Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Abu Hamza's conviction and the dangers of "sensitivity"

What do Sheikh Abu Hamza's conviction and the cartoon row have in common. The answer is "sensitivity". In both cases, the Western authorities have kowtowed to Islamic extremism rather than stand up for their own values.

Four excellent articles published this week sum up how out of control things have become:

Gerard Baker, writing on the Times weblog illustrates some of the contradictions arising out of the decision of the US media not to publish the cartoons. For example, the New York Times commented that "News organisations were right to refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols". That might strike some readers as somewhat hypocritical when you consider The Times's lovingly recaptured depictions of works of art such as a crucifix in a vat of urine or an icon of the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung. He concludes...

"..I think the main explanation is simply that this is another aspect of the steady corruption and alienation of many of those in positions of power and influence in the media in America - and Britain. People who have succumbed, in varying degrees, to the self-loathing that is ready to challenge, attack and ridicule anything its own society has traditionally held dear, while defending, exonerating and praising anything that challenges it - however noxious that may be".

Anatole Kaletsky, the Times columnist takes issue with those who try and counter Western critics of Jihadism by making a moral equivalence between Muslim extremists and Christian fundamentalists. It's worth remembering that when Terrence McNally's play Corpus Christi (in which a gay Jesus enjoys anal sex with Judas) appeared on Broadway, it was praised by the liberal media, but I don't remember there being any Christian mobs running amok, threatening to behead people!

The Weekly Standard argues that Western Government's should not feel a need to apologise for the cartoons. The fact that the Arab World has placed the blame with European Governments shows how little they understand about the free press. "Saudi Arabia, Iran, and their authoritarian brethren, as well as jihadist vigilantes, are attempting to export and impose their media censorship and version of sharia on the world at large, using economic pressure, international organizations, or violence". It goes on to say...

"..amid current calls for "toleration" and "respect for belief," we need to be very clear about the distinction between religious toleration and religious freedom.

Religious toleration means not insulting somebody else's religion, and it is a good thing. But religious freedom means being free to reject somebody else's religion and even to insult it. Government should want and encourage its citizens to be tolerant of one another, but its primary responsibility is to protect its citizens' rights and freedoms. The fact that people are sometimes insulted is one cost of freedom. The Jyllands-Posten affair calls us to uphold that principle internationally as well as domestically".

Which brings me to the subject of Abu Hamza's conviction. Despite preaching hatred against Jews, the West and non-Muslims in general, the British Authorities refused to lift a finger against him. Everyone knew what he was up to, but there were orders from the very top to lay off, because there was a fear that this might alienate the mainstream Muslim community. We now know the consequences of all this. Not only was the Finsbury Park mosque used as a centre for global Jihad but Abu Hamza and his thugs attempted to spread Jihad throughout the UK by taking over other mosques. The police received complaints about this by moderate Muslims, but again they did...... precisely nothing. As Dean Godson makes clear in yesterday's Times, Hamza's conviction is too little, too late. All along, the British Authorities were scared of marginalising the mainstream, but by allowing Hamza and his ilk to go about their business, they allowed that mainstream to be hijacked.

In both the case of Abu Hamza and in the cartoon row, we have displayed the same lack of conviction in our values, and the result has been to empower the extremists. If were not prepared to defend BOTH freedom of expression AND the rule of law, we have no future. As Mark Steyn puts it so eloquently....

"Very few societies are genuinely multicultural. Most are bicultural: On the one hand, there are folks who are black, white, gay, straight, pre-op transsexual, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, worshippers of global-warming doom-mongers, and they rub along as best they can. And on the other hand are folks who do not accept the give-and-take, the rough-and-tumble of a "diverse" "tolerant" society, and, when one gently raises the matter of their intolerance, they threaten to kill you, which makes the question somewhat moot."

If Western civilisation one day collapses, it won't collapse (as the roman empire did) because it lost the fight against the barbarians. It will fall because it's leaders handed them over the keys.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I believe in freedom of speech (when it suits me)

As the controversy over the Danish cartoons rages on, there are a lot of unanswered questions, many of them raised by Charles Moore.

1. The cartoons appeared several months ago. Why has a fuss about them erupted only now?
2. We are constantly being told that any imagery of the Prophet Mohammed is offensive towards Muslims. So why have depictions of Mohammed appeared in works of Islamic art for centuries?
3. The violent demonstrations occurring throughout the Muslim world were provoked in part by Yussuf Qaradawi who called for "a day of rage". Why do some in the West continue to refer to him as a "voice of moderation"?
4. Western Liberals have wasted no time in preaching the virtue of respecting other religions, yet were strangely silent when Jerry Springer the Opera (which depicts Jesus in diapers) was shown on national television.
5. Why have the Police come down like a tonne of bricks on members of the British National Party for inciteful comments made by its members in private, yet stood idly by whilst Muslim demonstrators carried placards in public saying "Europe you will pay, your 3/11 is on its way"?
6. Anti-semitic cartoons appear on almost a daily basis in the Arab press, yet there is barely a murmur of protest.

We can endlessly argue whether or not the cartoons were offensive or not, that is a matter for debate. But no one should have a gun held to their head. It seems that when it comes to free speech, the West has become anything but even handed. As Rachel Sylvester points out today, there is one law for the bloodthirsty, another for the tolerant. The lesson that extremists of all shades will have taken from this whole sorry episode is that those who shout the loudest and who make the most threatening noises are the ones who get listened to.

When Christian clerics railed against the movie "Life of Brian", John Cleese responded that "400 years ago you would have had us burnt". No doubt that is what many of the violent demonstrators would have done to the editors of Jyllands-Posten.