Saturday, June 23, 2007

Double Hitch ties Shirley up in knots

The Hitch is currently doing the rounds in Blighty, principally plugging his latest Dawkins-esque God-bashing book, but stopping last Thursday to appear on Question Time. Like Bryan Appleyard, I find QT almost unwatchable these days on account of the thicko audiences and their shameless manipulation by applause-triggering politicians). But this was a rare good one, with an all-star line up of the Hitch, his mad brother Peter and the always-enjoyable Boris Johnson.

The lot of them team up to give the crapulent Shirley Williams a well-deserved kicking for her craven criticism of Salman Rushdie's knighthood on the grounds that it causes offence to Muslims.

Nobody could possibly admire everything Chris Hitchens says - that is the point of him. But when he's good, he's very very good. (Note for bigots: watch to the end for a nice distinction between Islamist nuts and real Muslims. Peter Hitchens later makes the equally true observation that the 'protests' in Tehran - Union Jack burning etc - are entirely stage-managed, and if you pulled the camera back from the 'crowd' you would see it consisted of at most a dozen pillocks.)

8 comments:

Duck said...

I didn't realize that Muslims came in real and unreal varieties. Don't you think it a bit presumptuous to take that role to distinguish between the two upon yourself?

I think it odd for a panel of Christians and atheists to make a judgment on whether the knighthood was an insult to Islam or not. What do Muslims think? I wouldn't assume that it is only the radicals who consider it so. Have there been any polls of Muslims in Britain on the question?

Hitchens may be right to say that it is an insult to Islam to consider the radical Mullahs to be the spokesmen for Islam, but while it is not insulting, it is equally inaccurate to consider your westernized Muslim friends to be the true spokesmen of Islam as well.

Have you read Hitchens book, particularly his chapter on Islam? Would you consider him a bigot?

Oroborous said...

Turnabout is fair play, eh ?

Brit said...

Duck: you, like Shirley Williams, have fallen for the same Islamist con trick.

I strongly suspect that the notion of "true spokesmen for Islam" is entirely meaningless, just as "the true voice of Christianity" or "true voice of modern art" is entirely meaningless. And even if it isn't, I'm not remotely qualified to decide what is and what isn't the true version of Islam.

I am qualified however to distinguish between Islamist nutjobs on the one the hand, and real people on the other who behave in all sorts of different ways and have all shades of belief and attitude from great piety to secular casualness, but who happen to be Muslim. Even Chris Hitchens takes pains to clarify this distinction.

The collected nutjobs of Islamist extremism would love nothing more than to kid you that they represent this fatuous notion of a "true voice of Islam" and that therefore they represent any human being anywhere who happens to be Muslim. Both lefty sops like Shirley Williams and evil right-wingers like the BNP fall for this laughably transparent con trick - they just react in different ways: Williams with craven pandering to them, the BNP with bigotry and hatred directed at all Muslims (although in fact even the BNP aren't as stupid as Williams - they see the con trick, but gladly use it as excuse).

If you don't get it, try swapping 'Muslim' for 'Christian'. Do the Westboro Baptist Church represent the "true voice of Christianity"? They'd like you to think so, but if I recall, only Harry agreed with them, likely for the same reasons that the BNP agree with the Islamists.

Perhaps these distinctions are too nuanced for you, just as the elder generation couldn't grasp that you can still say racist things even if you do have "plenty of coloured friends". But they're obvious to me and my generation.

What you're not getting is that having a half-arsed knowledge of the Koran counts for precisely nothing. No matter how much Koran he devours, Harry still knows no more about Muslims than he does about cricket.

A polite warning: if I'm generous I'll put what I've seen recently on the Daily Duck down to ignorance rather than deliberate malicious bigotry. But as with racism, ignorance is not an excuse.

Anti-Islamism stuff is welcome on Think of England. Anti-Muslim stuff is not and will get OJ-ed. If you don't get the distinction, best keep this discussion to the Daily Duck.

Peter Burnet said...

I thought Shirley got short shrift by Hitch at his most self-righteous, which is very self-righteous indeed. It is like the Danish cartoons. Once they were published they had to be defended but, as those of us still nursing blogging bruises over that issue can attest, that made it almost impossible to argue they shouldn't have been published in the first place. Nobody would argue Rushdie shouldn't have been free to publish but, as Johnson intimated, a literary-based award should be about literary excellence, not standing up for a political cause. Was the novel that good or just politically titillating?

Also, I note that all panelists except possibly Shirley saw the Muslim reaction in terms of foreign Muslims and governments. What about the British Muslim community, against whom lots of intolerant voices are directed? I can see telling that community that writers like Rushdie can publish what they want and they will just have to swallow it, but what is the significance of honouring him officially? Unless he is a widely recognized Tolstoy, is there not an "in your face" flavour to this?

Finally, even wobbly appeasers like you and I know there are indeed lines to be drawn and battles to be fought against both Islamicism and bigotry. I can't help but have the queasy feeling that this award gives comfort to both the know-nothing bigot and the Bright leftist who thinks it is a swell substitute for Iraq and Afghanistan.

monix said...

Brit, if you were asked to nominate a writer for a knighthood for a lifetime's service to English literature, would Salman Rushdie spring immediately to mind? He certainly wouldn't appear on my shortlist.

Considering that all the discussion since the award has been about Islam and not about literary merit, I wonder if those who selected him were naive or mischievous? I think that is the point Shirley Williams was making about the timing of this award, but there wasn't much listening going on at that table.

(BTW whether you like her politics or not, Shirley Williams is a woman of great integrity and literary skill, to describe her as 'crapulent' - someone sick from eating or drinking too much - seems odd and not in your usual style.)

Duck said...

I strongly suspect that the notion of "true spokesmen for Islam" is entirely meaningless, just as "the true voice of Christianity" or "true voice of modern art" is entirely meaningless.

My point exactly. Thanks for confirming it. Your point about real vs unreal Muslims betrays what you said above.

I am qualified however to distinguish between Islamist nutjobs on the one the hand, and real people on the other who behave in all sorts of different ways and have all shades of belief and attitude from great piety to secular casualness, but who happen to be Muslim. Even Chris Hitchens takes pains to clarify this distinction.

I've done the same on the Daily Duck. You evidently haven't cared to read very closely.

You can pull the bigot alarm if you wish, rather than continue to debate a complex subject. I'm not going to try to get my point across in the blare of that alarm. Signing off.

David said...

A decent respect for other cultures, in fact mere politeness, should make us hesitate to criticize or ridicule the odd customs of foreigners. Indeed, as Brit points out, those "customs" are often stage-managed by the government with the people fully aware of the charade.

But there does come a time when decency and promotion of our own interests require that we stand up and point out that, while the majority of the population are decent people making the best of a bad lot and in no way less deserving of the respect intrinsic to all humanity, the English honours system is a joke not to be taken seriously.

Here's this year's Birthday List. The Prince of Wales' butler is honored. A bunch of bureaucrats who never in their professional life made a single actual person's life better in any way are honored. Equally, a bunch of deserving people are honored. Joe Cocker is honored. The other fiction writer honored is Barbara Taylor Bradford.

Getting excited about who gets a knighthood is the very definition of unserious.

Brit said...

Monix:

Insofar as any British novelist deserves a knighthood, even without taking into account the silliness of the honours system which David correctly points out, then yes Rushdie deserves one. That, however, is not the issue. It is a red herring, as Johnson said. Williams made no mention of his literary merit.

As for it not being in my usual style - I'd agree. This is one of the few important things ToE has ever bothered to touch upon.

Duck:

By 'real Muslims' I meant real people who are Muslim, not those with a claim to the true version of Islam.

It may be a complex issue, but before you can debate complexities you need to get the simple fundamentals sorted. The first thing you should have done was take Harry to task for his hateful Islamophobia. Instead you drew up a 'division' and put yourself on his side. That and your comments in this thread suggest you don't get the fundamentals.

And that, my friends, is Think of England's

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