Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mehdi Hasan continued

HP continues its series on the New Statesman's Mehdi Hasan (who we met here): Deconstructing Mehdi Hasan and "the Muslim world".

Interesting to note that Hasan's New Statesman blog has been re-named Dissident Voice, stealing the name of the US ZLeftist site, and purveyor of, among other things, Daniel McGowan's softcore Holocaust denialism and Gilad Atzmon's racism. In a similar vein, our young Hasan is a busy blogger:
Sunny Hundal has contributed a large number of posts in defence of Hasan at Pickled Politics and Liberal Conspiracy. Some of his criticisms of the Harryists are justified, but I don't think that Sunny has taken on the core substantive issues at stake, i.e. Hasan's very reprehensible views.


Flesh is Grass has a good post on this which you should read. I am stealing her links too, as they provide good background:
As Ms Flesh says, there is an issue with anti-Muslim racism, which is a huge problem in our society today. You can see examples of anti-Muslim racism in some comment threads at Harry's Place, and some posters make rather large generalisations that sail close to the wind (I call this problem Harryism). However, none of the posts on Hasan seem to me to have any anti-Muslim racism in them.

Nor, to my mind, is there a witch-hunt or smear campaign against Hasan. One single post at HP taking issue with his dishonest article accusing the mainstream media of anti-Muslim racism was met by Hasan with an ignorant, vitriolic response, and that is why it became interesting to look at his politics and find some unsavoury things. Myself, I am not too interested in the extracts from his speeches on religion that HP are posting. I am more interested in what he says in the New Statesman and Guardian, where he touches mainstream opinion, where he has some kind of authority as "representing" some kind of Muslim view - but where he actually pushes some very unpleasant lines.


I just noticed Hasan's reply to HP here. He makes a strong case that he is not an Islamist. To be clear, I myself have not described him as an Islamist. I have described him as an apologist or fellow traveller with the brutal theocracy in Iran and of the Taliban, both of whose main victims are Muslim. I have described him as someone that passes on crypto-fascist conspiracy theory. I have taken issue with the way he defamed the Quilliam Foundation and essentialised "the" Muslim community. I have described him as someone who takes an objectively racist view in saynig Israel "causes" antisemitism.


The Contentious Centrist said...

What is Mehdi Hasan saying, then, when he states:

"Nothing justifies anti-Semitism ...But I do find it both tragic and ironic that the state of Israel... provokes such awful anti-Semitic attacks against diaspora Jews who have nothing to do with the actions of the IDF or the policies of Netanyahu, Olmert and Sharon."?

DK said...

Bob, you can call me whatever names you see fit, but don't misquote me. Immigration policies--at least in part-- led to support for the BNP. How is this not fact?

And the only link to the concept that "Israel causes anti-Semitism" and my argument is that it involve the same immigrant group that has such strong feelings of resentment towards Israel's existence.

Migreli said...

The idea that it is the actions and character of the Jewish people that are responsible for anti-semitism has had many prominent adherents. It was commonplace before and during WW2, and has always found proponents in the Western democracies. It is as prevalent today as ever.

A corollary of this belief is the pseudo-syllogism that because the Nazis committed grave atrocities against the Jews, the Jews must have committed grave provocations to incur such consequences. Thus the monstrousness of the Holocaust must have been a consequence of the monstrousness of the Jews.

I propose to call such arguments "false dialectics". They are among the most insidious and successful techniques used in the propaganda war against Israel and its people. Contemporary practitioners, like Mehdi Hasan, are enemies of humanity and decency. And didn't Christopher Hitchens, when he approvingly quoted the slur that "the Zionists have ruthlessly exploited the Holocaust", engage in the same kind of perversion of moral reality?

bob said...

DK, I am not calling you a racist. In fact, I'm not sure I'm calling Hasan a racist. However, I think that his argument, that Jews cause antisemitism, is racist. And, if I understand your argument right, I think it is racist too.

Your argument, as you phrase it here, is that immigration policies lead to the rise of the BNP. That argument is identical, in my mind, to Hasan's, that Israel's policies lead to antisemitism. Or, as Karl Pfeifer puts it in the Engage discussion thread, that short skirts lead to rape.

Antisemitism is never the fault of the Jews, and anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant racism is never the fault of the Muslims or immigrants, just as rape is never the fault of the victim.

There is, of course, a "spike", as the CST puts it, in antisemitic incidents every time the Iz-Pal situation flares up. There is, in this sense, a relationship. But the "cause" comes before this: the cause is the antisemitic attitudes that already exist, which are actively circulated by Islamists, fascists and some anti-Zionists. (In the same way that I doubt that simply seeing a miniskirt would be enough to make you rape someone; there would have to be something there already.)

The type of racism that feeds the BNP is already there, circulating in the mainstream media and in the common sense everyday language of both white British and long-settled minorities (including Jews). It is this we have to tackle, not the presence of immigrants - just as assuming that solving the Iz-Pal conflict will magically make antisemitism disappear.

One caveat to what I'm saying. I don't think the BNP vote is purely fueled by racism, or that all BNP voters are racism. There are other factors and motivations too, among some of them, such as disaffection from the political system, a sense of being failed by the mainstream parties and by the labour movement, a lack of radical alternatives to the mainstream parties, anti-elitism, a general alienation from politics, etc.


Migreli, I basically agree with all of what you say. Except maybe the final sentence. I'm not sure of the specific Hitchens statement you're referring to (although I should!) If Hitch said the Zionists, then I agree with you. But I think there is a case to be made that some Zionists have and do exploit the Holocaust in cynical ways. I wouldn't make that case, but I don't think that making it is automatically a racist argument.


I think both these related issues strengthen me in coming to the view that we need to dispense with talking about antisemitic or racist people, and start talking to antisemitic arguments, discourse and actions. This is a position I have expressed in comment threads here (in relation to antisemitism) and more sketchily here (in relation to the BNP).

TNC said...

Bob writes:

"There is, of course, a "spike", as the CST puts it, in antisemitic incidents every time the Iz-Pal situation flares up. There is, in this sense, a relationship. But the "cause" comes before this..."

Perhaps some folks need to remember the difference between causality and correlation. They are not the same.

2yyiam said...

Hasan is not stating that Jews cause anti-Semitism, he is arguing that Israel causes it - big difference.

Also perhaps 'cause' is the wrong word in this particular article as you point out the cause far preceeds any current 'spikes,' but I would argue that Israel contributes to anti-Semetism as highlighted by the CST.

TNC said...

"Hasan is not stating that Jews cause anti-Semitism, he is arguing that Israel causes it - big difference."

No. It really is not that big of difference. It might make a big difference to radical anti-Zionists but most Jews see through the b.s.

The sort of "anti-Zionism" common in Islamic countries is based on a long foundation of Jew hatred. It predates the formation of the modern state of Israel (20th century) or the Zionist movement (19th century).

kensington and chelsea said...

Quite controversial.