Making something out of nothing: Melanie Phillips' Straw Man ravings
There are more positive ways to make a comeback than by assailing an intellectually impoverished bigot, but such is the negativity in Melanie Phillips' post "Britain's man of straw" that any critical response will do a bit of good.Phillips doesn't like Jack Straw, one of the men who connived to get the war in Iraq, which she still has only praise for. She has moaned about him on numerous occasions because it seems that this warmonger is a bit too soft for her. Not just in the sense that he looks, behaves, and even sounds a bit like Mr Smithers, but also because she believes that he is fawning and accommodating in the face of Islamic terrorism. Her latest evidence [I'm not going to stoop to the level of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and other Sunny Delight-quaffing airheads, so you can damn-well put your own ironic quotation marks around the word evidence] comes in the form of a speech he gave at the Muslim News awards. I know, I haven't heard of them either. And neither has she, for had she done the two minutes research I have just done she would have found that they are called the Muslim News Awards for Excellence, a cloyingly titled ceremony that aims to honour Muslims for their achievements in all aspects of British society. Past winners include the boxer Prince Naseem Hamid [sad but true: Prince Naseem has never been condemned for Islamic violence, even though he's paid to hit people]. As Jack Straw put it himself: "We are celebrating the very significant contribution which Muslim communities as a whole make year on year to our country."Her problem Straw's conduct at this celebration was that: "...at no point in his speech did he even mention Islamic terrorism." Now, people from a minority faith who have turned up at their own celebration to see people honoured for their positive role might not appreciate this, especially coming from the man who any other day would be arguing in defence of his cruel war. Melanie Phillips wants these people to be integrated and appreciate British values, but doesn't even need to think twice to attack them at a ceremony about their contribution to this very society. Honestly, how many terrorists did she think were in that room, waiting to receive awards? And what makes her think that anybody in that room even condoned Islamist violence? I know I would feel patronised and under attack if I was lectured on the violence committed by white people, or Catholics or the English simply because others who looked like me had indulged in it.One subject that had to come up was the issue of those poxy cartoons. I managed to dodge the whole debate on censorship when it was in full swing in late January, one of the reasons being that it seemed obvious: You can print what you like [within the law] because you are entitled to free speech, but you should [and "should" is a loaded term here. I'm using it in a way suggesting what a human being at their best should do, knowing that there are 6 billion others out there that think and feel the same way as them in most situations] not use it to deliberately hurt people. Predictably, and rather sadly, many Muslims shot back by saying that Jews wouldn't like it if the Holocaust was abused. My favoured example is jokes at the expense of the disabled. One of the reasons why Little Britain has become such a pile of shit, and that new film The Ringer will be, is because they apply the same principle the Danish cartoons did against the disabled: "we can say it, so we shall". Jack straw seems to concur with this view, saying in his speech:"The right to freedom of expression is a broad one and something which this country has long held dear. It was the focus of our human rights work during our recent Presidency of the European Union. But the existence of such a right does not mean that it is right – morally right, politically right, socially right – to exercise that freedom without regard to the feelings of others.A large number of Muslims in this country were – understandably – upset by those cartoons being reprinted across Europe and at their deeply held beliefs being insulted. They expressed their hurt and outrage but did so in a way which epitomised the learned, peaceful religion of Islam. In doing so they were not being 'unreasonable' or 'un-European'. They were not threatening anyone's values."Sentiments which don't sit well with our witch, who shot back:"Thus Islamist violence is sanitised, excused and even airbrushed out of the picture altogether. The crisis in relations between the Islamic and Western worlds is entirely the fault of the West. The protest against clerical fascism represented by the Danish cartoons -- whose target was not Islam but the intimidation practised in its name -- was instead an insult to deeply held religious beliefs. And so it was that protest, rather than the clerical fascism, which should not be tolerated." [my italics]Her criticism misses the point so much that getting hold of the issues would be like mud-wrestling with a greased eel. Still, lets not let this eel get away. Firstly, Jack Straw is not blaming all Islamic violence on the cartoons. He has babbled about jihadists enoug in past speeches for her to know this. He was referring to Muslim alienation in Britain, and citing the cartoons as a prime example. She uses the word "entirely", not Jack Straw. She is entitled to think that the cartoons were about oppression carried out by Muslims rather than Islam itself [although she has never been rave enough to come out and say that she despises the whole damn faith], but since the cartoonists must have known that using Mohammed as a synecdote for this oppression was going to upset many, and that reproducing them in other newspapers across Europe after the initial bad reception was going to inflame this, her view is totally misplaced here. It would be convenient if Jack Straw didn't mention the nasty element of these largely peacful protests in his speech. But, oh no:"A handful of Muslims reacted in a distasteful and unacceptable way."Not the strongest language, but it gets the job done, and I repeat, how many bad eggs were in that room, and why should their crimes be used in a speech addressing decent harmless people? Her piece climaxes with a burst of spiteful insanity, when she labels "ominous" this part of Straw's speech:"The release of the British hostage, Norman Kember, and two of his companions has been very prominent in the media over the past few days. I believe the calls by many Muslims in this country and fellow British citizens for the safe release of those kidnapped victims and showing their solidarity with their plight may have contributed to their survival."It's innocent and probably accurate. When the four hostages appeared in orange jumpsuits we knew that these were serious terrorists. The fact that three survived is incredible. But she wants to associate our Foreign Secretary with terror, and she'll be damned if she'll let what he actually said get in the way of that:"Let us remind ourselves who these Muslims were who made these calls for the hostages’ safe release. After consultations with the Foreign Office, the Muslim Association of Britain – the British arm of the Muslim Brotherhood which works for the Islamisation of Britain and Europe -- dispatched its president, Anas al-Tikriti, to Iraq to negotiate with the kidnappers. The MAB also persuaded Sheikh al-Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s mentor and supporter of human bombs in Iraq and Israel, as well as the leaders of Hamas, Hizbollah and 23 other Muslim organisations, to sign a press release calling for Kember and three other hostages to be freed. The al Qaeda leader Abu Qatada was also pressed into service to appeal for their release from his prison cell, as did Moazzam Begg, the British man who had previously been detained at Guantanamo Bay, while Muslims at Finsbury Park mosque -- now run once more by the Brotherhood -- said prayers for Kember’s safe return which were played on televisions across the world."The accusations that the MAB is an "arm" of the Muslim Brotherhood is a deliberate exaggeration on her part and further sloppy use of language to mislead readers. It does seem that they have links to them, but also that they are independent in the way that they act. They condemned the London bombings and held protest vigils several times last year, so their opinion of terrorism perpetrated by Muslims in Britain is quite clear. I have no reason to like them either, and never applaud their members at anti-war demos. But I'll wait for some hard facts before I claim that they are an "arm" and by implication are in existance to carry out Muslim Brotherhood policy in Britain. Qatada volunteered to be filmed and was used as a tactical measure because he knew he would influence the captors. The real proof of how the government regards him is illustrated by the fact that the message was filmed in his current home: Full Sutton jail. Hamas and Hezbollah are regarded as terrorist organisations by this government while Moazzam Begg was released from Guantanamo Bay an innocent man. Perhaps our witless friend might want to bear in mind that presumed innocence is another luxury that democracies enjoy, along with freedom of speech. He should be disregarded in her list of terror-sympathisers, but then, every sentient reader knows that these people were not the Muslims Jack Straw had in mind. Muslims repeatedly joined Christians in vigils for Norman Kember and put their names on the massive public statement calling for their release, while those of the same faith protested at his captivity across the world. Jack Straws failure to recognise the near-irrelevant subject of Islamic terror in this speech is superseded by her stubborn refusal to recognise the benefits of Islamic cooperation and goodwill.Her final flourish is this:"The British Foreign Secretary has now said, in effect, that the lives of Norman Kember and the other two hostages were saved thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood. What price will the Brotherhood now exact from Britain in return?" [again, my italics]Readers of Melanie Phillips know by now what "in effect" means. It means: "if you substitute the words actually uttered with far nastier ones then I have a case". So, if I ate meat for lunch, then "in effect" I could have had roast orphans with my salad. Jack Straw said that Muslims helped him stay alive. Screw "in effect". If there is one lesson I would like her to learn, it is that you are not going to expose a hidden agenda by just altering somebody's words and changing the meaning of their sentence. Jack Straw didn't even claim that Muslims "saved" Mr Kember. He said they "contributed" to his survival. We know the SAS saved him because pro-war advocates have been crowing for days how, if the troops weren't there, these pacifists wouldn't have been saved. Nice. Had the troops not been there, of course, the pacifists wouldn't have felt compelled to go. But that's another debate.
"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." - George W. Bush (March 24, 2004)