Here’s one from our friend Martin Odoni at The Critique Archives, tailor-made for commenters who like to split hairs about the difference between racism and sectarianism/hate speech against religion:
One of the most irritating refrains from the anti-immigrant/anti-Islam crowd over the last few years has been the attempt to justify hostility to Muslims by insisting it cannot be racism. The grounds for this claim is that “Islam is not a race”. Even the likes of Richard Dawkins was tweeting it a few years ago.
The sentence is technically true, but if you think about it, the distinction it draws is entirely a quibble. The hostility towards Muslims is still a form of ‘othering’ of a foreign culture. Furthermore, on hearing the word Muslim, the average white Anglo-Saxon Briton will picture something roughly along the lines of this; –
The image is offensive, as it conflates Muslims with militant Islamists, but also because it is both sectarian and highly racial. In particular, it makes the classic mistake of assuming that Muslim is a synonym for Arab. In the real world, the proportion of Muslims worldwide who are Arabs is under fifteen per cent.
The second, a satirical response to anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, has already been criticised under the pretext that it belittles white people. Isn’t it the point that some white people are too quick to pass judgement on others, without waiting for accurate information, though? Here’s the clip:
What do you think? And, in the wake of Charlottesville and the continuing efforts of ISIS, how would YOU fight prejudice?
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This was a terrorist attack by a right-wing extremist – and just the first sign of a wave of aggression, around the world.
People like Thomas Mair saw the anti-immigration rhetoric that fuelled the vote to leave the European Union as an endorsement of racist, nationalist views.
And the proliferation of hate crimes suggests those views appear to be on the rise in the United States of America, after the election of Donald Trump as President, and in continental Europe.
People are committing these crimes because they think they can. They think that, somehow, atrocities against their fellow human being are now permissible – or at least that the authorities will turn a blind eye.
But what makes them believe their racism, homophobia, sexism, sectarianism, anti-Semitism or whatever is justified, anyway?
Have we, as a culture, failed to address these issues?
This Writer finds that hard to believe. I’ve been brought up in the same culture as everybody else and my compassion for another person has never been conditional on the colour of their skin or the compatibility of their religious beliefs.
Yet these crimes have happened and are continuing to happen. Thomas Mair murdered Jo Cox on the basis of a falsehood – for a lie.
I know many Vox Political readers have been waiting to air their opinions on this very subject; now is your chance.
What on Earth do you think has been motivating this?
Thomas Mair has been jailed for life after being found guilty of the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.
The 53-year-old shot and stabbed to death the mother-of-two in Birstall, West Yorkshire, on 16 June, a week before the EU referendum vote.
Mair shouted “Britain First” in the attack, but the judge said the true “patriot” was Mrs Cox, not Mair.
Prosecutors said Mair was motivated by hate and his crimes were “nothing less than acts of terrorism”.
Mair was also found guilty of having a firearm with intent, causing grievous bodily harm with intent to 78-year-old Bernard Kenny, who tried to help the MP, and having an offensive weapon, namely a dagger.
Gathering against racism: The people of Northern Ireland demonstrating outside Belfast City Hall [Images: Dermot O’ Lymm, as used by Channel 4’s news website].
A guest blog by Jason O’Ruairc
“What do you not trust those who are followers of Islam in doing? I’ll be quite honest. I wouldn’t trust them in terms of those who have been involved in terrorist activities. I don’t trust them if they are fully devoted to Sharia law. I wouldn’t trust them for spiritual guidance. Would I trust them to go down to the shops for me? Of course I would.”
If you live outside Northern Ireland you might not recognise these words, since the events surrounding their utterance have gone largely unreported by the UK media, and a timely bomb in Derry’s Everglades Hotel has served to eclipse the story, if that were needed. So, just in case you missed it, here in summary is what’s going on:
Quoted above are the words of Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland’s First Minister, given in an interview to John Manley of the Irish News, in which Robinson made a show of support for a controversial preacher from Belfast’s Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle. In a sermon that was broadcast on the internet, Pastor James McConnell condemned Islam as a “heathen” and “satanic” religion, and a “doctrine spawned in Hell.” He also stated that he didn’t trust Muslims and that “Enoch Powell was a prophet,” referring to Powell’s famous 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.
Violence against ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland is on the increase; according to one report there are two attacks per day, an increase of 43 per cent from 2013. Belfast is now being referred to as the ‘Hate Crime Capital’ of the UK. Given this context, it is easy to see Pastor McConnell’s words as irresponsible and inflammatory. However, more remarkable is the support offered to this supposed man of God by our First Minister, whose job it is to serve the interests of every citizen. Peter Robinson has attended Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in the past, and says that he will do so again. He is not the only one from his party, the DUP, to do so; notably Health Minister Edwin Poots is also a regular worshipper.
The pastor is reported to be under investigation by the PSNI for a potential hate crime, however, on the BBC’s Stephen Nolan show, aired on Wednesday (May 28), McConnell denied that he had yet been contacted by the police. On the same show he demonstrated a complete ignorance of Islam – for example calling Sharia law “Sharara law” – and he refused to accept that his words were irresponsible, or could be construed by some people as an incitement to violence. In fact, he appeared to be completely out of his depth on every point put to him by Dr. Khalid Anis of the Islamic Society of Britain. Despite being given the opportunity to retract and pour oil on troubled waters like a good Christian, the pastor clung doggedly to his position.
Now, let’s go back to the quote we began with. If David Cameron had come out with the kind of patronising, intolerant, condescending, stereotyping rhetoric that Peter Robinson had, you might imagine that his career as Prime Minister would be swiftly over. But our First Minister, perhaps after consultation with his advisers this time, had no such concerns and instead commenced a half-hearted damage limitation exercise. He almost apologised, saying in a statement that his words had been “misinterpreted,” and accepted an invitation to visit the Belfast Islamic Centre where he made an apology to three people behind closed doors.
On Friday, together with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Robinson met with the Turkish ambassador to discuss trade opportunities. Turkey is 99 per cent Muslim. I can’t help wondering how the conversation went: was there any awkwardness, or did Peter just pat the ambassador on the head and ask him to nip down the shops for some chocolates? I suppose we’ll never know. Criticism of Robinson’s support for McDonnell has come from many sectors of society. In particular, Muslim healthcare professionals including leading surgeons, have expressed their discomfort with Minister Poots’ attendance at McConnell’s church, some saying that they would be inclined to leave Northern Ireland, and others calling for the First Minister to resign. As I write, Peter Robinson hasn’t resigned.
There have been other political casualties: Hong Kong-born Alliance MLA Anna Lo broke down in tears during an interview as she described the vulnerability she feels every day and the constant racial abuse and attacks she suffers. She has decided to leave politics at the next election, and is seriously considering quitting the country altogether. Unsuccessful UUP local election candidate Colin Houston resigned from the party after being suspended following his haranguing defence of Pastor McConnell on the aforementioned Nolan show, where he shouted: “The Christians are starting to stand up; we’re not having it no [sic] more.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear what he and his brethren were not “having […] no more” of. Inexplicably for an Ulster Unionist, he also shouted at George Galloway to go “away back to Britain.” He’d only been in the party for three weeks.
From my summary of the week’s events it may seem as though we live in a sanctioned hunting ground for bigots, who are encouraged by some of our political and spiritual leaders to go out and ethnically cleanse their streets. But despite this pervasive ignorance and prejudice, there is still hope, and I want to finish on a positive note. On Thursday evening a call went out on social media for an ‘Emergency Anti-Racism Rally’ outside Belfast City Hall. I attended the rally, along with thousands of others, and it was heartening to see the support and solidarity for the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland. The fact that so many people came together at such short notice gives some indication of the strength of feeling about the issues of racism and sectarianism in our society. Anna Lo told us that she was going to stay in the country, and was rapturously applauded by all, regardless of their political views. I’m not from Northern Ireland myself; I’m a blow-in from across the water. But my adopted home of over 20 years is the most welcoming, creative, inspiring, and just-plain-brilliant place I’d ever want to live in. I love it here, and I’m not alone in that.
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