Extremism on campus: Islamist narratives are going unchallenged

By Layo

This a cross-post from Layo’s Medium account, kindly reproduced with permission.

In the “deepest circle of hell”, ISIS have entered. Last month ISIS seized the refugee camp of Yarmouk outside of Damascus. Public executions, shootings and beheadings have followed. 5,000 people have tried to flee their homes since ISIS stormed the camp, but have no place to go. There are fears that 18,000 inside the besieged camp could be massacred. When you stare down the barrel of a Jihadist’s gun, your refugee status counts for nothing. Any Christians, Shia, Homosexuals, Atheists, all that is Kafir, risk being murdered or enslaved in Yarmouk.

After four years of the Syrian Civil War we have become accustomed to the barbarism and horrors committed by ISIS. Their horrors have been broadcast on our TV screens and brought to our nearby shores. Yet ISIS do not stand alone. They are one face, one faction, of a violent totalitarian movement; from Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, to Boko Haram in Nigeria via the Taliban in Afghanistan; the rise of ISIS must be seen within the context of a jihad insurgency that is now global.

World leaders denounce these terrorists and decry their ‘death cults’. We send war planes and drones to bomb them as we send Special Forces to take out their hierarchy. But as thousands leave Europe to join these groups, little seems to have changed. Islamism, the ideology that drives these terror groups cannot be bombed out of existence. This ideology, its ideas, and how they’re promoted, must too be challenged.

As Maajid Nawaz argues: ‘Recognizing this as an insurgency affects entirely how we react to it…. counter-insurgency rests on the assumption that the enemy has significant enough levels of support within the communities it aims to survive among’. And we must understand and challenge why this is the case. Why, for example, have more British Muslims joined ISIS than the British Army Reserves? We must understand the deeply rooted issues that make individuals vulnerable to extremism — social exclusion, institutionalized racism and a feeling of disconnect from British society. But if we do this, while ignoring the ideology that drives extremism, we are bound to fail.

ISIS’s 100,000 foot soldiers were not born evil, nor was their radicalisation ever inevitable. The experience of racial or religious harassment and discrimination isolates communities and individuals, and makes them susceptible to extremism. However there still needs the purveyors of an ideology to manipulates these genuine grievances, and indoctrinate the vulnerable. It is the ideology, that pushes an angry, alienated kid, to embrace violent extremes — be this neo-Nazism or Islamism. Disenfranchisement doesn’t inevitably lead to extremism; that simplistic argument would be absurd. But a disenfranchised individual makes ripe pickings for a charismatic recruiter to the cause. They can channel and feed their grievances, and give the disaffected a new identity through ideology.

In 2011, a review of the Prevent strategy by the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism identified higher education as one of primary sectors that is vulnerable to radicalisation. In a damning report, it found that there has been a ‘culture conducive to the promotion of non-violent extremism has developed on a number of UK university campuses’.

The report went on to say: “there is unambiguous evidence to indicate that some extremist organisations … target specific universities and colleges … with the objective of radicalising and recruiting students”. Moreover, “[that] extremist preachers from this country and from overseas […] have also sought to repeatedly reach out to selected universities and to Muslim students”.

To combat this, the NUS currently ‘No-platforms’ six extremist organisations. These organisations are banned from attending or speaking at any NUS function or conference, and for standing for election to any NUS position. These 6 include three far-right groups; British National Party, English Defence League, National Action, and three Islamist organisation, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Muslim Public Affairs Committee and Al-Muhajiroun.

The report by the Home Affairs Select Committee stated that those who ‘distrust Parliament and who see a conflict between being British and their own cultural identity’ are susceptible to radicalisation. It is clear that there are speakers appearing that our University who are promoting the divisive narrative that Islam is incompatible with Western secular democracy, and facing little challenge or counter-narratives.

Despite the new legal duty facing universities, too many institutions are still allowing events featuring extreme or intolerant speakers to go ahead without ensuring adequate challenge. Between the start of 2012 and the end of 2014, there were 400 incidents of extremist speakers at our universities.

Hamza Tzortzis is a senior member of Islamic Education and Research Academy (ISRA) and is a regular speaker at British universities. He has close links to banned Hizb ut-Tahrir. He has said:

“We as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom. We see under the Khilafa (caliphate), when people used to engage in a positive way, this idea of freedom was redundant, it was unnecessary, because the society understood under the education system of the Khilafa state, and under the political framework of Islam, that people must engage with each other in a positive and productive way to produce results, as the Qur’an says, to get to know one another”

Our universities are meant to be a ‘safe space’ according to the NUS. This ideas of ‘safe spaces’ has facilitated a culture of censorship that has embedded itself within our student unions. Many universities now have an outright ban on ‘transphobic material’, as well as having vague restrictions on ‘offensive’ dress and conduct. Human rights campaigners and secularists have been banned for offending religious sensitivities. Feminists have face black-listing for daring to say that trans-sexual woman are not ‘real women’.

So when our student community recoil in disgust at the government’s plans to ban “non-violent” Islamist extremists from speaking on campuses, we must feel uneasy. These students and academics, so happy to censor everything from offensive pop songs to ‘page three’ — will fight tooth and nail for the rights of religious reactionaries to preach unopposed their prejudices about women, Jews, homosexuals, and apostates. In the 6 month period from September 2015 and January 2016 we have had speakers on campuses who have promoted sectarian violence, hatred of gays and hatred of Jews.

While many of the Islamist speakers who are appearing on our campuses may not directly argue for Jihad, they do routinely offer apologia for terrorism and violence. A prominent example is CAGE, an advocacy group who work closely with high-profile figures within the NUS. Qureshi an executive director of CAGE, was recorded in 2006 as saying: “When we see the examples of our brothers and sisters, fighting in Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, then we know where the example lies … We know that it is incumbent upon all of us to support the jihad of our brothers and sisters in these countries when they are facing the oppression of the West”. Last year Qureshi described the now deceased executioner and propagandist ‘Jihadi John’ as a ‘beautiful young man’.

According to an article on CAGE‘s website the Bring Back Our Girls campaign is a “colonial trope” and criticism of Boko Haram is about “demonising Islam”.Proud feminists and NUS members regularly sit alongside CAGE to denounce the government’s anti-extremism programme.

The ideas promoted by CAGE — that Muslims generally (rather than individuals holding extreme views) are under attack; that the authorities are untrustworthy; and that the threats of extremism and terrorism from non-Muslims are greater than the threats from Islamist extremism and terrorism; these ideas have a lot of currency among sections of the Left. Once these Leftists are able to turn a blind eye to CAGE and their allies’ views on women’s rights, homosexuality and Jews; sharing a platform with them comes quite naturally.

When a CAGE spokesperson says to Muslim audience members: “each and every one of us is a terror suspect, it may not be now, it may have been yesterday, but we certainly will be tomorrow, the way things are heading” — We must question whether this rhetoric is divisive or constructive? Does it feed into the picture, used by Islamists, to promote a grievance narrative that the West is at war with Islam?

When the student Left align themselves with Islamists and offer them an unchallenged platform; they are betraying the very principles that they claim to uphold. When extremists are presented as ‘mainstream’ and ‘moderate’ voices of Islam, we betray liberal reformist Muslims; feminist Muslims; gay Muslims; dissenting Muslims; and minority sects that suffer more from religious fundamentalism than we can ever imagine. They are minority within minority, persecuted within theocracy, white-washed by us.

Just a few months ago, the University of Kingston held an event entitled “The Rise of Islamophobia’” One of speakers on the panel, Bashir Ibrahim, claimed the government was seeking to engineer a ‘Government sanctioned Islam” and that the security services’ “modus operandi” was harassing Muslims, using Mohammed Emwazi (Jihadi John) and Michael Adebolajo (Lee Rigby’s murderer) as examples. These tropes are commonplace. In December, Muhammad Dilwar Hussain visited University College London and claimed that there is “a full on ideological/cultural war is being waged on Islam and Muslims” and described reformist critics as “drunken liberal garbage”.

This narrative, that ‘’Islam is under attack and we must defend it” is central to radicalisation, extremism and terrorism. In terrorism, it is used to promote violence; in extremism is it used to promote values that are antithetical to human rights norms; in radicalisation, it is used exploit vulnerable people and recruit them to the cause.

Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee Charles Farr has stated that the government are deeply concerned about people “who are speaking regularly against core UK values and whose ideology incidentally is also shared by terrorist organisations”. There little doubt that CAGE fall into this group. The Preventing Prevent lobby, seeks to undermine counter-extremism work by fitting it to the broader Islamist narrative has gained traction within the student movement.

As a report from the Quilliam anti-extremist think-tank point out. ‘The Islamist narrative has been normalised in the United Kingdom, and other European countries, over the last two decades due to the influence of non-violent Islamist organisations’.

The normalisation of these narrative show no sign of abating. The controversial new President of the NUS Malia Bouattia won on part by campaigning on a ‘Preventing Prevent’ ticket and unsurprisingly has been endorsed by CAGE. In a written response to critics who have questioned her over alleged anti-Semitism, she publicly attacked the organisations who have been investigating radicalisation and extremism on campuses. When challenged, she has accused her critics of being driven by nothing more than anti-Muslim bigotry.

Those who speak out against Islamism in our universities often face false accusation of racism, anti-Muslim prejudice and ‘neo-colonialism’. Human rights campaigns such as Peter Tatchell and Maryam Namazie have faced McCarthyite smears. While anti-fascist organisations like Hope not Hate have been attacked by the Left, for speaking out against Islamism and Islamic sectarianism.

We find ourselves in a situation where the Left is caught in ‘double bind’; on one hand speaking out against prejudice towards Muslims and the excesses of the state in the ‘war on terror’, and the need to oppose the ideas, beliefs and actions of religious reactionaries, Islamists and jihadi apologist. We can do both and we must do both.

There are clear failings with the Government’s Prevent agenda and British Muslims are increasingly marginalised and alienated. But when we take these extremists as the legitimate voice of Muslim opinion, as we do on so many university campuses, we’re doing great harm. We legitimise their corrosive narrative that there is an unbridgeable divide between the ideas of Islam and Western liberalism.

What stands before us is far-right political movement based on a fundamentalist and reactionary interpretation of Islamic doctrine. What groups like Cage sustain and apologise for, is a totalitarian ideology. The ideology cannot be separated from its violent interpretation. The ideas peddled on our campus are not separate from the atrocities committed abroad in the name of Jihad.

Islamic State’s outlined in their own magazine Dabiq, their aim to eliminate what it calls the “grey zone,” the middle ground between Islamist theocrats and anti-Muslim bigots, so that everyone is forced to pick sides. In this way, Islamic State hopes to turn non-Muslims against Muslims. We cannot let the likes of CAGE drive this narrative. Let’s fight for this ‘middle ground’ where liberalism lives and thrives.

No wonder the Taliban rallied around the cry, “Throw reason to the dogs” — rational debate, reason, these the enemies of tyranny. The values of the Enlightenment are theocracy’s greatest fear. We must combat Islamism’s politicised manipulation of the Islamic faith through rational enquiry and critique. The least we can do is open up their platforms to critical voices and challenge their ideas. Combating Islamism on campus should go hand in hand with fighting for free speech on campus.

We won’t defeat the ideologies of fascism and Islamism through blanket censorship. We defeat these ideas by exposing their fallacies and undermining their arguments through open debate and criticisms. Islamists and their fellow-travellers on the far-Left will attempt to shut down this discussion, but we cannot let this happen. Let’s promote progressive voices and open up debate on our universities. Let’s work with, and reform, the Prevent agenda — let’s change the narrative.

Featured image from East London Lines article “Students NOT Suspects campaign visits Goldsmiths”

Discussing identity politics : How lived experiences disrupt debate

By Freddy Bin Yusuf

In Hippias Major, one of the dialogues of Plato, Socrates and Hippias set out to find out what is the definition of beauty. Hippias offers definitions, and Socrates counters with four arguments, concluding beauty is difficult to define, something no doubt he knew before posing the question to Hippias. This is one of the great dialogues of Plato about Socrates, and these dialogues shape much of how the West define concepts, and form arguments.

Socrates was an ugly man, his statues affirming this, and with that in mind I’ll attempt to link it to this. The adherents of identity politics have laid a new card on the table, one which they use to silence debate and twist questions into attacks. This is the concept of “lived experience”

The term lived experience is used to describe the first-hand accounts and impressions of living as a member of a minority or oppressed group. 

Essentially this original definition was that you cannot discount an experience and you should listen, as in the example in the link, a male in tech cannot comment on what is is like for a female tech, only listen to her lived experience. This, on face value, is simply common sense, get as many different viewpoints as you can.

However, it has been twisted further. I spotted this in a tweet on Twitter and have seen similar across social media:

“white people can’t decide what’s racist, straight people can’t decide what’s homophobic, cis people can’t decide what’s transphobic”

This is essentially used to close down debate as its used as a counterpoint to questions and criticism. It is often demanded that you cannot engage in an argument on certain issues unless you are part of the minority that is being oppressed.  This concept is used to reinforce claims and statements that are not derived not from data, or from evidence, but from feelings of the individual who is able to provide evidence of lived experience.

Lived experiences derive from postmodern critical theory, which politicises social problems by situating them in historical and cultural contexts, but takes it one step further in ignoring historical reality in favour of a self-affirmative reality.

This defies belief, and ignores history. The banning of slavery could not be debated by non-slaves? The argument for the vote for women could not be debated by men? What happens if the viewpoint is from an intersection of identities that form a sum of one person? No one can debate at all? This has even been applied to jokes and comments on various identities, with attempts to control the speech of everyone, not just those party to the conversation.

The ground rules for debate cannot be set by one side alone, they cannot decide what can be debated, what can be questioned or what can be disproved. It is fair to reject the basic foundations of debate within a closed community, but this is not the case as they are insisting that their concepts are now the universal societal rules which must not be broken, and they seek to enforce their domination of all culture by any means necessary.

Socrates: because they do not seem so to people; but that is not what I asked, what seems to most people to be beautiful, but what is so.” We shall, then, I fancy, say, as we suggested, “We say that that part of the pleasant which comes by sight and hearing is beautiful.” Do you think the statement is of any use, Hippias, or shall we say something else?

Socjus: As an ugly man you are not allowed to comment on beauty. Blocked. 

Take the time to insult Erdogan

By Jake Wilde

Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, does not like to be insulted. In that sense he is no different from the rest of us. Where he differs from most of us is that he arrests people who do so.

He doesn’t care if you’re at home, whether your insult was intentional or if you had no idea it was even an insult.

He certainly doesn’t care if you are a journalist, an academic, or a Tolkien-loving family doctor 

But matters have taken a more worrying turn. He now doesn’t care whether you’re Turkish or not.

Twitter is the bane of Erdogan’s life. He banned it in Turkey in March 2014 and again in July 2015. He is responsible for 60% of all of Twitter’s removal requests.

chart

Take the time to insult Erdogan. While you’re still allowed to.

Glenn Greenwald – “One Year On”

By David Paxton

The anniversary of the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo has inevitably generated some reflection in the media. Some people dug out what they wrote at the time to see how they’d fared, a new BBC documentary was screened and several commentators have written their ‘one year on’ pieces.

Glenn Greenwald became such a commentator when he posted Where Were the Post-Hebdo Free Speech Crusaders as France Spent the Last Year Crushing Free Speech. Normally you would have to pay me to read Greenwald but after having been so revolted by his post-Hebdo article a year ago I was intrigued to find out what the 12 months had taught him.

As it turns out, not very much.

The gist of his piece is that people that stuck up for Charlie Hebdo’s right to do what they did seemed not to care when other speech was threatened. It’s an argument about double standards. To justify it he gives examples to support his impression of inaction and links to his magnum opus of false equivalence from last year (I criticised it at the time here).

Greenwald might be correct in stating that the people adamant about the rights of the satirical magazine were less adamant about the rights of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala. He may also be correct in saying the noise about people being arrested for BDS protests was insufficiently loud.

However, in doing so the way he does he is making a category error and presumably doing so knowingly. Charlie Hebdo’s staff were not killed for ‘hate speech’ they were killed for blasphemy and it was the speech they were killed for that others expressed solidarity with.

I don’t approve of hate-speech laws. I don’t agree with holocaust-denial laws either. I don’t think BDS campaigners should risk arrest under any speech laws and although I think Dieudonné M’bala M’bala is an antisemite and a terrorist sympathiser I don’t think court is the place to fight him. Seemingly though, French law disagrees with me. The mistake Greenwald is making is to assume that it is unreasonable to agree with French law, see value in blasphemy, and stick up for Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish, without being a hypocrite.

In order to make his case of hypocrisy Greenwald, once again, chooses to mischaracterise what Charlie Hebdo did, what they were killed for and why people rightfully expressed solidarity.

He says:

It was only when anti-Islam cartoons were at issue, and a few Muslims engaged in violence, did they suddenly become animated and passionate about free speech. That’s because legitimizing anti-Islam rhetoric and demonizing Muslims was their actual cause; free speech was just the pretext.

I think it predictable that slaughter and mayhem might provoke passion and animation and that its suddenness would be directly proportional to the suddenness of the violence. This is regardless of whether Islam is involved or not. By what logic does Greenwald make the assumption that a dislike of Islam, rather than a dislike of slaughtering cartoonists for blasphemy, is the animating factor here?

Without pretending this is so he is unable to then falsely compare it to the lack of objection to the legally-approved French treatment of hate speech and thus demonstrate hypocrisy.

Note how he moves seamlessly from support of an anti-religious cartoon to wishing to ‘demonize’ the followers. This is how he does it, a bait and switch. He seeks to prove hypocrisy by mischaracterising the blasphemy for which they were killed as the equivalent of the illegal racism of others .

A year ago Greenwald made this hypocrisy case by comparing it to antisemitism and the reaction to it.

He is pretending to make the following point:

“If you allow Muslims to be demonised then you must allow Jews and others to be demonised”.

But what he is actually saying is:

“If you thought that Charlie Hebdo were right to draw Mohammed then you can’t object when others are racist.”

This is no better than suggesting that if you defend the content and intention of Monty Python’s Life of Brian you are obliged to defend the content and intention of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

His latest piece continues:

They insisted that it was not enough to denounce or condemn those who murdered the Hebdo cartoonists. Instead, they tried to impose a new obligation: one must celebrate and embrace the ideas of the Hebdo cartoonists, support the granting of awards to them, cheer for the substance of their views. Failure to embrace the ideas of Charlie Hebdo (rather than just their free speech rights) subjected one to accusations — by the world’s slimiest smear artists — that one was failing to uphold their rights of free expression or, worse, that one sympathized with their killers.

Greenwald doesn’t mean the idea of religious satire in a general sense. He suggests people demand that you have to agree with all of the specific content of Charlie Hebdo. I say this is false. Supporting, and advocating the supporting of, their bravery in continuing to blaspheme and stand in solidarity with Jyllands-Posten, under threat of death, is not to say you must agree with all of their content all of the time.

You can claim that some of what Charlie Hebdo did is bad (I don’t), even that it is anti-Muslim (I don’t), and still completely agree that the work they were killed for, namely the blasphemy and religious mockery, is distinct and of value. It is even easier to make the case for supporting it and disseminating it when it is threatened by violence.

In attacking the ‘slimiest smear artists’, he is actually addressing the reaction many, including myself, had to the ‘but’ brigade. Those that would say, “Of course nobody should be murdered for drawing a cartoon but they were virulent racists…” etc.

The objection to statements like this came not from an insistence that one must agree with the contents of the magazine but that the formulation and its timing hints at something malign, namely that the author is blaming the victims and/or minimising the crime of their murderers.

If your opening section of a piece about the newly dead expresses your agreement with the murderer’s opinion of them then it may well raise questions. If the synopsis of that opinion is a smear and a mischaracterisation then the suspicions are only raised further.

If you then seek to highlight examples which they were not murdered for AND these examples too are false, then it really doesn’t require the ‘slimiest of smear artists’ to start questioning your sympathies.

If what Greenwald says is on the up he should have had little difficulty a year ago demonstrating where Charlie Hebdo were demonising all Muslims. Instead, for example, he falsely claimed that the following cartoon was “mocking the African sex slaves of Boko Haram as welfare queens.”

welfare

Greenwald has had plenty of time to learn that the abuse of asylum seekers and immigrants by French nativists is the target of the satire but he shows no sign of acknowledgement.

Those he derides for stating he should acknowledge the value of printing the Mohammed cartoons were not also insisting that he supports the point made in the above cartoon. Not even what it actually meant let alone what Greenwald pretends it does.

He wasn’t attacked because he refused to say he liked Charlie Hebdo but because he smeared them in his first piece after they were slaughtered and because he pretended that blasphemy was racism.

Charlie Hebdo’s staff were not killed for the persistent demonising of a minority or for racism or for anything of the sort. They were killed for blasphemy. The killers were abundantly clear on this point.

The riots, calls to murder, and the razing of embassies following the Danish cartoons publication did not constitute a movement speaking in solidarity to the Muslim underclasses of Europe. These occurred across the world and in Muslim majority countries. They were religious chauvinism. They were ‘avenging the Prophet’ and defending religious honour.

The attacks on Charlie Hebdo were a continuation of this and it was against this that people stood in solidarity. The objections to BDS campaigners and Dieudonné M’bala M’bala are not the same thing. You are not being hypocritical when you say that the blasphemy for which they were specifically murdered is valuable and antisemitism and racism is not. Greenwald insists on conflating them.

As Caroline Fourest puts it:

Others, completely irresponsible, with their twisted minds, insidious semantics and complicit blindness have again started to fabricate targets, by confusing blasphemy with “Islamophobia”.

Fourest, Caroline (2015-12-01). In praise of blasphemy : Why Charlie Hebdo is not “islamophobic” (essai français). Grasset. Kindle Edition.

If Greenwald says that free speech on the continent should better resemble the American model under which he operated as a lawyer, I would agree with him. If he wishes to campaign against hate speech laws in Europe, and in particular France, I will support him. But if he does so by saying that Charlie Hebdo were doing the same thing as Dieudonné M’bala M’bala or Der Stürmer,  I will say he is still, one year on, lying.

When confronted by events which generate conclusions unfavourable to our existing and cherished views, we have a bad habit of saying things which we later regret. Sometimes we abandon logic or decency and sometimes we lash out at the wrong people. Fortunately, some reflection often brings the best out in us and we reassess and we adapt and we evolve. This happened for some that disparaged Charlie Hebdo in the same articles, and sometimes in the same paragraphs, which condemned their slaughter. But not for Glenn Greenwald.

In Support of a Flat-Earther

I also don’t have to prove to you the world is round

Magistrate Bjoern Joensson

The nuisance with writing pieces about free speech and enjoying the esteem, if not self-importance, of adherence to such lofty ideals, comes when faced with cases of vile speech you wish people wouldn’t utter.

Earlier this month a magistrate in Hamburg sentenced 87 year old Ursula Haverbeck to 10 months in jail for the crime of Holocaust denial.

She had made her offending comments in an interview outside the trial of ex-SS Sgt. Oskar Groening who, at 94, was sentenced to 4 years in jail after being found guilty of facilitating mass murder.

I mention the circumstances because upon hearing the news of Haverbeck’s verdict I was tempted to focus on the fact that an old woman was being sentenced to prison and thus avoid the difficultly of speaking up for her right to free expression. However, as I didn’t object to his going to prison due to age, and I did think about it at the time, I am not sure how strongly I can object to hers.

This is to say that the sentence concerns me less than the charge. Merely being unhappy with an old woman being in jail isn’t enough.

The crime of Holocaust denial came back into focus after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January when several apologists for the killers chose to bring it up as an example of double standards. The cry of “look how you protect the Jew’s feelings but seek to trample on those of the poor Muslims” (I paraphrase), was heard many times. This complaint misses an obvious point, that the laws against denial of the Holocaust are not to spare Jewish feelings but to assist in the prevention of the growth in Fascist groups and to function as image-restoration and atonement from those countries, which understandably after WW2, could do with upping their virtue quotient. Regardless, it does serve as a good test of what advocates of free speech mean when they say ‘free’. I am yet to be convinced by anybody suggesting we should be free to express all opinions with the exception of that one.

The ‘world is round’ quote from the magistrate was given after he was challenged by the defendant to prove that what she denied had in fact occurred. His response, with its deliberate invocation of apparently the most obvious of all facts – that the Earth is round,  is perfect for highlighting exactly what is wrong with Holocaust denial laws. Are you comfortable with a person declaring that something is so obvious he has no need to prove it before he then incarcerates a person for expressing the opposite opinion? In fact, a historic event is lower down the list of certainties than something which is currently observable which makes it even more obnoxious.

My objections to Holocaust denial laws are much the same as most people’s, they are:

1: Rather than hinder the rise of Fascist groups, the prohibition of opinion makes that opinion more tantalising to those who might be tempted to become a member of one. Statistical evidence of the ineffectiveness of these laws are discussed here.

2: Nazi power is long dead and the virtues signaled by these laws are less powerful than the virtues signaled from the consistent protection of the right to free speech.

3: I wish to deny murder-apologists their cheap equivalence and grievance which they profess at the expense of Jews who are cast as expecters special privileges.

4: Most of all, I won’t have anybody in a position of power, especially in a court where they command the coercive power of the state, claiming they don’t need to prove an assertion which is contingent to their justification for the use of that power.

Ursula Haverbeck is a victim of a bad law. She is somebody who requires the support of those advocating the right to have the free expression of opinion remain unmolested.

I’m not the hashtagging type, they’ll be no #JeSuisUsula or #IStandWithHaverbeck from me and I don’t expect to see it trending much from others. But I would expect to see this case brought up by somebody advocating a de facto blasphemy law at some point soon. If for no other reason, it is worth getting your support for Haverbeck out there before this occurs.

The limits of Cultural Appropriation

By Robbie Travers (@RobbieTravers)

Cultural appropriation is a concept that should be viewed with deep suspicion.

 My objections to it are simple: Firstly, it is deeply authoritarian to police the behaviour of people because they are deemed to be appropriating the property of other cultures, often ones that are deemed to be marginalised. We should never seek to police behaviour that does not call for violence, or behaviour that are not violent. For example: teens wearing Bindis and Indian headdresses at festivals.

 The argument that many of these teens don’t understand the culture behind these items of clothing is levelled. The argument that they are participating in oppression by wearing them, either in a state of blissful ignorance or actively, is actually redundant. Cultures often take items from other cultures and integrate them as part of their culture, and whilst it may offend some, not allowing cultures to share and adopt traditions of oppressed cultures becomes authoritarian. How so? It creates privileged groups of people with culture that cannot be mocked, discussed and that their culture is there property and theirs alone.

 But also, what is an oppressed group? as different groups have different ideas of oppression. Are our values universal? as many of those who dress as Arab’s are criticised, but yet not all Arabs are oppressed, look at the Saudi Royal family for example. The argument falls to scrutiny.

 Secondly, the often hypocritical proponents of cultural appropriation define culture as a commodity that is in the possession of marginalised groups. That this is something they alone should have the ability to control and they alone possess. Culture should never be anyone’s property, nor should it exclusively belong to one group: this is how culture stagnates as it goes without discussion or adaptation.

 However, these same proponents are incoherent when it comes to the culture of groups in perceived positions of power, with some individuals claiming that cultures only occur due to marginalisation, hence groups in power have no culture and others claiming that only marginalised groups have ownership of their own culture. This is ridiculous, promoting the thinking that only certain groups should be privileged to have ownership and control over their culture. I don’t think any group should have said powers, but it is inconsistent to suggest that certain groups should and shouldn’t have this ability.

 Yet somehow, it remains their belief that culture should remain in the property of those who own it, rather than anyone outside said groups to try and adopt or adapt aspects of it.

 Cultural appropriation also tries to appeal to the idea of collective and ancestral guilt, that white people are somehow responsible for the actions of their ancestors and hence should respect other cultures due to their “sins.”

 However, consider this closely, are all white people the same? No. Those who often claim that white people appropriate other cultures and hence create mindless stereotypes appeal to mindless stereotypes to prove their arguments are solid. But also we should bear in mind that we don’t judge groups not perceived to be in positions of power for the sins of their ancestors, why should we do so to groups in power.

 Or why at all. If someone hasn’t committed a crime, don’t punish them for it.

 Hence, Cultural appropriation should fail to be convincing to any logical and rational thinker, as it is illogical and hypocritical thinking.