Winning the argument

18 December 2010

Whenever I worry that my instinct for pluralism and debate is drawing me to listen to siren voices, I am reminded of the idiocy of the authoritarian alternative. This week I had the honour of being
singled out by the Islamist fellow-travellers of iEngage after I dared to write that such a sectarian organisation should never have been considered to act as the secretariat for the new All-Party
Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia.

The full letter from the head of iEngage, Mohammed Asif, is available on the organisation’s website.

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This is the meat of the gripe:

“It is the machinations of journalists like Martin Bright who have through their disreputable work sought to advance the “good (apolitical) Muslim”/”bad (politically
active) Muslim” dichotomy that has created a situation in which Muslims who challenge and demur from the sham discourse on “Islamism” are derisively treated and cast beyond the

Beyond the barely comprehensible jargon, I think what he is saying is that he’s really angry that I rumbled him. I have no desire to close down the debate with political Islam. But it was
never right that such an ideologically driven organisation was considered as the appropriate body to administer and advise such an important committee. The argument was an important one. It has now
been had and the committee has made the decision to drop iEngage. Of such debate is democracy made.

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Show comments
  • Herbert Thornton

    Tarek (January 12th, 2011) presents us with a curious mixture of ideas. First he asserts that human life is sacred and that going into the matter of how many people have been killed in the name of “a particular group or other” (which, in this context, refers to Muslims and Jews) is evidence of a belief that “below a certain threshold” there are degrees of “acceptability at (sic) the loss of life”. He says it is “a ludicrous concept”. Well, taking the moral high ground is generally laudable, but in real life, numbers are important. They are of great practical use. They tell us the magnitude of what we are faced with and are a guide as to how we can best defend ourselves and how much effort we need to put into it.

    But strangely, after arguing that human life is sacred and that numbers are not important, Tarek turns to motive. He distinguishes between the execution of a murderer, the execution of a settler by means of a suicide attack, and the execution of people by “trigger happy border guards”. Clearly he is implying that the three examples range from the first one being morally justifiable, the second being morally excusable, and the last one as being wicked. In other words he is saying that executing an ordinary murderer is justifiable, Israeli border guards firing on infiltrators is wicked – while the actions of suicide bombers to murder Jewish settlers are excusable. By logical extension, this suggests that all Muslim suicide bombings excusable. That makes it very difficult for me to discern a sincere belief in the sacredness of human life.

    Tarek invites me to name 10 “so-called” Muslim war criminals. I have puzzled over what the qualification “so-called” amounts to, but conclude that it can carry only one implication – that there is in fact no such thing as a “Muslim War Criminal” – so what is the point of naming any? I will make do with naming the inmates – including many since released – of Guantanamo Bay. In any case why does Tarek need to seek refuge in International Law? I think he’s presenting us with a red herring. There is no need to cite International Law to demonstrate the criminality of the terrorists who flew air liners into the Twin Towers, those who murdered many people in the London Tube bombings. or those in Chechnya who murdered 334 hostages including 186 children in the Beslan school atrocity. They were crimes against the Laws of the USA, of Britain and of Russia. International Law may of course apply to the extent that the criminals were connected with other criminals in other countries, or trained in, or were helped by, other countries, but International Law is a flimsy and uncertain system. What is clear on the other hand is that they were inspired by Islam – and thus if we are to agree with Tarek, excusable. Others (myself included) would say that International Law needs to be developed further to enable it to call Islam to account. The genocidal slaughter of “infidels” – and in many cases of fellow-Muslims – carried out in the name of Islam by the Muslim Janjaweed in Darfur cries out for it.

    It is rather curious that Tarek should ask that I – who in the first place posed the question about the numbers of people killed by Muslims – should supply the answer. Not only that, but he demands that I support the answer with “references that are above reproach”. In other words he props the door wide open for him to denounce any such reference as completely false.

    Well doubtless he will react that way to these –

    Finally, Tarek’s rebuke of elixelx makes wonder what his opinion is respecting the Christian woman in Pakistan recently accused of insulting Mohammed or some such offence and who faces either the official death penalty for “blasphemy” or the probable alternative, should the court find her now guilty, of being stoned to death by her Muslim neighbours when she returns home. He accuses elixelx of not treating Erica Blair like a lady. Does he, as a gentleman, feel any similar urge to protect the poor Christian woman from being hanged or stoned to death?

  • Tarek

    Human life is sacred and to reduce it to the lowest common denominator i.e. ” how many more were killed” by a particular group or other somehow quantifies that below a certain threshold, there are degrees of acceptability at the loss of life. A ludicrous concept to be polite. Furthermore it is extremely myopic, simplistic and downright disingenuous to constantly try to compare how many more people one side killed in order to somehow prove that one side is more moral than the other . A murderer sentenced to the death penalty is not the same as a settler dying in a suicide bomb attack and neither are the same as innocent civilians dying at the hands of trigger-happy border guards, the deaths of whom will all contribute to the final tally. Seeing as the spirit of the discussion seems to be that of one side demonising the other, I would like Mr. Thornton, who is elegantly stating the “fact” that muslims have murdered more than any other to name 10 so-called “muslim war criminals” and to state why, with reference to International Law they are so. Furthermore, I would be most entertained to be given a number by him, with references that are above reproach in regard to the hordes of people apparently murdered by those bloody-thirsty Mohammedans. Finally, as Ms Blair is apparently incapable of answering your question in regard to the absolute numbers of dead on either side, perhaps you can also enlighten those of us less well-read than yourself?

    As for elixelx, try to remember that what makes Britain great in the field of intellectual discourse is the fact that when the British debate or discuss a contentious issue, they do not lower themselves to insulting the other person, but do so dispassionately. At the very least address a lady like a gentleman should.

  • Major Plonquer 1

    I agree with Erica Blair. ALL Jews are criminals. I mean, they killed Baby Jesus, didn’t they? Then they took over all the banks and forced poor pensioners to make a choice of freezing to death or burning their cat.

    If King Solomon was alive today he’d be turning in his grave.

  • Herbert Thornton

    Erica –

    You have already been very cooperative by partly answering the question when you say that of the numbers killed by Christians, Muslims and Israelis over the last 50 years the Jews have killed the fewest. The Jews have, you say killed tens of thousands.

    All you are being asked is to complete your answer to the question and tell us – how many people have Muslims killed over the same period? You obviously know the answer because you say that Muslims have killed more people than have the Jews.

    Come on, Erica, be nice. Don’t keep the figures from us – a lot of people think numbers can be quite important. Over the last 50 years how many people have Muslims killed?

    P.S. I can’t follow why you should say – “You tell me.” If I could tell you I would. But you must have some idea of the answer because you say that Jews have killed the fewest. As for my having an obsession, what’s wrong with having an obsession to unearth truth? It can of course get people into trouble as we see from the Wikileaks business.

  • Erica Blair

    You tell me. You’re the one with the obsession.

  • Herbert Thornton

    Come on, Erica – tell us how many more. Please?

  • Erica Blair

    1. How many people have the Israelis killed?

    Tens of thousands

    2. How many people have Muslims killed?

    More than the Jews (except Kissinger), but fewer than the Christians.

    And your point is?

  • Herbert Thornton

    Erica –

    Just tell us, please – over the last 50 years –

    1. How many people have the Israelis killed, and

    2. How many people have Muslims killed?

  • Tarka the Rotter

    Erica… Erica… really my dear you do need to take something…

  • Erica Blair

    I see Herbert can’t read and ‘Tarka’ can’t deny his BUF sympathies.

    Typical of the far right!

  • Tarka the Rotter

    Erica, you clearly have a severe case of Harmanitis – symptoms include making wild accusations of fascism and nazism, screeching, and removing your brain before you pontificate. Suggest you seek immediate help.

  • Herbert Thornton

    And we all see that Erica persists in evading the question and instead goes on making assertions that have nothing to do with it.

  • Erica Blair

    I see Tarka shares Henry Williamson’s politics. As for those killed by Israel – add up those killed by the Irgun/Stern gang, wars in 1948, 1958, 1967, 1973, invasions and occupations of Lebanon from 1982 onwards and finally the occupations of Gaza and the West Bank including the deaths in the Cast Lead and Mavi Marmara war crimes. Quite a lot for such a smaill country.

    ps How many did ‘Christian’ America kill in Vietnam, in wars and sanctions against Iraq? Millions.

  • Tarka the Rotter

    @Erica Blair,

    Ah yes, the Adolf-Nazi accusation – doesn’t take long for a Lefty to start screeching. The key word in my post was ‘now’ – we could all start digging up past events, such as the Troubles in Ireland, the Napoleonic Wars, the Crusades, the Norman Invasions… but the key word is still ‘now’. Do I care about British servicemen and woman losing their lives? Yes, actually, I do.

  • Herbert Thornton

    But Erica, the British empire’s history has nothing whatever to do with the question. It has no more to do with it than does the Chinese death toll under Mao, the Cambodian slaughter under Pol Pot, the Russian exterminations under Stalin or even the number of Jews killed by the Nazis’ in the extermination camps.

    Please concentrate on this – How many people have been killed by Israelis over the last 50 years and how many have been killed, in the name of their religion, by Muslims during the same period? What is being sought is an honest, realistic comparison between those two.

  • Erica Blair

    As for British imperialism? I think you’re into the millions there Herbert.

  • Herbert Thornton

    In the matter of the torture and murders of British soldiers by Irgun and the Stern gang, Erica asks if they “mean very little” to us.

    No, Erica, they don’t “mean very little”. One of my own cousins was in that very area at the time, and he and the rest of his platoon went to a bar in Tel Aviv. When the bomb went off all but my cousin were killed or maimed. He survived because he left the bar a few minutes before the others.

    Erica, I think you need to pause and do a simple body count of how many people Israeli forces have killed throughout the world during the last 50 years and how many, throughout the world, Muslim extremists have killed. Or, for that matter compare the count over the entire period since the time of Mohammed.

    The figures show, I believe, that you are mistaking the molehill for the mountain.

  • elixelx

    Erica, I thought that YOU, above all people would get my mordant satire on YOUR double standards; Yet, it not only went over your empty head, it turned and bit you in the fleshy gluteus–and you STILL didn’t get it!

  • Erica Blair

    I like pointing out double standards.

    Thanks for proving my point.

  • elixelx

    look, I know erica. She wants the police to issue warrants for every Israeli who has ever served in the IDF, all 1.5 million, BUT when Ismail Haniyeh of HAMAS or Hasan Nasrallah of HEZBOLLAH come to town she is NOT GOING TO WAIT FOR THE POLICE!
    That’s correct! She’s going to personally make the citizen’s arrest and put the handcuffs on them HERSELF!
    No namby-pamby, wishy-washy, dilly-dally for our Erica. Goons or no goons she will do what’s right!
    Don’t come here boys; Erica Blair is on your case!

  • Mark2

    Worth pausing and pointing out how Erica has highjacked the debate here which was not about war criminals at all but the pernicious influnce on British politics of an Islamist organisation. I’m a “motive” man myself when people do that and I just wonder why she did wanted to do so. Does she support this organisation, is her hatred for Israel such that she simply can’t stop herself from going into print attacking Israel obsessively and whatever the subect,- or what?

  • Erica Blair

    Tarka the Rotter. How very Henry (I love Adolf) Williamsonian of you.

    As for Israeli terrorists check out the activities of the IDF and Mossad. And who can forget actions of the Irgun and the Stern Gang. Perhaps the latter’s kidnapping, torture and murder of British soldiers means little to you?

  • Tarka the Rotter

    @Erica Blair (how very Orwellian of you)

    Mmmmmmmmm let’s see: number of Israeli terrorists now blowing themselves up in western cities = nil. Number of muslim terrorists blowing themsleves up in western cities… Israeli threat to western civilisation = nil. Muslim threat… let me count the ways

  • Erica Blair

    It is Martin Bright who wants Muslims from Bangladesh to be tried as war criminals without naming any of them. At the same time he wants Israelis who have committed war crimes in Gaza and on the high seas to be given immunity.

    Perhaps he might explain this inconsistency.

  • Andy Gill

    If your “thoroughly disreputable work” has got under the skin of the iEngage bigots, I can only say well done Martin.

    Please continue to shine your light on this nasty little cabal.

  • Herbert Thornton

    Erica Blair –

    You were invited to name people, both Muslim and Israeli, whom you believe to be war criminals.

    In response you first post three urls that do not provide the name of any war criminal at all and concern instead British policy about jurisdiction. One of the urls – which relates to the war of liberation almost 40 years ago in Bangladesh – is so ludicrously off topic as to be laughable – as the saying goes, what has Bangladesh to do with the price of oats?

    Finally, you respond to only half of the question by naming no Muslims but two Israelis whom you call war criminals and by adding a rather silly assertion about Mr. Bright’s motives.

    What else can people conclude other than that you are unthinkingly anti-Jewish and blindly pro-Muslim?

  • Erica Blair


    ‘If we have suspects living in this country then we need to fulfil our international obligations. ‘

    ‘On Monday I heard David Cameron give an eminently reasonable speech to Conservative Friends of Israel. ‘

    Cameron said, “When we see the abuse of the UK’s laws to try and detain Israeli politicians who visit these shores, we need to act: changing the law so people don’t fear coming to our country. That’s what we are doing on Universal Jurisdiction. ‘

    Bright wants to defend war criminals like Livni, Barak and others.

  • Herbert Thornton

    Erica Blair –

    I am sure that Martin is well capable of answering you himself, but I would like to know the names of the Muslim war criminals and the names of the Israelis you are referring to.

    Without knowing who you are talking about, I don’t see how a discussion of your question can have much meaning.

  • Erica Blair

    In the interests of debate Martin, why do support the prosecution of Muslim war criminals, but not Israelis?

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