Steyn, Levant, Channel 4 and the Western Suppression of Free Speech

Last week, the American Conservative journalist, Mark Steyn, went on trial before a Canadian Human Rights Commission court, accused of spreading hate against Islam. Steyn is extremely critical of radical Islam, and the author of a book, America Alone, which considers that America will quickly end up as the last refuge of Western values and politics as Europe is taken over by Islam. It’s a controversial book, and Steyn’s critics have pointed out a number of factual flaws in his arguments. It is not, however, the reason Steyn is on trial. Steyn, with the Canadian magazine, McClean’s, is on trial for an article he wrote for them critically describing the threat posed by militant Islamicists in the West, quoting violently bigoted comments by various western imams and religious leaders themselves. His opponents in this case are Mohammed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress and three young Muslims, who demanded that, through right of reply, McClean’s should run an article by them criticising Steyn’s comments. McClean’s refused to be dictated to in this fashion, so Elmasry and his three colleagues took Steyn and McClean’s to a Human Rights court.

The Canadian Human Rights Commissions were set up originally with the best of intentions to protect people from ethnic minorities from genuine discrimination, such as being summarily evicted by their landlords and left homeless. Since then, according to their critics such as Steyn and the Canadian Conservative journalist Ezra Levant, the courts have become increasingly dictatorial and anti-democratic. Normal legal rules of procedure and evidence don’t seem to apply to them. Neither does factual accuracy. Under Section 13 of the code establishing the Human Rights Commissions and their courts, factual accuracy is no defence if the accused is nevertheless considered by the court to be spreading hatred or prejudice.

Ezra Levant is similarly being prosecuted by the Human Rights Courts for his critical comments about militant Islam and specifically for publishing the notorious Danish cartoons. He is extremely critical of the Human Rights Commission and their apparent contempt for free speech and the normal rules that govern the police and judiciary in democracies in order to protect democratic freedom. His blog, like Steyn’s site, includes details of his individual case. Levant also covers what he considers to be the abuse of power by the Human Rights Commissions generally, and campaigns for their abolition.

While critical of militant Islam, Steyn and Levant also have the support of Muslim journalists and writers in Canada who are strongly opposed to the militant intolerance preached by the militants in the name of Islam. Levant has said something in his blog to the effect that the Canadian Islamic Congress is unrepresentative of Canadian Islam as a whole, and that their attempts to suppress criticism of militant Islam has probably done much more to spread suspicion of Islam generally than either Steyn or himself.

Now this would normally be a matter of concern only to Canadians. However, Steyn, Levant and their supporters, such as the Canadian writer and ID supporter Denyse O’Leary, have stated that foreign individuals outside Canada should closely examine the conduct of Human Rights Commissions in their attack on free speech in order to prevent similar abuses occurring in their countries. This also goes well beyond the lines of party politics. Steyn and Levant are Conservatives, but their prosecution is of real concern to people concerned with maintaining traditional democratic liberties such as free speech and conscience regardless of party allegiance. Some of the appointees to the Human Rights Commission courts were given their posts by Conservative administrations. As for Steyn and Levant, it shouldn’t matter here whether the accused are Conservatives, Liberals or members of the Socialist New Democrat Party. Their prosecution before a court system where factual accuracy is apparently no defence is a threat to democracy itself.

As for their comment that the situation in Canada should also concern non-Canadians, it’s a very, very good point. Unfortunately the prosecution of Steyn and Levant for their coverage and criticism of militant Islam is very relevant to British politics and the attempt by some parts of the British legal system to prevent the media from covering militantly bigoted attacks on British society by British Muslims. In the middle of last month, the Crown Prosecution Service and West Midlands police force gave a statement recognising that they had been incorrect to accuse Channel 4 of misleading editing in its programme, Undercover Mosque, and agreed to pay damages of £100,000 to charity. The programme Undercover Mosque was broadcast in January 2007 in the Channel 4 Despatches documentary series. It showed supposedly moderate Islamic clergy vehemently denouncing non-Muslims as ‘filthy’, ‘accursed’ and ‘criminals’. The West Midlands police then investigated the clergy involved, before claiming, seven months later, that the programme had misrepresented the clergy through selective editing. Ofcom, the government’s broadcasting watchdog, then investigated the programme, and came to the conclusion that the editing had not misrepresented the militant preachers. This verdict was accepted by the West Midlands police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

What is disturbing about this case is that rather than accept that militantly bigoted comments and sermons were being preached by the clergy concerned, the police force and CPS instead attempted to suppress its reporting. This seems partly to have been due to prevent racial tension and violence. Anil Patani, the West Midland Police Force’s assistant chief constable (security and cohesion), stated that the programme threatened ‘community cohesion’ by unfairly representing the Muslim preachers. My own view here is that this is rubbish. Community cohesion was threatened long before Channel 4 made the documentary the moment when the imams concerned were allowed, or invited to speak. In fact violent denunciations of non-Muslim Britons by radical Muslim clergy have been a problem for a long time. In the 1990s the BBC filmed one cleric telling his congregation that British society was a monstrous ‘killing machine’ and that ‘killing Muslims comes very easily to them.’ This particular cleric was intensely controversial in the Muslim community, and there were demonstrations against him and his bigotry by British Muslims.

However, there also seems to be a real reluctance to act against militant Islamic bigotry on the part of the British authorities, even when they have been alerted to a very real threat posed by some mosques and their clergy by concerned Muslims. The people who first attempted to alert the authorities to the militant activities at Finchley Park mosque, which was closed down a few years ago after it was found to be supporting Islamicist terrorism, were Muslims, and for a long time their warnings were ignored.

My feeling is that there’s a political aspect to this reluctance by the authorities to act against the Islamicist militants. Some of it is probably an attempt to avoid making this situation worse by appearing to provoke, or increase suspicion and hatred of Muslims in wider British society. However, there’s also a diplomatic element involved. Many British mosques are funded by the governments of Muslim countries, partly as a way of extending their influence into British Muslim society. Where that particular Islamic nation has a particularly intolerant attitude, there’s a danger that this influence will be passed on to British Muslims through the funding nation presenting it as a genuine part of Islam. Moreover, the programme Undercover Mosque was particular embarrassing for the British government as it showed supposedly moderate Muslims as preaching vehement hatred instead of peace and harmony.

My point here is not to attack or criticise Islam or muslims generally. The militant preachers of hate are intensely controversial in the Muslim community, and I can remember reading comments by muslim writers demanding that the media also pay attention to demonstrations by Muslims against them and more generally as normal members of British society. Across the world, ordinary muslims have acted to save non-muslims from terrorist atrocities committed by the Islamicists. When a party of German tourists was massacred by Islamicist militants in Egypt in the 1990s, a number of them were saved by the local people running out to hide them in their own houses. The Shari’a, the Islamic legal code, explicitly forbids killing women, children and non-combatants, and members of the Egyptian public condemned the Islamicists’ atrocity as ‘completely against Islam’ when interviewed on a BBC Radio travel programme. What concerns me is that rather than tackle the fact that there are bigoted clerics preaching a vicious hatred of non-muslims, the authorities have instead attempted to prevent it being reported. The suppression of the reporting of militant hatred for apparently political reasons is the real issue here, and it is a genuine, threat to democracy whatever the group or organisation preaching hatred and bigotry is. Christians and members of other faiths and ideologies have and are being persecuted for their conscience in numerous states around the world, so I’m acutely aware of the danger of creating a similar climate of religious intolerance in Britain towards Islam. However, genuine democratic politics depends on the free discussion of issues, and this becomes particularly important when there is a very real danger from terrorism and susceptible, confused or alienated people being turned against their fellow countrymen by bigots. In this situation, it is entirely appropriate that the problem should be reported and discussed. Attempting to ignore the problem, or deny that it exists by prosecuting those who do report it won’t change the situation and will set a dangerous precedent for the official suppression of news the authorities consider embarrassing or potentially threatening generally. The Human Rights Commissions in Canada and the attempt by the West Midlands police force and the Crown Prosecution Service in Britain to prosecute the producers of Undercover Mosque aren’t just a problem for the reporting of militant Islam, but a threat generally to free speech and democratic politics.

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23 Responses to “Steyn, Levant, Channel 4 and the Western Suppression of Free Speech”

  1. goodtimepolitics Says:

    Islam is trying to take over the World from what this American see! Look at this trying to force Islamic teachings in our schools! People if we love our children then we will stand up and fight for their safety! Or do you want your children converted to muslim?

  2. Ilíon Says:

    It’s a controversial book, and Steyn’s critics have pointed out a number of factual flaws in his arguments.

    Or, at any rate, they *claim* to have done so … that is, when they don’t just settle for calling him a “hate-monger” and thus settling the whole issue.

  3. Ilíon Says:

    Across the world, ordinary muslims have acted to save non-muslims from terrorist atrocities committed by the Islamicists. When a party of German tourists was massacred by Islamicist militants in Egypt in the 1990s, a number of them were saved by the local people running out to hide them in their own houses. The Shari’a, the Islamic legal code, explicitly forbids killing women, children and non-combatants, and members of the Egyptian public condemned the Islamicists’ atrocity as ‘completely against Islam’ when interviewed on a BBC Radio travel programme.

    No it doesn’t. And such rescues are despite Islam, not because of it.

    The very thing you’re talking about in this blog entry is occurring *because* far too many western citizens, good people all, are refusing to see reality. As you are.

  4. Feyd Says:

    Im not sure freedom of speech should extend to the right to publish deeply offensive blasphemy like the Danish cartoons! Otherwise I agree Beast, folk should be free to publish their views even if there will be a likely hit to community relations.

  5. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    I would like to say lots more–but on this one we can distill this “hate speech” rhetoric down to the core sour mash cornpone nonsense it is.

    The very fact that the Lords of Multi-Kulture-Haus have taken Steyn’s predicted tack is further evidence he is absolutely correct. He uses the words themselves not just of the radicals (so called) but the so-called moderates who sit and dally on the sidelines while others suffer in the name of PCism. Enough, he says. Another bomb, burning, body splat, decapitation, Islam is a world vision the likes of which (as he adroitly points out) secular “humanist” blancmange semisoft socialism and other pieties in a declining Europe cannot match.

    I urge all the read Steyn’s book and get back with the jab that this is all hate. I assure it is not. Steyn’s book (which I just got the updated copy last week with the new forward on more latest “muslims vs. somebody else” unpleasantries has had some major impact since the Madrid bombings here in the States. Amazingly, a more or less neutered Europe looks to blather to save itself and its citizenry afraid but scared to rock boats and cowed into and almost infantile servitude to the State.

    These are all interconnected symptoms of Secularist Humanist pieties.

  6. Ilíon Says:

    Feyd:Im not sure freedom of speech should extend to the right to publish deeply offensive blasphemy like the Danish cartoons!

    Get a grip on reality, do! In more ways than one, that comment is indicative of non-seriousness.

  7. Feyd Says:

    Ilion “Get a grip on reality, do! In more ways than one, that comment is indicative of non-seriousness”

    Some Muslims claim they love their Prophet more than their families. Blasphemous images are to Muslims a violation on what hold most Holy, especially when placed in public space.

    Even if we don’t take cultural differences into account its not realistic to expect Muslims to take insults against Mohammed as easily as we do when Christ is insulted. As Christ is divine He’s naturally way above the possibility of being tarred by insults by fallen humans. Mohammed was only a man.

    Its all very well some saying that words and images can’t hurt anyone, but the reality is for many emotional pain is worse than physical pain. Many fights, suicides, murders and arguably even wars have been kicked off by emotional provocation.

    Now granted we wouldn’t want to close off topics for discussion just because they deeply offend particular groups. Yet one has to draw the line somewhere. With the cartoons its not is they had any kind of point to them – they weren’t even that funny!

    So as said I agree with publicising analyses or journalism hostile to Islam . But gratuitous and pointless insults to a faith shared by over a billion souls – Im quite happy for that to be regulated against and for folk who go to the extremes to be fined for it!

  8. Beastrabban Says:

    Hi Goodtimepolitics! Regarding your comments about Islamic teachings in American schools, in the article you linked to, I’m not sure how common pressure for this actually is amongst Muslims in America. However, I am aware that there have been cases where schools have been under pressure to introduce a more Islamic curriculum. Part of the problem is that although some Western Muslims do consider that Islam doesn’t require or necessarily demand state support, this is very much a minority view. The idea of the separation of church and state, or mosque from state, as a guarantee of religious liberty as envisaged by the American Founding Fathers, really isn’t accepted by the majority of Muslims, who consider that it is the duty of the state to support religion. In those European countries where the state does actively support religious institutions, this isn’t necessarily a constitutional problem. In Britain the state, as well as supporting the Anglican Church and its schools, also supports those of other faiths, including Jewish schools. Muslims campaigning for state support of Islamic faith schools have simply requested that as state support already exists for religions outside the Anglican Church and Christianity as whole, this state support should also be extended to include them. However, there is clearly a problem with the view that Islam should have state support in the American educational system, which is very secular and deliberately organised to be separate from religious observance or teaching.

  9. Beastrabban Says:

    Also in Britain religious education has been part of the school curriculum since the 19th century. There are textbooks around for schools as part of the religious education curriculum that include other, non-Christian religions to explain to schoolchildren what members of these faiths actually believe, but not to convert them to these beliefs.

  10. Beastrabban Says:

    Hi Ilion, thanks for your comments. Regarding the prohibtion attacking women, children and non-combatants in warfare, this is indeed a part of the Shari’a, the Islamic Law. The Prophet Mohammed stated that

    ‘in avenging injuries inflicted upon us, do not harm non-belligerents in their homes, spare the weakness of women, do not injure infants at the breast, nor those who are sick. Do not destroy the houses of those who offer no resistance, and do not destroy their means of subsistence, neither their fruit trees nor their palms’. (‘Jihad’, in John Bowker, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford, OUP 1997), p. 501, citing A.R.I. Doi, Non-Muslims under Sharia’ah (1979).

    Violations of this prohibition will, according to Islamic theology, be punished at the Day of Judgement. However, I’m also very much aware that despite this prohibition, there have been massacres of civilians, the most notorious being the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks in the 1920s, which also spread to include Syriac Christians in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.

    On the specific issue of the prosecution of individuals or companies for publishing material which Muslims would find blasphemous, such as the notorious Danish cartoons, I have to say that I don’t like the idea of anyone being prosecuted in our society, which is based very much on the virtues of free speech. However, Feyd is right to stress the necessity of avoiding gratuitous insult. There’s a difference between legitimate discussion and criticism, and simply trying to provoke offence.

    I’m also very much aware that the anger and hostility to Christians or non-Muslims which allegedly offensive material, like the Danish cartoons, can provoke can leave the Christian inhabitants of the dar al-Islam vulnerable to attack. For their sake, as much as anything else, I’d like to avoid this, especially as the radicals attempting to create and promote conflict between Islam and the West are actively looking for anything that appears to denigrate Islam in order to publicise it in the hope of stirring up further resentment.

    Regarding the violent demonstrations following the publication of the cartoons, the British satirical magazine Private Eye in a report on the situation in Iran, ‘Letter from Tehran’, gave a very different view of attitudes in Iran which ran very much against the official line of the Iranian authorities. The day after the Danish embassy was attacked and razed, there was a counter-demonstration by Iranians who bitterly resented such bigotry. One of the demonstrators was a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, who was confined to a wheelchair after horrifically losing his limbs. He was a mouth-painter, and had painted a picture of Our Lady, who is also a sacred figure to Muslims, as a demonstration of his desire for greater harmony between his religion and the West.

    The article also reported that the internet has given Iranians the freedom to criticise the authorities, a freedom which they simply don’t have in person. It reported that one members of the Iranian morals police, who on his website was boasting of his part in the attack, was inundated with angry commentators who very definitely told him that he was a disgrace and part of the reason the West distrusted Islam. Despite the real dangers of cyberterrorism, the Net can and does seem to be acting as a force for free speech.

  11. Beastrabban Says:

    Regarding Steyn’s book, Ilion and Wakefield, I haven’t read it but it does seem to me that he does have a point about the dangers of multiculturalism. Part of the problem is that there are forms of radical Islam in Britain and Europe that do promote the separation of Muslims from wider British and European society, or insist on the official establishment of Islamic institutions, even when these conflict with concepts of freedom or equality as they are viewed in Britain and Europe. I think you have to be aware that not all Muslims are so opposed to Western values. I’ve come across a number of genuinely moderate Muslims. However, as I said, I don’t believe that Steyn or others like him should be prosecuted for a genuine view which, however, controversial, they can support with facts.

  12. Beastrabban Says:

    Going back to the subject of the prohibition on attacking women, children and non-combatants in warfare in the Shari’a, the modern jihadis like al-Qaeda and similar groups attempt to circumvent it by arguing that in modern Western civilisation, industry is so interconnected with the military that there is no distinction between ‘civilian’ and ‘military’, and so all members of society are effectively soldiers, even if they aren’t in the forces. It’s a spurious distinction to avoid having to obey the strict injunction against such violence, but it’s the ideology that they use to justify atrocities like 9/11.

  13. Ilíon Says:

    Feyd and Beast,
    Can you not see that in refusing to see reality — in *lying* to yourself, and then to those reading your comments — with respect to the demon (that would be “Allah”) and the sneaking, lying, thieving, murdering pedophile (that would be Mohammad, the “Perfect Man”), and the “religion” of the demon, you are already beginning to bend the knee?

  14. Ilíon Says:

    that smiley-face most definitly was not meant to be there

  15. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    We Americans like to think (if not always practice) the notion that well-beloved speech needs no protection. Only the ugly, the nasty, the lewd, the bizarre, the uncaring, the absurdist. We all know hate when we see it, and our Supreme Court has this standard of porno as well in that “we know it when we see it even if the definition eludes us” type thing.

    The First Amendment assures that supposedly OUR turn will not be on the chopping block when our turn it really to SPEAK OUT. With Islam unfortunately it seems to be a one way street. Reminding one of the old Soviet joke about freedom of speech. In the exchange an American says “in our country we are free to say anything about OUR president.”

    To which the good Soviet ward replies “YES! In our country we too are allowed to say anything we like about YOUR president”

    This applies to imagery as well. Though some have argued that only POLITICAL SPEECH is what the Founders had in mind to protect and that there are upper limits to saying anything you please. Thus for example no one sane pines to yell FIRE in a crowded theatre.

    Regardless: There is a dark side to this, of course. None of likes our own oxes gored nor having our comfort zones intruded upon any more than if we were discover our little girls are dating some guy named Zap with hundreds of tattoes and nose rings and looking like an Orc. Such is life. And we tell ourselves we cross that particular rickity bridge when we meet it.

    Likewise we all cringe in political discussions about things unpleasant. Others argue that while politics and philosophy might be unpleasant. (and what Christian has not had a lapse of wanting to shove a dishrag in Dawkins blabbing piehole on at least one talk show circuit appearance. Be honest!) But we know that what might work for us can work against us. The dangers as Steyn points out in the PC mush and slush (which when it comes to Multi-Kulture-Haus we don’t believe in any more than fortune cookies anyhow–its just a warm fuzzy of the heart) is dangerous to a modern society in that it can disarm us and make us apologize for the slightest perceived transgressions while disarming us against real danger.

    The Brits have their fun and shiggle cartoons just like we do! G.K. Chesterton, a devout Catholic, once quipped that in fact when it comes to “intellectualism”, it is harder to make a good rollicking laugh or write a series of jokes for Punch than crack the codes of genetics. Or some such. And Britain has had some of the best cartoonists over the years. Supposedly that same stiffed upper lip that asked the boys to keep cool upon the charging elephants in the Veld somehow translates to a dry wit when it comes to politics.

    We need to take the tack that in serious discussion levity is part and parcel to discovering vital truths. However unpleasant the reception on the other end. Miss Poppy Dixon here in America and some nutty site called Pandagon have the most hateful tomes imaginable against Christians as warmongering wifebeaters who marry sisters and do little but raise cain and pigs in the backyard and …well….you get the picture….but not only does no one call for a boycott (indeed, and Christians are not pitching to murder the webmasters) or complain about her cartoons, she is noticably silent on Islam.

    The chilling effect of Islam now even extends “tolerance” to really odd levels and cows even prolific bloggers who are quite used to handing most people they don’t like the middle finger.

    Not to Muslims they don’t.


  16. Beastrabban Says:

    Hi Ilion – while I can see we’re not going to see eye to eye on this, I do actually agree with you on the dangers of introducing legislation to prevent gratuitous insults against Islam of the type of the Danish cartoons. The BBC reported that in some parts of Islam the blasphemy laws are used to persecute non-Muslims, such as Christians, and I am afraid that any such legislation, once introduced in the West, would be subject to similar pressure by radical Muslims to silence any debate or criticism of Islam.

    However, I also believe that there is such a thing as tact, and treating those of other faiths with the same courtesy we would expect them to treat our beliefs. And as I said, I don’t want to give radical Islamists material which they can use and distort to convince their coreligionists that the West is innately hostile to them in order to create further conflict and violence.

    As for vehemently anti-religious sites like those of Poppy Dixon and Pandago attacking Christians, but not Islam, Wakefield, it really doesn’t surprise me. Despite the abuse and attacks made against Christianity, Christians by and large don’t respond with violence in the same way that radical Islam does. One comedian on British TV made it very clear that he wasn’t going to tell jokes about Islam for that reason. After a series of jokes about Christianity, he said he had people ask him why he didn’t tell jokes about Islam. Was he afraid of attack? He replied that he certainly was, and certainly didn’t want to be murdered by Muslims because of jokes aimed at their religion. He seemed rather pleased about this admission of fear and double-standards on his part, as if it showed some kind of superior intelligence. It is at least an honest admission why some people who have no problem attacking and ridiculing religion generally don’t want to attack Islam.

  17. Ilíon Says:

    I’m sorry, Feyd and BR: I am still so angered, and so disgusted by what you are saying that there’s not much I can say. I haven’t even completely read what you’ve written, because when I try to I simply cannot continue.

    I *understand* that you’re speaking from a real fear. And I certainly cannot know that were I in your place I’d not likewise succomb to it.

    But, reality is what it is, history is what it is, Islam is what it is. And no amount of wishful thinking will change that.

  18. Feyd Says:

    Hey Ilion, if it helps I’ve long been strongly against further Islamic immigration, and have written to my MP about it. Here in GB we’ve recently had immigration procedures tightened to make it harder for non EU nationals to emigrate to us, and its probable there will be further restrictions once the Tories come to power at the next election – its what the majority want..

    I agree the balance of historical evidence suggests it can be unpleasant if Islamists are allowed to gain power. On the other hand there have been periods and regions where Muslims were more enlightened and tolerant towards minorities than Christian rulers.

    Being uncomfortable with the Cartoons has nothing to do with fear, just common fairness. Maybe you haven’t met many Muslims? If you had you’d perhaps know they aren’t so different from us.

    The implication we’re appeasing out of fear is a little strange! We are Christians not humanists!!

  19. Beastrabban Says:

    Hi Ilion – thanks for giving me your firm opinion on this subject. I’m sorry if I’ve angered and disgusted you with what I’ve written. That was certainly not my intention. The whole point of my original blog post was to defend freedom of speech, not its suppression.

    However, rather than cause further upset by commenting further, I’m going to close the debate on this subject. I hope, whatever our differences of opinion on this subject, you’ll still comment here, as your remarks and insight are very much appreciated.

    Thanks very much for your comments too, Feyd and Wakefield. It’s always good to have your perspective on these issues, and I’ve learned a lot from them.

  20. Ilíon Says:

    BR:Hi Ilion – thanks for giving me your firm opinion on this subject.

    I haven’t given you an opinion, other than to say that you are in error on important points. That is still (from your point of view) just an assertion.

    BR:I’m sorry if I’ve angered and disgusted you with what I’ve written.

    I’m angered and disgusted by what you’ve written because I expect better of you than to decline to *really* think about what you’re saying.

  21. Ilíon Says:

    And I’m frighteded by the implications: “Lord above, if even someone like BR is not willing to see reality on these matters, then what hope does “the West” have when the vast majority of us aren’t even Christians in the first place?”

    Now, perhaps it is God’s plan to close the curtain on “the West” and give us all into the hands of Islam. I certainly hope it isn’t, and I do not believe it is, and I must perforce struggle such a horror in any way that I can.

  22. Beastrabban Says:

    Ilion, I’m certainly not complacent about the need to defend Christianity and Western values, and I don’t believe it’s God’s purpose to close the curtain on the West either, and give it to Islam. And I’m definitely not complacent about the rise of militant Islam and its growth in Britain.

    Now British perspectives might be different from American views on this point because the Islamic modernists that attempted to introduce democracy and a more Western approach to culture and politics were strongly influenced by Britain and France. Along with attempts by Muslims clerics themselves in certain parts of the Dar al-Islam to introduce democracy, the British and French also arranged for the spread of Christianity and the establishment of churches in parts of the Islamic world through either Conquest or peaceful diplomacy. One of the Western Christian churches in Cairo, for example, was established after the British signed a reciprocal treaty with the Egyptian sultan. Other churches were established through similar acts of diplomacy elsewhere in the Middle East, including in Yemen, and in Tehran in Iran.

    Now it appears to me that part of the western European approach to Islam is still influenced by these development in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and that western Europeans still feel that something like western-style political and religious toleration and pluralism can still arise in Islam through diplomacy and peaceful cultural contact. And you’re right, there are very, very grave challenges to this view, not least through the failure of democracy and secular politics in the Islamic world, and the attacks and even assassinations of modernist Muslim intellectuals who have attempted to create an Islamic society like those of the West that separates religion from the state.

    I hope this explains some of the difference in the attitude towards Islam over this side of the Atlantic. Now as I said, I want to close the debate on this particular topic, but if you feel I should put something up critiquing the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Britain, I’ll do so.

  23. Ilíon Says:

    Having It Both Ways

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