Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The Myth of Islamophobia - A critical Analysis

So I'm working my way through the videos that Pat Condell has posted, when I'm struck by the title of 'The Myth of Islamophobia'.  What a great title.  I mean, surely, this video must be full of intelligent debate and statistical proofs.  Combine that with Condells' dead pan delivery, and we have a recipe for a great 5 minutes of vitriol. I'm almost looking forward to it. Almost.
"I've had a lot of e-mails from people who seem to think that I hate Muslims, when nothing could be further from the truth..."
This is a great start. A metaphorical olive branch. I'm left wondering for a few seconds if Condell has turned over a new leaf.
"...we tend to read into a thing what we want to see there rather than what's actually there..."
On this issue, I couldn't agree more. This is one of the biggest problems which Islam faces. Many people just don't take the time to misunderstand Islam in the indefatigable way that Pat Condell does. Instead, they rely upon nuggets of information handed down by the media, and YouTube rants.
"I have no problem with Islam. With the Islam where people just get on with their lives and pray everyday and don't bother anybody else, nor do I have a problem with any religion that has the common decency to mind it's own business..."
Oh dear. He lost me there. He reminds me of those people, you know the ones, they start off a conversation with "I'm not racist, but..." and it all goes downhill from there.

There is only one type of Islam, you know. It's written down, in Black and White, in the Qur'an. You might call it a tertiary source. What is written in the Qur'an is Islam. And what isn't written in the Qur'an, well, isn't kosher, so to speak.
"I don't hate anyone. Because hate is for losers. Hate is just fear with attitude."
What an insightful, kindly gentleman. So far so good.
"...whatever you hate and fear, well, you know your' going to attract it, because if you invest that much emotion in something, it's coming your way..."
Well, yes. I can see his point here. This, by definition, must mean that Pat Condell really has it in for fascist racist bigoted ill-educated ignorant idiots, because there are, literally, so many coming in his direction.
"... this week the Queen of England was burned in effigy on the streets of Pakistan. Why? Because she gave a knighthood, a pretty worthless bauble at the best of times, to an author better known for his nuisance value than for his actual writing..."
Yes, but fortunately for us Pat, this is a demonstration of healthy freedom of speech in Pakistan. While we might consider it bad taste, no doubt, to burn an effigy of Her Madge, I'm sure they are well within their rights to do so. Who are we to deny them that right? 

Pat Condell famously has no respect for any religion, and yet, he can't stand an affront to the Queen - who, after all, holds the title 'Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England' - even though it is, in fact, part and parcel of free speech? One wonders what Pat Condell thought about the portrayal of the Queen on Spitting Image in the 1980s. I'm sure he sent in a stern letter of complaint.
"... The [Pakistani] government has declared this an insult to Islam. Well, I mean, what isn't these days?"
Lost me again. Which of the Islams you know of has been insulted? The 'good' Islam, or the 'bad 'Islam'? Oh dear. I'm so confused. Can anybody else please explain this to me? I must say, that it never ceases to amaze me how the actions of a country can be taken to represent the 'hive mind' of Islam.
"...I do find it difficult to take seriously this moral outrage in Pakistan... a country whose attitude to women degrades the entire human race..."
I see. You'd much rather watch the bitches n' ho's on MTV? Or maybe catch snaps of female celebrities having drug problems and mental breakdowns? Maybe the trafficking of sex slaves into the UK is more to your taste? Is it not degrading that the so-called empowered women of the west can't walk the streets alone at night or receive a comparable wage to men for the same type of work? What is it they say about people in glass houses? If Muslim governments have the excuse of being medieval throwbacks, what , then, is the excuse of the most enlightened, secular, developed countries in the world for the way they treat women?

He is right though. The fact that European countries can treat women shamefully does not negate any ill treatment of women by Pakistan. But you must remember that Pakistan is a country. Pakistan is not Islam. Islam, as I'm sure you know, is not a country.
"The real insult to Islam is the fact that in Pakistan a woman can be murdered for the crime of being raped..."
I do wish Condell would have the decency to show his sources on this on this issue, I really don't have the time to reverse engineer every statement he makes. And it does seem to be YouTube etiquette to give sources to your claims in the information box to your videos.

But I do agree, it is an insult to Islam. And to Christianity. And no doubt to Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and, yes, even Atheism. See. Something we can agree on. Thank heavens that there is no justification within Islam to murder a rape victim.
"Every year in Pakistan, thousands of women are murdered by members of thier own family, and yet nobody is insulted by that, nobody is demanding an apology for that. Instead what do we get, a deafening silence from Muslims. Almost a miracle in itself."
Again, Condell should show his sources, and again, I'd agree that it is insulting to any decent human being regardless of race, religion, or lack therof. In this spirit of apology, why is nobody demanding that Atheists apologise for all the things that Atheists have done wrong over the years? Why don't we ask all the black people of the world to apologise for all the wrongs that black people have done? Shall I give you a clue? Because it is the ridiculous, fatuous proposition of somebody with no reasonable reserves left in their intellectual arsenal. 

You see. If everybody had to apologise for the sins of everybody else who claimed to belong to their race, religion, or belief system, (and for the sake of argument, I'm including Atheism here) we would all be apologising for something or other.  All the time. Frankly, that much politeness is just unhealthy. But regardless, why should a Muslim, or anyone, apoligise for something of which they were never complicit in?

People condemn illegal actions by not taking part in them.  Is it not enough for Pat Condell that the majority of Muslims do not take part in terrorism or wife-beating, that he must make them all apologise? Muslims can't even get to a wedding on time and you think that they could organise some sort of trans-global apology? What would happen? Should somebody send out a memo?
"Dear Fellow Muslims, 

It has come our attention that some of you have been very, very naughty. For the sake of global harmony, after Friday prayers,  please go out onto the street and say, "I must apoligise for the behaviour of Muslims during the War on Terror". 

Maybe that would do it for Condell and his crowd? Maybe. But I doubt it.  What else does Condell have to say about Pakistan?
"According to the human rights commision of Pakistan, 80 per cent of Pakistani women are regularly beaten by their husbands. I mean come on guys shape up. You can't blame your culture for everything."
Sorry. Lost me again. It seems that here, Condell is implying that Islam is responsible for the beating of women in Pakistan. This is in direct contradiction to his original statement that he has no trouble with the Islam "where people just get on with their lives and pray everyday and don't bother anybody else". But here, he implies that, well, 80 percent of all Pakistani Muslim husbands beat their wife as an integral part of their religion?

Does this argument even merit a serious reply?
"... And yet these are the people who have accused the British Government of Islamophobia. [The Government has] ... already done so much to accommodate Islamic sensibilities. Even legitimising crackpot pressure groups like the Muslim Council of Britain, who recently issued a list of demands that would impose Islamic values on all children in British schools."
We've heard this all before from Condell.  He complains that the British Government bends over backwards to appease Muslims, and yet, he offers up no examples to prove his point.  Surely, this line of reasoning would produce rich and deep seams of 'comedy' for Pat?  But no.  I've yet to hear him give a single example of the UK Government appeasing those Muslims.

Moving on from that though, The Muslim Council of Great Britain was never an illegitimate organisation, so the government has never had to legitimise it.  I have to hand it to him. Condell demonstrates a flair for language.  His smoke-and-mirrors tricks are designed to stop us from even lightly probing his postulations, but if you get past the pseudo-Neuro-Linguistic Programming his arguments are very transparent.

Pat Condell is always mentioning this 'list of demands', so I thought I'd finally take the time to find it, being as Condell doesn't have the nerve to link to it in the information box for his videos. 

This 'list of demands' is called 'Meeting the needs of Muslim pupils in state schools' Page two of the document states that it is an 'information and guidance booklet'. Far from imposing Islamic values on 'all children in British schools', the document is designed to highlight the specific needs of Muslim pupils. It is actually a good guide for teachers who may know nothing about Islam, and importantly, reduces the scope for Muslim pupils to try to pull the wool over a teachers' eyes by playing the 'my religion says so' card. If a teacher is aware of the requirements of Islam, they are less likely to be taken for a ride, or cause offence through ignorance. Lets have a look at a tidbit of this guide:
"Muslim pupils are allowed to take part in educational visits to all places of worship, including churches, synagogues and temples."
Sounds reasonable to me. Not really an earth shattering demand. 

It seems that Pat Condell took his opinions about this document from the Daily Express who ran what can only be described as an inflammatory article, with comments like this nugget from Terry Sanderson of that bastion of intelligent and rational secularism, the National Secular Society (of which Condell is a fully paid up member):
“Schools with even just a handful of Muslim kids will find they have to follow these guidelines because there aren’t the staff to have one set of classes for Muslims and another for the rest. The MCB shouldn’t try to force its religious agenda on children who may not want it. The Government needs to send the MCB packing. Schools should be about teaching, not preaching. ”
The document was launched on the MCB website on 20th February, one day before the article came out. It seems that Terry Sanderson read and digested a 72 page report before the copy deadline for the newspaper. I doubt he spent a full 24 minutes, never mind 24 hours analysing it, because if he had, he would have realised that the publication is not at all about 'forcing a religious agenda on children who may not want it', but it sets out to be an advisory document which schools can refer to for good practice. 

If the best the NSS can do is get manipulated like a puppet by the national media, it is small wonder Pat Condell frets about the political nouse of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Unsurprisingly, the MCB wrote a letter to the Press Complaints Commission about this report, wonder what the result was?

A more balanced synopsis of the document could be found at the BBC four days after it became available. Mike Baker, an Education Correspondant (so, pretty well qualified to judge a document aimed at schools then) asks the right questions:-
"How reasonable were these requests? Were they, in fact, demands?"
Baker at least passes fair comment on the language of the document, particularly, he seems to wonder why the word 'should' appears so many times.  He also points out that schools have the right to 'expect willingness to conform, whether it is to school uniform codes, curriculum requirements, behaviour policies or parental co-operation', and that makes absolute sense.  

Baker goes on to say that "...telling schools what they 'should' do for one particular group, without necassarily considering the impact on others, may not be the most persuasive approach."  He has a point, but it is not in the remit of the Muslim Council of Britain to vouch for the requirements of non-Muslim children.  That is for the schools themselves to balance, given the information they have. 

The purpose of the document was so that schools could create even-handed policy that includes Muslims are far as possible, not for 'special treatment'.

Race Equality Teaching published a great article dissecting not only the story, but the comments to be found on the Daily Express website regarding the story. And, finally on this subject, it seems even atheists can see that we have entered storm-in-a-teacup territory with this one.

So, we return now to Condell, who is still bleating on about the Muslim Council of Great Britain.
"The Muslim Council of Britain sounds like an official body but in fact it's just another extremist group of fanatics who want to turn Britain into an Islamic republic. They'd never admit this publiclly of course, any more than the British National Party would admit that they want to repatriate the blacks and gas the Jews, but we all know thats' where they are really coming from."
The Muslim Council of Britain are no more or less extreme than, say, the National Secular Society, and as I've pointed out before, the NSS have more political and media clout. Who then, should we be more wary of?  Also, is it ironic that he mentions the BNP, who absolutely find everything that Condell has to say about Islam right on.  Funny though, that they don't seem to support his views on Catholicism.  Still, every cloud has a silver lining, eh?

Condell never tires of 'dissing' the MCB:-
"...they love accusing people of Islamophobia. A totally made up word and a blatent lie."
Hold on a cotton picking minute! People accusing other people of stuff when they have no basis for it? Gee whizz. Pat, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas no more!

NEWSFLASH. THIS JUST IN....
All words are made up. But seriously. Lets' nail this lie once and for all. Pat Condell is a rational man. I feel sure that when he is presented with overwhelming evidence to disprove his theories, he'll undoubtedly change has rhetoric. Well, I can but try.

Way before 9/11 and 7/7, far back in the mists of 1997, even before Pat Condell had heard of the Internet, the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia issued a report entitled 'Islamophobia: a challenge for us all' . The report contained 60 recommendations, by the time of the follow-up report in 2004 progress on the original 60 recommendations was minimal. Here is an example of Islamophobia:
"During the war in Iraq in 2003 a student at a secondary school in central England approached one of the staff. She was of Pakistani heritage, as was the member of staff. She was being teased, she told the teacher, by other students in the playground and on journeys to and from school. 'We killed hundreds of your lot yesterday … Saddam's your dad, you love him, don't you … we're getting our revenge for what you Pakis did to us on 11 September…' The teacher asked if she had told her form tutor. Yes, she had told her tutor, and her tutor had said: 'Never mind, it's not serious. It'll soon pass. You'll have to expect a bit of teasing at a time like this.'"
Confronting Islamophobia in the Education System, page 1)
But that is just the UK. It is recognised that a European wide initiative to tackle Islamophobia is required.
"EU member states must also accept their responsibility towards all ethnic and other minority communities. To do this, measures must be taken and new initiatives implemented. Those such as the Irish government's anti-racism awareness programme, that is now to include Islamophobia as well, is a good case in point."
Undeterred by the truth though, Condell gives us the skinny on Islamophobia
"...A phobia is defined as an irrational fear or dread of something, and its' true that many people fear and dread the growth of Islam but there's nothing irrational about that when you look at the evidence. In countries where islam has control there is repression there's torture there's precious few human rights and there's no free speech..."
Great point. I would contest that the countries of which Condell speaks are not implementing Islamic law at all, or not implementing it correctly, or at least, are adhering to an ultra-strict interpretation which a moderate Muslim (yes, they do exist!) would not recognise, and where in fact, there could be a more lenient interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence.

I do find Pat Condell quite naive in his outlook, especially for a man of his years. There may be free speech in Britain, but, funnily enough, not in Westminster, the heart of UK democracy. How very embarrassing.
"... if the Muslim Council of Britain had it's way this would be one of those [oppressive] countries and I'd be arrested and tortured for making this video. This is not a belief system that I want to see encouraged, but there's nothing phobic about it, it's just common sense."
Ladies and Gentlemen... I give you Islamophobia in action. I hope that I've pointed out the holes in the arguments that Condell raises. If, like Pat Condell, you don't take the time to learn about a subject, and simply regurgitate what the media force-feed you, then maybe you could get away with thinking that Islamophobia is common sense. If, however, you have a modicum of intelligence, or bother to do some research for yourself, you might come to the conclusion that Islamophobia is not a belief system you would want to see encouraged.
"...The real phobia lies with Islam itself, and with all religions with their pathological fear of reason, which they know can evaporate all their delusions in an instant, because reason to religion is like sunlight to a vampire. Thats where the real fear is, and that's where the real hate is."
And so, we come to the end of the rant. Condell delivers a closing statement that is diametrically opposed to his opening one. How we got from "I have no problem with Islam" to discussing pathological fear of reason, and insinuations that that is where hate lies within Islam. I should hope this response to Pat Condell is full of reason, and backed up with clear evidence to support what I say.

I'm willing to debate these issues with anyone, I may even learn something in the process. I get the feeling that Pat Condell thinks he already knows it all. Pat Condell delivers good diatribe, but when you actually probe deeper, a less than scholarly approach is evident in his videos. And yet, his word is taken as gospel.

Go figure.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I could only get through so much of your analysis before I had to quit. You're obviously well-schooled in the tactics of undercutting a person's argument, such as calling him/her a racist. In the PC West, such a label automatically de-legtimizes everything the other person says. Well done - so much for free speech...

whypatcondellisntfunny said...

anonymous... How did I curtail free speech? I maintain that Pat Condell has the right to say what he likes. But I also maintain that what he says should be based upon fact.

Besides, Pat Condell is patently *not* a racist. Islam is not a race. Pat Condell is in fact a bigot. There is a slight difference, but I always feel it is worth pointing out.

I'm so sorry that you couldn't get through the analysis... I guess spending time digesting some thought out facts is harder than swallowing a 5 minute YouTube rant.

skydog said...

Islamophobia is indeed a myth. A phobia is an irrational fear of that which presents no tangible threat to your existence or way of life.

Fundamentalist Islam threatens both. Ergo it is not a phobia.

Bigot: n.
One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

That would make you and all muslim fundamentalists bigots then WPCIF :o)

Garsha said...

http://www.islamophobia.org/

Just one of many sites that disprove your claim.