Blasphemy and Political Correctness – Grow a Spine.

There’s an irony in accepted commentary around “extreme Islamism” that people are very PC around avoiding conflating “racism” with opinions about religions. There is of course a minefield of offense to be avoided in offensive presumptions linking ethnic and cultural appearance with religious positions so careful un-prejudiced correctness does not go amiss. However there are also parallels that need to be recognised for what they are, and addressed accordingly – ie correctly.

This Quilliam piece by Haras Rafiq on CNN uses the expression:

“extremism of all kinds as social ill, comparable to racism”.

So in the next breath that we, in liberal western secular democracies, might say there is no such thing as protection of religions from blasphemy to be defined by rights in law, we would also strongly defend laws that protect race, gender and sexuality from any kind of “blasphemy”. ie not just actual expressed, incited or active hatred, but even any implicit prejudice against such freedoms and equalities would get short shrift. Maintaining such positions would be considered offensive, even vicariously offensive on behalf of fellow humankind. So much so that we are happy that such freedoms are protected by rights in law and offenses in criminal law. We hold these things sacred, and consider it sacrilege to oppose them, non-PC to raise arguments against; might even expect to be considered irrational, mad or beyond the pale to even suggest such arguments exist.

If we put the boot on the other foot, there is a world of difference between believing that religion is irrational (by western objective scientistic standards) and believing that Salafist-jihadi-ideology is positively offensive to civilised human values. The former is open to debate and discussion, but doesn’t in itself demand a high-level of engagement, it’s even possible to “not care” in many a context. But the latter is an offense that should be challenged for what it is, spoken-out and acted against individually and institutionally.

The not caring position is well captured by Quilliam’s Maajid Nawaz here.

The individual and institutional challenge to the offensive position is the point of the Haras Rafiq piece. We mustn’t wait for institutional enforcement in response to hateful incitement or murderous acts, but must simply reject the position held. It should be on a par with race, gender and sexual prejudice.

Political correctness must not be allowed to paralyse our ability to identify and act on the issue.

Interesting watching the polarisation of opinion around Mohammed Emwazi (previously “Jihadi John”) – that anyone suggesting “victimhood”, that MI5’s intervention around the time of his deportation from Tanzania has anything to do with the outcome, is given short-shrift and ridicule. In fact, things that alienate angry young men enough to take violent action is a recurring topic around Islamic extremism – and it’s very old news that rebels with a pretext in the absence of a cause attract their gangster’s molls. As I always say, life’s just complicated enough. It’s scientistically simplistic – greedy reductionist – to seek simple “causes” involving existing “subjects” or “objects” to “blame” for events. Longer term outcomes that involve chaotically evolving histories influenced circumstantially by many small choices. None of which is “the” cause. Political (jihadi) ideas aired (freely expressed) at Westminster College were another part of the story. Alienation is still a bad idea. Radicalisation toward extremism is another. Conspiracy or cock-up, they’re called evil. Islamic culture, built on Quranic and other texts apparently requiring human practice beyond the social pale, is also part of the problem.

Blasphemy is invalid as a legal concept simply because of the principle of secularity says religious belief should not form part of society’s governance arrangements. Freedom of thought and expression is enough. Extremism is the evil that society must point to as beyond the pale.

Political correctness must not be allowed to paralyse our ability to consider and act on all the issues. All extremisms are social ills, beyond society’s pale.

[Post Note : I didn’t mention the “Cage” response that materialised at the weekend. They are one of the commentators pointing out the establishment agencies and security forces actions as triggers to alienation and radicalisation, as reasons or causes, even justifications for Emwazi, rather than condemning the evil actions. Fine diatribe from Boris in response:

A response which also picks up on other conflations and generalisations prompting the knee-jerk PC reactions.]

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