Pandaemonium

MELANIE PHILLIPS RESPONDS

Last week I wrote a critique of Melanie Phillips’ column in which she claimed the progressive ground for critics of mass immigration. Here is her response to my critique. My thanks to Melanie for taking the time and trouble to write this. I have written a response which I originally posted as a comment but have now attached to the end of this post.


‘A compendium of straw men, misunderstandings
and questionable assertions’

melanie phillips

I’m afraid Kenan’s criticism of my Times column, despite the habitual elegance of his prose, is a compendium of straw men, misunderstandings and questionable assertions. I’ll try to deal with them as succinctly as I can.

He finds it ‘extraordinary’ that I have ‘the gall’ to claim that any opposition to mass immigration draws accusations of xenophobia, racism, bigotry or a ‘Little England’mentality. Those who have expressed such opposition, however, such as David Goodhart, Frank Field, myself and others, have been vilified in precisely those terms.

‘Far from immigration being a taboo subject, there are few issues about which politicians and journalists are more obsessed…’

True, it is now an issue that is near the top of the political agenda, but that is a recent phenomenon. Labour, Tories and the BBC have all acknowledged that for years they brushed public concerns about this under the carpet and failed to discuss it.

‘In reality ‘what is rarely questioned’, as I pointed out in my essay ‘In Defence of Diversity’, ‘is not immigration but the idea that immigration is responsible for Europe’s social ills’.

I am not aware of anyone making such a sweeping claim.

‘Since 1988 some 20,000 migrants have died trying to enter Europe, two-thirds of them perishing in the Mediterranean…The only policy that could prevent more such tragedies is the only policy that no European politician will countenance: a more liberal system of border controls.’

The suggestion that because some people tragically die trying to break national laws it follows that those laws are wrong and that those nations should therefore abolish them because they are not entitled to make such laws is certainly an unusual argument in a democracy. It is a non-sequitur, comes close to endorsing illegal activity, and even implies that lawbreaking should succeed as moral blackmail.

‘…the anxieties are not really about immigration at all. Rather, immigration has become symbolic of unacceptable change, though it is often not responsible for such change. Behind contemporary hostility to immigration lies the breakdown of traditional political mechanisms, the growing chasm between the elite and the public, the abandonment by mainstream parties of their traditional constituencies, the marginalization of labour as a political voice, a sense of voicelessness felt by many sections of the population.’

Kenan has got this back to front. The social pressures caused by mass immigration, the trashing of such concerns and the vilification of those who express them have contributed in large measure of the sense of political alienation across.

‘Immigration has played almost no part in fostering these changes. It has, however, come to be a means through which many perceive these changes.’

The argument seems to be that, since Kenan cannot conceive of any justifiable reason for opposing mass immigration, that cannot be what concerns people; mass immigration must therefore be instead a proxy for concerns about other, unspecified, social changes. This is not only an assertion without any supporting evidence, but is a variation of the Marxist ‘false consciousness’argument, aka ‘I know better than the people what they think, because the people are too stupid to understand themselves what they think’.

‘Melanie Phillips can now (rightly) suggest that the numbers of Jews coming to Britain at the turn of the twentieth century was ‘miniscule’. That was not, however, how it was seen then. ‘There is no end to them in Whitechapel and Mile End’, claimed one witness giving evidence to the 1903 Royal Commission on Alien Immigration, which had been set up by the government to try to assuage fears about the “Jewish influx”.’

Indeed, that was not how it was seen then; but if an argument is used falsely in one set of circumstances, it does not follow that it must therefore be false when used in quite different circumstances.

The influx of Jews from eastern Europe at the turn of the last century was very small; indeed, since the number of Jews in the entire world was very small, there could not possibly have been the kind of influx being feared at that time. By contrast, the numbers coming into the UK now and which are entitled to immigrate in the future are so large as too be unsustainable, the equivalent (if current trends persist) of several additional large cities by 2028. Concern about the impact of those numbers is therefore not a prejudice; it is based on evidence. Bigotry involves beliefs that are demonstrably untrue. And despite Kenan’s disavowal, the comparison with Powell is indeed an invidious one.

‘Now we are getting to the heart of the argument. Phillips’ real fear is not merely about numbers of immigrants, but specifically about the numbers of Muslims coming to Britain.’

This is a distorted extrapolation of what I wrote, which was as follows:

‘All of the above is given extra bite when it comes to Muslim immigration, the real elephant in the room. For while many Muslims want to adapt to the basic values of British and western society, a significant number want Britain instead to adapt to Islam.

‘The resentment that causes is compounded by branding such people Islamophobic bigots. Some of them undoubtedly are. But most simply want this liberal society to enforce its own rule: that the host culture gives freedom to minorities to do their own thing provided those minorities sign up to the host’s overarching set of values.

‘If minorities either refuse to play that game or become so numerous that they fragment that culture, the country will eventually become neither liberal nor a coherent society at all. For unless there is an overarching cultural story in the first place, there will be nothing to which minorities can attach themselves.’

I then went on to say that these mass immigration trends were rooted in the contemporary belief that the authority of the nation should be supplanted by trans-national institutions and instruments. In other words, the issue of Islamist separatism in Europe, although very serious and rarely talked about (is Kenan not himself alarmed by polls showing some 40-60% of young Muslims want to live under sharia in the UK?) was only part of the wider problem. It was not the heart of my argument. Moreover, I agree with him about the impact of multiculturalism and the way this has led to increased tribalism; that is what I have argued for years.

The rest of Kenan’s argument, the sneering at a ‘mythicised past’and ‘historical amnesia’and the claim that universalism does not damage social solidarity, merely combines gratuitous insults with precisely the kind of misguided post-nation assumptions about which I was writing.

But well done, Kenan, on winning the essay prize.

Melanie Phillips

.

In response

Melanie, my thanks for you taking the time to respond. A few observations about your post:

1. I never suggested that it was extraordinary to claim that ‘opposition to mass immigration draws accusations of xenophobia, racism, bigotry or a “Little England” mentality’. (In fact, I acknowledged that ‘some regard opposition to immigration as racist’ but observed that using this to dismiss criticism is ‘a way of avoiding having to answer the difficult questions’.) What I said was extraordinary was the insistence that immigration is still a taboo issue and that the only acceptable position today is support for mass immigration. That is an extraordinary claim to make, given the wall-to-wall coverage of the issue and the scramble by politicians of all hues to appear tougher-than-thou.

It is true that in the past politicians may have been reluctant to broach the issue (though that claim is overdone by critics of immigration). But you write as if this is still the case:

‘Even now, it is still the issue that dare not speak its name… Mass immigration is still something on which only one view is considered socially acceptable’

And that claim, to me at least, is, frankly, baffling.

2. I don’t oppose Fortress Europe policies because 20,000 people have died over the past quarter of a century trying to enter Europe. I oppose such policies because they are unjust. From the use of Libyan and Moroccan security forces to act as European immigration guards to the arrest of fishermen aiding drowning migrants to the continent-wide system of detention centres, there is little moral about the construction of Fortress Europe. Nevertheless, there is no getting away from the fact that 20,000 people have died over the past quarter century. You suggest that my argument ‘implies that lawbreaking should succeed as moral blackmail’. That could be said of any opposition to unjust laws. In any case, we could turn your argument on its head. The logic of your view seems to be that 20,000 deaths is an acceptable price to pay for the creation of Fortress Europe. That is what I find morally problematic.

3. You suggest that since I ‘cannot conceive of any justifiable reason for opposing mass immigration, that cannot be what concerns people; mass immigration must therefore be instead a proxy for concerns about other, unspecified, social changes’. Actually, I have over a number of essays explored those social changes, and I summed up the argument (albeit very briefly) in this post:

‘Behind contemporary hostility to immigration lies the breakdown of traditional political mechanisms, the growing chasm between the elite and the public, the abandonment by mainstream parties of their traditional constituencies, the marginalization of labour as a political voice, a sense of voicelessness felt by many sections of the population.’

It is incontestable that one of the key reasons for voters supporting populist parties across Europe is the sense that they have been abandoned by mainstream parties and have been left politically voiceless. What populist parties have done very well is link that sense of abandonment and voicelessness to the question of immigration and fear of the ‘Other’.

I find it strange, incidentally, that you should castigate me for wanting to look beyond how matters might appear on the surface. If all is as it appears on the surface, why would we need any form of scholarship or investigation?

4. It is true that ‘if an argument is used falsely in one set of circumstances, it does not follow that it must therefore be false when used in quite different circumstances’. What I am suggesting, however, is that contemporary arguments against immigration are misguided.

You insist that the current influx of immigrants is ‘unsustainable’. That, of course, was equally the argument a century ago. And the arguments as to why it is unsustainable are as vapid now as they were then. There is, in the abstract, no optimum level of immigration. The numbers of immigrants deemed ‘sustainable’ are always arbitrary. Throughout the twentieth century, virtually every wave of immigration was met with the claim that it was ‘unsustainable’. Come the next wave of immigration, and the previous wave now came to be seen as sustainable but the new wave not. At every point, in other words, what is regarded as a reasonable figure is calculated relative not to some abstract absorptive capacity, but to the actual numbers coming in. A ‘sustainable’ number is always a bit less than the current influx. And that is as true today as it was a century ago.

5. I am sorry you feel that I ‘distorted’ your views on Muslim immigration. I still think that it is a perfectly fair assessment to suggest that you are worried ‘not merely about numbers of immigrants, but specifically about the numbers of Muslims coming to Britain’.

You ask whether or not I am ‘alarmed by polls showing some 40-60% of young Muslims want to live under sharia in the UK’. There are two points I would make about this.

First, for some ‘sharia’ means barbaric practices such as enforced veiling or the stoning of adulterers, and strict adherence to an Islamic code. For many Muslims, however, particularly in the West, it merely means that secular laws should be shaped by religious law. In this Muslims are little different from many Christians or Jews. In America, for instance, a Gallup poll found that 46% of people want Scripture to be ‘a source’ of laws and a further 9% want it to be the ‘only source’ of law.

Second, as a secularist, I am opposed not just to sharia, of whatever kind, but to any religious framework defining secular law. You, on the other hand, see secularism itself as a problem. Secularism, you argue, ‘far from expanding freedom… diminishes it’ and ‘aggressively destroys the common bonds of history, tradition and morality that keep a society together’, adding that ‘liberty is only upheld and safeguarded by legal, social and cultural traditions embedded in the ethics of the Bible’. This, it seems to me, is a poor way of challenging sharia. If you really want to oppose sharia, perhaps you should adopt a more secularist stance?

6. Finally, I am sorry if my argument strikes you as ‘sneering’ and as ‘gratuitously insulting’. It was not meant to. Perhaps you and I have a different notion of what constitutes a ‘sneer’ or a ‘gratuitous insult’. But my apologies, anyway, if that is how it came over. And my thanks for you engaging in the debate.

Kenan Malik

18 comments

  1. “For many Muslims, however, particularly in the West, it merely means that secular laws should be shaped by religious law.”

    But I don’t want secular law to be shaped by religious law and I don’t see why anyone should have the right to try and force that on me. If anyone wants their laws to be shaped by islam then I can only gently suggest that western Europe is not the right place for them.

    • Wow. So, I am assuming that you also want to tell (‘gently’, of course) the majority of the American population (who, according to Gallup, would like the Bible to shape secular laws) and a large proportion of Christians and Jews in Western Europe (who are equally averse to secularism) that they should move elsewhere? The idea that people should be banned or excluded for holding perfectly legitimate (if, in my eyes, misguided) views is as obnoxious as that held by religious fundamentalists.

      • A secularist constitution means that no one value system – religious or atheist – takes priority or is legally established. within the constitution. The USA has a reasonable, if somewhat beleaguered, secular constitution which has hardly led to a non religious society. It can be convincingly argued that secularism actually results in a more religiously diverse society since there is not an established state church dedicated to maintaining its position and keeping down the opposition. While some religionists may indulge themselves in trying to conflate the idea of a secular state with an explicitly atheist state this is simply not the case – an atheist state where religion is proscribed is, for a secularist, equally abhorrent. So while no religion holds a special place and no enshrinement of religious doctrine in law is permissible is is still highly likely that in a country with a high level of religious adherents the value judgements behind legislation will be predicated in part on the values of that religious constituency. That is simply democracy in action.

  2. Robin Blick

    Surely we should take into account not only what Muslims say about themselves when questioned, which may or may not be true, but what some of them actually do, which in some special cases, is a matter of public record. Two examples: According to the 2011 census, Muslims make up about 5% of the UK population. If we take the crimes of gangs grooming, pimping and raping, and assume normal distribution unaffected by cultural factors, we wouid expect 5% of those convicted of these abominable crimes to be Muslims. In fact, the figure is 90%. (The Times, 5 Jan, 2011) A similar pattern emerges in relation to terrorism crimes. According to a Home Office Report published on 12 September 2013 (‘Terrorist Arrests: Analysis of Charging and Sentencing Outcomes by Religion’), of the 241 persons convicted of terrorism offences in the period between September 2001 and August 2012, 175 were known to be of the Islamic faith. Some of the remainder obviously could have been. I cannot understand why facts of this nature were not introduced into the debate, because without them, we remain in the realm of empty speculation.

    • Devin

      I am not familiar with the situation with Muslims in England, but I know that in the United States african americans make up a percentage of those convicted for drug offenses (and other crimes) that is vastly out of proportion with their numbers. However, the percentage of whites that use drugs is as much and in some cases more than the percentage of blacks who do. (The New Jim Crow.) So the higher conviction rate of african americans is evidence of bias against african americans, not increased criminality. Could something similar be going on with Muslims in Britain?
      Also of note is even if Muslims are objectively more likely to engage in criminal behavior this could have more to do with their socioeconomic status than the fact that they’re Muslim.
      In regards to terrorism offenses, the fact that most terrorists are Muslims doesn’t imply that most – or even a significant proportion of – Muslims are terrorists.

      • Robin Blick

        Of course most Muslims in the UK aren’t terrorists, and if you read again carefully what I have written, you will see that nowhere do I say, imply, or suggest that they are. The statistics I quoted simply demonstrate that most convicted terrorists in the UK are Muslims, that in fact they are about 12 times more likely to be so than the rest of the UK population. This fact need confronting, and cannot be explained or wished away by reference to judicial bias or socio-economic factors. Rather, It has everything to do with how some mainly young and male Muslims see their religion, with the fact that some Muslims commit, or try to commit, terrorist acts, not because they think they are poor (it is a well established fact that most of them are not) but because they take very seriously, to the extent of being willing to sacrfice their lives, the obligations that they believe in all sincerity their faith places on them to wage jihad. Indeed, in recent trials, Muslims convicted of terrorism, far from denying their guilt, have declared in court just this, even quoting from passages in the Koran that have motivated their actions. They would, I believe, rightly feel insulted by the claim that they are waging jihad for materialist reasons. They passionately insist their actions are driven by the ideals of their religious faith. I suggest that rather inventing spurious causes that divert attention away from the root causes of their behaviour, we should listen to what they are telling us.

      • Devin is right – the comparison with ideas about black criminality is both apt and revealing about the British debate too. There is a long history in Britain, from the 1950s on, of using myths about black criminality as arguments against immigration. There are two main problems with such arguments. First the categories that we use to define social identities are not very useful in helping understand the complex roots of social disporportionalities whether in crime or educational attainment. Second, the assumption that there is a causal relationship between membership of such groups and disproportionalities between groups is usually false. Minority groups are not homogenous entities but are as divided by issues of class, gender, age, geographical location, and so on, as the rest of the population. These factors often shape individuals’ lives far more than do race, ethnicity, culture or faith. The fact that Muslims are disproportionately represented in the certain crime statistics does not mean that Islam is the cause, any more than the fact that Muslims are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system necessarily reveals, in and of itself, institutional discrimination against Muslims .

        On the question of terrorism: neither ‘poverty’ nor ‘Islam’ are useful or adequate explanations. I have explored some of the issues in my book From Fatwa to Jihad, and in some essays and extracts as in here and here and here. It is worth pointing out that many cases of non-Muslim terrorism, such as this, are not counted as ‘terrorism’ at all, which inevitably leads to the idea that most terrorism is Islamic. In fact, studies in Europe and America suggest both that the threat of Islamic terrorism is greatly exaggerated and that non-Islamic terrorism is vastly under-estimated.

        • Robin Blick

          Yes, I agree, Islam is not an adequate explanation for certain terrorist acts, but it is useful, especially when the terrorists themselves make it very clear, as they almost always do, that they are acting in the name of and for the cause of Islam, and cite sacred texts which they claim, rightly or wrongly, justify and even demand their actions. Are we to assume that without their beliefs, they would still have acted the way they did? I find this simply absurd. To the extent that their religious convictions have contributed to their actions, Islam is ‘useful’ in explaining certain terrorist activities.

          So, like many others, I am puzzled and more than a little alarmed by this seemingly willful refusal of politicians of all persuasions, clerics of all faiths and commentators to accept a connection between a religion that preaches jihad and those who wage it. I feel sure that if these crimes were commited in the name of a secular creed such as, for example, racism or fascism, there would be no such difficulty. Why deny the obvious? Do we know better than the perpetrators what their true motives are? Are the jihadists lying? And, if so, what is this undeclared cause they are ready to sacrifice their freedom for and even their lives?

        • In Myanmar and Sri Lanka, Buddhists monks have been organizing vicious pogroms against Muslims. Though barely reported in the West, the scale of the attacks, especially in Myanmar, has been extraordinary. Villages, schools, workplaces and mosques have been destroyed, thousands of Rohingya killed and some 140,000 left homeless.

          The monks claim that they are acting in accordance with Buddhist principles, justifying their actions through ancient Buddhist texts. The principal anti-Rohingya organization in Myanmar, the 969 Movement, takes its name from the traditional nine qualities of Buddha, six qualities of his teachings and nine qualities of the monks. Its leader, a monk named Wirathu, calls himself the ‘Burmese bin Laden’.

          Presumably these monks take, as seriously as any radical Islamist, ‘the obligations that they believe in all sincerity their faith places on them to wage pogroms’. I don’t, however, hear many people saying that ‘rather inventing spurious causes that divert attention away from the root causes of their behaviour, we should listen to what they are telling us’ and that ‘Buddhism is a useful explanation of their violence’, that there is something inherent in Buddhism that lends itself to pogroms. Rather, most people would rightly recognize that the anti-Muslim violence in both Myanmar and Sri Lanka has its roots in the political struggles that have engulfed the two nations. The importance of Buddhism in the conflicts in Myanmar and Sri Lanka is not that the tenets of faith are responsible for the pogroms, but that those bent on confrontation have adopted the garb of religion as a means of gaining a constituency and justifying their actions.

          The tenets of Islam are, of course, very different from those of Buddhism, and I would not wish to suggest that there is any equivalence between the two faiths. Nor would I say that conflicts involving Muslims are necessarily analogous to those in Myanmar or Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, many of the conflicts and much of violence attributed to Islam have, like the confrontations in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, complex social and political roots, as groups vying for political power have exploited religion and religious identities to gain support. The importance of religion in such cases is often less in directly creating conflict than in helping establish the chauvinist identities through which certain groups are demonized and one’s own actions justified.

  3. Jørgen Laursen

    @ Kenan, Robin, Melanie & Public Intel Project (@PIProject_)

    I would like to second Mr. Public Intel Project @ PIProject_. (It’s amazing what you Brits sometimes call your children; in Denmark a name like that would spell social disgrace – especially the highly taboo underscore sign at the end of it. What were your parents thinking about?!😉 ). I return to this blog again and again, partly because of the civility and fairness displayed by its owner and the majority of the blog’s contributors. Well done, Kenan and Melanie!🙂

    Having said that, I find myself reluctantly agreeing with Robin Blick. Reluctantly, because I keenly wish for Kenan to be right and for Robin to be wrong. But I’m losing my religion here, for I simply cannot accept that we know better than the perpetrators what their motives are. Also, it seems to me that of all the pernicious identity movements nibbling away at your society at the moment, the combination of born-again Muslim revivalism and Multiculturalism á l’anglaise poses the greatest threat to social stability. It is a marriage, I think, made in hell, for the two feed off each other, fanning the flames of separatism, tribalism and social atomization.

    Say what you want about minuscule Denmark (e.g. that we’re rather provincial, smug and sometimes unduly proud of it), but despite the Muhammed Cartoons being Danish, and the ensuing brouhaha they caused in parts of the Muslim world, it remained exactly that – a brouhaha confined largely to the Muslim world. Most Danish Muslims simply shrugged when the cartoons were published here, rolling their eyes at our habitual impiety – if they noticed at all. To be sure, some were offended, too, but most of them merely sighed at what they recognized as being an ingrained, cultural disrespect for all things religious that has deep roots in securalized Protestantism and recent Danish history. Thus, the foiled assassination attempts against the cartoonists and the Jyllands-Posten staff were all planned and perpetrated by foreign Muslims, not by the ones born and raised in Denmark.

    Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the home-bred terrorists that you have in the UK. Which leads me to hypothesize that maybe – just maybe – a sense of social coherence and identity, centered around a relatively benign form of nationalism such as we have in Denmark, is simply better at integrating minorities from a world religion currently in the grips of a profound identity crisis.

    And that scares me. For if discredited nationalism, however benign, is better at coping with immigration than the relatively open-door, Multicultural policies of, say, Sweden or the UK, then things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. And that is why I hope that Kenan is right and Robin and Melanie wrong.

    Jørgen, Denmark

    • Thanks for the kind comments about Pandaemonium.

      On the issue of ‘I simply cannot accept that we know better than the perpetrators what their motives are’, see my point about Buddhism and violence above. There is a difference between saying ‘Monks organizing pogroms in Myanmar justify their actions through Buddhist texts’ and ‘Therefore Buddhism is the cause of violence in Myanmar’.

      I agree with you that ‘the combination of born-again Muslim revivalism and multiculturalism á l’anglaise’ is deeply problematic, ‘fanning the flames of separatism, tribalism and social atomization’. I have long made the distinction between the idea of diversity and that of multiculturalism. As I put it in my Milton K Wong lecture:

      Part of the problem in discussions about multiculturalism is that the term has, in recent years, come to have two meanings that are all too rarely distinguished. The first is what I call the lived experience of diversity. The second is multiculturalism as a political process, the aim of which is to manage that diversity. The experience of living in a society that is less insular, more vibrant and more cosmopolitan is something to welcome and cherish. It is a case for cultural diversity, mass immigration, open borders and open minds.

      .

      As a political process, however, multiculturalism means something very different. It describes a set of policies, the aim of which is to manage and institutionalize diversity by putting people into ethnic and cultural boxes, defining individual needs and rights by virtue of the boxes into which people are put, and using those boxes to shape public policy. It is a case, not for open borders and minds, but for the policing of borders, whether physical, cultural or imaginative.

      In my view neither the Danish nor the British approach is to be recommended.

  4. As an American, the comment regarding African American incarceration rates as analogous to Muslims terrorists in Britain, struck a chord with me. Like the Dane, I wanted Kenan to be “right.” But I am inclined to agree with Robin. We are “Bulkanizing” toward a Class and Racial divide in America. Our legacy of slavery and institutionalized discrimination; couple with Uber-money Politics feeds this two-headed monster. I hope you Brits solve your immigration policy. That will give hope that, perhaps, we can solve our Class and Racial divide her in America.

    Absolutely great debate! Super! KUDOS to you both!

    • Robin Blick

      I am gratified to see that I am not alone in rejecting the rather naive assumption that what goes by the name of Islamic terrorism can be explained without reference to the teachings of Islam. Even if one concedes, as many apologists for Islam want us to, that religion is in some sense being ‘used’ for non-religious, primarily political ends, (though Islam, does not recognise such a distinction) this can only work if those that are being ‘used’ genuinely believe in what they are doing, especially in this case, where the used are frequently required not only to kill, but to kill themselves. As Sam Harris put it so succinctly, pulling a lever only makes sense if it moves something at the other end…cynics and manipulators do the puling, while at the other, true believers act, kill, and die. So even if things worked this way, Islam cannot be removed from the equation, however much some want it to be. Without true believers, jihad could not work, with everyone pulling at one end and no-one being moved at the other. But I have seen no evidence that those orchestrating Islamic terrorism are less devout than those they send into battle. Was Bin Laden a closet atheist?

      • Sigh. If this thread is going to descend into caricaturing others’ claims then there is not much point in continuing. Robin, if you think that ‘Was Bin Laden a closet atheist?’ is a useful retort to my arguments, then I’m afraid we’ll forever be talking past each other. And the insistence that anyone who suggests a more nuanced approach is an ‘apologist for Islam’ is the kind of black and white, you’re with us or you’re against us, form of argument that makes these kinds of discussions impossible

        It might help to recap the debate. Melanie Phillips originally suggested that we should be worried not merely about immigration, but about Muslim immigration in particular. I disagreed. You argued originally that the disproportionality in the numbers of Muslims involved in ‘gangs grooming, pimping and raping’ and in terrorism can be traced back to the teachings of Islam. Though you did not explicitly say so, presumably your point was that given such disproportionality we should be worried about Muslim immigration. First Devon and then I pointed out the disproportionality is not a good measure of causality:

        ‘First the categories that we use to define social identities are not very useful in helping understand the complex roots of social disproportionalities whether in crime or educational attainment. Second, the assumption that there is a causal relationship between membership of such groups and disproportionalities between groups is usually false.’

        You have ignored this point about disproportionality, even though it seemed central to your original claim. I also pointed that, in and of itself, Islam is not a ‘useful or adequate explanation’. I provided a number of links to essays that set out in detail why I argue that, essays that drew not just on my work but also that of scholars and investigators such as Marc Sageman and Olivier Roy. Here is an extract from the first link:

        What gives shape to contemporary disaffection is not progressive politics, as it may have in the past, but the politics of identity. Identity politics and multicultural policies have, over the past three decades, encouraged people to define themselves in increasingly narrow ethnic or cultural terms. A generation ago, today’s ‘radicalised’ Muslims would probably have been far more secular in their outlook, and their radicalism would have expressed itself through political organizations and campaigns. Today they see themselves as Muslims in an almost tribal sense. Such developments have shaped not just Muslim self-perception but that of most social groups and communities…

        .

        At the same time, there is something distinctive about the identity in which Islamists cloak themselves. For a start, Islam is a global religion. It allows Islamist identity to be both intensely parochial and seemingly universal, linking Muslims to struggles across the world, from Afghanistan to Chechnya to Palestine, and providing the illusion of being part of a global movement….

        .

        And yet, most homegrown wannabe jihadis possess a peculiar relationship with Islam. They are, in many ways, as estranged from Muslim communities as they are from Western societies. Most detest the mores and traditions of their parents, have little time for mainstream forms of Islam, and cut themselves off from traditional community institutions. Mohammed Siddique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 bombers, is a classic case in point. He had rejected his parents’ subcontinental traditions, refused an arranged marriage, and wed instead Hasina Patel, a woman he had met at university. So disgusted was Khan’s family with his love-match that it all but disowned him. Disengaged from both Western societies and Muslim communities, some reach out to Islamism. They rarely arrive at Islamism by attending sermons given by preachers of hate. Rather, such ideas usually percolate through small groups of friends in gyms or youth clubs…

        .

        What Islamism provides to those drawn to it is not religion in any old-fashioned sense, but identity, recognition and meaning. Detached from traditional religious institutions and cultures, many adopt a literal reading of the Qur’an and a strict observance of supposedly authentic religious norms to mark themselves out as distinct and provide a collective identity. Disembedded from social norms, finding their identity within a small group, shaped by black and white ideas and values, driven by a sense that they must act on behalf of all Muslims and in opposition to all enemies of Islam, it becomes easier to commit acts of horror and to view such acts as part of an existential struggle between Islam and the West.

        Nowhere here does it say, as you would absurdly caricature it, that ‘what goes by the name of Islamic terrorism can be explained without reference to the teachings of Islam’. What it does do is move away from a black and white view of the relationship between ‘Islamic terrorism’ and ‘the teachings of Islam’, and to suggest a complex, nuanced approach. Of course, you may disagree with some or all of this. But, again, you have not in any of your responses addressed any of these issues.

        I have argued, too, that if you wanted to attribute causality to Islam, you have to do so not just in conflicts that involve Islam. You have to accept, for instance, that the tenets of Buddhism are responsible for violence in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Most people, looking at Buddhist violence in those countries, would suggest that the conflicts there have complex social, political and religious roots, and that a simple claim that ‘Buddhist tenets cause violence’ is neither adequate nor useful. But if we are able to accept a more nuanced approach to the relationship between religious texts and contemporary violence when it comes to Buddhism, why not with other faiths too? Again, you have ignored this point. You seem more interested in trying to score rhetorical victories than in actually addressing the issues. If you want actually to debate the issues, I am happy to do so. If you just want to make rhetorical gestures, I have better things to do with my time.

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