Monday, April 14, 2014

The Bat Ye'Or It's Compulsory To Like

Isn't this odd - if a public figure were to publicly state that, for example

- Muslims are inherently incapable of negotiating in good faith because of their religion, or that

- We should have a war on Islam generally and specifically not a war on Islamists or extremists and terrorists, or that

- Repressive, religiously-targeted laws intentionally aimed at one faith only are highly desirable

...Then I don't think many of us would have trouble working out what type of politics we were dealing with.  Even the wackiest Torygraph commenter would probably suss that this is deep far-right nastiness territory. 

Sadly however, we're talking about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, so it's apparently compulsory for us all to pretend that this wackiness isn't dodgy in the slightest, and is in fact some form of admirable liberalism.  This, on pain of a bit of name-calling - back when her book came out, Timothy Garton-Ash and Ian Buruma got a terrific monstering for uttering very mild criticisms of her, objections that today look very meek and mild.

Now, I can't say I'm that much arsed about much of the stuff AHA comes out with.  Astounding as it sounds, I have other things that I could be getting on with than typing up posts about her rammy with Brandeis and, but for the wails and screams of horror that are intermittently cropping up on my Twitter timeline, I'd probably have ignored this latest round of melodramatic panicking.

Given AHA's awful background* and the very credible death-threats made against her, I think some fairly extreme views are the least we could expect and, to pick a daft analogy, I can see the difference between Iain Paisley's criticisms of the Catholic Church and e.g. Sinead O'Connor's, even if neither is exactly a reliable source on the matter.

Nonetheless, the pretense that you can be a liberal and e.g. support religiously-targetted restrictions on one particular group is getting pretty damn tiresome.  If you make a big noise about how you escaped oppression by coming to the west and then choose to hang out with a lot of people who campaign to crack down on immigration for whiffy reasons, that looks a lot like pulling up the ladder behind you on other women in your former position.  Which is a somewhat bizarre thing for a self-proclaimed feminist to do, never mind an alleged liberal**.

Other mild annoyances - people kidding on that having an offered bauble withdrawn is "censorship" or "silencing".  She's sure getting a lot of column inches at the moment to tell everyone how horribly she's been silenced and censored, which is perfectly reasonable and fine, but not exactly a gagging order. 

I'm also pretty tired of the argument that goes - AHA should be promoted in the interests of a rationalist debate.  If my rational debating point is that I damn well hate your religion, think you're an idiot for following it and want it entirely destroyed, then we're not going to have much of a debate.  We're going to have a screaming-match. 

And I really don't have any time for commands to "support" her in some non-specific way which plainly means "accept what she says uncritically".  I thought the whole point of rational inquiry is that there are no sacred cows.

So you can make a case that Hirsi Ali is a valuable voice on her area of expertise, but it's kind of central to the debate to acknowledge that her political views are about as reasonable and well-considered as those of Tommy Robinson or Avigdor Lieberman***.

If you instead wave your arms, rend your garments and call down the hammer of condemnation on everyone who disagrees with you, then you're not promoting debate.  You're polluting the issue with nonsense, and that helps nobody, except folk who want to further the cause of nonsense.


*Doubts cast on the authenticity of said background here, but since I've no idea how reliable the source documentary is and the person pushing it seems a bit Mr Angry, I'm going to dismiss it for now.  Included in case anyone else can vouch.

**As is running off with another woman's husband, by the way.  I imagine Niall Ferguson's ex-wife raises an eyebrow every time AHA is described as a "feminist campaigner", and has some interesting thoughts upon the nature of sisterhood.

***Also worth noting that AHA is pretty much the only Muslim that the counter-jihad mentals like.  Which is ironic, since she's pretty forthright about being an atheist.


ejh said...

It's just a variant on anti-communism, isn't it? Everything that's bad is due to it, everything's justified in opposition to it, and everybody who is any way sympathetic to it can be elided with it. (You can see Garry Kasparov playing a similar tune on Twitter every evening, if you're so minded.)

Just a different god that failed, har har.

Re: Brandeis, though, how come they'd never heard about her opinions before now? Aren't they a university or something?

flyingrodent said...

Well, this is America, so it's not like issues are often discussed in much depth in the media*.

It does seem pretty weird to me that somebody had to point all this stuff out to them, though.

*Not that I'm saying that the UK's news organisations are constantly involved in deep and meaningful policy debates - especially not the gutter press - but e.g. the NYT is one of the better US papers and its coverage is often puddle-deep.

Organic cheseboard said...

Yes, I don't really understand what Brandeis were thinking. If the uk model is anything to go by, these hon degrees are usually designed to either get headlines, or promote certain sections of the university. I'm guessing in the USA donors have a part to play but it does seem unusual for them to have awarded AHA given their statement on how one qualifies. Saying that, I just scrolled through the list of people who have been awarded in the past and it includes David Ben Gurion so I guess they're not afraid of awarding, um, questionable people.

With AHA I really just cannot understand the fawning. Yes, she's had a difficult life, but loads of people have - it doesn't excuse the complete blindness her supporters seem to exhibit with reference to her opinions which are a) proper nutjobbery and b) incredibly simplistic - barely even 6th form level. The speech she was supposedly going to give at Brandeis is literally nonsensical. Her magnum opus, which she loudly trailed for a long time, was going to be about Muhammad visiting the NYPL and discovering AHA's fave political philosophers (wow, what a truly amazing idea) but she's never even got found to writing this book, which, shit as it sounds, would still not exactly require Finnegans Wake levels of effort on the part of its author. Instead she wrote another autobiography covering an un interesting period in her life whose message was how great right-wing Americans are. Coincidentally she works for a right-wing American think tank (though I can't work out what she actually does).

One thing her supporters seem very keen on saying (see the Sarah ab post) is that get opinions have supposedly "mellowed" since 2007, when she was advocating all-out war on every single Muslin country in the world. But I can see absolutely no evidence of this whatsoever. And her bluster on needing a "Muslim reformation" seems to involve Islam abandoning pretty much every single one of its five pillars. It's not going to happen -especially not when, as you say FR, the person who seems likely to pass judgment on the authenticity of this "reformation" is an outspoken atheist who literally hates everything to do with Islam. (And incidentally I can totally understand why she hates Islam. But it's personal for her - based on experiences, as her fans themselves say, which are by no means universal, yet she pretends they are.)

The "praise her unquestioningly or else you're a racist misogynist" thing reminds me of the anti-segregation mob in fact. And incidentally, one of the women whose role in those shenanigans was loudly proclaimed, Anne-Marie Waters (someone Nick Cohen has given the "true principled feminist" kiss of death) seems to have joined ukip.

flyingrodent said...

With AHA I really just cannot understand the fawning.

The fawning attitude to AHA and the ostentatious denunciation handed out by some to anyone who doesn't agree that she's basically awesome are two sides of the same coin, I think. There are various deeply odd reasons for this, but ultimately it's mainly the fact that she's a useful club to clobber political opponents with.

it doesn't excuse the complete blindness her supporters seem to exhibit with reference to her opinions which are a) proper nutjobbery and b) incredibly simplistic - barely even 6th form level.

Yup, although like you I can fully understand why she holds them. But we do need to be pretty frank that both proper nutjobbery and simplistic guff are hardly likely to put off many of the people who like to batter their foes with her opinions, since most of them appear to be nutjobs with very simplistic worldviews.

organic cheeseboard said...

I think a lot of this stems from a refusal to back down from previous battles, as well - to whit Nick Cohen's continuing love-in with Douglas Murray (who Nick calls, in sarcastic tones, 'someone the left refuse to listen to' - um there's a reason for that Mick, it's cos he's a fucking bigot). There's no way if Cohen came across Murray's writings today that he'd countenance praising their author, but Murray and Hirsi Ali were on the 'right side' back in the mid-2000s so they deserve continued support now, no matter how fucking insane their ideas.

(i thought I'd look for references to Hirsi Ali in Cohen's work so searched What's Left on Amazon Look Inside for the word 'Hirsi' - no results. Was genuinely surprised by this, but hey, I guess this stuff only becomes relevant once it's translated into English eh.)

I think Feminists should be allowed to steal the husbands of others, notwithstanding the Feminist mantra that the personal is political (I wonder if Niall Ferguson considers himself a Feminist by the way?). For me the much more problematic thing - at least in theory - for AHA fans should be the willingness with which her advocates praise her beauty, and the beauty of other non-white women they happen to approve of.

That's yer actual sexism right there (you don't see Nick Cohen calling Asian men 'handsome' while praising them, but he has a track record of focusing on the beauty of non-white women he admires, and Michael Weiss is definitely guilty of this too, see links below). It's very hard to take Cohen seriously when he claims his opponents aren't real feminists while praising his chosen feminists for their looks.

That's what Garton ash was getting at in his piece on AHA and he was right to do it - if looks didn't matter to Cohen and his chums then they wouldn't mention them. But they do.

I can't embed links but Cohen mentions Hirsi Ali's 'striking beauty' here:, he calls Deeyah 'brilliant and beautiful' here:, and Weiss talks about how beautiful anti-Islam women are here:

organic cheeseboard said...

Fucking hell - i just looked again, and more closely, at your first link. She suggests there that Hosni Mubarak was in fact an Islamist because, um, he was a dictator who was Muslim, and with Islam there's no compromises in anything, or something. Despite his de acto peace treaty with Israel. Despite the fact that his main opposition was, er, the Muslim Brotherhood. Etc etc.

My word. And people seriously listen to her??

ejh said...

I think Feminists should be allowed to steal the husbands of others

Heh, I was wondering if anybody was going to bring that up.

flyingrodent said...

Well, this is the thing - there's a time and a place for these kinds of opinions, and that's "Late at night, on some idiots blog". It's very striking that much of this stuff really is a playground version of Jihadwatch silliness.

And you're right to point out that it's apparently fine for some folk to comment on AHA's appearance, but not for others. And IIRC, I think Garton-Ash was making a point about how the media are significantly more indulgent of attractive people than they are of unattractive ones. Which is hardly an outrageous suggestion.

flyingrodent said...

Heh, I was wondering if anybody was going to bring that up.

You'd think it would come up more often, really. I can't say I much give a damn about extra-marital activities in academia, but you'd think that this would be a bit like e.g. Morrissey tucking into steak and chips - not exactly a public scandal, but a bit hard-necked in light of previous pronouncements.

Apparently not, though.

Organic cheeseboard said...

I'd be more interested to see how she squares her commitment to enlightenment ideals, tolerance, Western freedoms etc with being married to a homophobe.

Then again her thinking isn't very consistent - a belief in the West being amazing because it allows freedom of religion except it shouldn't allow people to be free to practice islam because islamonazis.

Funny to see a post on HP Sauce on this matter by some Dawkins acolyte praising her for a constructive discussion with Tariq Ramadan. Pretty sure even living in the same city as him is enough to see you ostracised by Decents...

SarahABUK said...

@organic cheeseboard. I would not describe myself as a supporter of AHA. I am somewhat ambivalent about her - she seems inconsistent and imprecise about her views at times. I am halfway through Infidel right now, having been pressed by many to read it, and think it's good - (so far) nothing like so rebarbative as those 2007 interviews. Perhaps I am wrong in inferring she has mellowed somewhat. The point I was most keen to make in my post was that opposing the decision to honour her should not be seen as 'extremist' or an attack on free speech. I do view her differently from people like Geller but I don't feel inclined to argue with Muslims who find her views threatening and offensive.

organic cheeseboard said...

I didn't really mean you when I said supporters, I was thinking people like Nick Cohen and Christopher Hitchens.

Infidel was published in English in 2007 so I'm not sure about how it equates to her mellowing since then, but I've not read the whole thing - only extracts - so I'll take your word for it. Rcently she's shown a pretty good skill - perhaps thanks to her life as a politician - for telling people what they want to hear. She would in no way have made the same claims she did in Israel when she was onstage with Majid Nawaz, for instance.

I agree fully with the idea that those opposing the decision to honour her are not censors. For me, censorship debates so often end up with people tediously claiming that to criticse someone's views, or to not endorse them, or to oppose rewarding them for their views, = censorship. This happens a lot in the case of Hirsi Ali.

I do disagree on Pamela Geller though. The only difference is that Hirsi Ali has had bad experiences in her life which explain why she might have ended up with her horrendous opinions - but it doesn't excuse them.

Anonymous said...

She reminds me a bit of Solzhenitsyn, someone who has gone through some tough times at the hands of the domestic authorities, comes to the West and becomes the poster-boy or poster-girl of the political right and Cold War types whilst becoming increasingly politically demented.

Dr Paul

flyingrodent said...

That's a very apt comparison, Dr P: Solzhenitsyn wound up a screamingly belligerent nationalist loony with some extremely whiffy politics. I'm inclined to cut the guy some slack, for reasons that should be obvious, but it's the kind of thing that you really can't and shouldn't ignore in any consideration of the geezer.

Igor Belanov said...

The enemy of my enemy....

organic cheeseboard said...

Nick Cohen recently (presumably enthusiastically) retweeted someone saying "Preposterous article in the New York Times compares Ayaan Hirsi Ali to "racists, anti-Semites and homophobes."" - in reference to this:

I'm not sure what her fans like Cohen and whoever the actual tweeter was think Hirsi Ali believes - but she is sure as shit prejudiced against Muslims and Islam per se (and the claim that 'a lot of Muslims aren't actually followers' doesn't wash either, which is what people seem to be now explainng her bigotry with).

surely the comparison is entirely valid? Cohen response is awful, simply agreeing with someone who says "it's not very clear that the author would endorse AHA's right to criticise Islam is it? Or am I misreading this?" - even though the author makes it pretty fucking clear.

flyingrodent said...

Seems pretty straightforward to me, and adds another couple of points that haven't been raised - for example, AHA certainly did pull precisely the "understanding violence" thing with Breivik that would have her backers fouling themselves in horror, in a different context.

And the free speech fundamentalism appears to be a bit selective, shall we say. I've got no major problem with the UK government telling e.g. Dieudonne to sod off but then, neither did any of the people currently wailing about oppression on AHA's behalf. Even a charitable view would have to acknowledge that this is largely because they're bullshitters.

levi9909 said...

I don't know if anyone is still following this thread but here goes.

EJH - re anti-communism. It's certainly similar in the ways that you say but as Flying Rodent suggests in his AHA to-do list, whole ethno-religious communities are being targeted domestically and internationally which wasn't the case with communism. Also, because islamists are amenable to capitalism, there is a potential modus vivendi with them externally for business friendly reasons which didn't exist with communism back in cold war times. I know there were exceptions but they were more strategic than economic. But on the other hand, communists were portrayed as coldly rational and amenable to the nuclear doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction. Islamists are portrayed as mad and so not amenable to MAD. Swings and roundabouts but, I hope, worth a mention.

Organic Cheeseboard - Re Ben Gurion - back in the day, Israel wouldn't have attracted any criticism in the USA from the late 50s/early 60s to late 70s. I'm only conscious of the period from the mid 60s but America's tilt to Israel began around 1958, a year after Eisenhower forced Israel out of Sinai and then there was a wobble in the west over Israel in the late 70s when the Likud first came to power which shook, at the time, even the western zionist establishment. They were considered very extreme. I remember lots of high profile zionists from the UK taking out full page ads in the Israeli media telling people to return Labour to power. When Likud proved resilient the establishment fell into line but Labour did eventually come back to power, ironically because the US gave Likud a financial slap over starting the peace process charade. The whiff of controversy still surrounds Israel though it was absent when DBG would have got his Brandeis doctorate.

Re Sarah's use of "mellow", I think this means a rancid racist reactionary who she likes without saying what she likes about them. The last time I saw her say someone had mellowed it was Douglas Murray. A glossary of Sarah speak might be handy but it would defeat the object of her use of such barely penetrable euphemisms.

flyingrodent said...

Stop the bus everyone - we may have a winner for this story, if only tangentially.

In a perfect storm of nutty boo-hoo rounding up every major blog outrage of the last few months, Spectator draftee Mark Steyn has finally found a feminist who once said something nice about female genital mutilation.

Can anyone guess who it was?


It's... Germaine Greer!

Funnily, I recall pointing out years ago that various idiots kept rattling on about the countless people who kept telling us FGM was great, and yet every time they were required to produce an example of this mutilation justification, they all produced one single quote from... Germaine Greer.

Four and a half years later, they're still at it and the best they can find is... Germaine Greer.

It's almost as if they don't have to try.

And credit to Steyn there - "the snivelling white male who purports to be president of Brandeis (oppresses AHA) out of deference to Islam, Miss Hirsi Ali’s blackness washes off her like a bad dye job on a telly news anchor" certainly is one way of putting it.