Bombast and the Ape
Ah Pook is Here

A Fear of Ideas

Published in 3:AM magazine, here’s my discussion with the Muslim novelist and exile Tahir Aslam Gora. On Islam, freedom and denial.

“It seems to me that the ideas being expressed most freely are far from tolerant and those who call for a more open-minded formulation of Islam are most likely to be intimidated or suppressed. One might note the recent experience of the reformist author Taslima Nasreen, whose book launch ended in her being violently assaulted by Islamic lawmakers and members of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, whose piety entailed throwing chairs at a terrified woman. Hyderabad police even filed a case against Nasreen for allegedly ‘creating religious tensions’ and writing ‘provocative literature’ - which rather highlights the scale of the change in outlook that’s required.”

Tahir_gora_2Tahir Aslam Gora is a Canadian-Pakistani writer, novelist, poet, journalist, editor, translator and publisher with over 20 years experience in the media industry. Gora founded Gora Publishers in 1987, which published more than 200 works of literature and books on the social sciences. He also served as editor-in-chief of the socio-political weekly, Hafta, and the literary journal Rujhanaat. In 2005 Gora translated into Urdu Irshad Manji’s book, The Trouble with Islam. He is currently translating Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel. Gora writes a column for The Hamilton Spectator and is currently working on two manuscripts; one on Canadian multiculturalism, the other on Islam and the need for its transformation into “a humane theology.” In Pakistan he was a noted critic of religious intolerance. He fled to Canada in the spring of 1999 following threats to his life.

Denial

DT: On an all but weekly basis, the British left’s mainstream newspaper, The Guardian, publishes articles by Muslims who insist, somewhat vaguely, that Islam teaches peace, tolerance, etc. “No religion on Earth can possibly condone such a vile action,” wrote  Ajmal Masroor in the wake of the latest bungled terror attacks. “Islam teaches its followers that taking one innocent life is like taking the lives of the whole of humanity.” This is pretty much the standard line, repeated time and again: Vague assertions that never actually address the specific theological claims of those who enact terror in the name of Islam. At best, we hear dubious figures like Salma Yaqoob arguing, belatedly, that “Muslims must... not deny there is an intolerant, sectarian strand of Islam that provides fake theological justifications for terrorism.” Yet Yaqoob seems unable to demonstrate that these justifications are indeed “fake” or merely, as she claims, some “sectarian perversion.” Like so many others, she appears unwilling to register the fact that this “intolerant strand” of Islam is, in many cases, part of mainstream Islamic belief – enshrined to varying degrees in the major schools of Islamic jurisprudence and endorsed by many theologians at prominent Islamic institutions – including Al-Azhar University, the nearest thing to a Sunni Vatican.

I have no doubt that Mr Masroor and countless others conceive Islam as a benign spiritual endeavour, and that they recoil from the idea of atrocity in the name of their religion. But recoiling isn’t enough and denial is absurd. It’s quite clear that many Muslims do conceive their faith as a mandate for violence, xenophobia and coercion, and those who do conceive their faith in this way cite Muhammad’s own words and deeds as the ultimate sanction of their actions. Would you agree with this assessment, and could you elaborate on your own experiences with the denial of theology as a motive for terrorism?

TG: It seems that the Qur’an is a pretty political book, and inconsistent. It treats issues differently from one instance to another. This huge inconsistency can make Muslims confused. Based on this confusion, many Muslims have for centuries excluded non-Muslims from their orbit. In addition, the traditional script of the Qur’an exhorts repulsion of ‘others’ much more than acceptance. Many Muslims are unwilling to realise that the Qur’an was written and compiled by the pioneers of Islam through different political stages. Instead, many take the book as the final verdict of God. These Qur’anic teachings have been enforced by Sharia even more strictly than the Qur’an itself over the centuries. Now, for many, the whole essence of Islam is repulsion of others.

Today the spokespersons of Islam are ignoring fundamental realities in a fake attempt to show global harmony. They are trying to show Islam as a religion of peace. They blame the foreign policies of Britain and the USA for every misery in the Muslim world. Left-leaning groups across the world are allying themselves with Muslim fundamentalists because of a common hatred of the USA. So many leftwing academics are facilitating the denial and conspiracy theories of Muslims. Interestingly, we, as Muslims, have been accusing others of denying the ultimate ‘truth’ of Islam, hence calling them infidels. Actually, many of us are now in denial as to the religious roots of terrorism. According to our own definition of infidel, we can be viewed as being infidels. Without acknowledging the sin of denial, we can’t rectify our misdeeds. That’s the reason I have proposed the New Islam project, to encourage that realisation.

Opportunity

DT: Your New Islam project calls for, among other things, democracy, gender equality, freedom of belief and freedom of speech. Your online statement says, “Muslim societies cannot find the track of reality and truth without the adoption of real freedom of expression.” It seems to me that freedom of expression and the open testing of ideas would also, ultimately, have huge economic benefits too, as would the equality and education of women. Will the prospect of material benefit be enough to bring about change?

TG: Prosperity alone in Muslim world might not be enough to bring freedom of expression, equality and education of women. For instance, Saudi Arabia and many other Middle Eastern states are unable to enjoy freedom despite being relatively prosperous. We’ve also noticed that some rich Muslims, while enjoying their personal liberties, also sponsor Islamic extremism. Muslim nations, first, need to change their attitude towards life. They have to adhere to a tolerant attitude first. That’s why I have suggested in the outlines of the New Islam, “Muslim societies cannot find the track of reality and truth without the adoption of real freedom of expression.” After adoption of this attitude, they can easily move to equality and prosperity.

DT: Well, one hopes. But it seems to me that the ideas being expressed most freely are far from tolerant and that those who call for a more open-minded formulation of Islam are most likely to be intimidated or suppressed. One might note the recent experience of the reformist author Taslima Nasreen, whose book launch ended in her being violently assaulted by Islamic lawmakers and members of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, whose piety entailed throwing chairs at a terrified woman. Hyderabad police even filed a case against Nasreen for allegedly “creating religious tensions” and writing “provocative literature” - which rather highlights the scale of the change in outlook that’s required. As you know all too well, Nasreen’s experience is far from unique. The moderate Islamic group, the Muslim Canadian Congress has helped draw attention to the spread of supremacist preaching and belief in Canada - and as a result has received numerous death threats from radical Muslims. And, as so often, the MCC’s acknowledgment of the problem, even with statements of fact, led to accusations of “insensitivity” and of “smearing” or “defaming” Islam.

And one might contrast such threats and intimidation with the openness and apparent impunity with which Islamist zealots can preach xenophobia and sedition at mainstream mosques here in the UK, as revealed by the Dispatches programme, Undercover Mosque. The makers of the documentary were, bizarrely, accused of taking inflammatory speeches “out of context”, though no actual evidence to support this claim was provided. And one wonders what kind of “context” would make the preaching filmed in the programme any less sinister and abhorrent. And, again, several prominent Muslim organisations and spokesmen directed blame at the programme makers for supposedly “fuelling racism” and creating “community tensions”, rather than at Abu Usamah who was filmed championing Osama bin Laden and exhorting violent jihad against non-believers, or Ijaz Mian, who told his audience that “You have to live like a state-within-a-state until you take over.”

It seems to me that critical introspection is not a popular activity among Muslim representatives or the major Islamic institutions, and those who do call for re-examination of how Islam is taught often find themselves at odds with Muslim “community leaders.” Perhaps more to the point, it’s difficult to see how one can encourage a reformulation of Islam without also challenging religious “sensitivities” and thus being accused of “smearing” or “defaming” Islam in the process. Those who do take on this enormous task will have to be prepared to face vehement hostility, and possibly worse. For change to happen is it necessary to first acknowledge the scale of the challenge?

TG: There are many challenges on the path of reforming Islam. Liberal, reformist Muslims have to deal with those challenges at each and every step. Liberal Muslims are not only silenced by literalist Muslims, but also by those non-Muslims who have developed the hollow pattern of being ‘fair’ and ‘tolerant’ to every religion. The existence of ‘political fairness’ among large circles of non-Muslim activists is actually a much bigger obstacle than extremist Muslims because those non-Muslim activists dominate the media outlets across the world and often ignore genuinely liberal Muslim voices. Here I would like to include an extract from my column from the Hamilton Spectator, which addresses the issue:

Even some Westerners suggest that the stance of the West regarding Salman Rushdie is a defining line between Islam and the West. But they don't advise what the West was supposed to do in response to a death fatwa by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini. Would they hand Rushdie over to Iran for the sake of harmony with Islam? More to the point, was there any such harmony before the Rushdie issue? From my perspective, the answer is no. The West was viewed as an infidel and sinful world long before this controversy. Muslims may argue it was because of the West's support for Israel. But, looking further back, they may also cite colonialism as a cause of bad relations. They contend that much of today's tension could be avoided if the West condemned acts such as caricaturing the Prophet of Islam, or if Rushdie were not awarded a knighthood. In arguing such delicate issues, though, we take in the whole course of history, but ignore its evolutionary aspect, which comprises a few fundamental human values. Freedom of expression is, perhaps, the most basic one.

Again, the same people claim there must be limits to free expression. And they don't mind redefining those limits, especially in the context of increasingly multicultural societies in their own homelands. The emerging multiculturalism is threatening to give rise to even more conflicts between West and Islam. Such conflict has already been predicted by Samuel Huntington in his book, The Clash of Civilizations. Another famous intellectual, Noam Chomsky, doesn't agree with Huntington's formulation. Rather, he blames the United States and Britain's political hegemony for all the miseries of today's relationship. But neither Chomsky nor Huntington suggests how to retain such values as freedom of expression - values which are the pillars of liberal democracies and open societies. Snubbing Rushdie or condemning any caricaturist is not the remedy for this conflict. These intellectuals are forgetting the fact that supporting free expression was as difficult in the West about a century ago as it seems in the Muslim world today.

However, those Western scholars who shaped the new civilised world for us had support from many corners of their own societies, including from left-leaning groups. Unfortunately, in today's world, brave Muslim scholars are barely getting any support from their Muslim societies. Indeed, many of the world's renowned left-leaning intellectuals have taken a U-turn in their ideologies. They are now more obsessed with that face of multiculturalism which asks us to be ‘fair’ to all ethnic and religious groups. These intellectuals don't seem to care much about the evolutionary development of their own societies. After the collapse of Communism, the leftists have apparently turned to the fundamentalists. Cowardly efforts to avoid conflict will not avert conflict, because the conflict has always been there. However, simply supporting the evolutionary thought process would tell the intolerant world to be more embracing of freedom of expression.

Self-Inflicted Miseries

DT: You mentioned freedom of expression as a precondition for prosperity and I very much agree. The physicist Taner Edis is one of many people to point out that the influence of Islamic belief in so many areas of life has seriously retarded the development of scientific research and technology, leaving much of the Islamic world at a major cultural and economic disadvantage. In other words, it is the acceptance of Islam as a Total Explanation and “complete way of life” that is doing great harm, not least by resisting - even punishing - the open testing of ideas. The technological and economic disadvantage that results is perceived by some Muslims as an affront to Islam itself, as if the Islamic social and political model should – somehow, mysteriously – perform better than decadent, free-thinking democracies. Similarly, while it’s true that British Muslims as a statistical group achieve lower educational standards and experience higher rates of unemployment, the role played in this outcome by Islamic ideas and Islamic cultural norms is rarely, if ever, discussed. Yet the relative success of other, comparable, immigrant groups, whether defined by race or religion, suggests Islam is a key variable, albeit an unmentionable one.

Despite this, it’s not clear to me whether there’s enough reformist momentum for Muslim cultures generally to look outside of Islam and evolve, or whether conservative elements will prevail and compound the problem by insisting religion plays an even greater role in cultural and intellectual life. I’m not a religious man, but it seems to me that free enquiry can only erode whatever is obsolete, inaccurate and dysfunctional in a religion. Surely whatever is useful, even supposedly numinous, will be unharmed by the freedom to test ideas?

TG: I am more concerned about many self-proclaimed modern or liberal Muslims. I have met thousands of fellow Muslim men and women, working as doctors, writers and professors, but still viewing Islam as a “complete way of life.” They call themselves liberals. I cannot understand how Islam or any religion could be a complete way of life. I believe in spirituality and creativity. I had my own perception about the creative forces of the Universe. I am not here to denounce the history of religions. I am humble and trying to relate today’s realities with the ever changing mechanism of our Universe. I cannot find the relevance of Islam with today’s realities. So, I am proposing amendments to Islam in order to maintain an Islamic identity, but also to encourage compatibility with fellow human beings. In my opinion, without accepting the mismatch of Islam with today’s realities and without going into unconditional debate with open minds, we, the Muslims, can’t accomplish economic, scientific, artistic and social developments.

Related, a discussion with Ophelia Benson.

Comments

georges

Excellent article, David.

Vitruvius

I agree with Georges. Thanks David.

Mr. Gora's position, which I respect and support, reminds me of Marcus Aurelius's comment to the effect that "The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane".

Based on the last few tens of thousands of years, I have a theory that the sane tend to win out, in the long run, modulo the occasional downturn century, and a few hundred million dead here or there. Alas, I shall be dead long before that proposition is settled either way (if it ever is).

Meanwhile, David, your particular sanity is appreciated. There are fundamental advances that homo sapiens have made over time. They need to be defended.

Yet it remains the case the while defending fundamental advancements is basically a conservative thing, the fundamental advancements have tended to be liberal (using the classic definitions). This tends to confuse a lot of people, causing them to focus on their differences, rather than celebrating their similarities.

But people aren't actually stupid; they are smart enough to understand advancement even if they can't explain it. And that's where the current incarnation of Islamism fails the test: people can tell that it is not constructive, it is destructive.

Over time, it will fail. The only open question is how ugly the mess will be.

EBD

Tahir Aslam Gora's take is another heartening sign from the Muslim community. He is far more credible than the Muslims-in-public-denial and the communo-leftists because he understands that it's not entirely up to the west to account for certain tendencies that exist within Islam, and that taking that approach would not be as productive as advertised.

Salma Yaqoob, in The Guardian, is among those who point us straight at the most unproductive approach. She begins her article by saying that the most recent terror attempts in the UK "...have once again raised the question: why?"

At first glance it seems like a reasonable, caring-sharing question -- "why?" -- suitable for western sensibilities, but in fact whenever she, Ajmaal Masroor, various Guardian columnists and a broad swatch of the left in general repeatedly invoke the "why?" question they understand that it's not so much a question as a sideways didactic device, an attempt to slide in, as the baseline for all further discussion, the more-advanced *understanding* that Islamists are *driven* to mass-murder innocents by western, non-Islamic agencies, including our own culture.

Suppose that the west was even capable of somehow collectively understanding the motivation of those who desire to murder innocents; would our self-induced "understanding" alter, in any way, the behaviour of hard-core Islamists? I think it's reasonable to assume that the most violent men at the edge of Islam are not interested in what we think, except to the extent that it has a utility for them in identifying our cultural/political weak spots.

Islam has fewer weak spots than the west does; Islam is not rife with political blocs who wish to take it down. Whenever a thoughtful westerner asks us, with the wisdom of Father Christmas himself, "Ah, but *why* would a bunch of young Islamic males, immigrants and first generation, wish to mass-murder their compatriots", it's a rhetorical question with the implied answer that the perpetrators are not nearly as culpable for their actions as less-progressive westerners might think.

Ajmaal Masroor: "I would like us..." (note that he's not referring to himself, since he already understands, but to us, which, for the purpose of his piece, includes him) "...to be more honest about the root causes that have made terrorism so appealing, even fashionable, for some people. I could like us to take into account what has driven these people to resort to such desperate measures..."

A lot of us have already taken into account the "root cause", and our answer has been deemed not only unacceptable, but so unacceptable that it justifies further actions being against us; we are asked instead to look elsewhere -- specifically, at ourselves.

What if we did, in search of solutions, ask ourselves questions like "What motivated hundreds of thousands of Muslim men around the world to scream to the point of hoarseness and hyperventilation for Salman Rushdie's death?"

It's not like we would receive some collective dispensation to answer that we don't have now. And when certain answers to such questions are proscribed -- for Muslims as well -- by those who insist we ask ourselves such questions, then what, exactly, is being asked of us?

David

EBD,

“…we are asked instead to look elsewhere -- specifically, at ourselves.”

A couple of years ago, there was a Moral Maze programme on the subject of suicide bombing, in which Cilla Elworthy of Peace Direct asked, somewhat rhetorically, “Why are young men in such a state of fury and indignation?” Curiously, having asked the question, she wasn’t too keen on hearing suggestions that didn’t hinge entirely on Western culpability. Like many others, she seemed determined to assign blame to “the West”, even if this entailed elaborate moral contortion. But this eagerness to portray jihadists and ‘martyrs’ as being provoked to such actions has obvious implications for other, non-Western, victims of similar atrocities. It isn’t clear to me how the unsuspecting guests at a Jordanian wedding party might have “provoked” their own dismemberment, or why the education of girls in Thailand should “provoke” the destruction of those schools and their teachers’ decapitation.

Vitruvius

Peace Direct? Somehow I doubt that Cilla has ever pondered what Aristotle meant when he said, "We make war so that we may live in peace". I may not know much, but I'm pretty sure that the path to peace is not direct. If it was, we would be there by now, and the road to utopia would not be littered with tombstones. Peace is a direction, not a destination. And we'll never get there. But we're doin' pretty good so far.

David

Vitruvius,

I mention Elworthy because, at the time, it made clear to me how easily the placement of blame can go beyond reasonable differences of opinion held in good faith. Let’s not forget Madeleine Bunting and her response to John Ware’s Panorama film about the Muslim Council of Britain and its habitual ambiguity regarding extremism. Bunting called the programme “McCarthyite” and accused Ware of “slyly editing” the words of Syed Abul A’la Mawdudi - with no evidence whatsoever - apparently on grounds that she couldn't accept Mawdudi’s statement that the ideal Islamic state would bear a “kind of resemblance to the fascist/communist states.” Apparently, such a comment couldn’t *possibly* be true, and must therefore be taken out of context or wilfully distorted.

However, if Bunting had actually read Mawdudi's works, she’d have discovered this comment is quoted verbatim and is entirely in keeping with Mawdudi’s broader philosophy, and that of his followers. In April 1939, Mawdudi argued: “In reality, Islam is a revolutionary ideology which seeks to alter the social order of the whole world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and ideals… Islam requires the earth - not just a portion, but the whole planet.” According to Mawdudi, non-Muslims have “absolutely no right to seize the reins of power in any part of God's Earth, nor to direct the affairs of human beings according to their own misconceived doctrines.” If non-Muslims do hold political power anywhere on Earth, Mawdudi insisted: “[Muslims are] under an obligation to do their utmost to dislodge them from political power and to make them live in subservience to the Islamic way of life.”

Yet Bunting was apparently unwilling to read Mawdudi’s own words, which are readily available online, or to register their documented influence on Pakistan’s numerous Islamist groups, or on Sayyid Qutb, the Muslim Brotherhood and bin Laden, or to entertain the possible influence of such ideas on at least three of the four London bombers. When one Guardian columnist – a “leading thinker” – behaves in this way, one might dismiss it as ineptitude and a sign of obvious personal bias. But when similar evasions are performed by dozens of commentators and repeated almost every week for several years, it comes to have an atmosphere of something else entirely.

Vitruvius

Understood, David. Yet I continue to be unable to understand what that something else is. Do they think that in an authoritarian system they will be in charge? Maybe I'm just simple, but I don't understand how women and gays and the non-abrahamic (to the degree that matters) and so-called freedom-loving people can be so deluded. Or, maybe, they're just technically insane, in the sense of working against their own self-interest, which would be another problem in its own right.

David

I could only guess at what passes through the minds of the people concerned. But when so many commentators make the same claims and errors, based on the same assumptions - and then continue doing so despite repeated refutation, then those claims and errors are no longer a matter of good faith. At the time of the London bombings, if you followed the commentary in the pages of, say, the Guardian and Independent, it was hard to avoid an impression of some strange collective denial, often veering into outright fantasy and personal psychodrama.

It’s perhaps significant that many commentators were so keen to point the finger of blame at “the West”, they simply ignored other, non-Western, victims of jihadist terrorism – including Hindus, Buddhists and, of course, reformist Muslims. Apparently, it was all about “us” and how terrible “we” are – which suggests a kind of masochistic narcissism.

Horace Dunn

Masochistic narcissism is a good way of putting it, David. But maybe the masochistic bit is stretching it a little.

It seems to me that the Guardianistas about whom you speak, don’t really believe that radical Islam will make any significant advances. Perhaps they are right to think this. Either way, all these liberated women, proud atheists, out-and-proud homosexuals etc etc. can’t conceive of a day when they’ll have to submit to any beastliness. Besides, given what they’ve suffered under the jackboot of George Bush in his campaign for world domination, a little bit of Sharia will seem like a picnic.

Of course, where this leaves women, atheists, homosexuals etc etc. in other parts of the world is a different question, but doubtless their suffering is George Bush’s fault too.

No, I don’t think they’re Masochistic. Narcissistic, certainly. Condescending, too. Sometimes it is difficult to believe that they are not racist. White thugs beating up immigrants are never deemed to have been driven to their actions by immigration policy. But surely immigration policy is a recruiting sergeant for the BNP. It will be interesting to see how Bunting and Co change their tune as more and more terrorist attacks (or attempted attacks) involve white European converts to Islam.

David

Horace,

“But maybe the masochistic bit is stretching it a little.”

Well, maybe. But for some commentators, disdain for one’s own culture and its products has become a badge of merit – an affectation taken to extremes by, among others, Bunting, Milne and Fisk. And, in this regard, the line between “It’s all our fault” and “It’s all about me” sometimes seems awfully thin.

David

In other news…

“Riyadh ul Haq, who supports armed jihad and preaches contempt for Jews, Christians and Hindus, is in line to become the spiritual leader of the Deobandi sect in Britain. The ultra-conservative movement, which gave birth to the Taliban in Afghanistan, now runs more than 600 of Britain’s 1,350 mosques, according to a police report seen by The Times…

Seventeen of Britain’s 26 Islamic seminaries are run by Deobandis and they produce 80 per cent of home-trained Muslim clerics. Many had their studies funded by local education authority grants. The sect, which has significant representation on the Muslim Council of Britain, is at its strongest in the towns and cities of the Midlands and northern England. Figures supplied to The Times by the Lancashire Council of Mosques reveal that 59 of the 75 mosques in five towns – Blackburn, Bolton, Preston, Oldham and Burnley – are Deobandi-run…

Mr ul Haq, the most high-profile of the new generation of Deobandis, runs an Islamic academy in Leicester and is the former imam at the Birmingham Central Mosque. Revered by many young Muslims, he draws on his extensive knowledge of the Qur’an and the life and sayings of the prophet Muhammad to justify his hostility to the kuffar, or non-Muslims.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article2402973.ece

Horace Dunn

David

You said "Well, maybe. But for some commentators, disdain for one’s own culture and its products has become a badge of merit – an affectation taken to extremes by, among others, Bunting, Milne and Fisk. And, in this regard, the line between “It’s all our fault” and “It’s all about me” sometimes seems awfully thin."

I agree totally. The narcissism isn't in question. But don't you think that these people, were they to suppose for one moment that their support for jihadist lunatics would affect their comfortable life-styles, would run a mile? That's why I question the masochistic element that you've introduced (leaving aside Fisk, of course). These people don't expect punishment, or even privation. They are merely relishing the luxury of being able to wag their superior, multicultural fingers at the rest of us, secure in the knowledge that their lives will remain undisturbed.


David

Horace,

Well, it seems a tricky manoeuvre to habitually disdain the basis of one’s own livelihood, freedom and status – as a high-profile Guardian columnist, for instance – while maintaining one’s personal self-esteem. I agree that the sanctimonious tone is hard to miss, as is the assumption of a double standard, but the contradiction remains. Today, for instance, Madeleine Bunting has voiced her anxieties regarding the tendency of people to reproduce:

“Does the UK need population management? Does the world need it? This is one of those issues that is regarded by many privately as common sense but rarely gets a public airing… There's no point giving up your meat and your car, recycling your rubbish and producing lots of children.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2165906,00.html

It isn’t clear to me whether this ominous message has any consequences for Ms Bunting herself, or her own children. Though others making similar noises – most notably white, middle-class leftists, have actually thrown themselves on the rhetorical rocks:

“Does the world really need more middle-class white babies?”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2075388,00.html

And a general air of displaced self-loathing isn’t exactly hard to find. Oliver “laughing boy” James is particularly good at this:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/02/phantom_guilt_s.html

Though, again, it isn’t clear whether the “us” Mr James refers to actually includes himself.

EBD

Oliver James: "...my analysis reveals that over a 12-month period nearly one quarter (23%) of English speakers suffered (mental illness), compared with 11% of mainland western Europeans...What explains such a massive difference?"

Uh, self reporting?

No. Mental illness is caused by "selfish capitalism" and "privatization of public utilities" and "suppression of unions" and "very low taxation for the rich..."

Wow. You know, David, when I ponder the extent to which the Guardian's contributors are representatives of the left -- in other words, politically armed -- their collective psychology seems ominous. It's as if their milieu's constant, blithe use of sociological terms has resulted in a pathological inability to understand that the world at large, and the terminology they use to describe it are two different things.

They seem to earnestly believe that by maneuvering words and terms -- "people of the world" -- they can maneuver the millions the terms describe -- "People of the world, it's time to get paid"(ICBR) -- as if epic-scale humanity is comprised of board-game pieces. Or concomitantly, as in the case of Sarah Churchwell, that a sociological-scale group is, by virtue of her having a word for it, an actual, singular organic entity acting in concert to oppress her personally: "Society needs to stop telling me to turn myself into a mother just because it can't imagine that I might be..."

John Reid, who edges into Jimmy Jones territory, fairly pounds the board-game pieces with his fists: "The most human way to achieve a reduction in the human population would be for people to voluntarily stop breeding, but this would never happen..."

The humane option -- which would entail the rest of us existing outside of his grand plans for us -- is off the table. Must go on: "The next most human way to reduce the population might be to put something in the water, a virus that would be specific to the human reproductive system and would make a substantial proportion of the population infertile. Perhaps a virus that would knock out the genes that..."

We'll meet again
don't know where,
don't know when,
but I know we'll meet again
some sunny daaay....

Bunting asks with a straight face if it's perhaps not the case that the *US and the Vatican* have "managed to bully" environmental groups into an "awkward silence" on the critically important necessity of, in effect, state control of creation, biology and the ancient covenant between parents and children. Do you think maybe, when she talks about the Vatican bullying environmentalists into silence, she's joking? I kinda hope so. Otherwise...

David

EBD,

“…when I ponder the extent to which the Guardian's contributors are representatives of the left…”

In fairness, some of the finest scorn for this kind of thing comes from a handful of left-leaning blogs. But this kind of agonising (or pseudo-agonising) is nonetheless now part of mainstream leftist thought. Bunting, of course, is granted centre stage in the mainstream organ of the British left, as are many of those who share her pain; strangely, her critics on the left are rarely granted that honour.

“Do you think maybe… she's joking?”

A feature of Maddy’s outpourings is that it’s very tempting to assume she isn’t being serious, even when she is. Another feature of her outpourings is a distinct lack of humour, which may relate to my previous sentence.

Loga'Abdullah

I reviewed Irshad Manji’s book here – I think you may find it interesting

http://www.alhamdulilah.info/2010/04/trouble-with-islam-irshad-manji.html

Feel free to contact me if you have any comments or suggestions about this book review.

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