Tag Archives: Nick Cohen

Copenhagen Shootings – Fight The Fear Together Not Alone

[This article, minus cartoons of Mohammed, can now be read on Huffington Post]

Imagine university students concerned about a platform being given by their debating society to a “radical feminist” that took a chainsaw to a crucifix while bare breasted. As far as they are concerned, it goes against religious sensibilities, is playing to the patriarchy that sexually objectifies women. Other students see her as anti sexual workers, given the early beginnings of the feminist movement she is a part of. What unites them is their tactic of no platforming by protest and if needs be direct action so the event gets canceled.

The person described is Inna Shevchenko, and she was speaking at a Copenhagen cafe this Valentines Day, when a gunman opened fire from outside, having been denied entry. His contribution to the “Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression” debate being hosted was firing over thirty bullets. A Danish film maker was killed and five police officers injured. Later he went to a Synagogue celebrating a bat mitzvah, where a security guard barred entry to him. The gunman killed him before fleeing.

Silence falls in many ways. One by the sound of the gun having the last word with the victim. Threats of violence, as the fatwa on Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. The debate in the cafe was marking the anniversary of that fatwa. Then the fear of meeting with people at such venues, or debating such topics openly – the very reason the event continued in the aftermath.

Lars Vilks, who organized the debate in Copenhagen, drew this cartoon of Mohammed as part dog.

Stop Attacking the God Damn Muhammad Cartoonists

Some conservative Muslims see dogs as unclean. Also, as you are no doubt aware, drawing Mohammed can be extremely hazardous to your health. I have already written about Charlie Hebdo and the need to be more outraged at drawing blood than drawing cartoons. Here the point is as Islam is for human rights and animal rights, than assaulting or cruelty to other living beings would be as an assault on the prophet. Nothing artistic should provoke you into such an action because of your faith.

That was his point in 2007. In 2015 despite activists and cartoonists being shot at and killed, we still have to contend with such messages as: do not provoke.

Even after Paris, even after Denmark, we must guard against the understandable temptation to be provocative in the publication of these cartoons if the sole objective is to establish that we can do so. With rights to free speech come responsibilities.

That seems to me the moral approach, but there is a practical issue here too. There is no negotiating with men with guns. If progress is to come, it will be via dialogue with the millions of faithful Muslims who would never think to murder but also abhor publication of these cartoons. We cannot have that conversation in a time and spirit of provocation. And to have it would not be an act of weakness. The strong approach is not necessarily to do what is possible, but to do what is right.

So ends Hugh Mir in The Guardian. Well, there is a point to the cartoon above. Which can only really be described by showing. Lars Vilks and the people at the cafe, need support and solidarity rather than – you are part of the problem. As Inna states “We are in the middle of ideological war in Europe.They fight us with guns,we have to fight them with cartoons, street protests, speeches etc.”

If Charlie Hebdo, Lars Vilks, Raif Badawi, Aliaa Elmahdy, FEMEN & others would NOT be alone in this fight, we would NOT become a [target].

This is how solidarity works. I do not think religion, Gods or prophets are anymore than fictions, which at best promote a common heritage, helping to shape a shared cultural identity and legacy. At worst, they become dogmatic, resilient to freethought and ideas which challenge their perceived wisdom in society. At their deadliest, extremism calls for blood for blasphemy in an ideal religious state. Fundamentalists are not prepared to wait for such a state, and will carry out the sentence anywhere in the world, against muslim and non muslim alike.

I recognise not all Muslims are extremists let alone fundamentalists in Europe and bigotry suggesting that they all are needs calling out for what it is. It would be ridiculous to excuse attacks on muslims because of the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia which has funded and exported extreme salafism around the world. Yet when it comes to attacks on Jews this has been readily excused as being provoked by the actions of Israel against the Palestinians (from conversation here). Anti-semitism might get mentioned as a factor, or dismissed entirely as Karen Armstrong did:

 “We’re piling all the violence of the 21st Century on the back of religion, sending it away, saying we have nothing to do with religion. While we still have to deal with the political situation. The supermarket attack in Paris was about Palestine, about Isis. It had nothing to do with antisemitism; many of them are Semites themselves.

It feels that some are in denial that anti-semitism exists, just as anti-muslim hatred exists. Make it all political, all about foreign policy, forget religious extremism and hatred and that part of the problem is supposed to go away. To not provoke is to accept blasphemy as a social taboo even for an innocuous cartoon – as Maajid Nawaz tweeted of Mohammed saying “How ya doin’?”


That tweet, and the fallout that followed, was a year ago. Since we have seen blood spilt over the issue in Paris and Copenhagen. We have seen what religious hatred can do in a kosher supermarket and outside synagogue. A rise in attacks on muslims too. Now is the time for us all to speak up for each other’s rights.

Instead, far from showing that support even if you disagree, I am left wondering if Inna would be allowed to speak at all English Universities. As a letter to The Observer from academics and others made clear:

“No platforming” used to be a tactic used against self-proclaimed fascists and Holocaust-deniers. But today it is being used to prevent the expression of feminist arguments critical of the sex industry and of some demands made by trans activists.

This came to a head with the recent cancellation of comedian Kate Smurthwaite’s show. As Nick Cohen explains:

Last week, students at Goldsmiths College in London banned a performance by the fantastic feminist comedian Kate Smurthwaite in an act of neurotic prudery that bordered on the insane. Her show was on freedom of speech – yes, yes, I know. She told me that Goldsmiths did not close it because of what she had planned to say, but because she had once said that the police should arrest men who go with prostitutes and that she was against patriarchal clerics forcing women to wear the burqa. In the demonology of campus politics, these were not legitimate opinions that could be contested in robust debate. They marked her as a “whoreophobe” and “Islamophobe”, who must be silenced.

Nick talks about other things happening – lecturers told not to discuss religion or feminism, secular groups banned from displaying Charlie Hebdo survival front cover. “Rather than being free institutions where the young could expand their minds, British universities were becoming “theological colleges” where secular priests enforced prohibitions.”

By student groups actively no platforming, young people are themselves prohibiting the very controversy, offense and contrarian opinion which civil society needs to inform, stimulate and educate. Right now, people are failing to show solidarity when gunmen strike. Instead the message is do not provoke, do not dare to express anything that will inflame sensibilities. Do not even learn how to make a counter argument to those that you disagree with. Win by not letting them show up.

We cannot stop being alive, we cannot stop noticing the harm religious extremism and hatred causes. We will point out what fundamentalists are trying to do. We will show the limits they try to impose. We will show how people give tacit let alone explicit support to those that wish atheists, apostates and blasphemers dead.

The least you can do is not sympathise with the gunman as you blame the victim. If you are not prepared to take a flying bullet for them, you may at least be prepared to give a platform to the people that face them from fundamentalists.

Fight the fear together not alone.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

My Huffington Post Blog


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By Pulling “The Interview” We Have Told The Wolves We Are Sheep


Fear is what kills freedom, as companies and even nation states do the bidding of tyrants and fundamentalists. Under President Obama the U.S. is no longer feared nor respected, as the wolves of Putin, ISIS and Kim Jong Un come to chase the sheep we have become. They are ready to feast on what remains of the Liberty we abandon in our stampede for peace and security.

The Art of Cyberwar – first demoralise and sow confusion against your opponent with hacks to emails – has delivered by relying on a cheap threat of bloodshed to any cinema goer or neighbourhood that might host a showing of “The Interview.” One by one, movie theatres refused to show the film in the US.

Without a shot being fired, without any physical harm to anyone, Sony pulled the film from general release. Victory was accomplished by “the Guardians of Peace” without having to leave their keyboards.

Backbones are absent when you compare this situation to “The Satanic Verses” where people were killed and personally threatened. If North Korea and their cyber Bureau 121 unit are behind this, we have just given Kim Jong Un the assurance that his unpredictability and willingness to talk up war truly does get results. Stamping his feet, demanding concessions during negotiations, knowing he can use fear to strike at the heart of American life. Without using a long range missile.

Threaten violence, by calling to mind 9/11, and free enterprise that made the US the economic superpower will fold to the whims of a dictator. The hope that the antics of the Guardians of Peace might increase box office attendance as a big all American fuck you to tyranny, has instead been replaced by a whimper of please do not hurt us. We will do as you want.

Benjamin Franklin would have understood the dangerous situation:

But our great security lies, I think, in our growing strength, both in numbers and wealth; that creates an increasing ability of assisting this nation in its wars, which will make us more respectable, our friendship more valued, and our enmity feared; thence it will soon be thought proper to treat us not with justice only, but with kindness, and thence we may expect in a few years a total change of measures with regard to us; unless, by a neglect of military discipline, we should lose all martial spirit, and our western people become as tame as those in the eastern dominions of Britain, when we may expect the same oppressions; for there is much truth in the Italian saying, Make yourselves sheep, and the wolves will eat you.

Thus we lose our freedom, first to make our own choice whether to watch a movie. Next we lose our freedom to make the movies we want because of potential threats. Then we lose our ability to articulate our opinions in case we become victims for expressing ourselves.

Finally those expressing their opinions become the enemies of the state they live in, for daring to incite threats by rogue states and fundamentalists. Do not rock the boat less we all drown. Far better to throw you overboard. You cannot stop the threats, but you can stop people being controversial.

This is the situation we are approaching in Britain, which Nick Cohen writes in Standpoint:

True liberals always held that people should be free to speak their minds as long as they did not incite violence. Now the Home Office wants laws that will force us to be nice citizens, who never say anything the thin-skinned might consider “hateful” or “inappropriate”. Secularists fear that atheists will be locked up for being beastly about religion. Christians fear that evangelicals will be jailed for being beastly about gays. We will live in a country where we cannot utter a controversial opinion.

We have to stand for our freedoms against those that would rob us of them. The problem is the enemies of freedom are foreign and domestic. Even our own governments.

Those liberal freedoms we hold dear need us to be lions even if we are led by lambs. Those wolves will not go away by themselves, as they savour the meal to come.

More on the story of “The Interview” being pulled can be read here.

Update 23 December:

Some cinemas will now show as part of a limited release, and rumours are it will be on demand. Pity more cinemas not prepared to stand up to the threats [see more from BBC]

Update 24 December:

You can indeed watch the film on the internet via this link here.

Some reports if the story tried to claim this was capitalism covering their backs (and profits) rather than caving in to terror. However appealing it might be to show business has no values other than monetary for some, this ignored the threats meant a denial of our liberties for supposed security.

I am reminded therefore of another quote by Franklin.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

As to Sony manipulating events to gain maximum publicity for their film. No, the fall out and stress from the hacking and impact of terror on business makes that too cynical as this story spun itself without Sony having any control beyond deciding to stream film or not. Which would have taken sometime to organise and get approval within the organisation.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

My Huffington Post Blog

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How I Conspired Against Mo Ansar


A “cabal of interest” is arraigned against Mo Ansar, a conspiracy by “dark forces.” The articles by Douglas Murray, Nick Cohen, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Jeremy Duns (who have all linked to this blog) reveal a picture of someone not striving for peace, tolerance or unity. It is like there is a portrait in a locked room; while Mo Ansar is away mouthing progressive platitudes with Russell Brand, something less presentable has for most people been tucked away out of sight. Thanks to the internet, this sinister monstrous reality is hidden in plain sight, as painted by Mo Ansar himself.

A ten minute audio of Douglas Murray discussing Mo Ansar and Nick Cohen’s article can be heard in the video below:

The latest exposes by the people above had the effect of putting the hidden portrait on public display, bringing its surreal depictions to a much larger audience.

I have never written my full view of Mo Ansar, but rather commented on his views, behavior and credentials in about ten posts (out of nearly a thousand total). Why should we question the credibility of a man who just wants to serve the community? I try to include points not already mentioned and highlight the ones that need restating again. This is a round up of all our pieces, and hopefully now the story is out, the last time I feel compelled to write about him.


In an infamous tweet Mo Ansar tweeted to historian Tom Holland:


Mo claimed that the tweet was out of context when brought up by critics, but he refused to give the context. I therefore wrote a post on the context and critiqued the link he had provided. Mo claimed Islamic slavery was not slavery as we would understand it, because of how they were treated. My retort was if you own a person who you can sell and trade, it is slavery, and therefore oppressive. He was offered a right of reply.


He accepted and then a few months later turned down. As you can read about here. The post by then had gained traction, as had Mo’s tweet which was parodied as above.

I was surprised by Mo’s stance defending slavery in the Islamic world as not being slavery. It had no bearing on the history of what we know took place, nor reflected what was the common practice at the time. Bottom line: a person being owned is oppression by itself, and is enough to condemn the concept of slavery in any age. This is deflected as suggesting he is for slavery in the here and now. This was about historical revisionism and apologetics.

Mo Ansar does have a strange view of history which is willfully skewed, gullible or conspiratorial in nature – as the next few tweets and Mo’s blog post will demonstrate:








Remember Mo Ansar claims to be a theologian and an educationalist. His claim of being a lawyer has been debunked with him apologizing (see here). He has never said where he received such academic training for the other positions of authority he claims. When presented by the media as such a person, the public expect a qualified expert. Not someone who just thinks they are one.

The Conspiracy Theorist

I am told by a few people on twitter that Mo Ansar is a progressive. That image seems at odds from his 2006 post where he reveals himself to be a 9/11 conspiracy theorist and states Israel is a terrorist state part funded thanks to the holocaust, and that by God they should have no homeland.

Today we have the global media network, main stream media, corporate oligarchies and capitalist free markets economies. All perceive a threat by the advent of Islam. We have no conclusive proof of who committed 9/11, why the towers were ‘pulled’, why airplanes were modified, why steel melted at 800 degrees not 2,300 or the relevance of ‘Operation Northwoods’. The pleas of the families for an inquiry are denied and the evidence has in the majority, been completely destroyed. However, any straw poll will almost entirely state it was the Moozlims.

The Muslims of today are being put under an intolerable amount of suffering; they face persecution and oppression the world over in almost all of the high-Muslim population countries. Imperialistic forces continue the age old tried and tested tradition of divide and conquer. Hand in hand with a war of words, a battle for the hearts and minds of the West, a continuing aggression against the Muslim world. Israel, arguably a terrorist state, is overwhelmingly core funded through the US and holocaust reparations. We need not list Israeli atrocities other than to say that according to the Book of Moses, the Jews are utterly prohibited from oppressing another people, having been oppressed themselves. They are meant to wander without a land. They are in the main European, Ashkenazim, Khazar, non-Sephardic and non-Semitic Jews.

Mo Ansar has said that Islam is not homophobic, and that he has campaigned as a civil rights activist all his life. He has been blogging for around ten years (though absent last year). Not a single blog post exists dedicated to gay rights and Islam. We actually have to go to twitter to find his views.



On equal marriage:


This one issue is enough for people to see Mo Ansar as a progressive. But when we look at his views on slavery, Israel, 9/11, or views on history, the persona is more one geared to gullibility and sensationalism. It is one reason his accusations of dark forces and cabal interests, coming together to thwart him, are part of a conspiracy mindset. We disagree with someone that uses social and public media, by using those very same platforms. It cannot just be disagreement in the conspiracy world Mo lives in.

Before He Was A Commentator – By Milo

In a thorough examination of Mo Ansar, Milo takes us to the earlier career Mo had as banker, which ended in acrimony and revealed a persona not shown to the public:

According to court documents, Ansar’s failure to honour a debt to Lloyds TSB – a staff loan – appears to be what kicked off a 36-day employment tribunal and launched him into a career of dishonesty and special pleading in the early 2000s.

He did not repay the money he owed, and when his manager launched a compliance investigation he accused that manager of “racial discrimination,” “victimisation” and “harassment.” He later accused the bank of “tampering” with data files, a claim rejected outright by the judge.

Many appeals later, after numerous failed allegations of bias against the chair of the Tribunal from Ansar, the case was thrown out by the Supreme Court before three Lord Justices, including Leveson, at massive cost to the taxpayer.

In an earlier appeals judgment, the judge noted that Ansar found it difficult to take instruction from female superiors, had undertaken “sloppy” work for the bank and had lied in a letter pertinent to the case.

There was also evidence of “deliberate falsification of assets” by Ansar, said the judge, who noted that Ansar was “a forceful personality” who “manipulated circumstances for his own benefit.”

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 03.06.43


Iain Dale, Jeremy Duns, Nick Cohen

From a previous post:

Mo Ansar reported Iain Dale to the police on 1 April 2014 for racial and religious hatred for banning Mo from his radio show and calling him a “gobby prick” on twitter. The police, and TellMamma which monitors hatred towards Muslims, both dismissed his complaint [sent by him below].


Jeremy Duns picked up on a twitter sock puppet account that was once called @moansar2 – and started looking at the similarities of different accounts that supported Mo Ansar and held similar views. He remarks on how Mo Ansar responded when Maajid Nawaz (of the Quilliam Foundation) tweeted a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed saying “How ya doin’?”

When a petition was set up calling for Nawaz to be deselected by his party as a candidate, Ansar tweeted a link to it fifteen times, and discussed it many more online and in the media. Many condemned him for this, pointing out he was fanning the flames of extremism and could encourage death threats against Nawaz. Mo Ansar breezily condemned the death threats, but carried on campaigning against Nawaz on the cartoon issue anyway, despite being unable to say that he found it offensive himself when directly challenged by David Aaronovitch on radio and by Nawaz himself on Newsnight.

Thankfully, nothing came of those threats – but it might have done. Had anything happened, Mo Ansar would not have been solely responsible, of course, but in my view he would have been partly so. It was a malicious and potentially extremely dangerous thing to do. And he knew he was doing it.

I am inclined to agree it was revenge for how Maajid Nawaz managed to become the man that separated Tommy Robinson from the English Defense League, rather than him in the documentary When Tommy Met Mo. As I wrote at the time this particular face off between Nawaz and Ansar caught the later out:

Nawaz had previously invited Ansar to condemn sharia sanctioning chopping the hands off a thief – Ansar obfuscated and, oddly for someone introduced as a theologian by the media, said he would want to see what other scholars said (note on The Daily Politics today he does call such punishment “abhorrent” – if only the follow up question was should it still happen in an Islamic state?). Unlike Nawaz in the documentary, he could not say no to sharia being implemented without considering whether it was Islamic and therefore legitimate to do so. It appeared like religion being put before being humane by Ansar.

Maybe Mo Ansar looks to create further division by saying that this is all a smear campaign by Quilliam. After all, when flaming the passions of Islamic blasphemy and sectarianism, this is what a peaceful tolerant unifying person does without irony.

What we had been tweeting and writing in the blogosphere finally had reached the ear of professional writers above. With Nick Cohen it hit print media (arrow added below).


Nick Cohen sums up how I feel about  Mo Ansar:

His vindictiveness and self-regard will be his undoing. Broadcasters are a tolerant bunch. But they take exception to guests who try to set the cops on them. BBC Radio 5 will not have him on. Meanwhile everyone in commercial radio knows Iain Dale’s story. Maybe the Russian and Iranian propaganda channels will return his calls. Apart from that, it’s over.

We should not forget Mo Ansar, however. For all the talk of ‘diversity,’ we live in an era of uniformity. Instead of recognising the vast range of views within British Islam, officialdom created a monolithic bloc ‘the Muslims’. It then decided that self-appointed and invariably reactionary voices should be ‘the Muslims’ sole representatives.


Heart Of The Matter

The portrait we have unveiled is of a man consumed by the desire to be in the media spotlight, but this picture is the work of Mo Ansar by his own words and deeds. It includes the surrealism of being a lawyer, conspiracy theories and paranoia.

In the video above with Russell Brand, Mo Ansar states what he does is serve the community and that the message of Islam is to have a soft heart. What he does not mention is that as well as good actions this must include good intentions – namely your service to the community must be to praise Allah, not your own public image.

Whilst Mo Ansar claims to see into my heart, I cannot claim to look into his. All I know is that his behavior in dealing with critics such as Iain Dale, and his stated views outlined above, coupled with his behavior, make him someone not to taken seriously anymore.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

My Huffington Post Blog



Filed under British Politics, British Society, Religion

Belief and the believer

I agree with the thrust of what Nick is saying. Whilst people voluntailry chose to belong to a religion they consent to restrictions. Key is not having them enforced involuntarily on others.

Quite clearly though people cherry pick what they do and do not restrict themselves to.

Nick Cohen: Writing from London

A few months ago, Suffolk police stopped me for driving over 30mph. My excuse that East Anglia was so flat it was impossible not to break the limit did not wash, and they sent me on a speed awareness course. Very good it was too. After surveying the human cost of bad driving, I resolved never to speed again. Unfortunately, the instructor was over-fond of his own voice and his lecture went on for hours. “I hope he winds up soon,” I whispered to the woman next to me. “I am meant to be speaking to the National Secular Society.”

She was a little astonished and a little amused. “A National Secular Society? Why does Britain need a National Secular Society? Surely the secularists have won?”

It can feel that way sometimes.

Carry on reading

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