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Mosque Attack Reaction

Entry 1972, on 2019-03-19 at 14:07:08 (Rating 4, Politics)

It is now a few days since the Christchurch mosque attack happened, so maybe it is time now for me to comment, after the initial phase of mass hysteria has passed. Of course, this is me, so I'm not going to offer any of the meaningless platitudes we hear repeated over and over by the media, political leaders, and those deemed worthy of commenting in public. But I'm not going to defend that horrible act of violence either. What I do want to do is offer some rational comments disconnected from the standard narrative that everyone else seems to be stuck with.

So first, let me describe what happened, based on my interpretation of events. A fanatical Australian who seems to have become radicalised to an anti-Muslim worldview over the last few years used military style weapons, including what I think was an AR15 in full automatic mode, to massacre 50 Muslims at two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. He posted a manifesto describing his reasons and live-streamed the actual shooting, so this was definitely a premeditated act and had political origins. Because of this, I would call it an act of terrorism.

Presumably the attacker wanted to repress Islamic influences from immigrants worldwide and chose New Zealand to make a particular point that even a peaceful country on the "edge of the world" was not free from his particular brand of political influence. Of course, this has backfired spectacularly because there has never been so much support for the Muslim community before. So, at least in the short term, Islam is likely to be more accepted into mainstream society than it was.

His manifesto is an interesting mixture of semi-lucid commentary and obscure ranting. The call to stop people viewing this is unfortunate, I think, because no sensible person is going to be persuaded by it, but it does give some insight into the thoughts these extremists harbour.

In this case, his views seemed to be anti-Islamic, rather than pro-right or pro-white, etc, despite what the mainstream are saying. His views were not compelling in any way, but we do need to be careful that is it still OK to criticise politico-religious systems, as long as the criticism is rational and aimed at ideas rather than people.

So if the person who held a view which criticised Islam in a fair and reasonable way, then I can't see a problem with that. For example, the opinion that fundamentalist religion is not compatible with modern society might be made and could be argued for and against. I can personally see an argument for both sides of this view. So this is a fair subject to debate, and the view that religions, like Islam, aren't compatible with modern society might be right or wrong, but it's a fair subject to discuss without necessarily being an example of Islamophobia.

Where the problem really starts is when these views are expressed in irrational and hateful ways, through verbal abuse of target groups. And, obviously, the bigger problem still is when these views manifest as full-blown violence and death as it did in Christchurch. There is really no excuse for that, no matter how dire the threat a political position asserts (except in the truly exceptional case when the threat is already clearly apparent, such as the Nazi invasion of Poland in World War II - in that case violent retaliation is usually the only option).

So I am totally in agreement that we should do all we can to prevent this sort of atrocity happening again, and I am truly sorry that innocent people have been murdered, even if I don't agree with their views on religion. But this is a post on "OJB's Blog" so there has to be some controversy, doesn't there? Well, here it is...

I have already seen many signs of the far left and the people I usually refer to as the "politically correct crowd" calling for tighter controls over what they call "casual racism" and "hate speech". The problem is, these terms are often something the extreme left have created to cover anything that they disapprove of.

So even the suggestion that I made above, that there is a debate around whether fundamentalist religion and modern society are compatible could easily be repressed by being labelled "hate speech". At least it would if I specifically referred to Islam. I suspect that if I chose a "Western" religion, like Catholicism the point would pass with little criticism.

And if anyone made the suggestion that all Muslims should feel some responsibility for the atrocities committed by Islamic extremists around the world, they would likely be labelled as racist or Islamophobic. However, during the comments after the shooting I have heard many saying that white people in general are responsible and should feel ashamed for this event.

In the first case a criticism of an ideology (not a race) is seen as problematic, even though there are clear sanctions for violence in that belief system. In the second a race is being targeted and there is no fundamental part of being that race which leads to greater violence - in fact quite the opposite could be argued - yet somehow that is OK.

So my concern here is that free speech is going to be curtailed because the far left (and often the moderate left as well) will simply label anything they don't like as "casual racism" and link that to the Christchurch attack. But we do need discussion on these topics, because making certain subjects out of bounds for discussion does not make the ideas go away.

In fact, this problem is already apparent. In the US, commentators such as Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson - who don't fit the standard left narrative - have already been blamed for the Christchurch shooting and have been marked for "elimination" (an unfortunate term given the violence inherent in this situation already). This is an utterly ridiculous claim, which would be obvious to anyone who knows much about their work.

But even people who do have a genuine anti-Islam opinion (I don't use the word "Islamophobic" because it's a term of convenience and dishonesty invented by the left) and who might really have an element of racism in their views shouldn't be excommunicated (I deliberately used that word because this really is like a religion).

For example, I talked to someone recently who was convinced the Christchurch attack was caused by New Zealand's (allegedly) lax immigration policies, and that letting more Muslims into the country was the real problem. Most people would be scared to share this view, but I listen to all perspectives, and don't just offer the usual knee-jerk reaction we see from most.

So I pointed out that we don't have significantly different levels of immigration under this government than we did under the previous one. I also pointed out that most of the people in New Zealand today (including the person who made the remark) were immigrants at some time in the past. And I asked how many Muslims he knew. I commented I know and work with several and they are great people, and that even though I disagree with their religion I still get on with them fine.

He did sound somewhat contrite after what I said, so maybe I moved his views a little bit more towards something more rational and fair. But a lot of people would have just called him a racist and refused to even discuss the issue. This is not the right approach. That just drives people more into an extreme position. We should be able to discuss any issue, even if it does seem to be racist or phobic in some way.

By the way, I have had similar discussions with people who have extreme views about the LGBT community. The one argument which seems to work is to say that you know people in all of these "minority groups" and it is possible to accept their differences from what some people consider norms quite easily, and that in the final analysis they really aren't that much different from anyone else.

But the common narrative of the far left: that anyone who doesn't totally accept these groups is racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or whatever else their current favourite label happens to be, just isn't effective. In fact it achieves the opposite of what they want by reinforcing the sense of isolation the person has.

So I think it is important to be a little bit more reasonable about this whole unfortunate situation. Let's just step back and not do anything too hasty for a while. Should we look at gun laws? Sure, that might help, especially after looking at what Australia did. Should our security services pay more attention to radical agendas published on the internet? If they spend their time on genuine threats and not mere political disagreements, of course. Should we try to be more careful about how we think of, speak to, and act towards minority groups? Any reasonable person should have been doing that all along. But should we be repressing opinions which don't fit in with the narrative deemed appropriate by the self-appointed guardians of what is considered good? Hell, no!

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