You’d better get one thing straight here.
It’s absolutely true that most (perhaps nearly all) Leftists – in this case a Guardian journalist – do believe that the criticism of Islam is racist. It may also be the case that some Leftists/progressives – though certainly not the majority – use all sorts of arcane (Marxist) theories and convoluted arguments to back this belief (or theory) up; but that’s nonetheless what they believe. Either that, or this is what they pretend to believe.
Take Andrew Brown’s very own Associate Editor at The Guardian: Seamus Milne. Mr Milne’s a “former Stalinist”, according to Workers’ Liberty (as well as many others); “a Stalinist Rip van Winkle”, according to the novelist Robert Harris; and “a sincere, eloquent and uncomplicated Marxist”, according to Conservative MP Daniel Hannan. So it’s no surprise that Milne once wrote an article for The Guardian which put the the-criticism-of-Islam-is-racist case in these simple words (which are in the addendum to the linked article):
"Islam has become a proxy for race, and Islamophobia a form of racism."
Andrew Brown – being another Guardian journalist – has form when it comes to hating the “haters”. For example, he once wrote a very conspiratorial article about what he called“far-right conspiracists”. (Click here for a response to that article.) He accuses all sorts of critics of Islam of being “paranoid”. And when I say all sorts of critics, I mean all sorts of critics. Brown’s hate-list of haters (in only one article) includes: Bat Ye’or, Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Anders Gravers, Fjordman, the EDL, Douglas Murray, Damian Thompson, Geert Wilders, Paul Belien, Daniel Hannan and ‘Mad’ Melanie Phillips.
Andrew Brown starts off his fifth-of-November article – ‘Why I don’t believe people who say they loath Islam but not Muslims’ – by telling us that it’s
"a trope among people who loathe and fear Islam that their fear and loathing has nothing in common with racism because Islam is not a race".
So you can guess what’s coming next: Andrew Brown believes that this “trope” is simply false or deliberately misleading. (He forgot to mention that critics of Islam are just as likely to that “Muslims don’t constitute a single race” than they are to say “Islam is not a race”.)
Brown then goes on to argue that
"[s]ome people who claim that Islam is profoundly evil will also say that they bear Muslims no ill will…."
Andrew Brown thinks that all these people are lying. He doesn’t “think they are telling the truth”. That is, Andrew Brown thinks all critics of Islam “bear [all] Muslims ill will”.
I’ve just said that Andrew Brown believes that all – rather than some – critics of Islam bear all Muslims ill will because when he himself uses the determiner “some” (as in “some people”), it’s the case that this is a reference to only those critics of Islam who say that “they bear Muslims no ill will”. (He doesn’t believe them, as Brown has already said.) Therefore that’s why I say that Brown believes that all critics of Islam bear all Muslims ill will because he doesn’t even believe that those who explicitly deny this are telling the truth.
Now Guardian journalists – as well as Reza Aslan – seem to have a big problem with generalisations. However, what they really have is a big problem with are generalisations about Muslims or Islam; not about, say, the critics of Islam (or “the far right”).
"It is really difficult and indeed psychologically unnatural to claim that you hate an ideology without hating the people in whose lives it is expressed."
Andrew Brown is partly correct in what he says above and he’s partly correct for this reason.
Critics of Islam do indeed bear some – not all – Muslims “ill will” (to refer back to Brown’s earlier quote). The Muslim they bear ill will are those who act on the Islamic principles and texts which are destructive, intolerant and violent. If these Islamic texts and principles didn’t lead to negative actions, then us critics wouldn’t concern ourselves with them.
So let’s write what Andrew Brown says and change some of the words within. See what happens now:
Mr Brown now says:
"If religions, nations, and even races are all shared imaginative constructs…. and if you really want to extirpate them, you must extirpate the people who imagine them as well."
What Brown says above may also contain some truth. The problem is, however, that his words can be applied to all sorts of other cases. More relevantly, they can be applied to the numerous hate-figures of Guardian journalists (such as Andrew Brown): Nazis, racists, “Islamophobes”, “the far right”, neo-liberals, bankers, nationalists, patriots, conservatives, etc.
Let me put that another way.
As a Guardian journalist, Andrew Brown will hate (though he may deny this) critics of Islam, nationalism, racism, conservatism, “neo-liberalism”, Nazism, patriotism (though he may deny this too), Islamophobia and so on. Thus in order “to extirpate” the counter-jihad movement, nationalism, patriotism, conservatism, etc., Andrew Brown and his fellow Leftists (to use Brown’s own words) “must extirpate the people who imagine them as well”. That is, Leftists “must extirpate” all nationalists, patriots, conservatives, “neoliberals”, “Islamophobes”, counter-jihadists, racists, Nazis, etc.
Nonetheless, in a democracy you don’t really need to extirpate anyone. The critics of Islam, for example, don’t need to extirpate all Muslims. All they need to do is stop Muslims from enacting sharia law in non-Muslim countries or stop them from carrying out those Islamic acts which are (so far!) illegal in such countries.
Similarly, Leftists don’t need to extirpate the critics of Islam, Nazis, conservatives, etc.: all they need to do is convince the public – democratically – that everything these people believe is wrong.
The Criticism of Islam is Racist?
You can see that so far Andrew Brown has had nothing to say – strictly speaking – about race.
The thrust of Andrew Brown’s argument now seems to be that because “racism became a kind of moral leprosy” it was necessary for us – well – racists to hide our racism by reinventing it as something else : the criticism of Islam. So, basically, Brown is saying that what we have is still racism; though it’s deceptively presenting itself in another form. (Think here of the Seamus Milne quote at the beginning of this piece.)
Alternatively, Brown may be telling us that racism isn’t the unique crime it’s painted to be. He says, for example, that “it’s worth noting that in other societies and at other times racial prejudice has not been the most urgent incitement to communal hatred”.
In any case, Brown labours at the blatantly-obvious point that there are kinds of hatred which aren’t racial in nature. He says, for example, that Stalin or Mao “are not excused in the slightest by saying that the most terrible atheist dictators were not very racist at all”.
(I wonder what the “former Stalinist” Assistant Editor of The Guardian – Seamus Milne – thinks about these comments on Stalin and Mao. In addition, Stalin most certainly was a racist. He was a fierce and long-running Jew-hater and this has been documented in great detail.)
So it’s hard to tell what Andrew Brown is now getting at.
Is it that Brown thinks that all criticism of Islam is racist; although the critics of Islam pretend that it’s not?
Or is Brown now arguing that “religious hatred” is as bad as racial hatred?
Perhaps he’s arguing for both positions.
Andrew Brown finishes off with a unfunny and trite comparison. He says:
"In the end, the position of people who claim that hatred of Islam is somehow superior to hatred of black people is pretty much like Alan Partridge boasting that at least he’s not David Brent."
All I can do to respond to that is ask Andrew Brown this question:
I don’t think that Andrew Brown can claim any of these things. Brown himself admits, for example, to not being able to distinguish between ideologies and the people who uphold those ideologies when he says – in the comments section below his article – that he
"broke off a rather valued friendship because of politics — in particular, as it happens, my ex-friend’s tolerance of the Spencer/Geller axis".
Again, Andrew Brown:
Oh, by the way, I sincerely hate Guardianistas. Moreover, Andrew Brown’s article certainly didn’t help quell that hate: it justified it.