Why Banning Extremists Is Wrong

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The British Government thinks we are children. Easily led by those that know the art of oratory. Gullible. To be twisted round the finger of any subversive sectarian megalomaniac. Theresa May, British Home Secretary, wants to ban people for subversive speech. We the people, cannot be trusted to act responsibly based on what we hear. Our elected representatives can filter for us. Long live big brother.

If we are really concerned about the likes of Anjem Choudary poisoning minds to take up violence to overthrow democracy, banning him from our television screens is the wrong way. Britain tried that with Sinn Fein. We ended up with either subtitles but no sound; and then an Irish actor lip synching when they were talking.

Ian Hislop, editor of satirical Private Eye, remarked he wanted to hear Gerry Adams to see if he smiled when asked about the people the IRA had killed. There really is no better way to hold anyone to account by knowing exactly what someone has said, how they said it, in what context.

We make much of the liberty to think and voice our opinions. The line that most free speech advocates draw is an incitement to kill. For which laws currently exist, along with counter terrorism legislation. The Home Secretary risks making Choudary a victim for Islamists to rally for with the new proposals. Young people, with radical religious notions of changing the world, will have an officially state stamped underground movement. How nice of us to signal that for them.

We should be concerned that the Conservative Coalition Government’s first instinct is to gag people to save democracy. Rather than to tackle the ideology from the ground upwards – with education and a direct path to civil society engagement. In an internet global communication age, ideas spread. Force people underground, the darkness becomes less penetrable. Beware what grows down there.

Personally I like knowing who the extremists are and what they are saying. It allows for a counter narrative. Civil society knows how to respond to people who are anti-pluralistic, hate filled, loathsome parasites. Who feast on the freedoms we offer, in order to try and destroy it.

Responding with utter contempt and derision. We need to promote people engaging with the wider community and adopting values of pluralism. That we can disagree about religion, and many things, yet live together in peace. That democracy is not weakened by individuals having many different thoughts in the market place of ideas. It makes us stronger.

This is not about tolerating the intolerable. We have laws designed to deal as I have said with counter terrorism. We are now moving to where certain insensibilities will be made illegal. A democratic government will always try to undermine human rights with a populist move. Anjem Choudary banned from the airwaves would be popular. As would banning neo-nazis.

Except I have not seen skinheads with swastika tattoos on Newsnight. I have seen plenty of Islamists being interviewed. Crucially also, seen them challenged. Giving a platform for sensationalism and ratings is irresponsible. I would argue however, that the media are the ones revealing what Islamism is, and countering it.

The government is not. It will state Islam is a religion of peace. It will not publicly countenance that within Islam is the seed of theocracy, violence and intolerance. As it exists in all religions. The rise of religious extremism – that even Buddhists are massacring Muslims in Burma with monks approving – should be a wake up call.

The need for a counter narrative is there. That though means challenging such concepts as divine revelation, the infallibility of scripture, that human discourse has moved on since angels took their place on the battlefield with men. That though makes people like Mo Ansar call Maajid Nawaz an extremist, and accuse Tom Holland of trolling Islam.

The government recognises the problem, but not the solution. One of the reasons is preciously because it is the government. A body of conflicting needs to be met: electability, foreign relations and domestic public relations. Let alone conflicting ideas how to meet these challenges.

There is however agreement that you, dear citizen, cannot be trusted to act responsibly. It is not that the government distrusts Anjem Choudary. Rather, the government distrusts you to react correctly.

That should concern you as much as the media giving a public platform to fanatics. You have a right to listen, to speak, and think for yourself.

Never let anyone take that away from you. Or else democracy has been overthrown.

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Epilepsy First Aid and the Wonderful Passerby

A seizure out in the open is a worse case scenario with my brother. Naturally, it happened today while I get over a bug at home, having looked after him at nights all weekend while ill. You naturally worry about support workers dealing with it for the first time. Let alone the first in decades out in the open.

He had just eaten his lunch, and was about to enjoy a regular walk round Boscastle. She noticed him going into a tonic chronic seizure, as he gradually started to fall. So there was no crashing to the hard ground.

Concerned he might get food into his lungs, my mother called an ambulance. This is where the passerby comes in. The ambulance control desk were having difficulties grasping the exact location to attend in the fishing village. There is one main road in and out of Boscastle.

Without being asked, people volunteered to be either end of the road so they could guide the ambulance to where they were. So my mother stayed reassuring my brother, and the support worker was able to respond as per training and care plans.

People will tell you that no one cares for one another anymore. That we are a fragmented society. A walk on the other side culture. Do not get involved, it will not be your problem. Protect your skin while the weak perish.

That has never been my experience. People do step up. Whether it is the support worker, paramedics or the passerby. Guided by their training or following compassion to do the right thing.

So please, take a few moments to watch the video above. Be the person who never has to walk on by. To make a big difference – it really starts with having a big heart.

Then knowing what to do.

My thanks to all the strangers out there that really get what “we are all in this together” really means for society. You may never know how appreciated you are.

(Bro is sleeping back in his bedroom doing well.)

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The Short Comings of Brooks Newmark MP

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Finally Brooks Newmark MP resigns as civil society minister after a series of cock ups. Culminating in a literal one sent over the Internet.

The one which finally did for the married father of five children, was apparently exposing himself in a series of explicit photos to an undercover male reporter, acting as a female activist. The story was about to break over the Conservative Party Conference. Where the minister had promised his sex text lover:

“Afternoons fairly full with speaking engagements but around late evenings. Promise we’ll meet up though. X.”

This matters because he was in charge of increasing the role of women in politics. Looking to have an affair with a female political activist would be a clear abuse of privilege and position. This is not a private matter, but an abuse of public office. There was no option but to resign.

Anyone that sees no conflict of interest in his portfolio, frankly is wrong and politically naive. Unless you believe that the best way to advance the position of female activism is in a sexual one. Frankly, it’s not about saying this is the 21st century sex is not a resigning matter. Probity in public office is timeless and not one to be bent over.

It’s not about the sex – it is about the abuse of public office. Yes a media entrapment sting. Though considering the set up, one a minister should remember his brief and most certainly not let his briefs down.

You may remember this minister for some other moments in his political career. Some quotes to illustrate.

Here is one on charities (my emphasis):

“We really want to try and keep charities and voluntary groups out of the realms of politics. 99.9 per cent do exactly that. When they stray into the realm of politics that is not what they are about and that is not why people give them money. The important thing charities should be doing is sticking to their knitting and doing the best they can to promote their agenda, which should be about helping others.”

As if politics was not part of civic activism, something which the charity commission explicitly states is legal when supporting the charity’s agenda.

The multi millionaire former banker on hardship in austere times:

“We have to thank the rich for the contribution they make to our country… My own perspective on the argument is the top 1% of the country are bearing the biggest burden.”

A one man mission on Syrian foreign policy :

‘Diplomacy becomes a little lazy if all you do is talk to your friends’.

Which presumably was why he was so keen to talk to Assad several times in a personal capacity. A move ex Foreign Secretary William Hague was criticised for allowing, in case it undermined international efforts on Syria.

So goodbye and good riddance to you Brooks. I do feel sorry for your family being dragged through all this. Do not try to hide behind them. Women need to know that political parties are taking seriously involving more female activists in politics.

Sexual favours is not the message any political party should tolerate.

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Anjem Choudary Arrested

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Reports are that nine men have been arrested in connection with a terrorist investigation, and Anjem Choudary is among their believed number.

At moments like this I could hug every single person that has been actively pointing out the danger that extreme Islamists like Choudary pose. This has been a long time coming. Too many while we waited have been radicalised to violence and hatred. How many have died, because of the insidious network that he spun, like a spider’s web, taking in the gullible?

Anti-fascist campaigners Hope Not Hate alleged in a report ‘Gateway To Terror’, that Choudary and al-Muhajiroun lead a network of hardline Islamist organisations across Europe from Belgium and the Netherlands, to France, Denmark and Italy to Germany, Norway and Finland, the largest extreme Islamist network in Europe.

Choudary’s network of influencers has sent hundreds of British Muslim citizens to fight in war zones, including at least 50 to Syria, and several hundred to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the report claims. [Source Huffington Post]

As Hope Not Hate said at the time of their “Gateway to Terror” report:

There will some people who will not be happy with our new report and consider it a departure from what we ‘do’ (historically we are better-known for opposing fascism and racism). There will be others who believe that by shining the light on Choudary and his gang we are inflaming hostility to Muslims.

They will be wrong.

Al-Mujahiroun is a hate group, pure and simple, and as such deserves our attention. Constantly feted by media yet treated as ‘clowns’ by many, it is by ignoring their threat that we let down the vast majority of Muslims who want nothing to do with Choudary.

The truth is the actions of this tiny minority of extremists leads to the stigmatisation of the entire Muslim community and the shameful idea of collective responsibility. The primary victim of al-Muhajiroun’s extremism is actually the wider Muslim community.

Free speech is a wonderful thing, and it means nothing if we cannot embrace the human rights of even those we condemn and abhor. Yet hatred must never be given a free ride because of claims we must have tolerance. That the intolerable must come out on top no matter the cost to a free society, is the death bell of civilisation.

Extremism must be challenged. At last a first step has been taken to destroy a publicly known network that facilitates a murderous and poisonous ideology.

The first step is always the hardest. It must not be the last.

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The Discussion We Need On Rape and Alcohol

No one seems, in their rush to condemn Dawkins as a sexist misogynist dinosaur that damages the atheist movement, to actually see what the law states regarding evidence of rape when alcohol has been consumed. Nor that about 40% of rape cases brought by the Crown and Prosecution Service end in no conviction. I am going to try and deal with all of this. Bear with me.

That was the basis of Dawkins’ discussion on twitter, and the high profile rebukes I saw made no attempt to discuss how this applies under law in the UK. If any lawyer followers have any additional input, or clarifications please feel free to comment on this post or via twitter so I may include.

An appeal court judgment in 2007 in the UK attempted to clarify rape law regarding alcohol consumption:

Sir Igor Judge, Lady Justice Hallett and Mrs Justice Gloster said the appeal had required them to “address the effect of voluntary heavy alcohol consumption as it applies to the law of rape”.

In making the ruling, Sir Igor said: “If, through drink – or for any other reason – the complainant has temporarily lost her capacity to choose whether to have intercourse on the relevant occasion, she is not consenting, and subject to questions about the defendant’s state of mind, if the intercourse takes place, this would be rape.

“However, where the complainant has voluntarily consumed even substantial quantities of alcohol, but nevertheless remains capable of choosing whether or not to have intercourse, and in drink agrees to do so this would not be rape.”

He added that the “capacity to consent may evaporate well before a complainant becomes unconscious”. [BBC News]

The ruling was based on the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (which when Dawkins previously talked about mild rape and mild pedophilia I referred to here).

It states in section 75 that I linked to above (emphasis my own on points Dawkins making on twitter):

75 Evidential presumptions about consent

(1)If in proceedings for an offence to which this section applies it is proved—
(a)that the defendant did the relevant act,

(b)that any of the circumstances specified in subsection (2) existed, and

(c)that the defendant knew that those circumstances existed,the complainant is to be taken not to have consented to the relevant act unless sufficient evidence is adduced to raise an issue as to whether he consented, and the defendant is to be taken not to have reasonably believed that the complainant consented unless sufficient evidence is adduced to raise an issue as to whether he reasonably believed it.

(2)The circumstances are that—

(a)any person was, at the time of the relevant act or immediately before it began, using violence against the complainant or causing the complainant to fear that immediate violence would be used against him;

(b)any person was, at the time of the relevant act or immediately before it began, causing the complainant to fear that violence was being used, or that immediate violence would be used, against another person;

(c)the complainant was, and the defendant was not, unlawfully detained at the time of the relevant act;

(d)the complainant was asleep or otherwise unconscious at the time of the relevant act;

(e)because of the complainant’s physical disability, the complainant would not have been able at the time of the relevant act to communicate to the defendant whether the complainant consented;

(f)any person had administered to or caused to be taken by the complainant, without the complainant’s consent, a substance which, having regard to when it was administered or taken, was capable of causing or enabling the complainant to be stupefied or overpowered at the time of the relevant act.

(3)In subsection (2)(a) and (b), the reference to the time immediately before the relevant act began is, in the case of an act which is one of a continuous series of sexual activities, a reference to the time immediately before the first sexual activity began.

The law stands that a person can be drunk but still voluntarily give consent, but where that capacity has been lost to consent due to a state of inebriation it would be rape. A court on the basis of evidence would attempt to clarify what happened.

Going back to the BBC news coverage of the Court of Appeal case in 2007:

It is the first time the Court of Appeal has looked at the issue since a legal definition of consent in rape cases was established by the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

The law says a person consents to sex if they agree by choice and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.

Mr Bree had denied raping the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, but was convicted by a jury at Bournemouth Crown Court and jailed for five years last year.

The student said she had not consented to sex after they had been out in Bournemouth drinking vodka and Red Bull and cider.

The quashing of his conviction related to “deficiencies” in the trial judge’s summing up, and Mr Bree was freed from prison on 13 March.

Dawkins tweets

The issue here is whether the complainant lacked capacity to consent to a sexual act – the tweet by Dawkins does not address that, but rather recollection. Other evidence might exist but Dawkins is dismissing that being the case. In the jargon, evidential presumption of consent cannot be proved a negative.

If it can be proved that alcohol had nullified her capacity to consent, but the defendant went against this, it would be rape. That would be crucial evidence in Dawkins hypothetical case for the prosecution and defence to examine. Especially Crown Prosecution in bringing the case to trial.

This is twitter, and lacks space, so what did Dawkins say regarding evidence?

It would be rather uncharitable to state Dawkins means here if you are unconscious and raped you cannot bring about an accusation. Again, this is twitter.

To see how ridiculous that interpretation, it would be like saying you cannot accuse someone of murder unless the corpse has a recollection. The point is evidence existing for a trial to be brought against someone.

To the charge that Dawkins is insensitive about rape:

You only have to think of recent rape victims of ISIS jumping to their deaths rather than living, to see the horrendous attitudes to rape victims that have to be overcome in the world.

The context

There have been accusations made against prominent people in the atheist movement of using their status to sleep with women. No prosecutions, but versions of events have played out in the blogosphere. Writers and bloggers, rather than prosecution and defense experts, have poured over testimony as amateur sleuths to make pronouncements.

I can only add that yes, I have seen celebrity status used in the hope of one night stands at conferences with female volunteers (not Dawkins but lips sealed as to who unless she makes public). It happens. This attitude to women needs challenging across many civil movements. Women are not there to provide sexual entertainment. They are delegates and advocates in their own right. More of them need to be given a platform to speak on atheist and secular issues.

In a rationalist community sex should be something dealt with by grown ups in social intercourse. Ideas of written consent forms, or fears that lots of men are being maliciously prosecuted are misplaced (see the graph by the Enliven Project here). A gentlemen does not ask a woman he has just met in an elevator for coffee in his hotel room at 4am. He knows which way that might be taken, whatever he says to mitigate. It is creepy, scary and not on. Neither would he ensure that a woman drinks more than himself in an attempt to make her more suggestible. Especially if he knows it would be a big “No” sober.

Was Dawkins weighing in on this last accusation doing the rounds for sometime, or perhaps wanted to discuss based on Cee Lo Green ‘People who have really been raped REMEMBER!!!’ series of deleted tweets this month?

Yes when I read one of Dawkins tweets I hit the roof. What on earth was he getting at? So after I peeled myself from the ceiling realizing what a field day this will be for Dawkins’ opponents, I read his tweets.

The tweet that seems to have set off this latest episode:

A reply made Dawkins continue:

It was a discussion and Dawkins was looking to be challenged. Regarding his do not accuse if you have no recollection tweet, came this point:

This though was the kicker for me from Dawkins:

Until you see how he clarifies:

The issue of capacity to consent when intoxicated:

Now I can take any one of Dawkins’ tweets to say how horrible and disgusting his attitude is. When you go back through the timeline, it is a discussion on rape and alcohol. It would be wrong to take one tweet on its own then flesh out without reference to the others.

The Real World

The huge problem with such a conversation is it ends up being weighted against women imbibing rather than men raping. Their credibility as a witness means rapists may well get away with it.

On this subject do read this post:

I have one very clear memory that still haunts me two years later. I remember waking up during the night and seeing him on top of me, my trousers around my ankles and my shirt still on. I pulled away and heard him mutter “Oh no, it fell out” to himself, at which point I blacked out again. I assume he continued to rape me.

I told very few people at the time, but a friend came with me to the police station. The receptionist, on learning I was reporting a sex offence, insisted on me giving details in front of everybody in the waiting room before taking me somewhere private. Two officers then came to my house, where I was questioned further. One described rape as “just something that happens”, especially at university. The only advice I received was to drink less in future.

Appalling attitudes exist. A woman that has been drinking is considered to have been asking for it. Just as if she was not covered up. Dawkins was trying to discuss all this. On twitter how evidence and credibility is used in court. The idea that he wants rapists to get away with it or blames women for being raped is wrong. How the real world works, how court cases examine evidence, are valid points of discussion.

Yet it has been twisted into Dawkins saying “What if she is lying?” which he never said. Also “For good measure, Dawkins argued that rape victims shouldn’t be considered trustworthy if they were drinking.” when Dawkins was discussing how court of laws operate in a hypothetical case in the real world when no other evidence existed but testimony.

There will be plenty of things to disagree with Dawkins on. He discusses some things and I want to have a go at him because I think he is wrong, or I can see how it will play out in the public sphere. What really needs discussing is how we reduce incidences of rape and ensure rapists are convicted. When rape convictions are at around 60%  we need a public discourse whether the law is being correctly applied, if it needs changing, and that women who are raped have the confidence to come forward.

Dawkins tried to have a conversation about that. It has been turned instead to condemnation over things he was not saying. Still, people will not often follow links, and if one tweet is presented not look to see if it has a context that explains it differently from isolation.

As to demands that we denounce Dawkins, as if atheists could be put on a Salem court trial to pass a test whether we dance with the devil, my answer is this. When he is right I will stand with him. When he is wrong I will say so. No one is my leader in atheism. Do not try to make my views less by associating my none belief with other people.

I once thought it would be good for Dawkins to talk beyond religion, secularism and science.

I bet even he is beginning to wonder if it is worth the aggro.

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A Love Letter to Scotland For The Union

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My first experience of Scotland was a Haggis hunt with the fuzzbuzzes. To the uninitiated, the fuzzbuzzes were created as stories to help children with phonetic sound and reading issues. I will forever be grateful that while at infant school I was singled out for special funding. The extra tuition included using these story books, while taught one to one. Without this support, I doubt I would be able to read, let alone blog.

One slight draw back – I really did think Haggis was a two legged creature that was hunted in the Glen. I can quite understand people of Scotland feeling that the English are similarly naive about their desires and wants for an Independent Scotland.

I have no say over your future. Rightly so. The decision is for Scotland alone. All I can tell you is that my love for Scotland started when my love for reading was kindled as a little boy in Hampshire.

Finding out Haggis really did not have legs, was an offal experience. However, it led me to the poetry of Robert Burns. The different sound of the Scottish dialect when reading aloud the poems. There was a joy in the language. Also, that my birthday is the day before Burns Night. It fired my imagination – and my love for Scotland went from a fictionalised world to the real one.

At sixth form studying economics there was a chance to meet another Scottish hero. One, unlike Burns, that believed wholeheartedly in the Union. Adam Smith – the father of economics and moral philosopher. I combined those two elements by reading Economics and Politics at University. Which taught me among other things:

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At university I discovered David Hume, and the significance of the Scottish Enlightenment and the English Enlightenment to the United Kingdom and beyond. Never was synergy in thought more apparent in the day to day actions of human activity. The reverberations are still felt around the world.

Skip forward to now, and what the United Kingdom does still impacts on the world. In a globalised community, perhaps there has never been a better time to go it alone. The British Empire is rightly no more.

Yet a world with more borders, where common bonds of humanity are broken down, should give pause to think again. Fellow citizens becoming neighbours. Neighbours becoming competitors. Kin becoming strangers. A shared heritage becoming estranged.

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Going to back to Junior school I remember a simulation about protecting Osprey on the old Acorn computers (showing my age now). Using funds in such a way to maximise the number born.

Nearly thirty years later they are still an Amber List species due both to low breeding numbers and illegal killings. This fishing bird of prey truly is an awesome sight to behold in action. It inspired this poem by Jeremy Wyatt:

Old stones weep in the rain
their darkling gaze unblinking
Glowering with ancient pain
of distant glories thinking

Preening Lords arrogant in imagined might
would quail could they perceive
The majesty of osprey flight
True rulers still of Threave

If you wanted to understand why we need no more borders – poetry and birds never should have barriers – read his description how he came to write the poem:

Written two years ago after a dreamy day at Threave Castle viewing a Welsh osprey who moved to Scotland (via Africa) [Source: Poem called "Osprey Flight"]

There are no borders for a flying bird of prey. The land is one. Such lines are a human invention, a tribal longing for terroritry, to allow distinctions. To make narrower ties at the expense of making others forlorn strangers. Nationalism is glorified as a patriotic form of sectarianism.

We have shared an identity, our heritage and way of life for so long. That is what is at stake tomorrow. I hope that we can work together to make this island better for us all. Rather than start to look at each other as foreigners, and prevent other children growing up to care and love each other.

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ISIS and Fighting Clerical Fascism

The need to fight fascism and prevent genocide are as close to self evident truths as humanity might wish to invent. When both present themselves in the form of ISIS the question is how, rather than why, they must be destroyed.

Yet those siren voices are calling: the west must not get involved. Iraq and Afghanistan are painted as strategic failures. We need to point out not intervening in Syria gave the space and time for ISIS to emerge.

That non intervention made it too easy for Islamists to paint a narrative: the west were not getting involved because spilt Muslim blood means nothing compared to the flow of oil. Assad was slaughtering his people, even using Chemical weapons and air strikes on the civilian population.

You can imagine the videos, too disturbing for mainstream media, used to recruit people to fight back. The world community was found wanting. As too often it is when massacres and appalling suffering happen.

That was the draw – the reality is crucifying, beheading, and sexual slavery. Still, you get your rent paid, canned goods and free health care. Welcome to the theological fascist military outfit that is ISIS.

A military power that controls territory about the size of England, spread over two countries. Controlling sufficient oil supplies it can create an effective internal market to keep the finance coming. Let alone hard currency from oil smuggled out. Money on the side kidnapping.

Mehdi Hasan said we should not call them a military power – they don’t have a navy among other things (nothing gets past Mehdi). But “bunch of thugs” as he prefers really does not explain them. This is a death cult of well led fascist fanatics.

They have routed larger armies. Such is the terror and effective command structure brought in by previous military Baathists that were kicked out with the fall of Saddam. Deny people a stake in the new order, they have no allegiance.

The death squads roaming Iraq, and the sectarian violence presented the opportunity for ISIS to launch their attack on a disintegrating state. Coming as liberators, promising Islam as in the golden age. Dealing out justice to the foes of the faith, by The Book.

The secular Muslim heritage, the mysticism of Sufis, a spiritual Caliphate – they are forgotten on this rampage. Universal human rights are absent. This is total war as they enlarge their territory. Imposing clerical fascism. The Art of War with Jihad coupled with modern tactics. Announcing they were now a geographical Caliphate was a message.

A message for political Islamists that envisage a unified Islamic empire that can defend and promote one theological Islam to the world: we have done it join us. Even now, some ask if the territory can be kept intact with the defeat of ISIS.

Those siren voices again. To use the murder, pillaging and atrocities of ISIS for the realisation of an Islamic caliphate that might undo the old colonial powers. As if ISIS were an eraser for the lines that western imperialists drew on the map as they carved up territory.

So of course you will have the likes of Anjem Choudary belittling the carnage, and Dilly Hussain saying Yazidi were fleeing tax dodgers, and Mo Ansar saying this could give birth to a good Islamic state. Islamists hope that people will rally up against their incompetent and dictatorial rulers for an Arab Winter to freeze the whole of the Middle East and South Asia into a theological ice block of uniformity. Even some Islamists that are against ISIS hope a thaw sees a different set of theocrats in charge one day.

Political Islam has laid the ground work for a caliphate to be seen as a requirement for Muslims. The misrule by secular despots and incompetent clerics has made many buy into this vision.

How many have to die for theological hedgemony? As many as it takes. So the question then becomes why antagonise the US and UK by beheading their citizens?

The risk is ISIS want a final confrontation. A battle to end all battles. Set up the theological state, Allah is meant to be the Ace in the Hole. They believe Muslims will flock to their banner to finally rid the infidel once and for all. At last the unity of Muslim people, and the final victory of ISIS. The Caliphate remains.

We can and must denounce fascism in all it’s gory forms. Theological fascism should be no exception. Not only denouncing ISIS but the caliphate they wish to create. Too many people, Muslim and non Muslim, have died because of this nightmare.

People have to decide their own governments and way of living. That cannot be done while living under the shadow of a sword. Fascism always rises when a vacuum is created. You know it when you see it; totalitarianism, military conquest and complete obedience to the state. If the alternative is anarchy or a status quo that crushes them, people will flock to the banner.

Make no mistake. People like Russell Brand will say terrorist attacks increase if we drop bombs on Muslims, and we will keep having the same problem unless we leave well alone. Others will claim this is about war profits for the US military industrial complex. Those siren voices will say this is not our fight, we will make the situation worse. They will even try to tell you this is not about religion – no matter how many times ISIS say it is.

If all we do is drop bombs we will not defeat ISIS. The ideology of Islamism has to be shown for what it is. It needs to be challenged – a counter theological narrative so Secular Muslim heritage can reassert itself. Where we have failed is in challenging political Islam throughout the world. By our governments not standing up for the oppressed people in allied Muslim majority nations, we have lost the moral high ground.

Too often we went with what was expedient. Siding with bloody dictators. John Kerry is doing the same again with Egypt. We wonder why the Islamist narrative appeals to people when we ourselves shake the bloodied hands of mass murderers, while calling them a friend.

This is not going to be easy. There is no quick fix, and this is not the starting point we would wish. Muslims and non Muslims have to work together to defeat political Islamists. As a coalition is built to deal with ISIS, we need one that tackles theocrats, mad mullahs, and extremism.

If you care about human rights, sexual equality, democracy, pluralism, the separation of religion and state – it is time to saddle up for the battle of ideas. Do not let clerical fascists claim religion as a cover for their insidious actions in the public space.

Religious freedom must not be a gateway for a bunch of thugs to abuse.

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