Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Strange Bedfellows

I can't be the only person who finds it rather strange that Jeremy Corbyn refused to share a platform with David Cameron during the EU referendum campaign, yet the Labour leader happily invites 'hate preachers' to have tea with him in the House of Commons.


No Excuses for Terrorism (05/06/17)

The Guido Fawkes web site has pulled off a big scoop with this coverage of Jeremy Corbyn blaming UK foreign policy for the murderous behaviour of ISIS supporting fanatics and terrorists.

If you ask me, the Labour leader should do us all a favour by listening carefully to people like Majid Nawaz who calls a spade a spade and doesn't make excuses for the Islamists and their hateful ideology.



Jeremy Corbyn spoke in defence of fighters returning from Syria and argued people who express support for ISIS should not be prosecuted. In a 2014 parliamentary debate, Corbyn told the Commons the UK should not make “value judgments” about fighters returning from Syria and questioned the “legal obstacles” facing ISIS fighters arriving back in Britain:
“I feel that we should think about this rather more carefully and avoid the knee-jerk reaction of saying, “These are bad fighters and those are good fighters, so we will ban these and allow those in… I have encountered young people who have been attracted to what ISIS is doing. They say that what the West did in Iraq and Afghanistan was appalling, and was questionably legal in the case of Afghanistan and definitely illegal in the case of Iraq. We are living with the consequences of the war on terror of 2001, and if we continue to try to create legal obstacles and make value judgments about people without considering the overall policy we are following, we will return to legislation such as this again and again, year after year.”
Asked if ISIS fighters returning to Britain should face action, Corbyn said ISIS supporters should not be prosecuted for “expressing a political point of view”:
“I have no support for ISIS whatsoever, and obviously [measures] should apply to someone who has committed crimes, but we should bear in mind that expressing a political point of view is not in itself an offence. The commission of a criminal act is clearly a different matter, but expressing a point of view, even an unpalatable one, is sometimes quite important in a democracy. We should be slightly cautious about announcing that we will start to deal with people on the basis of a general view that they have expressed. We should think seriously about where our foreign policy has brought us, and what our legislative position now is.”
Would Jeremy Corbyn have made a “value judgement” about Salman Abedi when he returned from Syria and Libya? Would he have opposed “legal obstacles” to him returning to Britain? Does Corbyn really believe people expressing support for ISIS should not face measures from the government? These words are horrendous for Corbyn in the context of the last few weeks

Hiding in Plain Sight (04/06/17)

Image result for corbyn and livingstone

I do hope Jeremy Corbyn is not going to repeat his idiotic comment that UK foreign policy is the underlying cause of terrorist attacks. 

Muslims are the main targets of terrorism around the world, routine victims of cowardly acts carried out by religious fanatics who regard fellow Muslims as heretics because they do not agree with their fundamentalist interpretation of 'Salafist' Islam.

Non-Muslims are also fair game, of course, with Christians in Egypt and Yazidis in Syria being murdered or forced into sexual slavery by Islamist jihadis whose aim is to establish a religious Caliphate in the Middle East, based on a backward religious culture the world hasn't witnessed since the Dark Ages.    

Now the Muslim community as whole is not responsible for the behaviour of these people, but the terrorists are hiding among us in plain sight, presenting themselves as pious religious believers while planning brutal attacks against innocent men, women and children.

Majid Nawaz calls out this behaviour for what it really is on his LBC radio programme and criticises fellow Muslims for allowing their religion and communities to be 'hijacked' by the fundamentalists.

If you ask me, his voice and views deserve to be widely heard because Majid puts his finger on the problem and doesn't make ridiculous excuses for the terrorists or their hateful way of thinking.  


No Excuses (27/05/17)

Image result for no excuses + images

I came across this post from the blog site archive the other day and noted that the historian Tom Holland, just just like the author Salman Rushdie, was not responsible for UK foreign policy - yet they still became targets for murderous religious fanatics, as did the staff at Charlie Hebdo of course.   


Je Suis Charlie (11/01/15)

Lots of people have had their say in the public debate which has followed the murderous attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, but here's a particularly interesting contribution by historian Tom Holland who made a serious TV programme on Islam yet was still met with a firestorm of death threats from religious extremists.

I missed the programme first time around so I must find out if 'Islam:The Untold Story' is still available on Channel 4; better still the schedulers should consider repeating the documentary because in the present climate there is every reason to have a serious discussion as to what Islam is all about instead of leaving the field clear for the fanatics to spread their poison. 

Viewpoint: The roots of the battle for free speech

Voltaire: Often quoted advocate of freedom of expression

Historian Tom Holland was one of those who tweeted Charlie Hebdo's cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in the wake of the deadly attack on the magazine's office. Here he explains the ramifications of defending free speech.

Religions are not alone in having their martyrs. On 1 July, 1766, in Abbeville in northern France, a young nobleman named Lefebvre de la Barre was found guilty of blasphemy. The charges against him were numerous - that he had defecated on a crucifix, spat on religious images, and refused to remove his hat as a Church procession went past.

These crimes, together with the vandalising of a wooden cross on the main bridge of Abbeville, were sufficient to see him sentenced to death. Once La Barre's tongue had been cut out and his head chopped off, his mortal remains were burned by the public executioner, and dumped into the river Somme. Mingled among the ashes were those of a book that had been found in La Barre's study, and consigned to the flames alongside his corpse - the Philosophical Dictionary of the notorious philosopher, Voltaire.

Voltaire himself, informed of his reader's fate, was appalled. "Superstition," he declared from his refuge in Switzerland, "sets the whole world in flames."

Two-and-a-half centuries on, and it is the notion that someone might be put to death for criticising a religious dogma that is likely to strike a majority of people in the West as the blasphemy. The values of free speech and toleration for which Voltaire campaigned all his life have become enshrined as the very embodiment of what Europeans, as a rule, most prize about their own civilisation.

Tom Holland

Tom Holland is a writer, broadcaster and historian. His latest book, In The Shadow of the Sword, is an account of the history of Islam.

He wrote and presented the documentary Islam: The Untold Story.

Voltaire, with his mocking smile, still serves as their patron saint. In France, where secular ideals are particularly treasured, he is regularly invoked by those who feel the legacy of the Enlightenment to be under threat.

When Philippe Val, the editor of Charlie Hebdo, published a book in 2008 defending the right of cartoonists to mock religious taboos, the title was telling. Reviens, Voltaire, Ils Sont Devenus Fous, he called it - Come Back, Voltaire, They Have Gone Insane. It was not Christians, though, whom Val was principally calling mad.

Between the 18th Century and the 21st, the religious complexion of France had radically altered. Not only had the power of the Catholic Church gone into precipitous retreat, but some six million immigrants belonging to a very different faith had arrived in the country.

Islam, unlike Catholicism, had inherited from the Jews a profound disapproval of figurative art. It also commemorated Muhammad - the prophet believed by his followers to have received God's ultimate revelation, the Koran - as the very model of human behaviour. Insults to him were traditionally held by Muslim jurists to be equivalent to disbelief - and disbelief was a crime that merited Hell.

Not that there was anything within the Koran itself that necessarily mandated it as a capital offence. "The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills, let him believe; and whoever wills, let him disbelieve." Nevertheless, a story preserved in the oldest surviving biography of Muhammad implied a rather more punitive take. So punitive, indeed, that some Muslim scholars - who are generally most reluctant to countenance the possibility that the earliest biography of their prophet might be unreliable - have gone so far as to question its veracity. 

Pens are laid in a pile in tribute to the victims of the Paris attack

The story relates the fate of Asma bint Marwan, a poet from the Prophet's home town of Mecca. After she had mocked Muhammad in her verses, he cried out, "Who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?" - and sure enough, that very night, she was killed by one of his followers in her own bed. The assassin, reporting back on what he had done, was thanked personally by the Prophet. "You have helped both God and His messenger!"

"Ecrasez l'infâme," Voltaire famously urged his admirers: "Crush what is infamous". Islam, too, makes the same demand. The point of difference, of course, is over how "l'infâme" is to be defined. To the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, who in 2011 published an edition with a swivel-eyed Muhammad on the cover, just as earlier they had portrayed Jesus as a contestant on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, and Pope Benedict holding aloft a condom at Mass, it is the pretensions of authority wherever they may be found - in politics quite as much as in religion.

To the gunmen who yesterday launched their murderous attack on the Charlie Hebdo office, it is the mockery of a prophet whom they feel should exist beyond even a hint of criticism. Between these two positions, when they are prosecuted with equal passion and conviction on both sides, there cannot possibly be any accommodation.

It was the Salman Rushdie affair that served as the first symptom of this. Since then, like a dull toothache given to periodic flare-ups, the problem has never gone away. I myself had first-hand experience of just how intractable it can be in 2012, with a film I made for Channel 4. Islam: The Untold Story explored the gathering consensus among historians that much of what Muslims have traditionally believed about the life of Muhammad is unlikely to be strict historical fact - and it provoked a firestorm of death threats.

Unlike Charlie Hebdo, I had not set out to give offence. I am no satirist, and I do not usually enjoy hurting people's feelings. Nevertheless, I too feel that some rights are worthy of being defended - and among them is the freedom of historians to question the origin myths of religions. That was why, when I heard the news from Paris yesterday, I chose to do something I would never otherwise have done, and tweet a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Muhammad.

The BBC, by contrast, has decided not to reproduce the cartoon for this article. Many other media organisations - though not all - have done the same. I refuse to be bound by a de facto blasphemy taboo.

While under normal circumstances I am perfectly happy not to mock beliefs that other people hold dear, these are far from normal circumstances. As I tweeted yesterday, the right to draw Muhammad without being shot is quite as precious to many of us in the West as Islam presumably is to the Charlie Hebdo killers.

We too have our values - and if we are not willing to stand up for them, then they risk being lost to us. When it comes to defining l'infâme, I for one have no doubt whose side I am on.

Tom Holland is a writer, broadcaster and historian. His latest book, In The Shadow of the Sword, is an account of the history of Islam. He wrote and presented the documentary Islam: The Untold Story.

Apologists and Appeasers (26/05/17)

Jeremy Corbyn is showing his true colours by claiming that terrorism is caused by UK foreign policy.

Religious fanatics who support the Islamic State inevitably use some grievance or other to justify their actions, but ultimately they have no political agenda beyond imposing their harsh  and ugly version of Islam on the rest of the world - including fellow Muslims, of course.  


Causes of Terrorism (25/05/17)

I had to laugh at this post on Twitter by Godfrey Elwick which pokes fun at what some people believe are the underlying causes of Islamist terrorism.

In effect, every lame excuse under the sun except a pernicious ideology that encourages a particular and fanatical branch of Islam to see everyone else, including fellow Muslims, as their sworn enemy.


No Excuses (24/05/17)Image result for corbyn and livingstone

Here's what Ken Livingstone, one of Jeremy Corbyn's key allies, had to say about the murderous terrorist attack on London in 2007.

I imagine the Labour leadership will be trying desperately to keep Ken Livingstone from giving any interviews in the wake of the latest Manchester atrocity.

But I do find it quite breathtaking that Team Corbyn is willing lay the blame for these terrible events at the door of anyone other than murderous Islamist terrorists who need no excuse for targeting civilians and taking perfectly innocent lives.  


London Labour (04/01/16)

Recent events suggest that the Labour Party is hurtling back to the 1980s when a small band of activists from London Labour Briefing (LLB) threatened to rule the political roost. 

The LLB drew its political inspiration from a highly organised group of activists, largely Trotskyites and their fellow travellers, who were vocal and visible at times, but for the most part were restricted to the fringes of the Labour Party.

The new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn along with key allies like Ken Livingstone, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott could be counted amongst the LLB's numbers over the years.

Fast forward to 2015 and the extent to which the People's Party has lost its way can be measured in the comments of Diane Abbott, Labour's shadow international development secretary, and Ken Livingstone a recently appointed Labour defence spokesperson.

Diane Abbott believes that "on balance Mao did more good than harm" while Ken Livingstone told a BBC Question Time audience that Tony Blair was to blame for the murderous 7/7 bombings in London. 

Ken Livingstone: Tony Blair to blame for 7/7 bombing

BBC - UK Politics

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone has been criticised for suggesting Tony Blair was to blame for the deaths of 52 people in the 7 July London bombings. 

Mr Livingstone said on Question Time the then-prime minister ignored a security service warning that invading Iraq would make the UK a terror target.

Labour MP Mike Gapes called the comment "despicable", while Labour backbencher Ian Austindubbed it a "disgrace".

Four suicide bombers targeted London's Underground and a bus on 7 July 2005.

Mr Livingstone said: "When Tony Blair was told by the security services, 'If you go into Iraq, we will be a target for terrorism', and he ignored that advice, and it killed 52 Londoners."

He added: "If we had not invaded Iraq those four men would not have gone out and killed 52 Londoners. We know that."

Comedian and former Labour political advisor Matt Forde challenged Mr Livingstone on his comments, saying: "This idea that you can absolve the people that killed those innocent Londoners by blaming Tony Blair is shameful.

"Blame it on the people who carried out the atrocity."

'Gave their lives'

Mr Livingstone, who was mayor at the time of the 2005 attacks, responded: "Go and look what they put on their website. They did those killings because of our invasion of Iraq.

"They gave their lives, they said what they believed, they took Londoners' lives in protest against our invasion of Iraq.

"And we were lied to by Tony Blair about Iraq, there were no weapons of mass destruction."

Conservative Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock, who was also on the panel, said Mr Livingstone was letting IS and other violent militant groups "off the hook" and "we should not be giving them excuses".

A number of Labour MPs criticised the comments, John Woodcock tweeting that "no-one has the mandate to side with suicide bombers". 

Image copyright - AFP GettyImage caption - The 7 July attacks on a bus and three London underground trains killed 52 people and injured hundreds more

And Mr Gapes said Mr Livingstone had "sunk to a new low", claiming his comments amounted to saying "terrorism is never the fault of perpetrators".

A Downing Street spokesman said it was up to Mr Livingstone to justify his comments, stating that "it almost goes without saying that the prime minister does not agree with them".

Mr Livingstone, who is a member of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee, caused controversy recently when he suggested a Labour MP who had criticised his appointment as co-convenor of the party's defence review needed "psychiatric help".

He subsequently apologised for the comments but only after being told to do so by leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The UK joined the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, despite failing to secure a second UN resolution justifying the use of force.