Friday, August 19, 2005


Lefties, Liberals, "Multiculturalism", and Polly Toynbee

It annoys me greatly when the Right claim that the current problems with religious fundamentalism (meaning, specifically, Islamist Fascism) is in part or wholly the fault of 'liberals' with their collaborative 'multi-culturalism'.

It is plainly counter-factual. The left have always been more secular: Look at the Spanish Civil War. After the Rushdie affair, support for the 'offended' Muslims & vitriol for Rushdie came from the right - Norman Tebbit and the Catholic Church, for example. It is likewise the right who support blasphemy laws which ensure we do not have clear moral high-ground in comparison with Islamic-Fascist states.

I don't know of a more proto-typical example of the leftwing (or 'liberal' if you're from the US) intellectual than Polly Toynbee. If you want evidence that the 'multiculturalist' accusation is a slur, then look what she has to say:

"All the state can do is hold on to secular values. It can encourage the moderate but it must not appease religion. The constitutional absurdity of an established church once seemed an irrelevance, but now it obliges similar privileges to all other faiths. There is still time - it may take a nonreligious leader - to stop this madness and separate the state and its schools from all religion."

Pretty clear-cut secularism and no collaboration with Islamic Fascism, I think you'll agree. With the added bonus, which conservatives tend not to have, of representing a permanent point of view equally applicable to all religions, rather than a panicky reaction to a temporary scare.

But hang on. Polly also says:

"Meanwhile the far left, forever thrilled by the whiff of cordite, has bizarrely decided to fellow-travel with primitive Islamic extremism as the best available anti-Americanism around. (Never mind their new friends' views on women, gays and democracy.)"

Let's get that straight: Polly Toynbee is referring to someone other than herself as 'the far left'.

Who can she mean? Ken Livingstone? Perhaps: his deference to primitivist, fascist Islamists has been a horrid betrayal (see my report on his abject defeat in his argument with Tatchell). But if she means Ken Livingstone she should say Ken Livingstone, not parrot the canard that this is a particular problem of lefty liberals.

Far more right-wing commentators unite with religious fascists over issues like homosexuality and the women's equality. Recently six Tory MPs (yes, that's 'MPs', not 'misquoted academics') wrote an article agreeing with the general Islamist criticism of decaying morals.

Tory MP John Hayes (that's 'MP', not 'boozy blogger') made all this very clear in his article 'Muslims are Right About Britain'. (Curtis Bowman has the quotes.. registration required for access to the Spectator).

Hayes says "Many moderate Muslims believe that much of Britain is decadent. They are right. They despair of the metropolitan mix of gay rights and lager louts. And they despair of the liberal establishment's unwillingness to face the facts and fight the battle for manners and morals."

(That's right, they despair of gay rights. I mean, that's got to really get them down.)

So Polly - who are the real 'fellow travellers'?

I don't think there are many people outside of peter hitchens' head who would consider polly toynbee to be "far left"; she is pretty much the most consistent new labour cheerleader in broadsheet-land. i don't think she's just an apologist, her position seems to me to be that the government has real and largley unheralded acheivements in making life better for low income families - something the other parties would not have done - and the many bad things they've done would have happened anyway, or worse under the other parties = hold yr nose and vote labour (not sure where this leaves the lib dems and iraq but never mind).

you make a good point about rightest fellow travellers though in fairness the spectator also has a whole mark steyn clash of civilisations thing going on with him reckoning europeans are too liberal to have kids and will therefore end up like iran as a result of them fast breeding muslims we allow to keep (either 'living here" or "living", i can't remember which). but then there was also some triumphalist peice a while back contrasting the terrible despond of secular europe with the rude vigour of the bible thumping us. and of course we're all raving anti-semites.

that said it isn't just ken who cosies up to some pretty unpleasant people, the stop the war coallition and similar is riddled with this kind of thing. for such dilligent students of the fallout of post war US foreign policy you think they'd see the downside of 'my enemies enemy..'.

this is an important point and there's nothing wrong with pointing it out, the problem is that this argument is used constantly and in bad faith by cohen, chitchens and arranovitch to deflect attention the fact that the war they supported has been, according to all available evidence, a terrible mistake and they have run out of arguments as to what's good about it. yes, it's crass and stupid when anti war lefties celebrate the insurgents as heroic freedom fighters rather than fascistic murderers but first off, hardly anyone does - 95% of people against the war are equally against these goons and secondly, if you support the war it's kind of incumbant on you to acknowledge that it is the war which has created the conditions in which these people can murder 1,000 civilians in the month. just boasting about how many friends you've lost and flinging accusations about other people betraying iraqi feminists and trades unionists isn't really good enough. especially as the coalition administration seems to be doing a pretty good job of both of those things anyway.

but despite all that i am a bit uneasy about the mccarthyism going on at the moment in which ordinary muslims are constantly being asked to say how much they love carry on films and cheesy whatsits and don't much care about all that allah stuff. while it's perfectly legitimate for panorama to front up the MCB the accusations in the bits of the programme i saw were pretty lame and there must be an extent to which its better to hold your nose and engage constructively than constantly tell them we're right and they're wrong and if they don't like it they know where they can go.
the criticisms on the Panorama program were absolutely devastating.

Sir Iqbal was shown to be a liar and a sinister moral philosopher. EG - 'why did you attend sheik yassin's funeral?'

muttering about 'freedom fighter, like mandela, like gandhi'.

like gandhi.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie: "In your terms, if it means fighting occupation is a terrorist movement, that is not a view that is being shared by many people. Those who fight oppression, those who fight occupation, cannot be termed as terrorist, they are freedom fighters, in the same way as Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid, in the say way as Ghandi and many others fought the British rule in India. There are people in different parts of the world who today, in terms of historical side of it, those who fought oppression are now the real leaders of the world."

'why did you boycott the holocaust memorial service?'

'i didnt boycott it. i didn't go..'

(i was invited but didn't go for a political reason.. not boycotting?!)

"The principle the MCB say they were defending was to make Holocaust Memorial Day more "inclusive".

They wrote to the Home Office saying they would only attend if the event included "the sufferings of all people" and in particular what they called

"Other ongoing genocide and human rights abuses around the world, notably in the occupied Palestinian territories, Chechnya Kashmir etc

he then lied and said he also metioned Rwanda.

key points were made that are not raised nearly often enough:

1) sir iqbal and his cronies are followers of the revolutionary doctrine of Mawdudi.

2) Islamic 'scholars'/ 'community leaders' habitually say different things in public from what they say to their supporters. ("we have a one vocabulary in private and we have another vocabulary for the public domain, and that's why you don't hear it because you're the public domain.")

3) Saudi Arabia has been bank-rolling the propagation of a revolutionary fascist political ideology, under the guise of Islam, in foreign countries including our own since c1974.

To be honest, none of this is necessary. The MCB signed a statement last week to the effect that it was possible to demand sharia law and not be 'an extremist'.

this means that they think that demanding execution for gay people, and end to democracy, death to blasphemers and an "age of 'consent'" for female children equal to the date of their first period etc.. etc.. is not extreme.

this has nothing to do with 'religion', certainly not race. these are all political views.

link is here:
"carry-on films and cheesy wotsits"

i like this summary very much.

Secularists have to be careful (and it damn well shouldn't be difficult) not to propose an 'alternative' to (any particular) theocracy.

the alternative is freedom. not cheesy wotsits.

it's an aspect of the National Secular Society that worries me greatly.. they so often quote or link to bizarre/ extremist right-wing nutter/ radicals who theorise happily (when not having a go at the mullahs) about all sorts of supposed 'clashes of civilisations' which amount to an appeal for the reinstatement of christendom.

such people are of course more-or-less equally the enemies of secularists.

Melanie Phillips is regularly cited by the NSS.

here's a sample:

'war of civilisation'

'the core of british culture and values'
cheesy wotsits indeed.

Toynbee is right: our first step shd be to remove the blasphemy laws, get rid of funding for sectarian schools & disestablish the CoE. try telling this to Phillips!
fair enough on panorama. the bit i half saw out of the corner of my eye while reading about dogging in the news of the world seemed to be mainly concerned with badgering someone about what another person perhiphally connected to their organisation had said in 1976.

melanie phillips causes me to harbour an overwhelming murderous rage against my own country that makes me want to destroy it. she is very good at what she does though. her rhetorical trick i've just realised is to alternate statements which are reasonable with those which are jaw-droppingly insane and make absolutley no distinction in form or tone between the two.

she is also of course what yr hitchens, coen and arranovitch are well on their well to turning into with their liberal-bashing liberal schticks
Phillips' 'trick' is to have replaced the phrase "totalitarian fascism" with "respect", eg:

"the problem with Britain today is the lack of RESPECT. that would see these XXX banged away"
surely that's home office ministers not our melanie. she wants fear not respect.
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