It’s been brought to my attention that I’m being attacked by a couple of far-left blogs. One of these blogs seems to be run by a George Galloway fanclub, while the other is run by a member of a historical reenactment society called the SWP, whose members like to pretend they’re taking part in a Communist revolution. About the only modern idea they seem to embrace is recycling – in their case, recycling the ideas of Trotsky. I won’t bother wasting time replying to their facile ‘arguments’ at any great length as I’ve already done so before. Should you wish, you can read those responses here and here.
There is one thing that is worth pointing out about attacks such as these, as there have been quite a few of a similar nature that make use of a few quotes from a four part study of the Qur’an I wrote for the rationalist website Butterflies & Wheels. The Gallowayite site states:
Standing’s views on Islam are just as forthright. He describes the Qur’an in the following terms: “I hope to demonstrate to the reader quite what a divisive, primitive, and insulting book it actually is “; and he condemns ” the hateful attitude it takes towards those who do not accept Islam”, and demands: “how can texts like those I have just cited do anything but instill a negative or contemptuous attitude towards non-Muslims? ”
As the link leading up to the quotes is dead, I can only assume this section was copied and pasted from some other website. The article in question can now be found here.
‘Critiques’ such as these engage in quote mining that seems so blatant that it is hard to see it as being accidental. Let’s take the first quote, for example, which is almost certainly deliberately taken out of context to create the impression that I’m trying somehow to attack Muslims. Here is the full quote, with the missing text in bold:
In this article, I shall look at exactly what the Qur’an says, and I hope to demonstrate to the reader quite what a divisive, primitive, and insulting book it actually is; not to provoke hostility towards Muslims, nor to be deliberately and gratuituously offensive, but for the important reasons outlined above.
They never quote the reasons I gave either, which is unsurprising. I wrote:
It seems to me vitally important in a time in which this book [the Qur'an] and this religion [Islam] are proclaimed so widely and so loudly to be the Truth and to be beyond criticism that those of us who value the fruits of the Enlightenment – rational, secular thought and discourse, freed from the often horrific superstitions of ignorant men of the past – should endevour to both examine and critically evaluate Islam and its much vaunted ‘holy book’.
The Enlightenment and the huge social changes it ushered in are precious gifts that it is our duty to protect against the forces of resurgent irrationalism in the world today. The values and achievements of the Enlightenment are things which should be open to all, regardless of skin colour or ethnicity: in short, they are not simply a luxury for white Western elites. In seeking to ‘understand’ Islam and in offering an unthinking and servile ‘respect’ for the Qur’an, many feel they are championing the cause of minorities and protecting them from bigotry and Western ‘cultural imperialism’. This is utter condescending nonsense. There is no reason why brown skinned people should be left in the chains of superstition and there is no reason why the things many of them hold dear should be beyond rational criticism. Beliefs have consequences, and in the case of this particular religion one of those consequences is that many of its followers feel duty-bound to attempt to roll back the Enlightenment and to ‘Islamify’ the West. This is an unpopular statement to make, considered in the minds of many self-proclaimed liberals and progressives to border on ‘bigotry’ or to actually constitute a form of ‘racism’. But bigotry and racism are enemies of Enlightenment rationalism – they belong to precisely the same realm of irrational, petty, provincial thinking that produced competing religions, all proclaiming to be bearers of the Truth without a shread of real evidence, and all quite unsatisfactory if we are to be serious about developing further together as a global community in the years to come.
Hardly the statements of someone seeking to launch ‘bilious attacks on Muslims’, as the SWP blogger claims.
Then there are the following quotes: ‘the hateful attitude it takes towards those who do not accept Islam’ and ‘how can texts like those I have just cited do anything but instill a negative or contemptuous attitude towards non-Muslims?’
That quote is again given no context. It actually appears at the end of a list of quotes from the Qur’an about those who refuse to accept Islam. Quotes such as:
Have you not seen those who dispute with respect to the communications of Allah: how are they turned away? Those who reject the Book and that with which We have sent Our Apostle; but they shall soon come to know, when the fetters and the chains shall be on their necks; they shall be dragged into boiling water, then in the fire shall they be burned (Qur’an 40.69-72).
Has not there come to you the news of the overwhelming calamity? (Some) faces on that day shall be downcast, laboring, toiling, entering into burning fire, made to drink from a boiling spring. They shall have no food but of thorns, which will neither fatten nor avail against hunger (Qur’an 88.1-7).
And my conclusion reads in full:
These are clearly not the writings of a rational mind. Deranged by religious delusions, the author or authors of these passages would no doubt be considered mentally ill or psychologically unbalanced were this ‘holy’ book to be written today. Yet, as a religious text, the Qur’an is all too often given a special exemption from normal criticism, and we are told that we must show it ‘respect’, despite the hateful attitude it takes towards those who do not accept Islam. Around the world, children are taught to revere the Qur’an as the very words of the creator of the universe, as a perfect book with a timeless message, yet how can texts like those I have just cited do anything but instill a negative or contemptuous attitude towards non-Muslims? And why would anyone in their right mind claim that this book should be held up as the most important book ever written, or even as a great work of literature?
Later, in part four of the same article, I wrote:
We need to stop cowering in fear of being accused of ‘bigotry’ or ‘Islamophobia’, or ‘racism’, or any of the other labels that are all too often attached to those who dare to critically examine Islam, and we also need to be firm in our rejection of far-right political parties and organisations that are attempting to make problems related to Islam ‘their issue’ and who are seeking to slide a racist agenda in under the guise of ‘defending the West’. As a committed anti-racist I will not be told by genuine bigots that they ’speak for me’, because they most certainly do not.
In this article I wrote that ‘anti-Muslim bigotry is undoubtedly a problem that needs to be confronted’, ‘anti-Muslim bigotry is often appalling and must be opposed’, and that we must ‘promote the values of the Enlightenment, oppose racism, and seek to stand up against genuine anti-Muslim bigotry’.
The fact is, when it comes to my positions on criticism of Islam and Islamism and opposition to anti-Muslim bigotry, I have been consistent and crystal clear. I can only assume that those who level pathetic accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ against me have either not read my articles in full, have the reading comprehension skills of a primary school child, or are deliberately and maliciously quoting me out of context in order to present me as someone who promotes bigotry towards Muslims.
I think the latter is most likely, and this says a lot about the intellectual honesty and credibility of the writers in question.