Posts Tagged ‘Salman Rushdie’

A Liberal Muslim’s Journey through Islamic Britain and the Dangers of Muslim Separatism

June 30, 2022

Ed Hussain, Among the Mosques: A Journey Across Muslim Britain (London: Bloomsbury 2021)

Ed Hussain is a journalist and the author of two previous books on Islam, the House of Islam, which came out in 2018, and The Islamist of 2007. He’s also written for a series of newspapers and magazines, including the Spectator, the Telegraph, the Times, the New York Times and the Guardian. He’s also appeared on the Beeb and CNN. He’s an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and has been a member of various think tanks, including the Council on Foreign Relations. The House of Islam is an introduction to Islamic history and culture from Mohammed onwards. According to the blurb, it argues that Islam isn’t necessarily a threat to the West but a peaceful ally. The Islamist was his account of his time in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a militant Islamic organisation dedicated to restoring the caliphate. This was quoted in Private Eye, where a passage in the book revealed that the various leaders Tony Blair appealed to as part of his campaign against militant, extremist Islam weren’t the moderates they claimed to be, but the exact type of people Blair was trying to combat. Among the Mosques continues this examination and critical scrutiny of caliphism, the term he uses to describe the militant to set up the caliphate. This is an absolute Islamic state, governed by a caliph, a theocratic ruler, who is advised by a shura, or council. This, however, would not be like parliament as only the caliph would have the power to promulgate legislation. Hussain is alarmed at how far this anti-democratic ideology has penetrated British Islam. To find out, he travelled to mosques across Britain – Dewsbury, Manchester, Blackburn, Bradford, Birmingham and London in England, Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland, the Welsh capital Cardiff, and Belfast in Northern Ireland. Once there, he goes to the local mosques unannounced, observes the worshippers, and talks to them, the imams and other local people. And he’s alarmed by what he sees.

Caliphism Present in Mosques of Different Sects

The mosques he attends belong to a variety of Islamic organisations and denominations. Dewsbury is the centre of the Deobandi movement, a Muslim denomination set up in Pakistan in opposition to British imperialism. Debandis worship is austere, rejecting music, dance and art. The Barelwi mosque he attends in Manchester, on the hand, is far more joyful. The Barelwis are based on an Indian Sufi preacher, who attempted to spread Islam through music and dance. Still other mosques are Salafi, following the fundamentalist brand of Islam that seeks to revive the Islam of the salaf, the Prophet’s companions, and rejects anything after the first three generations of Muslims as bid’a, innovations. But across these mosques, with a few exceptions, there is a common strand of caliphism. The Deobandi order are concerned with the moral reform and revival of Muslim life and observance, but not political activism, in order to hasten the emergence of the caliphate. Similar desires are found within the Tableegh-e Jama’at, another Muslim revivalist organisation founded in Pakistan. This is comparable to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Christianity, in that its method of dawa, Muslim evangelism, is to knock on lax Muslims’ doors and appealing to them become more religious. It’s a male-only organisation, whose members frequently go off on trips abroad. While the preaching in Manchester Central Mosque is about peace, love and tolerance as exemplified in the Prophet’s life, the Barelwis themselves can also be intolerant. Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Salman Taseer, the governor of the Punjab, was a member of the Barelwi Dawat-e-Islami. He murdered Taseer, whose bodyguard he was, because Taseer has dared to defend Pakistani Christians accused of blasphemy. Under strict Islamic law, they were gustakh-e Rasool, a pejorative term for ‘insulter of the Prophet’. The penalty for such blasphemy was wajib-e qatl, a mandatory death. Despite being tried and executed, Qadri is regarded by many of the Pakistani faithful as a martyr, and a massive mosque complex has grown up to commemorate him. In his meetings with various imams and ordinary Muslims, Hussain asks if they agree with the killing of blasphemers like Taseer, and the author Salman Rushdie, who had a fatwa and bounty placed on his life by the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran for his book, The Satanic Reverses. Some of them give evasive replies. One imam even defends it, claiming that Rushdie deserved death because he insulted love, as represented by Mohammed and Islam. A Muslim female friend dodges answering by telling him she’s have to ask her husband.

In the mosques’ libraries he finds books promoting the Caliphist ideology, denouncing democracy, immodest dress and behaviour in women, who are commanded to be available for their husband’s sexual pleasure, even when their bodies are running with pus. Some are explicitly Islamist, written by Sayyid Qutb and his brother, the founders of modern militant Islamism. These mosques can be extremely large, serving 500 and more worshippers, and Hussain is alarmed by the extremely conservative, if not reactionary attitudes in many of them. In many, women are strictly segregated and must wear proper Islamic dress – the chador, covering their hair and bodies. The men also follow the model of Mohammed himself in their clothing, wearing long beards and the thawb, the long Arab shirt. But Hussain makes the point that in Mohammed’s day, there was no distinctive Muslim dress: the Prophet wore what everyone in 7th century Arabia wore, including Jews, Christians and pagans. He has a look around various Muslim schools, and is alarmed by their demand for prepubescent girls to wear the hijab, which he views as sexualising them. Some of these, such as the Darul Ulooms, concentrate almost exclusively on religious education. He meets a group of former pupils who are angry at their former school’s indoctrination of them with ancient, but fabricated hadiths about the Prophet which sanction slavery, the inferior status of women, and the forced removal of Jews and Christians from the Arabian peninsula. They’re also bitter at the way these schools did not teach them secular subjects, like science, literature and art, and so prepare them for entering mainstream society. This criticism has also been levelled Muslim organisations who have attacked the Darul Uloom’s narrow focus on religion. The worshippers and students at these mosques and their schools reject the dunya, the secular world, and its fitna, temptations. One Spanish Muslim has immigrated to England to get away from the nudist beaches in his home country. And the Muslim sections of the towns he goes to definitely do not raise the Pride flag for the LGBTQ community.

Hussain Worried by Exclusively Muslim Areas with No White Residents

Hussain is also alarmed at the way the Muslim districts in many of the towns he visits have become exclusively Muslim quarters. All the businesses are run by Muslims, and are geared to their needs and tastes, selling Muslim food, clothing, perfume and literature. Whites are absent, living in their own districts. When he does see them, quite often they’re simply passing through. In a pub outside Burnley he talks to a couple of White men, who tell him how their children have been bullied and beaten for being goras, the pejorative Asian term for Whites. Other Whites talk about how the local council is keen to build more mosques, but applications by White residents to put up flagpoles have been turned down because the council deems them racist. Hussain objects to these monocultures. Instead, he praises areas like the section of Edinburgh, where the Muslim community coexists with Whites and other ethnicities. There’s similar physical mixture of Muslim and non-Muslim in the Bute area of Cardiff, formerly Tiger Bay, which has historically been a multicultural cultural area. In the mosque, however, he finds yet again the ideology of cultural and religious separatism.

The Treatment of Women

He is also very much concerned about the treatment of women, and especially their vulnerability before the sharia courts that have sprung up. A few years ago there were fears of a parallel system of justice emerging, but the courts deal with domestic issues, including divorce. They have been presented as informal systems of marriage reconciliation. This would all be fine if that was all they were. But the majority of the mosques Hussain visits solely perform nikah, Muslim weddings. Under British law, all weddings, except those in an Anglican church, must also be registered with the civil authorities. These mosques don’t. As a result, wives are left at the mercy of Islamic law. These give the husband, but not the wife, the power of divorce., and custody of the children if they do. Hussain meets a battered Muslim woman, whose controlling husband nearly killed her. The case was brought before the local sharia court. The woman had to give evidence from another room, and her husband was able to defeat her request for a divorce by citing another hadith maintaining that husbands could beat their wives.

London Shias and the Procession Commemorating the Deaths of Ali, Hassan and Hussain

Hussain’s a Sunni, and most of the mosques he attends are also of that orthodox branch of Islam. In London, he attends a Shia mosque, and is shocked and horrified by the self-inflicted violence performed during their commemoration of the Battle of Karbala. Shias believe that Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, was the true successor to Mohammed as the leader of the early Muslim community. He was passed over, and made a bid for the caliphate, along with his two sons, Hasan and Hussain, who were finally defeated by the Sunnis at the above battle. This is commemorated by Shias during the month of Moharram, when there are special services at the mosque and the jaloos, a commemorative procession. During the services and the processions, Shias express their grief over their founders’ martyrdom by beating their chests, matam, faces and whipping themselves. They also slash themselves with swords. All this appears to go on at the London mosque, to Hussain’s horror. He is particularly disturbed by young children beating their chests and faces in the worship the night before, and wonders how this isn’t child abuse.

Separatist Attitudes and Political Activism in Mosques

He is also concerned about the political separatism and activism he sees in some of the mosques. They don’t pray for the Queen, as Christians and Jews do, but there are prayers for the Muslim community throughout the world and funeral prayers for Morsi, the former Islamist president of Egypt. He finds mosques and Islamic charities working for Muslims abroad, and activists campaigning on behalf on Palestine, Kashmir and other embattled Muslim countries and regions, but not for wider British society. Some of the worshippers and Imams share his concern. One Muslim tells him that the problem isn’t the Syrian refugees. They are medical men and women, doctors, nurses and technicians. The problem is those asylum seekers from areas and countries which have experienced nothing but war and carnage. These immigrants have trouble adapting to peace in Britain. This leads to activism against the regimes in the countries they have fled. Afghan and Kurdish refugees are also mentioned as donning masks looking for fights. Some of the worshippers in the mosques Hussain attends had connections to ISIS. In London he recalls meeting a glum man at a mosque in 2016. The man had toured the Middle East and Muslim Britain asking for signatures in a petition against ISIS. The Middle Eastern countries had willingly given theirs. But an academic, a White convert who taught at British university, had refused. Why? He objected to the paragraph in the petition denouncing ISIS’ enslavement of Yazidi and other women. This was in the Quran, he said, and so he wouldn’t contradict it. This attitude from a British convert shocked the man, as usually objections to banning slavery come from Mauretania and Nigeria, where they are resented as western interference. And in another mosque in Bradford, he is told by the imam that he won’t allow the police to come in and talk about the grooming gangs. The gangs used drugs and alcohol, which are forbidden in Islam and so are not connected to the town’s mosques.

Islamophobia against Northern Irish Muslims

But Islam isn’t a monolith and many Muslims are far more liberal and engaged with modern western society. Going into an LGBTQ+ help centre, he’s met by a Muslim woman on the desk. This lady’s straight and married, but does not believes there’s any conflict between her faith and working for a gay organisation. And in reply to his question, she tells him that her family most certainly do know about it. He meets two female Muslim friends, who have given up wearing the hijab. One did so after travelling to Syria to study. This convinced her that it was a pre-Islamic custom, and she couldn’t find any support for it in the Quran. She also rejected it after she was told at university that it was feminist, when it wasn’t. In Belfast he visits a mosque, which, contrary to Islamic custom, is run by two women. The worship appears tolerant, with members of different Muslims sects coming peacefully together, and the values are modern. But this is an embattled community. There is considerable islamophobia in Northern Ireland, with Muslims sufferings abuse and sometimes physical assault. One Protestant preacher stirred up hate with a particularly islamophobic sermon. Many of the mosque’s congregation are converts, and they have been threatened at gun point for converting as they are seen as leaving their communities. Travelling through Protestant and Roman Catholic Belfast, Hussain notices the two communities’ support for different countries. On the Nationalist side of the peace walls are murals supporting India and Palestine. The Loyalists, on the other hand, support Israel. But back in London he encounters more, very modern liberal attitudes during a conversation with the two daughters of a Muslim women friends. They are very definitely feminists, who tell him that the problem with Islam, is, no offence, his sex. They then talk about how toxic masculinity has been a bad influence on British Islam.

Liberal Islam and the Support of the British Constitution

In his travels oop north, Hussain takes rides with Muslim taxi drivers, who are also upset at these all-Muslim communities. One driver laments how the riots of 2011 trashed White businesses, so the Whites left. In Scotland, another Muslim cabbie, a technician at the local uni, complains about Anas Sarwar, the first Muslim MP for Scotland. After he left parliament, Sarwar left to become governor of the Punjab in Pakistan. The cabbie objects to this. In his view, the man was serving just Muslims, not Scotland and all of its people. During ablutions at a mosque in Edinburgh, he meets a British army officer. The man is proud to serve with Her Majesty’s forces and the army has tried to recruit in the area. But despite their best efforts and wishes, Muslims don’t wish to join.

In London, on the other hand, he talks to a modern, liberal mullah, Imam Jalal. Jalal has studied all over the world, but came back to Britain because he was impressed with the British constitution’s enshrinement of personal liberty and free speech. He believes that the British constitution expresses the maqasid, the higher objectives Muslim scholars identified as the root of the sharia as far back al-Juwaini in the 11th century. Jalal also tells him about al-shart, a doctrine in one of the Muslim law schools that permits women to divorce their husbands. The marriage law should be reformed so that the nikah becomes legal, thus protecting Muslim wives with the force of British law. And yes, there would be an uproar if prayers for the Queen were introduced in the mosques, but it could be done. Both he and Hussain talk about how their father came to Britain in the late 50s and early 60s. They wore three-piece suits, despite the decline of the empire, were proud to be British. There was time in this country when Muslims were respected. In one factory, when a dispute broke out, the foreman would look for a Muslim because they had a reputation for honesty. The Muslim community in these years would have found the race riots and the terrorist bombings of 7/7 and the Ariana Grande concert simply unbelievable. Had someone told them that this would happen, they would have said he’d been watching too much science fiction.

Muslim Separatism and the Threat of White British Fascism

Hanging over this book is the spectre of demographic change. The Muslim population is expected to shoot up to 18 million later in the century and there is the real prospect of Britain becoming a Muslim majority country. In fact, as one of the great commenters here has pointed out, this won’t happen looking at the available data. If Scotland goes its own way, however, the proportion of Muslims in England will rise to 12 per cent, the same as France and Belgium. For Hussain, it’s not a question of how influential Islam will be in the future, but the type of Islam we will have. He is afraid of Muslim majority towns passing laws against everything the Muslim community considers forbidden. And as politicians, particularly Jeremy Corbyn and the Muslim politicos in the Labour party treat Muslims as a solid block, rather than individuals, he’s afraid that Muslim communalism and its sense of a separate identity will increase. This may also produce a corresponding response in the White, Christian-origin English and Brits. We could see the rise of nationalist, anti-Islam parties. At one point he foresees three possible futures. One is that the mosques will close the doors and Muslims will become a separate community. Another is mass deportations, including self-deportations. But there are also reasons to be optimistic. A new, British Islam is arising through all the ordinary Muslims finding ways to accommodate themselves within liberal, western society. They’re doing it quietly, unobtrusively in ordinary everyday matters, underneath all the loud shouting of the Islamists.

The Long Historical Connections between Britain and Islam

In his conclusion, Hussain points out that Islam and Britain have a long history together. Queen Elizabeth I, after her excommunication by the Pope, attempted to forge alliance with the Ottoman Sultan. She succeeded in getting a trading agreement with the Turkish empire. In the 17th century, the coffee shop was introduced to Britain by a Greek-Turk. And in the 8th century Offa, the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia, used Muslim dirhams as the basis for his coinage. This had the Muslim creed in Arabic, with his head stamped in the middle of the coin. Warren Hastings, who began the British conquest of India, opened a madrassa, sitting on its governing board and setting up its syllabus. This is the same syllabus used in the narrowly religious Muslim schools, so he’s partly to blame for them. During the First World War 2.5 million Muslims from India willingly fought for Britain. Muslim countries also sheltered Jews from the horrors of Nazi persecution. He’s also impressed with the immense contribution Muslims gave to the rise of science, lamenting the superstition he sees in some Muslim communities. He really isn’t impressed by one book on sale in a Muslim bookshop by a modern author claiming to have refuted the theory that the Earth goes round the sun.

To Combat Separatism and Caliphism, Celebrate British Values of Freedom and the Rule of Law

But combatting the Muslims separatism is only one half of the solution. Muslims must have something positive in wider mainstream society that will attract them to join. For Hussain, this is patriotism. He quotes the late, right-wing philosopher Roger Scruton and the 14th century Muslim historian ibn Khaldun on patriotism and group solidarity as an inclusive force. He cites polls showing that 89 per cent of Brits are happy with their children marrying someone of a different ethnicity. And 94 per cent of Brits don’t believe British nationality is linked to whiteness. He maintains that Brits should stop apologising for the empire, as Britain hasn’t done anything worse than Russia or Turkey. He and Imam Jalal also point out that the Turkish empire also committed atrocities, but Muslims do not decry them. Rather, the case of a Turkish TV show celebrating the founder of the Turkish empire, have toured Britain and received a warm welcome at packed mosques. He points out that he and other Muslims are accepted as fellow Brits here. This is not so in other countries, like Nigeria and Turkey, where he could live for decades but wouldn’t not be accepted as a Nigerian or Turk. And we should maintain our country’s Christian, Protestant heritage because this is ultimately the source of the values that underlie British secular, liberal society.

He also identifies six key values which Britain should defend and celebrate. These are:

  1. The Rule of Law. This is based on Henry II’s synthesis of Norman law and Anglo-Saxon common law, to produce the English common law tradition, including Magna Carta. This law covers everyone, as against the sharia courts, which are the thin end of an Islamist wedge.
  2. Individual liberty. The law is the protector of individual liberty. Edward Coke, the 17th century jurist, coined the phrase ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’. He also said that ‘Magna Carta is such a fellow he will have no sovereign’ It was this tradition of liberty that the Protestant emigrants took with them when they founded America.
  3. Gender equality – here he talks about a series of strong British women, including Boadicea, the suffragettes, Queen Elizabeth and, in Johnson’s opinion, Maggie Thatcher. He contrasts this with the Turkish and other Muslim empires, which have never had a female ruler.
  4. Openness and tolerance – here he talks about how Britain has sheltered refugees and important political thinkers, who’ve defended political freedoms like the Austrians Wittgenstein and Karl Popper.
  5. Uniqueness. Britain is unique. He describes how, when he was at the Council for Foreign Relations, he and his fellows saw the Arab Spring as like Britain and America. The revolutionaries were fighting for liberty and secularism. There was talk amongst the Americans of 1776. But the revolutionaries didn’t hold western liberal values.
  6. Racial Parity. Britain is not the same nation that support racists like Enoch Powell. He points to the German roots of the royal family, and that Johnson is part Turkish while members of his cabinet also come from ethnic minorities. Britain is not like France and Germany, where Muslims are seen very much as outsiders.

Whatever your party political opinions, I believe that these really are fundamental British values worth preserving. Indeed, they’re vital to our free society. On the other hand, he also celebrates Adam Smith and his theories of free trade as a great British contribution, because it allowed ordinary people and not just the mercantilist elite to get wealthy. Er, no, it doesn’t. But in a book like this you can’t expect everything.

Criticisms of Hussain’s Book

Hussain’s book caused something of a storm on the internet when it was released. The peeps on Twitter were particularly upset by the claims of Muslims bullying and violence towards Whites. There was a series of posts saying that he’d got the location wrong, and that the area in question was posh White area. In fact the book makes it clear he’s talking about a Muslim enclave. What evidently upset people was the idea that Muslims could also be racist. But some Muslims are. Way back c. 1997 Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote a report for the Committee for Racial Equality as it was then on anti-White Asian and Black hatred and violence. Racism can be found amongst people of all colours and religions, including Muslims.

People were also offended by his statement that in the future there could be mass deportations of Muslims. From the discussion about this on Twitter, you could be misled into thinking he was advocating it. But he doesn’t. He’s not Tommy Robinson or any other member of the far right. He’s horrified by this as a possibility, a terrible one he wishes to avoid. But these criticism also show he’s right about another issue: people don’t have a common language to talk about the issues and problems facing Britain and its Muslim communities. These need to be faced up to, despite the danger of accusations of racism and islamophobia. Tanjir Rashid, reviewing it for the Financial Times in July 2021, objected to the book on the grounds that Hussain’s methodology meant that he ignored other Muslim networks and had only spoken to out-of-touch mullahs. He pointed instead to an Ipsos-Mori poll showing that 88 per cent of Muslims strong identified with Britain, seven out of ten believed Islam and modern British society were compatible and only one per cent wanted separate, autonomous Muslim communities. It’s possible that if Hussain had also travelled to other towns where the Muslim population was smaller and more integrated with the non-Muslim population, he would have seen a very different Islam.

Intolerant Preaching Revealed by Channel 4 Documentary

On the other hand, the 2007 Channel 4 documentary, Undercover Mosque, found a venomous intolerance against Christians, Jews and gays being preached in a hundred mosques. A teacher was effectively chased out of his position at a school in Batley because he dared to show his pupils the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a class on tolerance. He is still in hiding, fearing for his life. Hussain cites government statistics that 43,000 people are under police surveillance because political extremism, 90 per cent of whom are Muslims.

These are vital questions and issues, and do need to be tackled. When I studied Islam in the 90s, I came across demands in the Muslim literature I was reading for separate Muslim communities governed by Islamic law. This was accompanied by the complaint that if this wasn’t granted, then Britain wasn’t truly multicultural. More recently I saw the same plea in a book in one of Bristol’s secondhand and remaindered bookshops, which based its argument on the British colonisation of America, in which peoples from different nationalities were encouraged to settle in English territories, keeping their languages and law. It might be that the mullahs are preaching separatism, but that hardly anybody in the Muslim community is really listening or actually want the caliphate or a hard line separate Muslim religious identity.

Conclusion

I do believe, however, that it is an important discussion of these issues and that the sections of the book, in which liberal Muslims, including Hussain himself, refute the vicious intolerance preached by the militants, are potentially very helpful. Not only could they help modern Muslims worried by such intolerant preaching and attitudes, and help them to reject and refute them, but they also show that a modern, liberal, western Islam is very possible and emerging, in contradiction to Fascists and Islamophobes like Tommy Robinson.

Bradford Sufi Leader’s Refusal to Allow Police to Speak in Mosques about Grooming Gangs

June 27, 2022

I’m trying not to blog too much about Ed Hussain’s book, Among the Mosques, as I wish to write a review of the book as a whole when I finish reading it. But this is too important. The report on the Rotherham Pakistani grooming gangs was released last week and has been widely criticised. Although the report acknowledge the massive failure of the police and local authorities to deal with the massive abuse of White girls – there were 1,400 odd victims – no-one responsible has been punished or even named. The report’s and the authorities’ failure to do this has been widely reported and attacked on various right-wing media, such as GB News.

One of the errors the report identifies in the handling of the abuse was that neither the police nor the local authorities attempted to engage with the local community. I’m sure this is correct, but I’m not sure how cooperative the local Asian and Muslim community would have been even if they had. In his book Hussain describes a conversation he had with Imam Hasnain, the pir, or leader of a Sufi biraderi (brotherhood) that acts as a patronage network controlling a large number, if not the majority, of the mosques in Bradford. Hasnain and the other leaders of the brotherhood are so influential that they are courted by local politicians. On page 132, the pir tells Hussain that he won’t let the police come into the mosques to talk about the grooming gangs and their abuse.

”The police want to come into our mosques and speak to the congregations about not grooming white girls. It has been an issue in the past.’

‘And?’ I ask, probing his reticence.

‘I can’t let that happen.’

‘Why not?’ I ask, aghast. ‘Surely you’ve heard the facts about what happened in Rotherham, how Muslim men targeted non-Muslim White girls over decades?’

‘What have these men to do with Islam?’ he asks, with a defensive shrug and the characteristic twist of the hand of Asian elders.

‘There are two factors involved in those cases again and again: drugs and alcohol. Does Islam permit these two things? Of course not. Yes, they have Muslim names and Pakistani backgrounds, but our mosques are not responsible for their criminality. These issues will be with us for a long time in Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Keighley and other cities. But unless the police can prove it is now down to drugs and alcohol, we will not open the mosque doors to them.”

The same pir blames the British and our government for a variety of ills affecting Muslims, from the partition of India to the disappearance of the White community in Bradford. He denies that Whites are absent from the city and recites a list of postcodes to show where they allegedly still reside, despite Hussain telling him he hasn’t seen an White people. And he goes on to blame the massive Islamic presence on the town on the fact that the government sent a great number of Syrian refugees there. It’s all British double standards against Muslims, double standards that are creating Islamophobia. And he defends the demands for Salman Rushdie’s death because of the Satanic Verses.

Now Hasnain is right that the groomers used drugs and alcohol to seduce their victims, and they weren’t connected with the mosques. But the refusal to allow the police in to speak to the mosques’ congregations seems too facile and more than a little suspicious in itself. No-one has claimed that the mosques as organisations were responsible for the abuse. But one the natural places to reach out to particular communities is through their places of worship, regardless of the particular religion. Back in the 90s, for example, the police came to the local church in my part of south Bristol to talk about drugs and the immense harm they cause. This obviously doesn’t mean that the cops thought the local congregation was seething with drug freaks and dealers. It was just a good venue to address the local community. And the same would also be true of the cops talking about the grooming gangs in the mosques in Bradford.

And what comes across to me from Hasnain’s defensive attitude and blank refusal is that he’s motivated by the Asian honour and shame culture. My guess is that he feels that the grooming gangs are deeply shameful and that talking about them will also shame and dishonour the Muslim community in Bradford, and so there’s not just a refusal to accept that the mosques were responsible, which is perfectly right, but a refusal to allow the police to even talk about it in them. And in such a deeply religious community as Muslim Bradford appears to be, it seems to me that this effectively stops the police addressing the community on this issue.

And I wonder whether the cops and local authorities in Rotherham would have met with a similar blank refusal, had they tried to approach them about addressing them in their mosques and community centres about the gangs.

White British Woman Harassed for Wanting to See Movie about Mohammed’s Daughter Fatima

June 14, 2022

Rafida+ is a Muslim YouTuber, and I would guess, a Shia, who’s staunchly behind the British movie Lady of Heaven. This is about the life of Mohammed’s daughter, Fatima, as told to a young girl fleeing from the horrors of ISIS’ regime in Iraq. It was written by Sheikh Habib, a respected Shia cleric, and its executive produce, Malik Shlibak, is also Muslim. Nevertheless, Cineworld were forced to withdraw it from cinemas last week following protests in Bradford, Birmingham and other cities. The protesters ranted that it was blasphemous and causing sectarian hatred. The real issue, it appears, is that it presents the story from the point of view of the Shia. Fatima was married to Ali, who is revered by the Shia as the first Imam and the true leader of the Muslim community after the Prophet’s death. One of the most important works of Shia Muslim theology and jurisprudence it the Kitab al-Irshad, or Book of Guidance. This includes the legal decisions made by Ali. Cineworld pulled the movie because they felt they could not protect their employees. This is the underlying threat presented by such protesters. The teacher at a school in Batley,, who was at the centre of protests after he showed his class the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a lesson about free speech, is still in hiding. And in Britain these protests can be traced back to the campaign against Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in the 1980s. This was accompanied by cynical, opportunistic fatwa demanding Rushdie’s murder by the Ayatollah Khomeini. As a result, the author was forced into hiding for years.

Rafida+’s video presents the opposite case for the showing of the film. In it, a White British woman explains that she wants to see the movie because she works for the oil company, Saudi-Aramco. As a result, she’s been around Muslims, knows something about the religion, and would like to know more. A security guard at the mall or wherever then walks over to her to rant about how it’s blasphemous, ‘there isn’t an inch of truth in it’, and that it shouldn’t be shown. He keeps walking away and coming back. You can see in the background women dressed in the all-enveloping chador, and there are women’s voices off camera reassuring her that she’s right and the security guard most definitely isn’t and should mind his own business. I’m sure that these are Shia women, who also want to see the movie, and who appreciate the White woman’s interest in their religion.

Normally I’m very much in favour of people’s right to protest, but this right ends when there’s a threat to people’s lives. The protesters have a right to voice their opposition to the movie, but not to the extent that the cinema manager and chain feel their lives and those of their employees are at risk. And just as they have a right to protest, so others have the right to see the movie. If the protesters want to show their opposition to the movie, they are free to make their own movie presenting their point of view, just as they are free to produce books, pamphlets and video material doing the same. This is free speech.

What they should not be doing is demanding the suppression of a film that contradicts and challenges their views with masked and tacit threats.

In doing so, they are the ones trying to stop people learning more about Islam and communities coming together through the movie.

Cineworld Pull Film on Life of Prophet’s Daughter Fatima Due to Intimidating Protests from Sectarian Sunnis

June 8, 2022

I feel I have to comment on this story now going the rounds on the right-wing satellite news shows like GB News and the Murdoch-owned Talk TV, if only to provide some perspective on it. They’ve been discussing Cineworld’s decision to remove a British-made film, in which a young Muslim girl learns about the life of Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima. The film’s directed by Eli King, and was written by a Muslim clergyman, and its executive producer, Malik Shlibak, appeared on GB News talking to Nigel Farage to defend the movie. There were mass protests outside cinemas in Bolton and Birmingham, which led to the cinema chain removing the movie, first from those towns and now across the country. They stated that they were afraid that if they did not do, they could not guarantee the security of their staff.

One of the accusations against the film is that it is blasphemous, because it shows Mohammed’s face. This is frequently omitted in Islamic art, it has to be said. There’s either an oval hole left for the face, or else the face of Mohammed and other leading members of the early Muslim community are hidden behind veils. Shlibak explained to the Fuhrage that Habib, the Islamic scholar who wrote the film, was a highly respected clergyman with a following around the world. They were also very careful to base it on the historical sources. As for blasphemy in portraying the Prophet’s face, Shlibak stated that this wasn’t true, as there is a variety of attitudes towards the portrayal of Mohammed across the Muslim world.

The real issue, it appears, is sectarian. The protesters were all Sunnis, the orthodox branch of Islam, who objected to the film because it was from the Shia perspective. Fatima was married to Ali, whom the Shias revere as the first Imam and the true successor to Mohammed as the leader of the nascent Muslim community. However, he was passed over in favour of three members of the Meccan aristocracy, who had converted to Islam. Ali’s sons, Hassan and Hussein, attempted to seize power but were defeated in battle by the forces of the Caliph Muawiya. They were killed, their forces routed and the women of Ali’s family captured. Shia Muslims commemorate this event annually with processions and a passion play, in which they carry models of the Hassan and Hussein’s mausoleums.

Apart from Shlibak, the Fuhrage also talked to a Muslim who supported the protests. He denied that the film was being accused of blasphemy, because blasphemy doesn’t exist in Islam. The protests were instead against it because it caused sectarian tensions. Now the statement that blasphemy doesn’t exist in Islam is pure taqiyya, a lie to defend the faith. Technically what he said is correct – it doesn’t have quite the same concept, but has a similar idea. This is ‘insulting Islam’. There have been mob lynchings and murders of people accused of blasphemy in Pakistan. The Pakistani legal code also considers it a crime, and there are 200 people on death row in the country on blasphemy charges. When the man defending the protests repeatedly refused to answer Nige’s questions about blasphemy, Nige ended the interview ‘in the interests of free speech’.

I found an other video today in which the protests were being discussed by Leo Kearse, a Conservative comedian, who has appeared with Sargon of Gasbag’s Lotus Eaters, and another man, whom I didn’t recognise. It seems that the protesters were also recorded chanting ‘Allahu akbar’ and ‘Shia kaffir’, Shia unbelievers. Although unremarked by the three discussing the issue, this is particularly chilling. Muslims cannot enslave other Muslims under the explicit dictates of sharia law, although this was frequently violated. In the Middle Ages, however, a number of Sunni theologians and jurists ruled that the Shia were not Muslims, but unbelievers. They could thus be killed and their children enslaved. A few years ago the Grand Mufti of Mecca declared that the Shia were ‘heretics, worthy of death’, which is a call to genocide if ever I heard one. Kearse added that this was a problem of importing thousands, millions of people from other cultures that don’t share our values. He was corrected by the second panellist, who made the point that the people speaking were all born here. The problem was about parallel societies. This is a genuine problem. There have been articles in the press discussing the way White and ethnic minority communities are growing apart. There was one such in the left-wing political magazine, Prospect, a few years ago about one town in which Whites and Muslim lived in separate areas and had nothing to do with each other. The panellists stated that there wasn’t much in the way of British values on display. No, the protesters were following the traditional values of the Sunni Muslim world. They also made the point that it was similar to the teacher, who was hounded of his job at a school in Batley because he dared to show his class the French cartoons of Mohammed. This fellow and his family are still in hiding a year later. And it was for showing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that the French teacher, Thomas Pattie, was murdered following similar protests.

Julia Harley-Brewer on Talk TV tried to put it into some kind of perspective by comparing it to Christian protests against Monty Python’s Life of Brian. And a few years before in the ’70s there were also protests against the horror film The Exorcist because of its portrayal of demonic possession. But as far as I know, these protests never included death threats, whether explicit or tacit, against those involved in the movie. The real parallels, and the source of the problem, are the protests in Bradford in the 1980s against Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. This was intended as a critique of western racism, and the Mahound character, who was supposed to be a caricature of Mohammed, actually wasn’t at all. People I know who’ve read the book have said it’s not blasphemous. It is, however, incredibly boring. The book was denounced by the Ayatollah Khomeini as a cynical political ploy in order to gain some kind of moral leadership over the Muslim world against Saudi Arabia. In Britain there were mass protests, led in Bradford by Mohammed Akhthar, Kalim Saddiqui and other intolerant hardliners. Akhthar penned a pamphlet, Be Careful With Mohammed, which I had the misfortune to read when I was briefly trying to study Islam at postgraduate level. It’s a staunch defence of traditional Islam, which is held up as everything good and admirable as compared to western society and Christianity, which is everything inferior and wrong. And Akhthar makes very explicit the British Muslim community’s rejection of British culture and values ‘They came to Britain to work, not to become Englishmen’. These protests gave the Muslim radicals in Britain as sense of power, especially as Rushdie was forced to go into hiding for a decade or so. In 1991 or so Kalim Saddiqui was filmed in his mosque in a BBC documentary, The Trouble With Islam, telling his flock that British society was a vast killing machine, and killing Muslims comes very easily to us. When asked about this, he bleated some nonsense about a forthcoming Muslim holocaust.

But to return to the death threats, these are not confined to the leaders of the mass protests. The Muslim evangelist Ali Dawah in one of his videos told one of the ex-Muslim atheist YouTubers that when Britain becomes an Islamic state, he’d be put to death. One of the ex-Muslim atheists, Harris Sultan, appealed for donations a little while ago to pay for protection after a British Muslim put a price on his head.

I feel very strongly that we have to start pushing back against these bigots. One of the criticisms levelled against the handling of these protests is that the police didn’t turn up. I’m not surprised. They were no doubt scared of being accused of racism and Islamophobia, which may have been blown up into mass demonstrations around the globe. But I also despise the way protests like these are being ignored and played down by our politicians. I well appreciate why. They’re afraid of stoking real hatred against ordinary Muslims, who have nothing to do with the protests and who may not share these views. When Akhthar and Saddqui were organising protests in Bradford, there were counter protests against them from liberal Muslims. One of my former college’s lecturers on Islam also went up, and quote the passage in the Quran which condemns religious intolerance. I think it was probably the verse that runs ‘There should be no compulsion in religion’.

And protests carrying real or implied death threats aren’t confined to Muslims. A year or so ago Kathleen Stock, a feminist scholar, was forced out of her job following mass protests by students. She was accused of transphobia because of her stated belief that transwomen aren’t women. The university first tried sacking her for bigotry, which she successfully challenged. But she went anyway because she no longer felt safe.

I think this all needs to be stopped now. People have the right to protest but not to the extent where others fear for their lives. I wonder if it’s time to demand legislation against protests where there is a reasonable fear of threats to life and limb, and to make sure it is properly enforced. And I realise that this is an attack on free speech and the right to protest, but I cannot see any other way of defending free speech against such mobs without it.

Here are the videos I’ve mentioned.

Farage talking to executive producer Malik Shlibak:

Leo Kearse and others discussing the protests.

Labour Party Asks Muslims for their Input

January 22, 2022

I don’t know why I got the email, as I’m not a Muslim. A few days ago the Labour party sent out a general email to its Muslim Labour members requesting them for their views and opinions on how the party could help them. This was on behalf of a Muslim Labour party organisation. My guess is that it was a general mail-out, because I have some views on institutional Islam in the UK which definitely do not fit with elements of current anti-racist orthodoxy.

My views on elements of Islam in the UK have been strongly influenced by the Satanic Verses affair and the Islamists goose-stepping around in the first decade of this century proclaiming that Islam would conquer the west and demanding death for blasphemers, including the previous pope. I also found a lot of anti-Christian, frankly racist Muslim polemic when I was studying Islam at college, and a number of texts from British Islamic presses openly demanded the creation of self-governing Muslim ghettoes ruled by shariah law.

There was international outrage in the Muslim community worldwide at the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. In fact the book isn’t blasphemous. It is, however, immensely tedious. It was labelled as such by the Ayatollah Khomeini as part of an attempt by his regime in Iran to gain the moral leadership of the international Islamic community. This is the real reason he seized on the book and placed a fatwa on Rushdie’s head. In Britain the protests were led by Mohammed Akhthar and Kalim Saddiqui, both of whom were hard-liners with bitterly intolerant views. Saddiqui appeared on a Beeb programme, The Trouble with Islam, telling the congregation of his mosque that ‘British society is a monstrous killing machine, and killing Muslims comes very easily to them’. This is pure racism, and if it came from a White, non-Muslim preacher would result in immediate legal action. When asked about his comments by the interviewer, Saddiqui waffled about the Satanic Verses.

Way back in 2007 Channel 4 broadcast a highly controversial issues of Dispatches, entitled ‘Undercover Mosque’. They sent their reporters in disguise to a hundred mosques, and filmed the imams preaching violent hatred against Jews, Christians and homosexuals. This was immediately denounced as racist and islamophobic, but I got the distinct impression that it was a fair picture of much Islamic preaching in Britain today. Way back in the 19th century the British government protested against the demonisation of Christians by Muslim preachers in the Balkans. I think much of this hate comes from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. When I was studying Islam at College in the 1980s we were told that there were some terribly anti-Christian polemical literature published in Pakistan. We were told this not by Islamophobes but by people with a sincere appreciation of the religion. I even remember one of them saying that the Qur’an was his favourite religious text after the Gospel of Luke, and going over to a window to chant it while we were working on some task set for us.

As for the British Muslim establishment, Birmingham Central Mosque, the British Council of Mosques, British Islamic Council or whatever, I am deeply distrustful of them. A few years ago they were caught out giving platforms to the preachers of hate, and every time they excused themselves by saying something like it had been out of their hands and was the responsibility of another organisation to whom they had delegated the function of booking preachers. And there has similarly been considerable deceit by official Islam in the condemnation of Islamism, at least if Ed Hussein’s The Islamist can be believed. Hussein was a member of the militant Islamist organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir, which would like to set up a caliphate in Pakistan, before seeing reason and getting out. He’s associated with the Quilliam Foundation, I believe, which is another right-wing think tank. Hence to many people on the left, he’s poison. In The Islamist he describes the various leaders of the Muslim community traipsing into 10 Downing Street to reassure Tony Blair that they were solidly against Islamism and backed his campaign to stamp it out. And all of them were hypocrites as they all secretly supported it. I’ve heard from others that some of the Muslim groups they attempted to establish a Christian-Muslim dialogue with were also Islamists.

This is not the kind of thing the left in particular wants to hear, but it is part of the problem. As is the growing Islamophobia within the Labour party itself. Now I’m sure that the majority of Muslims in the UK don’t want to take over the place, and only five percent of them want sharia law despite all the alarmist fear-mongering by rags like the Heil. As for the preachers of hate, I honestly don’t know how seriously their congregations take them. I can see many of them simply getting bored, listening politely while wondering what their having for lunch and tea, or how the local football team is doing. They’ve also been condemned by liberal Muslims, who have organised marches against them. But these marches are rarely covered, and their organisers have said that they haven’t received the support they need from anti-racist organisations and the wider community. This is a pity, because I think it could change opinions of Islam radically. White allies supporting their Muslims friends marching against such hatred and intolerance under the banner of ‘Black and White, Unite and Fight’ would demonstrate graphically that by no means all Muslims are terrorists and jihadi wannabes, and that Muslims genuinely wanted pluralism and tolerance. This also means bringing up and supporting home-grown imams, imbued with proper British values. There have been complaints that the shortage of imams in this country has led to the importation of preachers from Pakistan, who are viciously intolerant and grossly unsuitable to lead a congregation in a genuinely democratic, tolerant society.

But apart from these issues in the wider British society, the Labour party can do much for its Muslim members by cleaning up the real Islamophobia and bullying in its ranks. One third of Muslim members have reported Islamophobic incidents, and there was the bullying of BAME activists and politicos last year by Labour apparatchiks. This went unpunished, undoubtedly because the same people were supporters of Keef Stalin. Now Stalin’s in the shtuck, he’s looking for their support. If he genuinely wishes, he can start by purging the genuine Islamophobes and punishing the apparatchiks responsible.

But I doubt that he will. Starmer’s an inveterate liar, and this looks like more window-dressing and sham.

Belfield Claims Black Police Commissioner Covering Up Muslim Grooming Gangs

September 29, 2021

More about mad YouTuber Alex Belfield, whom some of the commenters here have described as my favourite right-winger. A few days ago Belfield put up a video claiming that the new police and crime commissioner for Yorkshire, a Black woman, was trying to cover up the kind of Muslim grooming gangs responsible for the terrible, 20 year-long abuse of White girls in Rotherham. A systematic abuse which the police and authorities knew very well was going on, but did nothing to stop because they were afraid it would cause riots. Belfield was commenting on an video he’d been sent of the Black commissioner being interviewed on a northern local news programme. A White chap, not in the studio, was claiming that the police and authorities had not accepted that there was a particular problem with certain communities. The Black woman responded by saying that rape appears everywhere in all communities, and it was therefore wrong to accuse certain individual communities. She had been raped by a White man, for example, but she wasn’t blaming all White men. To be fair, this has been the general response by anti-racists to the scandal, who fear that some of the coverage is deliberately spreading islamophobia by portraying Muslims, and Muslim immigrants, as dangerous rapists determined to prey on White women.

I think the problem here was not that the lady was trying to cover up what had gone on Rotherham and elsewhere, but that she was not responding to the White man’s specific point. Yes, rape and sexual abuse really definitely isn’t confined to any one race or community. Anti-racist researchers have cited statistics showing that the Muslim and Pakistani communities aren’t any more likely to engage in rape or paedophilia than the rest of Britain’s people. And unfortunately you can find more than enough rapists and child abusers in the White population. However, I can remember reading years ago that rapists tend to target those of their own race. White men rape White women. Black men rape Black women. But these gangs specifically targeted White girls, who were subjected to racist verbal abuse during their rape. Even though the Rotherham scandal has broken and similar rape gangs are being rounded up and prosecuted, there really does seem a determination to avoid talking about the racist nature of these offences. I think this comes from a general reluctance by the press and authorities to discuss openly deal with anti-White racism.

There is at the moment a rise in islamophobia, particularly in Starmer’s Labour party. Starmer makes much about tackling anti-Semitism, but has done nothing about the abuse and bullying his supporters in the party bureaucracy have meted out to Muslim and Black activists. One third of Muslims in the party have claimed that they have been verbally abused because of their religion. Some of this islamophobia comes from 9/11, the 7/7 suicide bombings and similar acts of terrorism, like the London Bridge knife attacker. Others factors are the fatwa Ayatollah Khomeini imposed on Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses and the mass demonstrations against the previous pope for quoting the very hostile views of a Byzantine emperor on Islam. Crowds of angry Muslims marching down the street shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ and waving placards saying ‘Behead the Pope’ and ‘Islam will conquer the west’ won’t endear Islam to non-Muslims, even if they come from a small minority.

And much harm has been done by the cover-up of the abuse in Rotherham. This has given the impression to many Whites that their lives don’t matter to the authorities, who consider it more important to stop race conflict by protecting Muslim criminals. I also believe that the refusal of anti-racists to deal with anti-White racism in the same way as the deal with prejudice, abuse and violence against Black and Asians is harmful because it does leave issues like the Rotherham scandal open to exploitation by the right, and real racists.

We need to have Black and Asian people obviously joining the White friends to march against anti-White racism, just as Whites join their friends from those communities marching against the racism directed at them. This is not happening, but until it does, scandals like Rotherham will fester and contribute to more anti-Muslim suspicion and hate.

My Letter of Complaint about Anti-White Racism at the Left Labour Webinar ‘Why Socialists Are Anti-Imperialists’

June 8, 2021

Okay, it’s taken me several months to do it, but I also sent an email to the peeps at the Arise Festival of Left Labour Ideas about what I firmly see as anti-White racism. This was in a webinar ‘Why Socialists Are Anti-Imperialists’. As you can read from the email, I largely agreed wholeheartedly with what was being said, especially when some of the speakers, like Murad Qureshi of the Stop the War Coalition, warned against the return of the Neocons and their ideology of imperial conquest and the plundering of nations. It’s destroyed Iraq and its destroyed Libya, and the scumbags want to destroy Iran.

But I also have a few quibbles here. They saw the rise in Islamophobia as being a product of these interventions, but I think it predates them. It was on the rise in the west with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the murder in the Netherlands of Theo van Gogh, a film-maker, by a Moroccan who was offended at his film attacking traditional Islamic attitudes to women.

But what angered me was the speech by Barbara Barnaby, the head of the Black Liberation Movement. She was firmly anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist, but some of her attitudes themselves seem colonialist to me. She stated that Britain and Europe should take in migrants, ‘because you oppressed us under colonialism’. This might be putting it too strongly, but it does seem to be a form of Black and Asian colonisation in revenge for the European conquest of Africa. She holds Britain and the rest responsible for the return of slavery in Libya, which is reasonable, but has nothing to say about its return in Black Africa in Uganda. I know this is outside the subject, but it’s important. It suggests that she considers slavery and other atrocities acceptable if they’re done by Blacks, and that their discussion and criticism by Whites is somehow an assault on African dignity. Here’s my letter. Unfortunately, I call Barbara Barnaby Barbara Biti throughout, as I forgot her surname.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for inviting me to the various online events organised by the Labour Assembly Against Austerity as part of the Arise Festival of Left Labour ideas. I have found them extremely necessary and stimulating. This country needs real socialism and action for its working people of all colours and creeds, as well as real international solidarity and action against the multinational capitalism that is ruining our planet, despoiling the nations of the Developing World, and exploiting working people across the globe.

However, I have several very grave objections to some of the opinions presented at the webinar, ‘Why Socialists Are Anti-Imperialists’ presented on the 24th April of this year. I am sorry it has taken me so long to communicate them.

I should first say that I strongly agree that socialists should be anti-imperialists. I agree wholehearted with Murad Qureshi about the dangers of a renewed neo-Conservative right demanding further invasions. I am very much afraid that the warmongers in the government and international capitalism are preparing for an offensive war against Iran, and dread the consequences for the Iranian people and the Middle East.

But I also disagree that these attacks on the peoples of the Middle East alone are responsible for rising prejudice against Muslims in Britain and abroad. I believe a critical moment in this was the fatwa the Ayatollah Khomeini placed upon Salman Rushdie. This, in my experience, turned many western intellectuals, who may otherwise have had a positive view of Islam and Muslims, against the religion. Another was the murder in the first years of this century of the Dutch film-maker, Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh had offended Muslim sentiment through his film, ‘Submission’, criticising the traditional Islamic attitude towards women. In retaliation for this movie, shown on Dutch TV, he was attacked and beheaded in the street by a Moroccan immigrant. And I also believe that what is driving much anti-Muslim prejudice in this country is the continuing scandal of the Muslim grooming gangs. These gangs were covered up and allowed to operate unchecked and unpunished for 20 years because the authorities were afraid of creating race riots. But it has taught a large section of the British electorate that Whites have less protection against racial violence and sexual exploitation in their own country, and that Muslim criminality goes unpunished I realise that this is not the message the authorities mean to give, but it is nevertheless the one that is being received. And I do feel that this scandal has helped to win a section of the White working class electorate in the North to the Tories.

I am also concerned about the underlying anti-White tone of the talk given by Barbara Biti, the head of the Black Liberation Movement. I do not dispute that the global south is exploited and that Black people in Britain are marginalised and suffer from high unemployment, poor education and career opportunities. And I think that she is correct when she says we have a duty to take in the refugees caused by our imperialist wars.

However, she also betrays a set of double standards towards White and Black atrocities as well as what can be seen as a colonialist mentality herself. She stated that we should take in migrants from the south, because ‘you oppressed us under colonialism’. As an argument, this doesn’t work. The peoples of our former colonies were given their independence as they demanded, and this was supposed to solve some of the problems of colonialism. If it hasn’t, then the fault lies primarily with those states and peoples themselves. But they no longer wanted us, and so I believe our obligations in that direction ended at independence. If we are to take in refugees, then it should be for reasons of common humanity and the long-standing connections that were forged with these nations during colonialism.

I also noted that while she was quick to condemn the west for the resurgence of slavery in Libya and north Africa, she said nothing about its revival in sub-Saharan Africa, in countries such as Uganda. Slavery existed in Africa for centuries before the emergence of the transatlantic slave trade, and pirates from north Africa also carried off White slaves from Europe. But Biti seems to regard this as an embarrassment that should be hushed up. And while Africans certainly were exploited during colonialism, part of the rationale for the European invasion of the continent was to put an end to it. But Biti clearly feels that this should not be mentioned, let alone criticised. This seems to be part of a general campaign by Black activists to put the blame for slavery solely on White Europeans in contradiction to history.

This shows a further racist attitude in Biti’s speech. While I am sure she has White friends and supporters, her refusal to acknowledge any criticism or failing of the Developing World and its people, and her placing the blame firmly on the West, suggests that she sees White people as a terrible, exploitative other, in line with current far left theories of Whiteness like Critical Race Theory. While Black activists have made it very clear in this country that they do not promote racial violence, I am afraid that this attitude legitimises it. You may remember that 20 years ago, I report came out revealing that the majority of victims of racist crime in this country were White. This pattern seems to be recurring, as it has been claimed that recent government statistic by the Hate Crimes Unit show that 41 per cent of a reported hate crimes are against Whites.

Finally, Biti’s demand that Britain accept non-White immigration as a kind of reparation for colonialism sounds itself like a form of colonialism. Her hostile tone suggests that she has the attitude that just as we colonised the world, so we should accept being colonised in turn as non-White immigration. It looks very much like a form of ‘reverse colonialism’ I can remember the FT talking about in a review of a book on the British empire also nearly 20 years ago. Again, it’s another flawed argument, as the peoples of Africa and elsewhere fought against the European invasion and occupations of their countries and demanded their independence. But there is a set of double standards here in that Biti, and activists like her, deny White Europeans the right to protest or legislate against mass non-White immigration.

 I regret that these criticisms need to be made, as I do share the speakers’ concerns about the rise in imperialist ideologies. I also strongly believe that the White working class, Blacks and Asians need to unite to topple the Tories as well as combat the real structural racism that exists. But I am afraid that identity politics that see racism as solely something done by Whites and which does not recognise the complex reality is merely creating more alienation, division and racial hatred.

I would be very grateful for a response to this letter, as I intend to put it up on my blog.

Thank you and solidarity.

Yours faithfully,

I haven’t received a reply, but they’re still sending me material about future events so they obviously haven’t decided I’m an evil Fascist or White supremacist just yet.

Blasphemy Laws and the Muslim Protests Against France

November 3, 2020

Over the past week or so we’ve seen mass protests across the Islamic world, including the Islamic community in Britain, over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. These have followed the assassination of school teacher Samuel Paty for simply showing his class the cartoon as part of a lesson about free speech. It’s been pointed out in articles in the I that Paty was far from a racist or Islamophobe. He had taken lessons in Islam in order to understand his Muslim students better, and had warned the Muslims in his class what he was about to do so they could leave to avoid being offended. One girl remained, told her father, her father told the local mosque, the mosque told the community. And a Chechen Islamist heard them, and took matters into his own hands. Other Islamists have carried out further attacks on innocents, who had absolutely no part in the affair. Three people, including a priest, were stabbed to death in a church, simply for being Christians, and there have been shootings in other nations.

The murders of these innocents has not been denounced by the Muslim protesters, however. Instead we have seen former cricketer Imran Khan, now leader of an Islamic party and the president of Pakistan, denounce Macron for the publication of the cartoon. He has been joined by Turkish president Erdogan, another leader of a Muslim party Who wouldn’t know free speech if it came up and bit him on the elbow. Tunisia has also denounced France, and when I looked online last night, Islamists in Bangladesh were giving their government a few hours to sever links with France.

It’s been reported that Khan has been complaining about the hurt felt by Muslims around the world about the publication of the cartoons. Supposedly the right to free speech does not mean the right to offend. But others have pointed out over and over again that that is precisely what it means. The type of free speech that only permits what is inoffensive is no free speech at all.

At the heart of this are the Muslim blasphemy laws. This is an attempt to impose them on France and, by implication, other western nations. However, Muslim are a minority in Europe and so the only arguments Khan and the others can use against Europeans is that their feelings are hurt, and that there will be political repercussions.

I looked up the article on blasphemy in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, ed. by John Bowker (Oxford: OUP 1997). This provides information on the concept of blasphemy in Christian, Judaism and Islam, its punishments, and the problems of enforcing such laws in Britain. It runs

Blasphemy (Gk: ‘speaking evil’ ). Impious or profane talk, especially against God; and in many western legal systems , the offence of reviling God or Jesus Christ or an established church. To be blasphemous a publication must be intended to shock and endanger the moral fabric of society; one that is merely anti-religious (e.g. denying the existence of God) is not. In England in 1977 the editor of Gay News was convicted of blasphemous libel for publishing a poem which portrayed Christ as a practicing homosexual. This was the first successful prosecution for blasphemy since 1922, and showed the difficulty of objectively applying the common law definition. The appearance of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, raised the issue whether blasphemy should be extended to become a more general offence (in the UK), or whether it is an offence in the domain of inciting unrest.

‘In Judaism, ‘blasphemy’ is speaking scornfully of God (Heb. gidduf, heruf) and is described euphemistically as birkat ha-shem (‘blessing the name’, i.e. God). According to Leviticus 24. 10-23, the penalty for cursing God is death, but in discussing this passage, the rabbis defined blasphemy in such a way that it became an improbable crime-and thus the death penalty did not need to be invoked. Excommunication (herem) became the punishment in any case once legal autonomy had been lost…

‘The nearest equivalent in Islam is sabb, offering an insult to God. Qur’an 9.74 condemns those who sear by God that they said nothing but in fact spoke a word of rejection (kalimat al-kufr) after they had become Muslims. This relates blasphemy closely to apostasy (ridda). The expression of contempt for God, the Prophet Mohammed, the angels, or the traditional explications of revelation constitute the offence. Accidental blasphemy is not usually excusable (though Malikites allow it if it is expressed by a recent convert to Islam).. The punishment varies between different Schools of Islamic Law -e.g. the Hanafites remove the offenders legal rights, declare his marriage invalid, and declare any claims to inheritance or property void; the Malikites demand immediate execution of the death penalty.,’

The British prosecution for blasphemy mentioned in the article was brought by Mary Whitehouse, who made it her professional duty to be offended about everything. The gays on the opposite side took this as an attack on them, and launched their own protests against Whitehouse. There’s a comic aspect to this, as Whitehouse recalled that she woke up one morning to find militant gays marching about her garden waving placards.

I think the enforcement of the blasphemy laws is more or less impossible. They’re a dead letter, if they haven’t been repealed. As an example, just consider how many TV comedians since then have expressed their own contempt for Christ and his followers. The comedians Lee and Herring regularly did so on their BBC 2 programme, Fist of Fun. It came as a surprise to me a few years ago when Muslims around the world were again up in arms demanding the execution of blasphemers because of something Pope Benedict said about Mohammed in a speech when one of the two appeared on television attacking Islam. When they were interviewed by the short-lived mag Comedy Revue in the 1990s, they were asked about their attacks on Christianity and whether they would do the same to Islam. They laughingly made it clear that they definitely wouldn’t because they were afraid of violence and attempts on their lives. And thought themselves very clever for doing so. Which shows the British media establishments general attitude to Christianity.

The Muslim blasphemy laws are extremely dangerous. At the moment there are 200 people on death row in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy. Most of these are probably entirely spurious. They’re brought for entirely cynical reasons, such as getting rid of an opponent in a dispute over a completely unrelated issue. Muslims have also claimed that their attacks on Christians were also motivated by the outrage they felt at blasphemies committed by their victims. But some of it seems to me to be an attempt to enforce the Pakistani caste system. Indian and Pakistan Islam has a caste system like Hinduism, only not as severe. Most of the Christian community in Pakistan are of the lowest caste, and many are bonded labourers in brickyards, effectively slaves. One of the Christian women accused of blasphemy was accused after she brought water from a well to a group of Muslim women. Along the way she took a sip of the water. It looks to me that the real crime here was that she broke their laws of caste purity, and that the accusation of blasphemy was added on after this offence.

The ex-Muslim vloggers the Apostate Prophet and Harris Sultan have also pointed out the hypocrisy in Khan’s denunciations. When western countries have criticised Pakistan for human rights abuses, Pakistan has simply told them to mind their own business. But when France defends the publication of cartoons Pakistan and its Islamic leadership find offensive, suddenly he’s justified in interfering in their affairs. He has also denounced the closure of radical mosques and the expulsion of extremist imams as an attack on Islam. It isn’t. It is simply France protecting itself against Islamist violence, in the same way right-wing terrorist groups are banned. And Khan is again being hypocritical in his denunciations. When the Taliban made a series of bloody attacks in Pakistan a few years ago, the armed forces and security services cracked down hard. According to the two above vloggers, they went from house to house in the province of Waziristan arresting anyone with a beard. I haven’t linked to the two because I don’t want to offend any Muslims reading this blog. But you can Google the articles on YouTube if you want to find out more.

Macron should stand firm against all this. Blasphemy laws are a severe attack on free speech, and the penalties inflicted for it and the flagrant abuse of such accusations are particularly dangerous. Freedom of speech and conscience, including that of Muslims, is far too important to be sacrificed because of hurt feelings and outrage.

‘I’ Report on Macron’s Vow to Fight Islamist Separatism in France

October 9, 2020

Here’s another piece from the I about extremism, from last Saturday’s edition for 3rd October 2020. Written by their columnist Michael Rose, it discusses the announcement by French president Macron that he intends to fight against the separatism and extremist Islam in Muslim communities on the other side of la Manche. The article runs

President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”, which he said was threatening to take control in some Muslim communities around France.

France has struggled with Islamist militancy for years but the government is increasingly worried by broader radicalisation within Muslim communities. Officials cite the refusal of some Muslim men to shake women’s hands, swimming pools that impose alternate time slots for men and women, girls as young as four being told to wear full-face veils, and proliferation of Islamic schools.

More than 250 people have been killed on French soil over the past five years in attacks by Islamist militants or individuals inspired by Jihadist groups. “What we need to fight is Islamist separatism,” Mr Macron said during a visit to the impoverished Paris suburb of Les Mureaux. “The problem is an ideology which claims its own laws should be superior to those of the Republic.”

France follows a strict form of secularism which is designed to separate religion and public life. The principle was enshrined in law in 1906.

Many French Muslims have long complained of discrimination and marginalisation that have contributed to poverty and social alienation.

Foreign imams will no longer be able to train clerics in France and there will be tighter controls on the financing of mosques.

“There is a crisis of Islam everywhere, which is being corrupted by radical forms,” Mr Macron said. But he added France had a responsibility . “We have created our own separatism,” he said, citing the ghettoization of minority neighbourhoods.” (p.30).

We were taught a little about the French suburbs, the banlieus, or at least those in Paris, in Geography ‘A’ Level when I was at school nearly 40 years ago. I don’t know about now, but they were then hit by poverty and marginalisation. They were built simply to house people and so consist of nothing, or at least precious little, except tower blocks. It was assumed that the residents would go into the centre of Paris for their shopping and amusement, and so there are no, or very few, shops or local amenities. As for poverty and marginalisation, Ali A. Allawi describes the deprivation, poverty and underprivileged conditions of European Muslims in his book, The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation.

There’s also been much prejudice against Arabs and Muslims in France. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown described the very cold reception her mixed race family got there when they went for a holiday a few years ago in the Independent. I thought things had improved somewhat, as a few years later she wrote another piece about a recent holiday there in which she and her family were welcomed and treated with courtesy. There was also a series of anti-racist protests a few years ago, the name of which translates as ‘Don’t Touch My Mate’. This consisted of White young people showing their solidarity by standing up to racism and discrimination against their Black and Muslim friends.

But there has also been trouble with Muslim extremism and Islamist violence. Over a decade ago there were protests across France when the government ruled that under the doctrine of laicism, the official policy of French secularism, Muslim girls were banned from wearing the hijab in schools. This broke out despite leading French imams declaring that the ban didn’t contradict Islam and could be observed by pious Muslims. The insistence that girls as young as four should wear full-face veils is definitely extreme and not required by Islamic law. From what I remember from when I studied Islam at college as part of the Religious Studies course, girls up to seven years old can wear whatever they like. The dress requirements gradually come after they reach that age, and I think that they are only required to wear the full veil at puberty.

There have been fears about Islamic separatism in other European countries. In the 1990s there was controversy in the main Germany trade union organisation. This claimed that while the affiliated Muslim organisations or its Muslim members claimed to support integration, in reality they had a separatist attitude towards their non-Muslim brothers and sisters.

I also wonder if the accusation of separatism may not be literally true, in that some Muslims extremists may be pursuing a conscious policy of apartheid. I’ve written in previous posts how, when I was studying Islam, I came across passages in books published by British Muslim presses that demanded autonomous Muslim communities. And way back in January 2000, right at the dawning of the new millennium, the Financial Times included a brief piece featuring Anjem Chaudhry, who never met an Islamist terrorist he didn’t like. Chaudhry was then running an outfit called Sharia4Belgium, which wanted Belgian Muslims to have their own autonomous enclave with Arabic as it official language, governed by sharia law. Chaudhry’s now in jail for his support for al-Qaeda and ISIS. I don’t know if such demands are still being made by sections of British and European Islam following the 9/11 attacks and the government’s attempts to curb Muslim radicalism and promote integration. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was, somewhere, though the vicious Muslim firebrands like Kalim Siddiqui, who declared that British society was a monstrous killing machine and that killing Muslims comes very easily to non-Muslim Brits, seem to have gone quiet. The imam, who received Salmon Rushdie back into the faith, also recommended that Britain should train its own imams. When he was writing their was a shortage of Muslim clergy in Britain, and he was afraid that religious extremists from places like Pakistan were being allowed in thanks to this.

Macron’s comments also came at the same time that the Spectator published a piece claiming that the Swedish authorities had announced that immigrant communities in some of their cities were dominated by criminal gangs and had turned whole areas into a no-go zones. There was a war going on between a number of immigrant criminal gangs, in which firearms and even rocket launchers had been used. The Swedish chief of police had supposedly appeared on television to state very clearly that the immigrants responsible for the violence were not proper asylum seekers, but had come to the country simply to make money through selling drugs. This was apparently confirmed by the Swedish prime minister, Lofven, who said that his country would not be taking any of the former residents of the destroyed immigrant camp in France. Or so it has been claimed by right-wing, ant-immigration websites.

A few years ago the Islamophobic, ‘counterjihad’ websites Gates of Vienna and Vlad Tepes wrote pieces praising a book by the former mayor of one of the German towns. He claimed that his town had effectively been overrun by Muslims, who maltreated and forced out ethnic Germans. The book was widely attacked and criticised. They also claimed that Malmo in Sweden, or at least parts of it, had been taken over by Muslim immigrants and become violent, crime-ridden no-go zones for non-Muslims. I don’t know how true these reports are as they come from the racist right, websites which did have connections to the EDL. Certainly Fox News’ claim that British cities like Birmingham had been taken over by Muslims and were now no-go zones for White and non-Muslim Brits provoked widespread criticism and hilarity when they made it a few years ago.

It seems to me that nevertheless, even if these claims are exaggerated, there is nevertheless a real fear of Islamic separatism throughout Europe and that Macron is reacting to it in France.

One contributory factor, I have no doubt, is neoliberalism and the destruction of the welfare state. The French scholar, Alfred Kepel, advances this argument in his book on the resurgence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish fundamentalism, The Revenge of God. When Thatcher started her attacks on the welfare state in the 1980s, she hoped that it would lead to a resurgence of charity. This didn’t happen. But Muslims are obliged to support the poor through the zakat, the alms-tax paid to the local mosque. I think this concern to give to the local poor amongst Muslims isn’t confined just to their own community in Britain. There were Muslim restaurants giving free meals to the homeless at Christmas, and my parents bumped into a young Muslim woman, who was also buying stuff she could give to the food bank, in our local supermarket. But the support provided by the mosques in the absence of state aid does mean that communities may become more isolated and inward-looking.

If we really want to stop Islamic separatism, as well as White racism, not only should Britain and Europe take measures promoting racial integration, but neoliberalism urgently needs to be ditched. It’s dividing communities as it pushes people into real, grinding poverty. But there’s no chance of that, at least in this country, as the very rich are making too much money at the expense of the rest of us, regardless of our colour and religion.

Reviewing the ‘I’s’ Review of Ian McEwan’s ‘Machines Like Me’

April 21, 2019

George Barr’s cover illo for Lloyd Biggle’s The Metallic Muse. From David Kyle, the Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas & Dreams (London: Hamlyn 1977).

The book’s pages of last Friday’s I , for 19th April 2019, carried a review by Jude Cook of Ian McEwan’s latest literary offering, a tale of a love triangle between a man, the male robot he has purchased, and his wife, a plot summed up in the review’s title, ‘Boy meets robot, robot falls for girl’. I’d already written a piece in anticipation of its publication on Thursday, based on a little snippet in Private Eye’s literary column that McEwan, Jeanette Winterson and Kazuo Ishiguro were all now turning to robots and AI for their subject matter, and the Eye expected other literary authors, like Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie, to follow. My objection to this is that it appeared to be another instance of the literary elite taking their ideas from Science Fiction, while looking down on the genre and its writers. The literary establishment has moved on considerably, but I can still remember the late, and very talented Terry Pratchett complaining at the Cheltenham Literary Festival that the organisers had looked at him as if he was about to talk to all his waiting fans crammed into the room about motorcycle maintenance.

Cook’s review gave an outline of the plot and some of the philosophical issues discussed in the novel. Like the Eye’s piece, it also noted the plot’s similarity to that of the Channel 4 series, Humans. The book is set in an alternative 1982 in which the Beatles are still around and recording, Tony Benn is Prime Minister, but Britain has lost the Falklands War. It’s a world where Alan Turing is still alive, and has perfected machine consciousness. The book’s hero, Charlie, purchases one of the only 25 androids that have been manufactured, Adam. This is not a sex robot, but described as ‘capable of sex’, and which has an affair with the hero’s wife, Miranda. Adam is an increasing threat to Charlie, refusing to all his master to power him down. There’s also a subplot about a criminal coming forward to avenge the rape Miranda has suffered in the past, and a four year old boy about to be placed in the care system.

Cook states that McEwan discusses the philosophical issue of the Cartesian duality between mind and brain when Charlie makes contact with Turing, and that Charlie has to decide whether Adam is too dangerous to be allowed to continue among his flesh and blood counterparts, because

A Manichean machine-mind that can’t distinguish between a white lie and a harmful lie, or understand that revenge can sometimes be justified, is potentially lethal.

Cook declares that while this passage threatens to turn the book into a dry cerebral exercise, its engagement with the big questions is its strength, concluding

The novel’s presiding Prospero is Turing himself, who observes that AI is fatally flawed because life is “an open system… full of tricks and feints and ambiguities”. His great hope is that by its existence “we might be shocked in doing something about ourselves.”

Robots and the Edisonade

It’s an interesting review, but what it does not do is mention the vast amount of genre Science Fiction that has used robots to explore the human condition, the limits or otherwise of machine intelligence and the relationship between such machines and their creators, since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. There clearly seems to be a nod to Shelley with the name of this android, as the monster in her work, I think, is also called Adam. But Eando Binder – the nom de plume of the brothers Earl and Otto Binder, also wrote a series of stories in the 1930s and ’40s about a robot, Adam Link, one of which was entitled I, Robot, which was later used as the title of one of Asimov’s stories. And although the term ‘robot’ was first used of such machines by the Czech writer Karel Capek in his 1920s play, RUR, or Rossum’s Universal Robots, they first appeared in the 19th century. One of these was Villier de l’Isle-Adam, L’Eve Futur of 1884. This was about a robot woman invented by Thomas Edison. As one of the 19th centuries foremost inventors, Edison was the subject of a series of proto-SF novels, the Edisonades, in which his genius allowed him to create all manner of advanced machines. In another such tale, Edison invents a spaceship and weapons that allow humanity to travel to the planets and conquer Mars. McEwan’s book with its inclusion of Alan Turing is basically a modern Edisonade, but with the great computer pioneer rather than the 19th century electrician as its presiding scientific genius. Possibly later generations will have novels set in an alternative late 20th century where Stephen Hawking has invented warp drive, time travel or a device to take us into alternative realities via artificial Black Holes.

Robot Romances

As I said in my original article, there are any number of SF books about humans having affairs with robots, like Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover, Lester del Rey’s Helen O’Loy and Asimov’s Satisfaction Guaranteed. The genre literature has also explored the moral and philosophical issues raised by the creation of intelligent machines. In much of this literature, robots are a threat, eventually turning on their masters, from Capek’s R.U.R. through to The Terminator and beyond. But some writers, like Asimov, have had a more optimistic view. In his 1950 I, Robot, a robot psychologist, Dr. Susan Calvin, describes them in a news interview as ‘a cleaner, better breed than we are’.

Lem’s Robots and Descartes

As for the philosophical issues, the Polish SF writer, Stanislaw Lem, explored them in some of his novels and short stories. One of these deals with the old problem, also dating back to Descartes, about whether we can truly know that there is an external world. The story’s hero, the space pilot Pirx, visits a leading cybernetician in his laboratory. This scientist has developed a series of computer minds. These exist, however, without robot bodies, but the minds themselves are being fed programmes which make them believe that they are real, embodied people living in the real world. One of these minds is of a beautiful woman with a scar on her shoulder from a previous love affair. Sometimes the recorded programmes jump a groove, creating instances of precognition or deja vu. But ultimately, all these minds are, no matter how human or how how real they believe themselves to be, are brains in vats. Just like Descartes speculated that a demon could stop people from believing in a real world by casting the illusion of a completely false one on the person they’ve possessed.

Morality and Tragedy in The ABC Warriors 

Some of these complex moral and personal issues have also been explored by comics, until recently viewed as one of the lowest forms of literature. In a 1980s ‘ABC Warriors’ story in 2000AD, Hammerstein, the leader of a band of heroic robot soldiers, remembers his earliest days. He was the third prototype of a series of robot soldiers. The first was an efficient killer, patriotically killing Communists, but exceeded its function. It couldn’t tell civilians from combatants, and so committed war crimes. The next was programmed with a set of morals, which causes it to become a pacifist. It is killed trying to persuade the enemy – the Volgans – to lay down their arms. Hammerstein is its successor. He has been given morals, but not to the depth that they impinge on his ability to kill. For example, enemy soldiers are ‘terrorists’. But those on our side are ‘freedom fighters’. When the enemy murders civilians, it’s an atrocity. When we kill civilians, it’s unavoidable casualties. As you can see, the writer and creator of the strip, Pat Mills, has very strong left-wing opinions.

Hammerstein’s programming is in conflict, so his female programmer takes him to a male robot psychiatrist, a man who definitely has romantic intentions towards her. They try to get Hammerstein to come out of his catatonic reverie by trying to provoke a genuine emotional reaction. So he’s exposed to all manner of stimuli, including great works of classical music, a documentary about Belsen, and the novels of Barbara Cartland. But the breakthrough finally comes when the psychiatrist tries to kiss his programmer. This provokes Hammerstein into a frenzied attack, in which he accidentally kills both. Trying to repair the damage he’s done, Hammerstein says plaintively ‘I tried to replace his head, but it wouldn’t screw back on.’

It’s a genuinely adult tale within the overall, action-oriented story in which the robots are sent to prevent a demon from Earth’s far future from destroying the Galaxy by destabilising the artificial Black and White Holes at the centre of Earth’s underground civilisation, which have been constructed as express routes to the stars. It’s an example of how the comics culture of the time was becoming more adult, and tackling rather more sophisticated themes.

Conclusion: Give Genre Authors Their Place at Literary Fiction Awards

It might seem a bit mean-spirited to compare McEwan’s latest book to its genre predecessors. After all, in most reviews of fiction all that is required is a brief description of the plot and the reviewer’s own feelings about the work, whether it’s done well or badly. But there is a point to this. As I’ve said, McEwan, Winterson, Ishiguro and the others, who may well follow their lead, are literary authors, whose work regularly wins the big literary prizes. They’re not genre authors, and the type of novels they write are arguably seen by the literary establishment as superior to that of genre Science Fiction. But here they’re taking over proper Science Fiction subjects – robots and parallel worlds – whose authors have extensively explored their moral and philosophical implications. This is a literature that can’t and shouldn’t be dismissed as trash, as Stanislaw Lem has done, and which the judges and critics of mainstream literary fiction still seem to do. McEwan’s work deserves to be put into the context of genre Science Fiction. The literary community may feel that it’s somehow superior, but it is very much of the same type as its genre predecessors, who did the themes first and, in my opinion, better.

There is absolutely no reason, given the quality of much SF literature, why this tale by McEwan should be entered for a literary award or reviewed by the kind of literary journals that wouldn’t touch genre science fiction with a barge pole, while genre SF writers are excluded. It’s high time that highbrow literary culture recognised and accepted works and writers of genre SF as equally worthy of respect and inclusion.