(An account of a debate with Mr. Samuel Hooper)
I recently engaged in a debate with Mr Samuel Hooper, a blogger at http://semipartisansam.com/. The full debates can be seen in the Comments sections of the URLs given.
Before I describe the details of this debate, I wish to make it very clear that I salute Mr. Hooper’s writing in defence of free speech. I think that my freedom to make the points I make here is a very important test of that freedom.
The debate begins at this article:
I accused Mr. Hooper of dodging the truth by using the word “Islamist”, a word that also featured prominently in Mr. Neil’s pompous rant, that was the subject of the article. I quoted Koran 9:29. I also said that “Islamist” is a weasel word.
Mr. Hooper hit back at my accusation with these words:
“I am not dodging any truth, and I disagree with your effort to tar all Muslims (and an entire religion) with the same brush.”
“I use the term Islamist because it serves to distinguish between peaceful adherents of Islam and the more extremist fundamentalist sects (such as the jihadist salafism of ISIS).”
Note these words carefully: “your effort to tar all Muslims (and an entire religion) with the same brush”. Was I tarring all Muslims with a brush by quoting from the holy book that all Muslims say is the word of their god, Allah? Is it unreasonable to suggest that the followers of a religion believe in the words in their holy texts?? Surely Muslims are tarring themselves with that brush simply by calling themselves Muslims?
When Jesus said “Love thy neighbour”, is it unreasonable to tar all the Christians of the world with a suggestion that they might actually believe that we should love our neighbours? I can be forgiven for thinking that this was an emotive attempt to silence criticism of Islam by attempting to somehow shame me, and I do think that.
Perhaps Mr. Hooper was mainly responding to this statement that I had made:
“Islam is an ideology that promotes violence and intolerance. It is right to criticize its followers and try to persuade them to lose their religion.”
Could it be that he thinks it is wrong to suggest that Islam promotes violence and intolerance? Saying so does not in any way imply that all the followers of that religion are routinely engaging in such violence. Does he think we should not attempt to persuade the followers of a religion to lose their religion? It certainly is a very dangerous thing to do in the case of Islam, but does that mean we should not attempt to do it? I remain at a loss as to what he was implying by this statement.
He then made a most astonishing and grossly offensive statement:
“Failing to make this distinguish dishonours the memory of people like Asad Shah, murdered by *Islamists* for daring to set an example of how Muslims can peacefully coexist with and within the West.”
I had not even mentioned that gentleman, nor, even more importantly I did not anywhere suggest that Muslims can not peacefully co-exist with and within the West. Obviously millions of Muslims currently are doing just that! What a ridiculous claim to make, that I was dishonouring anybody by questioning Islamic beliefs. All the more ridiculous, given the fact that that gentleman was an Ahmadi Muslim, a member of a tiny persecuted sect that I also had not mentioned.
I responded by pointing out that the Ahmadi religious beliefs are very different from mainstream Islamic beliefs. I also questioned how he defined a peaceful adherent of the Islamic religion:
“How do you define a peaceful adherent? One who wants Sharia law? One who isn’t actually engaged in violent jihad at the moment? How do you know what they would do if their leaders told them it was time for jihad? You don’t.”
All that I was ACTUALLY implying through my comment was that there might be a connection between the actions of Muslim terrorists and their religion. Not an unreasonable statement given all the incitements to hatred and violence that exist in the Koran, and the warlike and intolerant example of Mohammed. Its also not unreasonable given the fact they are telling us that they see such a connection.
This exchange was all the more curious given what Mr. Hooper had written in another article at his blog:
“When Is The Islamic State Not The Islamic State?”
In this article, Mr. Hooper suggests that it is unreasonable to call the Islamic State anything other than the Islamic State. Well said Mr. Hooper, I agree with this entirely. Surely then its equally ridiculous to refer to a Muslim terrorist as anything other than a Muslim terrorist. A Muslim terrorist identifies himself as a Muslim, he believes his actions are correct according to his religion. Why refer to him as an “Islamist”? Unless of course, you are trying to avoid the reality that he is inspired by his religious beliefs….
Mr. Hooper did not respond to my reply on the article about Mr. Neil’s rant. I therefore decided to revive the debate by challenging him again on a different article. This article related to some tweets by one Matthew Doyle:
“No Prosecution For Matthew Doyle, But Free Speech Is Still Diminished”
I began this exchange with a deliberately provocative challenge:
“Its become clear from a previous debate I had with Mr. Hooper that he not only sees no connection between bad deeds of individual Muslims and the Islamic religion, but he regards any suggestion of such a connection to be dishonouring to Muslims. He seems to elevate religious beliefs to a higher plane than other beliefs. ….”
“Balderdash. I never said that there was no connection – merely that the fundamentalist literalist interpretation of many terrorists does not represent the lived faith of many peaceful Muslims. ….”
(A good word that, “Balderdash”, I must use that word more often :-).)
I proceeded to point out to him the findings of the Times newspaper which had revealed in 2007 that nearly half of the UK’s mosques were being run by the Deobandi movement, with a quote from wikipedia;
“about 600 of Britain’s nearly 1,500 mosques were under the control of “a hardline sect”, whose leading preacher loathed Western values, called on Muslims to “shed blood” for Allah and preached contempt for Jews, Christians and Hindus”
I also pointed out to him the results of a Pew Forum study:
“around 83% of Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh believe Sharia law should be the law of the land and of those around 76% of Pakistanis and 44% of Bangladeshis favour the death penalty for apostasy (many more will favour other punishments).”
I ended with this final thought:
“In any case, you simply are not in a position to make an assertion about what the ‘lived faith’ of most Muslims in the UK today is. To make such an assertion you would have to be able to get inside the heads of all the millions of individuals.
My position is that I take someone at their word. If they say they are a Muslim then I take it as read that they believe that the Koran is the word of Allah, and that Mohammed was his messenger and also the most perfect man who ever lived.
Considering that we would today liken such a career as his to that of a career criminal, then I take them at their word that they admire a career criminal as the most perfect man who ever lived. I have no doubt whatsoever that many living Muslims in the UK today (I simply cannot know HOW many) would feel entirely justified in killing me for making this statement, and I have little doubt that the number is large and significant.
I will not therefore feel completely safe until every Muslim (with the possible exception of the Ahmadis) has left the UK or denounced his religion. It is the fear that Islamic texts provoke, shared by many, that is eroding our freedoms, and you will not be successful in protecting our freedoms until you realize this. You may win the odd battle, but you will lose this ideological war.”
I will be exploring these questions in more depth in forthcoming posts.