British politician who spoke the truth about Muslims is put in charge of immigration policy
Muslim groups expressed anger last night after a Labour politician who has been at the centre of a series of race controversies was made Immigration Minister. Phil Woolas, previously an Environment Minister, was handed the brief despite infuriating the Pakistani community earlier this year by warning they were fuelling birth defects by inter-marrying. He also caused anger following the Oldham race riots by calling for 'the reality of anti-white racism' to be acknowledged.
Last night, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee condemned his appointment. A spokesman said: 'Phil Woolas has a track record of insensitive, inappropriate outbursts that have verged on Islamophobia. 'He is a Minister clearly out of his depth. We will monitor his work for any more signs of his all too obvious antipathy towards British Muslims.'
His appointment was part of a raft of junior ministerial changes announced by Gordon Brown yesterday, including rewards for MPs who led the famous 'curry-house' plot against Tony Blair....
Mr Woolas, the Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, embarrassed Downing Street in February by arguing that marriages between first cousins are a factor in birth defects and inherited conditions. 'Part of the risk, I am told by the health service, is first-cousin marriages,' he said. 'If you are supportive of the Asian community then you have a duty to raise this issue.' It is estimated that 55 per cent of British Pakistanis are married to first cousins. The likelihood of unrelated couples having children with genetic disorders is about 100-1, but it rises to one in eight for first cousins. British Pakistani children account for as many as one-third of birth defects, despite making up only three per cent of all UK births.
After Muslim groups accused Mr Woolas of 'flirting with Islamophobia', Downing Street was quick to stress that he was speaking in his capacity as a constituency MP. It followed a series of outspoken remarks in defence of the white working class which began when he warned after the Oldham race riots in 2001 that Labour would lose out to the British National Party unless it did more to 'create a country at ease with itself'.
Last year, in an article for The Mail on Sunday, he said: 'Among the groups who are missing out and who suffer genuine discrimination is the white teenage underclass. 'Such people are fashionably dismissed as "chav scum" or "trailer trash". 'But to say such things is to be as guilty of stereotyping as those who say that all Muslims support terrorists.'
Comedy show about Muslims in Denmark?
This strikes me as "courageous"
Osama is a businessman who classes terrorism as a profit centre, selling terrorism-themed T-shirts, caps and pens. Abdul, a convert to Islam, acts as if he cannot kill enough people, or make bombs big enough. Ali, a Pakistani, has won a competition for the honour of avenging the cartoons published in Denmark that disparaged Islam and the prophet Muhammad.
Despite the threat they seem to present, the four men are not on the radar of Danish police - not because they run such a sophisticated operation but because they are the principal characters in a situation comedy The Terror Cell. The program, about a bunch of losers in a gang that can't shoot straight, is scheduled to debut on Danish television next year. Its creator, principal writer and star is Omar Marzouk, a Muslim and one of Denmark's best-known comedians. "There's a lot of interest, but at the same time it's Danish - there are the cartoons," Marzouk, 35, said. "It's not about being blasphemous, though. It's about things that make both sides have a laugh. That's more difficult than being provocative."
The show's terrorists lurk in an apartment in downtown Copenhagen. Their closest neighbour, a polite and elderly lady, will not betray them. She believes that World War II has not yet ended, and the boys are hiding from the Germans. Every episode ends with the terrorists blowing up themselves and their apartment, after which Allah sends them back to Earth, so they can prepare better next time.
Marzouk's show, which will be broadcast on Kanal 5, the Danish channel of a German network, is not the only recent entry in the developing category of disarming prejudice towards Islam with a laugh. The Little Mosque On The Prairie, which follows the antics of a Muslim community in Saskatchewan, was taken to Canadian television in 2006. In the United States, the CW network's series Aliens In America is based on the relationship between a Muslim exchange student and a Midwesterner.
What gives The Terror Cell its edginess are the cartoons that first appeared in a Danish newspaper in 2005, provoking violent protests across the Middle East and Asia. The cartoons were republished in 2006. In June this year, six people were killed in a suicide car bomb attack on the Danish embassy in Pakistan.
Marzouk, who was born in Copenhagen in 1973, is a self-made man. In addition to Danish, he speaks fluent English and Arabic, yet was dismissed from a private school for supposedly being dyslexic, so he skipped university and opened a business importing computer parts. In the mid-1990s he learned that the European Union was sponsoring a competition to combat racism. He decided to enter with a stand-up comedy routine. "Until then, understanding between Danes and Muslims meant: 'Come on, eat some hummus and see some belly dancing,' " he said. "I thought stand-up was a great way to talk about these things. "At first I just wanted to get laughs," he said. "Later, I started thinking about what I wanted to do or say."
In 2004, he entered the Edinburgh Comedy Festival with two other Danish comedians. "The first two weeks were awful," he said. "The last two weeks, I started to get the hang of it."
He went to London the following year with a routine called War, Terror And Other Fun Stuff. Marzouk acknowledges his debt to British comedy and says The Terror Cell owes much to popular British sitcom The Young Ones, about four university students rebelling against Thatcher-era reforms. "[The Young Ones] was crazy," he said. "They were always blowing each other up."
Like his first foray into comedy, The Terror Cell was in part the result of a competition, organised by the European Union to promote public service programming. "We didn't want to make a political manifesto, we wanted to make good entertainment," said Jesper Jurgensen, spokesman for Kanal 5, which was awarded $1.2 million in the competition to fund the series.
It was Marzouk's even-handedness that so impressed the judges, he said. "The funny thing is [that] he's able to make fun of Muslims and Danes, priests and imams, and others," Mr Jurgensen said.
More recently, Marzouk produced a program for Danish state television called Omar And The Axis Of Evil, which, he said, tongue in cheek, was "investigating my potential for being a suicide terrorist". He travelled to Washington to interview members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby, and members of the Christian Coalition. And then he went to Israel and the occupied territories, where he spoke to Israeli soldiers and leaders of the Islamist Hamas movement.
In Tel Aviv, Marzouk performed at the Camel Candy Club. Within five minutes he had connected with the audience, despite "me being prejudiced, and they being prejudiced", he said. He chides the Danes for avoiding hard questions about immigration - Denmark has some of Europe's toughest anti-immigration laws - and the country's role in the Middle East, where it has troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and where the cartoons make the Danes targets. "We are in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we had the cartoons, yet we haven't discussed it," he said. "Nobody asks, 'What if there is an explosion, what if there is a bomb in Copenhagen?' "
Marzouk answers his own question: the far-right Danish People's Party "will rocket in the polls". He gives the People's Party credit at least for asking the right questions. "They started with legitimate questions. 'Can we integrate the immigrants? How many can we absorb?' They actually had a legitimate goal when they started out," he said. "Now they have turned to ignorance and prejudice."
Anticipating attacks, Marzouk had a death threat feature put on his web site, by which visitors could choose among eight different ways of having him assassinated, for example by firing squad, car bomb or beheading. "A majority chose beheading," Marzouk said.
A licence to be offended
The case of The Jewel of Medina shows that the real threat to free speech comes not from Islamic radicalism but from elite cultural cowardice
Martin Rynja of Gibson Square publishers should be congratulated for saying he wants to publish The Jewel of Medina after Random House bottled it. The novel by Sherry Jones tells the story of the prophet Mohammed's relationship with his 14-year-old wife Aisha. Random House had it lined up for publication, but, feeling nervous, it first sent the book to academics for advice. One responded: `You can't play with a sacred history and turn it into soft-core pornography.' (Why can't you? Who says so? Novelists can do what they like.) Random House got cold feet, and in August it announced that it was pulling the book because it `might be offensive to some in the Muslim community' and could `incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment'.
It was a grey day for free speech. One of the biggest publishers in the world had held back a book on the basis that there are some things novelists `can't' or shouldn't say and because it feared a possible irate reaction amongst a small minority of Muslims. After the precautionary principle, we have pre-emptive censorship: the metaphorical burning of books by publishers themselves on the grounds that their content might, just possibly, offend someone.
Thankfully, though, there are some small publishers with cojones. Gibson Square of London, headed by Martin Rynja, said it would publish The Jewel of Medina in the UK. And this week it paid the price of Random House's gutless transformation of the novel into an internationally infamous tract that Muslims are bound to be riled by: Rynja's home-cum-office was firebombed and he is now in hiding under armed police guard. His plans to publish The Jewel of Medina are in `suspended animation'.
Rynja may once have publicly denounced me as `Glenda Slagg's twin' after I wrote a scathing review for the New Statesman of another of his books, Londonistan by Melanie Phillips (perhaps he is more tolerant of dangerous books than he is of damning book reviews?). But I would now like to declare myself Martin Rynja's twin: someone who also passionately believes that there's no such thing as `can't' when it comes to creative writing and that no book should ever be banned, burnt or bullied out of existence.
Yet we shouldn't allow the ongoing battle of The Jewel of Medina to blind us to the wider war over free speech. Reading the coverage of the Medina controversy, one could be forgiven for thinking that the main threat to free speech today comes from a handful of Islamists wielding firebombs. The novelist Sherry Jones said `you have to ask whether a thug with a gun or a petrol bomb should be allowed to censor the people of Great Britain', as if censorship is the work of a handful of weird-beards rather than the state or powerful publishing corporations (3). Others claim that `fear' and `intimidation' of the sort executed by the men who attacked Gibson Square is leading to censorship.
This gets things entirely the wrong way round. And it seriously underestimates the top-down cultural trends that have nurtured a new form of censorship over the past 10 to 20 years. The Medina episode shows that the true threat to free speech today comes not from Islamists but from a cowardly cultural elite, and from a political climate that positively encourages people to take offence and to campaign against words that `hurt' them.
To claim that a few thugs are giving rise to censorship is to miss a trick - the trick, in fact. In reality, it is the already-existing fear amongst the cultural elite that gives rise to the thugs. Never mind Mohammed's prophecy and a few individuals' desire to protect it from ridicule; we should be far more concerned about the self-fulfilling prophecy that was the violent assault on Gibson Square. It was Random House's caution, fuelled by the doubts of one non-Muslim academic, which transformed Sherry Jones's book from what sounds like a fairly run-of-the-mill novel into an internationally talked-about possibly violence-inducing text. It was their safety-first, censorious instincts which guaranteed the book would become a flashpoint issue for Islamists whose Offence Antennae are permanently switched to overdrive.
Some have said, quite rightly, that those who threw the firebombs this week were acting out of ignorance; they haven't even read the book, far less thought about it, evaluated it, debated it. Yet such ignorance is legitimised by Random House, whose attitude to The Jewel of Medina sent a clear message to the world: some material is so dodgy, so potentially dangerous, that it should be kept out of the public realm. A major publisher, backed by serious academics, elevated ignorance - `the condition of being unaware' - over knowing, just to be on the safe side. If this week's firebomb-throwers executed their action because they believe certain things about Mohammed `can't' be said, and that this book should never see the light of day because it `might be offensive' to Muslims, then they were given a green light by the elite guardians of culture itself.
There have been numerous incidents in recent years where cultural institutions in Britain have pre-emptively censored content that `might be offensive' to Muslims. The identity of terrorists in an episode of the BBC's flagship hospital drama, Casualty, was changed from Islamists to animal rights extremists after pressure from BBC chiefs. A play called Up on the Roof, due to be performed by the Hull Truck Theatre Company, was rewritten after the Danish cartoon controversy in 2005; its Muslim character was changed to a Rastafarian.
The Barbican in London cut out sections of its production of Tamburlaine the Great for fear of offending Muslims. And the Royal Court Theatre in London - so often the home of daring new theatre - cancelled a reading of an adaptation of Aristophanes' Lysistrata which was set in a Muslim heaven.
As with Random House's reneging on The Jewel of Medina, the decisive factor in each of these bouts of self-gagging was not hard evidence that mass Muslim outrage is brimming under the surface of British society, waiting to burst forth, but rather caution amongst elite elements. In our deeply censorious climate, where the government has outlawed expressions of `religious hatred' and city councils such as Brighton ban art that `incites hatred', arts bodies are beginning to self-censor anything that might be construed as hateful. As I argued on spiked last year, where the Stasi controlled art in Soviet-era East Germany, `such an intrusion is not necessary in contemporary Britain; instead, arts institutions have a "Stasi of the mind", a censorious official in their brains telling them to err on the side of caution and ditch anything that might cause a fuss' (see How a Sensitivity Stasi is eroding artistic freedom, by Brendan O'Neill).
It is wrong to see Random House, major theatres, newspapers and other institutions as `capitulating' to radical Islamism. This is the argument put forward even by those who recognise that cultural cowardice, rather than Islamist thuggery alone, plays a key role in the new censorship. This assumes that there is a coherent and active body of outraged Muslims that can be capitulated to. In truth, in every instance of public Muslim anger in recent years - from the Danish cartoon riots in the Middle East to the protests over Pope Benedict XVI's comments about Mohammed - the disturbances have occurred after handwringing debates in the West about whether certain images should have been published or certain words spoken. Time and again, it is cultural self-doubt at the top of society that inflames an occasionally thuggish (and always shortlived) reaction on the streets.
Cultural bigwigs are not capitulating to anybody. Rather, the concern about what `might be offensive' to Muslims is better understood as an externalisation of their own internal doubt about the role of art today: about the boundaries of art; what is sayable and unsayable; the relationship between artistic freedom and new notions of words-that-hurt. An already-existing, deeply ingrained lack of confidence and vision amongst our rulers is being projected on to the post-9/11 discussion of Muslim sensibilities. Strip away the exaggerated fear of a Muslim reaction against offensive art, and the coded concerns about `acts of violence by small segments', and you will see an art-and-publishing world struggling to make sense of issues of sensitivity, PC, offensiveness, a world in such disarray and so unsure of its mission that it errs on the side of nurturing ignorance over pursuing enlightenment.
If the sometimes angry reaction against `offensive' art is a product of the cultural elite's own predictive fantasies, then it is also inflamed by the politics of complaint that underpins multiculturalism. At a time when we are continually told that words and disrespect can hurt fragile communities - and that it is up to the government to protect them through censorious legislation such as the Religious Hatred Act - it is not surprising that some self-serving Muslim leaders and radical Islamists leap upon any `anti-Muslim' statement as something outrageous that mush be crushed. The firebombers in London this week, like the anti-Danish and Pope-mocking protesters before them, are better seen as the militant wing of mainstream multiculturalism rather than an alien institution that is `censoring the people of Great Britain'. They got their licence to be offended from the authorities.
The struggle to publish The Jewel of Medina is only one small battle in a far larger war, and the three alleged firebombers at Gibson Square are a mere symptom of a widespread culture of cowardice and ignorance. If we are serious about defending artistic integrity, completely free speech and the fullest public debate possible, then we should start by launching an intellectual firebombing of contemporary censorious trends.
A road paved on reality
By Caroline B. Glick
Listening to the news in Israel these days, it is hard to escape the feeling that the Israeli political discourse has become dangerously irrelevant. Take Iran for example. On Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the heads of UN member states, "The dignity, integrity and rights of the European and American people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are miniscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the US in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner." Ahmadinejad then promised that Israel will soon be destroyed - for the benefit of humanity. For these remarks, he received enthusiastic applause from the world leaders assembled at the UN General Assembly.
And how has Israel responded? It hasn't done anything in particular. And it has no intention of doing anything in particular. This point was made clear to the public on Wednesday when Israel's new UN Ambassador, Gavriela Shalev gave an interview to Army Radio. While bemoaning Ahmadinejad's warm reception, she said that the world leaders were probably just being diplomatic. She noted that many of their ambassadors say nice things about Israel to her in private. Israel's woman at the UN devoted most of her interview to defending the UN. In fact, she said she believes it is her duty not simply to defend Israel to the world body, but to defend the UN to Israelis. As she put it, her job is "correcting the UN's image in the eyes of the people of Israel."
Shalev's appointment to the UN was the work of Foreign Minister - and would-be prime minister - Tzipi Livni. And her view of her role as Israel's ambassador is strictly in keeping with what Livni perceives as the job of Israel's top diplomats. They are the world's emissaries to Israel. Livni has spent the better part of the past three years at the Foreign Ministry telling us that the UN is our friend, the Europeans are our friends and that the Americans and Europeans and the UN will take care of Iran for us. The Palestinians are also our friends.
As anti-Semitic forces grow throughout the world, Livni has not communicated one single policy for defending Israel abroad that doesn't involve the kindness of strangers. Her response to Ahmadinejad's speech was case in point.
The one thing the woman who believes that she has the right to lead the country without being elected by anyone thinks that Israel should do in response to Ahmadinejad's call for our physical destruction is to object to Iran's bid to join the UN Security Council. Livni's only concrete response to Ahmadinejad's promise to annihilate us was to issue a directive to Israel's embassies abroad telling our diplomats to ask their host governments not to support Iran's bid for Security Council membership.
Livni doesn't actually think Iran is Israel's greatest challenge. The Palestinians are. And as far as she is concerned, giving the Palestinians a state by handing over Judea and Samaria (and Jerusalem, although she never says it outright), as quickly as possible is Israel's most urgent task. We need a two-state-solution and we need it NOW, she says. Neither Livni nor her colleagues in Kadima, Labor and Meretz, nor her supporters in the Israeli media ever bother to acknowledge the troublesome, inconvenient fact that the Palestinians don't want a state. They want to destroy our state.
This basic fact was made clear - yet again - on Tuesday. Tuesday Livni took time out of her busy schedule of political meetings with Labor, Shas and Meretz leaders with whom she is attempting to build a government without being elected by anyone, to meet with Fatah's chief negotiator Ahmad Qurei. Although Livni refused to tell us what she talked about, she promised that progress was made towards the urgent imperative of forming a Palestinian state.
But Qurei was not so enthusiastic. In fact, he was contemptuous of Livni and of the very notion of peaceful coexistence between the Palestinians and Israel. After the negotiating session Qurei told Reuters that if the talks towards an Israeli surrender of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem collapse, the Palestinians will renew their terror war against Israel. In his words, "If the talks reached a dead end, what do we do? Capitulate? Resistance in all its forms is a legitimate right." Just to make sure he understood Qurei properly, the reporter asked whether that meant that the Palestinians would renew their suicide bombing campaign against Israelis. Qurei responded, "All forms of resistance."
We have been here of course, a million times before. This is the same threat that Yassir Arafat and his men have made - and implemented - repeatedly since signing the Oslo accord with Israel 15 years ago. They use terror and negotiations in tandem to squeeze Israel into giving away more and more of its land. And it works.
When Livni heard about Qurei's remarks, she called him and reportedly told him that they were unacceptable. So he said he was taken out of context. No skin off his back. He knew Livni wouldn't do anything. At the same time that Livni said his remarks were unacceptable, she pledged to continue negotiating Israel's surrender of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem with him for as long as she remains in power.
Today Livni and her colleagues in Kadima, Labor, Meretz and Shas are working fervently towards forming a new government that will continue holding irrelevant but dangerous negotiations with the Palestinians and the Syrians and pretending that Iran's nuclear weapons are not going to be used against Israel. They argue that we need the "political stability" that they can provide us in this dangerous time.
The Israeli media gives these fantasies their full support. Indeed, anyone who notices that the world is sitting back and allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons or points out that the Palestinians don't want a state is immediately shot down as an alarmist and an extremist.
This national discourse - which has been the only one permitted in the country since the advent of the "peace process" with the PLO 15 years ago -- is Israel's Achilles heel. Until the general public is set clear on the reality of the world confronting the country, there is no chance that Israel will take the necessary steps to defend itself and ensure that it survives.
Understanding this basic fact, former IDF chief of general staff Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon has taken it upon himself to tell the Israeli public the truth about the world we live in. Ya'alon is a rare bird among Israel's pantheon of current luminaries. He is an honest man who lives by his principles, and he doesn't bend them, ever.
Last week Ya'alon published a book called The Longer Shorter Road in Hebrew. Ya'alon, whose tour of duty as chief of staff was unceremoniously cut short by former prime minister Ariel Sharon in June 2005 due to his trenchant opposition to Sharon's planned withdrawal of IDF forces and Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip, has written a book that sets out the facts of life clearly, credibly and passionately. The book's title is derived from a speech that Ya'alon's commander Yoram Ya'ir gave to his officers during the first Lebanon War. Ya'ir explained that short-cuts are not necessarily better than long roads. In fact, it is often better to take the longest route. As Ya'ir put it, "There is a long road that is short and there are short roads that are long."
Ya'alon uses Ya'ir's point to demonstrate that the Israeli Left's insistence on peace "now" and a solution to the Arab-Israel conflict "now," has placed Israel on a strategic trajectory that has brought it, and will continue to bring it only bloodshed and danger. Israel's enemies in the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Syria and Iran view Israel's insistence on finding immediate solutions to the threats it faces as a sign that Israeli society is collapsing. As a consequence, every step that Israel has made towards appeasing its neighbors -from recognizing the PLO and bringing Arafat and his legions into Judea, Samaria and Gaza; to retreating from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005; to failing to properly prosecute the Second Lebanon War in 2006; to doing nothing to combat Hamas's regime in Gaza since 2007; to embracing the false paradigm of peace at Annapolis last November - has strengthened their conviction that Israel can and will be destroyed.
Ya'alon also dwells on the moral collapse of Israel's political and media elite and that collapse's adverse impact on the senior command echelons of the IDF. The abandonment of Zionist values and public and private integrity by our politicians and media has cast and kept Israel on a path of self-delusion where the only thing that matters is immediate gratification. Politicians promise the public "hope" based on illusions of peace-around-the-corner to win their votes. The media support the politicians' lies both because of the media's post-Zionist ideological uniformity and due to their refusal to acknowledge that their populist demands for peace "now" have brought Israel only war and danger.
Ya'alon's book is part memoir and part polemic. He reminds Israelis of what it is about us that makes us a great people worthy of our land and privileged to defend it. At the same time, he chastises our failed leaders who have tricked the public into following a strategic path that endangers us. His book's greatest contribution is not in providing a set path forward, but in courageously and unrelentingly explaining the reality that surrounds us today and in showing the public how it is that we have arrived in our current predicament.
In exposing himself, his values and his beliefs to the public, and juxtaposing his own leadership experience and personal integrity with the corruption and weakness of our political and intellectual leaders, Ya'alon is telling the public in a very clear way that there is an alternative to defeatism and self-delusion, and that he - and we the public -- represent that alternative, that "longer shorter road."
Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and their colleagues on the Left in the Knesset and the media insist that we not take that longer road to security and peace. In fact, they deny that it even exists. They attempt to convince us that elections are unnecessary by arguing that there is no difference between political parties today because their short cut to defeat is the only path available to us.
It must be fervently hoped that Ya'alon will soon enter the political fray. Like the Likud under Binyamin Netanyahu, Ya'alon is proof positive that Livni and her cronies are lying. There are great differences between those that would lead us and the paths they would take. And the only road to safety is the long road that is paved on reality.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.