Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Misuse of the term "Islamophobia"

Below is a transcript of an ABC (Australia) interview with  Clive Kessler, an  Emeritus Professor in Sociology at the University of New South Wales and a long-time observer of  Islam.  When I knew Clive he was married to a very assertive New York Jewish lady who (frankly) gave me the horrors so I am surprised and pleased to see him speaking out on this.  He is not the doormat I thought

Andrew West: The United Nations General Assembly gets under way in New York this week. Sometime during this session there’ll be a push by the 57 member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to make blasphemy an international criminal offence. Now this has long been a goal for many Muslim countries. But it’s got new impetus after an amateur film mocking the Muslim prophet Muhammad was posted on the internet. Since then a French satirical newspaper has also published some cartoons that depict Muhammad as naked. And in Australia some serving and former soldiers have posted anti-Muslim comments on a website.

The response from the worldwide Islamic community to all these events has ranged from violent, even deadly protests, to a Pakistani government minister offering a bounty for the death of the film maker, to the more general charge of Islamophobia. But is Islamophobia a reality or a myth? One expert says the term has been used to silence debate about Islam. Indeed writing in The Australiannewspaper recently, Clive Kessler called it a moral bludgeon. Clive Kessler is Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales. He’s an expert in the sociology of religion. He’s spent 40 years studying Islam, especially in Asia and specifically in Malaysia and he challenges the idea that Islamophobia is rife.

Clive Kessler: I think we have to look at the term itself. A phobia is an unfounded irrational baseless fear. The term Islamophobia is all too often used by zealous defenders of Islam as they understand it to silence the voicing of views that are uncongenial and unwelcome to them. And we cannot I think, have a situation where the term Islamophobia is used as a silencing device.

Andrew West: Well I think you’ve said in  The Australian that it’s a moral bludgeon.

Clive Kessler: Well that’s what I mean by an attempt to silence people and silence the proper public discussions of issues. But let me take it a step further. We have to recognise that we stand now at a point where the inheritors of a legacy of civilisational rivalry, I won’t say conflict of civilisation but civilisational rivalry, between the world of Christianity, Christendom, and the world of Islam, for a number of centuries, through the crusades, through the colonial period and since then, and there is a legacy of fear, mistrust on both sides. And those fears, that mistrust, those resentments, those anxieties must be acknowledged, must be dealt with rather than all discussion of them being silenced with this moral bludgeon.

Andrew West: Do you think though we often confuse Islam and Islamism—and a distinction has been drawn—do you recognise a distinction?

Clive Kessler: I do. Whatever Islam as a religion and a civilisation may be, we are now in a historical situation where after a century or two of the subordination of Islam, many Muslims in the post-colonial era have now come out and wish to reassert themselves in history, reassert Islam in history. Among some people that is a quite proper and properly conducted enterprise. But among some, the notion of Islam itself becomes ideologised, we might say, becomes a sacred cow, and many of the people who see themselves as simply rallying to the defence of Islam are promoting Islamism as a political agenda.

Andrew West: Is it the case Clive, that you can criticise a political agenda—so in a sense you can criticise Islamism as a political extension of the religion—but if you criticise the religion itself, that’s when people get, you know, very defensive and accuse you of Islamophobia? Is that the problem?

Clive Kessler: That is it, yes. And I do not wish to see any faith community maligned, impugned, publicly humiliated. Under a proper ethic of multiculturalism one doesn’t do that sort of thing. But at the same time we have to recognise that there are a number of difficulties, particularly in the relationships among the three Abrahamic faith communities—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—the dynamic of whose inter-relationships, not just as religions but as civilisations, have shaped the contours of much of modern world history. And we cannot deal with the history, to which we are heirs, unless we get back to understand some complicated things about all of those three faith communities as religions and the dynamics of their civilisational interaction.

Andrew West: Well your piece in The Australian, it’s very measured, I mean, you make the case that one must come to this debate with clean hands, but that’s impossible isn’t it?

Clive Kessler: To be specific about this, let me say that Judaism emerged in the world conceiving of itself simply as monotheism. When Christianity came along it had built into it an attitude towards Judaism, that it was now the true Judaism and the first Judaism, the first dispensation was superseded. It has no inbuilt doctrinal view however of Islam. Islam came into the world self-consciously in its own understanding as the successor, the completion, the perfection of the Abrahamic faith, of the monotheistic revelation. And it has built into it, certain key attitudes towards Christianity—a scepticism towards the whole doctrine of the trinity, as to whether Christ died on the cross—and certainly a number of very decided views about Judaism, not so much born of doctrinal difference but born of the politics of inter-relationships between the community, the faith community of Muhammad and the Jews of Medina in the prophet’s lifetime.

Andrew West: Yes. You make the very strong point in this article that the Islamic writings are indeed infused with a quite dark view of history at times.

Clive Kessler: There is a view built into Islam as a religion and into the civilisation born of it, that it is the completion of the Abrahamic faith, that all that is good in Christianity and Judaism lives on within Islam, perfected and uncontaminated and uncorrupted. That which does not live on—that which Islam has not taken—is inherently erroneous, corrupted and to be repudiated. Now this then gets to the nub, I think the core, of much of the issue about Islamophobia. Many aspects of the civilisation of Islam become subjects of contention but none more so we know, ever since The Satanic Verses, than the status of the prophet Muhammad himself.

Andrew West: So why is that Clive?

Clive Kessler: The crucial thing about Islam is the status of the prophet Muhammad, that according to Islamic doctrine, the Koran is the divine, the word of God himself, that was then injected into the world through the medium of the prophet Muhammad and that is why any questioning of the prophet Muhammad calls into question the whole project of Islam itself.

Andrew West: Does the status of Muhammad, who was a warrior, does that in a sense, shape what are often considered to be warlike or very aggressive defences of him?

Clive Kessler: Certainly there is the notion that the reputation of the prophet must be protected. And certainly Islam came into the world as a success story. It came within a century of the prophet’s death to rule most of the known world. It lived in the world on its own terms. It wrote its own script. Now this was a very complicated process. Standard Islamic historiography says this was all done by…in peaceful ways that war and the sword were no major or key part of the whole project. So anyone who raises those questions about whether the spread of Islam was entirely peaceful is seen as impugning Islam and the prophet.

The problem for modern Muslims is, that for the last two or three hundred years, ever since Napoleon landed in Egypt, the civilisation of Islam has been in some sense a wounded, a violated civilisation that has not lived in the world on its own terms, but has had to live a historical script written by others, that has yearned to live in the world once more on its own terms and which in our present age is seeking to assert itself in that way.

So the consequence in places such as Australia in particular, outside the Middle East, is that Muslims are minorities living with a majoritarian complex born of the long history of Islam’s civilisational ascendency. And that means that many Muslims find it difficult to abide by any public criticism or comment about Islam or Muhammad that they find uncongenial. And that’s when the charge of Islamophobia is habitually raised.

Andrew West: Well in your article you say the term Islamophobia is used indiscriminately. But that implies there is occasionally or from time to time, a legitimate use of it. When would you say the term was used legitimately?

Clive Kessler: I don’t like the term Islamophobia in general but this does not mean to say that I think that Muslims do not have an entitlement to voice their sense of dignity and to say when they feel that the interfaith ethics of a multicultural society have been violated. And I think we all have to be sensitive to those concerns with all faith communities.

Andrew West: Do these protests that have broken out around the world, in the light of this comic film and now we’ve got a new batch of cartoons in a French newspaper—but these upsurges of anger occur periodically—do they suggest though, an immaturity in a reaction to a perceived insult of the faith?

Clive Kessler: They represent a quite, one might say, visceral, an understandably visceral response to the feeling that Islam has been impugned because the prophet Muhammad has been mocked. When I was a small boy growing up in a rather Jewish neighbourhood our local non-Jewish butchers always put pigs’ heads in the windows of the shops and stuck oranges or apples in the heads. And this was truly shocking to most Jews in the neighbourhood but they never said, look, out of deference to our sensitivities they shouldn’t put those pigs’ heads in the windows, after all 40 per cent of the people in this neighbourhood are Jewish. They said, look if we have a problem, that’s our problem; it’s not our society.

And yet you’ll get exactly similar feelings both in Malaysia…in New York there was a recent case in Staten Island and even here where people will say, in our neighbourhood there are so many Muslims here, you shouldn’t be selling alcohol. Or you shouldn’t be selling pork chops. Why? Because to do so, is to confront us with something that we as Muslims find unpalatable or uncongenial and in some sense multicultural ethics require you not to do it. Now this is a case then, I would say, where similarly Muslims have to say, this is a problem of our sensitivities not of everybody’s. But the notion that the world must accommodate to those attitudes, among Muslims is, I think, very often a case of diasporic Muslims seeing the world and responding to things that do genuinely upset them. But responding to the problems of their minority situation through the prism, through the lens, of a majoritarian worldview that is the historic legacy of Islamic civilisation.


Australia's Leftist government has no problems with jihadis but a big problem with critics of jihadis

Six weeks ago, the leader of the [Dutch] Party for Freedom (PVV), which until recently held the balance of power in the Dutch parliament, applied for a visa to visit Australia. His name is Geert Wilders.

Members of his staff and security detail were granted visas after three days. Wilders received nothing. He is still waiting. The Dutch media are waiting for the insult the Gillard government appears to be preparing for a member of the Netherlands' parliament.

The Australian organisers of the Wilders trip are resigning themselves to being out of pocket by at least $10,000 if the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen, continues to stall. The trip was going to be cancelled yesterday but the organisers have decided to hold for a few more days. After six weeks of silence, the federal government hasn't had the courage to deny Wilders a visa. It prefers the back door.

This confirms, as if any more confirmation were needed, the gutlessness that lies at the core of Australia's multibillion-dollar debacle on border security, where the thin blue line on border integrity has been turned into a wide yellow streak. While the government blusters, the people smugglers keep thriving and the cost of processing asylum seekers soars well beyond $100,000 per person.

Wilders is an elected member of parliament, has never been convicted of a crime and is an outspoken defender of pluralism, democracy, feminism and freedom of speech. He believes these bedrock liberal values are being eroded by a steady, incremental challenge from Muslims in Holland. He now lives under constant police protection. Four prominent critics of Islam in Holland have been assassinated or threatened with death in recent years.

Wilders argues that the root cause of growing ill-liberalism in Holland, and also in Belgium and France, is driven by strict adherents of Islam. He does not think the problem is confined to an extreme fringe. Rather, he sees the stresses between Muslims and non-Muslims in Holland as rooted in a general insularity among Muslims because Islam is not only a religion but a social, legal and political system that gives Islam primacy over the state.

Wilders was to have given speeches in Sydney and Melbourne in two weeks, sponsored by a private group, the Q Society, which was funding his visit via private donations and ticket sales.

The Gillard government appears intent on stopping this visit, even though it recently granted a visa to an Islamic fundamentalist, Taji Mustafa, a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group implicated in the violent demonstration by several hundred Muslims in Sydney two weeks ago, while Mustafa was visiting the country. The Arabic script on headbands and T-shirts worn by many demonstrators were variations of the theme of jihad, such as "We are your soldiers, Muhammad".

An apologist for jihad was allowed into the country to speak while a member of the Dutch parliament has been stopped.

When the Minister for Immigration was asked in Parliament on September 17 why he had a approved the granting of a visa to Mustafa, he said: "Hizb ut-Tahrir has not been proscribed in Australia and nor has it been proscribed in the United States or the United Kingdom. This entry permit was issued in accordance with the normal procedures for British nationals … I conduct myself … in accordance with my responsibilities under the act. To do otherwise would be to open the Commonwealth to potential overturning of the decision and a potential very serious compensation case."

The reason for the Gillard government's willingness to find a cheerleader for jihad acceptable while an elected MP and cheerleader for Western values is tacitly deemed unacceptable would lie partly in a dramatic change in demographics under Labor. This, too, is a subject about which the federal government maintains a deafening silence.

During the five years of federal Labor governments, the ramp-up of immigration and boat people arrivals has helped a historic surge in the Muslim population of Australia, from about 350,000 to 500,000. The number of Muslim permanent residents has risen 75 per cent in the past decade. Labor holds several electorates in western Sydney with significant Muslim populations.

In 1972, when Labor introduced formal multiculturalism under the then minister for immigration, Al Grassby, Muslims represented just 0.2 per cent of Australia's population. This percentage has risen more than twentyfold in the ensuing 40 years. Grassby's reputation has been disgraced by revelations about his numerous links to Italian organised crime.

This would not surprise Wilders, a trenchant critic of multiculturalism, whose policies are much further to the right than those of the Coalition. The PVV rose to prominence after he expressed alarm about problems associated with the rapid growth of the Muslim population, which now exceeds 1 million in a country of 16.7 million and is growing about four times faster than the non-Muslim population.

Meanwhile, back at Australia's border debacle, the Gillard government refuses to embrace policies that have proved to be effective such as temporary protection visas for asylum seekers, or to set up an advanced interception line off Sri Lanka. So the boats keep coming - another three over the weekend with 333 asylum seekers - while the government expends $1 billion a year servicing its own impotence.


British over-40s denied free IVF can now sue NHS thanks to new law to prevent age discrimination

Since IVF is expensive, the NHS is broke and more than 85% of procedures for over-40s will be wasted, this would be  one of the more deplorable uses of anti-discrimination laws

Women in their 40s can sue the NHS from today if they are refused free fertility treatment.  A new law allows patients to take legal action if they are denied health care on the basis of age.

It is largely intended to protect the elderly from being written off by doctors because they are deemed too old.  But the Government has confirmed that the same rules apply for IVF, which the health service currently restricts to women aged 23 to 39  [As it should].

The NHS rationing body NICE is considering raising its upper limit for treatment to 42 but a decision is not expected until next year.  Some health trusts simply set their own rules and refuse to pay for IVF for anyone over 35.

Health minister Norman Lamb said older women refused treatment could take their NHS trust to court and challenge the decision.  But they would need to argue that the treatment would be effective in spite of their age, and there is no guarantee the court would reverse the decision.

There is widespread evidence that  a woman’s fertility declines quickly  in her 40s, so the chances that treatment will be successful are slim.  Each course of IVF costs the NHS about £3,000.  Only 17 per cent of women aged 40 to 42 having the treatment become pregnant, and the odds decrease further with age.

Mr Lamb, the recently-appointed minister for care and support, said: ‘If an older woman sought to argue she should have access to treatment on the NHS she can challenge it,  but she would have to show that the upper age limit was not objectively justified.

‘What I’d say generally is that if  people in any condition feel that a judgment can’t be justified, and feels arbitrary, then they should challenge it because we should always be making our judgment in the health service on clinical need.’

The Mail is aware of at least one woman who is preparing to take her primary care trust to court after being refused IVF because she is deemed too old.  This trust, NHS Oxfordshire, will not fund treatment for anyone over the age of 35. The woman concerned is 38.

The new age discrimination law allows elderly patients, and their relatives, to claim compensation if they have been subject to poor hospital care.

They may also take legal action if they believe they have been refused life-saving cancer treatment, hip replacements or cataract surgery because doctors think they are too old.

Patients, or those acting on their behalf, will first have to complain to the hospital and if they are not satisfied, to the health service ombudsman.  If they are still unconvinced that appropriate action is being taken against staff, they may go to a county court.

Depending on the severity of the case, patients and families could receive compensation, although ministers do not yet know how much will be awarded.

Mr Lamb said: ‘It gives legal force that people have to be treated as individuals, and not written off because of an arbitrary age limit.’

It is not clear what will happen to doctors or nurses accused of age  discrimination but they are unlikely to be face immediate disciplinary proceedings.


U.S. Government Choosing its Religion?

Alan Sears

An intrinsic tension exists between religious freedom and the machinations of government. This is largely because neither men nor the governments men form are wholly free from evil. Thus James Madison’s timeless statement in Federalist 51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

However, this intrinsic tension is distorted and magnified when the government starts choosing religions it will protect and religions it will allow to be sacrificed in the name of egalitarianism or as an attempt to make up for some past grievance.

We see this currently in the way in which officials from the U.S. government are tripping over themselves to apologize for a movie trailer deemed offensive to the Muslim community, yet these same officials have no qualms trampling the consciences and faith tenets of Christians and Orthodox Jews throughout America via the abortion pill mandate.

In other words, they fight for one religion while treading on others.

They have literally chosen religious winners and religious losers, and as a result, Christian business owners and employers face an uphill battle when it comes to religious liberty.

The mandate requires employers to pay for insurance that covers contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients for their employees, whether it violates the employer’s faith or not. And far from trying to defend the consciences of those who disagree with the mandate, government officials have actually criticized those who claim their religious freedoms are being diminished.

For example, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said those who want “to use the excuse of religious freedom” in opposing the abortion pill mandate are actually trying to undercut “women’s health.”

That’s quite a bait and switch when you think about it—Pelosi completely sidestepped what is clearly an assault on the Christian faith and framed opposition to it as an attack on women.

Yet, when a movie trailer allegedly hurts the “religious feelings” of groups outside of Christianity, the filmmaker responsible is taken from his home in the middle of the night, interrogated, and warned against a repeat offense.

This duplicity is the result of our government choosing religions it will protect and religions it can afford to sacrifice—yet this is not something the government is supposed to be choosing.

The solution to this problem lies in the First Amendment, where the Founding Fathers made clear, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The letter of that amendment prevents Congress from choosing religious favorites on a de jure basis, while the spirit of that letter prevents the kind of de facto choosing we are seeing with the abortion pill mandate.

This is not just about choosing faiths or denominations—but about choosing what you are allowed to believe and to hold as a serious enough belief on which to act.

It’s seldom good to pick favorites. And this is especially true when the entity doing the picking is the U.S. government.



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,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCHAUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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