Pandaemonium

BEYOND FEAR AND INDIFFERENCE

sadiq khan

This essay on Sadiq Khan’s London Mayoral victory, Trevor Philips’new pamphlet on diversity and the public discourse on Islam was published in the Observer, under the headline ‘Muslims are not a ‘different’ class of Briton: we’re as messy as the rest’.


‘It shows it is possible to be Muslim and a Westerner. Western values are compatible with Islam.’ So said Sadiq Khan after his victory as London mayor.

Trevor Phillips, former chief of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, takes a much bleaker view of Islam’s place in Western society. Last month he presented a Channel 4 documentary – What British Muslims Really Think – based on an ICM poll of Muslim attitudes. The poll revealed a deep well of social conservatism.Just 18 per cent of Muslims thought that homosexuality should be legal, four in 10 thought wives should always obey their husbands, almost 90 per cent wanted to prohibit mockery of the prophet. Phillips wrote of ‘a chasm opening between Muslims and non-Muslims’ and ‘the unacknowledged creation of a nation within the nation, with its own geography, its own values and its own very separate future’. Last week, he developed his thesis in a pamphlet for the thinktank Civitas. In Race and Faith: The Deafening Silence, he argues that Britain’s ‘superdiversity’ has combined with the authorities’ ‘laissez-faire’ attitude to make integration much more difficult.

Muslims, in particular, are a problem, remaining at ‘a significant social distance’ from wider society and ‘resistant to the traditional process of integration’. ‘Rome may not yet be in flames’, Phillips ominously suggests, alluding to Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of blood’ speech, ‘but I think I can smell the smouldering while we hum to the music of liberal self-delusion’.

If Phillips is right, Khan’s optimism is misplaced. But is he right?

trevor phillips

Phillips’ pamphlet is more measured and nuanced than his documentary. There is much in it with which I could agree. Phillips’ argument about free speech is both welcome and brave. We should ignore the claims that speech should be restricted because it causes offence, Phillips argues; only speech that incites violence should be prohibited.

At the same time, Phillips’ argument about Muslims and integration is flawed. British Muslims, he suggests, are different from previous waves of migrants because, as he put it in his documentary, they ‘don’t want to change but ‘still hold views from their ancestral backgrounds’. The real problem is the opposite. British Muslims have changed. But many by becoming more socially conservative. Had ICM taken its poll 30 years ago, it would probably have found very different results. The first generation of Muslims to Britain, in the 1950s and 1960s, were religious, but wore their faith lightly. Many men drank alcohol. Few women wore a hijab. Most visited the mosque only occasionally. The second generation – my generation – was primarily secular. Our struggles were defined by political beliefs, and our desire for equality led us to challenge not just racism, but religious obscurantism.

This is not to say that Asian communities of the 1970s or 1980s were particularly liberal. British society was conservative on issues such as homosexuality, and minority communities were no different. But the same radical currents that challenged conservatism in wider society were also present. ‘Radical’ in the Muslim context meant, in those days, being leftwing and secular, not, as it does now, being fundamentalist and regressive. The transformation in the meaning of that single word embodies the transformation of Muslim communities.

It is only with the generation that has come of age since the late 1980s that the question of cultural differences has become important. Only then did Muslims imagine a ‘Muslim community’. And only then did the chasm between Muslim attitudes and those of wider society begin to develop. The reasons for this shift are complex. Partly they lie in a tangled set of social and political changes, including the collapse of the left and the rise of identity politics. Partly they lie in international developments, such as the Bosnian war of the early 1990s, that helped foster a heightened sense of Muslim identity. Partly they lie in the growing influence of Saudi Arabia on Islamic institutions in the West and its aggressive promotion of Wahhabism. And partly they lie in the development of multicultural social policies that, as Phillips observes, exacerbated the worst aspects of identity politics, helping further to fragment society. Conservative social views in Muslim communities are not simply a throwback to ‘ancestral’ ways, but have been forged out of contemporary social and political developments. The real question, then, is not ‘Why have Muslims not changed?’ but rather, ‘Why have large sections of Muslim communities changed in a more conservative fashion?’ If we cannot ask the right questions, it is little wonder that we fail to find the right answers.

Sadiq Khan’s views are significantly more liberal than those of most Muslims. He has faced considerable hostility for his support for gay marriage. Yet, his liberalism did not prevent large numbers of Muslims from voting for him. A chasm there may be, but it is not an unbridgeable one.

sunday times what do muslims really think

Khan’s election shows also how we often ignore diversity within minority communities. There is polling evidence that British Muslims have become more polarized on social issues – a large proportion has become more conservative, while a small minority is more liberal than the population at large. The fact that Khan’s liberalism is a minority view in Muslim communities does not make his Islam any less, or more, authentic than that of Muslims who think homosexuality should be illegal. Yet many non-Muslim liberals take conservatism as a hallmark of Muslim authenticity. The Danish MP Naser Khader tells of a conversation with a leftwing journalist who claimed that the Muhammad cartoons insulted all Muslims. ‘I am not insulted’, Khader responded. ‘But you’re not a real Muslim’, came the reply. To be a real Muslim is, from such a perspective, to be reactionary, to be insulted by the cartoons. It’s a view not so different from that of anti-Muslim bigots. Donald Trump’s suggestion that he would exempt Khan from his proposed ban on Muslims entering America echoes the view that liberals like Khan are not real Muslims.

There seems to be only two registers in which public discussions of Islam take place today: indifference or fear. Multicultural indifference sees the ‘otherness’ of Muslim communities as something simply to respect and live with. Nativist fear views it as a mortal threat to Western societies. What is missing is real social engagement, neither shunning Muslims as the Other, nor merely respecting their beliefs, but recognising rather that respect requires us to engage with, if necessary challenge, the values and beliefs of many Muslims, but as part of our normal national conversation.

That is why Phillips’ defence of free speech is important. Freedom of expression is the very material of social engagement; when we restrain it, we restrain the capacity for social engagement. That is also why his view of Muslims as fundamentally different is disappointing – it is an approach that can only curtail such engagement.

The most significant aspect of Sadiq Khan’s victory was not that he has become London’s first Muslim mayor. It is that, for many Londoners, his faith was irrelevant to the way they cast their vote. When we engage with others’ values, but remain indifferent to their identities – that is when we will have made progress.

36 comments

  1. Ra

    “It is only with the generation that has come of age since the late 1980s that the question of cultural differences has become important. Only then did Muslims imagine a ‘Muslim community’.”
    For the last time, Kenan, there are rules and there are exceptions. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ummah

    “Conservative social views in Muslim communities are not simply a throwback to ‘ancestral’ ways, but have been forged out of contemporary social and political developments.”

    “The fact that Khan’s liberalism is a minority view in Muslim communities does not make his Islam any less, or more, authentic than that of Muslims who think homosexuality should be illegal. Yet many non-Muslim liberals take conservatism as a hallmark of Muslim authenticity.”

    “The Danish MP Naser Khader tells of a conversation with a leftwing journalist who claimed that the Muhammad cartoons insulted all Muslims. ‘I am not insulted’, Khader responded. ‘But you’re not a real Muslim’, came the reply. To be a real Muslim is, from such a perspective, to be reactionary, to be insulted by the cartoons.”
    Based on my own personal experience, by “real Muslim” that person simply meant to say “average Muslim” or “mainstream Muslim,” which statistically Muslims like Naser Khader and me are objectively not. Whether or not a person is a real Muslim only God can decide. “The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which you dispute,” says the Qur’an 5:48. But whether or not a person is an average or a mainstream Muslim is a matter of mathematics, not malice.

  2. Here in Glasgow, divisions within the Sunni Muslim community are all too evident. The conservative faction has managed, in the face of modernising opposition, to import spiritual leaders from Pakistan. It also cooperates with Christian evangelicals in promoting creationism.

    There are bridge builders. Scotland’s most prominent Muslim politician, Humza Yousaf, voted in favour of same-sex marriage. This month, re-elected as Member of the Scottish Parliament, he took his oath wearing a kilt and repeated it in Urdu

  3. You are right about “proper Muslim” being held by some liberals as well as far-right. It is also held by the conservative Muslims themselves..
    It is these conservatives who are used by the media. A few have been dropped when it became obvious what their outlooks were, but many remain, and are generally seen as “the norm”. That is only one reason certain liberals and far-right see conservatism as “proper,” but it is a factor, if not a considerable one. Should “Muslims” get very, very upset about cartoons of Muhammed? Yes, according to most, if not all of those who get on TV. Should we therefore stop drawing pictures, writing books etc if they somehow “offend”? Yes, according to them again.

    Who is going to rid them of their power and influence, and how?

  4. damon

    You can’t just refer to first, second and third generation Muslims, because all during this time there has been ongoing large scale immigration from Muslim countries too. The numbers of new Muslim immigrants who have come to the UK in the last fifteen years must outnumber those of the original first generation of Muslims. And the new arrivals have come to a radically different country.
    We’ve seen in Kenan’s last post what ”the view from north Africa” is and immigrants to the UK from places like that will have brought those views with them.
    In the past, many immigrants would leave their country to get away from their country and its people, to start a completely new kind of life. I was working with a Romanian guy just last week who had come here to live with the English and was disappointed to see how diverse London is.

    This story about ”The last Cockneys of the East End” is the kind of thing the tabloids love and liberal minded people hate. But you can’t deny it’s true.
    http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/670308/Newham-white-cockney-Londoners-immigrants-Last-Whites-of-the-East-End-BBC-documentary

    • Delineating generational change may be messy (and that applies not just to immigrant communities), but the fact that migration continues across the generations does not change the broad picture. Those of Muslim background that came to Britain in the 50s and 60s, had broadly a different social outlook, and a different relationship to Islam, than those who grew up here in the 70s and 80s, and different still to those grew up (and those who arrived) from the late 80s on.

      You say that ‘ immigrants to the UK from places like that [North Africa] will have brought those views with them’. Well, actually, the attitudes and relationship to Islam of people in ‘places like that’ have also changed quite dramatically. There is a famous set of photos of women graduates from Cairo University between 1959 and 2004 that has been doing the rounds on Twitter over the past year. In 1959 not a single woman wore a hijab, nor as late as 1978. By 1995 a third did, by 2004 the figure was 90%. That single, simple set of photos in itself reveals the change that has taken place.

      As for the ‘lost world of the Cockneys’ and being overrun by migrants, I wonder if you know when this quote is from and about whom?

      There is no end to them in Whitechapel and Mile End. These areas of London might be called Jerusalem

      That was a witness to the 1903 Royal Commission on Alien Immigration, and he was talking not about Muslims but about Jews. (The Commission was set up because of fears that Britain was being over-run by Jews; two years later Britain introduced its first immigration law, designed specifically to prevent the entry Jews fleeing from pogroms in East Europe.) Plus ça change…

      If not one immigrant had arrived in Britain, the East End would be very different from what it was 50 years ago. Immigration has changed British cities but so have a myriad other developments from feminism to consumerism, from the growth of youth culture to the acceptance of free market economic policies, from the destruction of trade unions to the decline of traditional institutions such as the Church, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. But it is immigrants who primarily have become symbolic of change, and of change for the worse.

      • damon

        I don’t particularly disagree with anything you say there. Much of it is evidently true. However I think that much can be swept under the carpet when one makes ”the East End has always been a port of immigration” line. You can hear it quite a lot. And it’s true, it has been. And it was also for a while home to a particular kind of white working class culture. Everything moves on and many changes have reduced the Cockney culture.
        I’m motorcycling about northern England at the moment and I just came down off the moors into Blackburn and quickly I was in a Muslim area. Turning down a side street for a closer look, at least a quarter of the little terraced houses had their front doors open – like you used to hear happened in Belfast. It must be such a tight little community that people leave their front doors open for their neighbours and family. I haven’t stopped to do any in-depth looking into what it’s like here, but diversity is not what is leading people to leave their doors open I think. Rather the opposite and I think that there’s maybe a Pakistani village culture prevailing in those couple of streets and it works there because of fewer people from other communities.
        When I see such things, I think of you Kenan and think it would be good if you looked into such things yourself. I also had a look through Saville Town in Dewsbury last week and the Islamic dress and the niqabs that you see all of a sudden, is quite jarring. It’s not a healthy situation.
        Passing a couple of schools here in Blackburn, at a quick look, there are no white children in the playground. And only an hour before there had only been white children at a school further out in the countryside. My feeling about this is that a lot goes on that people are not particularly happy about, but don’t make a fuss anymore and just vote with their feet, and perhaps in the ballot box and by reading the Daily Mail or the Express.
        In Britain today, everyone spins and puts the best gloss on what their point of view is.

  5. A brief question, you write: “The fact that Khan’s liberalism is a minority view in Muslim communities does not make his Islam any less, or more, authentic than that of Muslims who think homosexuality should be illegal. Yet many non-Muslim liberals take conservatism as a hallmark of Muslim authenticity.” While I agree with you that there are many ways to be a Muslim, at the same time I think it is necessary that criteria for authenticity exist if we are to use the word. There are many ways of going about this, and the most intuitive is perhaps the overlap view. On this view Muslims who take on more features of a literalistic interpretation of Islam are the most likely to be seen as authentic, or “more authentic” than those who take on fewer. But I suspect you are taking on the personal identity view, those who claim to be Muslim are therefore Muslim. I see problems (and benefits) with that type of definition. Now adopting this view would be useful politically as it allows very liberal believers to identify as Muslim and advance a less fundamentalist agenda. But at the same time it is possible under a personal identity view to not believe even a single facet of Islamic doctrine and actively deny the existence of both Mohammed and Allah and still claim to be a Muslim. For most people this is at best counterintuitive and at worst absurd. And I tend to agree, there are at least minimal objective criteria for categorizing someone as Muslim i.e. the acceptance of Mohammed as the one true prophet of Allah. Am I correct in saying you endorse the personal identity view, and if so how do we avoid relativistic meaninglessness on such an account?

    • As an atheist, I certainly wouldn’t want to enter into a theological debate about who is an ‘authentic’ Muslim, or what constitutes a ‘true’ reading of the Quran (or, indeed, who is a ‘real’ Christian or Jew, or what constitutes a ‘true’ reading of the Bible or the Torah). Are Ahmadis ‘real’ Muslims? I certainly wouldn’t want to debate it theologically; all I would want to say is that they certainly think of themselves as Muslims, many other Muslims dispute that.

      The idea that a more literal reading of the Quran is more authentic seems to problematic for a number of reasons. First, because all readings of a text, including ‘literal’ ones, are interpretations, and especially of a text as allusive and contradictory as the Quran. Second, because a religion is defined not simply by its Holy book, but also by its institutions, traditions, practices, etc. And third, because literalism is actually a modern phenomenon.

      Yes, what constitutes the boundaries of a religion, especially when liberals try to modernize the faith, is an issue. But it’s an issue not for me but for believers. I’ve explored this point in relation to Pope Francis’ modernizing moves in the Catholic Church. Literalism is often a response to such modernization. But that does not make it more ‘authentic’.

      • Thanks for the reply. The question of “who is a Muslim” seems parallel to the dichotomy used in sex and gender identification. Usually sex is considered to be “whats between your legs” (objective) while gender is “whats between your ears” (subjective). Im not sure why we can’t use the analog of both of these for Muslim identity. If we accept some sort of criteria for what a Muslim believes or does, then there are standards that could constitute being an authentic Muslim. This type of this informal operationalization does seem to occur by most people even if whats used are naïve stereotypes. You brought up good points showing that objective criteria might be difficult to establish, but some minimal standards would likely be widely accepted. I think that your disbelief in authenticity occurs because you prefer to use the criteria of identification as Muslim as the sole qualification for who is a Muslim, and exclude other objective criteria. In this anything goes as long as the person identifies as Muslim, and so of course there is no such thing as Muslim authenticity besides identification as Muslim. This is true by definition.
        As far as I can tell personal group membership is not necessary for knowing what constitutes another persons group membership. Im not sure why us both being atheists makes us unable to say that someone who goes to catholic church, believes Jesus died for our sins, and claims Muhammad never existed, and identifies as a Muslim, is not in fact a Muslim. If a person favored democracy, yet identified as a monarchist I don’t think either of us would accept their identification as true. And I suspect this is what is going on when many people reject very liberal Muslims as Muslim.

      • As you are well versed and an expert that in the concept of identity I am curious as to what guides your preference to use self identification as the sole criteria for establishing that one is a Muslim. Is it because it is politically useful? Or do you believe that the idea of objectively finding traits that correspond to “being a Muslim” would be an impossible task? Or both? Is it you having a more subjectivist bent than some? Perhaps we have different goals and thats why we find differing criteria useful. As Jerry Fodor puts it, “what you need in order to do science is a taxonomic apparatus that distinguishes between things insofar as they have different causal properties, and that groups things together insofar as they have the same causal properties”.
        Does self identification as Muslim denote objects that have distinctive causal properties? Perhaps so, but wouldn’t this be only marginally informative in comparison to more objective criteria?

        • Jason, you talk of ‘objective’ criteria that define a Muslim. What are those objective criteria? What objective criteria, for instance, does one use to establish whether Ahmadis are or are not Muslims? Or to establish whether Sunnis or Shias are better following God’s will?

          Religions are fictions around which people organize. In every religion, people interpret the particular fiction that animates that religion in very different ways, and organize according to how they interpret it. Hence the myriad different sects and schools within every religion. To look for objective criteria seems to me to ask ‘Which of the different readings of a fiction is a truer reading?’ – a not very useful question.

          You might argue that it is impossible to be a Muslim if one does not believe in Muhammed as the messenger of God, or that there is but one God. There is, however, virtually no ‘who is a real Muslim?’ debate that involves non-belief in such basic tenets. Ahmadis, for instance, certainly hold both those beliefs. Yet, the debate over whether Ahmadis (and, globally, it is estimated that there are some 10 to 20 million Ahmadis, though adherents themselves claim a much higher figure) are ‘true’ Muslims is fierce, as is the persecuation of Ahmadis in many Muslims coiuntries and cimmunities.

          Ahmadis believe that the founder of the movement, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was the incarnation of the Messiah, or Mahdi (the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will rid the world of evil), whereas most Muslims believe that the Mahdi is yet to come, and that when he does, it will coincide with the Second Coming of Christ. Ahmadis, on the other hand, reject, through their reading of the Qur’an and hadith, the idea of Christ’s Second Coming in physical form.

          By what objective criteria can we say that Ahmadis are or are not ‘true’ Muslims? What objective criteria can one use to distinguish between the claim that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the Messiah and that there will be no Second Coming of Christ and the claim that Ahmad was a fraud and that Christ will eventually return to Earth? In my view, all we can say is that Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims but that most (or at least a substantial proportion of) non-Ahmadi Muslims don’t. To go beyond that, to define ‘objectively’ who is and isn’t a ‘real’ Muslim, or who is more ‘authentic’, is to enter the domain of theology. And there is nothing very objective about that.

  6. Judy Brown

    Sure, every individual is going to have their own interpretation of the religion that they subscribe to, just as every individual sees reality in their own way…Rashoman…or the blind men and the elephant, more or less. But my question is, are their any organized liberal Islamic institutions? There are liberal Christian institutions that I am familiar with, which ordain women and gays, for example, which take a historical, rather than magical, approach to the old and new testaments, which don’t regard themselves as the One True Religion on the face of the earth, etc. Is liberalism in Islam currently reliant on liberal impulses in individuals only? One would assume this would be an unfair match-up and individual forces rather easily outweighed by conservative regressive Islamic institutional power? It’s an honest question, I have little knowledge of Islam or contact with it and I am
    genuinely curious.

  7. atheist44

    As you can imagine I disagree with you on some points:

    1) You are leaving out half of the history. When the Muslims started to come to the West in large quantities in the 60s the West was quite different from the way it is now. Homosexuality was often still a criminal offense, marriage laws were very discriminator against women. At that time you could say the values of the Muslims were somehow compatible with Western values. But the West then had the 68s movement, the hippies, and the sexual revolution. Which the Islamic world had not. In contrast while the values of the majority of Muslims in the West did not change congruently what is even worse is that the Muslim world radicalized at the same time radicalizing the Muslims living in the West, as well.

    2) “A chasm there may be, but it is not an unbridgeable one.“ I think it is unbridgeable (see point 4)

    3) „Yet many non-Muslim liberals take conservatism as a hallmark of Muslim authenticity.“
    The problem is not only non-Muslim liberals but Muslims themselves. Muslims themselves consider the “orthodox Muslim” the “better Muslim” (see “Why the West Fears Islam” p. 72).

    4 ) “What is missing is real social engagement, [..] if necessary challenge, the values and beliefs of many Muslims, but as part of our normal national conversation.”
    The first problem is that these conversations have already taken place and are mostly done. The conversation about homosexuality for example in the West is mostly over. Avenues for conversations would only open up by introducing new controversial policies like the transgender bathroom bills in the US, which is part of the cultural war against LGBT people of the religious right but also means that the religious right in the US is willing to engage on the issue. So in order to engage the Muslim community you would need to make a law that forces the Muslims to engage like demanding that 5 % of all imams have to be openly gay otherwise the mosques would be fined. But such a law proposal would not work for a number of reasons. One of which is that the Muslims are actually not willing to engage with society on these issues which is the second problem. That problem also blocks the second avenue which is discussing these issues (like homosexuality) in school. (This does also not work for a number of reasons.) To force it on the students would just lead to more Muslim students diffuse into faith schools where the values of the students are not challenged.

    5) “It is that, for many Londoners, his faith was irrelevant to the way they cast their vote.”
    Actually the majority of Muslims voted for him only because of his faith and despite his (liberal) political positions.

    • “Actually the majority of Muslims voted for him only because of his faith and despite his (liberal) political positions.”

      I’d ask how can you possibly prove that point? You don’t obviously have access to “the majority of Muslims”.
      While Galloway did very bad, I saw MPACUK (Muslim Public Affairs Committee), pushing him over Khan.

      You might be correct, but I can’t see how you can state it as a fact.

    • 1) Actually, I wrote that in the 1970s and 1980s ‘British society was conservative on issues such as homosexuality’, and that as British society became more liberal, ‘large sections of Muslim communities changed in a more conservative fashion’. (Incidentally, while homosexuality was decriminalized in 1967, attitudes only truly began to change much later – remember the Tories’ Section 28 in the 1980s?)

      You, on the other hand, do ‘leave out half the story’. The ‘Islamic world’ has not simply stayed the same, nor has it simply travelled on a single path. Far from the events of 1968 simply passing Muslim countries by, in Egypt, for instance, the events of 1968 began before they did in Paris. In February 1968 – three months before the événements in Paris – students and workers took to the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities in violent protest. There were strong workers’, students’ and radical movements. Because Nasser, and subsequently Sadat, feared the left more than they did the Islamists, they released members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamist organizations, from jail and encouraged them to crush the radicals. As Gilles Kepel puts it in his book, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, ‘Sadat’s gamble was to encourage the emergence of an Islamist movement which he perceived as socially conservative.’ In exchange for allowing the ‘Islamist intelligentsia considerable cultural and ideological autonomy’, Sadat expected them ‘to hold the line against more radical groups whose goal was to subvert society’ (p 96).

      A similar change can be seen in many other Muslim-majority countries. ‘By making concession after concession in the moral and cultural domains’, Kepel writes, governments in Muslim countries ‘gradually created a reactionary climate of “re-Islamization”. They sacrificed lay intellectuals, writers, and other “Westernized elites” to the tender mercies of bigoted clerics, in the hope that the latter, in return, would endorse their own stranglehold on the organs of state.’ (p 97) A related process happened in non-Muslim majority countries, too.

      Nor is true that ‘the values of the majority of Muslims in the West did not change’. Since I have already made the point in the article, I won’t repeat it again.

      2) Yes, I know you believe that, but it’s an assertion without substance. (As for your #4, see below.)

      3) No, ‘some Muslims’ consider the 'orthodox Muslim', in certain cases, to be the 'better Muslim'. Do you really imagine that many Sufis, for instance, think that Wahhabis, say, are 'better Muslims'? It's typical of your kind of argument that what some Muslims believe, you assume that all believe, especially if the belief happens to be reactionary. You make my point for me that many non-Muslims blindly ‘take conservatism as a hallmark of Muslim authenticity’.

      4) I'm afraid I don't follow your argument here. I think what you're trying to say is that there is no reasoning with Muslims, and neither debate nor change is possible. A generation ago you may well have made the same point about Christians. And, as I have already pointed out, you have a perverse view of unchanging Muslim communities, a view that flies in the face of facts. The problem is not, as I point out in my article, that Muslim communities have not changed but that large sections have changed but in a more conservative/reactionary direction. And, again as I observe in the article, If we cannot ask the right questions, it is little wonder that we fail to find the right answers.

      5) bootjangler1 above is right: this is simply an assertion that fits your beliefs, so you take it to be true without any evidence. A way of arguing that is not so different from that of religious fundamentalists.

      • atheist44

        Hi Kenan, thanks for your reply just two comments:

        1) I don’t think you disagree with me here on my original point. I could now open up a real disagreement concerning your position that that is a matter of appealing to or using religion. The fact that Donald Trump won the nomination over Ted Cruz (the poster child candidate of the religious right) demonstrates that there is an important difference between Islam and Christianity, but this is probably not the right place to argue about it.

        4) I will try to give you another example. When Conchita Wurst participated in the ESC the reaction of the Muslims was not to engage with the issue but rather to boycott the ESC. This is why I’m saying you would actually have to force the Muslims to engage which is not really possible.

  8. El_Mocho

    The main problem in my opinion is that Muslims in the west are not discussing the problems among themselves. I can´t see a real disussion going on between fundamentaist and liberal Muslims anywhere in Europe about the correct understanding of Islam. Speaking of my country Germany mainstream Muslim organsiations are saying that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, islam forbids it. On the other hand radical Muslims call these same organisations unbelievers.

    There are detailed texts by islamic theologians justifying terror citing the Quran and the traditions, and there are other texts claiming that islam is a religion of peace, but these two currents never talk to each other. So it is no wonder to me that westerners more and more suspect Muslims to silently cooperate against western societies.

  9. “We should ignore the claims that speech should be restricted because it causes offence, Phillips argues; only speech that incites violence should be prohibited.”

    Speech does not cause offence. People choose to take offence.
    Whether for themselves, or vicariously on behalf of others.
    But it is an active choice to be offended.

  10. atheist44

    I thought about it and found the counter example to your hypothesis that the Muslims living in the West went through a phase where they were liberal and secular.
    Take forced marriages, FGM, and honour killings. If your account of history was true the Muslims living in the West would have gone through a phase where they said: look these practices are wrong we should abolish them, just to turn around twenty years later to say: no, no, no these practices are actually Islamic.
    Now this phase never happened. The reality is the Muslims have always done it and through the process of radicalization more and more religious authorities actually condone these practices.

    • Sigh. Atheist 44, If you must continue to make sweeping generalizations, then try to do at least a modicum of research on the subject. Or else you might simply embarrass yourself.

      Take FGM. It is primarily not a Muslim, but an African, practice. FGM occurs in a swathe of countries across the central belt of Africa from Gambia in the West to Somalia in the East, from Egypt in the north to Tanzania in the south, and in certain parts of the Middle East (primarily Yemen and, to a lesser extent, Iraq). It is not (with one or two exceptions, particularly in south east Asia) a major issue in Muslim communities outside these countries, communities in which the vast majority of Muslims live. (even within Africa, it is not practiced within Muslim-majority countries such as Algeria, Morocco or Libya, except among sub-Saharan migrants.) And if you don’t believe me, check out the 2013 Unicef report which provides the best and most up-to-date statistical overview of FGM.

      Until recently, Muslims in the West came largely from places such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Turkey, Algeria and Morocco – countries in which FGM is not, in the main, practiced. So, Muslim migrants to the West did not say ‘look these practices are wrong we should abolish them’, any more than indigenous British did at the time and for the same reason – it simply was not an issue. Even today, it is practiced primarily only in African and certain Middle Eastern countries (where it is a major issue) and among certain groups of migrants to the West from those countries (who form a very small proportion of Muslim migrants in the West).

      Anyone who had a genuine interest in FGM and in combating this pernicious practice would have known all this, or at least would have researched this. Not you, of course.

      The question of honour killings is more complex, because it is practiced by some communities in the Indian subcontinent (and not just Muslim ones). But if you want to see how and why attitudes were different in, say, the generation that grew up in the 70s and 80s, why don’t you talk to the activists who have actually spent a lifetime defending women’s rights in Asian communities and combating issues such as honour killings or domestic violence? Why don’t you talk to groups such as the Southall Black Sisters, for more than thirty years the pre-eminent campaigning group for women’s rights within Asian communities? (Despite its name, SBS comprises not African or African Caribbean, but primarily Asian, activists; when it was set up in 1979, ‘black’ was a political, not an ethnic, label, and one which many Asians used in self-reference. The name itself shows how different minority communities were 40 years ago). Or why don’t you do some reading on the character of Asian communities in the 70s and 80s? I have already provided some links. Or you could read Anandi Ramamurthy’s history of the Asian Youth Movements.

      But please, the next time you want to make grand claims about Muslims, try to do some research first. Otherwise you’re in danger of embarrassing yourself with your lack of knowledge.

        • Evaded your point? I have answered every one of them. You keep claiming that I am wrong to suggest that Muslim communities in Britain (though my point is that they never thought of themselves as Muslim communities until the late 80s), were not more liberal or secular a generation ago, but you have provided no evidence to back up your claim; you simply keep asserting it. It’s true that there is FGM practice in Indonesia and Malaysia (and in parts of the Philippines, too, and in pockets of other countries); but it is the case that practice traditionally is primarily African (and, as I said, look at the worldwide data, including the Unicef report I linked to above); it is also the case that few Muslims in the West come from Indonesia or Malaysia, and your point was about Muslim communities in the West.

        • atheist44

          I’m sorry maybe I have not been clear enough. You are saying that the Muslims were only slightly socially conservative and then went through a phase in which they were liberal and then became even more socially conservative. I am only denying that the Muslims went through that phase. I am agreeing with you that the Muslims were socially conservative and have now become even more socially conservative i.e. radical.
          I am also disagreeing with you about the reason for this development. While you accuse the policies of the West for the development in the Muslim communities in the West I am simply saying that the entire Islamic world has become more radical and that the Muslims in the West have become more radical is simply an inevitable consequence of that.
          I could give numerous examples just by comparing different countries. Take the stance on homosexuality and compare the UK to Germany. 52 % of Muslims in the UK want to outlaw homosexual acts. I don’t know the number for Germany but it is significantly lower. But this is not because Germany did such a better job at integrating Muslims, it’s simply because our Muslims mostly came from Turkey and were thus more liberal to begin with. Your Muslims came from Pakistan and were thus more radical. The best predictor of the attitudes of a Muslim living in the West is not the country which she lives in but her or her forefather’s country of origin. This relationship is even more clear when you compare Sunni to Shia living in the West.

        • Noor

          Isn’t male genital mutilation, euphemistically known as circumcision, a common Jewish practice? Yet no one calls Judaism a barbaric religion.

        • Judy Brown

          Re: Circumcision and FGM, this is an unequal comparison. In the US, the consensus/official position of the medical community on circumcision is that, from a health perspective, the pluses outweigh the minuses: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/3/e756
          Loads of non-Jewish males in the US are circumcised, somewhat because of cultural norms, but also because of reason and science validating the practice. I know, in fact, a family that had originally chosen not to circumcise their son. When he was a teenager, he had to have the procedure after all, due to some problem that had developed–repeated infections, I believe (an awful procedure
          to go through at that age but it cleared up his chronic condition). Circumcision has no effect on sexual sensitivity or satisfaction. FGM in contrast looks to have no health benefits or support from the medical community. As far as I can tell FGM is performed with the express purpose of eliminating female sexual pleasure. FGM appears to me to be essentially a strategy of control, and a particularly cruel and regressive one at that.

        • Noor

          “In the US, the consensus/official position of the medical community on circumcision is that, from a health perspective, the pluses outweigh the minuses:”

          Only in the US. It’s far from universal medical support:
          https://web.archive.org/web/20110718144548/http://www.nocircmn.org/index_files/Page351.htm

          The Council of Europe recognizes male circumcision as a violation of children’s right to physical integrity:
          http://semantic-pace.net/tools/pdf.aspx?doc=aHR0cDovL2Fzc2VtYmx5LmNvZS5pbnQvbncveG1sL1hSZWYvWDJILURXLWV4dHIuYXNwP2ZpbGVpZD0yMDE3NCZsYW5nPUVO&xsl=aHR0cDovL3NlbWFudGljcGFjZS5uZXQvWHNsdC9QZGYvWFJlZi1XRC1BVC1YTUwyUERGLnhzbA==&xsltparams=ZmlsZWlkPTIwMTc0

          The Royal Dutch Medical Association: “The official viewpoint of KNMG and other related medical/scientific organisations is that non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision can cause complications – bleeding, infection, urethral stricture and panic attacks are particularly common.”
          http://www.knmg.nl/Publicaties/KNMGpublicatie/77942/Nontherapeutic-circumcision-of-male-minors-2010.htm

          Baby boys die from circumcision every year.
          http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/newborn-bleeds-to-death-after-doctor-persuades-parents-to-have-him-circumcised-in-canada-a6710061.html
          http://www.timesofisrael.com/boy-who-lost-consciousness-after-circumcision-dies/
          http://www.circinfo.org/USA_deaths.html

          “Loads of non-Jewish males in the US are circumcised, somewhat because of cultural norms, but also because of reason and science validating the practice. I know, in fact, a family that had originally chosen not to circumcise their son. When he was a teenager, he had to have the procedure after all, due to some problem that had developed–repeated infections, I believe (an awful procedure to go through at that age but it cleared up his chronic condition).”

          The vast majority of men will never need it. This is like saying we should cut off young girls’ breasts because some of them will develop breast cancer later in life and need a mastectomy anyways, so we might as well spare them the pain of having it done later in life.

          “Circumcision has no effect on sexual sensitivity or satisfaction”

          Absolute bullshit. The foreskin has about 30,000 nerve endings, and there are nerves there that aren’t present in any other part of the penis.
          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23374102?dopt=Abstract
          http://www.livescience.com/1624-study-circumcision-removes-sensitive-parts.html
          http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/40/5/1367.long
          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8800902

          “As far as I can tell FGM is performed with the express purpose of eliminating female sexual pleasure.”

          You’re aware that circumcision caught on in the US as a way to stop boys from masturbating, right?

          “A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment, as it may well be in some cases. The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice, and if it had not previously become too firmly fixed, it may be forgotten and not resumed.”
          – John Harvey Kellogg.

          “I suggest that all male children should be circumcised. This is “against nature”, but that is exactly the reason why it should be done. Nature intends that the adolescent male shall copulate as often and as promiscuously as possible, and to that end covers the sensitive glans so that it shall be ever ready to receive stimuli. Civilization, on the contrary, requires chastity, and the glans of the circumcised rapidly assumes a leathery texture less sensitive than skin. Thus the adolescent has his attention drawn to his penis much less often. I am convinced that masturbation is much less common in the circumcised. With these considerations in view it does not seem apt to argue that ‘God knows best how to make little boys.'”
          – R.W. Cockshut. Circumcision. British Medical Journal, Vol.2 (1935): p.764

          “FGM appears to me to be essentially a strategy of control, and a particularly cruel and regressive one at that.”

          Circumcision is performed by putting a clamp on the baby boy’s foreskin and ripping it out without any anaesthesia. Watch a video of it one of these days.

          There’s also a profit motive: foreskins are used in women’s cosmetic products.
          http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-cut-above-the-rest-wrin/

          And for more, here is a good roundup of all the arguments, with responses and links:
          http://honeybadgerbrigade.com/2015/01/27/no-justification-for-routine-neonatal-circumcision-part-1-fallacious-medical-support/
          http://honeybadgerbrigade.com/2015/02/02/no-justification-for-routine-neonatal-circumcision-part-2-unmerited-social-support/

        • I don’t want to prolong the discussion about male circumcision (I’ve never understood why it’s an issue that leads to such heated debate). All I would want to say is that while one can have a legitimate debate about male circumcision, I agree with those who insist that comparison with FGM, which really is a barbaric practice, is invalid.

          I do, however, want to respond to the original comment by atheist44:

          You are saying that the Muslims were only slightly socially conservative and then went through a phase in which they were liberal and then became even more socially conservative. I am only denying that the Muslims went through that phase.

          I know you are saying that, but you have done little more than continually assert it, providing little evidence for the assertion. I have shown how the second generation of Asians (and as I keep saying there were no such things as Muslim communities before the late 1980s) were broadly different in their attitudes to both the first generation, and to Muslim communities as they developed from the late 1980s on. Perhaps you can provide the facts that back up your assertion, and undermine my argument? Perhaps you can show me, for example, that the Asian Youth Movements did not exist, or were really socially conservative, or had no influence? Or that Liberation, the magazine of Manchester AYM, did not insist that ‘AYM believes that the emancipation of women is a prerquisite for the liberation of society at large’? Or that the main campaigns in which Britain Asians were involved in the 1970s were not secular but religious? Or that the main campaigning organization in East London in the 1970s was not the Bengali Housing Action Group, a militant squatting organization, whose very name reflects the fact that those of Muslim background did not in those days define themselves in terms of a Muslim identity, and whose role shows the main struggles were not religious? Or that I am wrong to observe that in 1980 there was just one mosque in Bradford compared to 15 in 1990 (and over a hundred today)?

          I am also disagreeing with you about the reason for this development. While you accuse the policies of the West for the development in the Muslim communities.

          What I actually wrote was that ‘the reasons for this shift are complex’. In my original piece about the Trevor Phillips’ Channel 4 documentary What Do British Muslims Really Think?, I observed that British Muslims were less liberal than in other European countries and in America, and observed too that:

          ‘The differences between attitudes of British, French and US Muslims may be the consequence of a number of factors. One may be the difference in countries of origin and social status of migrants. British Muslims came largely from south Asia. French Muslims came primarily from North Africa and, unlike British Muslims, were largely secular… American Muslims tend to be more middle class than those in Britain and France. A second difference is in social policy, in particular the development of multicultural policies in Britain that have helped create a more fragmented society. The differences in Muslim attitudes in the different countries are likely to have been created by a combination of these two, and possibly other, factors.’

          Perhaps the real problem is not that you ‘have not been clear enough’ but that that you have not read what I write with sufficient care and keep misquoting my arguments.

          I could give numerous examples just by comparing different countries. Take the stance on homosexuality and compare the UK to Germany. 52 % of Muslims in the UK want to outlaw homosexual acts. I don’t know the number for Germany but it is significantly lower. But this is not because Germany did such a better job at integrating Muslims, it’s simply because our Muslims mostly came from Turkey and were thus more liberal to begin with. Your Muslims came from Pakistan and were thus more radical.

          As I observed above, I have made the point many times before both about British Muslims being more socially conservative than Muslims in Europe or America, and about the differences in the origins of Muslims in the different countries. (Incidentally, I provide the polling figures to back up my claims. You, on the other hand, ‘don’t know the number for Germany’ but are happy simply to assert that ‘it is significantly lower’. It seems to sum up your whole approach to this discussion: ‘Never mind the facts, my assertions will suffice’.)

          The fact that British Muslims are more conservative now that are other European or American Muslims has, however, no bearing, as you imagine it does, on the question of whether or not they were more liberal a generation ago. In any case in your previous comments you talk not specifically of British Muslims, but of ‘the Muslims [who] started to come to the West’ and ‘the Muslims living in the West’, etc. Up till this point, in other words, you have been arguing not that German ‘Muslims mostly came from Turkey and were thus more liberal’ but that no Muslims were liberal. You also seem to be confused about the difference between being conservative (or even reactionary) on social issues and being ‘radical’ (in the way that the term is used today in the context of Islamism). And as for German policy, it is not simply that Germany did not do ‘a better job at integrating Muslims’. Rather, until relatively recently, German policy was to deny most of those Turkish origin, even many of those born in Germany, the right to citizenship. Such policy certainly played an important role in creating ‘parallel communities’.

        • Noor

          Kenan: I’m aware the issue went rather off-topic there, but I’ll say that it’s debated for all the same reasons as FGM (shaky medical ‘benefits’, loss of sensitivity, risk of bleeding to death, bodily autonomy).

          There are varying forms of both mutilations, but even the mildest pin-prick for blood is illegal for girls in most of the West.

          I used to be pro-circumcision myself, I thought of it as a simple health issue dealt with by removing a flap of skin. I’ve done my research, and changed my position, and I urge you to do so as well.

  11. Judy Brown

    I find the statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics to make much more sense than your counter-argument above, which I note relies heavily on strawman fallacies.

    The meatiest part of the AAP’s position, from the link I provided:

    “Evaluation of current evidence indicates that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks; furthermore, the benefits of newborn male circumcision justify access to this procedure for families who choose it. Specific benefits from male circumcision were identified for the prevention of urinary tract infections, acquisition of HIV, transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, and penile cancer. Male circumcision does not appear to adversely affect penile sexual function/sensitivity or sexual satisfaction. It is imperative that those providing circumcision are adequately trained and that both sterile techniques and effective pain management are used. Significant acute complications are rare. In general, untrained providers who perform circumcisions have more complications than well-trained providers who perform the procedure, regardless of whether the former are physicians, nurses, or traditional religious providers.”

    I find this reasonable.

    As far as your assertions go,

    Masturbation: In the year 2016, male circumcision is chosen by large numbers of Americans, because “current evidence indicates that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks”, not to prevent masturbation in boys and young men.

    Mastectomies:The positives do not outweigh the negatives for performing mastectomies on random females, so no one is arguing for that.

    Pain:”Circumcision is performed by putting a clamp on the baby boy’s foreskin and ripping it out without any anaesthesia.” Emotionally manipulative language. No one is advocating for causing as much pain as possible, quite the opposite. Our family friends regretted not having their son circumcised as an infant. It was far more traumatic to go through it as an adolescent. FGM though, is commonly performed not on infants, but on young girls.

    Conflicting opinions in the medical community: The Royal Dutch Medical Association taking a different position does not automatically make the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics wrong or unreasonable.

    Profit motive conspiracy in foreskins: Seriously? We seem to be really getting into tin foil hat area now.

    Sexual dysfunction: If lack of a foreskin had a significant impact on male sexual pleasure, I can assure you that American men, holding the reins of power as they have for quite a while, would have long ago taken measures to remedy the situation. Although I am in a relatively modern, enlightened marriage, I personally deferred to my husband as far as this particular decision for our son (after we discussed the medical pros and cons). I figured, as a man, he would have much better insight into the situation. Upshot: (Sexually happy) circumcised husband chose circumcision for son.

    Female genital mutilation, on the other hand, frequently does have a severe negative impact on female sexual function. There are no health benefits to female genital mutilation.

    Forget about circumcision, it’s a misdirection tactic anyway. What purpose does female genital mutilation serve other than an attempt to prevent a female from experiencing sexual pleasure and orgasm? What is the ultimate purpose of female genital mutilation other than to control and subjugate women to men?

    • Noor

      “I find the statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics to make much more sense than your counter-argument above, which I note relies heavily on strawman fallacies.
      The meatiest part of the AAP’s position, from the link I provided:
      “Evaluation of current evidence indicates that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks; furthermore, the benefits of newborn male circumcision justify access to this procedure for families who choose it. Specific benefits from male circumcision were identified for the prevention of urinary tract infections, acquisition of HIV, transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, and penile cancer. Male circumcision does not appear to adversely affect penile sexual function/sensitivity or sexual satisfaction. It is imperative that those providing circumcision are adequately trained and that both sterile techniques and effective pain management are used. Significant acute complications are rare. In general, untrained providers who perform circumcisions have more complications than well-trained providers who perform the procedure, regardless of whether the former are physicians, nurses, or traditional religious providers.”
      I find this reasonable.”

      There are plenty of medical claims that have been proven wrong or unethical over time.

      For instance, the HIV/AIDS correlation is a myth: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-a-rizvi/male-circumcision-and-the_b_249728.html
      The main study associated with this, had the researchers sabotage their research: “When you are circumcised you will be asked to have no sexual contact in the 6 weeks after surgery. To have sexual contact before your skin of your penis is completely healed, could lead to infection if your partner is infected with a sexually transmitted disease… If you desire to have sexual contact in the 6 weeks after surgery, despite our recommendation, it is absolutely essential that you use a condom.”

      Unless the US has a huge difference in health epidemics than Europe (where most men are intact) the American Academy of Pedriatics is wrong to recommend it. Science is a constantly changing field, and yes, there are biased researchers who use small control groups, who later get called out on it by others.

      “As far as your assertions go,
      Masturbation: In the year 2016, male circumcision is chosen by large numbers of Americans, because “current evidence indicates that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks”, not to prevent masturbation in boys and young men.”

      Again, only in America. Most of the Western world does not perform it, and we don’t have any related epidemics. Thus it is unnecessary.
      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Global_Map_of_Male_Circumcision_Prevalence_at_Country_Level.png (And Australia, apparently.)

      “Pain:”Circumcision is performed by putting a clamp on the baby boy’s foreskin and ripping it out without any anaesthesia.” Emotionally manipulative language. No one is advocating for causing as much pain as possible, quite the opposite. Our family friends regretted not having their son circumcised as an infant. It was far more traumatic to go through it as an adolescent. FGM though, is commonly performed not on infants, but on young girls.”

      Baby boys do go through just as much pain as an adult. It doesn’t matter whether the person will remember it or not.

      The primary difference between having it done as a child and an adult is bodily autonomy. No one gives a shit about a man getting a Prince Albert piercing or a woman getting her genitals pierced, even if a lot of us might find the idea repulsive, because they’re consenting adults.

      “Conflicting opinions in the medical community: The Royal Dutch Medical Association taking a different position does not automatically make the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics wrong or unreasonable.”

      My point was that it is not universally recommended, which makes any claims of the benefits a lot more contentious. Like I said, European men are fine being intact, thus making the claim of any medical benefits very dubious.

      “Profit motive conspiracy in foreskins: Seriously? We seem to be really getting into tin foil hat area now.”

      It’s a fact. If it is medically unnecessary (as the rest of the West shows), there is no other reason for Americans to support it, other than bullshit appeals to culture and religion, dubious medical benefits that can also be dealt with simple hygiene and safe sex practices.

      “Sexual dysfunction: If lack of a foreskin had a significant impact on male sexual pleasure, I can assure you that American men, holding the reins of power as they have for quite a while, would have long ago taken measures to remedy the situation. Although I am in a relatively modern, enlightened marriage, I personally deferred to my husband as far as this particular decision for our son (after we discussed the medical pros and cons). I figured, as a man, he would have much better insight into the situation. Upshot: (Sexually happy) circumcised husband chose circumcision for son.”

      And this is where you operate on false assumptions. Men might be in most of the official seats of power; but it is primarily women they choose to benefit with that power.
      Ever since the dawn of time men have chosen to send only other men to war, to harm other men for the threat of harming a woman.
      Men don’t have an in-group bias, that is, men DON’T prefer other men. Women however do prefer other women.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22Women_are_wonderful%22_effect
      https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Laurie_Rudman/publication/8226295_Gender_Differences_in_Automatic_In-Group_Bias_Why_Do_Women_Like_Women_More_Than_Men_Like_Men/links/0a85e5324b69af209e000000.pdf

      Men do not benefit other men when they’re in power. Male judges will sentence a man longer than a woman for the same crime. For all of history men have sent off other men to die in war, not women. Men are more likely to attack and murder other men than they are a woman. A white man will lynch a black man for the tiniest threat of harm to a woman. In the most repressive countries, it is still the same – the Western world gets up in arms about 1 case of a woman undergoing any cruel punishment, while 99 men get their hands cut off for petty theft.

      Also, look at how the most conservative American men react to FGM. They’re quite frankly horrified by it. It’s because a female body is seen as protected and cherishable, while a male body is not. It’s only in backwards countries that the attitude towards male bodies is applied to female bodies as well. Especially considering that most places that perform FGM also do male circumcision.

      And, how do you know that your husband isn’t missing anything? The foreskin has tens of thousands of specialized nerve endings, and there are in fact plenty of men who do find lesser sexual satisfaction after the procedure. It’s fine to be okay with your husband now, and for him to accept what happened to him, but it does not mean you need to continue the barbaric practice.

      “Female genital mutilation, on the other hand, frequently does have a severe negative impact on female sexual function. There are no health benefits to female genital mutilation. Forget about circumcision, it’s a misdirection tactic anyway. What purpose does female genital mutilation serve other than an attempt to prevent a female from experiencing sexual pleasure and orgasm? What is the ultimate purpose of female genital mutilation other than to control and subjugate women to men?”

      What if I told you that FGM had also been correlated with a decrease in HIV risk?
      http://web.archive.org/web/20121002114232/http://www.iasociety.org/Default.aspx?pageId=11&abstractId=2177677
      “Conclusions: A lowered risk of HIV infection among circumcised women was not attributable to confounding with another risk factor in these data. Anthropological insights on female circumcision as practiced in Tanzania may shed light on this conundrum.”

      There are also women working with UNICEF that opt to undergo FGM as an adult, claim the practice is medically necessary, the risks are exaggerated: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuambai_Ahmadu
      “For these reasons many circumcised women view the decision to circumcise their daughters as something as obvious as the decision to circumcise sons: why, one woman asked, would any reasonable mother want to burden her daughter with excess clitoral and labial tissue that is unhygienic, unsightly and interferes with sexual penetration, especially if the same mother would choose circumcision to ensure healthy and aesthetically appealing genitalia for her son?”
      http://www.antropologi.info/blog/anthropology/2010/female-circumcision

      And also claim that it doesn’t interfere at all with sexual pleasure: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227715481_Disputing_the_myth_of_the_sexual_dysfunction_of_circumcised_women_An_interview_with_Fuambai_S_Ahmadu_by_Richard_A_Shweder

      One of the biggest reasons FGM persists is that women support it for their daughters/etc:
      http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/04/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-anthropologist/389640/

      “In Hirsi Ali’s case, her father had instructed her mother not to circumcise their daughters because, having studied in America, he had decided to reject the whole clan principle. But when her grandmother heard about this she was appalled and it was organised while her mother was away, when Hirsi Ali was about five. “As a child it is something you are proud of,” Hirsi Ali says. “I remember the celebrations. I remember the goodies and the gifts. And I remember being caught by these two women – one of them my grandmother. But they couldn’t find a woman to do it. They found a man, and fortunately for those girls circumcised by men, it’s much milder. So I wasn’t circumcised in the way that I should have been.””
      https://www.theguardian.com/film/2005/may/17/religion.immigration

      But I guess all these circumcised women, who don’t think it affects their sex lives, know better for their daughters, right?

      In light of all that, your assertion that FGM is about controlling women by men, is dubious at best and tinfoil hat conspiracy at worst.

      Oh, and I guess this wouldn’t count as women controlling men’s sexuality, when they endorse men being cut to please them sexually. Just look at how many Americans endorse circumcision because women ‘prefer’ it (newsflash: lots of American women simply never have come across an uncircumcised penis). Or in Kenya:
      “Kenyan radio station West FM reports many tribal woman believe unsnipped men are dirty and don’t perform in bed as well as circumcised men do. Luckily for the wives, the first three weeks of August marks “Circumcision Season” in Kenya and so they volunteered their unsuspecting husbands to take part in the festivities.”
      http://cw39.com/2014/08/07/dozen-kenyans-forced-to-undergo-circumcision-after-wives-complain/

      Both are barbaric and unnecessary. In countries where both occur, it isn’t so much a gender issue as it is a human rights issue. In America, it’s a men’s issue.

      • Judy Brown

        You certainly are persistent, to the point of exhaustion. Brilliant use of elaborate, long winded, tu quoque misdirection though—I certainly did step into the trap! Bravo! & g’day

        • Noor

          Tu quoque would be if my whole argument was “well, you don’t defer to circumcised women, so I’m not going to defer to circumcised men”.

          As I’ve mentioned, I hold that routine infant circumcision of males and females is a violation of bodily autonomy, medically unnecessary, and sexual abuse. This is the basis for me not deferring to circumcised men making the choice for infant boys.

          I’m not defending this solely on that Westerners don’t defer to circumcised women. (There are intact and cut men and women on both sides, of both issues.) Though it would qualify as pointing out an inconsistency in your position, independent of any claims I make, assuming you’re not a raging sexist.

          And while we’re noting logical fallacies, the bulk of your argument was two anecdotes (your husband and the friend) and an appeal to authority (one organization, on an issue that is controversial in medicine).

        • Judy Brown

          I was referring to your original comment. Kenan’s article and the discussion are about Islam, so this comment:

          “Isn’t male genital mutilation, euphemistically known as circumcision, a common Jewish practice? Yet no one calls Judaism a barbaric religion”

          This comment seems to me a tu quoque? My paying attention to the comment was a mistake and hijacked the discussion.

          Please understand that I am not “pro-circumcision”. I am not deeply invested in it, it’s a topic that rarely comes up. I merely think that in the year 2016, from a medical perspective, it remains a reasonable position, where performing FGM currently is not considered a reasonable practice. I was (stupidly in retrospect) trying to answer the question why people would not consider Judiasm barbaric for practicing circumcision…and, since I’m American, I was really only answering the question why most Americans would not consider Judiasm barbaric for practicing circumcision:

          In the year 2016, in the US (a large, modern, democratic nation) having your infant son circumcised is a reasonable position. Circumcision has the backing of a large number of mainstream, credible, medical professionals. For most Americans choosing to circumcise, the decision has zero religious basis. There is no widespread familial pressure to circumcise, although the pressure of cultural physical norms I am sure is truly significant (think locker rooms and bedrooms). The vast majority of American males are circumcised. If a quick internet look up can be trusted, about 90% of white American males are circumcised, African American, Hispanics, etc lower percentages circumcised, but overall easily more than half of all American men. This gives science an enormous sample size to work with and judge the outcomes. With such a large sample size, if circumcision were a really such a black and white issue, with such bleak outcomes we would have picked up on it in the US long before now. Instead, the AAP is saying: the pluses outweigh the minuses.

          FGM does not have the backing of the American medical establishment. Is FGM endorsed by any credible medical authority? The way I understand it, FGM has only the endorsement of religious authorities in some sub-cultures. So that makes it different. And the outcomes of FGM on large populations are difficult to scientifically measure, I think, since they are not as prevelant world-wide as circumcision, and are often performed in secret, usually by non-medical professionals, and kept secret. So currently, really not possible to compare data side by side, FGM versus circumcision? Also due to lack of reliable data not possible to reasonably give any endorsement of FGM? So it seems to me.

          Forgive my appeals to authority, but the medical community that I cite uses the scientific method as the foundation for it’s public health recommendations, so I was ultimately appealing to science, to the best of my ability, in a casual comments section. Again, I am merely trying to establish that circumcision is currently considered a reasonable, non-barbaric choice, by reasonable, scientifically-oriented people. I am well aware that science is often guilty of clinging to it’s own incorrect orthodoxies, and sometimes makes pendulum swings in the face of convincing new evidence and re-thinking. That’s fine, that’s how it works. There are also a multitude of disagreements and gray areas, but it’s the best we’ve got, right? The important thing is to be reasonable and remain open minded.

          Re: my anecdotal evidence, fair enough. I guess I was trying to represent a typical American experience and view of circumcision overall. The majority of American men are circumcised, the current medical community consensus is that it’s overall a public health success…that’s non-anecdotal, it’s a very large number of people, and generational too.

      • Noor

        “I was referring to your original comment. Kenan’s article and the discussion are about Islam, so this comment:
        “Isn’t male genital mutilation, euphemistically known as circumcision, a common Jewish practice? Yet no one calls Judaism a barbaric religion”
        This comment seems to me a tu quoque? My paying attention to the comment was a mistake and hijacked the discussion.”

        I mainly pointed that out because anti-circumcision opponents get called anti-Semitic often, when the same standard of protection of religion norms isn’t applied to Islam. (Though we are seeing more and more aspects of conservative Islam defended by ‘progressives’.)

        “Please understand that I am not “pro-circumcision”. I am not deeply invested in it, it’s a topic that rarely comes up.”

        I’m going to put this gently, but I suspect this is at least partly the case. If you were to accept that circumcision was not an immediate medical necessity, and thus genital mutilation, you would have to face that you consented to let it be done to your son.

        “no widespread familial pressure to circumcise”

        You do realize that one of the top arguments for circumcision is exactly this, along with “it’s the norm”, “his father was circumcised”? I grew up in the US for a decade, and this is extremely common, though I don’t have any data to back it up.

        “The vast majority of American males are circumcised. If a quick internet look up can be trusted, about 90% of white American males are circumcised, African American, Hispanics, etc lower percentages circumcised, but overall easily more than half of all American men. This gives science an enormous sample size to work with and judge the outcomes. With such a large sample size, if circumcision were a really such a black and white issue, with such bleak outcomes we would have picked up on it in the US long before now. Instead, the AAP is saying: the pluses outweigh the minuses.”

        Circumcision in the US has become common amongst non-Jewish people indeed, but this originally was due to evangelical Christians’ efforts to curb masturbating. It just become normalized in the culture then, and the attempts to justify it now rely on all shaky medical claims. Most of which seem to change over time.

        Let’s go over all the claims given by the AAP, and compare them to what has been scientifically found and tested by other medical organizations:

        “prevention of urinary tract infections”
        Here’s an analysis of this claim, with links to several studies: http://www.cirp.org/library/disease/UTI/

        “acquisition of HIV, transmission of some sexually transmitted infections”
        See my link above on this.
        Or the links here, many of which show that circumcision offers no protection against HIV: http://www.circumstitions.com/HIV.html

        “and penile cancer.”
        The American Cancer Society disagrees: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/penilecancer/detailedguide/penile-cancer-prevention

        And if I flip your claim: “66% of men worldwide are not circumcised; if there really was a big health risk to being intact, it would be all over the place – especially in European medicine.”

        Using your “perfect world” logic applied to this, we would have to conclude that intact men are fine, therefore there is no medical need for it.

        I also very, very highly doubt you’ve heard about the risks before – that 100 boys die every year in the US from this, or that it has been linked to alexithymia (you know how women like to complain men aren’t “in touch” with their feelings?). And I can’t imagine the trauma of a grown man that wishes his genitals were still intact, and wonders how his sex life would be otherwise. The foreskin has a function – to protect the glans, and without it it becomes less sensitive.

        I also get the impression that you think it can’t be that wrong, since if it was it would be clearly illegal. Never mind that this is how it is viewed in much of Europe, there are plenty of laws that are unjust everywhere. Lots of places had the death penalty for simply being gay, until relative modernity. (“If being gay wasn’t so clearly bad for you, I can assure you it would not have been deeply illegal all over, especially in societies that all evolved independently.”)

        Ignorance (yes, in science too) and profit motives have led to many atrocities. Here’s more on the profit motive to recommend circumcisions: http://www.timeslive.co.za/ilive/2011/08/10/interest-in-circumcision-more-than-foreskin-deep
        Pointing this out isn’t tinfoil conspiracy any more than noting how money plays a role in influencing organizations. Unless you consider the whole idea of corporations and money influencing political decisions to be all a conspiracy theory.

        “Forgive my appeals to authority, but the medical community that I cite uses the scientific method as the foundation for it’s public health recommendations, so I was ultimately appealing to science, to the best of my ability, in a casual comments section.”

        I’m going to repeat this again: one organization is not “the medical community”. To repeatedly cite one, where other medical organizations disagree, is an appeal to authority.

        Here’s more from the medical community, mostly Americans:
        https://cdn.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201109/more-circumcision-myths-you-may-believe-hygiene-and-stds

        http://www.historyofcircumcision.net/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=74
        http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/

        It is *controversial* in the American medical community, and seen as barbaric by most of the European medical community – which has absolutely no problems lumping it in with FGM. I don’t see how you can contest this statement by itself, as it’s entirely descriptive.

Comments are closed.