David Cameron’s speech on Extremism & Sarah Haider’s talk on the need for liberal critique
David Cameron speech on extremism is amazing, it hits all the right notes AND seems to be mirroring a lot of the same points Sarah Haider made last month at her talk at American Humanist Association.
National Union of Students & CAGE
David Cameron: When David Irving goes to a university to deny the Holocaust – university leaders rightly come out and condemn him. They don’t deny his right to speak but they do challenge what he says. But when an Islamist extremist goes there to promote their poisonous ideology, too often university leaders look the other way through a mixture of misguided liberalism and cultural sensitivity.
As I said, this is not about clamping down on free speech. It’s just about applying our shared values uniformly.
And while I am it, I want to say something to the National Union of Students. When you choose to ally yourselves with an organisation like CAGE, which called Jihadi John a “beautiful young man” and told people to “support the jihad” in Iraq and Afghanistan, it really does, in my opinion, shame your organisation and your noble history of campaigning for justice.
Sarah Haider: There is a curious double-standard at play. When Muslim clerics and activists that are known to be anti-Semites and homophobes are welcomed on campuses, touring nationally, invited to give lectures by Muslim student associations, while feminists like Asra Nomani, who has been fighting for the equality of the sexes, for the right of female entry to the priestly class, is branded as a bigot by the same Muslim student organizations and the authorities at universities like Duke succumb to this brazen attempt to silence her.
Similar patterns are repeated across the Western world. Maryam Namazie, who is an ex-Muslim activist, was dis-invited to speak at Trinity, Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis. The British Students Union now allies itself broadly with Islamist organizations such as CAGE. To quote Nick Cohen from his article from the Guardian, “University managers are no better than their teenage heresy hunters. They say they want to oppose radical Islam in argument. The Lawyers’ Secular Society took them at their word. It tried to present an investigation at the University of West London into Islamist groups that were all over campuses, despite their record of advocating Jew hatred, homophobia and misogyny. The university authorities banned the secularists.”
Let me be clear. I don’t think anyone, even bigots emerging from Muslim communities or anywhere else, should be silenced. What I ask is that we stand up for the right to speak of all, including those both those who stand with us and those who call for the death of our fellow dis-believers.
Extremism effects Muslims the most
David Cameron: And let’s remember that it’s only the extremists who divide people into good Muslims and bad Muslims, by forcing their warped doctrine onto fellow Muslims and telling them that it is the only way to believe. Our new approach is about isolating the extremists from everyone else, so that all our Muslim communities can be free from the poison of Islamist extremism
Sarah Haider: As has been repeated hundreds of times by critics like myself, the primary victims of Islamism are Muslims, be it in terms of terrorism, violence, misogyny, freedom of expression, religion, and economic decline. Yet bizarrely, these concerns are secondary still to not presenting offense.
We must support reformists
David Cameron: But there are a huge number of Muslims in our country who have a proper claim to represent liberal values in local communities – people who run credible charities, community organisations, councillors and MPs – including Labour MPs here in Birmingham – so do consider giving them the platform they deserve.
These reforming voices, they have a tough enough time as it is: the extremists are the ones who have the money, the leaders, the iconography and the propaganda machines. We need to turn the tables.
We can’t stand neutral in this battle of ideas. We have to back those who share our values. So here’s my offer.
Sarah Haider: We know, not only is reform is possible, it is ongoing against insurmountable odds, it has champions that are laying their lives on the line for a better tomorrow. We cannot and must not let the current situation endure where reformists of Islam are standing alone and vulnerable.
The need to integrate and provide a positive vision
David Cameron: I understand that it can be hard being young, and that it can be even harder being young and Muslim, or young and Sikh, or young and black in our country. I know that at times you are grappling with huge issues over your identity, neither feeling a part of the British mainstream nor a part of the culture from your parents’ background.
And I know that for as long as injustice remains – be it with racism, discrimination or sickening Islamophobia – you may feel there is no place for you in Britain. But I want you to know: there is a place for you and I will do everything I can to support you.
Sarah Haider: We have those on the Islamic far right who say that there is no room for reform in Islam, because Islam is, and always has been perfect. We have their counterparts from the far right in the West, who coincidentally also view Islam as beyond reform, but for different reasons, as something that is irredeemably and permanently evil. Between those two extremes, we have the average Muslim, who is forced to choose between the devil he knows, Islamic dominance and supremacy, over the devil he doesn’t, Western bigotry.
The liberal Left needs to present a different path, not acquiesce to either form of religious dominance. It is particularly important that those who stand for compassion, that those who stand for human rights and who recognize the harmful effects of bigotry and discrimination lead the charge against religious oppression no matter where it stems.