John Hustings is a regular visitor to ConservativeHome.
"The Pope made a big mistake, didn’t
he?" This was Gavin Esler’s opening question to a panel of journalists
on BBC NEWS 24’s ‘DateLine London’ this week. It is one of many examples
of one-sideness in the media coverage of the "Pope crisis".
It is especially true when you read the full text of the Pope’s speech
(see link), which is actually rather mild and not at all how the media
have presented it. I wonder how many of the commentariat so enthusiastically
condemning the Pope for his indelicacy have bothered to read his speech
and observe the extent to which he has been misrepresented.
Inevitably, whenever Islam enters the
news as it did this week, discussion seems to centre around two things:
how persecuted Muslims feel, due to foreign policy, media demonisation,
public hostility and so on; and whether Islam is or is not a violent
religion. I am writing this article to argue that the whole focus of
such discussion has been misplaced, and that it would be more productive
to view the whole issue from a different persepective.
We keep being told that we must understand
Islam. There are many critics of Islam who tell us we must understand
that it is an aggressive violent religion, and we should read the Koran
to discover that. Similarly, there are those (including Islamic clergy)
who insist that Islam is a religion of peace and we should read the
Koran to discover that. I have no time to read the Koran, and do not
feel predisposed to do so. Moreover, I see no reason why I, or anyone
else, should have to. But besides that, I really don’t see how it would
help with matters. I have some experience with Christian theology and
am aware of the way in which discussion can get easily locked into fixedly
opposing sides, which never come to any agreement, and so can easily
become a maze for the uninitiated to get lost within. This is a situation
that seems to me exactly what radical Islamists would most want.
At any rate, I do not believe that Islam
is the problem here. Islam may or may not be an intrinsically violent
religion, it isn’t for me to judge. What has infuriated me about
both the Pope crisis — and the cartoon crisis before it — is how we
have reacted to such outright aggression directed towards us. I have
no doubt whatever that this encourages yet more aggression, and makes
those initiating it feel that they have achieved something. The problem
lies not with the Islamists, but with ourselves.
Political correctness has led to a double
standard in the media coverage of these events. Different standards
are expected of the Pope, and of Danish cartoonists, than are expected
of Muslims who riot, burn effigies, wave offensive placards and burn
down buildings. Few have observed the fact that while Muslims may demand
that their religion be respected, a great deal of disrespect has been
shown to the Pope, spiritual leader of 1 billion Catholics. Those who
are organising the trouble that we have observed in these events are
aware of these double standards, and are knowingly setting out
to exploit them.
The point, then, is that political correctness
makes us vulnerable as a society to being manipulated by aggressive
lobby-groups who know how to work the system. And believe me, the Islamists
know how to work the system. Witness the Inigo Wilson affair, which
occurred on this very website. Inigo Wilson wrote an article on ConservativeHome
in which he satirically criticised the way in which political correctness
whitewashes Islam of all guilt. Muslims on the MPACUK got organised,
wrote to Orange in their thousands and deliberately manipulated a system
they know is slanted in their favour.
This leads me onto the question of whether
Muslims (those who are involved in these kinds of affairs) really feel
victimized in British society: it is usually accepted as an incontrovertible
axiom in all discussions on this issue.
Before the furore had even become major
news, the Pope had already apologised for offence and clearly distanced
himself from the medieval cleric he had quoted. Yet it did not put the
issue to rest. His apologies fell on deaf ears. Protests continued and
will probably continue for a while yet, despite three apologies now
from the pontiff. They couldn’t care less about the apologies because
this isn’t about being offended. This is about an aggressive minority
which is organizing itself to dominate our news agenda, since it suits
their purpose to do so.
Moreover, if those causing trouble
really felt victimised in our society, would they have the audacity
to wave placards in such an outrageous way as they did on Sunday (see
link)? One of the things that is so nauseating about having to witness
these scenes is the knowledge that such people are exploiting our freedom
to abuse us — the very freedom they themselves do not believe in.
Far from being a troubled minority, these
political activists (for that is what they are) know the advantages
they have on us, and willing to ruthlessly exploit them. Meanwhile,
our media whittles on about how victimised and demonised they feel.
So my overall point is this: We need
to stop being distracted into arguments about the nature of Islam, and
understand the real reason why it has been able to do such damage to
our society. That reason is political correctness and a climate of fear
in our media and in virtually all major public and private institutions.
This is what we need to direct ourselves towards challenging.