Monday, November 13, 2006

Stop. Being. Silly.

Being a charitable soul, I usually assume that if I read something which appears deeply obnoxiously stupid, that I must have misunderstood the point that the writer was attempting to make. This is not, I have to say, an approach which has served me well when it comes to the 'blogosphere', but I'd appreciate some help with one particular case.

I don't usually read Henry Porter's column in the Observer, because he writes the same column about New Labour's attack on our civil liberties every single week and it wasn't that good the first time. But this week I was drawn in by the opener:

"It is plain that the two great menaces to liberal democracy are Islamist fascism - I use that word without worry - and the reaction to that threat from either those who exploit it to reduce personal liberty or those too blinded by panic to consider the qualities that liberal democracy must retain in order to survive."

I don't think that either of these are actually particularly serious 'menaces', and I thought that the new style guide for Observer columnists required at the very least that climate change would get a mention. But anyway, I continued reading, until I got to the final bit, which is the bit which I still can't quite believe that someone who thinks of themself as a defender of liberal democracy would write:

"If the perpetrators of these outrages are Muslim - sometimes rather well-to-do Muslims, it seems - and the members of the 200- odd cells that MI5 is investigating are Muslim, it is not good enough for Muslims to fall back on bristling victimhood. To the rest of us, it simply seems nonsensical that a community which is the source of such a great menace, and which has offered support to it, can at the same time claim persecution. We need leadership from British Muslims and a contract between their community and the vast majority, in which the same ideals of peace, law and order are agreed upon without reference to religious needs.

For this is not a religious matter; it is about law and order in a secular society.
Is this illiberal? No, and nor is the concern that Islamic faith schools are being used to distance a generation of young people from the values of the surrounding society, to say nothing about the recruitment that was described by the head of MI5. These schools are undesirable in the extreme and steps should be taken to end the separate development that they posit. But the government would rather reduce all liberties than be seen to target a minority.

They forget that one of the values of liberal democracy is discretion - the ability to concentrate the power of the state on a problem and make the distinction between those who are likely to break the law and those who aren't."

In other words, what Henry Porter doesn't like about restrictions on civil liberties is that they apply to everyone, and not just to Muslims, who should stop pretending to be victims claiming persecution and realise that to the vast majority of 'us' they are a source of great menace.

My faith in human nature is such that I find it hard to believe someone could write such ignorant, bigoted rubbish without some sense of shame at ending up as a bad Melanie Phillips impersonator. He can't really mean this, can he?


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