The assertion (not argument) that criticising bigotry is not bigoted is often used in a strawman fashion against Muslims who adhere to orthodox beliefs in support of smear campaigns similar to Richard Johnlittle’s “bigoted” and discriminatory Daily Mail piece. Whether the people who parade this statement comprehend its meaning and then application in the Muslim Minority context is another matter entirely.
Bigotry by definition is intolerance towards those who hold a different opinion. Intolerance is the key word here. Intolerance is defined as “lack of toleration; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs, persons of different races or background”. It seems to be the case that only the West, or more more specifically, the extreme secular liberals have the monopoly on which beliefs or opinions are bigoted and which are not. This is due to what I would like to call the “three Es”. Epistemological bias: where truth itself has been established from a paradigm unique to that truth, and that paradigm in this context is the utilitarian materialistic viewpoint. This is not to be confused with enculturation, whereby one is raised culturally with particular values forthcoming from that culture. Upon this is ethnocentric bias, i.e. that my (Western) way is the right way and your non-Western, non-secular way is the incorrect way. The resultant arrogance in Western, often secular discourse, which also underpinned Western colonialism, is critical in understanding why Muslim beliefs and opinions are regarded as “bigoted”. The view itself is founded usually upon a lack of objectivity and half-truths (As an example, see the oft-made allegation that Muslims regard Jews coming from apes and pigs, or are like apes and pigs, clarified here.
We can see this at its most apt in the discussion of homosexuality, where for instance a Muslim who holds that homosexuality is a sin, is smeared and attacked for it in all Neocon newspapers. There seems to be a fallacious “conflation” of academic position/belief and intolerance towards the opposition as a result of it. A person holding this belief does not necessitate by default to him being unable to tolerate other contrary opinions. It is as absurd as saying “As a secularist atheist I am by default intolerant of all religions”, no wait actually…
In the recent infamous Richard Littlejohn article, Littlejohn once again reiterates the statement attributed to Shaykh Haytham, “homosexuals are criminals”. This statement is of course within the religious epistemological paradigm, something which the Neocon narrative tend to leave out and we will now see why. What is even more ironic is that Littlejohn himself has problems with homosexuality, but it’s ok, there needn’t be a witch-hunt by the media for him because he is not a Muslim.
By removing the discussion from the religious paradigm and attributing it to him as a person it is easier to accord him the label of bigotry. Invoking the “three Es” we can see that there is a difference in the establishing of truth on the validity of homosexuality itself and judgement is being drawn on a position in the Islamic paradigm from the viewpoint of a non-religious paradigm (epistemological bias). Given the dominant Western discourse in media being pro-homosexual seeing a converse opinion is regarded as bigoted (enculturation), even though objectively the same can be said for claimants of bigotry (which in essence comes down to: “but my accusation of bigotry supersedes yours!”), and finally the inherent “our way is better how dare you oppose this you Muslim” can be seen running through this attack from start to finish. I say “Muslim” because these issues, it seems do not impact the Jews and Christians. Not wanting to “conflate opinion and person” as one person claimed on my twitter feed, let us take an example. When it comes to non-Islamic faiths, it is quite the opposite. When the Gay Marriage Bill was being discussed in Parliament a couple of years ago, Nick Clegg had a speech prepared in which he was going to state the following:
“Continued trouble in the economy gives the bigots a stick to beat us with, as they demand we ‘postpone’ the equalities agenda in order to deal with ‘the things people really care about’.”
This was then “corrected” (as it is claimed in the BBC report) to,
“Continued trouble in the economy leads some people to demand we ‘postpone’ the equalities agenda in order to deal with ‘the things people really care about’.”
This back-tracking was even apologetic,
“I am a little bit surprised to see cameras assembled outside the gates, for the slightly obscure, surprising reason that they expect me to use a word about opponents of gay marriage that I had no intention of using, would never use,” he said.
“It is not the kind of word that I would use.”
MPs like Peter Bone even issued statements against him saying “Nick Clegg has got to explain himself and apologise very rapidly,”.
More pertinently the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey spoke out against Nick Clegg and said his comments were offensive and that “If he persists in taking that view I and others would be very offended… To be called a bigot is a very offensive statement and I would ask him to recall it…because there are issues here that demand very serious debate.”
In sum then, if a Christian leader says it, its ok, nay “you better apologise for calling him a bigot you bigot”, but a Muslim Imam is not allowed the same right, nay, he is a bigot because it’s ok to offend the Muslim. It reminds me of the statement Malcolm X draws in response to a conservative,
“You make my point, as long as a white man does its alright, a black man suppose to have no feelings…”
The same can be said regarding the sex separation issue. Doing a quick “three Es” analysis, we can see bias on this issue and that there is absolutely no legitimate reason to prevent it. I have already discussed it at length here. It is quite simply the imposition of one standard of morality upon a minority’s standard of morality. The fact is that once again it is the Muslim Minority whom are in the spot-light. The issue, to conclude, is therefore not with the statement “criticising bigotry is not bigotry” itself but rather a) the strawman method of usage, b) the discriminatory invocation of it in the media at the expense of one minority over and above other similar minorities. This constitutes minority discrimination.
One final point. The ability to profess one’s faith, as a unique community, with a unique identity free from interference and witch-hunting is a right espoused in International Legal norms. This is not something the Muslim Minority are claiming as something new, but has existed and utilised by other minority groups for decades. Once again, we can see a recurring theme; if the, LGBT, Jewish or black people claim it, its ok, if the Muslims claim it, well then, it’s a problem. And this is the crux issue, extremism is the call, but the action is against Islam and Muslims. From the media witch-hunt, the constant barrage of attacks on theologically recognised Muslim beliefs and practices, to policy formation which essentially tells Muslims how to be the right Muslims, Mosques being bombed, and sharp increases in hate-crime no thanks to “conflating” criminals with Islamic orthodoxy. There are no “Muslim civil rights” as (far-right?) liberal Lejla Kuric, highlights. But there are established Human Rights norms, which the last time I checked still applied to all human-beings, as enumerated in numerous International Treaties. Human Rights, we are told by the liberals are hallmarks of liberal democracy. Perhaps a reminder with regards to International Human Rights norms is in order. Particularly a right which was specifically formulated in recognition of the alternative belief systems which minorities may possess, and to protect them against the tyranny of the majority:
In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language. (Article 27, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966))