When I wrote my last blog post: “Active Citizenship in a left right polarized paradigm” I reflected that desirable as it was to put aside ideological differences in order to achieve the common good, those very differences can become barriers to progress. But as I often tell folk, while I am seen by many to be right leaning in my political views, many of my social justice concerns are often more whole heartedly shared by those holding left leaning views, and I want to cooperate with any when it comes to the common good.
I need to first make my position clear. I abhor hate of any kind and have done my fair share of combating hate in my time. The obvious one is racial hatred, and I agree with the late Dr. King. Besides race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability there are others (often not recognized e.g. in my work among the homeless I have seen many hate incidents toward homeless people, primarily because they are homeless). But the problem we face is defining what is or isn’t hate and what is and isn’t acceptable, a subject I will come to. A significant part of my own community activism is working with diverse communities and I recognize the importance of putting aside and respecting differences and coming together for the common good. But let me lay my cards on the table concerning two of the more controversial areas. While I have Muslim friends and know and esteem many Muslims, I regard Islam as a false religion because it denies Christ. While I have LBGT friends and know and esteem many LBGT folk, I still believe marriage should be between a man and a woman and there are but two genders.
I fear that many who are in power are so beholden to political correctness that they focus so much on this that doing the right thing becomes of secondary or of no importance at all. Their obsession with going after someone like Tommy Robinson and his supporters or stopping people like Donald Trump and Franklin Graham coming to Britain, as is the attempt to shut down any criticism of Islam or calling Muslims to account, are examples. Not only does this alienate those who feel anger it should be this way but it leads to societal division and lost opportunities for working for the common good. It contributes to a climate of anger and fear where extremist groups are able to flourish. I fear civil discord to come, including rioting in the streets, for neglecting such concerns does and will further empower the proponents of hate, left e.g. Antifa and right e.g. BNP, and we are already seeing signs of this. I have no problem calling out and prosecuting proponents of hate, but I am concerned that some see certain actions as hateful that I do not and some are over zealous when it comes to shutting down the free speech of those they disagree with giving citing hatred as the reason.
While preparing this article a friend sent me a link to an exchange in the House of Commons to do with hate crime, when the following question was asked by Yasmin Qureshi, Shadow Minister (Justice) to the Secretary of State for the Home Department if she will make a statement on hate crime in light of the inflammatory letters inciting a “Punish a Muslim day” on 3 April. My intention is not to go over what was a lengthy exchange on a matter of genuine concern and instead quote my friend whose views I broadly concur with: “Some MPs seem to fail to distinguish between hatred / incitement to violence and genuine concerns which some label as “bigotry”. By using the term “islamophobia”, they are failing to distinguish between Islam and its adherents. We should be free to critique religious belief without hatred against anyone. This freedom is steadily being eroded, it seems. The term “hate crime” itself is a misnomer as it depends on how the so-called “victim” feels. We could care deeply about someone, yet be accused of hatred simply by our disagreement with their belief system. Obviously, all right-thinking people would condemn all violence and threats of violence, but this should not stifle debate.” One aspect of the exchanges I found worrying was discussion concerning the 50% of the country expressing concerns over the islamification of the British culture. Rather than recognizing these are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed, I got the sense that the general feeling was these misguided people need re-educating.
Another article I happened to read after my initial thoughts on the matter is in The Sun, 14/03/18, where former Louise Casey, former government Integration Tsar, lists “Five things Government MUST do to stop Britain apart”. She argues as a country we are sleepwalking into an increasingly segregated country, and countries are becoming increasingly insular and opportunities for some in the poorest and most isolated areas are virtually non existent:
- We must be bold and ambitious on the English language
- We must tackle disadvantage across all our communities
- We must take immediate tough action on unregulated home education
- We must not shy away from tackling difficult issues because of a well meaning but politically correct fear of being labeled racist
- This must be back by serious money to make a real difference
These are not my priorities and some points e.g over home schooling I disagree, but at least Dame Casey has identified important issues facing our country and suggested a way forward to addressing these.
Let me now refer to two stories represented by the above memes that sparked of this post. The first relates to political commentator Lauren Southern being banned from Britain for promoting hate, when from what I can make out her “crime” was she wanted to interview Tommy Robinson, a person many in the establishment wants to shut down because of his outspoken views on Islam. Alongside the photo of Ms Southern is one of a known terrorist who has been allowed into the country. The implications are concerning: we have here evidence of a worrying bias in the system that might be summarized as – we let in the bad people because we don’t wish to be seen as racist etc. and keep out those who challenge the status quo. It is a scandal that a journalist should be disallowed from entering the country to interview one who points our elements of Islam as being unBritish and unacceptable, and from what I can make out he makes some valid points. The second meme appears in an article titled “Revealed: Police Failed to Act as 1,000 Girls Beaten, Pimped, Raped, and Even KILLED Over 40 Years in Britain’s Worst Grooming Scandal” which begins: “An investigation by the Sunday Mirror has revealed Britain’s worst ever grooming scandal, which saw authorities paralysed for 40 years by fears of “racism” accusations as grooming gangs victimised up to a thousand girls in Telford”.
As for the second story, following recent stories in other towns in England of sex grooming and worse by Pakistani Muslim men and others, it beggars belief this has gone on for so long unchecked due to fear of being called out as racist or Islamophobic have been barriers to these crimes being uncovered and punished a lot sooner. I deliberately insert “Muslim” given mainstream media, afraid of repercussions, will not do so, and while I have no intend to inflame the situation, this is not an irrelevant fact, and 97% of Pakistanis are Muslim. What is glaring to me is we are being told to hang back criticizing Islam and calling for an honest debate on matters of concern out of fear of offending Muslims. The article: “Sacrificing girls to political correctness” is relevant here.
In summary, I speak of a worrying trend in our country whereby those holding power and those who take it upon themselves to say what is acceptable speech wise and what is not have an inordinate sway in what happens when controversial statements are made and as a country we are neglecting what should be our priorities when it comes to the achieving common good and having an intelligent debate on some of the things that affect us all, because it might upset some. Sadly, from what I can make out there is more call to shut down the supposed excesses of the right by the left than of the left by the right, evidenced that there has been little reference to recent violence perpetrated by the Anti-Fascist group Antifa, although neither side is blameless. It also sadly diverts our attention to more pressing matters, such as the crisis in our Health services.
My recent experience whereby those with strong left and right leaning views were able to join forces to help the homeless in the recent cold weather spell represents the way we should go. I do fear though that by killing the right we will end up shooting ourselves in the foot. As for me, I will continue to speak out on these matters, for unlike some with most of their life before them I have little to lose, and hopefully in winsome as well as robust way, joining forces with whoever in the interests of securing the common good.