A Counter to Prof A C Grayling on Brexit


This is a response to A C Grayling’s article: Referendums, Elections and Democracy. I am surprised it has not received a rebuttal or counter. For it suggests that members of parliament should only take heed of election results as to action rather than an advisory referendum. This view, played out, would undermine any sense of popular legitimacy parliament might claim when it deliberately ignores the freely expressed opinion of citizens. Who were promised by their elected government that whatever the result of the referendum, they would carry it out, in a leaflet sent to all households.

For those that stand for parliamentary sovereignty over the plebs, the best advice to be given is never agree to ask the people what they think if you do not trust them to come up with the right answer. If the decision is too complex, please shelter us simple folk from having to think. On any matter beyond the great unwashed, burn the constituency mail bag without opening. Appear to listen at meetings, nod and even tilt your head to one side sympathetatically. Just ensure you do not have a microphone on when you jump into your car and say what you really think.

Grayling and I would perhaps agree if you live in a parliamentary system, then let them make the decisions and be accountable to us at election time, having given some indication before they were voted into the Commons how they would act. Referendums bring up the notion that the public might actually have a say in the running of the country. The fools.

The EU countries that have had referendums on various treaties have shown that one way of responding to citizens whose answer you do not like, is to hold them again till they give the right answer. This might work for a professor telling a student to do their homework again. In a democracy of equal citizens the facade of equality is broken. The elite is created to serve the country. The guardians, with learning and advanced information, know what is  best for you. Your job as a citizen is to empower them at an election to get on with it.

Such a view is why the far right have taken advantage of the democratic deficit in Europe. Using popular sentiment on immigration they are beginning to take power in Eastern Europe. In mainland Europe, we hold our breath to see if this could happen there too.

The main irony for me is Grayling hopes parliamentary democracy can keep populism in its place. Yet where fascism has ever won at the ballot box it is because of the contempt of what ordinary people might think by their betters. Democracy ends when you no longer trust citizens to act as citizens. 

That is more dangerous than leaving the EU. But to misquote John Cleese in “The Life of Brian” the British public may have told us to fuck off – but how do we fuck off out of the EU? There, parliament has a moral duty to be involved. 

Please, no more referenda. But an election over whether to accept the deal government has hammered out or an opposition manifesto to stay in EU would be parliamentary democracy at its best. I suspect A C Grayling and myself would be shoulder to shoulder then on the streets.  

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Maajid Nawaz an “Anti-Muslim Extremist” according to Southern Poverty Law Center 


The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists Maajid Nawaz as an anti-Muslim extremist. Though if you read the extreme right they accuse Maajid Nawaz of being a jihadist, such as:

Despite his outward facade of secularism and liberalism, Nawaz is in fact a deeply devout Sunni Muslim supremacist, operating far behind enemy lines in the Dar al-Harb, the House of War

We expect that sort of nonsense from The Gates of Vienna Blog, as quoted above. What though of the Southern Poverty Law Center? Perhaps we should look at just a few of the points in what they say about Maajid Nawaz.

Secret list given to government accusing people and groups of sharing an ideology with terrorists 

As The Quilliam Foundation responded to the accusation in The Guardian:

This accusation repeated here by the Guardian is simply false. There was no ‘Terror List’. We produced a briefing document entitled ‘Preventing Terrorism: where next for Britain?’, that we sent to all government departments and not just the OSCT. This document set out reforms we felt were necessary to the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy. The Government’s strategy was eventually reformed almost exactly as we had advised. The document was sent in private so as to not play out the debate about reforming the Government’s counter-extremism strategy in the press. However, the copy we sent to the OSCT was eventually leaked by a civil servant.


Maajid Nawaz wants to criminalise the veil/niqab in many public spaces

In a great piece of quote mining, they neglect to mention that Maajid Nawaz does not call for criminalising as they  claim. In the Daily Mail article they quote from, Nawaz mentions:

Here’s my test: where a balaclava, motorcycle helmet or face mask would be deemed inappropriate, so should a niqab. It’s simple really.

It is simple, unless you want to make someone out to be an extremist against Muslims. 

Long term readers of this blog may recall Mohammed Shafiq tried to accuse Maajid Nawaz of criminalising the veil. At the time I called this a dangerous game of accusing people, that may be more liberal than yourself, of things which fundamentalists are prepared to kill you for. 

“Nawaz tweeted out a cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad — despite the fact that many Muslims see it as blasphemous to draw Muhammad.”

Being “blasphemous” makes you an extremist it seems. The Southern Poverty Law Centre is devoid of context that Maajid Nawaz said he did not find a cartoon picture of Mohammed and Jesus saying hello together to be blasphemous or a challenge to his faith. Two students at a London School of Economics student freshers fayre were ejected for wearing them to advertise their Atheist Humanist Secular society, and this was discussed on a BBC show. Hence [the] Maajid Nawaz tweet. 

A reminder that this led to death threats for Maajid Nawaz. No mention of that by the SPLC. 

More on this can be read in my Huff Post article. 

Nawaz went to a strip club for his stag do

Let us recap. You are an extremist if you give evidence to government departments, if you share a cartoon of a prophet saying “How Ya doin'” and if you go to a strip club on your stag  do, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

Is this meant to be a joke? Problem is this is no laughing  matter – where muslim activists challenge fundamentalism and extremism that tries to impose a religious Islamic orthodoxy, this is not just dangerous. It is reprehensible.

There is no fact checking, or counter view. This is a hatchet job. The sort to defame and have circulated by people who cannot be bothered to check the context for themselves.

Regarding the intro to Maajid Nawaz, yes the government gave seeding money to help the Quilliam Foundation get set up – an issue was how quickly that should end. Not everyone has $300 million in funds to keep their civic action going in the future as the SPLC has. It should also be noted Quilliam has not received ongoing taxpayer money for a number of years.

Maajid Nawaz began leaving Islamism during his incarceration in Egypt. He was not the finished liberal secular product when he came back to the UK. He has mentioned that, and how in a short time after being released he realised he had to make a clean break from his former politics and religious affiliations, in his book Radical.

There had been hopes Tommy Robinson might go on a similar journey when he left the English Defence League. That has not happened, but that is for Tommy Robinson to answer. He had the opportunity, he did not take it.

None of what the Southern Poverty Law Centre has said points to Maajid Nawaz being an extremist. Let alone anti-Muslim. The bar set by this report will make any liberal activism by Muslims as being against all Muslims. 

If you are the “wrong” sort of muslim you are to be branded an extremist. You will be declared a blasphemer. This is irresponsible, and dangerous. It also shows why The Quilliam Foundation and the work Maajid Nawaz does is necessary. 

We expect the fundamentalists and extremists to declare people blasphemous or to be traitors of the faith. For others to act as their willing mouthpiece brings shame to the Southern Poverty Law Centre. 

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On being targeted for a harassment campaign by ‘anti-Zionists’ – Marko Attila Hoare

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This is a guest post by Marko Attila Hoare.

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Last autumn, a group of ‘anti-Zionists’ launched a harassment campaign against me. Charles Frith, a notorious Holocaust denier and particularly vicious Jew-hater, who had over 32,000 Twitter followers until Twitter suspended his account, telephoned my employers, Kingston University, posing as a job-seeker. After finding out the name of my immediate manager from an unsuspecting colleague, he sent a series of abusive and defamatory emails to me and my senior colleagues, accusing me, among other things, of ‘Zionism’, and turning Kingston into a centre for ‘child abuse’. Frith is someone who refers to the ‘fake 6m Holohoax figures’. He has tweeted that ‘the Auschwitz chambers were delousing stations in Germany and France’; that ‘Israel’s Mossad did 9/11’; that ‘Jewish Al-Sisi Runs Egypt; Now an Israeli-Occupied Territory’. He has blogged that the figure of six million Holocaust dead was fabricated before World War…

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Demons Do Not Help Explain Terrorism or Mental Illness 

Theo Hobson latest piece is “Secularism’s view on violence is less humane than Christianity’s.” How the separation of church and state, the liberty for us all to live by our conscience in matters of faith without being subject to any violence by anyone, has anything to do with this misses his purpose. That you need faith to be more humane, being a humanist cannot match it, is the claim.

The use of the word secularism here is to attack the secular minded society as less caring. Hobson does this without obvious irony by using what is one of the most cruelest ideas that exists in the New Testament. The idea that people are possessed by demons. “I think that the old-fashioned language is still largely fit for purpose.” We will come to how it is not in a bit, but he goes on to conclude about those killing for terrorism or because of mental illness:

We should see them as possessed by demonic forces. In fact, this New Testament view of the matter underlies the vague orthodoxy I have just described. And this model can also be applied to terrorists – they are possessed by a demonic idea. The French priest whose throat was slit knew this – he died saying ‘Get away from me, Satan’ – he understood the terrorists not as intrinsically evil but as agents of evil. The old religious view of these things is actually more humane than any newer one: it sees the human agents of these horrors as redeemable, but the acts as utterly evil. A secular view either denies the full scale of the evil or, in tabloid headline fashion, over-identifies it with the perpetrator, who is human like us.

If you remember the New Testament, the people possessed by demons were not inherently evil. They had the hallmarks of epilepsy, learning disabilities and mental illness. Jesus did not bring a secular understanding to these things. He cured a few people, sometimes casting the supposed demons into the nearest pigs, but the science or care these people needed (the modern “secular” approach if  we must) was not part of his plan when saving others. So for hundreds of years, exorcisms and treating them as possessed was very much a Christian perspective. 

I would have to call this evil – exorcism really was not the way forward in caring for one another. We might excuse a primitive people; the Son of God playing to that ignorance (or to be more accurate, the gospel writers) a little less so. 

There is no excusing Theo Hobson on this. In trying to defame humanists and secularists (who are not necessarily the same thing) he reminds us that ideas can be evil in the Good Book. Possession is one of them, an idea in the bible we need to move away from rather than a language to make use of to convey ideas today. If we are going to understand why people take the lives of priests and others while shouting “God Is Great” we are going to have to use an investigative approach.

That might suggest looking at the link between violence and religion as a starting point. We should not need violence to make us give the care and attention the most vunerable  in society need. The risk is more often from society, as the President of The Royal College of Psychiatry said in the wake of the Russell Square knife attack today in London:

 

No Amen is necessary to take that advice.  

The top photo comes from this blog post with more quotes on casting out demons.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Bianca Jagger’s tweet on MPs that voted for Iraq War


Bianca Jagger, chief executive of a human rights foundation, invites us to read this list of MPs carefully. Doing so reveals MPs described as:

“Openly homosexual”

“Negro. Served in the Blair Cabinet”

“Created so-called Holocaust Memorial Day. Likely a Jew”

“Openly lesbian.”

“Jewess. Connected to Labour Friends of Israel”

“Previously linked to Robert Maxwell the infamous Jewish media boss.”

“Judeo-Negress hybrid.”

“Jew. Connected to Conservative Friends of Israel. Known for promoting homosexualism”

“His stepfather, Ronald Davis was Jewish. Previously the chairman of the party.”

People rushed to point out the hatred, bigotry, antisemitism the list contained, and what on earth she was thinking sharing it?

Hours after posting came her apology.



Having urged us to “please read it carefully” she states she “didn’t properly read its content.”

The point of sharing such lists is to stir up hatred against Labour MPs. The problem for Jagger, is the hatred was too openly there for all to see.

Remember, Labour apparently does not have an antisemitic problem associated with Corbyn’s leadership. Depending on how carefully you read these things. 

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Serena Williams and Jehovah’s Witnesses

Serena is a joy to watch. Her passion and determination together with her execution on court make her one of the greatest atheletes sport has ever seen. 22 Grand slams, and decades of competitive tennis. Remarkable, and the achievement should be belittled by no one. 

When Serena Williams thanks Jehovah for winning a grand slam, I cannot help but be reminded how as a child elders banned us from competitive sports. Chess was banned as too violent by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Tennis took away time preparing for the end of the world. The spiritual must come first. 

Above Serena mentions the “many, many hours on the court working for my one moment.” This is what the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach children regarding taking up a sport.

How much you play. The Bible says: “Make sure of the more important things.”—Philippians 1:10.

You need to set your priorities; spiritual things should come first. Most games can last several hours, whether you are playing or just watching. “I used to have conflicts with my mom over how much time I spent watching games on TV when that time could have been better spent,” says a young woman named Daria.

To emphasise that several hours playing, let alone watching, a sport is spirtually unhealthy, they use this analogy:

Putting too much emphasis on sports is like putting too much salt on your food

I remember we had one social outing as a congregation (at my mother’s urging). One kid had brought an American football. An elder insisted we could play throw but we should not form teams. Competition was not to be tolerated.  

This was the only social outing we had as a congregation in the about six years we studied with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Our social company was to be enjoyed in a new paradise earth – till then it was study the bible together and save as many people as possible before the end of this world. The apocalypse was coming, maybe tomorrow, so prepare for it. Pick up the bible, put down that racket. You could not waste several hours.

The homeschooling experience and isolation caused by Jehovah’s Witnesses insistence that children outside the faith are “bad associations that spoil useful habits” robs a childhood. Being told Satan uses other people to tempt you to leave the faith means you never switch off, Jehovah must be with you at all times. 

Even now what I write would be dismissed as that of an apostate trying to stop people seeing the light which Jehovah’s Witnesses want to share. One that should be dimmed by their failed prophesising that the people who saw the events of 1914 would be alive to see the end of the world. Apparently this does not make them false prophets that the bible warns about; it’s just more light they have now to share! They say it with a straight face while they ban children from reading books and playing games. 

Leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses two things helped me find a social group, giving a sense of personal fulfilment having binged on spiritual food for so long. Becoming chess captain having gone back to school and playing LTA tennis club tournaments as a junior. 

Serena Williams is not just exceptional. Her experience studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses is an exception. Children need to be encouraged to play sports, not told that they risk undermining their salvation and perishing forever in the coming apocalypse if they do anything but read and learn about the bible.

This is child abuse – and it needs to be called out as such without the collusion of society that tolerates the social isolation of children because of religion. 

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Brexit The Undiscovered Country

We apparently “have our country back” as 52% vote to leave the EU. The future is the undiscovered country. It is up to us after this referendum to fulfil the promise of our nation, however we voted. 

Everything has changed, and yet the world keeps on turning though the PM will resign, the pound crumbles, stock markets fall, and finally Labour MPs might vote to get rid of Corbyn. And the SNP will jump out of our Union for a European one.  

We British have voted to leave the EU. The result is some have disowned their British identity: they don’t recognise this country. Laurie Penny went further saying  in effect she wants to take a hammer to an envisioned David Cameron face to smash all our resulting problems. Well, at least she doesn’t want to shoot a female MP, as happened this month with Jo Cox’s brutal murder. Her alleged assassin declared his name in court as “death to traitors.” The incendiary language carries on in the wake of the referendum result, on all sides. Penny does so without apparent irony when rightly calling out Farage for saying “without a bullet being fired” in this campaign to change the status quo.

Perhaps it was too much to ask that an act of terrorism might make us come together to ensure democracy was the winner – whatever the result. Real emotion was on display in the recalled parliament for one of their own. Civil activists honoured her memory and what she stood for.

Yet people trying to tell politicians their concern about immigration were branded as bigots. Concern that multiculturalism meant a back door to extremism rather than diversity, labelled as prejudice. The real far right are out there taking advantage of a failure to identify social issues with their rhetoric of hate and racism. White supremacist influence from the US and Europe needs investigating, as does the global network of Islamic extremism. 

The everyday concerns of those with the least opportunity, on council estates and in the north, were looked down on by a metropolitan southern elite. They came out in their droves; a realisation in a tight vote that their ballot box ticked was equal to any one else’s. A level playing field with anyone that had played on the fields of Eton.

Democracy needs to be cherished, even when we disagree with the result. I fear, as a remain voter, the temptation is to ignore any lessons. Leave voters got it wrong the bigots, will be the tempted lamentations on my side. If we do not understand why people voted leave, including how prejudices and racism do sometimes feed into a legitimate grievance narrative, the division and future sectarianism will grow.

That all our votes were equal made us equal citizens in this vote. Perhaps we might yet make the ideal of equal citizenship. We can but try to discover that country together. 

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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