By John O’Mahony
Jack Straw’s article three weeks ago about the wearing of the hijab has unleashed a large and very important public discussion about the relationship of Muslims to the rest of British society.
Ministers including the Prime Minster have taken sides with — in the case of most of those who have spoken — or against, Straw’s position that Muslims are at fault in holding on to social-religious mores and practices which cut them off from others in Britain, behind self-erected and self-sustained cultural walls.
I did mean "looked like Muslims". The point being that at least some of the other passengers thought they looked like Muslims and therefore might be terrorists.
If someone "looked like a terrorist", I could only assume that meant they were visibly carrying a bomb. How else could you look like a terrorist other than in the eyes of a bigot?
I agree with this article. But it seems to me its centre of gravity is off. There seems currently to be emerging a serious wave of racism directed towards Asian people, especially Muslims and using hostility to Islam as its ideological flag - attacks on mosques, hostility to people in the street (women having their veils torn off, etc). Combined with that, and running through the tabloid press, for example, is a 'concern' that these intolerant Muslims are swamping our fine liberal culture, and all that.
Compared to all that, I think the PC/liberal-left (and SWP) tendency to shout 'racist' at everything - though something to fight - is rather secondary.
The vast majority of Muslims in Britain are not 'fundamentalists'. There is a growth of Islamism; and soft versions of Islamist arguments are widespread, I think. We - socialists - need to find ways to combat this. Being absolutely scrupulous in making the distinction between Muslims and Islamists is an essential starting point.
Where to begin? Muslims have existed since Muhammed. Islamists have existed since, say, 1928 when Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood. Islamism is a modern political movement, or set of ideologies, which adapts the Muslim religion to modern political objectives (to simplify; there are many different versions of it). The vast majority of practising Muslims are not Islamists. It's roughly equivalent to the difference between most Christians, and explicitly political Christian movements.
I don't understand the last part of your comment. But the first part ...
OK, I disagree with Muslims' religious beliefs, and absolutely defend the right to criticise Islam. But a lot of the unreasonable attacks on Muslims at the moment are not rational criticism of their beliefs by atheist commentators. They are bigotry, often from adherents of another religious creed.
Take for instance the two young Asian men who were turfed off an aeroplane because other paasengers became hysterical with fear that they were going to blow it up becuase they "looked like Muslims". Do you think that is reasonable? And do you really think there was no element of racism?