Monday, 13 July 2015

Failure To Discriminate

How the Left came to fight for the most reactionary force on earth


During the last 80 years in Western societies a huge amount of effort has gone into reducing discrimination on the basis of class, sex, race, disability, etc. Huge swathes of legislation now cover the offence of discrimination. If you find yourself facing an accusation of discrimination you know you are in big trouble. Not only may you end up in jail or with the prospect of a large fine but you’ll find it hard to find a job and face social ostracism.

Opinion regarding discrimination more generally has become highly sensitized. What has become known as ‘political correctness’ includes a policing of language and attitudes in line with the objectives of reducing discrimination. Concern with discrimination is ubiquitous. It is the primary focus of political correctness. We are all familiar with people making themselves ridiculous as they tip-toe around certain topics in an elaborate dance of euphemisms and self-correction.

During the last thirty years the employees of public and private bodies have been subjected to “diversity training” in order to bring them closer into line with anti-discrimination policies. Opinion on these matters has ceased to be a matter of private concern; if you have the wrong attitudes you are deemed to be in need of correction. Even if you keep your opinions to yourself, that is still not good enough. Diversity, the parameters of which are never clearly defined, is presented as an unalloyed good and couched in terms such as “vibrant”, “colorful”, and “cosmopolitan”.

This whole collective effort defines the progressive agenda: keep expanding the sphere of anti-discrimination and thereby achieve equality and justice. And one of the important commandments is “Thou shalt not discriminate”. Non-discrimination in our relations with each other is a powerful, pervasive and over-arching theme. Those who have escaped its influence are seen as boorish and uneducated – as yet “unreached”.

I don’t want to go into the merits of this but I do want to have a look at how it may have affected our ability to think coherently.

I have been trying to understand for a few years now just how it is that Western societies have been able to remain so blind to the threat that confronts them. This blog is an on-going effort to unravel this mystery: what are the typical thought processes in the Western mind which render it so needlessly stupid?

During my conversation with a Socialist Workers Party activist recently I experienced something of an epiphany. I saw how reluctant he was to discriminate but this reluctance even extended to the point of not wishing to make purely cognitive distinctions – the very foundation of sound judgement. My initial post on this encounter is here but since then I have seen even more implications of what he was saying.

I put the point to him that in order to assess whether or not a religious group represented more of a threat than another we needed to look at the characteristics of each religious group, their religious beliefs and the record of behavior consistent with those beliefs. His reply was very revealing: he said that to do that would be discriminating and discrimination leads to events like the Holocaust.

This set me thinking about the different forms of discrimination and what the consequences might be of not discriminating in any sense of the word as this activist appeared to suggest. I think it may help us understand the peculiar paralysis of judgement that many people experience in relation to Islam.

The Meaning of Discrimination

Oxford Dictionary definition for discriminate:

1. intransitive verb. (often followed by between) make or see a distinction; differentiate (cannot discriminate between right and wrong).  2. intransitive verb. Make a distinction, esp. unjustly and on the basis of race, color, or  sex. 3. intransitive verb. (followed by against) select for unfavorable treatment. 4. transitive verb. (usually followed by from) make or see or constitute a difference in or between (many things discriminate one person from another). 5. intransitive verb. Observe distinctions carefully; have good judgement. 6. transitive verb. Mark as distinctive; be a distinguishing feature of.

Oxford Dictionary definition for discrimination:

1. unfavorable treatment based on prejudice, esp. regarding race, color, or sex. 2. good taste or judgement in artistic matters etc. 3.  the power of discriminating or observing differences. 4. a distinction made with the mind or in action.

There are then two key senses of the word: (1) to make necessary or informed distinctions, and (2) to treat unequally on the basis of (1).

Could it be that the cultural effort to combat discrimination in sense (2) has compromised the ability to discriminate in sense (1)?

Is this SWP activist and others like him failing (refusing even) to discriminate between the two senses?

Are many of us now in a position where we fear to make a distinction, observe a difference, or even focus on one group to the (temporary) exclusion of others in case it is a precursor to discrimination in sense (2)?

My central concern is the West’s relationship with Islam. I think there are definite failures of discrimination in relation to Islam in sense (1) which are sometimes motivated by the desire to avoid discrimination in sense (2). 

Failure to discriminate between race and religion

There is a common tendency for the lazy-minded of all political persuasions to accuse (or suspect) those opposed to Islam of racism. This is a category error since Islam is not a race and opposition to it cannot therefore be racism. This error arises from a failure to discriminate between the two categories of race and religion.

This error is internalized by the Left; they actually believe it. This means that as far as they are concerned for them to be opposed to Islam is for them to be guilty of racism. They are trapped inside their own fatuous error.

This may possibly be linked to the false assumption that all Muslims are colored and any opposition to them is actually about their color. Opposition to Islam is seen as a mask for racism. The Left loves to talk in terms of hidden agendas such as this. They also have a holier-than-thou attitude and the accusation of racism is a common method of attempting to demonize those they disagree with.

There is often a correlation between Islam and race in local circumstances. In non-Muslim countries such as the UK, Muslims are usually (but not always) Pakistani/Bangladeshi. To say that non-Muslims are usually white is also true, but much less so since there are significant numbers of non-Muslims who are not white (e.g. Sikhs, Hindus, and many other faith groups as well as non-religious people).

So, Muslims and Asian racial characteristics are concomitants to a very great extent in many places. In particular localities these may well serve as an indicator of likely beliefs. However, it is the beliefs which are opposed rather than the race of the individuals who hold them. In any case, the beliefs held are far more clearly indicated by dress codes, behavior and speech patterns than by racial characteristics. People are generally far more alarmed by noxious customs than by racial features.

Failure to discriminate between Muslims and their beliefs

It is their Islamic beliefs which define people as Muslims but first and foremost they are people. They can be distinguished from their beliefs. They could live without them. In fact there is every sign that they would lead far better lives (both morally and materially) if they did.

People have rights; beliefs don’t. Do people have a right to believe what they want? -  - not an unlimited right. This right is limited by the need to hear what other people think of your beliefs. People don’t have a right to have their beliefs insulated from questioning, criticism or ridicule.

To attack a person’s beliefs is not the same as attacking the person (however closely they identify with their beliefs). If their beliefs are harmful to them and potentially harmful to us, attacking their beliefs is a duty. In the case of Islam, if we make no attempt to attack the beliefs now, those same beliefs will cause us to be attacked in the future as well as leading to many gross injustices against both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Failure to discriminate between a true minority and a purely local one

An example of a true religious minority would be the Sabeans (followers of John the Baptist) of the Middle East. They are very limited in number globally and are small minorities in their home countries (e.g. Syria).

Muslims are never a minority in this sense because they have such a large international presence and considerable power through such bodies as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. They may look like a small David within the national context but there is always the international Goliath standing just behind them. Just look at the billions spent on mosques, academic chairs, and lobby groups in Europe over the last 10 years alone.

Failure to discriminate between the characteristics of one ethnic group and another

There are obviously differences between Jews and Muslims. They have different religious beliefs for a start. This means they have different perspectives on the world. Upon these different perspectives different habits of mind have developed. As the poet John Dryden said, “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.” Repeated patterns of behavior mould our characters along well-worn paths. These patterns differ to some extent across different cultures because of their different worldviews and the expectations of behavior grounded in them.

I work amongst Pakistani Muslims and I see definite dominance/submission patterns of behavior in them. Islam is a dominance/submission religion and the culture born of it is oriented around this theme – Islam means “submission” and you have to submit to something or someone which is by definition “dominant”. It could not be otherwise. This is the kind of thing I mean by culturally influenced patterns of behavior.

From what I have seen, Jews are more culturally differentiated. Many notable figures of all political, artistic, and literary perspectives are Jewish. Many key innovators are and have been Jewish and the creative arts are awash with Jewish high achievers. I get the sense of a remarkable people and culture. Even in the teeth of centuries of persecution their genius has been irrepressible.

I appreciate this is highly subjective but there are patterns of behavior which are distinctive to a culture. They highlight cultural differences. Jewish culture is organised around historical/spiritual/communal themes as opposed to dominance/submission. There is more room for the individual.

Some clearer differences between Jewish and Islamic culture:

  • Jews have been persecuted by Muslims ever since the days of Muhammad
  • Muhammad made a virtue of persecuting Jews
  • Jewish culture has no concept of jihad; Islam is defined by it
  • Judaism has never conquered and enslaved huge swathes of the world; Islam has
  • Judaism has no doctrine of world domination; Islam has

There are important differences between religions and the cultures born of them. Refusal to discriminate means blinding oneself to them.

Failure to discriminate between the group and the individuals in the group

The ardent non-discriminators treat Muslims and the Muslim Community as a single entity. There is an assumption that Muslims belong in this community and that it’s spokesmen can (and should) speak for them.

For the Left, Equality is a core value and equality of treatment is the main way of realizing it.

However, equality of treatment is applied inappropriately at the group level. The Muslim Community is taken to be a unified entity which can be treated as a whole. Due to the insistence on treating all aspects of the issue indiscriminately, the Left ends up taking a “hands off” attitude to all things Islamic. The Muslim Community is taken to be united in their aspirations and to afford the group equality of treatment is seen to be giving equality of treatment to all members of the group.

There are a number of problems with this. Firstly, within the group there are norms of institutionalized inequality. One example is the unequal testimony of men and women under Sharia law, with a woman’s testimony counting for only half that of a man. Even worse is the position of non-Muslims under Sharia, with the testimony of a non-Muslim counting for nothing against a Muslim.

Sharia is integral to Islam and the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights spells out very clearly that universal human rights are not compatible with it.

Protecting the group as a whole protects these inequalities. Equality of treatment should only be applied to individuals and where group norms conflict with equality of treatment they should be challenged. Thus by affording all cultures the mantle of equal protection, the Left actually increases the sum total of inequality for individuals.

Secondly, this approach leaves questions about the Muslim Community’s attitude towards outsiders totally unexamined and off-limits. To investigate is to discriminate. But what if they do have an agenda which is hostile to the goals of equality (e.g. the Dhimma Pact) – how are we to know? Given that institutionalized inequality is integral to Islamic culture and that non-Muslims are considered inferior people it is a matter of some urgency to assess the extent and intensity of these beliefs.

The incurious Left tends to believe the comforting falsehood that non-Muslims are given special protection under Sharia. It is all made to sound as if they are cherished and cared for but nothing could be further from the truth. In actual fact they are only protected from the predations of Islam itself as long as they observe the conditions of their subjugation. Once any of these conditions is broken by anyone the whole non-Muslim community is fair game for attack.

People with real concern for others want to prevent this but the Left is too busy demonizing them as bigots to realize that.

Failure to discriminate between the different meanings of discrimination

As the dictionary makes clear, ‘discriminate’ can mean to make a distinction, to see a difference. This forms the basis of sound judgement.

Anti-discriminators like the SWP activist appear to see this type of discrimination blurring into the other form. As far as they can see, the first meaning has exactly the same consequences as the second. This, together with the other failures to discriminate discussed above, leads to the fear of the Slippery Slope. 

At FallacyFiles.org the Slippery Slope argument is described this way:

This type [of argument] is based upon the claim that a controversial type of action will lead inevitably to some admittedly bad type of action. It is the slide from A to Z via the intermediate steps B through Y that is the "slope", and the smallness of each step that makes it "slippery".

This type of argument is by no means invariably fallacious, but the strength of the argument is inversely proportional to the number of steps between A and Z, and directly proportional to the causal strength of the connections between adjacent steps. If there are many intervening steps, and the causal connections between them are weak, or even unknown, then the resulting argument will be very weak, if not downright fallacious.

For the anti-discriminators, trying to make any assessment of the characteristics or threat presented by Islam is to discriminate and that is step A on the the slippery slope towards persecution. As they see it, it constitutes a form of discrimination in sense (2), to treat unfairly. But there is no inevitable connection between such an assessment and the awful consequences they fear. In fact, if we don’t make this assessment and plan accordingly we could well be the victims of persecution ourselves, just as thousands of non-Muslims in Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Syria, Iraq etc are suffering persecution at the hands of Muslims today – all in accordance with Sharia. Do we not have a right and a duty to prevent this outcome ?

In the last analysis, we can't treat everything equally because differences of character require differences of treatment. You cannot treat a lion the same way that you treat a lamb.

The other failures of discrimination described above compound the fear of the Slippery Slope:

  • Because they fail to discriminate between race and religion they see racist bigotry at work.

  • Because they fail to discriminate between the beliefs and the people and the individual and the group and religion and race, they lump them altogether so that criticism or examination of the beliefs is viewed as a direct attack on the people because of their race.

  • Because they fail to discriminate between a real minority and a purely local one, they see Muslims as far more vulnerable than they are.

  • Because they fail to discriminate between the characteristics of one religious group and another , they draw false parallels between the plight of Muslims today and the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany.

These failures cluster together to form a very misleading view of reality and a failure of judgement results. People are easily panicked into making these errors by the threat of accusations like “Islamophobia”.

By far the biggest cost to the anti-discriminators is that paid in the coin of ignorance. They deny themselves the possibility of knowing by refusing to look. I explore this in a different light in Refusing Galileo's Telescope. This leads them to accuse those who know far more about Islam than they do of being ignorant.

One highly visible result of their ignorance and confusion is that we find them standing on the front lines fighting on behalf of Islam – the most reactionary force on earth. I really do think that this anti-discriminatory attitude is one of the most important features of the cultural malaise that I have called Malsi-Tung. It is a by-product of the anti-discrimination agenda described above.

Perhaps the question to ask these anti-discriminators is this: given that you refuse to look at the distinct characteristics of Islam because you see this as discrimination, how are you ever to know if it is in fact a threat?

“A threat to what?”, I hear them saying.

“A threat to universal human rights and  equality of treatment for all people, things which you claim to support and which Islam is demonstrably against. Islam sanctifies discrimination on a grand scale, but you're only likely to know that if you are discriminating.