherness of so-called Muslim practices” including FGM, forced marriage, veiling, electoral fraud, the imposition of shariah law and child sexual exploitation (p46).

This is a sorry list which does nothing to clarify matters. Where are the main objections to Islam, its supremacism and jihad? Clearly a new consultation process and report will be necessary sometime in the future to define Muslimness.

Even if we accept a common-sense idea of Muslimness, like those we use for Englishness or Jewishness – adequate for everyday but not for legal or educational purposes – there is still the massive problem of Islamic duality. Islam comes in two distinct forms, the Islam of Mecca and the Islam of Medina, shown graphically here.

In Mecca Mohammed, while not exactly friendly to non-Muslims, left the violent retribution for unbelief up to Allah. In Medina he became a political and military figure who took matters into his own hands and imposed Allah’s will on his neighbours by warfare. Both were expressions of Muslimness in their time and both find their supporters today. Most people couldn’t care less what Muslims eat or wear but do care about jihad which they see on their streets every few weeks in some new atrocity or other. So, can the APPG tell us, is jihad an expression of Muslimness or not? To do that they would need to go deeply into the theology of Islam and even then would not be able to agree, echoing the arguments raging within and without Islam around the globe.

Chapter 2 Arriving At A Working Definition (p23)

Chapter 2 takes us through the evolving definitions of Islamophobia from the famous 1997 version of the Runnymede Trust through to the APPG one.

Before we visit some of them I have to ask, do MP’s use terms like “intersectional” or “essentialist tropes” or “othering” or “Orientalism” which are scattered throughout the heart of the report, chapters 2 and 3? No they do not. These terms are almost exclusively used by postmodernist whatever-studies zealots and professional Islamophobia hunters such as Dr Chris Allen of Leicester University’s Center for Hate Studies.

This made me wonder, did the APPG members actually write those chapters or did they outsource them to someone “more suitable”? That is how they read both in the language used and the contributors chosen. We will see later how my suspicions were confirmed.

Here is a selection, from the report, of past definitions, starting with the Runnymede Trust one from their Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All (1997):

     ”…a useful shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam – and, therefore, to fear
      or dislike all or most Muslims.”

A fairly modest start, confining itself just to Islam and Muslims.

The Council of Europe report, Islamophobia and its consequences on Young People (2005) added racism, discrimination and human rights to the mix:

     ”…the fear of or prejudiced viewpoint towards Islam, Muslims and matters pertaining to
      them…[taking] the shape of daily forms of racism and discrimination or more violent
      forms, Islamophobia is a violation of human rights.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (2007) added baseless hostility, unequal treatment, victimhood and exclusion:

     ”…a baseless hostility and fear vis-à-vis Islam, and as a result, a fear of, and aversion
      towards, all Muslims or the majority of them. [Islamophobia] also refers to the practical
      consequences of this hostility in terms of discrimination, prejudices, and unequal
      treatment of which Muslims (individuals and communities) are victims and their exclusion
      from major political and social spheres”.

The 2008 report from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Observatory on Islamophobia went with most of the above plus intolerance and stereotyping:

     ”…an irrational or very powerful fear or dislike of Islam and the feeling as if the Muslims
      are under siege and attack. Islamophobia however goes much beyond this and
      incorporates racial hatred, intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping. The
      phenomenon of Islamophobia in its essence is a religion-based resentment.”

The writer of Chapter 2 commented:

      “This definition introduces the intersectional nature of Islamophobia by incorporating
      ‘racial hatred’ as a defining feature of anti-Muslim hostility.”

From our point of view it is worth noting that in 1990 the OIC produced the Cairo Declaration which effectively reduces Human Rights to Sharia Rights (see Article 24, “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah”). It is well known that Sharia epitomises intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and religion-based resentment…but only of non-Muslims so that’s ok.

In 2017 The Runnymede Trust revisited the issue with their “Islamophobia: Still A Challenge for Us All” report and baldly stated:

     “Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism.”

And, to remind ourselves, in 2018 the APPG added the novel term Muslimness:

     “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of
      Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

How has something about Islam and Muslims morphed into something about racism and Muslimness? Why does this definition make no mention of either Islam or fear of any kind, let alone the irrational kind, that the word “phobia” usually refers to?

What we have here is definition inflation, and it is possible because the word has no real meaning beyond what the definer wishes it to mean. The stripes on a tiger are limited by reality. The stripes on a unicorn are limited only by the imagination of the believer in unicorns. One thing we can be sure of is that this is not the end of the story. No doubt some Hate Studies scholar or Islamist activist will be tacking something new and unpleasant onto it within a year or two. How about fascism? No one likes fascism do they? Be my guest. I don’t even ask for a credit.

Here is one last point about the definition. Islamophobia “is a type of racism”. That’s a bit vague isn’t it? What type of racism do they mean? In fact they are talking about cultural racism. It crops up throughout the report like essentialist tropes but I suspect the APPG are a bit coy about presenting such an obvious oxymoron to the general public. They might start wondering whether the Emperor is fully clothed.

In the wonderful world of postmodernism, where words can mean whatever you want them to mean, the term makes perfect sense. Most ordinary people think racism has to involve race but that is just because they are too thick to appreciate the higher understanding. Here you go…all explained on p41:

     ”Race is not about phenotype, race exists first and foremost in the eyes of the racist.
      Race is a group that is defined by the person that makes a generalisation.”

That is why thinking poorly of scholars of Islamophobia is racist.

Chapter 3 Our Findings (p27)

I will refrain from going into the contents of chapter 3 in detail. It is there in the link above for those with a taste for the intellectual equivalent of bog snorkelling. Suffice it to say that it consists of wall to wall grievance-airing by Muslim activist groups and their academic supporters. The only counterview comes in the form of a quote by Douglas Murray, an example of what not to think, to the effect that “the fear of Islam is not irrational but in fact, ‘supremely rational’, because Islam can be both violent and extremist”.

At this point I asked myself, who set the agenda here, who selected the contributors and actually wrote the report, in particular chapters 2 and 3? Checking the Acknowledgements section I found that the group gave thanks to the secretariat with particular mention of Dr Antonio Perra. Who he? This article shows him to be one of those hard left academics who hate everything about Britain, a clear Britophobe in fact.

Not only that but he was until recently a member of MEND, a group described by the Henry Jackson Society as Islamists posing as civil Libertarians. He is just the kind of person who adds fuel to my Islamophobic fantasy of an alliance between the Left and Islam designed to undermine Western civilisation.

Andrew Gilligan adds details both about Dr Perra and about a particular member of the secretariat:

     “One of the APPG’s secretariat, Muhbeen Hussain, is from Rotherham, where in 2015 he
      organised the local Muslim community to boycott the police for their ‘Islamophobic’
      behaviour after the child-sex grooming scandal.”

At this point I thought it no longer necessary to engage with the report on its own terms. It is clearly discredited by its associations. We now know who set the agenda but who put Perra and Hussain in place? Could it have been Baroness Warsi who has always got along fine with MEND? Just asking.

The APPG group have clearly been duped at best by a determined and underhand attempt to portray British Muslims as eternal victims of their host country, thereby driving a wedge between the two. That is an Islamist goal and the APPG have aided it with their nonsensical new definition of Islamophobia.