Friday 24 January 2014

Maajid Nawaz on Jesus and Mo

I'm a bit late to the Maajid Nawaz Jesus and Mo controversy, but there are a couple of points I think have lost amid the hubbub.

First things first, I don't think religion-baiting is particularly smart politics. As Nawaz is a liberal I cannot speak for him, but as a socialist politics is, or should be, about getting as many people into the labour movement as possible. The sharing of common endeavours, of being part of a collective condensation of broadly similar interests as working people, our movement has and remains the most fertile grounds for socialist ideas. This is not an economistic argument either. The labour movement has through a process of struggle become the most consistently anti-sexist, anti-racist and anti-homophobic mass social movement in British society. It's not perfect, but it is better than anything else. And that's because the reproduction of sexist, racist and homophobic relations, on the whole, are challenged more often and with more vigour in trade unions, the socialist societies and the Labour Party than anywhere else. Also, crucially, prejudice an bigotry is increasingly contradicted by the collective experiences of working people from all backgrounds. Intersectionality is the trendy word of the now, but the labour movement has been messily, haphazardly, doing it for decades. Therefore I take a dim view of any kind of politics that sets itself up as simon pure atheism, that seems to put a premium on appearing radical over and above encouraging people of faith to get involved in our collective political project. Persuasion is always more useful than denunciation.

Where Nawaz is concerned, there is probably a little bit of impishness at work. I've felt it enough times when I've written or done something my former self would have raged at.  As a former Hizb ut-Tahrir, he probably feels a bit naughty sharing a likeness of Muhammad with his social media following. It is taboo after all. Perhaps some Hampstead and Kilburn voters might get turned off the LibDems by these comments. There's plenty of other things going against the yellow party. But I imagine most Muslims - just like everyone else - wouldn't give a toss. It's his choice after all.

And that's the crucial point. In addition to there being traditions within Islam of depicting Muhammad, Nawaz can post cartoons and say what he likes about Islam and any other religion. Ophelia Benson is absolutely right. The image of Islam and the popular perception of Muslims are ill-served by idiotic comments, like Galloway's, that convey an impression that all Muslims are tetchy and intolerant. By the same token, fools have the right to say foolish things. They might be guided by what they see as the best of intentions, but it can lead to the worst of outcomes. The freedom of religion - a right I assume Galloway upholds - always includes the freedom to criticise religion. Always.


asquith said...

You're quite right that this cartoonist has the right to operate and Nawaz to enjoy his work, and it's dismaying that anyone could hold it against him. That this is even news at all is just plain grim and a reflection of how much work I, as a secularist, think remains to be done. It's as though we are still having to defend the ground Bradlaugh and Foote must have thought they'd permanently won against the forces of unreason.

The only good thing to come of this is that an excellent but obscure cartoon strip has been brought to public notice. 99% of people will decide no sane person has any grounds for "offence". With any luck significant numbers will take up reading it, as I've been profitably doing for years.

And have you seen this?

Speedy said...

I think he posted the images after he participated in a BBC programme about them that refused to actually show them - despite them being inoffensive to any reasonable person, most Muslims included.

It speaks volumes that he should be subjected to death threats and the BBC afraid to show even this innocuous image for the fear of causing offence.

Isn't it obvious that Islamic extremism is winning? That these people are imposing their values of intolerance on our society? That every time we give in they have won?

I despair to watch the progressive cause in retreat across the country - whether it is letting young girls de-face themselves at Birmingham colleges (freedom of expression my arse, sexism of the highest order - something that had to be pointed out by a TORY MP!) or being afraid to show an inoffensive cartoon.

The acid test - would they do the same if it was Christian? "Piss Christ" for example?

If a section of the white middle class came suddenly under the sway of a way of life that was virulently anti-gay, anti-women, etc, it would be met by outrage, but because the majority of its adherents are from another ethnic background and class, that's alright then.

Now I know there are lots of clever arguments to justify the racist, sexist, homophobic pandering of the Left (like inclusivity, cultural relativism etc) but actually for genuine socialists of any colour or culture (and socialism is UNIVERSAL) it is not rocket science.

There is no ambiguity. Okay - one tolerates regressive religions and cultures, but one does not endorse, support, or approve of them.

Yet in the UK the "Left" (certainly not Socialists) is one of their greatest enablers - the BBC in this instance feeding the most intolerant, festishistic aspects of Islam and smearing all Muslims with the same brush.

A hate crime against all the women, gays and straight men trapped within a cultural "no go zone" because they are the wrong race and colour.

Robert said...

Speedy is right of course. This political correctness has done huge damage to the Left

Bob Marshall Andrews pointed out in a Commons debate when New Labour was attacking civil liberties that you cannot protect the faith by law without protecting the fundamentalist and the bigot who lie within it.

The common law of incitement and laws against breach of the peach is all that is necessary to protect vulnerable religious minorities.