Shut up for freedom

Videos of the main speeches from last week’s “Freedom of Religion, Conscience, and Thought Rally” are now available on YouTube. To save you the agony of listening to them, here is a summary:

We believe in freedom of religion, conscience, and thought. So SHUT UP ABOUT ISLAM.

The British Muslim Initiative, joint organisers of the rally with Liberty (an organisation which seems to have lost its way somewhere along the line), sum up the event as the first step towards tackling

the problem of Islamaphobia , unanimously condemned last night as the new face of racism in our midst.

This conveniently highlights the central fallacy in the thinking of the BMI – and of every speaker that evening. It is a fallacy of association or, more colourfully, the latest expression of reductio ad Hitlerum.

It goes something like this:
– the BNP and other racists criticise Islam (as an intellectually and legally acceptable expression of their underlying racism)
– therefore if you criticise Islam, you are a racist

It’s a pretty simple mistake. But plenty of people have made it.

(Hat tip Harry’s Place)

12 Responses to “Shut up for freedom”

  1. Tiger Dunc says:

    Oh dear lord. Here we go again. Religion is not race. Race is not religion. Islamophobia is not racist. In it’s manifestations it is as evil and hurtful as racism can be, but it is not a matter of race. It is a matter of religion. It may suit people and organisations to mix them up so that they can play the race card ( and I mean organisations at both ends of the spectrum), but there is a clear difference and Islamophobia cannot be the new racism, Islam is not a race.

  2. aharon says:

    A few points:

    * If a person express views which somehow contradict these by islam/hindu/zen/what-ever – it doesn’t mean a what-ever-phobe. However, if the same person persecute another, i.e. deliberatly make their lives harder and unfulfiled, we can say that that person suffers of what-ever-phobia.

    * In the eyes of some muslims, not sure if all or majority or minority, being a muslim is unchangable, similar to having blue/brown/etc. coloured eyes. In that sense, in their eyes, being a muslim is like being of a certain “race”. This is a bit like judaism which thinks of a person born to a jewish mother – as a jew no matter what. (hence the ridiculous situation that if one was to become a jew, they can claim that they have just had a “race change”..)
    Please note that I am of the view that we have only one race, the human race, and all others are masks we make up as we go along.. (Sometimes I wish I didn’t think like that as my life would have been so much easier otherwise.. But hey it would probably not be as enjoyable a life..)

    * Sure. If you know that monkeys like eating bananas, and you see 2 creatures eating bananas – that does not mean you see 2 monkeys. Same as BNP and other people. Just because one might critique islam, that BNP member/ideaology not make. I would like the people in britain to prosper, bnp might sign up to that – but I also like people wherever they are to prosper..

    It is sad, in my view, that some people, who say they stand for the ideas, culture and evolution of freedom – seem to supress the very elements they, I think, would like to support, in the name of what I might term: subtleophobia. The fear of making subtle distinctions in a colourful world.

  3. Tiger Dunc says:

    Aharon – There you go again – Bringing colour into what is a debat about religion. It is an ethnically diverse world. Anymore of that and I’ll have you banned.

  4. Nick says:

    The problem is that there are an awful lot of people that can’t discriminate between religion and race, their mind works on the principal that “ther’e different from me so it’s wrong” that, unforntunatly, is life.

  5. aharon says:

    Thought it was more about bananas then colour, Tiger. ..And religions, in many ways, are the human versions of a banana skin..

    Yes Nick, we do tend to discriminate in all sort of ways, putting varios things together and others – pulling apart. When such discriminations are dogmatic and/or done without self critique – we get things like BNP, people blowing themselves in london and a community of tacid supporters, as well as calls for people to shut-up in the name of free speech..

  6. Hector says:

    From Harry’s Place:
    “Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, seemed to puzzle the audience with her remarks [..]”

    No surprise there then.

  7. passerby says:

    “Religion is not race. Race is not religion. Islamophobia is not racist. ”
    I think its a moot point, religion (or anyother group tag) can be used as a ‘proxy’, after all, its not that hard to replace “the Asians…” with “the muslims…”.
    Just lump it all under xenophobia, treat it the same no matter who it comes from, but learn to distinguish from genuine xenophobia, and merely finding certain customs a bit odd, questionable maybe even.
    The only reason ‘race card’ bullshit crops up is because society has made ‘race’ into something almost sacred.

  8. Andy A says:

    I agree with Aharon’s first bullet point, but not the second. I agree that it may be hard for some Muslims to extricate themselves from the Muslim mindset that makes them feel that their religion and their racial distinction are one and the same. But it doesn’t have to be that way. What does remain unchanged and unchangeable is one’s ethnic origin. The comment about the ‘human race’ as the only race is fine in an emotional, feel-good sort of way (strictly, it’s a species, anyway, but what he says is a useful model to use in order to encourage us to be nicer to one another), but we are here discussing the difference between racial and religionist categories, so I’m afraid we’ll have to put the feel-good thing to one side as not being a useful tool in that argument.

    Passerby says whether religion and race are the same is a moot point, but you cannot escape the enescapable, and the inescapable here is that there are racial differences hased on the manner in which humankind categorises biological entities; and are religious differences. But the difference is that one cannot be changed, and it’s plain wrong in most people’s minds to persecute someone on the basis of the colour of his/her skin, angle of the eyes or whatever. Even within racial groups the same would go for people of any physical difference, such as tallness, shortness or baldness.

    While religion is culturally tangled with race in areas of the world where people have never known any difference, it’s another matter. Cognitively, such things are going to be very different for those people from how they are for us. How can they possibly know what it’s like in countries that value freedom of speech? (And you can see why a lot of nutty American religiofascists home-school their kids before sending them to these special Chrsitian academies and camps to turn them into monsters.) But most of our criticisms concern Muslims here, who do know such things, but persist in feeling ‘offended’ if someone draws a cartoon of a warring conquerer who would today be called a paedophile, and demand laws to be bent to suit them (there’s falk of allowing sharia now for family matters, and how long before that thin end of the wedge becomes thicker?), when they (the laws) are not of the home culture. They can shut up or ship out – it’s really up to them. But we’d rather, I’m sure, give a welcome to those who put down roots here, but the price they pay is that they have to leave certain things at home (just as I wouldn’t take the whisky bottle to Saudi Arabia).

  9. Andy A says:

    Hey, Monitor, I’ve just noticed that your clock is still in British Summer Time!

  10. passerby says:

    So what if one can’t be changed and the other can, when people use religion as the means to do exactly the same thing as they would do if it were a technicality of skin colour or skull shape, then the difference is totaly irrelevant to those on the receieving end.
    You can moan all you want about the types who attended this demo, and how “its not really racism if..”, but so long as you pussyfoot around this people on the recieving end of islamophobic bigotry will look to those who are most outspoken about it, namely the peeps at that demonstration. Why the hell are they gonna care whether you think its the same or not?
    You could make the BMI irrelevant, but i guess its much smarter to rant on about how its totaly and utterly different to be bigoted towards people on the basis of physiology, and if they don’t like it they can go ‘ship out’.

  11. Andy A says:

    Passerby, what you say is true as far as it goes, but the fact is that we don’t have to conflate religion and race, and not everyone does. The fact that some people do so is unfortunate (and let us curse them for it), but a non sequitur in this argument. Once we accept that every time I criticise, say, Islam I am criticising South Asians (and, anyway, not all Muslims are brown-skinned), then I’ll never, ever, be able to criticise Islam as an ideology again, because you will come along and say, ‘Well, whatever you think, it’s the people on the receiving end who matter, so stop doing it.’ They matter, yes, but don’t forget that there have been a number of people lately on the ‘receiving end’ merely of things they perceive to be insulting, such as the Pope’s quoting – quoting, don’t forget – Paleogolus (have I spelled that right?), that Byzantine emperor chappie; such as the Danish Mo cartoons. If you had your way, we’d be prevented from taking the piss or quoting a historical figure just because those on the ‘receiving end’ and a bunch of Grauniad readers would interpret it as racism, when it wouldn’t be racism. What we have to do is show up those who do deliberately use criticism of religion in order to get at a racial group, and those who don’t. If you study their arguments, you should be able to catch out the former and argue (if need be) on a logical level with the latter.

  12. martyn says:

    “I think its a moot point, religion (or anyother group tag) can be used as a ‘proxy’, after all, its not that hard to replace “the Asians…” with “the muslims…”.

    It is if they’re not muslims.