Monday, 29 December 2014

So What Do You Base Your Opinions On?

Christmas is often a time to meet distant relatives and exchange views. Such was the case for me this Christmas when I had a occasion to speak to a rather smug and ignorant relative about Islam. So ignorant was he and so full of certainty that it was difficult to know where to begin. It was as if he had soaked up every cosy media homily about the real nature of Islam and regurgitated them without question.

What can we do when confronted by people of this type?

A recent post at New English Review gave me an idea. The post describes an interview between retired Hebrew University Professor of Islamic and East Asian History, Raphi Israel, and radio personality Tali Lipkin-Shahak. During the interview the familiar gap between the knowledgeable and the ignorant emerges; the difference between knowledge and ignorance with which all those who have studied Islam now carry like an historic responsibility. The original article was written by Dror Eydar in Israel Hayom.

"On Monday, radio personality Tali Lipkin-Shahak interviewed Professor Israeli. It wasn't the interview that was notable, but the style in which it was conducted -- a style shared particularly by many Israeli journalists and Western journalists in general. "You were ahead of your time," she said to him. Israeli replied that he had been investigating the Muslim "diaspora" in Western countries for over a decade, and that in that time the Muslim population has grown to alarming proportions.
"But why do you attribute violent intentions to the immigration process?" the interviewer asked him. "Joseph also immigrated to Egypt," she remarked, evoking the Book of Genesis.
True, the professor answered, remarking that he had written five books on the subject, "but Joseph's family had not proclaimed that it planned to conquer Egypt or to convert Egypt to become Israelite."
"The Muslims explicitly say that they did not come to Europe in order to become European, but to Islamise Europe." They have vowed that a Muslim flag will wave over 10 Downing Street in England and over Versailles Palace in France within 25 years, he explained.
Lipkin-Shahak then said that "one can always [always!] talk about those people in terms of a negligible, extremist minority, including the terrorist attackers." Even ISIS, she said, "has no more than several thousand members."
Israeli insisted that these atrocities are nothing new. In the past, Muslims who immigrated to Australia, Scandinavia and Germany, as well as other places, have perpetrated very serious attacks.
The overly concerned interviewers rushed to protect the ears of her tender listeners, saying "I have to be the one to tone things down, or at least present the opposing view," she said. "What you are saying, it is very serious. You are vilifying an entire population; you are contributing to the process of hatred and counter-hatred, which only causes harm and intensifies the violence."
Israeli was not surprised. "That is exactly what they told me in Australia, until they became the victims of a catastrophe…This is my job. Anyone who wants to listen can listen. Anyone who doesn't, they can wait for the next catastrophe."
Lipkin-Shahak stuck to her guns: "We listened, but we voiced a sceptical opinion. We disagree."
"What are you basing your opinion on?" Israeli wondered in desperation. "I am basing my opinion on thirty years of research, studying Islam, and you are basing yours on a trend, on the fact that it is not nice to say these things. We are talking on two completely different planes."
To which Eydar observed:
Indeed, two completely different worlds. Facts versus beliefs. Reality versus fantasy. Make love not war; imagine there's no countries and no religion too. A very special kind of liberal fundamentalism. The moment the truth comes knocking, they retreat into their politically correct shells and refuse to recognise the facts. There is no such thing as Muslim terrorism. The terrorists come from outer space. Islam is a religion of peace and we mustn't link it to all these terrible acts perpetrated in its name. Sadly, the people who think this way -- the politically correct -- have the microphone. The researcher with the facts is only a momentary guest."

Israeli's question is crucial: What are you basing your opinion on? This is the question we should ask our interlocutors. Next time you get into one of these discussions, allow your the person to offer all his ill-informed, assumption-laden opinions. Rather than trying to counter them, draw him out in order to make a retreat impossible.

Then, pose the question: What are you basing your opinion on? Perhaps he will feel the gulf of ignorance opening up beneath him and will find the motivation to actually learn something about Islam and its core teachings and the actions of its prophet. Perhaps the opportunity will arise to point out how little evidence there is for the opinions he holds and that he has never bothered to seek it out but merely assumed it was there.

A supplementary question might be: have you read any of the foundational texts of Islam?

This experience could just provoke a learning opportunity where any attempt to counter the opinions of which he is already so certain will fail.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

IS, Islam, and Obedience

In the aftermath of WWII people began to ask how the perpetrators of atrocities such as those who ran the Nazi death camps were not restrained by conscience.

Nazis shooting Jews 
One explanation put forward was the “Germans are different” hypothesis. This suggested that Hitler was only able to put his evil plans into operation because Germans had a basic character defect which meant they tended to obey orders without question, regardless of the acts demanded of them.

For the purposes of psychological research, obedience is defined as doing what one is told to do by someone else. In real life, this usually works in conjunction with conformity where the example of others and social pressure also drive behaviour.

Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University, set out to test the “Germans are different” hypothesis. He set up an experiment in which subjects were told that they were studying the effects of punishment on learning.

The "learner" is connected to the electrodes

When the subjects were taken into the experimental situation they were met by a man in a laboratory coat who introduced himself as Jack Williams, the experimenter. Also present was a Mr Wallace, supposedly another subject, in his late fifties, an accountant.

The subject and Mr Wallace were told that for the purpose of the experiment one of them would be the teacher and the other the learner. Their roles were determined by drawing pieces of paper from a hat. In fact both pieces had “teacher” written on them. Mr Wallace (actually an accomplice of Milgram) always went first and called out “learner” so the true subject was always the teacher.

They all went into an adjoining room where the learner (Mr Wallace) was strapped into a chair with his arms attached to electrodes which would deliver a shock from a shock generator situated in an adjacent room. The subject (teacher) was given a 45 volt shock to convince him that the voltage was real.

The machine had the appearance of being able to deliver a range of shocks from “slight” (15-60 volts) all the way to “danger: severe shock” and “XXX” (450 volts).

The teacher had to read out a series of word pairs (e.g. Blue-girl) and then the first of one pair followed by five words, one of which was the original paired word. The learner had to press a switch to indicate which word belonged to the original pair. This showed up on a light panel in the teacher’s room.

Each time the learner made a mistake, the teacher had to deliver a shock, and each successive mistake was punished by a shock 15 volts higher than the one before.

In response to the shocks, the learner made progressively louder and more anguished groans of pain. At 315 volts he let out a violent scream, protesting that he was no longer willing to participate. After 330 volts there was ominous silence.

So, how many people in Milgram’s study were prepared to take follow orders into the danger zone?

65% of subjects continued to give shocks to 450 volts - beyond the danger level. All subjects continued to 300 volts.

Of course, it was all faked but the subjects believed they were giving electric shocks. Just in case you’re sceptical: many ‘teachers’ showed intense anguish, laughed nervously, twitched and grimaced; three ‘teachers’ had violent seizures.

When the subjects hesitated or questioned the experimenter, Milgram offered the following prompts:

  1. ‘Please continue’ or ‘Please go on’
  2. ‘The experiment requires you to continue’
  3. ‘It’s absolutely essential that you continue’
  4. ‘You have no other choice, you must go on’

Why did people obey?

Whilst being told what to do, we can argue that what we are doing is not our responsibility. As Milgram stood beside them and insisted they continue, they assumed he knew what he was doing and who were they to argue with a psychologist?

However, there was clearly for many an intense conflict between what they were being told to do and what their conscience was saying, and indeed how they felt about hurting someone.

In this type of situation, people will often enter what‘s known as the ‘agentic state’; that is, a mental state in which they exonerate themselves from all responsibility by submitting themselves totally to the authority figure and doing his/her bidding. “I was only following orders.”

Milgram summed up his findings in this way: “A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority.” (Milgram, Obedience to Authority, 1974)

Summarised from Richard Gross “Psychology: The Study of Mind and Behaviour

So, given Milgram’s conclusion above, what happens when the authority is believed to be the ultimate authority – God?

Within Islam, the chain of command is Allah > Muhammad > Muslims. Between Muhammad and Muslims there are a series of intermediaries in the form of scholars, clerics, writers of commentaries (Ibn Kaldun), Sharia jurists, mullahs, imams etc, who articulate what the ‘orders’ are.

The Koran can be read by anyone and, contrary to what some Muslims say, verses generally mean what they appear to mean and are taken to have those meanings by ‘radical’ Muslims (that is Muslims who go back to the roots – the roots being Muhammad (the Sunna ) and the Koran.).

The Koran contains hundreds of instructions, both plain and oblique, to believe. Read it and you’ll see it over and over again. Many verses begin with, “Oh ye who believe!”; warnings for those who fail to believe are abundant; the rewards for those who do believe equally so. This theme is endlessly repeated.

To command belief is to command a form of obedience. This is the first act of obedience in Islam. The failure to believe (kufr) is one of the worst sins in Islam.

Those who do not believe are denigrated and despised. The central dynamic of Islam is for believers to attack and subjugate non-believers.

9:29 Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

9:5 And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

9:14 Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands and will disgrace them and give you victory over them and satisfy the breasts of a believing people.

The first act of obedience is encapsulated in the saying of the shahada: there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.

Upon this premise further claims to obedience are built.

64:12 So obey Allah, and obey His Messenger: but if ye turn back, the duty of Our Messenger is but to proclaim (the Message) clearly and openly

8:24: O you who believe! Answer Allah (by obeying Him) and As His Messenger (obeying him) when he calls you to that which will give you life.

9:24 And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.

The following verse commands that what the believer does not like must still be followed. Even those acts which would arouse moral revulsion in a morally healthy person should be carried out.

2:216 Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not.

IS shooting captives
Mark Durie reports an account of an ex-Salafi from Egypt who told him that a great deal of effort is expended getting believers to do things they find repulsive, thereby erasing their natural conscience.

The psychological study of obedience has also found that people suppress their consciences when obeying instructions that they would otherwise reject on moral grounds. They abdicate personal responsibility.

Having submitted to the first act of obedience and committed to the proposition that Islam is the true religion, the believer finds himself in the position of determining what he must do. The whole edifice of Islamic scripture and the example of Muhammad supplies the answers. The believer must obey these instructions as he has committed to the premise that they are God’s instructions, otherwise he ceases to be a believer and is deemed to be an apostate. There are also clear instructions for the believers on what to do with apostates: “Whoever leaves his Islamic religion, kill him.” Bukhari 9.84.57 

Commands to kill are very common in Islam.

Unlike Milgram’s subjects, Islamic believers are under pain of death to believe and therefore comply with the instructions given. The parallels with Nazi Germany are obvious. If anything, Nazi Germany was less totalitarian than Islam.

Where Milgram prompted his subjects with a gentle, “Please continue” or “You have no other choice, you must go on”, Islam has the full weight of God and accusations of apostasy for non-compliance. The common tendency among all of us to follow the orders of authority figures is greatly amplified in Islam where the religion and the cultures dominated by it are heavily authoritarian.

Muslims are brought up in an environment where there is no alternative to Islam – only persecution and death. Non-Muslims are generally vilified and instances of persecution are common. How does a person wrest themselves from such a state of submission and obedience?

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of the current situation in Iraq and Syria is the fact that millions of Muslims are actually drawn to Islamic State rather than repelled by what is being done. Apart from psycho-pathological reasons, the explanation for this is that Islamic State are fulfilling Allah’s will. They believe (and their scriptures and imams given them every reason to believe) that what Islamic State is doing is the will of Allah and they too wish to obey his will. To do otherwise is disobedient.

Such people must be well down the road of erasing their conscience in full submission to Islamic authority. The beheading of four Christian children in Baghdad is all the evidence one needs to realise that these devout followers of Islam have jettisoned their consciences in favour of obedience to Allah’s will. To become a mindless instrument of His will is after all the goal of Muslim devotion.

In summary, Islam builds on a common human tendency to obey authority. Muhammad claimed to have the authority of God. He instituted a religion in which submission and obedience are key. The obedience demanded of Muslims by Islam conditions them to erase their conscience and submit to instructions to kill, persecute and dominate.

We must always count on the obedience of Muslims to the doctrines of Islam because the doctrines of Islam are principally about obedience. That which should not be done and that which must be done are defined down to the tiniest detail.

Unless Muslims are prepared to abandon Islam and thereby reject that first obedience, we must assume that they will “follow orders” when the time comes.


It is perhaps those four brave children from Baghdad who have shown us what is needed. Faced with the demand to submit to Allah or face a gruesome and cruel death, these four brave souls responded with, “no, we love Yesua; we have always loved Yesua; we have always followed Yesua; Yesua has always been with us”. They thereby demonstrated both great love and great courage. It is these qualities that we all need. They don’t have to be expressed in a Christian context but they do have to be expressed.

They are the qualities which distinguish those who are faithful to their humanity from those who are not; the qualities needed to rise above obedience and submission.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

It's official: Muhammad committed war crimes

Today the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria published its findings on the atrocities committed by Islamic State. They have published a paper called "Rule of Terror:Living Under ISIS in Syria" which documents the ISIS tactics of killing, rape, enslavement, and sexual slavery. It defines these as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Anyone with a reasonable knowledge of Muhammad's life will know the following account: 

In March 627 AD, the tribe known as the Banu Qurayzah were besieged and isolated by their Muslim attackers led by Muhammad. They twice offered to leave their stronghold but Muhammad refused their request. He insisted they surrender unconditionally and subject themselves to his judgement. Compelled to surrender, the Qurayzah were led to Medina. A third (and final) appeal for leniency was made to Muhammad by their tribal allies, the Aus. Again Muhammad refused. Instead he orchestrated a sentence of death to be placed on the Banu Qurayzah by appointing a man with a grudge against them to pass judgement.

About 800 men were led to trenches dug in the Market of Medina and there they were beheaded, their decapitated bodies buried in the trenches while Muhammad watched. Male youths who had not reached puberty were spared. Women and children were sold into slavery, some being distributed as gifts among Muhammad’s companions. Muhammad himself took the most beautiful as his sex slave. [1] [2] [3]


A Chechen jihadist, Abu Muhammad Ar-Rusi, has recently justified the behaviour of IS with reference to this exact same event. 

The logic is therefore perfectly clear:
  1. The UN body defines these acts [mass executions, sexual slavery, rape, and enslavement] as war crimes and crimes against humanity;
  2. Muhammad committed exactly these acts;
  3. Therefore Muhammad committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.


[1] The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, translator, (Oxford University Press, 1955) pp. 468-469

[2] For an overview of the literature: http://www.hirhome.com/islam/art.htm

[3] The Quran refers obliquely to the massacre: "And those of the People of the Book who aided them - Allah did take them down from their strongholds and cast terror into their hearts. (So that) some ye slew, and some ye made prisoners" (Quran 33:26). And Muhammad again delivered revelations ascribing victory to Allah alone (Quran 33:9-11)

See Robert Spencer: The Truth about Muhammad pp.130-131

Saturday, 15 November 2014

While Israel creates...

While Israel creates the first e-story books with sign-language,
Nigerian Muslim leader accuses Israel of school bombings;

As Israel creates the first global social network for doctors,
ISIS urges Muslims to bring about global volcanoes of jihad;

While Israel becomes a world leader in satellite technology,
Ansar Jerusalem beheads four Egyptians accused of being Israeli spies;

As Israel revolutionises the monitoring of premature babies,
Norwegians ban Jews from attending commemoration of Kristallnacht;

While Israel invents a t-shirt that can monitor your heart,
Palestinians celebrate rocket attacks on Jerusalem;

As Israel reinvents the wheel to make wheelchairs shockproof,
Iranian ayatollah tweets for the annihilation of Israel;

While Israel creates an anti-viral fabric that can protect against Ebola,
Polio vaccination teams are under attack in Pakistan;

As Israel invents eleven new treatments for wounds,
Anti-Israel protestors vandalise Istanbul synagogue;

While Israel develops gentler techniques to combat cancer,
Another Israeli woman falls victim to jihad knife attack;

As Israeli zoo saves rhino's sight with unique mask,
Jihadists in Kenya gouge the eyes of captives in mall attack;

While Israeli city competes to become cyber capital of the world,
Israeli Imam says Jerusalem will be capital of world Caliphate;

While Israel creates, much of the world hates...


With deeply felt gratitude to Pamela Geller for being an indomitable champion of freedom and sanity.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Fossilised Paradigm of the International Elite

Thomas Kuhn in his classic work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions showed that changes in the dominant framework of scientific thinking did not occur gradually in step with the experimental evidence. It was not a purely rational process in which theoretical models are abandoned in favour of more comprehensive theories with greater explanatory power. Evidence that runs counter to the dominant theory or paradigm is often discounted or treated with scepticism. The paradigm proves very resistant to change in many cases. Only when the contrary evidence becomes overwhelming is the paradigm eventually discarded or modified to fit the new data or take of account of new insights.

One of the best known cases is the Aristotelian model of the universe which dominated astronomical thinking for 1500 years. Its dominance was based in large measure on the philosophical authority of Plato and Aristotle; it was heretical to challenge it for many centuries and Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for arguing that the universe was infinite and thus had no celestial body at its centre, an idea that ran counter to the fixed universe of the Aristotelians and the Church which placed the Earth at the centre of everything. It is the few that pioneer the change in thinking. The mass of people resist to the end. See Refusing Galileo's Telescope.

This dominance was finally broken when observable discrepancies to the model became too great to ignore and there was a theory in place that could explain the motion of the planets far better, that of Johannes Kepler. Once the revolution in thinking began, the momentum was unstoppable and a new paradigm took its place, the Newtonian model.

A similar situation prevails today in the fossilised thinking of the international elite with regard to Islam. Anyone with the necessary courage and clarity of mind can study the system of ideas at the heart of Islam and recognise that the subjugation of non-believers is central to the religion; that a religion based on the character and deeds of Muhammad must inevitably be a predatory one.

But analysts who are highly paid to study and understand the causes of international conflict are stuck in an outmoded paradigm which does not account for the predatory dynamism of Islam and the lethal effects that this has. Apparently incapable of the leap of imagination necessary to move from the old paradigm to one that offers a better understanding of the facts, they reiterate the same stale explanations and offer the same failed "solutions".

Ignoring evidence that contradicts the model and more than happy to rely on received assumptions instead of research, they defend their position with intellectually lazy attacks on those pointing out the failings. They often substitute what they want to see for the reality that is actually there. For example, when Tony Blair said of the Koran, "What's so remarkable about the Koran is how progressive it is.", he was injecting his own world view into a book that is totally regressive, not progressive.

In the article below, Robert Spencer dissects the moribund thinking of the Brookings Institute. It appears that even the theologically based savagery of IS has been unable to break up the fossilised paradigm of the august body.

Brookings Institute presents the failed analysis of the past yet again.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The tenacity of personal worldviews

One really has to marvel at the tenacity of personal world views.

Daniel Greenfield looks at the story of Theo Padnos at FrontPageMag in which the naive Mr Padnos falls captive to various jihadist outfits in Syria and is introduced to attitudes very different to his own. In spite of this he finds it very difficult to alter his world view.

Without the understanding that Islam is a completely different world view that has a completely different philosophical centre to the liberal/Western world view, it's very hard to make sense of the way Muslims behave; Islam's very divergence from Western/liberal norms makes it hugely difficult for committed liberals to see it for what it is; to do this would require them to recognise that the values they hold dear (like equality; non-discrimination; respect for difference) are not shared by Islam (I'll state it this way because one does not know how committed or conversant with Islam individual Muslims are), in fact they are haram (forbidden).

 Muslims will of course try to portray Islam as the religion that championed equality, tolerance and diversity centuries before anyone else but this is pure sales pitch for Western liberals. Muslims were certainly not interested in presenting Islam in this way until they came to infiltrate Western liberal societies. This very divergence from Western liberal world views actually protects Islam because people tend not to believe any religion could be so antithetical to what they expect of a religion,

Lacking the understanding of Islam's prime imperative liberals look for explanations of Muslim behaviour in terms of alienation, poverty, inequality, and oppression, all of which are categories that are important in the liberal world view but not to Islam. Islam has to be understood in its own terms. Muhammad is the centre of the whole system, the reference point for everything else. The system is an elaborated code of life based on what Muhammad said and did. The prime imperative of the system, which is in many respects an extension through time and space of Muhammad's character, is self-expansion. A system always expands at the expense of its environment. Islam is no different. It's raison d'etre is to keep expanding. That which is not Islam is despicable, disposable, and only fit to be devoured by the system. Islam exists to take the place of all that is not Islam. The means of achieving this is through jihad in its many forms.

Once this insight is gained, Islam is properly understood as an organismic entity driven towards self-expansion. The enmity to outsiders; the deception; the creed of pseudo-martyrdom; the rewards offered for sacrificing one's life to the system; the slavish obedience to anti-human codes of conduct, etc,, all these make sense once one abandons liberal preconceptions and respects the differences. This attitude is a true embodiment of respect for diversity (not thoughtless acceptance of it).

Surely liberals should be far less closed in their thinking; taking a more scientific view in which the current truth is only provisional; something to be displaced by a more comprehensive understanding which accounts better for the observable facts and which in turn helps to interpret those facts.


Monday, 10 November 2014

Do not be cowed

Take a look at the first video which features an interview between Jamie Glazov and Mark Durie. During the course of the interview Jamie asks Mark about his views on the effects that Islamic encroachment, intimidation, and bullying are having on non-Muslims. Mark points out that some of us are unable to face the threat because we can't see a solution. He looks at the physiological effects of this stress situation on our bodies and our psychological condition. Whilst listening to the video take particular note of what he says about this and the visceral level at which it affects us. From the basic hormonal level of each one of us to the craven submission of entire nations towards their Muslim minorities, the toxic relationship between Islam and non-Muslims is being played out.

Here is the first video:


When you have had a chance to reflect on the messages in the first video, have a look at the second.

Amy Cuddy is a professor of psychology at Harvard. She has studied the effects of body language on our mental state. Our bodies affect how we feel. If we look up rather than down we configure a more positive biochemical environment in our bodies. (Yes, it really is that simple) This makes us feel better. It makes us feel more assertive, more hopeful, and less cowed.

Here is the second video:


What Amy Cuddy says here has far-reaching implications. Mental habits and visceral responses are notoriously difficult to counteract. But through the use of body language that is non-submissive and empowering we have a very significant counter-measure to Islamic bullying and domination. By adopting one posture rather than another we can alter the balance of testosterone and cortisol in our bodies. The psychological environment that this creates helps us to win instead of lose; to be assertive instead of fearful; to be straight instead of cowed.

As she points out in the presentation, small tweaks lead to BIG CHANGES. We can use this to our advantage to help us overcome the difficulties so well articulated by the wonderful Mark Durie.

As a footnote, have you ever noticed how Islamic clothing gives Muslims a greater physical presence? Because their clothing is typically loose and gown-like they tend to cut larger physical figures. The amount of social space they take up is generally greater than a person dressed in more Western style clothing. This may affect the way we perceive them as in some sense larger and more dominant than ourselves.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Progressives are victims of their own fallacies

Progressives are the victims of their own fallacies. They think criticism of Islam is an attack on Muslims.

[this shows a failure to discriminate between ideas and people; Muslims might benefit from abandoning Islam]

This hostility is explained as racism.

[this is category confusion - they appear unable to distinguish a belief system from a race]

They don't want to be racist.

[racism is now a loosely defined term for any hostility towards another group. Might the persecuted Yazidis and Christians of Iraq feel hostility towards Islam and Muslims? Are they therefore being racist?]

Progressives don't want to be racist so they avoid criticism of Islam and attack those who do as racists. It's a self--perpetuating cycle of confusion and ignorance. Progressives like to think of themselves as more socially enlightened. They are not. They are victims of the fallacies they perpetuate.

I'm ever on the lookout for antidotes to progressive woolly-mindedness and I think I've found a particularly good one.

Canan Arin is a Turkish lawyer and women's rights activist. As a lifelong campaigner for women's rights, a woman, and a Turk it is difficult for progressives to dismiss what she says as either racism or bigotry, which is what they like to do as soon as they hear criticism of Islam. This is another of the fallacies they fall victim to: the idea that a person they disapprove of can say nothing that is true.

The author of the article (Uzay Bulut) also points out that those unwilling to criticize Islam are simultaneously surrendering millions of women to a misogynistic culture, a culture rooted in Islam, a culture dominated by Islam for wherever Islam holds sway it dominates totally.

I think as many progressives as possible should be exposed to what she says. She is extremely articulate and makes superb points, taking on some of the cliched responses that progressives typically give during discussions about Islam and Muslims.

Here it is:

The West's Dangerous Enchantment with Islam

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Primacy of Guilty Feelings

It comes up again and again. It surfaces in thousands of articles, dramas, speeches, sermons; in millions of conversations and prayers: we are responsible; we are guilty.

The West carries a presumption of guilt. Whence comes this presumption? I was speaking to a committed Christian just recently and he assured me that the doctrine of Original Sin is alive and well within the body of Christ – His church. He even described it as the “guilty gene” as something intrinsic to our nature.

Christianity has made a virtue out of thinking ill of oneself; it has taught us to see ourselves first and foremost as sinners who have the opportunity to find redemption through Jesus. This teaching has engendered a widespread inclination in Christian civilisation to see the acknowledgement of guilt and sin as the foundation of morality: to be moral is to be aware of one’s fallen state; the more moral you are the more you are aware of your failings.

There is a way out. The Christian can acknowledge his inherent sinfulness, seek repentance, and seek salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus. It’s a mind-boggling doctrine but there is a way.

The idea that we are fundamentally sinful and guilty has been part of our culture for at least 2000 years. Are we to suppose that it has left no impression? Surely not. I see it surfacing again and again. In conversations with the politically correct and well-meaning it breathes like an undying assumption.

One facet of political correctness is the notion that we owe a debt to certain groups of people: those who can be seen as the victims of past and present imperialism.

In a peculiar twist of reasoning we are deemed responsible, guilty, of things done by our ancient forebears long before we were born. This guilt is not personal, it is collective. We all share it and yet it belongs to no-one in particular. There is no way to finally redeem oneself from this guilt; it is simply there as an ever-present legacy of the past. We are guilty by virtue of our membership of one group rather than another, regardless of our personal conduct. Conversely, those belonging to victim groups are wholly innocent and cannot be held accountable for anything. They are pure victims and to suggest otherwise is oppressive.

We see this tendency expressed in the never-ending apologising of the West, in the obligations felt towards the Third World, even towards that nest of imperial vipers known as the “Muslim World”. In fact this nest of vipers has learned how to play on this tendency very skilfully.

There is no escape from this guilt or its obligations because it is collective and impersonal.

We have been taught to examine our behaviour from an early age and some of this is a healthy form of taking responsibility for our actions. This is quite different to the impersonal guilt of the collective.

The tendency to attribute guilt to the “we” often has the effect of absolving the “they” or the “other” of any guilt or responsibility. To suggest “they” bear any responsibility would be to undermine their status as pure victims.

We saw an example of this recently when the odious George Galloway said in the British Parliament that we were to blame for British Muslims going to fight for ISIS because we had not been good enough to them. Unfortunately this way of thinking, even if not articulated so clearly, is very prevalent in the West, particularly on the Left.

This phenomenon is sometimes given the label “white guilt”. This is indeed an aspect of it. However, the prefix “white” implies a mainly racial dimension as if it applies to the treatment of non-white peoples. The phenomenon is actually far more general than this and underlies the sense of obligation towards any group that can be defined as “other” or “not we”.

Repentance is a major theme in Western culture. Within Christianity repentance is a key element of salvation. Indeed, one can see in psychological terms that there can be little possibility of personal change unless there is a willingness to acknowledge where one has previously gone wrong. Through repentance we achieve forgiveness in the sight of God. God loves a repentant sinner most of all.

But in the collectivised guilt of the politically correct how is one to repent? No personal wrong has been done to any particular person so reconciliation cannot be sought there. Repentance thus tends to take the form of taking the side of the “other” of showing solidarity with the right victim groups or of doing endless penance through endless accommodation. By identifying with “pure victims” guilt-ridden westerners can associate themselves with their guiltlessness.

The “Palestinians” spring immediately to mind in this context because they have been elevated to the world’s pre-eminent victim group and all that this implies: unaccountability and guiltlessness. Those Westerners who are fully signed up to the collective guilt paradigm enjoy any opportunity to share in the “suffering” of the Palestinians. An especially egregious example of this solidarity was shown in the placards bearing the slogans “We are all Hezbollah” and “We are all Hamas”.

One approach to explaining the psychology of this behaviour is to acknowledge the primacy of emotion in the mind. Jonathan Haidt describes the reasoning part of the mind as a rider on a much larger animal mind which he likens to an elephant. The elephant represents all the automated responses of the mind: urges, feelings, snap judgements, pre-conscious perceptions and so on which provide so much psychological momentum.

The reasoning part of the mind can forward plan and guide to some extent but the elephant, in any given moment, has generally already decided which way to turn and takes the rider with him. The reasoning mind then provides the rational justification for moving in that direction, of adopting that stance. What this means is that we will find explanations for our behaviour that match the feeling-state we have.

If our feeling-state has a large measure of guilt, as many Westerners do, we will provide explanations which are consonant with that guilt. As Westerners many of us are riders of guilt-ridden elephants. We are experts at finding justifications for these guilty feelings. They have become tenacious aspects of our “nature” and culture.

The guilty feelings are there as primary mental facts. The rational mind has to account for them and does so by means of thinking up spurious notions of collective guilt.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Explaining the Left’s moral blindness with regard to Israel


The image always has the last word [1]

In his book, The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt introduces the concepts of Moral Foundations psychology. Moral foundations psychology studies the moral frameworks our minds appear to have built into them. These frameworks are what lead us to see the events around us in a moral way. This means, for example, that instead of simply seeing a strong person abusing a weak and vulnerable person we experience feelings of offence, emotional intuitions which arouse anger towards the bully and pity towards the victim. This is what gives us a sense that a bully is ‘in the wrong’ and should be stopped, reprimanded, and possibly punished. It is this that gives us the sense that people should not behave in this way. These moral foundations have evolved during the course of human evolution and form the basis of all our moral thinking and moral codes. Different moral codes emphasise the different moral foundations in slightly different ways but they are all built using the same basic components.

Six moral foundations have been identified so far. They are expressed as pairs of opposites which define a specific dimension of morality. They are:

  • Care/Harm
  • Fairness/Cheating
  • Liberty/Oppression
  • Authority/Subversion
  • Loyalty/Betrayal
  • Sanctity/Degradation
I’ve examined these dimensions in more detail here. I want to focus on the two which are most relevant to the political left: Care/Harm and Liberty/Oppression.

As discussed in my previous post, Care/Harm and Liberty/Oppression are given particular emphasis by those on the political left. You can see this reflected in their political aims: concern for the weak and vulnerable; the desire for greater political and economic equality; the protection of various minority groups from discrimination; a distrust of those in power and a desire to reduce power differences.

(I would be the first to agree that left-wing policies often have the effect of disempowering the weak but the moral aspiration is our concern here not the actual outcomes.)

The Care/Harm foundation is the basis of our outrage at the sight of cruelty and persecution. We feel motivated to protest against the suffering of others and we feel hostility towards those causing it. From this foundation springs our opposition to torture, the exploitation of children (sexual and otherwise), and our tendency to run to the defence of the defenceless.

Caring for the young is beneficial for survival and genes associated with this behaviour have a better chance of being transmitted to the next generation. The original trigger for the Care/Harm response was a child in distress or danger. The original trigger then became associated with other subjects. For example, many more people are sensitised to the suffering of animals and see it as morally wrong to be cruel to them than was the case 100 years ago.

The triggers for these responses are susceptible to cultural variation, both between cultures and within the same culture over time. The extent to which individuals within societies experience these responses varies too.

We can see that the Care/Harm foundation is active in the politics of the left in their concern for the poor. The poor suffer higher levels of just about all social ills: poorer health, lower life expectancy, higher levels of mental illness, drug addiction, alcoholism, child abuse, etc. All these are manifestations of suffering and elicit the duty of care in the left (generally by spending other people’s money).

This also underlies the tendency of the left to take the side of the perceived victims and to see the poor as the victims of circumstance. Their poverty is never understood as the result of their poor decisions. They are also very uncomfortable with the idea that the poor reach their natural position within the social order according to their level of innate ability.

The Liberty/Oppression foundation is most clearly seen when people unite to take collective action against a bully or tyrant. A sense of righteous anger is often the driving force for corrective action against a powerful person or group that is seen to be too dominant over others.

Moral foundations theory accounts for this reaction in the following way:
Humans, like our primate forebears, are naturally adapted to living in hierarchies and have learned how to navigate successfully through relationships of dominance and submission. However, the archaeological evidence shows that our ancestors lived as bands of mobile hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years. Hunter-gatherer societies are egalitarian.

Hierarchical societies become widespread later once agriculture develops. Private property and the accumulation of wealth lead to inequalities of power. So, are we natural egalitarians trapped in hierarchical social structures?

No we aren’t. The anthropologist Christopher Boehm has studied tribal cultures and also chimpanzees. He was struck by the remarkable similarities in the way humans and chimpanzees display dominance and submission.[2] We are wired for hierarchy. He suggests that at some point in the last half a million years we underwent a political transition whereby dominant Alpha males were taken down through collective rebellion. These mechanisms allowed our ancestors to maintain egalitarian groups.

By doing this, we created the first moral communities in which violations of group principles (that no individual should bully others and hog resources) were punished by ostracism or death. These changes were facilitated by the development of language and weapons. The first giving the group the means to communicate disgruntlement and plot the overthrow of the bullying Alpha male; the second, giving the means for weaker opponents to attack him.

This foundation is expressed in situations where justice is seen to be served by groups of weaker individuals uniting to overthrow a dominant group or individual. People still retain the tendency to dominate others when they can get away with it but we also have the desire for a more equal distribution of power and resources when we are the underdog.

As Jonathon Haidt says, “The hatred of oppression is found on both sides of the political spectrum. The difference seems to be that for liberals−who are more universalistic and who rely more heavily upon the Care/Harm foundation−the Liberty/Oppression foundation is employed in the service of underdogs, victims, and powerless groups everywhere.” [3]

Perception and Reality

In an previous post I looked at the selective and interpretive nature of perception. From all the information arriving in our senses our brains create the interpretation that we treat as reality. This doesn’t mean that what we see is a fiction. What it does mean is that ‘reality’ is skewed and coloured by a whole range of factors including emotion, memory, selective attention, expectations, assumptions, and so on. The internal representation is an approximation to reality. Some approximations are better than others. Some are outright distortions.

This must be even truer when the reality we are trying to understand is hard to apprehend, highly complex, hotly contested, and covers a long period of time. Such is the case with respect to Israel and the history of the Jews. Much of what we ‘see’ as we try to understand the reality is held in our imagination. As such it is affected just as much, if not more, by all those factors listed above which are skewing and colouring the representation that we hold.

The Liberty/Oppression framework is applied by the Left to Israel and the Palestinians with Israel cast as the bullying Alpha male. This model is sustained by focusing on Israel’s strength relative to the angry mobs of Gaza and the West Bank; on Israel’s ability to hit back hard when provoked. It is also maintained by focusing on the unequal number of casualties on each side and ignoring the fact that whereas Israel seeks to protect its citizens (and that is why it is fighting in the first place), Hamas puts its people in harm’s way because this helps to reinforce the view that Israel is an oppressive bully.

The mental models that people hold are also sustained by filtering out information. This is particularly the case with morally charged models: they are not tested against the full range of facts in an objective way but rather facts and the interpretation of events are selected in order to sustain the model. The result is then paraded as the truth.

We should all recognize in ourselves the tendency to avoid information that conflicts with our viewpoint (internal models). We should also recognize that we find it harder to remember information which conflicts with our viewpoint. The internal model organizes our response to a particular subject and when the subject is highly charged and controversial this organising is particularly vigorous, having a strong tendency to discard information that conflicts with the model.

We usually enjoy information (however unpleasant in itself) which confirms our model of reality. We dislike information that is dissonant. Dissonant information is more likely to be questioned, distorted, avoided, or forgotten.

Moral foundations form part of the mental architecture that organises our perception of reality and the internal representation of it that we build and maintain. In the case of Israel and the Left, the dominant moral foundations of the Left are very active in forming their perception and internal representation of Israel’s relationship to the Palestinians and the Middle East as a whole. They act like a template which forces information to conform to a predetermined pattern or narrative. Information which conflicts with the template is blocked; that which conforms is endlessly rehearsed.

Within the framework of this template, Israel is cast as the stronger opponent while the pitiful Palestinians take the role of plucky victims standing up to the Alpha male. They take on the mantle of virtue in the face of oppression, only wanting to live in peace and freedom, while Israel is the ironclad monster that dominates and terrorises, taking more than its fair share of resources and trapping the Palestinians in misery and poverty.

Seen in these terms, the Left then justifies terrorism as the “weapon of the dispossessed”, an understandable recourse for those in an intolerable situation. Glowing with feelings of identification with the oppressed they then rehearse their endless slogans in solidarity with the enemies of Israel.

What we must remember is that this application of the Liberty/Oppression framework is relatively new; the mental structure underlying the framework is as old as mankind.

David and Goliath

Whist writing this article I came across a review by Daniel Greenfield of a new book by Joshua Muravchik called Making David into Goliath: How the world turned against Israel. This sets out how Israel has come to be cast as the bullying Alpha male in this conflict, how it is deemed by the Left to be the oppressor and not the victim of persecution.

The story of David and Goliath is a great metaphor for the Liberty/Oppression foundation and the perceptual template derived from it. It even includes a long range weapon being used to bring down a stronger opponent. I can just imagine Hamas rockets being romanticised in the same manner. The youths throwing stones at Israeli tanks certainly fit the pattern.

The turning point in the West’s (but particularly the Left’s) attitude towards Israel was the Six Day War of 1967. Until this time Israel had been something of a darling for the international Left: it was democratic, liberal, egalitarian and communal, all neatly encapsulated in the kibbutzim movement.

It previous conflicts with the Arab states surrounding it Israel had looked like David fending off Goliath but the very swiftness and decisiveness of its victory in 1967 provided the seed for a new approach by the Arabs.

Incapable of destroying Israel by brute force the era of Palestinianism began - meaning the presentation of the Palestinians as the hapless victims of Israel’s military and economic superiority, a dispossessed people suffering perpetual exile.

Ironically, it was the dazzling display of military prowess by Israel against all the odds that would be used against Israel, used to present it as Goliath, the evil oppressor that should be overthrown. This pattern would be reiterated in a thousand conferences and used to demonise and delegitimise the only country in the region with civilised standards; in fact, the true David in the situation, not oppressors but the victims of centuries of persecution defending the homeland that is so obviously needed in the face of all the hatred now directed against it. Hatred of Israel proves Israel’s necessity.

As Muravchik says, “The world’s historical “Clock” for Israel has been set to right after 1967. The initial perceptions of its aftermath; Israel’s military superiority, the “oppressed” Palestinians who suddenly came into being after coming out of the rule of Egypt and Jordan, and the urgent need for a negotiated solution, have been frozen in time as the default worldview with little regard for what came before or after.”

This frozen view of Israel has been consolidated in the ensuing decades. Muslim spokesmen have multiplied in the West thus affording them the opportunity to frame Israel as the oppressor to Western audiences. Departments of Middle East Studies have been established with Arab funding which shamelessly echo the Arab/Muslim demonization of Israel and promote the view that all conflicts have as their ultimate source the Israel/Palestinian issue; that once this is addressed (in favour of the Palestinians) all will be well in the world; the opportunities to portray Israel as a bullying usurper and occupier have been exploited to the full.

Acting as an organising framework for all this information in the minds of Western audiences is the Liberty/Oppression foundation. It is this which appears to give the Palestinians a moral cause against Israel. The Liberty/Oppression framework also plays into the tendency of people (probably the majority) who think with their emotions. When those emotions are also given a moral fervour we witness the hideous sight of leftists marching in lockstep with Islamo-fascists in self-righteous hatred.

Given that the media is dominated by liberals and leftists, it looks at the world through the template of Liberty/Oppression and defines Israel as the bully. Its focus is narrow and looks at events in an ephemeral manner, giving emphasis to the sensational. A glib narrative suits its purposes. Thus, by and large, it takes the view that justice is to be served by siding with the Palestinians; Israel does not need or deserve a fair hearing. Media bias then reinforces the perceptual template in millions of minds and thus drives the need to redress the balance against Israel ever further – a need the media is eager to satisfy; to subject the Palestinians to any critical scrutiny is seen as oppressive in itself.

A good insight into pressures affecting media bias with regard to Israel is provided here. Once the cycle of distortion is established it becomes self-reinforcing, like fresh concrete being slapped onto a wall.

Summary

The complex relationships and historical realities of Israel and her neighbours have become simplified and distorted in such a way as to cast Israel as the oppressor. The Liberty/Oppression moral foundation is triggered by this perception and leads to the increasing demonization and de-legitimization of Israel. The application of this pattern to the situation allows the Palestinians and the wider Arab/Muslim world to manipulate world opinion in accordance with an inversion of the David and Goliath story. Israel is seen to be powerful and wrong, the Palestinians as weak and virtuous.

This view can only be sustained by ignoring the wider context of Israel’s vast, heavily populated neighbours, many of whom have massive (unshared) wealth derived from natural resources, and the Jew-hatred that has been endemic in Islamic culture ever since Muhammad. The Palestinians are simply the frontline in Israel’s conflict with the Islamic ummah.

Because the Left has swallowed the bait of Israel as oppressor, the inference that Palestinians are victims is intuitively accepted. Having succumbed to this fallacy they then imagine that the Palestinians must be motivated by a desire for equality and freedom – they see a desire for liberation where there is none. This is the logical conclusion offered by the moral architecture underpinning their perceptions. The overwhelming evidence that this is not so is filtered out by the organising effects of the Liberty/Oppression framework on perception, memory and thinking.

This perceptual framework is writ large in the work of the mass media.


Conclusions

Given that the Liberty/Oppression foundation exerts a strong organising force on the thinking of the Left and makes it extremely difficult to alter their viewpoint on a subject like Israel and the Palestinians, are there any lessons to be drawn from the foregoing analysis?

I think we can try and deconstruct the application of the Liberty/Oppression foundation in the following ways:

1. Investing Palestinians with the mantle of the oppressed can create the impression that they have egalitarian aspirations. This is demonstrably false:
      a. As stated emphatically in the Hamas Charter, they seek the complete destruction of Israel and all Jews.
      b. They seek the implementation of Shariah law which is far from egalitarian
      c. The current regime run by Hamas is male-dominated, brutal, coercive and anti-democratic
2. Expand the time frame. Muslims have been persecuting Jews for centuries. Muhammad hated Jews and taught that Muslims should do likewise.
3. Religion comes first in the Islamic world. Religion drives events and jihad drives the religion. It is amazing how many Christians in the West attribute the actions of Hamas to poverty and lack of freedom. It seems too far-fetched to these religious people that Muslims are motivated by their religious beliefs. But they keep referring to religion in all their pronouncements.
4. The battle is not between Israel and the Palestinians but between the West and the Muslim ummah. Israel/Gaza is just one front in the global jihad. Israel is a tiny beacon of enlightenment surrounded by a sea of darkness.
5. Israel is still David and the Philistine is still Goliath

Finally, with regard to Israel, there is also the consideration that Israel is better than Gaza and the wider Muslim world for which Gaza is the spearhead. On any measure of human progress or achievement, scientific, artistic, political, humanitarian, it is far in advance of its Arab/Muslim neighbours. Should the superior yield to the inferior on the say-so of the international Left? As Pameler Geller puts it, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage,support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad."

If we are seriously concerned about reducing oppression then a far more logical strategy is to support Israel instead of becoming the dupes of the global jihad; for that is all Hamas is, a brutal, theocratic puppet for far more extensive Islamic forces intent not only on the destruction of Israel but of the entire non-Muslim world.

[1] A very perceptive maxim given to me by a dear friend
[2] The Righteous Mind - Jonathan Haidt p. 170
[3] ibid. p.175

Cultural Meltdown

The Rotherham horror finally surfaces. The inaction of multicultural ideologues is exposed. The evidence points unequivocally in the direction of Muslims. There is a clear link with Muslim attitudes to non-Muslims.

Nietzsche warned of Europe becoming so decadent that it would lack the will to defend itself. Well, here it is.

In my friends and acquaintances I see further denial, an unwillingness to talk about it. Their timidity terrifies me; it makes me realize how it could all happen again anywhere and the same spineless liberals now showing enough dazed indignation in order to avoid appearing uncaring would be just as ineffective in confronting it, just as they are ineffective at confronting all aspects of the Islamic invasion.

We now have a culture so compromised that it cannot respond adequately to a scandal like Rotherham. Once a few scapegoats have lost their jobs and their reputations (and deservedly so) we will return to the status quo ante.

We are in cultural meltdown.

Perhaps we even deserve what’s coming to us. This same decadent society which cannot stir to its own defence also condemns a less decadent society for defending itself from annihilation – Israel.

Even now with all the attention that Rotherham is getting a cover-up is still taking place, collective denial is still hard at work. None of the key questions are being confronted:

Why are so many Muslims involved?
Why so much brutality?
Why such extensive complicity in the whole Muslim community?
Why so much fear about racism?
Why so much fear about ‘community cohesion’?

There are symptoms of dhimmitude written all over this case:

Silencing the victims in order to appease the Muslims
Avoiding confrontation with the Muslim community
Failure to inform ourselves about Islamic culture
Looking to ourselves as the source of the problem

How is it that in spite of everything the Muslims still succeed in portraying themselves as the victims of discrimination and ‘racism’? They are virtuosi on those instruments!

The accusation of racism is a theme running through this horror story:

the girls are initially seduced by a Romeo who tells her that her family’s opposition to the liaison is due to racism
the authorities and carers are paralysed by their fear of the same accusation of racism
being thought racist created a fear of doing, saying, or even thinking about objecting to what was going on

This same fear is crippling our response to the wider jihad. The same multiculti felons have criminalised any proper discussion of Islamic doctrine by means of their nonsensical and hysterical accusations of racism. 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

How Tolerance Descends to Intolerance

Whilst reading Howard Rotberg’s Tolerism: The Ideology Revealed, I came across an interesting reference to Karl Popper, the Austrian/British philosopher:

“In a talk given on March 13th, 1981, entitled “Toleration and Intellectual Responsibility” and included in essay form in the book On Toleration edited by Susan Mendus and David S. Edwards, Popper noted that the exaggerated fear that those of us who are tolerant might indeed become intolerant leads to the “mistaken and dangerous” attitude that we must tolerate everything, certainly anything falling short of violence, but also (prophetically) a concern that the tolerant attitude might even extend to acts of violence. “ (p.8)

Liberalism is sometimes called the philosophy of tolerance and the father of liberalism, John Locke, was known as the philosopher of tolerance. Many of the ideas of classical liberalism were forged in the religious strife of 17th century England. The philosophy of tolerance held that no one can be sufficiently sure of their own viewpoint to engage in violence against others of differing viewpoints. It would be better if a state of mutual tolerance was established in which different viewpoints could be subjected to rational debate. Here lies the rational foundation for free speech.

Locke was also a key figure in the development of Empiricism. This was an approach to knowledge and truth which put the emphasis on observable evidence. This was a move away from different dogmas going head to head, determined to defend opposing viewpoints to the death, it was more rational to look for evidence to confirm one or the other theory. By taking this approach we could actually make real progress instead of being mired in fear and tyranny. This led to a great democratization of knowledge since any individual had the ability to prove anything by appeal to evidence and reason. It led us away from reliance on religious authority towards the self-reliance of individual reason.

Tolerance has therefore been a key feature of liberal societies, certainly as an aspiration, for many years. With the inclusion of multiple races and then multiple cultures in liberal societies, tolerance has crept up the scale of values to the point where it holds the leading position. In parallel with this we have become more and more afraid of our own intolerance. There is now a widespread fear of being intolerant.

The high premium placed on tolerance and the concomitant fear of intolerance have now encountered a rather unprecedented situation. As Muslims have migrated to liberal societies, bringing their adherence to Islam with them, we have seen a noticeable increase in manifestations of intolerance. This intolerance tends to have a clear correlation with the degree of adherence to Islam. Where adherence is mild, intolerance towards liberal norms is mild but as adherence to Islam intensifies so does intolerance to liberal norms.  The Salman Rushdie affair of 1989 was an important signal that many Muslims were comfortable with the idea of killing someone for what they had written. This is a clear rejection of liberal norms.

The Salman Rushdie episode also revealed the incapacity of a liberal society to meet the challenge of this type of intolerance. Incitement to murder was made publicly and on record but there were no legal consequences. Intolerance was tolerated. We had spent 300 years developing a culture of tolerance which appeared to have no way of countering the truly intolerant.

Since 1989 the extent of Muslim intolerance has become ever more evident. Not only are they prepared to murder as many people as they can for things which upset them, we have not even attempted to lay down any ground rules about the limits of our tolerance. Why have we been so afraid to draw a line in the sand and say, either live on our terms or get out?

I think one key reason is the fear of intolerance that Popper alluded to, and it’s not the intolerance of others that we fear, it’s our own. This is a principal cause of our paralysis in the face of Islamic aggression.

The same is not true for Muslims. They fear disloyalty to the group and consequences in the after-life.  The culture is openly and vehemently intolerant of many things.

The inevitable result is that as Muslim minorities grow and make ever-increasing demands on the tolerance of non-Muslims, non-Muslims make of toleration a virtue of ever-increasing value.

Two scare words in this context are “bigot” and “islamophobe”, which play upon our fear of our own intolerance. These terms are now so effective against us because in our culture of high tolerance we fear our own intolerance more than we fear the intolerance of our enemies.

With the philosophy of tolerance comes the practice of compromise. We expect to benefit from the tolerance of others in a similar way to how others benefit from our tolerance. Reciprocity is the key to it. It often means that we find a middle position between the parties on which to base a permanent settlement. This approach is incompatible with absolutist viewpoints. It is more relativistic: there’s a recognition that other people can have different ways of seeing things and we agree to differ – fairly amicably.

Liberals search for compromises. Even when a compromise is logically impossible liberals will continue searching for it. This is the case with respect to the Israel/Arab/Muslim conflict. There is no compromise available because Muslims will never accept the legitimacy of Israel.

Islam means “submission”; a Muslim is one who submits. Submission is what the Arabic root s-l-m means.

Tolerance and submission are different. They produce different cultural norms. When tolerance is one-sided and not reciprocated it becomes submission. This is what is happening in liberal cultures today. Submission to Islam and Muslim assertiveness is being rationalized as “tolerance”. However, tolerance of intolerance is de facto submission.

We now have to face what Popper called the “Paradox of Tolerance”, that is, when a tolerant society tolerates the intolerant to the extent of undermining the tolerant character of that society, then the society ceases to be a tolerant one.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Poisoning the Well



As Daniel Greenfield at FrontPageMag reports, the movie “Honor Diaries” is already beginning to make waves:

The Honor Diaries is making headlines for documenting the challenges faced by female activists taking on the abuse of women in the Muslim world. The movie focuses on Muslim female activists and was screened at the Museum of Tolerance.”

Most societies which have this honor culture are Islamic and those seeking to protect Islam are out to destroy the credibility of the movie before it can do too much damage.

Megyn Kelly and Fox News have done a fantastic job of standing their ground on this issue and Kelly has been very candid about CAIR’s attempt to silence Fox News.

I’d like to focus on one of the tactics that CAIR and their attack dog Richard Silverstein are using to impose a silence on this issue. It’s a tactic that Leftists and Islamists employ frequently.

Silverstein led the attack with an accusation that the producers of the film were Jews.

This is very interesting because he’s using a debating tactic known as “Poisoning the Well” which in this case also reveals an underlying anti-semitism.

Once again I am indebted to fallacyfiles.org. As it says there, “The phrase "poisoning the well" ultimately alludes to the medieval European myth that the black plague was caused by Jews poisoning town wells—a myth which was used as an excuse to persecute Jews.”
  
The implication of what Silverstein says is that the movie lacks credibility (i.e. it cannot be trusted) because Jews produced it. This echoes the time-honored calumny that Jews cannot be trusted to serve anyone but themselves; that they are creating mischief through misinformation.

The poisoned well metaphor is very apt because if a water source is deemed to be poisoned we should not accept water from it; by the same token, if an information source is “poisoned”, we should not accept information from it. This is what the well-poisoning attack is attempting to do: destroy the credibility of the speaker in advance. It fosters fear of contamination by the information source; a source that cannot be trusted due to vile motives etc.

CAIR ended up with egg on their faces following Silverstein’s sordid attack. In order to try and limit the damage CAIR put out a statement which says:

“American Muslims join people of conscience of all faiths in condemning female genital mutilation, forced marriages, ‘honor killings’, and other forms of domestic violence or gender inequality as violations of Islamic beliefs. If anyone mistreats women, they should not seek refuge in Islam. The real concern in this case is that the producers of the film, who have a track record of promoting anti-Muslim bigotry, are hijacking a legitimate issue to push their hate-filled agenda.” [my italics]

The first part of this statement is a generic condemnation of things which are endorsed by Islam and therefore it rings completely false. But the second part is a more generic form of Poisoning the Well. What we have now is not “Jews” but people with “a track record of promoting anti-Muslim bigotry” and “a hate-filled agenda”. Ibrahim Hooper, although admirably pinned to the ropes by Megyn Kelly on Fox in a recent interview, still managed to keep spitting out the “hate-filled agenda” phrase, reinforcing it in the viewers minds.

The implication of the tactic is that if you listen to these people you too may end up as a bigot and full of hate. You will be contaminated by what they have to say. What Poisoning the Well does is to lay a logical boobytrap for the unwary listener: “If these people are full of hate, what they say must be false.” This is an ad hominem argument and is a logical fallacy; any argument must stand or fall on the merits of the evidence and the logical reasoning. The nature of the speaker is irrelevant.

Also, the phrase "hate-filled agenda" leads the listener into another fallacy: namely, the argument that if a statement arouses hostility or hatred in the listener it must therefore be false. This is absurd; the truth or falsity of a statement is not dependent on whether it arouses hostility or affection. No-one is arguing that we should not teach children about the Holocaust in case it arouses hostility towards Germans.

To any clear-thinking person it is obvious that Hooper and CAIR want to stamp out critical scrutiny of Islam and silence truthful voices. In the interview with Megyn Kelly Hooper is constantly trying to talk over her to drown out what she says. We know that Islam sanctions the killing of critics based on Muhammad's own example.

CAIR cannot actually silence everyone so Poisoning the Well is the next best thing. By rendering critical voices off-limits and sowing distrust of everything they say, the strategy effectively erects a glass wall of disbelief between the critics of Islam and the audience. They can say whatever they like but they'll not be listened to; they have effectively been silenced.