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


This is a guest post by Marko Attila Hoare.


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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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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This Easter Remember Asad Shah


I wrote last year about my fears that theocratic killers would strike against other Muslims and ex Muslims in the UK. That we needed to challenge the theocratic justification that is disseminated to kill them.

This has come too late for Asad Shah. An Amahdi Muslim, the message he put up in his newsagents wishing Christians a Happy Easter summed up their philosophy of love for all, hatred for none. Hours later a Muslim stabbed him to death multiple times, and sat on his chest laughing. 

The reports saying it was another Muslim that killed him, misses the nature of the attack. Shah was the wrong kind of Muslim. His killer plunged the blade into someone he regarded as an apostate – someone worthy of death. 

To those of you that say, well it is only a theocratic state that is meant to do this under certain conditions, so this is the work of madmen. This misses the Islamic State claims such powers as a caliphate. It misses the persecution that religious minorities suffer under Islamic State constitutions – not least the Ahmadi in Pakistan. It misses the distinction between people who have no rationality, and those with a bloodlust to have their way by calculated means of terror. 

Solidarity by saying “I am Ahamdi” is the counter narrative to such justifications. Muslims recognising the Ahmadi as Muslims, challenging the dehumanising of them that occurs. We all have a part to play in this. 

Some were quick to call this murder islamophobic. I hope they will be equally quick to condemn the sectarianism and religious fundemantalism behind the killing. To decalre Ahamdi Muslims as part of the Umma, to be one with them as with all humanity. To call them Muslims. 

Shah wished all, regardless of their faith or none, love and happiness. He ultimately died for living up to those values. There is no resurrection on the third day for him, but those values can be our salvation this Easter as Europe once again comes to terms with a Jihadist attack in Brussels.  

The theocrats want to divide us, to hate, to treat differently. They must not succeed. But unless Government and civil society act and take all forms of extremism seriously, this will not be the last such murder here. 

For more on tackling such extremism look at the FATE (Families Against Terrorism and Extremism) initiative. 

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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To The Woman That Went In Front of The Train At South Kensington Station

[Update 23/5/2016 4:50PM]

I have just spoken to British Transport Police in case they needed a witness statement. I can report that the woman was struck by the train, went under it, but was rescued by emergency services, though current status regarding treatment is unknown. Contacting next of kin is ongoing according to the initial press release of the incident.

The incident is not considered suspicious, but the investigation is ongoing. So if you were on the tube platform at around 22:43 Saturday 19/3/2016 and witnessed, please contact British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40.

I have changed the blog post heading to reflect she did not die at the incident. The heading reflected my disbelief as an eyewitness someone could, and of course I hope she makes a full and speedy recovery. I regret not being circumspect in the heading, as I was in the poem. 

The response to my poem has on the whole been positive. However, one person has suggested I deleted it in case anyone is offended or distressed by it.

I can only answer the poem is how I am dealing with the incident, and if it helps further witnesses to contact the police with their investigation, then that is something positive. 

I have no idea how the people that witnessed what they saw on the metro in the recent Brussels attacks will cope, or express themselves. My advice is to let them. It might be by tweets, blogging, poetry, art or just talking. But they need to be able to do as they can.

Now, here is the poem as originally blogged.

Full of life full of joy

Revellers, flags in hand

Waved to the Land

Of Hope and Glory

Marched as a high spirited army

To South Kensington from the Albert Hall.


The tube came in

A collective gasp raised

That sucked in the air

Flags were pointing to the ground

No one was making a sound

And all I could think to ask

Was did she jump or fall?

The army, shell shocked went 

Above the ground

To the siren of evacuation

The solidarity of silence broken

As people scrambled for cabs.

Life had returned in the open air

Save for one 

With alternative travel arrangements

Left deep underground by all. 

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Sam Harris and Omar Aziz Email Exchange

Imagine Sam Harris invited me to discuss my blog post “Sam Harris Mistackles His Critics” on his podcast. I am given the chance to read it out, for him to comment as we go, and for me to add or discuss in response. To even bring what I want into the conversation.

I would jump at the chance. To discuss and challenge what we think is the pinnacle of a free society.

Omar Aziz was given that very opportunity based on this piece he wrote in Salon, though he complained about the format. Harris felt the resulting four hour recording was unbroadcastable. Omar Aziz complained this was against free speech, and was a cover for unpalatable views expressed by Harris, in his latest Salon piece.


Unfortunately for Aziz, Sam Harris has on his podcast broadcast the relevant parts of their discussion. If you listen to the exchange above, Aziz does not come across well.

Aziz also quotes in Salon from his email exchange with Harris. Below I reproduce part of their email exchange. It provides a different perspective from what Salon readers may have expected from the partial quotes.

Hi Sam,
Thanks for the clarifications. I really hope you were not literally intending for me to come on and read my essay on your podcast with you stopping me every other sentence as if I was in some kind of deposition or trial. This would be a totally fruitless conversation. I assume your readers have read the essay, and I’d welcome specific questions you’d like to raise in a debate/discussion format.
Rather than me reading my essay line-by-line, I suggest we each propose a handful of broad topics and we have a conversation on each. We can alternate who kicks off the discussion for each topic.
Looking over the essay, here’s a rough chronological outline of the issues I’ve raised:
1. Reforming Islam
2. The history and tradition of Islam (and what that may reveal about radical jihadists)
3. Holy War (past and present)
4. Hate crimes against Muslims
5. Your views on torture, Ben Carson, and Noam Chomsky
6. Anything else we don’t get to
I’m up for a discussion on all these topics, their ethics, their politics, their implications. If you have other suggestions, please let me know.
January 12 at 1 pm sounds good.
No, I’m serious about you reading every word your essay. Here are my reasons:
1. Most of our listeners will not have read it and never will.
2. It is the reason I’m having you on the podcast. You took the time to write it, and the charges you level at me are clearly expressed and deserve to be discussed.
3. Part of my interest in having this discussion is to see if we can bridge the distance between a Salon-style hit piece (which you wrote) and an actual conversation. I want us to move back and forth between the text of your essay, my response to it as a reader/listener, and your response to my response. It remains to be seen whether this will produce and interesting/useful conversation or a “fruitless” one. But I’m pretty sure no one has ever attempted something like this before.
So this is how I want us to approach the podcast—with you reading what you wrote and our stopping to talk about each point, wherever relevant. Again, you can say anything you want in this context, and I won’t edit you (though if our exchange truly is “fruitless,” as well as boring, I reserve the right not to air it).
January 12th works. Are you in or out?
Hi Sam,
What you call a hit piece I call an essay-length review of your book. I find it highly revealing that you will not have a traditional debate or discussion around themes or topics but insist on me reading my essay word for word and you reserving the right to stop me whenever you want. Unless you are a state prosecutor putting on a show trial, this seems like a highly dubious way to proceed. It should come as no surprise that “no one has ever attempted something like this before” — they actually did in the old totalitarian states when writers went off message and had to be publicly censored by the state — because depositions where one party is stopping the other every few seconds to “correct the record” are a highly denigrating form of intellectual exchange, and most writers would not allow themselves to be condescended to in such a way.
However, I will still come on and abide by all these restrictive guidelines you want to pre-emptively impose, but I will add a couple of my own.
1. Instead of reading all 2800 words on your podcast, why don’t you highlight which sentences/paragraphs are the most inaccurate, misguided, offensive, insulting (whatever adjective you want to use here), and I will read those. This way, we can actually have a conversation around the most contentious charges, and we can let the conversation flow as it will.
2. I reserve the right to make my own recording of our discussion in case it is fruitless or “boring” from your perspective, but fruitful and interesting from mine.
So, once again, I gladly accept your invitation to come on, despite its restrictive, questionable, and one-sided terms, and I look forward to the 12th.
Are you in or out?
The fact that you view my offer to put you on my podcast and let you say anything you want to my audience unedited in terms of “show trials” and other forms of totalitarian coercion suggests to me that having a productive conversation will be a challenge. Yes, I want to hold you accountable for every word in your essay. You took the time to write it, and nearly every sentence exemplifies what is wrong with our public conversation on these topics. Is the fact that you appear reluctant to stand behind your work “highly revealing”? I’ll let you decide. But there’s nothing about the format I propose that would prevent us from talking for ten minutes at a stretch on any specific topic, or digressing upon others. Can you seriously believe that I’d be dodging debate/discussion by allowing you to present the sharpest, written version of your charges against me on my podcast and then discussing them at length? You think this gives me some kind of unfair advantage? While reading your essay, you can expand upon your points, or refine them, or do anything else you want. I’m simply asking that every word of the text also be read, so that our listeners can hear every point, and I can respond (or not).
Honestly, Omer, life is too short for this. If you were going on CNN for an interview with Fareed Zakaria, would you reserve the right to record your own version of the interview? That’s not how things work. I’m inviting you on my podcast. It takes a lot of time and money to produce. If you turn out to be a terrible guest—producing a river of empty insults with no coherent arguments—I reserve the right to kill the show. And no, I don’t give you permission to record and broadcast our conversation in some other forum.
Is there enough good will here for us to continue? Perhaps I should mention another portent of doom: I just noticed for the first time that Murtaza Hussain is one of your friends/collaborators. That doesn’t bode well, because I consider Hussain to be the most unscrupulous person I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter online (and that’s saying a lot). I certainly would never attempt anything like this with him. I have great respect for the power of conversation, but I’m not a fool (or a masochist).
But I also detected a ray of hope: I read your fine piece in TNR, “The Soul of a Jihadist,” [Link] and agreed with every word of it. Part of my interest in attempting difficult conversations like this is to reconcile the seeming paradox that you and I can agree about so much and still find ourselves so far apart. I honestly have no idea whether we can bridge the gap. But I’ll let you decide whether or not we should try…
Should I book you for the 12th? If so, we still need to get you a microphone.

Harris commented his reason for sharing this part of the email exchange: “Given that Salon published an edited version of my emails with him, I could release the whole thread. You’ll see that it reveals him to be a fairly paranoid, victimology type. I won’t bore you with the whole thing, but here’s the heart of the exchange.”

I am surprised that Harris went through with taping a podcast. Doing so at least shows someone willing to try and engage their critics. The excerpts from the recording demonstrate why it was not broadcast.

Update 12/3/2016

After pressure from fans and detractors alike, Sam Harris has announced he will be publishing the full four hour podcast.

I think one of the comments below summed it up that though the conversation might be boring, and disingenuous, it would show how the argument plays out involving Sam Harris. And that would in itself make it worth listening too.

Careful what you wish for … it sometimes happens.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Blasphemers Should Be Taken To Court Says Mo Shafiq


With base expectations, we may celebrate that Mo Shafiq does not want blasphemers killed. The jubilant crowds would be none existent. You have to kill someone for blasphemy to get that kind of reception in Pakistan. No, Shafiq would never stoop that low for attention. 

Low enough to make clear that those assassinated for blasphemy should be very much alive and answering for it in court.

Shafiq wanted to spread the word that Maajid Nawaz was a blasphemer in 2014, and all that work for the Quilliam Foundation, which Nawaz chairs, were “ghustaki Rasool these quillium people.” Which means “defamer of the prophet.” A year after doing this, he apologised for his behaviour in 2015 saying he would never support violence. 

Now, it is 2016. What did Mo Shafiq want to make clear regarding the assassination of Govenor Salman Taser and his assassin, Mumtaz Qadri?

If Salman Taseer was guilty of blasphemy then he had the right to defend himself in a court of law; this was not afforded to him. I am not defending his actions, nor what type of lifestyle he led, but regardless of this he had the right to be heard in the court of law. Mumtaz Qadri decided he was guilty and therefore decided he was going to kill him – this action was wrong.

The “lifestyle he led” – let us be clear that sympathy for a man shot in cold blood by his bodyguard for suggesting the blasphemy law needed reforming, only goes so far. Mo Shafiq wants freedom to discuss so:

we could debate, disagree or challenge each other without resorting to insults, swearing or denigrating one’s intentions.

But if you are accused of blasphemy, off to the courts with you. No freedom to debate, disagree or challenge in the public sphere. Come along quietly in Pakistan, before the mob gets there to kill you 

The problem in the UK is being exuberant and celebrating the murder of blasphemers. You are rather letting the side down according to Shafiq:

…When it comes to tackling terrorism we have to be consistent and sadly over the past few days we have allowed the narrative to build that the Sunni/Sufi community supports some terrorism or killing in the name of defending the honour of the beloved Prophet (pbuh).

This is alarming and deeply damaging for our community and our ability to address the issue of extremism. This cannot be allowed to continue to the point where we are just seen as terrorist sympathisers or apologists which clearly is not true – God forbid the next atrocity will happen and our scholars will be challenged, ridiculed and condemned for being selective when it comes to terrorism and killing of individuals.

Muslims are not a political collective. Islamists want them to be one. So do the far right. It is a giveaway when people treat them as a monolith. Also, when criticism of the views of a person are considered an attack on Muslims generally. This delusion goes like this: I speak for Muslims defending Islam, therefore when I am attacked, Muslims and Islam are. 

These are my sincerely held views and I am certain regardless of what I say there will still be some haters who will continue the campaign against Islam and denigrate so many Muslims.

So to make clear, Mo Shafiq does not want you killed by anyone for blasphemy. You should be in the dock for doing so. Otherwise, take whatever views on the issue and debate. And bear in mind Shafiq is a Sunni. 

you can disagree with me but do not suggest that I am any less of a Sunni than you because of this post.

But you can say of Maajid Nawaz: 

When it comes to speaking for or defending Muslims Maajid and his cronies are on the other side supporting the other side.

The secret is to learn when you should denigrate other Muslims and their lifestyle, but demand no one do that back to you. Mo Shafiq plays it so well. 

So in the debate watch out for non violent extremists that want you in court and the violent extremists that want you dead, when you do. There seem to be a few of them about in this world. 

As Govenor Taseer or Asia Bibi testify to. 


Twitter exchange here.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
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