6 October 2006
“An increasing number of people see a dark cloud hanging over Europe. They fear that the birthplace of the Enlightenment and the cradle of free speech is being silenced by the growing assertiveness of an intolerant strain of Islam.” — The Independent Editorial, Wednesday, 4 October 2006.
The London Independent’s editorial headed “Beware loose talk about a clash of civilisations” boggles the mind and my pen trembles and threatens to skitter right off the page of my ‘little red note book’ as I transcribe the words from this misleading and dangerous distortion of the facts.
“This terrorism isn’t our fault … We didn’t cause it … It’s not the consequence of foreign policy … It’s an attack on our way of life … It’s global … It has an ideology.”
— Tony Blair, speaking at the Labour Party Conference.
The first thing one notices that is entirely missing from this artful piece of dissembling is any reference to Bush and Blair’s endless references to a “clash of civilisations” or indeed to the role of newspapers such as the Independent in spreading fear and loathing of an “intolerant strain of Islam” with its repetition of largely government-sourced stories about ‘terrorist cells’ and ‘home-grown terrorists’ or links to ‘al-Qu’eda’s global network’. References entirely divorced from context or history, especially the pernicious ‘war on terror’ fantasy that has created this abominable situation in the first place.
Instead, buried in the seemingly ‘reasonable’ references to the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ and ‘Reason’ is one gigantic lie, namely that the current hysteria surrounding ‘the intolerant strain of Islam’ is all down to a handful of extremist individuals on both sides of the alleged divide.
Aside from anything else, the editorial presents the view that Western ‘civilisation’ has, since the 16th century or thereabouts, been one of tolerance and of free speech, itself also a lie of gigantic proportions given not only the role of Christianity in the spread of slavery and colonialism, but also the oppressive nature of the state in the suppression of free speech including an astounding array of laws of sedition, blasphemy and censorship which the current regimes of both Blair and Bush are busy resurrecting and all in the name of protecting free speech!
The entire current situation and its causes is missing from this ‘appeal to reason’. What the Independent presents us with is a ‘clash’ without either the sound or fury of our political leaders as if some kind of spontaneous combustion took place in a mosque. The Independent would have us believe that the reactions of a handful of religious zealots is entirely responsible for the current state of affairs.
Take the opening paragraph quoted above, where we are told that “an increasing number of people see a dark cloud hanging over Europe.’ Where did this “dark cloud” come from? We are not told except we are led to believe it was created by “intolerant” Islamic fundamentalists, who have some kind of super-natural control over the climate. Bush and Blair’s provocative and inflammatory statements about a “clash of civilisations” don’t get a look in.
What the Independent gives us instead is its version of reality when it tells us:
“Much of the Western world seems mistrustful of its Muslim population”
How so? We are not told what is this statement based upon nor how such an alleged state of affairs came to pass? Instead the Independent tells us that:
“The situation has not been helped by the confusion of the authorities.”
Thus it’s not the policies of the US and UK governments but:
“When a small number of fanatics marched through London in the wake of the cartoon dispute, calling for new terrorist attacks, [the] police took too long to prosecute those responsible.”
The Independent actually thinks that as a result:
“Many people were left with the unfortunate impression that there is free speech for Islamic fanatics, but not for secular cartoonists.”
So now the “dark cloud” hanging over us all is because the police took too long to respond to a tiny handful of people? I wonder if this applies to the unfortunate individuals locked up in Belmarsh Prison without charge for years or those under house arrest, or the thousands of people who because they are brown-skinned and bearded, are stopped and/or detained on the streets of a not so Enlightened Britain?
In reality, the Independent’s assertion that there is a threat to ‘our’ way of life (whatever that is) amounts to the following:
- Reactions to the Pope’s speech
- Reactions to the cartoons
- The murder of the Dutchman Theo van Gogh
And for some bizarre reason Salmon Rushdie even gets dragged into it when the Indie says “…the persecution of Salmon Rushdie” even though the fatwa issued against Rushdie dates back to the 1980s! Whatever, this is the sum total of the Independent’s argument.
By contrast, Muslims and many millions of non-Muslims who opposed the invasion and destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the murder of thousands in the Occupied Territories and the Lebanon are omitted from the Independent’s ‘reasoning’ as to why Muslims fear the ‘inclusive’ society they are supposed to be a part of.
The Independent is guilty of perpetuating the lie that the current situation has been created by a handful of religious fanatics and stoked by a handful of extremists on the other side.
“Loose talk?” The only loose talk is the Independent’s unfounded use of phrases like “many people” and “much of the Western world” without identifying how the public acquired such an impression of Islam.
Where is the condemnation of Bush and Blair who set the agenda through their use of the phrase “clash of civilisations” in the first place?
Could it be that the Independent along with the rulers of the West, are all of a kind, with their false assumptions about the superiority of Western ‘values’ and that’s why the Independent refuses to acknowledge the culpability of our rulers in the use of Islam as a scapegoat?
By focusing on a handful of misguided people and no doubt a fair sprinkling of agent provocateurs, diverts the public’s attention from the real causes, imperialism’s need of an enemy and what better one than the ‘alien’ within our midst who threatens to undermine ‘our’ values.
And what better proof of this can we have than the latest outburst by Jack Straw concerning the veil which he would have us believe conceals hidden intentions of what? A suicide bomber? That the person is lying when she speaks?
The veil, Mr Straw tells us makes “better, positive relations between the two communities more difficult”and that it was “a visible statement of separation and of difference”. So what’s wrong with difference? Should someone accuse orthodox Jewish women who cover their heads with wigs be accused of separation and difference, imagine the outburst! Come to that, what of Rastas and their Dreadlocks? Total, deliberate and diversionary bullshit!
Alleging that he had chosen is words carefully, Straw said:
“We are able to relate to people we don’t know by reading their faces and if you can’t see their faces, that provides some separation … Those people who do wear the veil should think about the implications for community relations.”
Carefully chosen alright! His choice of words belies his intentions, for he is accusing those who wear the veil of damaging community relations. Whatever one thinks of the veil, itself a symbol of male chauvinism and fear of female power rather than separation, the purpose of Straw’s comments is clear; to further demonise the Muslim community and to divert attention away from the fascist policies of the Blair regime.
The Blair policy: keep stoking the flames of prejudice and xenophobia lest the public catch on as to who the real enemy is.