Tag Archives: Islam

Dear (fellow) White People

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Dear (fellow) White People

Like many people in the US and UK, I was glued to my computer and television screens yesterday, watching the horror in Virginia unfold. Right now, it’s really hard to take the positives from #Charlottesville.

I’ve been watching the rise of white supremacy over the last 10 years or so, and it’s shocking how it’s been normalised in mainstream politics, over here through Blair’s reintroduction of the Prevention of Terrorism act, which was always bound to unfairly vilify the Muslim community as it did the Irish community throughout the 1970s and 80s; Bush’s clampdown on civil liberties in the US and re-working of the facts of history to reflect a NeoCon narrative; and the demonisation of Muslims and immigrants by Cameron, Farage and Trump. This actions were always going to give credence to a white imperialist narrative of English-speaking white people being the fabled ‘good guys’, despite masses of evidence to the contrary throughout history.

I agree with MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, on the white moderate:

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

If we have been shown anything over the last year, and in particular, the last two weeks, is that white male fragility turns nasty when faced with both the sins of the past and present. This must change. There are those who would call for tolerance. This, to my mind, does not solve anything when those calling for ‘tolerance’ are supported by systemic injustice. I think, rather than erring on the side of ‘tolerance’ we must have robust discussion. No holds barred, no punch unpulled. And not just with others, but with ourselves. How much are we willing to watch other people be demonised? Killed by police for trumped up traffic ‘violations’? Being twice victimised by the use of the false equivalence I have seen on the Twittersphere today, comparing those in Black Lives Matter who are standing up for their civil rights with those self-described Nazis who worship at the altar of a genocidal dictator? Being ‘tolerant’ of bigotry enables it – if we’ve learned nothing from the last 15 months, I think the evidence would point towards that. Power = privilege. It’s as simple as that. These last 15 months, both here in the UK and the US, and indeed, across Europe has been a sharp wake-up call to those who believed white supremacy to be vanquished; it merely was gestating underground, ready to rise up at the appropriate time.

But I will say this: There is hope. There are those who realise what is at stake and who stood up and were counted, like the counter-protesters stood up to Nazis and white supremacists. Everyone who stood against fascism and white supremacy in Charlottesville put themselves literally in the line of fire and did the right thing. That’s brave. Governor Terry McAuliffe gave the speech that Trump should have. Republican politicians like Rubio are calling Trump out on his ‘many, many sides’ endorsing of the white supremacists (and they are taking it like that, on social media forums – they’re emboldened). I can’t believe I’m writing this, but even Nigel Farage was shocked at the Nazi salutes and publicly expressed that, like Dr. Frankenstein horrified at the monster he helped create.So there is some hope.

The veil has fallen from the ‘alt-right’ ‘fashy’ neo-Nazi white ‘nationalist’ aka white supremacist KKK. I’ve long thought the term ‘alt-right’ was a dangerous one for the media to adopt – there is little hope of reasoning with fascists.  A rose by any other name is still a rose. A Nazi by any other name is still a Nazi.

I have two questions for the likes of Richard Spencer:

1. If white people (and white men in particular) are so ‘supreme’, then why do we (and they) require unfair, systemic advantage socially and politically?

2. There is much talk in fascist circles about ‘white genocide’ – isn’t the truth that it is closer to ‘white suicide’, as what psychologically balanced person (including white people) would want the continuation of an imperialistically-minded, misogynistic, racist, intolerant culture such as the one you and your acolytes are espousing?

Indeed, given that “inbreeding increases the chances of the expression of deleterious recessive alleles by increasing homozygosity and therefore has the potential to decrease the fitness of the offspring”, there is a strong argument that racial purity is unrealistic and undesirable – unless you are the sort of madman that wants to control those with a low IQ.

Many clearly were emboldened enough by the fact that Trump, with his KKK entourage in the White House, to appear at a rally without their masks. They have potentially given those who work in the area of counter-terrorism and terrorism prevention a huge gift by this shameless display of arrogance, through a theory known as social learning. This theory, developed by Albert Bandura posits that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling. If organisations like SPLC has the facial recognition equipment to identify each and every one of them in such a way that they can out them within their communities.  Depending on the community, if  it has a tangible effect on their lives,  (through societal shaming, loss of employment etc) that they might really think about what they’ve signed up to. America also has a strong tradition of patriotism and religion that can be used positively – I can’t think of anything more antipathetic to the supposition of what ‘American values’ or ‘Christian values’ are than Nazism.  Because we’ve yet to hear any denouncement of these white supremacist Nazi terrorists from Trump, but logic would dictate that if anyone in white communities knows that one of their own is involved in white supremacy  and Nazism- report them to the FBI immediately and without hesitation. That’s actually the most patriotic thing one could do in this instance, if indeed one is sincere in one’s belief in the US constitution of equality for all.

If there are any #Trump supporters out there – shame on you if you quietly sit by and don’t petition him and/or your local senator to categorically denounce this as white supremacist terrorism. He contended that ‘race didn’t affect the numbers’ – now is your chance to do the right thing and show him that it will have an impact in 2020.

My hope today, in an American that seems more divided than ever, is that white people are reaching out to their black neighbours. If they don’t know someone who is black (and that is entirely possible), visit a black church to pray, or support a black business with your custom.  The only use of ‘white power’ or ‘white male power’ should be in the service of rendering an equitable world for all. Pandering to white and male fragility is no longer sustainable, especially among white people ourselves. There are ways you can show your solidarity, by being a great ally and listening to the black communities very real fears. if I was a black person or POC in Trump’s America, I’d now be officially terrified post-Charlottesville,  if I hadn’t been before. That’s unacceptable. Let’s stop tolerating intolerance. As the late and great Stéphane Hessel said, it’s ‘Time for Outrage’.

 

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Why the resurrection myth is a patriarchal cop-out

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There’s a well-worn joke about how Jesus could be Irish: 1. He lived at home until he was in his thirties. 2. His mother thought he was God. 3. He thought his mother was a virgin. It’s a universal joke in fact – many elements of it are transferable to other cultures. I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus and the whole Jesus legend being taken as historical fact; the memes that are used stating that he was a radical non-violent revolutionary and considering the myth, the man and how, in an age of rising white Christian supremacy (the irony being, of course, that even Christ himself was not a Christian) he is, some 2,000 years after his death, he is being used to justify oppression. If we look at the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – which are all interconnected, we can see that the deepest connection that they all have in their practical execution, is structural patriarchy. Not to condemn religions outright, as in my experience, as a religionist and non-religionist, patriarchy rather than religion, is the greatest issue facing the world today. And a big part of this issue, as a former Irish Catholic, is the issue of resurrection.

Let me clarify: it is not just the resurrection itself which is the issue. It is the concept of man dying for ‘all the sins of the world’. Now, while that was big of him, and, in a sense, a noble aim (if true), what it inherently implies is an abdication of responsibility on the part of some of the people(s) he was dying for, and too great an assumption of responsibility on the part of others. Having been brought up Catholic in Ireland, how it works in a practical sense is with the whole concept of confession.

‘Bless me Father for I have sinned. It’s a week since my last confession. I really coveted and was jealous of my brother’s/sister’s bike etc’

‘Say three Hail Marys and one Holy Father I absolve you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit go and sin no more’.

‘Same time next week…’

Now, on the scale of innocence, what harm, might one say? Well, there’s a side concept of, rather than working through challenging emotions in a positive way, of guilt. Which,   from my observance, is a double-whammy when one is female. There’s a whole society  out there designed to make women feel guilty. Not married yet? What’s wrong with you? Can’t balance work, a family AND housework? What’s wrong with you? Not a perfect size 8/10/12 anymore and therefore not eye-candy for the male gaze? What’s wrong with you? ‘Became’ pregnant out of wedlock/raped/assaulted? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?

There are so many contradictions within religions themselves, but the transference of blame onto the vulnerable seems particularly heinous in my view. The concept of someone dying for other people’s sins immediately infantilises everyone else, which is not a danger in and off itself, depending on how far it goes.  And therein lies the rub. I’ve had two situations in the past week happen to me personally which might demonstrate on a microcosmic level how insidious this abdication of responsibility is in an Abrahamic, patriarchal structure. One was when helping a relative to find work and suggesting that he might want to consider toning down his quasi-evangelical views, which have been problematic in other employments in the past. While he was wholly aware of this, he still managed to turn it into my problem: I was a ‘disappointment’ but he ‘forgave’ me. I naturally told him that I didn’t need to be patronised or forgiven for helping him find work and subsequently ended the conversation.

The second situation was while out at the theatre with a man who happened to have a spare ticket. Within 10 minutes he was telling me how unlucky he was in love, and how he always seemed to meet the ‘wrong ones’. Not to mention some other, more physical breaching of boundaries later, but I found it both sad and interesting that there was zero assumption of any kind of shared responsibility for the breakdown of his relationships. And to be fair, he was incredibly polite compared to other men I’ve heard talking about their female exes. ‘She was a psycho’; ‘a bitch’; ‘a slag’. Maybe there is no blame to apportion; however, it does seem to me to be a curiosity and major red-light if there is a pattern involved.

Again, on a microcosmic and personal level, this is relatively innocuous. What deeply concerns me now, however is that we seem to be in an age politically both of infantilism, misogyny aligned with complete abdication of responsibility. The trend is being set by the rise of the political man-baby, who whines and tweets like a bratty pre-schooler ‘IT’S NOT MY FAULT!’

In a so-called Christian country, based on the actual tangibilities of a single mother, a man who broke bread with thieves and lepers and prostitutes, we have the abdication of responsibility of the have-mores in Phariseean mode at the expense of the have-nots. The ridiculous concern about chocolate eggs over austerity cuts (And yes, the PM is a woman – out of some 29% in Parliament). We have a so-called Christian man in John Smith, who refuses to take responsibility for his abuse of young boys terrified by his messianic zeal. We have the all-too-familiar scenario in Ireland where the Church, while quietly paying hush money on the side, refuses to admit liability for widespread abuse of women and children. We have, in religious countries, scenarios where a woman can be raped brutally and the man get off virtually scot-free, as with Brock Turner; where a man can say ‘I fell and penetrated her by accident’ as Ehsan Abdulaziz claimed a little over a year ago; and yet, where women are prevented from having autonomy over their own bodies on religious grounds. Where are the men in this picture? No doubt in some confessional near you, being absolved of rapine and child abuse with a few Hail Marys’ and in the case of the clergy, a move to a new parish.

It is clear to me that religion has its limitations with regards to the development of emotional intelligence.  It has those limitations, in my observance, because of its close connections with, and reliance upon, the structure of patriarchy. It offers, at its best, a moral code and structure which helps some people to reconcile the very many challenges of living as a human being. This, I have no issue with. At its worst, however, it gives the adherent carte blanche to engage in acts of aggressive tribalism, and inhumane acts, be that the incarceration of women as slaves in the Magdalene laundries, racist attacks on people of different colour, gender, religion or sexual persuasion as with the worldwide rise of the KKK and the Knights Templar, the torture and imprisonment of gay men in Chechnya – the list could go on of the crimes perpetrated in the name of religion, washed clean by pious absolution and the transference of the sins of the world onto a single historical figure.

To me, religion is full of metaphors being treated as facts, and therein lies the problem. The very essence of the story of Christ is the acceptance of responsibility, towards ourselves and other people. The idea that one person can make a difference in the world and to those around them. I don’t believe the resurrection to be an actual one – it is the enlightenment that happens when one lives a life of accountability. We have little hard evidence of renewal after this life, but it is possible that we can renew ourselves and our world within this life, by being responsible for our own actions and emotions, good and bad, by being open and vulnerable in our interactions with others, by balancing all of the traits of yin and yang inherent but underused in most people and in our wider societies. After all, as the findings of Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson confirm, Jesus himself knew the importance of the Divine Feminine.

 

 

An evil most ordinary

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In 2004, I was touring Germany with ‘Death of a Salesman’. During the course of the run, I had the good fortune to bump into an old friend in Munich, who happened to be in the audience. As it happened, he lived in the town of Dachau, and since I’d long had an interest in the Third Reich and their Final Solution, we arranged for him to be my tour guide in the former concentration camp.

 

It’s very hard to describe how I felt when seeing the notorious camp. People always say that birds no longer sing at these sites; and for me, on that day, it was true. There was, for me, a sort of numbness that took over, as my brain tried to process what my eyes were seeing. One could say so many things, but what would be the point? The banality of evil hung like a cold, damp cloud in the air.

 

After the visit, during which we spoke little, my friend broke the silence. ‘If I’d lived then, I would have been part of the Resistance’. I just looked at him and said ‘How do you know?’ He insisted he would have, but the more I saw of Germany, the more I visited its museums, the more I saw the many memorials there are to the genocide of WW2, the more certain I grew that this was not a decision to be made until one was in the situation.

 

Even more than over 70 years ago, Westerners are primed to see themselves as the ‘good guys’. We can possibly blame this on the stories we tell ourselves, either verbally or through our media. Never more has this been apparent to me than in the language used post-9/11 by Bush and Blair: Bush’s comment that he took his advice from God to justify ‘shock and awe’; Blair’s constant assertion, through policy and spin, that Islam was ‘incompatible’ with the West. Not so incompatible that it was beneath him to personally profit from this seeming incompatibility.

 

The narrative of the ‘good’ Muslim versus the ‘terrorist’ Muslim took root. We had a Muslim senior politician resign in Baroness Warsi, because of rampant anti-Islam policy in her cabinet under David Cameron. Islamophobia, even in so-called liberal circles, became rife. Atheists like Sam Harris, who is clearly Islamophobic, have become worshipped (in an ironic turn of events, for those who profess a dislike of cults, neo-atheism seems to me to be cultish in the extreme) by legions of followers. Crusader-style language has been employed, with little prevarication, in our newspapers and by our politicians. Extra restrictions through the reintroduction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act have been placed on Muslims, but what of it? The vast majority of society has, directly and/or indirectly, been drip-fed the fallacy of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant supremacy. And now we’re here.

 

I’ve been, in my posts on social media, been talking about the dangers of the rise of white supremacy for most of the past decade. It has been pretty obvious to me that once one goes down the road of ‘otherising’ a community (as was done to the Irish in the 1970s), it is a slippery slope. A documentary that made an impression on me was ‘5 Steps to Tyranny’, an old BBC Panorama programme that a kind soul has uploaded to YouTube. For anyone looking to acquire a basic understanding of how psychologically human beings are primed to be seduced by tyrants, it’s worth a viewing.

 

I also recommend ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl, a book that made a huge impression on me in my twenties. Having re-read it recently, I noted with some amusement and a little shock something that had escaped me on my initial reading of it. That the Jews in the concentration camps, as starved and reduced as they were, still held a certain contempt for those deemed lower than them. One of the groups listed was ‘Moslems’. Frankl also noted that survivors either went on to do great good in the world as a result of their experiences, or bullies. The element involved was choice.

 

One of my lifelong obsessions that led to an interest in the Holocaust is human nature. The potential of human beings. Their capability for greatness or destructiveness. Having observed the rise of white supremacy so consciously, I must confess a personal interest. Two of my nieces are Muslim.

 

Something happens to you when you see a next generation of your flesh and blood come into the world. You want the world to be a better place for them. My brother converted to Islam around 2002. He married a Moroccan Muslima. My two Muslim nieces are a light in my life, my mother’s life, my brother their uncle’s life. But I cannot remember a time since they were born that I did not fear for them, based on their religion and the acceptable onslaught of everyday prejudice.

 

One story that illustrates how far this prejudice can spiral out of control. My brother and his wife, now resident in the UK, had neighbours who went on holiday to Spain. Another neighbour, out of prejudice, hadn’t seen said neighbours for some time. She called the police, claiming that my brother and wife had murdered them. They were brought to the local police station and interrogated until the police located the holidaying couple. This happened only a couple of years ago.

 

The rise of neo-fascists and their advisers and followers is no accident. On one level, it speaks to the ability of sociopaths (which I believe Farage, Trump et al to be) to easily manipulate our worst natures. It speaks to political ignorance, which even many of my university-educated British friends have hitherto worn as a badge of honour, and are now desperately scrambling to understand how what has happened, could have happened. It speaks to an ignorance by white people of the difference between equality being in law, and in practice. It speaks to a childish quality of following the herd and of blaming the other for our own lives’ ills. That childish quality was also in evidence during the Brexit vote, when people blamed immigrants for a lack in their own lives, without taking into account that the UK had opted out, voluntarily, of taking control of migration when given the chance by the EU. The fact that obvious economic lies were swallowed (the £350m savings on the NHS being only one of many lies, or should I say #alternativefacts spewed like so much rancid spume by the Leavers) shows how ripe the UK was for being overtaken by white supremacists dressed in wolf’s tweeds like Farage. The acceptable face of racism, succeeding where Mosley and his Blackshirts couldn’t, in dressing up fascism in a hail-fellow-well-met bon viveur façade. Repugnant, but effective.

 

Being so easily fooled by the white supremacist in our own backyard, and the Crusader-like views by mainstream politicians and media that led to his success, is it any wonder that we are witnessing a Muslim ‘ban’ in the USA, the supposed torchbearer of Freedom and Democracy Inc? Is it a ruse by Trump & Co to turn it into a profitable war, thus giving a boost to munitions, big Pharma, oil and consequently the banks? (If it is, I suggest all GOP politicians, including Trump,  and any collaborators be forced to conscript their own offspring first, as a sign of good faith). In this political atmosphere of night-time raids and smoke and mirrors, it is hard to tell.

 

What is clear is this: we now are all faced with a choice. Resist or collaborate. There are no other options available. We will have the answer to that generations-old question. And as we judged others over 70 years ago, so will we too be judged.