Johann Hari – correct on Bat Ye’or, wrong about Islamophobia Watch!

johann hari 2Johann Hari has a go at Melanie Phillips et al in today’s Independent:

“There are intellectuals on the British right who are propagating a conspiracy theory about Muslims that teeters very close to being a 21st century Protocols of the Elders of Mecca. Meet Bat Ye’or, a ‘scholar’ who argues that Europe is on the brink of being transformed into a conquered continent called ‘Eurabia’.

“In this new land, Christians and Jews will be reduced by the new Muslim majority to the status of ‘dhimmis’ – second-class citizens forced to ‘walk in the gutter’. This will not happen by accident. It is part of a deliberate and ‘occult’ plan, concocted between the Arab League and leading European politicians like Jacques Chirac and Mary Robinson, who secretly love Islam and are deliberately flooding the continent with Muslim immigrants. As Orianna Fallacci – one of the best-selling writers in Italy – has summarised the thesis in her hymns of praise to Ye’or, ‘Muslims have been told to come here and breed like rats.’

“Rather than dismissing her preposterous assertions, high-profile writers such as Melanie Phillips, Daniel Pipes and Niall Ferguson laud Ye’or as a suppressed hero, silenced by (you guessed it) ‘political correctness’. Her name is brandished as a gold standard in right-wing Tory circles. It’s interesting that writers so alert to anti-Semitism have lent their names to an ideology that is so startlingly similar. In this theory, the Star of David has simply been replaced by the Islamic crescent. If the term has any meaning, this is authentic Islamophobia, treating virtually all Muslims as verminous sharia-carriers. So why are these people still treated as serious and sane by the BBC and its editors?”

Great stuff. And who could disagree? Unfortunately, having made these excellent points, Hari goes on to denounce Islamophobia Watch.

He claims that we “obsessively snipe at left-wing atheists like Peter Tatchell, even calling him ‘pro-Nazi’ because he ‘uses the term Islamism without distinguishing between its reformist and violent wings’.” Hari comments: “Yes, it’s true – Tatchell fails to draw a distinction between the people who will lash and stone gays after winning at the ballot box and the people who will lash and stone gays after seizing power in a coup.”

In fact we described Tatchell as “objectively pro-Nazi” in February this year after he demanded the exclusion of the Muslim Council of Britain from the platform of Unite Against Fascism’s conference, which had been called to organise a campaign against the Nazi BNP in the forthcoming council elections (see here and here). Given that the fascists had announced that they intended to turn the election campaign into a “referendum on Islam”, the exclusion from the UAF conference of a body that Tatchell himself has described as “the umbrella organisation of all Muslim groups in this country” would clearly have been to the benefit of the BNP.

As for Hari’s assertion that all Islamists want to “lash and stone gays”, this is identical to the sort of idiotic argument you hear from the likes of Daniel Pipes. Hari should perhaps listen to Soumaya Ghannoushi, who has pointed out that: “Islamism, like socialism, is not a uniform entity. It is a colourful sociopolitical phenomenon with many strategies and discourses. This enormously diverse movement ranges from liberal to conservative, from modern to traditional, from moderate to radical, from democratic to theocratic, and from peaceful to violent. What these trends have in common is that they derive their source of legitimacy from Islam.”

Hari would certainly learn more about the progressive potential of Islam from Soumaya that he ever will from an unrepresentative, ignorant egomaniac like Irshad Manji.

Postscript:  Right-wing blogger Scott Burgess finds some holes in Hari’s argument. How is it possible to deny hostility towards Muslims while at the same time denouncing representative Muslim leaders like Iqbal Sacranie and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Burgess wants to know. “The voices that Mr. Hari so fears and despises are not those of the fringe – frighteningly for us all, Sir Iqbal and Sheikh Qaradawi represent the mainstream. In short, Mr. Hari is literally an Islamophobe – he is, quite reasonably, afraid of what orthodox Islam teaches. For the time being, though, his liberal sensibilities forbid him from admitting it, even to himself.”

Daily Ablution, 21 August 2006