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This man is dangerous: he thinks and speaks.

Richard Dawkins, a British scientist, author and academic has had a California radio station, Berkeley’s KPFA, cancel a book event they had sold tickets for citing Dawkins’s comments on Islam which they claim have “offended and hurt so many people”.  Dawkins was due to discuss his new work “Science in the soul: Selected writings of a passionate atheist”.

science in the soul

So, nowadays one can be de-platformed in America for being rude and offensive.  Well as Dawkins has been even more scurrilous as regards Christianity, it seems to mean if you insult Islam, then you will be closed down, shut out, and your book plug given the deep six.

KPFA received a few complaints from the eternally offended and their pals the religiously bloody minded, and who knows maybe fearful of a Charlie Hebdo they capitulated entirely.  Dear God in heaven in the city of The Free Speech Movement too!  Is this what America is becoming?  Craven?

Admittedly free speech has been, and will always be, a difficult sell to the average Mustapha in the Arab Street, because there is no concept in many Islamic countries of separating church and state. And it’s not a concept that your average Muslim will ever hear preached in the mosque, even if he lives in the West.  The average Muslim has little idea what “free speech” really means.  And despite living in the west there are many who refuse to take these concepts up.  But that does not mean we stop showing what it means.  Even if it doesn’t meet with their favour.

It is difficult to get the idea over that if a Western video “blaspheming” the prophet Mohammed, or making fun, like a cartoon, of entrenched dogma, is made by a private citizen, and then is played in public or on YouTube or Facebook or printed in a magazine like Charlie Hebdo or a newspaper it does not also automatically represent the views of the government of the country; because to the majority in the Arab street, governments have the power, and perhaps even more importantly the duty, to protect religion against attack.

Thus, if anyone in the West is seen to attack Islam, and the government does not stop this, then the government of the country must be approving of this anti-Muslim video.  This is obviously deeply offensive to traditional Islamists.

Now, of course, not all Muslims believe this, but a large uneducated element does. Remember these countries, like Egypt or Libya are not politically monolithic, there are great splits and factions at work there as in any country. There is an ongoing struggle for power. The televisual young people, who we all saw at the time of the “Arab Spring” as clean shaven, dressed in jeans and tee–shirts with unveiled girlfriends, speaking good English, were the educated westernised minority. Behind every one of these progressive city types, rises a vast number of his and her peasant, uneducated, illiterate, brethren. They have an absolute certainty in the nonsense of the existence of Djins, Angels and Houris, Ghouls and massive winged horses that carry prophets up to heaven.  Within this mass, there exist large forces who find western ideals of democracy, the entire concept of women’s rights, equal education for girls, health rights, abortion, support of homosexuals, utterly, utterly abhorrent.  Their leaders find the liberal thrust of the west threatening to their own positions and power; even as ordinary men fear it undermines their being petty pater familias of their own small domestic worlds. So their leaders will use a stupid film, or a silly cartoon, or a book that has ideas they don’t like, to whip up trouble and the resultant indignation of the masses for perceived insults against their founder Mohammed, to drive down the democratic impetus and entrench their own ultra-conservative views.  We forget just how revolutionary are the tenets of our West, votes and rights for women, freedom to marry whoever you want, equal justice for women, rights for homosexuals, freedom of religion, open speech and free discussion.  It is not simply the ultra-extreme of ISIS or Al-Kaida that house these views; even traditional Islam simply will not tolerate homosexuality, blasphemy, democracy (as opposed to theocracy), or women’s rights.  Even music is haram.  Western education especially is anathema.  These really terrify them. And that is why they seek to destroy them, to shut them down, to smother debate or discussion..

And if they cannot destroy, then to seek to establish within the West internal societies immune to contagion capable of being run to their own rules and laws.  Even better if they can persuade the public arena of the media to adopt their foolishness, and shut down debate, because they “take offense” to other people’s views of their fairy tales, and their particular sensitivity must be given special weight and significance.

Should this not work then they seek to win their internal arguments by displays of violence and aggression, as much to cow and awe their fellow religionists as to make a point to the USA, to Britain and to the whole liberalised west.  A West, which is seen by many as the supporter of the previous dictators in their countries as much as any kind of recent help in their struggle for freedom.

We cannot blame an academic even one as rude as Dawkin for being so offensive that Boko Haram’s needed to seize school girls and sell them into sexual slavery. It is entirely specious to say that those Islamists who recently so publicly hurled a homosexual man to his death from the top of a building were doing this because they were offended by the West. These acts, and their responsibility sit squarely with the growing adoption of a Fascist Islam that is sadly becoming so much the face of the whole religion.

And that is how we should read the events of the last few days.  The thin end of a very nasty wedge.

Being rude to the religious has no history in the Islamic world, and the West with her democratic principles and long fought for free(ish) speech, is a revolutionary force in this part of the world. The Western way of life way is seen by many (even those who now live here) as a complete upheaval in their world view.  But, America, and by extension the West, in the last decade has let down her good intentions of democracy and extension of human rights and sufferance, by their own foolish actions in becoming involved in wars which had no foundation of legality, assassinations in friendly or neutral countries, huge civilian losses of life in those wars and well publicised acts of tactless insensitivity.

But that does not mean we should not flinch from facing down at every turn, arrant nonsense, religious revisionism, attacks on minorities, women and gays.  We cannot afford to have ideas blanked simply because one group or another claims the defence of being offended.  We must remain open, to those who are awkward and uncomfortable as well as the smooth and compliant.  We must never condone attacks on our values even if it does mean that we are rude to the religious.

Copyright David Macadam 2017