Free Speech, Politics

Do Britain’s Muslims Have a Right Not to be Offended?

Religious freedom is one of the core principles of any modern liberal society. As a secularist, I defend the right of religious people to send their children to faith schools, have their children circumcised, or wear the burqa. This does not mean I approve of any of these practices; they should be permissible but not protected from criticism. We should be free to ridicule, lampoon, chastise, critique, etc. every aspect of religious belief that we tolerate.

This is, more or less, what the U.K.’s former Conservative Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote in his now infamous newspaper column in the Telegraph last week. Yet all hell has broken loose. It was greeted by near-hysterical outrage and shrill denunciations of Johnson’s alleged dog whistle racism; reports of civil war in the Tory Party over the matter; the now ubiquitous demands for an apology for causing offence (or else), which was backed in this instance by the Prime Minister. Boris’s is now the subject of an internal Party inquiry. It’s worth untangling this sorry tale as a snap-shot of today’s offence culture and how chilling it can be to a free society.

Johnson has been ‘called out’ as Islamophobic for arguing against – yes against – a ban on the burqa and for defending – yes defending – the right of any “free-born adult woman” to wear what she wants “in a public place, when she is simply minding her own business”. His column is predominantly an excoriating critique of Denmark’s betrayal of its own “spirit of liberty” and “the spirit of Viking individualism” by its decision to impose a state ban on the burqa or niqab (although he is not being indicted for caricaturing Danish culture). He rightly notes that being opposed to a ban should not be interpreted as approval and goes on to say – albeit in a somewhat crass manner – that “Muslim head-gear that obscures the female face… looking like letterboxes… like a bank robber…is absolutely ridiculous”.

As similes go, no doubt Boris could have been more tactful. I am no fan of BoJo-style private school wit. Indeed, I can understand that veil-wearing Muslim women – whom myriad journalists throughout the country have stopped on streets to ask if they like being compared to criminals or inanimate objects – would find the analogy offensive. But should all political comment on religion have to pass an offense test to be allowed? I am pretty sure that my two aunts – who are Catholic nuns – would be pretty offended if they heard my atheist mates’ denouncing as backward mumbo-jumbo a religion that believes the host and wine is literally the body and blood of Christ. But that’s the deal – a free society affords religious tolerance for nuns, imams, rabbis; and conversely liberty for others to stick the metaphorical boot into their beliefs.

Are Boris’s critics demanding respect for all religious practices regardless of whether they consider them backward, wrong-headed, or oppressive? Should we bite our lip in case we offend? We seem to have forgotten that we once all declared #JeSuisCharlie – a brief but inspiringly unapologetic defense of free speech after cartoonists for the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were brutally butchered in Paris for daring to publish cartoons deemed offensive to Islam. Should they have shut up until they learned to become more tactful?

Naturally, cheap sectarian Tory-bashing has driven some of the outrage. Supporters of the Labour Party, recently afflicted by an anti-Semitism scandal that is still rumbling on, were quick to denounce the “gross Islamophobia” in the article, even though criticism of the burqa has been commonplace in Labour and feminist ranks over the years. Emily Thornberry, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (and Boris’s shadow until his recent resignation), declared on BBC’s Question Time in 2013 that “I wouldn’t want my four-year-old looked after by somebody wearing a burka. I wouldn’t want my elderly mum looked after by somebody wearing a burka. They need to be able to show their face. I wouldn’t mind if they worked in records in the hospital.”

Being banished to the back office, hidden away from view, is arguably far more insulting than being compared to a letterbox. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown who, in a debate with me on the topic on BBC’s Newsnight, queried Boris’ motives as malign, herself wrote a book entitled Refusing the Veil, in which she argues that veiling “conceals abuse, propagates eating disorders… distorts Muslim values and strips women of all autonomy and individuality”. I think I’d rather be compared to a bank-robber than robbed of all agency and seen as a hapless victim.

One may also suspect the affair has been blown up to serve the cause of Brexit-bashing since Boris was Britain’s leading Brexiteer. When former attorney general Dominic Grieve (and poster-boy for a soft Brexit) says Johnson’s “very embarrassing” comments about burqas show that he is not a “fit and proper” person to lead the Tories, it would be naïve in the extreme to imagine his primary concern is Muslim women’s sensitivities.

To be honest, the festishisation of burqa-wearing from critics and even supporters is often a proxy for a range of other issues. Denmark’s decision to ban the garment – along with France, Germany, Austria and Belgium – illustrates the inability of Western governments to hold the line when it comes to defending Western values. It’s illustrative of the problems many European societies have had in inspiring recent immigrants to integrate (by offering them little to integrate into), or indeed winning the hearts and minds of many second and third generation immigrant Muslim youth to a positive view of citizenship of their various nations. Instead, Western societies have opted for an illiberal, technocratic solution. Lashing out at the most superficial expression of this failure avoids the harder arguments.

In Britain, where very few British Muslims actually wear the burqa, right-leaning commentators often imply that burqa wearing is interchangeable with an Islamic takeover, failing to note that British values, culture and literature are more likely to come under assault from intersectional, anti-colonial ‘Christian’ British students than by niqab-wearing mums in Birmingham or Bradford. Conversely, many young women adopt the veil (often to the horror of their jeans-wearing Muslim mums) less as an act of religious observance than as an act of political defiance, a sartorial finger to a British way of life, trotting out the justifications-de-jour of identity politics and feminism. “How dare you criticize what I wear… As a Muslim woman, I find that offensive!” is a demand to shut up and back-off, a threat that anyone who dares to challenge their choice of dress will be met with accusations of Islamophobia.

Interestingly, Johnson’s article is sensitive to how the burqa has become a politicised symbol. He argues that he’s against “a total ban because it is inevitably construed – rightly or wrongly – as being intended to make some point about Islam”. He was wary of a ban that might “fan the flames of grievance”. It is telling that even his argument against a Burqa-ban and for liberal tolerance has led to a wildfire of grievance-mongering, indicating how debates about Islam have become embroiled in an unhelpful culture war.

There is something cowardly and self-defeating about the cross-party condemnation of Johnson. With no sense of irony, former Tory chairman Lord Pickles warns that Johnson’s “illiberal language,” risks “closing down” debate. But the real threat to liberalism and open discussion is Pickles et al endorsing a backlash that deems any criticism of Islam off-limits. And if liberal, if sometimes crass, criticism is off-limits because it is interpreted as being illiberal, then the only “acceptable response” – and the end result of this Boris-bashing episode – is to close down free speech and fair comment.

What hope is there that we – the public – can have a frank, open-ended discussion about some of the huge societal challenges we face – such as problems of fractured communities and cities in which inhabitants live segregated lives – if even one of the U.K.’s most powerful men gets denounced as a pariah for writing a provocative column about religious dress? We are effectively telling ordinary citizens who may, for example, want to explore through open discussion what drives British-Asian youth to blow their peers to smithereens, or trek to Syria and film themselves beheading fellow Westerners: “You can’t discuss that.”

If questioning a fringe religious practice is assumed as evidence of bigotry against all Muslims, surely that implies that any and all Islamic practices and beliefs should be surrounded by a ‘do-not-criticise’ barrier? More broadly, the risk is that the moral of the Boris story will be that any criticism of anyone who happens to be a Muslim, regardless of their behaviour, is verboten. Of course, that type of walking-on egg-shells approach is precisely the reason that council officials looked the other way as gangs of predominantly Pakistani Muslim men sexually abused hundreds of white working-class girls, and why the Labour MP Sarah Champion was demonised and dumped by Labour’s front bench for daring to say so.

We cannot allow “not causing offence” to be a get-out-of-jail-free card. And, of course, chilling discussion of these conversations on tricky, sensitive issues does not mean they go away. These just find a home beyond the mainstream. Enter stage right Tommy Robinson: the self-styled leader of the tell-it-as-it-is anti-Islam movement. While it may be galling for many of my own colleagues on the left, the former English Defense League poster-boy now claims to be the champion of free speech and saying the unsayable. Those who are gleefully hounding Boris are handing Robinson a cheap win – and boosting his moral authority ten-fold. Now, when Tommy and pals claim, ‘they won’t let us criticise Islam,’ he has proof.

But this goes beyond personalities or the aspirations of political leaders – whether alt-right populists or Johnson’s alleged bid to take the top job at the Tory party. What is at stake here is the freedom for the rest of us – regardless of our religious or political affiliations – to speak, argue, and worship freely – without being horse-whipped into silence as heretics.

Claire Fox is the Director of the Academy of Ideas and the author of I Find That Offensive. Follower her on Twitter at @fox_claire.


    • Nick says

      It is obviously time for women to don the burkha and know their place – which is at least ten paces behind her owner, silent, and draped from head to foot in a black funeral shroud. We tried Women’s Lib, but obviously Islam takes absolute precedence. Just ask Theresa May. If there’s any authority on the subject, it’d be a female Prime Minister of the UK.

    • Leo Leclair says

      I have a very similar issue, being a follower of the Religion of True Naturalism. I wish to appear in public or at work from time to time, without any clothing, just as God in her wisdom created us. However, this seemingly reasonable desire to practice my simple beliefs within the public square is viewed with suspicion by non-believers and is consistently frowned upon by many who suspect me of possible nefarious intentions. What to do?

  1. Argo says

    I gave up waiting for the writer to make a point. I’m sure it happens eventually.

    • It would be great if Quillette could add a few bullet points before an article to serve as an abstract and conclusion. CNBC does this better than most.

    • david of Kirkland says

      Wasn’t the point that tyranny shouldn’t stop personal behavior, but your personal choices are not immune from being commented on? You do not have a right to not be insulted, nor criticized, nor challenged intellectually and factually.

    • David Turnbull says

      If only Quillette was just a twitter feed.

  2. Brent says

    Respect is earned not given and personally there is not a single religion in this world that has won my respect yet.

    • Robert Paulson says

      What makes you think your respect is valuable enough to be worth earning in the first place?

      • M. D. says

        A whole lot of people seem to be expending a whole lot of effort ensuring everyone respects everyone (except the oppressive white male power structure) and that could lead any of us to think that our respect is worth something. If it’s not valuable to them, why do they care?

        However, it is possible that it isn’t about respect at all. Maybe it’s just about I’m the boss of you.

        For what it’s worth, I love and respect you and your opinions, Robert Paulson and Brent.

        • david of Kirkland says

          Brent likely doesn’t care about receiving respect from foolish people, tyrants or those who hate you because they disagree with your opinions. I know that I don’t. While I applaud Boris for being so accepting, the reality is that those who mal-educate their children in such religious nonsense are creating real harm, though fortunately those who learn this nonsense in countries where free speech and intellectual pursuits are encouraged and supported often end up being more secular than devout, more a cultural artifact than an accepted reality.

        • Jason Reiner says

          I wonder if it is respect they want or affirmation? I can respect anyone as a fellow human. I will not disrespect them by lying about affirmation.

    • Hospitals, schools, charities and social change all have their origins in the Christian church. As do trade unions and virtually every organisation that exists for the good of mankind. For example the Salvation Army is the largest non-governmental provider of Social Services in the UK (and that extends to protecting victims of human trafficking). I don’t find a large number of outright atheist organisations engaging in any of these. Feel free to correct me the names of at least a dozen.

      • Why on Earth would a specifically atheist organisation be set up to do charity work?

        What kind of asshole would say ‘Yes, homelessness is a problem. We’ll attempt to deal with it – but we are going to push atheism on anyone who needs our help’ or ‘We’re going to tackle drug abuse – but our clients better renounce Jesus first.’

        Atheists do charity through secular organisations – they don’t make promoting atheism a condition of providing help.

        They just leave religion out of it.

      • Burlats de Montaigne says

        SOME hospitals, schools and charities may have their origins in Christianity but not all. Trade Unions definitely not. They sing the Red Flag at union meeting NOT Abide With Me. Secondly, you use the word “origins”. Yes they may have had their origins in organized religion but since then the role of the church in most people’s lives has dwindled into insignificance. We’ve been there, done that, got the sack cloth and ashes and we’re done with all that primitive nonsense. We don’t need the comfort blanket of religion any more. We are born and we die. There is no afterlife, no heaven, no hell. Most sentient beings accept this.
        Islam is still some centuries behind and is yet to experience an enlightenment. In the meantime we have to accommodate their superstitions and outrages without objection?
        ps “atheist” organizations would include the British Government I would imagine. They spend billions on international aid programs each year.

        • But if only if enough Muslims have enough freedom of speech to challenge aspects of their own religion. There’s no sign of this yet. There’s not even any sign of lessening the punishments for criticism. I don’t think any one should make assumptions that all religions will, like Christianity develop along the Western path of enlightenment and progress toward secular society. For this to happen there needs to be at least some acceptance, politically and legally, of individual sovereignty and rights to begin with.

      • Andrew_W says

        Hospitals, schools, charities and social change all have their origins in the Christian church.

        “Social change” is usually greatly resisted by religious organizations as such organisations are inevitably conservative (small “c”) in their nature.

        In Christian countries that’s true, in countries that followed other deities those institutions were created by other religions.

        It’s hardly likely that hospitals, schools, charities etc would have been created by atheists because back at the time those institutions had their origins there were very few atheists, and those that did exist were careful not to be discovered as atheists because if they were found out the theists would stone them to death.

        I don’t find a large number of outright atheist organisations engaging in any of these. Feel free to correct me the names of at least a dozen.

        In most countries hospitals and schools are predominantly government run and owned institutions and in secular states they’re usually non-religious, most other charities these days are also non-religious, why on earth would anyone create a charity and then brand it as atheistic in order to deter theists from getting involved in the organisation? I know theists throughout history have frequently shunned and murdered atheists, but as far as I can tell the vast majority of todays atheists are happy to be in organisations with theists, though admittedly in many societies (including western societies) there are still many that hide their irreligiosity from theists out of fear of social persecution.

  3. TarsTarkas says

    I think the point she is making is that the Offense Police are trying to make it a capital crime to criticize or even accidentally disparage anyone who belongs in any way shape or form to the Intersectionality Community (i.e. everyone who isn’t pale-skinned, male, and straight) no matter what they say or do. And of course IC members in good standing get a permanent pass on anything THEY say or do (see the kerfuffle regarding Sarah Jeong) unless they happen to tread on the toes of someone or someones with a higher IC score then they do. Which means they get to win, always, and become even more petty and vicious. F**k them. They need to grow some skin, learn to act like adults, learn to be civil, learn to let the little stuff slide. Because if they don’t sooner or later wanna-be barbarians or petty tyrants will learn the hard way what true barbarism is like, and they survive the experience, they’ll be very unhappy.

  4. Muslim prophet Muhammad married and sexually molested a 6 year old girl and raped her at 9 years old.
    We should have the freedom of speech to call Muhammad a pedophile just the same as calling Gary glitter a pedophile.
    Islam supports child marriages & pedophilia – Quran 65:4 & wife beating Quran 4:34 & we should be free to criticise.

      • Robert says

        FGM is practised in mostly Muslim, but also Christian and Animist societies in Africa.

  5. “I defend the right of religious people to have their children circumcised”. Really? How about we cut off the kids ears so that they can’t hear any blasphemies, or subject them to some other form of gormless mutilation. Enough is enough. If a secular group was doing similar ‘branding’ to children we would call it atrocity!


    • prince says

      I am a Jew, circumcised on my 8th day, and had the same ceremony done to my 3 boys. This is a tradition of 4000 years, and had no adverse health affect for all this time. On the contrary – the little procedure is recommended by many doctors.

      The ceremony is at the heart of what it means to be a Jew. It is a symbol or the covenant of God with the children of Abraham.

      So I believe that your attacks are truly baseless.

      Still, feel free to attack. Some (or even many) of us will be offended. But don’t let this stop you. Seriously. Every one has the right to express offensive ideas. Nobody has the right to prevent these ideas from being expressed.

      The answer to bad speech is more speech.

      • ga gamba says

        I wish someone would inform our primitive doctors in Europe of these medical benefits because circumcision is very far from the norm. I fear all our men have missed out and their health may be endangered. What good is universal healthcare when that’s missed? Dark Ages still, I’m afraid.

        Prince, though I’ve had a little go at a religious practice, I respect the substance of your comment. It aligns with my thoughts on the matter and is exactly how society ought to handle such events.

        Let’s face it, there are some religions that are freely and easily criticised and mocked with no consequence to the speaker, for example Scientology, which is not even recognised as a religion by some European states, and Mormonism, with it’s magical underwear; there are others that must be be treated with kid gloves. Yet, Muslims allow themselves the freedom to ridicule other religions, in particular the polytheistic ones such as Hinduism.

      • Enough is enough says

        Don’t mistake your cultural indoctrination for logic. Foreskins evolved for a reason.

        • prince says

          This is a bad argument.

          Evolution allowed us life expectancy of 23. Our intervention with nature added 60 years.

          • Nigel says

            When you see stats for averages life expectancy it doesn’t mean that most humans died or die around that age. Our intervention with nature reduced the infant mortality rate which drove up the mean average lifespan of humans. Before vaccines, etc. those who managed to survive their childhood usually lived much longer than 23.

        • Jesse Kotel says

          So did the appendix and now the only thing that does is kill you occasionally. This is a silly argument

      • Yes, male genital mutilation has considerable negative health effects. One recent study shows a strong link between it and sudden infant death syndrome.

        Apart from that, there is a strong argument to be made against male genital mutilation from a personal rights perspective. If somebody walked up to you in the street and shoved a knife into your genitals, would you be happy about it as long as the person claimed it was part of their religion? If not, would it become okay if the person was genetically related to you?

        The real moral outrage is that we Europeans still give children different rights depending on whether they are Jewish or not. Jewish kid? Stick a knife in its genitals if you like. Non-Jewish? Must be properly cared for. I had hoped we had got rid of that attitude along with Hitler…

        • prince says

          Correlation =/= causation.

          With females having ~40 of the SIDS cases the argument falls flat.

        • Richard Russell says

          This “study” is utterly ridiculous–an infant does not lose 10-20% of its blood volume during a circumcision. It’s more like a drop or two.

      • Circumcisions are sometimes botched with obviously disastrous consequences. Their ‘health’ benefits are dubious. Mutilating a baby’s body is a a violation of their human right to bodily autonomy and to make a decision about their own penis in later life. It has no place in the modern world, particularly when its only justification is superstition.

        • prince says

          Society allows parents complete control over the child’s body with virtually every aspect: nutrition, the kind of medical treatment the child should get, setting preventive health, deciding on exposure to germs/viruses/illness, getting vaccinations, going on risky adventures, getting an ear or nose pierced, getting eyebrowes trimmed etc.

          It is a fundamental human right of the parent to have autonomy over the child’s bodily autonomy. The alternative is to have the state make those determinations. Would you like to have the state decide that your child should be a vegan?

          Like every human right, there are limits to it. Just like there are limits to speech (speech that lead to violence etc), there are limits to what a parent can do with their child. The parent cannot create a condition that can materially risk the child’s life or create permanent damage.

          Society has determined (rightfully so) that circumcision is not risking life or creating a permanent damage to the child and therefore it falls within the fundamental human rights of the parent to decide it.

          • ga gamba says

            Society has determined (rightfully so) that circumcision is not risking life or creating a permanent damage to the child …

            What about increasing the risk of creating permanent damage? Certainly botched circumcisions happen; this is indisputable. If these procedures didn’t happen, the risk would disappear, right? (Of course, no one would die in car accidents if there were no cars. We weigh the costs and benefits and make a choice. Still, it’s easier to quantity tangible benefits from vehicles than from circumcision.) Further, there are some in the ultra-Orthodox community who practice metzitzah b’peh, or “oral suction circumcisions,” where the mohel sucks the boy’s circumcised penis. I reckon you heard about the deaths resulting from that.

            I’m old enough to remember when Christian Scientists (CS) were given carte blanche to decline medical treatment and vaccinations; the faith’s guiding textbook forbids mixing medical care with Christian Science healing. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a similar thought. Over time the state began to act, often because of the outrage over was declared a preventable death and the news media’s amplified coverage. For its part, the Church sought and often obtained laws protecting its believers from prosecution. CS is a dying faith, both literally and figuratively because almost no one joins it. On the other hand, Jehovah’s Witnesses are quite aggressive; it’s one of the more hyperactively proselytizing religions. Let’s not ignore the many indigenous and culturally based ‘treatments’ that don’t need to prove efficacy and to scrutinise these too closely one risks being accused of the old standby… racism.

            Nowadays countries are looking at laws to protect children from parents who don’t want them to undergo sex transition treatments.

            Frankly, I’m split on the issue. I don’t want children endangered or harmed, but I dislike intrusions by the state into family life and freedoms. If push comes to shove I’ll align with the latter, but I suspect my thought is the minority view in society. I hate seeing reports of families in Norway being split apart by the state for minor spanking – that’s grotesque over reach. I need to see very compelling evidence, and I’m willing to tolerate some unfortunate outcomes to protect family life and freedom. That said, it behooves those who advocate circumcision, faith heeling, and other touchy subjects to police their own communities and implement best practices to reduce sensationalised events. If a mohel really has to suck a penis or else will be angered, test them for HIV and other transmissible diseases, use a dental dam, or introduce other measures.

            Now, on to the touchy subject of why gentiles have appropriated circumcision. And the Tanakh (the Bible). And HaShem. Then they have the neck to claim the fella committed adultery, impregnated a woman, and was a deadbeat dad to boot. 😉 To add injury to insult, for a couple of millennia they persecute the creators of their belief system.

          • It is a fundamental human right of the parent to have autonomy over the child’s bodily autonomy.

            That’s not only legally incorrect, its semantically gibberish.

            How can anyone have autonomy over somebody else’s autonomy, bodily or otherwise?

            What the hell do you think ‘autonomy’ means if not the right to self-determination?

      • Tim Broomhead says

        It isn’t very respectful to a God to suggest that the foreskin is an inherent design fault.

      • Fat Bastard says

        Prince, if you feel like cutting off the end of your dick because your invisible friend tells you to, or for any other reason, you have every right to do so. You do not, however, have the right to mutilate the genitals of infants. When they reach the age of reason, they, too will be free to lop off any part of their body they desire. Why is this so difficult to understand? Foot binding was practiced for a thousands years and the Brits had a devil of a time stamping out the two thousand year-old tradition of widow burning in India. Numbers will not come your aide here. Bullshit doesn’t smell any better with age.

        • @prince , it seems you have misread the article I linked. Nobody is suggesting that male genital mutilation causes all cases of SIDS. Female deaths are therefore irrelevant to the argument. What the author is saying is that mutilated boys die of SIDS more often than unmutilated ones.

          On another subject, I am glad to see that you do not support parents who cause permanent damage to their children. However, I think it is decidedly disingenuous to pretend that male genital mutilation, which leaves permanent damage in the form of a missing foreskin and a scar even when there are no complications, is anything like making decisions about a child’s eyebrows (which, being hair, will grow back eventually).

          • prince says

            This is much less a mutilation than piercing is an “ear mutilation” or taking out the wisdom teeth is “jaw mutilation” or a rhino-plastic is a “nose mutilation”. It is a tiny procedure, with significantly less risk than any of the above.

            Circumcision happens to have health benefits according to many doctors, but even if you disagree with this point, it is a harmless procedure that have incredibly rare complications and no lasting negative effects.

            If you care so much about parent “mutilating” the bodies of children, I wonder why we don’t see this kind of emotional outbursts about girls getting ear pierced at young age? Surely this practice is much more wide spread than circumcision and is done to billions of young girls. Shouldn’t you tackle this wide spread mutilation first? Where is the outrage?

            Or perhaps could it be that the root of this anti-circumcision sentiment is more about an anti-religious sentiment? Or maybe even about anti-Judaism?

            Be honest with yourself here.

          • @ prince, you are once again being disingenuous. Whoever heard of wisdom teeth being drawn without it being medically necessary? Not to mention the fact that wisdom teeth usually come in at around the age of majority, so that there are very few minors who could possibly be affected and certainly no babies.

            Secondly, at what point did I say I thought it was all right to pierce the ear (or any body part) of a human who is unable to consent, or has not consented? I certainly think nothing of the sort. The reason I did not mention it is the same reason that I did not mention that I am against murder: it was not under discussion either in the article or in this comment thread.

            And, just in case that is your next straw man: I am also very much against all other forms of not medically warranted surgery on minors, including rhinoplasty.

      • david of Kirkland says

        Do Jews also mutilate female genitalia? That you chop off part of your body for faith is fine, but when pushed on to children who cannot choose/object, one has a bit more to wonder about it.

      • OK, you are free to lop off any bits that offend you as an adult. To do that to children is child abuse.


      • Leo Leclair says

        Dear Sir, I was circumcised (without my consent) at birth in the 1950’s as it was judged to be a generally healthy thing to do in western hospitals of that era. I have had the good fortune to have had unprotected sex with over 45 Ladies during the course of my lifetime and have yet to contract a venereal disease. I can not complain.

      • Michael says

        There can be few more offensive ideas which anyone can have “a right to express” than that of removing part of someone’s anatomy, for religious or idealogical reasons, before he or she is capable of saying yes or no to going under the knife.

        The irony is that this particular offensive idea is shared by two religious factions which have traditionally been – literally on countless occasions – at each other’s throats.

  6. Fran says

    I grew up in India a couple of miles from a small town in Central India on a village development project. There was a small Muslim community in the town, and occaisionally they brought fully burkhad women to my mother’s clinic because she was the only woman doctor in the region. I well remember one young woman with a breast abcess. My father usually did all the surgery (his main interest was well digging and latrines), but on this occaision he stood outside a closed door while my mum lanced the abcess and gave instructions while she stitched a piece of a worn out surgical glove in to ensure a drain. You never got to know the outcome for Muslim women. They were a completely isolated group – presumably they had some sort of social lives, but certainly not outside the home. It was plain to me that the burkha-wearing women were completely isolated from the society in which they lived. Their daughters were not among the young women taking college biology that mum taught.

    My next experience of Muslim culture was in Pakistan, Iran and Turkey as my family travelled overland from and to India. The people were infinitely hospitable and many times invited us into their homes. However, I learned fast that a teenaged girl had to be very careful not to let an host isolate me from my father, and in public to walk before him – after all, they could be hospitable to infidel travellers, but try to rape the daughter of a guest (more than once). I have been on a train with a wonderful family, but as their destination approached, they forced an unwilling 7-year-old into a miniature burkha in 110 degree heat.

    My view of the young women who take up some form of the veil as a statement is that they are silly little girls who do not understand that, whatever the Koran says, women are property in most Muslin societies. An uncovered woman is, by definition, a whore. I had a student once whose very modern family did not wear distinguishing garments. But, they tried to get her to go to Pakistan to marry some guy who wanted an immigration permit to Canada: the woman as property goes deep. I advised strongly against this move and supported her application to a graduate program. In the event, she met a Canadian Muslim man, married and several years later I got a picture of a newborn daughter.

    The cultures that are Muslim are not compatible with our liberal democratic societies. Because of this, we can not absorb large numbers of Muslim immigrants without creating conflict. How can we if all criticism of any aspect of their culture/religion is off limits. Of course you can say the same thing about the aboriginal peoples in Canada – it appears that they are 100% victims and no aspect of their culture can be criticised. A friend just sent me a book of Emily Carr’s work. If she had lived now, much of her art would be considered ‘cultural appropriation’.

    I have not said anything about these issues except among people I know very well – in fact, even in Quillette I feel a bit exposed. I strongly support the notion that people should be allowed to live as they choose, but I should be able to discuss or criticise their choices.

    • E.D. says

      Thank you for sharing your story. You have a very experienced perspective regarding this increasingly prominent issue, and your story is something that I will for for a while.

    • Robert Paulson says

      “The cultures that are Muslim are not compatible with our liberal democratic societies. Because of this, we can not absorb large numbers of Muslim immigrants without creating conflict.”

      I think our progressive friends know this, which is _exactly_ why they are so keen on mass Muslim immigration. The end goal is the destruction of Western civilization, with unwitting Muslims and immigrants serving as pawns in the Left’s culture war.

      • I think it’s possible some feminists are attracted to the sort of brute masculininiyt that is lacking in their sissified male allies.

    • augustine says

      Thank you, Fran. Westerners need to learn much more about everyday aspects of Islamic cultures. I wish more of us could say, “Wow, I can see how those practices and beliefs profoundly separate Muslims from others”, instead of a less informative “Islam is a supremacist program of conquest” (which is true also).

    • Steve Phillips says

      Although my experience of Muslims is not as extensive as yours. I grew up with a large group of Christmas Island and Cocos Island Muslims in Western Australia in the early 70s.
      They were made very welcome by the small ‘backward’ ‘bigoted’ ‘white male-centric’ community and settled in well. The women wore the colourful wrap around dresses and the men the Malay shrirts and the skirtlike thing too. No-one batted an eyelid. They worked hard and fitted in nicely. Bought good cars and their own houses with no help from the Australian Govt.
      Later in the 90s the Saudi influence from Perth mosques statrted to have a stronger influence and we started to see burkas and Niqabs for the first time. They are NOT part of the Malay culture at all never ever!
      Fortunately my good friend, Alep (I’ve known him since 3rd year high school in 1974) the Imam has steered a moderate path and kept the worst of the Wahhabi out of his mosque.
      He and others are under pressure to conform to a strict form of Islam that is unfortunately supported by the Qumran and the Haddith.
      I hope he can resist it and they can continue to be great contributors to the Katanning community.

    • Have you been to Melbourne or Sydney? Have you been to Sarajevo? How about Jakarta? Or Taipei? Or Cape Town. People identifying as Muslim don’t just live in India or Turkey. Seriously, you need to get out more and not just with Dr Daddy.

    • Alison Wright says

      Thanks for adding that, I was trying to imagine the missing verb. ‘Keep’ ‘Pin to a board and throw darts’ (ok unlikely).

  7. Steve S says

    Thank God BoJo has Claire Fox to defend him. It would be terrible for him to be silenced by the ‘howling mob’. The former foreign secretary definitely wasn’t ‘punching down’ at an easy target to get our attention. More free speech for multi millionaire, old Etonian former cabinet ministers please!

    • ga gamba says

      Why do you think Muslims are lower than others? Are you some kind of supremacist?

      Viewed through the progressive lens, Bojo is lower on the progressive stack, so he’s ‘punching up’, isn’t he? Viewed through the rational lens, you’re conflating words with violence. You know who’s committing murderous violence over words and pictures, don’t you? Correct! Islamists. Presumably they’re punching up, yeah? It’s heartening to see their victims submit to the protocol. Fair play to you, victims.

      There’s a strong whiff of lèse-majesté law in this concept. We just have a new aristocracy shielded by these draconian ideas.

      But really, the ‘punching down’ gambit is a crutch for those too crippled to engage the topic with ideas.

      Jonathan Haid in 2015 wrote: In brief: We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.

      Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim.

      The key idea is that the new moral culture of victimhood fosters “moral dependence” and an atrophying of the ability to handle small interpersonal matters on one’s own. At the same time that it weakens individuals, it creates a society of constant and intense moral conflict as people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims. Source:

  8. Sean B says

    I have lived in many Muslim countries and one thing they respect is strength. By this I mean a very macho attitude. They view the west as weak due to women having equal rights as well as our legalisation of gay rights.
    The 2015 migration to Europe futher cemented that view. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims marched through Europe and chose the countries they wanted to live in without resistance. We gave them housing and money for nothing. We acquiesced to the foods they wanted. Any criticism of their demands or behavior was denounced as racism and pounced on by the authorities. Many behave badly towards the women of the host countries and the media hid it but the migrants all knew what was happening.
    They are aggressive with demands for their religion and if anyone challenges it they are determined to be racist and/or they are physically attacked such as Charlie Hebdo attacks.
    The left wing heroes who “courageously” mocked Christianity in the 90’s and 00’s are terrified to mock Islam.
    The moderate muslims won’t speak out bar an occasional person. We further enable the aggressive Muslims by our denunciation of Boris Johnson even though his comments were harmless. Would there be an uproar if he had mocked Christianity?
    The Muslim culture is not the same as the west. The leaders of those countries are strong, often oppressive people and they need to be to keep the peace, people like Gaddafi and Saddam Hussain.
    Since 2001 the US and her allies have removed existing leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and tried to impose democracy but it has failed as those countries are not ready for it. Muslims don’t want it.
    If immigration and birth rates continue as they have recently, then in a few decades time Western Europe will be run by Muslim strongmen. Already parts of European cities are run like that.

  9. Enough is enough says

    No-one has “the right not to be offended”. Such a right does not exist. It is a fictional concept.

  10. “As a secularist, I defend the right of religious people to send their children to faith schools, have their children circumcised, …”

    As a secularist, I don’t. Circumcision is not religious freedom, it is imposing ones religion on someone else too young to consent. The child should decide for themselves when aged 18.

    It is illegal to tattoo a child in the UK (even if the parents want it), and the same should apply to other non-medical and permanent bodily alterations.

    • Robert says

      The mutilation of bodies is less worrisome than the mutilation of minds by religious parents. Being taught from a young age that abhorrent behaviours and attitudes (like misogyny or vile treatment of non-coreligionists) are OK and not to be questioned is damage that cannot generally be undone in later life.

  11. Point of pedantry…..”Public school wit”, not “private”. They are “public shcoolboys” not “private schoolboys” even if they are fee paying.

  12. I wonder if any of the response it’s a result of the pay wall blocking access to all but the title and first paragraph of the article. I’d love to read Johnson’s article myself and reach my own conclusions, but I’m not interested enough to register for the Guardian.

  13. If the republics of the West catastrophically collapse, I will move to that new country wherever that men of like mind will meet and raise the flag of freedom.

    Whether it has been the Greeks, the Romans , Venetians , the dutch or the 13 Colonies, there have always been groups of people who were willing to sacrifice for freedom.

    The burqa is an insult to the principle of equality. How can one citizen be bound in “fraternity” to another if he/she cannot recognize her? Obscure someone’s face is to obscure their humanity.

    Never were these men and women struggling for the freedom to force their daughters to obscure their humanity. Obscuring any other body part is different to obscuring the face.

    If a woman is to obscure her face in public, she cannot work in public, meaning her life absolutely limited to producing children

    Intuitively the burqa and niqab disgust my republican sensibilities. I will not live among such people. I shudder at the thought of my mother, daughter, wife or sister wearing a black face covering. Imagine having a woman as a friend who wears this mask in public? How would I recognise my friend? O forgot thats the point, no fraternising with the opposite sex!

    Liberté, Éqalité, Fraternité. Sororité

    Let Muslim men wear this abomination if their wives wear it.

    • Femina cum laude says

      I endorse your sentiments, Koos K, and am saddened that Muslim women feel obliged – or are MADE to feel obliged! – to obscure their identity in their reverence to their God. I have always believed that the face covering was worn to protect the face in sandstorms in the M//E and looking back at Muslim countries – like Iran and Afghanistan – 40+ years ago have seen a change in women’s attire. Were they not devout Muslims then, I wonder that they wore Western apparel? .Why take such umbrage about something that was only adopted a few decades ago? I was enraged by seeing a young Muslim mother in a dentist’s waiting room – during a heat wave some years ago – garbed in a covering of THICK, black coarse cloth from head to toe, altho’her face was exposed. And a lovely face it was too, with a set of perfect teeth which she readily showed in a smile altho’ her forehed was covered in tiny beads of sweat.She also wore men’s stout black leather laceups, in contrast to her husband and two sons, who wore sandals on bare feet, summer trousers and T shirts.I wondered why she was wearing this ‘sackcloth and ashes’ form of dress. What sin had she committed that she be punished thus… and then I realised. She was a woman living according to a paternalistic code of conduct..

    • dirk says

      But, Koos, that equality you mention, is that a virtue and something positive in Koran and Muslim culture? I never saw it like that. You are too ethnocentric, culturally biased!

  14. dirk says

    I see in this phenomenon just the utter consequence of Voltaire’s humanistic dictum: -Though I don’t agree at all with you on this, I will defend your right to stick to it-. The tragic is, that such humanistic ideas never were( and are) a feature in the Muslim world. But, don’t forget, also not in the Christian Europe until Voltaire. Again and again, I am stupefied reading on heretics (people with quite modern, undogmatic thoughts about this or that) being tortured, encarceled or burned at the stake, and that the church and the community (and sometimes the heretics themselves even) were not against such practices.
    It’s all human, all too human!

  15. Robert Darby says

    It’s curious and ironic that a series of jokes about the burqa was made by a female Muslim commentator in – of all places – the Guardian back in 2013:

    – who managed to escape without igniting a public firestorm or provoking demands that she be fired, disciplined or otherwise punished. You might say that she was permitted to make jokes about her own culture on the principle that gay or black people can make the sort of jokes about gays or blacks that straight or white people cannot, but I think the furore – surely far out of proportion to the remark – is an expression of the intensifying nervousness about “verbal violence” and a corresponding reluctance to risk any kind of joke at all. Most jokes, after all, rely on some sort of stereotype or butt for the humour. If this trend continues, we are heading for a grimly humourless world.

    Despite the brouhaha, I am inclined to feel that worrying about the burqa is something of a distraction from another cultural practice that is far more common, namely, genital mutilation of children. Most Muslim communities, some African groups, and some Pacific Island societies practise circumcision of boys, and some of these also practise various forms of female genital cutting (FGM). While the latter is unlawful in most places, the former is not. It’s interesting that the author’s acceptance of child circumcision attracted a critical response which in turn provoked a vigorous defence of Jewish circumcision practices from another reader. It is also interesting that while several countries have prohibited wearing the burqa in public, none has succeeded in passing any laws against circumcision or even to regulate the practice, and most have not even tried. In fact, confronted by an appeal court decision that medically unnecessary circumcision of a minor was already unlawful, the German government responded by passing a law guaranteeing the legality of the practice – this at the same time as penalties for female genital cutting were strengthened!

    Yet, on the face of it, there would appear to be stronger reasons for prohibiting, regulating, or at least criticising circumcision of minors than for banning or criticising an item of clothing. The first point is that while adult women have some degree of choice as to whether they wear a burqa, a male infant or boy has no choice at all as to whether he is circumcised; it is always a procedure performed without consent, often in the teeth of opposition and protest. Secondly, while clothes are temporary, and can be taken on and off at will without lasting effects, circumcision is an irreversible amputation of an external genital feature that can never be recovered. For these reasons, it seems to me that there is a stronger argument for protecting children from genital cutting than for preventing or discouraging women from wearing burqas. (Not that Boris was advocating anything of the kind.)

    Speaking of Boris, many people seem to regard him as a bit of clown, but I think there is a case for the National Trust classifying him as a kind of historic structure – a genuine survival from or throwback to the Eighteenth Century, when that kind of robust, irreverent humour was the staple of gentlemen’s conversation.

    One final thought: why is it not leucophobic or khleuastes-phobic to call Boris a clown?

    (leuco: ancient Greek for white; khleuastes ancient Greek for scoffer or mocker; could also mean clown)

    • Burqa jokes are very common in the Indo-Bangla-Pakistan subcontinent. As are jokes about imams. I guess the difference is that Muslims in these countries both lampoon and tolerate religion without threatening violence.

      Actually, minorities of them do threaten violence against religious minorities in much the same way as the Tommy Robinsons of Europe do. Christians and Ahmadis in Pakistan. Muslims, Sikhs and Christians in India. Indeed, in India the intolerant minority is now ruling the country.

      Anyway, making burqa jokes doesn’t hurt me. What does stun me is the gross ignorance of some comments here. I guess I have to get used to the right of people to remain ignorant.

  16. Martin Sewell says

    We always debate this in terms of “ freedom to speak “ but overlook the more important “ freedom to listen”.
    I need to consider whether my views stand up to robust challenge and also to know the best argument my opponents have, the better to engage and defeat them with understanding.

    • ga gamba says

      This is the near perfect reply; I don’t know if defeat is the right word. I doubt they want to give you the opportunity to defeat them. How is one to know whether his/her ideas have merit without listeners and their feedback and questions? By saying someone doesn’t deserve the stage, one is also saying the listeners of speech don’t deserve the seats. The freedom of a fella with “bad ideas” isn’t solely infringed, everyone’s is. Moreover, without the offensive speakers speaking their offensive words, how are the progressives to identify the thought criminals?

      These restricted speech advocates come off as elitists: “Because we know better than you we’ll tell you want to think and you’ll stick the script. Check the Guardian or Buzzfeed for updates on who and what have fallen out of favour.”

  17. Saturn Black says

    All the Muslims want is to undermine and eventually destroy western values and establish their own worldwide caliphate. Why should we care what they think? If we had any sense we’d be deporting the lot of them. They openly reject the liberties we offer women and these burka wearers are actively promoting their own oppression.

    The west is rapidly spiralling to its own doom and nobody has the courage to stand up to the foreign invader. I have no confidence in our leadership to do what is necessary to protect us and ensure the survival of our culture. At this point we might as well just convert to Islam.

    • dirk says

      But, Saturn, that’s exactly what the Western world (USA, England, France, Germany and others) wanted, in the whole world uptil, say, 1920. If you think yourself strong, you want to oppose, the arrogance of power, quite normal , human and international. Of course, there is only one reason that the Arab muslim world is so strong. Not because of their own enterprising intelligence and power, but because of the West that invented nationalism, and the right to explore the resources (deep down in your territory, and you can hire others to do it for you). It’s too ridiculous, but we have to live with it!

    • @ Saturn Black

      “All the Muslims want is to undermine and eventually destroy western values and establish their own worldwide caliphate.”

      Surprisingly the evidence says otherwise. Pakistan is country riddled with religion. And its populace is oh so religious. Yet, whenever religious parties stand in election they fare poorly. Recently the ex-cricketer Khan won by being the country’s Trump.

      The Arabs did not want to dominate anyone either. They were happy enough being Arabs and were mostly ruled by secular leaders. That is not to say religion does dominate public life… but people were more often than not smart enough not to let it dominate.

      This is just Alex Jones level conspiracy theory nonsense – with little to no evidence. And you come across as a simple bigot.

      • M.D. says

        @ Reading Nomad

        I disagree that he comes across as a bigot, and I disagree that there is little to no evidnece for his views.

        On the topic of Pakistan, take this op-ed from March:

        Or the previous March:

        Now I’m not saying you are wrong to think there is not a threat from Islam. And if you want to call someone a bigot, by all means go ahead.

        But I am saying that based on information readily available, the society you reference looks at least as bigoted, and though they may elect ex-cricketers there still appear to be major religious tensions leading to violence there, and these things might lend one to think there could be a problem stemming from the dominant belief-system there.

        There are plenty of books, articles, debates and polls on this topic, and not everyone saying these things is an Alex Jones-level nut. I think the whole tone of this Quillette article was that reacting to criticism of a religion by calling people bigots is probably not the correct course to take. I can talk about pedophile priests and the Westboro Baptists and hypocritical Christians all day and never get called a bigot. I don’t see why it should be any different with Islam.

        I am sincere when I say I hope that we are wrong and you are correct.

        • @ M.D.

          “I disagree that he comes across as a bigot”


          ” If we had any sense we’d be deporting the lot of them.”


          “Now I’m not saying you are wrong to think there is not a threat from Islam.”

          That is not what I am saying. There is a clear and undeniable threat. As has been repeatedly witnessed.

          But there is no evidence that there is SUCH a threat. Like this:

          “All the Muslims want is to undermine and eventually destroy western values and establish their own worldwide caliphate.”

          Never going to happen. There is no evidence for it.

          “the society you reference looks at least as bigoted”

          Yes. And you think this pathetic broken country is going to destroy West?

          “and not everyone saying these things is an Alex Jones-level nut.”

          Yes they are. If they come out with such rubbish.

          “reacting to criticism of a religion by calling people bigots is probably not the correct course to take”

          Other than if it actually bigotry. Let me re-post:

          “All the Muslims want is to undermine and eventually destroy western values and establish their own worldwide caliphate. Why should we care what they think? If we had any sense we’d be deporting the lot of them. ”

          • Saturn Black says

            Reading Nomad – If you can’t stop personally attacking me whenever I make a comment and share my views, I’ll have to stop engaging with you.

            We have no-go zones in Australia where non-muslim women can’t safely walk without being harassed or told to leave by police. Right now the immigration rate is double our birth rate. We had race riots in 2005 where these people would get guns and other weapons and drive around predominantly white suburbs attacking white people. Meanwhile the media acts like it was our boys who were in the wrong for coming out in force when they were harassing our women and lifeguards and the police did nothing to protect us (as usual).

            And that’s just Australia. Europe looks a lot worse. I could go on but it seems foolish to try to debate someone who only wants to personally attack and antagonise me.

            The editor of this website has drawn attention to a “global jihadist insurgency” in a video on YouTube and I completely agree with her views.

            Total intolerance of your enemy’s ideology is necessary in order to oppose them. Was Churchill a bigot for opposing the spread of Nazism prior to WWII?

            The left has chosen to side with our enemy and have shown themselves to be completely incapable of reasonable debate. War looks like the only way this will be resolved.

          • @ Saturn Black

            “If you can’t stop personally attacking me whenever I make a comment and share my views, I’ll have to stop engaging with you.”

            Then do so. Why do you think I care? If I think something warrants a comment, I will make it – personal or otherwise. I ain’t going to stop. However, I am not interested in petty rows and quarrels or just to insult.

            “We have no-go zones in Australia where non-muslim women can’t safely walk”

            How many? Where? Adding some references/links would help those who are not from Australia.

            “Right now the immigration rate is double our birth rate.”

            Not their fault!

            “We had race riots in 2005”


            Your version seems to be contradicting. Where is this:

            ” where these people would get guns and other weapons and drive around predominantly white suburbs attacking white people”

            “I could go on but it seems foolish to try to debate someone who only wants to personally attack and antagonise me.”

            “Total intolerance of your enemy’s ideology is necessary in order to oppose them.”

            Where? After contradicting your stuff… I called you a bigot. And after reading this rant. I stand by it 100%. Man the fuck up and stop playing the victim card. I have not left you any long list of swears or insults… or anything of the kind.

            “Was Churchill a bigot for opposing the spread of Nazism prior to WWII?”

            Churchill was something of a bigot against Blacks and Indians. For opposing Nazism – no.

            Now – if you were actually interested in opposing Jihad on fair basis. Fine – so am I. But I am not and refuse to stand with utter bigots who remove all nuance and spread hatred.

            Now – are you going to be sensible or not? You decide…

      • Peter from Oz says

        I think you and Saturn Black are at cross purposes here.
        SB was referring to muslims in non-muslim countries, whilst you argue about muslims in muslim countries.
        It hardly matters whether muslim parties are unpopular in Pakistan if radical msulims are making criticism of their religion off limits in Western COuntries and reducing o9ur freedom as a result.

        • @ Peter from Oz

          Nope. We are talking about the same thing. There simply isn’t this massive global takeover plan in which most Muslims are colluding. Conspiracy level bullshit.

          • Saturn Black says

            Reading Nomad – All you’re doing is rephrasing and exaggerating my arguments and using ad hominems to undermine me. I won’t be wasting any more time on Cathy Newman wannabes like you.

            The time for talking to the left ended long ago. They don’t want to resolve issues or have open ended discussions on an even playing field. Their only interest is in using all manner of tricks to undermine people and force them to capitulate. They’ve chosen foreign insurgents as their ally as both have the same goals – to destroy everything the west values like reason and democracy and liberty. When talk becomes impossible the only option left is to fight. I’ll be ready and waiting.

            Here’s the video I mentioned for anyone who is interested. It’s by the founder of Quillette.


          • @ Saturn Black

            Then don’t keep bleating about it. Go and do it. Don’t keep replying with your “hurt” feelings snowflake.

            “All you’re doing is rephrasing and exaggerating my arguments ”

            Where? Show me?

            “hey’ve chosen foreign insurgents as their ally as both have the same goals – to destroy everything the west values like reason and democracy and liberty.”

            Bigot! You come out with the same shit and then lie about it too. You are fucking priceless!

            “When talk becomes impossible the only option left is to fight. I’ll be ready and waiting.”

            Because you are a thug.

          • Peter from Oz says

            It is not a question of global conspiracy. But it is a fact that speech about islam has been vastly chilled in the west since the Salman Rushdie affair.
            It is in fact our duty as free people of the west to take the piss out of islam at every opportunity.

          • @ Peter from Oz

            “It is in fact our duty ”

            No it isn’t. If you consider it yours – that is your problem.

          • Saturn Black says

            I’d like to point out that bigotry is total intolerance of any difference of perspective, which is not the same as total intolerance of one specific difference. For example, there are plenty of people who come to Australia from Asian countries, and I’m not aware of any threat they pose to our culture – in fact they always seem extremely agreeable and grateful people – thus I’m very tolerant towards them. However I cannot say the same about Muslims who come from these countries that oppress women and force them to wear the burka – their young men are almost always aggressive towards western women who are used to wearing whatever they want. That is a deep-rooted ideological conflict and I don’t see any way to reconcile it other than to completely exclude these people in order to protect our women and help them feel safe.

          • @ Saturn Black

            You’re back! You keep threatening not to reply, but you really cannot help yourself can you?

            “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices”

            Now here is definition that you might find helpful. I am not hold out much hope.

            “thus I’m very tolerant towards them.”

            Right. Do you know what the word tolerance means:

            “the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.”

            Now I will repeat – you are a bigot.

          • Saturn Black says

            The burka is not only a symbol of oppression, like a Nazi flag, but also an instrument of oppression, like a Nazi pistol.

            If people wandered the streets with Nazi flags and Nazi pistols the left would go absolutely insane, and probably start rioting. However they are very eager to defend the birka.

            I could make the same point regarding a Soviet flag and Soviet pistol, but I doubt the left would complain about that given their underlying sympathy for communist ideology. A lot more people were slaughtered under Stalin or Mao than Hitler, yet the left demonises authoritarianism on the right and idealises it when it comes from the left.

            This is a political or ideological conflict. I don’t even think it has anything to do with Muslims. I think civil war is the most likely outcome as the Muslim population is currently too small to pose a real threat, though once most of the left and right wipe each other out we will probably come under Islamic rule.

            See you on the battlefield, comrade.

          • @ Saturn Black

            Oh, you are still here. What a surprise! You cannot even do what you yourself proposed to do. Says a lot about you…

            “The burka is not only a symbol of oppression, like a Nazi flag, but also an instrument of oppression, like a Nazi pistol.”

            Burka is not like a Nazi flag. And often it can be and is a tool of oppression.

            As to going straight for jugular by invoking Nazism:


            “If people wandered the streets with Nazi flags…”

            Rightly people of all sorts of shades would be worried and likely to counter-protest. In some countries straight jail I think.

            “However they are very eager to defend the birka.”

            No. I think they are more eager to defend a woman’s right to dress in whichever clothing she chooses. Just like Boris Johnson, a prominent Right Wing member of the British Parliament. In fact, it might surprise your bigoted mind, but there are quite a few conservatives who also make such a defence.

            “I could make the same point regarding a Soviet flag and Soviet pistol”

            You could! And you would be wrong.

            “A lot more people were slaughtered under Stalin or Mao than Hitler”

            Not completely accurate. But a lot of people were murdered under such regimes.

            ” yet the left demonises authoritarianism on the right and idealises it when it comes from the left.”

            This is so broad that it is inaccurate.

            “I don’t even think it has anything to do with Muslims.”

            Oh dear! You are not going to off the boil are you?

            “though once most of the left and right wipe each other out we will probably come under Islamic rule.”

            Oh dear! You know… go get drunk. That if you cannot be sensible.

            “See you on the battlefield, comrade.”

            Nope. I plan to die happy. If you are seeking a fight… you are welcome to go and join mercenary groups fighting Isis – or other such adventures.

            Good luck!

    • I don’t know why more people will not accept this fact, sad though it is. I don’t think Westerners can relate to the sheer fervor and intensity of religious conviction that many Muslims hold. Our societies by and large left that behind.

      And dirk, I do not buy that the West is getting its comeuppance. Islam is a religion that goes back a long way, and as many have pointed out (Hitchens for example) even if you tried minding your own business you’d come into conflict with it eventually.

      Did the West cause them to oppress women? Did the West write the Koran wherein ideas about establishing a caliphate are contained? This situation was inevitable, and was not caused by Western imperialism. Look at the Ottoman empire – that took both intelligence and power to establish.

      It’s not necessary to go back to 1920 to explain friction plainly caused by rifts in basic core beliefs. Western Imperialism doesn’t cause Islam to persecute gays or oppress women. Islam causes it.

      Anyway, just my opinion.

      • dirk says

        Imperialism (thus the mores and rules, beliefs and habits (sex equality) involved is not something of today or yesterday, read Harari about it. It started in Sumeria, The Rome imperium much later is well known in the West, but there were many of them, in India, China, Persia, Mexico, the Inca imperium from Ecuador to Chili, the Ottomans as you mentioned.
        I have long worked in the 3rd world, and we were told not to interfere in local customs. I now see that this is changing, for example in circumcision, female mutilation and such things, and think it is a good thing. Anyway, just also my opinion.
        But the power of Quatar, UAE and such miniature emirates in the East, I think, is quite another matter. Jesus Christ, look at the shivering of a civilized country like Canada!

      • @ M.D

        “I don’t think Westerners can relate to the sheer fervor and intensity of religious conviction that many Muslims hold.”

        Why not?

        “Did the West write the Koran wherein ideas about establishing a caliphate are contained?”

        Are they?

        ” and as many have pointed out (Hitchens for example) even if you tried minding your own business you’d come into conflict with it eventually.”

        Which is NOT the same thing as going looking for it. West tried to enforce Liberal Democracy – repeatedly failed. Bannon was right on this, West should try to stay at home. Yet we are still at it. Wasting time in place like Middle East and its affairs.

        • Hamr says

          @reading nomad
          It’s interesting that you mentioned the politics in Pakistan, without mentioning the rise of the ‘Red Mosque’ islamist movement.
          Are you even aware of it?
          If so, do you not understand how it affects regional and municipal politics?
          Possibly, you see negligible religious influence in federal election (?), but that is certainly not the case locally.
          Which level of government (espc. theological govt.) would you say most directly affects the local citizenry?
          In the 3rd world, the typical citizen knows…

          • @ Hamr

            “without mentioning the rise of the ‘Red Mosque’ islamist movement.”

            Small fry. Recently watched a documentary on Netflix. There is always an Islamist movement in Muslim countries. I think the biggest in Pakistan are called Jamat Islami.

            “Possibly, you see negligible religious influence in federal election”

            Yes – and that was the point. People often tend not to vote them in. There are exceptions.

            “but that is certainly not the case locally.”

            Likely it isn’t. Do such groups have hold over local municipal government? Maybe they are good at such issues, in a country rife with corruption. I don’t know.

            But here is the main question – is such a movement ever going to be capable of launching this massive worldwide coup? No. Especially so after Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda.

        • M.D, says

          @ Reading Nomad

          “Which is NOT the same thing as going looking for it. West tried to enforce Liberal Democracy – repeatedly failed. Bannon was right on this, West should try to stay at home. Yet we are still at it. Wasting time in place like Middle East and its affairs.”

          Agree with you 100% on this.

      • Saturn Black says

        M.D – I think we’ve been severely weakened by the rise of this notion of compassion as the ultimate virtue. Reason is becoming less important. I often see this in the tactics of the left who are preying on the compassion of their audience in order to manipulate and persuade them.

        I’m sure this is related to the increasing prominence of women in positions of power. Jordan Peterson has discussed this in terms of the dichotomy created by feminine types between victims who need to be protected and predators who need to be destroyed. People have begun to see Muslims as victims of the west instead of as predators trying to destroy us.

        Identity politics also plays into this victim culture that is taking over. It’s all linked together. I believe there is a correlation between the feminists complaining about feeling unsafe and spreading this “rape culture” hyperbole in the west, and the arrival of greater numbers of aggressive young men from these countries where women are forced to wear the burka, who intimidate our women and abuse our liberties and get away with it because it was normal in their country.

        I think we need to stop being so compassionate towards everyone regardless of their intent, because it makes us extremely vulnerable to being manipulated. Muslims will prey on our sympathy towards them in order to seize as much power as we let them. It’s completely absurd to worry about offending those who want nothing other than to destroy you, but unfortunately that is the position taken by our leaders. We need to expose this ideological weakness so enough people wake up before it’s too late.

  18. Disgusted says

    Yak yak yak. Blah blah blah. None of this is remotely interesting until we start seriously – I mean seriously – comparing how western women are treated in muslim countries with how muslim women are treated in western countries.

    It’s frankly a sick kind of unfunny joke when we compare (mandatory) clothing expectations, socio-legal privileges, and the inevitable way national men treat foreign women. Until we put this discussion in perspective, I’m not interested.

    • Bill says

      @Disgusted, even you have fallen into the common trap by focusing on how women are treated between the cultures. Why now how homosexuals are treated in muslim countries? Jews treated in muslim countries? Whites treated in South Africa? etc. etc. etc. That’s your point, correct? Your exemplar case devolves to the identity politics cases.

      My personal view is that the issue lies in one segment living in a Star Trek world, while another lives in the real world. The Trekkians have a utopian view of a society where all citizens are heavily empathic to one another and there is no conflict. The Real Worlders know that isn’t Planet Earth. Whether it is conflict between Muslims and the West, or the US v Russia, or internal civil wars dating back thousands of years — it all is rooted in the same thing which is that all animals have conflict between groups and those conflicts grow more violent as the group sizes increase leading, ultimately, to wars. The reason is simple, each group becomes impassioned about their beliefs and norms and fight to preserve them.

      Now, going back to your identity politics example. What I find incredibly interesting is that the US political Left which has taken a “mum on Muslim” tact typically holds the Trekified view. The “equality of outcome for all” or the Lives Matter and Equality! chants seem contrary to including a non-utopian religious tribe except that they can ascribe a victimhood status to it simply to win political points.

  19. Danny McMahon says

    It’s good to be reminded of the Je Suis Charlie spirit every so often. An enjoyable read.

  20. Bob Roberts says

    Having read most of the comments above, I have two responses:

    1. As a non-Jewish (protestant) male, I am glad my parents had me circumcised. No ill effects and easier to clean. My grown son is of the same opinion. There is no way that I, as a 13-year-old or even 21-year-old would have had this done. Best time is as an infant.

    2. We have laughed at the Catholic church for years. Our own protestant religion, as well. We must also be free to laugh at Islam. When looking at it as a culture, we’ve laughed at the Southern redneck in the USA (my proud heritage), the New York Jews, the Californian fruitcakes, the vodka-swilling Russians, the cow-worshipping Indians, the wily Mexicans, and many other cultures. We can also laugh at the Arabs / Persians / Jews / Palestinians of the middle east. Our differences are what make us interesting, and also make us amusing.

    • Jonny Sclerotic says

      I had a circumcision at the age of 22. It would have been personally convenient if my parents had just done this when I was a baby.

      Nevertheless, I’m vehemently opposed to the mutilation of children and I think the practice should be outlawed except in cases where it is absolutely medically necessary. The barbarism of it is so obvious. It’s a proxy ritual for human sacrifice. The west (and most of the world) is united in unconditional condemnation of FGM, but MGM doesn’t even warrant a public debate? Crazy.

      So even tho it was a pain in the rear (or rather the front) to go through this procedure as an adult, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s purely a human rights issue for me – and a pretty basic one at that.

  21. J Martin says

    So it goes like this:
    Person 1: You look like a letter box
    Person 2: How dare you make fun of my religious garb
    Person 1 Go away or I shall taunt you a 2nd time, you have the right to wear what you want and I have the right to make fun of it, and you in turn have the right to think me intollerant.
    Person 2: You are intolerant.
    Person 1: See, it works!

  22. M.D. says

    “the inability of Western governments to hold the line when it comes to defending Western values. It’s illustrative of the problems many European societies have had in inspiring recent immigrants to integrate (by offering them little to integrate into), or indeed winning the hearts and minds of many second and third generation immigrant Muslim youth to a positive view of citizenship of their various nations.”

    This is where this writer loses me. Western countries like Germany and England allowed Muslim immigrants to flood in, accepted them into their cities and social programs. The political establishment and media largely chastise any who make even a light jest about Islam (the topic of this very article). The banning of the garments in question is an attempt at keeping Islam in line with Western values like female equality.

    How do you think it would go for you or me if we moved to an Islamic nation, particularly if we were female, gay, or just non-Islamic?

    Stop blaming Western culture. Some people do not like your culture, and it’s not because you don’t inspire them, but rather that many of them hate you for being an infidel, and hate your culture because it goes against their core values and beliefs. Why is this basic truth so distasteful to accept?

    When can we let go of this arrogant attitude that anyone exposed to Western beliefs and lifestyle will simply abandon their own beliefs and get with the program?

    I am parroting everything Douglas Murray has said much better than me, because I am convinced of the truth of it.

    • X. Citoyen says

      This is an important point. Every time I’ve seen it raised, the “integration issues” framing is used to deflect the blame from the migrant onto the host country. A group’s failure to ingrate becomes our failure to integrate them. As if giving someone a better life weren’t enough, we now have a moral and financial obligation to integrate immigrants—the bigotry of low expectations goes hand in hand with the white man’s burden.

      • M.D. says

        @ X. Citoyen

        Agreed, it is weirdly patronizing. it’s some kind of deep-seated guilt and masochism combined with feeling superior and infantilizing the immigrants.

        But the people I hear who say these things never actually do anything about it. They want to say “oh we’re awful” and signal their virtue, but they aren’t giving up their house and their job and their money and hopping a plane for the Third World to switch places with the oppressed. They don’t even generally live in immigrant neighborhoods. It’s pure lip service.

  23. Roger says

    One reason for the hostility to Boris Johnson’s remarks is the fact that they are Boris Johnson’s remarks. Johnson has created a reputation as a card and comic, a man who will say what is politically incorrect but everybody knows and get away with it. The fact that he said things in Iran which kept a British citizen in gaol without trial or that he was negotiating with EU ministers without knowing or trying to learn anything about the subjects under discussion made no difference. It’s good old BoJo doing his comic turn. Too bad these foreigners don’t have a sense of humour.
    This is characteristic of him. Johnson is defending women’s freedom to dress as they please, but he is doing it in a tone that sounds like an attack on that right. Bigoted fools may take it as encouragement to enforce their own dress-codes, but Johnson can stand back and deny that he had anything to do with it in hurt and offended terms.

    • “The fact that he said things in Iran which kept a British citizen in gaol without trial”

      That is nonsense. Boris did no such thing. Iranian authorities were responsible of that on their own basis. It is extremely unlikely Boris’s statements made much difference.

      “Johnson is defending women’s freedom to dress as they please, but he is doing it in a tone that sounds like an attack on that right.”

      Nope. He is making it plain that he fully understands and agrees that such garment is often a tool for subjugation of women and personally does not care for it DESPITE THAT he defends a woman’s right to wear such garments.

      • Roger says

        If “it is extremely unlikely Boris’s statements made much difference”, then why did Johnson go to Iran to make it? Why did he – untruthfully – announce that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “simply teaching journalism”, the “crime” she was accused of by the Iranian government?

        Johnson most of his article to criticise the burka and the decision – imposed or not – to wear it, then two lines to say that society has no right to tell “a free-born adult woman what she may or may not wear, in a public place, when she is simply minding her own business.

        • @ Roger

          Eh? Zaghari-Ratcliffe was accused of propaganda and to help overthrow the government.

          “untruthfully” Mistakenly.

          I doubt it had any effect at all. Iran has done this several times. Hardly the 1st.

          Right. As I said before, he is against the garment BUT he is pro women’s choice. And he is that DESPITE several countries banning the thing.

      • ga gamba says

        “He is making it plain that he fully understands and agrees that such garment is often a tool for subjugation of women and personally does not care for it DESPITE THAT he defends a woman’s right to wear such garments.

        @ Reading, your comment here is entirely accurate. Some listeners are choosing to hear it as an attack from the right. A few reasons for this. It’s a common progressive belief that certain groups must be celebrated, and when their behaviour goes over the line it’ll be ignored or waved away as the fault of others; the Labour Party is being torn apart over an anti-Semitism row, so anything to divert public attention from that is welcomed; intra-Party rivalries; common loathing of Tories; and Boris has long been reviled, most recently due to Brexit.

  24. Peter says

    I certainly DON’T defend the right of parents to circumcise their child. First they are their own person first and not an item of property. Secondly the UN guarantees certain rights to children independently of their parents wishes and the state has a duty to exercise this care. To grant a parent carte blanche to perform a wholly unnecessary surgical procedure and permanently mutilate a child’s body for any underlying fashion or cultural convention is contemptible. If this idea arose today and someone started lopping bits off children’s genitals, they’d be locked up and the key thrown any. Remember someone ONCE did really do this for the first time.

    • Yes. But the problem with banning things is where will it stop? Are you a vegan for instance? If not, why not? So how many arguments can you think of in defence of murdering innocent sentient being?

      And incidentally where do you stand on abortion?

      I don’t think you can defend this:

      “To grant a parent carte blanche to perform a wholly unnecessary surgical procedure and permanently mutilate a child’s body for any underlying fashion or cultural convention is contemptible.”

        • @ Peter

          Ah! The fallacy game! It has been a while…

          “the appeal to hypocrisy is an informal fallacy that intends to discredit the opponent’s argument by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with its conclusion”

          You don’t really understand what Appeal to Hypocrisy is. It does not apply. If you disagree – do state exactly why it does. After all, for it to have meaning, you should have done that right from the start. Show and not tell.

          “Yes. But the problem with banning things is where will it stop?”

          You were far better off going with slipper slope or whataboutism. Although I would have wriggled out of them too!

          [[I don’t think you can defend this:

          “To grant a parent carte blanche to perform a wholly unnecessary surgical procedure and permanently mutilate a child’s body for any underlying fashion or cultural convention is contemptible.”]]

          You didn’t even bother to take up the challenge… so why did you think you could get away with flinging an accusation of a fallacy?

  25. Mark Beal says

    Meanwhile, it would appear that most people are firmly in Boris’ camp; even BBC presenters have felt obliged to concede that the vast majority of people getting in touch with programmes are. From that point of view this would appear to be another staggeringly stupid own goal by the Illiberal Liberal Left.

    It comes as no surprise that the latter utterly fail to grasp that the niqab/burqa is the most plainly visible symbol of a fundamental incompatibility between Islam and Western values. The Western cultural norm is that if you hide your face, you have something to hide, you’re up to no good; ergo Boris’ bank robber quip – or why not balaclavad up Antifa thugs?

    Another aspect of this is that in an interaction between a person with their face covered and one without, it is the one without who is at a disadvantage, since he/she does not have access to the information that facial expressions give. Paradoxically then, in some circumstances the niqab/burqa contributes to a power discrepancy which is to the advantage of the niqab/burqa wearer.

    Using leftist “logic”, it might therefore be possible to claim the wearing of the niqab/burqa to be a macro-aggressive communicative act and seek to have wearers charged with hate speech.

    It’s never going to fly, though, is it?

    • M.D. says

      @ Mark Beal

      I live in the States in a major eastern seaboard city in a neighborhood with a large Muslim population (among many other groups as well). I will say this, when I see a group of women (I assume) float past my window on the sidewalk wearing that head to toe black garb, it is one of the creepiest things I’ve seen. It’s jarring set against the rest of the surroundings and people. It unsettles me every time.

  26. Pingback: Do Britain’s Muslims Have a Right Not to be Offended? | No. Betteridge’s Law

  27. augustine says

    We can criticize Islam all we want, and we should, but it won’t be Muslims shutting down free speech in Western countries. It will be the sorts of cultural elite highlighted in this article, *using Islam and Muslims* to bash their opponents. It seems to be an effective strategy for now.

  28. Hamr says

    @reading nomad
    If you actually believe that the Red Mosque is “small fry” in Pakistan, then you are ignorant of the influence that that islamist sect has in the country .
    You do seem to misunderstand, what is Islamism. It is not necessary to the religion, but it is a cultural and political aspect, of zeolot extremists, within the muslim faith.
    BTW… Are capable of actually writing a reasonably full rebuttal? Sans, quotation mark ‘hiccup’ style?

    • @ Hamr

      “BTW… Are capable of actually writing a reasonably full rebuttal? Sans, quotation mark ‘hiccup’ style?”

      So what is it that I have actually missed to answer? Show me that then you have a point, else not.

      “If you actually believe that the Red Mosque is “small fry” in Pakistan, then you are ignorant of the influence that that islamist sect has in the country .”

      And how is this “rebutting” what I said? You are just disagreeing with me. It counts for nothing much. It is up to you to prove your claim.

      “You do seem to misunderstand, what is Islamism. It is not necessary to the religion, but it is a cultural and political aspect, of zeolot extremists, within the muslim faith.”

      This is contradictory – the very fact that all Islamist are from Islam and they all drive their ideology from Islam does mean that it’s all about the faith. As for cultural aspects – language, dress, food etc are irrelevant. As for the politics… the very definition of being “Islamist” is to derive your political ideology from the religion. How you think I could get that wrong is astonishing…

    • residentilliterate says

      No point in engaging with this silly little girl unless it’s physically. She won’t understand your arguments but she’ll understand being bent over and shown the fifty states!

  29. dirk says

    In the Netherlands, we had a similar case with public outcry. The minister of foreign affairs, in a speech for intimi, told the audience about the existence of useful tribalism,.. birds of a feather, flock together and such stuff, he even put up the racism card.One of the invited brought the speech out. Interesting here is: what everybody knows ( there is even an old saying about it), had very nasty consequences for this politician, because wasn’t politically correct (the opposite, in fact). Within an hour, he made public excuses (unlike Boris) What you may ask here;
    -why did he say these things-?
    first consideration: what a politician says has very little to do with truth or falsehood
    second;what is the purpose of his words?, more votes? something that makes impression and appears on covers?
    I am not in politics, but what’s clear: the rules and intentions of speech of ordinary people (friends, family, colleagues) are about the opposite of the rules in political speech.

  30. D.B. Cooper says

    Do Britain’s Muslims Have a Right Not to be Offended?

    My initial response, after having read the article, was to explicate the obvious by, once again, describing the rank condescension/paternalism inherent to the belief that a particular group of people should (but really must) be protected against “potentially” offensive words especially when they’re true; which is to say nothing about the fact that what they’re really trying to protect are ideological tenets (in this case of Islam), not people. So, just to be clear, the Left (and now some on the Right) is claiming – and with complete sincerity – that (A) you can literally offend an idea(s); and (B) there are a certain subset of ideas (as determined by them) you should not offend. Right now, less muddled thinkers may be asking how it’s possible to offend an idea(s), and if you’re not, you should b/c I’m still wondering that myself; which is why I didn’t waste time writing a comment on the indulgences of sophisticated complaints.

    I, also, briefly considered commenting on the distinction between “negative vs. positive rights” and how intellectually servile it was (in my view) to even suggest people(s) have a right not to be offended. But I didn’t.

    Rather than waste my time dismantling reflexive preoccupations of liberal sycophants, I thought I’d instead try to say something a little more interesting about what I see as Western socio-political futility in the guise of tolerance.

    What I mean is, I have serious doubts about the sincerity of European and American politician’s outrage over what are perceived as slights towards a minority person or group. In other words, it’s hard for me to believe that otherwise intelligent people are suddenly insensitive to data, moral reasoning, and rational argument when it comes to even the most benign of negative comments about minorities. As evidenced in this article, you see this type of unfettered loyalty towards minority grievances from both the Right and the Left.

    So why is that?

    Maybe I’m being overly cynical, but I strongly believe this behavior is undertaken almost entirely as a political function for the aggregate dependency of said minority group. To put it in even more cynical terms, I think this type of political outrage is almost always a political vocation that’s completely devoid of any sincerity for ameliorating the “pernicious” effect for its own. To be blunt, I don’t think most Western white politicians really care, or at least not to the degree they pretend they do. It’s a political gambit for them, where the ends justify the means and the means is a well-orchestrated insensate outrage where all the right things are said. This is exactly why politicians are trying to prove to minorities that their political opponents are racists, sexist, xenophobic, etc. Politicians leverage minorities to meet their own political ends. It’s like minorities are puck and both teams are trying to get their hands on it so they can score. Am I wrong?

    • Diana Ayala says

      You’re absolutely right. Liberals don’t actually care about minorities, as in my personal experience evinced by them totally turning on me (a Hispanic, Italian woman) once they realize I don’t tow their (intellectually dishonest) ideological line.

  31. morne morston says

    Over the past forty or fifty years, we have slowly been taught that to insult or denigrate people on the basis of their ethnicity, their gender, their sexual orientation or their disability is completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated. And this is entirely correct: these are not attributes that an individual has any choice over.
    The more mentally lazy of us however, often erroneously extend these rules to matters which an individual can choose. In particular, the ease with which Islam is carelessly conflated with ethnicity often leads people to confuse religion with race – hence the idea that Johnson’s comments should be treated with the same opprobrium as racism, when clearly they should not. An individual’s religious choice should be as open to ridicule and criticism as an individual’s political leanings, criticisms which ironically are often present in the arguments attacking Johnson for his ridicule of one particular Islamic custom.
    The argument that Johnson’s comments in a newspaper somehow authorise the cowardly harassment of individuals is particularly weak. No society should tolerate harassment like this and no sane individual should misconstrue his words as a green-light to persecute and harass individuals.
    As often seems to be the case today, the debate is largely dominated by the interpretations at the most extreme ends of the spectrum, and it should come as no surprise that both of these interpretations are equally as wrong.

    • dirk says

      An individual religious choice, by Jove, what is that? Does it exist? I was baptised in a Catholic church, and, later, became a choir boy. Is it different in Islam? Do these women choose to wear a niquab? Or a burqua? Yes, that’s what they say, maybe even with support of western feminist groups. But is it the truth? I wonder, and do not even wait for sociologists to tell me how it is.
      Of course, some people convert to the Mormon church, I even know some of them. But can’t see the virtue or realm of it.

  32. Whilst it’s true banning the birk is against western principles this is not so clear in western countries that have large muslim populations such as France & Belgium.
    ‘Secular public space’ has increasingly become secondary to ‘religious space’ thus overtaking the cultural landscape in many areas.
    Absolute western values aren’t much use in countering oppression when exploited against the west.
    “a man’s gotta know his limitations” – Dirty Harry

  33. Why don’t we call it what it is?

    Blasphemy laws protect groups from being upset.

    You can prosecute someone for blasphemy if they draw a picture of the Prophet Muhammad or if they denigrate Islam, as you can punish someone for heresy or apostasy if they renounce Islam or they spread false theologies (say Shi’ism).

    Should the UK adopt Muslim blasphemy laws or Muslim laws to punish heresy and apostasy?

  34. An important point is that you can’t have blasphemy laws without heresy laws, because one sect’s doctrine will offend the other sect (think about Protestant nasty talk about the Virgin Mary and the cult around statutes of Mary). Last, once you have blasphemy laws and heresy laws, you aren’t far from civil war as everyone fights to have their sect codified and their rivals persecuted by the State.

    • M.D. says

      @ KD

      In the States and Canada in particular, things are well on their way to not only heresy and blasphemy laws, but also hate crime, hate speech, and laws protecting every conceivable group from any perceived slight or offense. All while heading toward Socialism and vilifying the “partriarchal white hierarchy.” With the Sarah Jeong situation there is now open endorsement of a double standard with the excuse that a non-white person cannot by definition be racist (or, I suppose, cause offense) to a white person.

      How is a society going to function like this? It will not end well, if it ends at all.

      • “Hate Crimes” and “Hate Speech” are simply a subset of blasphemy.

        Hate crime is crime against a member of a sacred group (motivated by a denial of that group’s sacred character). Hate speech is speech critical of a member of a sacred group.

        Why is hate crime and hate speech always a one-way street? Because only some groups get to be sacred-chosen-if you will–and some groups have to be profane for the whole thing to work. (Everyday can’t be the Sabbath.)

        • The paradigmatic “white supremacist hate crime” was probably the September 15, 1963 16th Street Church bombing, which led to the deaths of four little innocent Black girls.

          A gruesome and horrific crime to be sure, but you see the elements–sacred group of oppressed victims (here, innocent children slaughtered like little lambs of God), sacred space violated by the violent power of the Enemy–leading to the creation of a martyrdom cult.

          I’m not in any way trying to diminish this event, but it is paradigmatic of how one constructs a sacralized cult around a people. You can see the same pattern in Roman persecutions of early Christians, with Christians writing about the martyrdom of little children who chose death over apostasy from Christ.

          I think it may be harder to do with Muslims in the U.K. because they are coming from a very different cultural tradition from the Western, Christian culture (out of which the whole modern language of civil rights emerged, and probably only makes sense in that cultural context). Further, Sunni Islam seems to put a greater focus on spiritual warrior than the martyrs of God (that being probably too Shi’ite).

          • The greatest problem with run-of-the-mill atheism is that it fails to account for the binding power of blood, notwithstanding religio (to bind/connect) from its earliest inception is rooted in blood sacrifice, martyrdom, victims, scapegoats, you name it. This is what binds people together, and what would have to bind people together if anyone were ever to construct that liberal peaceful world government we’ve been promised.

            And there you have it: how will you ever get everyone to agree on who the true martyrs are? Who the true victims are? Who the true scapegoats are? Even if you could, how could you get agreement on how they should be venerated, or what offerings should be made to the sacred ancestors?

  35. conrad1on says

    ‘Alt-right’ specifically refers to a group of people who advocate for white ethnonationalism. Anyone can choose to dislike Tommy Robinson for any reason they like, but incorrectly labelling him in this way serves no purpose other than to cast doubt on the author’s general credibility, much like how any article about Jordan Peterson that refers to him as alt-right immediately lets me know that there’s likely no content worth treating seriously beyond that point.

    Point of fact, many in the alt-right don’t like Tommy Robinson at all, chiefly I believe because of his support for Israel.

    This may be a small point to some, as if you don’t like someone anyway, why should you care if they are described as a different flavour of awful? I’m just tired of seeing terms casually thrown around by people who clearly don’t know what it is they’re accusing someone of being.

    Sure, sometimes such terms are deployed by people who know fine well what kind of stink they’re putting on someone, but a lot of the time it comes across as people just not understanding what it is they’re actually saying, which isn’t exactly cause to endorse their output either.

    For what it’s worth, I basically agreed with this article, I’d just hoped that a writer on Quillette would do a bit better than Sky News in terms of basic research.

  36. Just Me says

    “Don’t judge a Muslim woman by what she chooses to wear, because it is her choice” is a non-sequitur.

    It is precisely when it is her choice at it is most represensible and worthy of criticism, because it indicates she freely embraces the most extremist interpretation of the Koranic injunction to be “modest”, i.e. that a woman’s face is in itself “immodest” and should be covered to please Allah, because it inflames men’s sexual passions and it is a woman’s duty to refrain from this.

    That interpretation goes much farther than just respecting “modesty”, its intention is to cut off any normal human interaction between women and half of human society (restricting normal interaction with other females in public is just an unavoidable side effect, of no importance anyway…)

    The face covering has been described as “portable purdah”, an ingenious invention allowing women otherwise stuck at home to venture outside if necessary for practical reasons, while by remaining secluded from wider social interaction anyway. “Respecting it” and “affirming it” means respecting and affirming purdah. Sorry, no can do!

    Science has shown how important the face is in social interaction. As humans, we use it to communicate, to identify each other, and to evaluate other people’s intentions and emotional reactions. Covering it up is not a purely personal choice with no consequences on others, it is a breach of the basic rules of human social interaction (it is MEANT to be) that rely on it to help establish social trust: we identify others so we can recognize them across social settings and so establish connections across time and space.
    Otherwise, who knows if the figure in black is the same one you saw 2 days ago somewhere else?

    THAT is the basis on which it should be banned in any society that values social trust and human connection.

    And judging a woman by what she wears is just like judging anyone else by what they wear, particularly when it has a clear ideological meaning. of course everyone does it. Would anyone claim the same for a man wearing a MAGA cap or t-shirt, or a woman wearing a pussy hat, or a confederate flag, etc.?

  37. Just Me says

    How ironic…or hypocritical double-standard…The same Left which in the past lambasted Christian, Victorian, and American, etc . “puritanism” and intolerance for non-marital sex, now insists it is bigoted and intolerant not to respect a practice based on an even more extreme puritanism.

    Christianity may have condemned non-marital, heterosexual sex, but it did not prescribe that therefore, society should minimize the risk by requiring that women should abstain from participating in broader social life and stay secluded at home. And if that means some non-marital sex happens, well, that’s a risk worth taking… because women are part of society!

    So women were always very much a part of social life at all levels of society, from peasants to aristocrats, from village fairs and markets to court balls and salons. Religious services included both genders, not a separate room at the back for the women.Visitors from Muslim countries marvelled at the freedom Europeans “allowed” “their” women. That was what allowed women to take the next step of insisting on their right to participate as equals in all spheres of society.

    Not so easy when the basic assumption of a society is that women should not be seen in public because the very sight of a woman’s face is dangerous, disruptive of the social order…

  38. The right not to be offended comes with the price tag of the right to oppress.
    I worked for 4 years in a heavily populated muslim suburb of sydney. I & the women I worked with were regularly subjected to leering, abusive & sexual comments when we ventured out of the work place onto the main streets. The ‘uncovered’ were not .This effectively drove many of us ‘under cover’ by avoiding going out. We were taught the consequences of our ‘immodesty’.
    Freedom from offence in this instance only served to normalise, legitimise & force outsiders to partake in oppressive cultural practices with out challenge.
    ‘Hurt feelings’ shouldn’t justify the oppression of others.

  39. Darwin T of BC Humanists says

    Dear Islam;
    Grow up.
    Dear Snowflakes;
    See above advice.

  40. Peter from Oz says

    What I find amusing about this whole affair is the fact that all those who are taking Boris to task are so hopeless at engllish comprehension. Boris made no comment on the character of those who wear the burqa, only on its appearance. He supports the right of people to wear this awful garment.
    That is all. Hardly controversial.
    But lefties, who have no real education, need to read the symbols of any utterance so s to make up lies and distortions.
    Sinistra delenda est

  41. Pingback: Blasphemy in modern Britain « Quotulatiousness

  42. Katherine says

    I believe Islam divides the world into two. There is the house of Islam (submission) and the house of war (which has not submitted). It is the religious duty of Muslims to wage war (in the various senses of the word) to bring the remaining territory under the power of Islam.
    And it’s the duty of the rest of us, I think, to resist as hard as ever we can.
    Can I recommend Mark Durie’s thoughts on this?

    • dirk says

      The bloody borderline of Samuel Huntington Katherine, see also the article of today on the issue.

  43. brian jackson says

    Quillette are now censoring comments. It appears we are allowed to present factual criticism of all religions except one. Can you guess which religion we are not allowed to criticize?

    • M.D. says

      @ brian jackson

      I don’t know man, look through these comments, there are incredibly harsh criticisms of Islam that nobody has censored. Quilette deserves credit for being one of very few places that will have any kind of honest discussion on this.

      • brian jackson says

        Islam is obviously not the religion I was referring to then. Try it out yourself. Apply the same level of critical analysis to the practices of the other major middle east based religion and see if your comment makes it past the moderators.

  44. Pingback: Interesting Things 14/08/18 – David Hadley

  45. Draymond Green says

    Muslims are invading the West, but not by force, they don’t have to use force because the liberals, the leftists and the progressives invited them in. Why? Because liberals, leftists, progressives, feminists hate white men because to them white men are nothing more than oppressors, which is unbelievably ironic given how outspoken these groups are.

    But here’s the reality: by the end of this century all those white men are going to feel like their backs are against the wall and there is going to be a day of reckoning that will make WW2 look like a fucking square dance. Nothing comes without a price…

      • brian jackson says

        Mathematics for knuckle dragging throwbacks.. such spectacular stupidity.

  46. Nikolai says

    Personally I think that as an important politician he should bite his lip a bit. Islam is a sensitive issue for a lot of reasons.
    It’s one thing for a journalist or whatever to make cheap jokes but as an MP they should be above it imo

    • Andrew says

      Islam is a belief system like many others and it should not be immune from criticism and censure. Like many I think the burqa a stupid garment, although actually what most mean by that is the niqab, and personally I do not think you should be allowed in public buildings -banks, shopping centres etc- without your face being visible. If you can’t walk into such places wearing a crash helmet or a ski mask then you can’t with a burqa. There is no difference.

      What is actually the key point here is that Boris had every right to say what he did, and you should defend to the death his right to say it.

  47. M.D. says

    @ Nikolai

    “Islam is a sensitive issue for a lot of reasons.”

    That’s exactly the point.

  48. I am not religious. Every view I express regarding how we my have come into existence will offend all religions.

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