Owen Jones: Off the roof, or into the fire?
Owen Jones is the very incarnation of Blair’s Law: the process by which “the world's multiple idiocies are becoming one giant, useless force”
The Independent article by Owen Jones attacking Richard Dawkins has created a buzz. Jones remonstrates with Dawkins over a Dawkins Tweet:
All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.
Let’s put to one side the post-modern irony of the author of the mighty tome Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class ticking off the author of such whimsy as The Blind Watchmaker, The Selfish Gene and Climbing Mount Improbable. A cat may look at a king and, indeed, try to scratch his heels.
Let’s also put to one side the fact that when R Dawkins was railing against what he sees as the pernicious loopy mysticism of Christianity, he was the progressive bee’s knees. Everyone knows that it’s just not on to rail against the pernicious loopy mysticism of Islam.
And that Jones commendably equates his own extreme socialist/communist views with irrational blind faith:
Personally, I cannot imagine being me without my atheism or my socialism. For those brought up all their lives in a religious environment, who are strongly emotionally welded to their beliefs, their faith is not something that can simply be switched off. It is beyond unrealistic to describe religious belief as a “choice” like, say, what clothes you should wear to a friend's party or whether to have a ham or chicken sandwich for lunch.
Nurture, not nature! Given that Jones absorbed Communist/Trotskyite fanaticism with his mother’s milk, the result we see today is not surprising.
The nub of Jones’s assault on Dawkins is the claim that to point up Muslim civilisational failure is, gasp, ‘Islamophobia’:
The point Dawkins was making is that this should reflect badly on Muslims: that, as a group, they had done nothing of worth since the 15th century. Nobel Prizes have disproportionately gone to the advanced, developed countries with lots of money for education and scientific research, which tend to be white and Christian. For example, not many Africans – whatever their religious beliefs – have won Nobel Prizes for this same reason
Jones has a point. It is unfair to denounce ‘Muslims’ as intellectual failures: two Muslims have won Nobel prizes in science. And lively sophisticated Malaysia is a world away from dismal violent Yemen or Libya or Syria or, now, Egypt.
But Jones studiously ignores the key point Dawkins was getting at, namely the fact that Islam as such in its mainstream Middle Eastern form is a powerful force for holding back society. Jones needs to get out more and read the Arab Human Development Report of 2002. The calamitous results of generalised backwardness across the Middle East were explained bluntly by Arabs themselves. They identified freedom, knowledge and the subordinate position of women as the major factors.
But wait. What underlying force creates that climate in which freedom, knowledge and the role of women are in such a dismal state? Let’s not mention the I-word:
Most secularists believe that the pervasive Islamisation of society, which in several Arab countries has largely replaced the frightening militancy of the 1980s and early 1990s, has played a significant part in stifling constructive Arab thought.
From their schooldays onwards, Arabs are instructed that they should not defy tradition, that they should respect authority, that truth should be sought in the text and not in experience. Fear of fawda (chaos) and fitna (schism) are deeply engrained in much Arab-Islamic teaching. “The role of thought”, wrote a Syrian intellectual “is to explain and transmit...and not to search and question.”
Such tenets never held back the great Arab astronomers and mathematicians of the Middle Ages. But now, it seems, they hold sway, discouraging critical thought and innovation and helping to produce a great army of young Arabs, jobless, unskilled and embittered, cut off from changing their own societies by democratic means
The most pitiful, disgraceful part of Jones’s argument comes when he tries to tiptoe away from Islamist extremism:
I'm often asked why I don't take a stronger line against Islamism: that it is one of my blind spots. In truth, I think that issue is pretty much covered. The alleged (sic) threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism has been debated to death ever since several Saudi hijackers crashed planes into the Twin Towers over a decade ago.
What? The actual murder of thousands of people in New York then scores of people in London and tens of thousands of people in Iraq came from an ‘alleged threat’?
Here’s a non-alleged threat to Jones himself. Sheik Qaradawi, the hugely influential Islamist cleric closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood with whom Brussels and Washington so want ‘dialogue’, famously ponders the different sorts of menace posed by homosexuals and lesbians. How best to punish them? Tricky choices! Toss them off the roof, or into the fire?
Jones says that the ravings of people like Qaradawi are ‘pretty much covered’. And he’s almost right. What has been covered by the UK taxpayer was Qaradawi’s participation at a major Muslim ‘outreach’ event in Istanbul in2006. I sent an email from Warsaw to London asking why HMG was determined to marginalise white-skinned Polish extremists who campaigned against homosexuals, but desperate for dialogue with brown-skinned Arab extremists who campaigned against homosexuals. Answer came there none.
Jones’s obsession with ‘Islamophobia’ is a patronising attack not on Dawkins but on Arabs. The problem Dawkins fairly identifies is not marginal Islamist fundamentalists. It’s a dangerous reactionary mainstream part of modern Islam. See the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s answer to a UN declaration on women’s rights: divorce, contraception, equal property rights, abolishing a husband’s control over a wife’s travel – all these things and more “would subvert the entire society, and drag it to pre-Islamic ignorance”.
The hard objective scientific fact that even the thickest youthful Marxist historian from Oxford University should be able to understand is that the civilisational costs of this sort of primitivism are dangerously compounding up across the Arab world.
Egypt (80 million people) is by far the largest Arab country. After decades of Arab-style national socialist authoritarianism and now a short period of utter Muslim Brotherhood incompetence, its foreign exchange reserves are rather larger than those of Trinidad and Tobago (1.3 million people). Egypt’s reserves are worth about five times as much as Manchester United FC.
If Egypt does not get its act together soon there will be a human disaster on an unimaginable scale. Syria on steroids. The primitive anti-modern thought that the Muslim Brotherhood represents is a huge obstacle to reform. To point this out is not ‘Islamophobia’ or ‘racist’. It’s the only honest and honourable thing to do. Richard Dawkins sees it. Millions of Egyptians now seem to see this. Owen Jones primly thinks it’s been ‘debated to death’.
Bottom line? Owen Jones is the very incarnation of Blair’s Law (Tim, not Tony): the process by which “the world's multiple idiocies are becoming one giant, useless force”.
Charles Crawford is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former British Ambassador in Sarajevo, Belgrade and Warsaw, he is now a private consultant and writer. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @charlescrawford
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