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February 08, 2006

We have a duty to offend jihadists, argues Douglas Murray - author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It

Posted by Douglas Murray

We have not only the right, but also the duty to offend jihadists. This is the argument of Douglas Murray, author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It. Murray argues that both the left and the right have failed in their response to the Danish cartoon crisis - many on the left see the crisis as being about multicultural good manners, many on the right see it as an opportunity to lambaste our secular-ish society and its attitude to the Christian religion. The only correct response - argues Murray - is to unequivocally stand "with the Danes and cartoonists who now live under death sentence because they drew pictures of someone else's prophet".

The views expressed in this article are those of Douglas Murray, not those of the Social Affairs Unit, its Trustees, Advisors or Director.

Interestingly, I have never tried to decapitate Gilbert or George. Jerry Springer: The Opera ran for a considerable time without me leaving a bomb at Stage Door. And I have never in my life interfered with the person of Richard Dawkins. As far as I am aware I have never encouraged others to commit like acts.

The reasons for my non-confrontations are numerous. I never paid to go and see Jerry Springer. The only time I read Dawkins I kept wondering how he'd react if a theologian wrote gibberish about science. And though I have never been to Hoxton, the exhibition Sonofagod – was Jesus heterosexual does not encourage me to buy an underground ticket to what I understand is a mugger's paradise.

Alongside practical considerations though, I don't attend such pageants because I know what "controversial" art means in 2006. The anti-Christian stuff is taken as read, and has become (though artists seem not to have realised this) quite interminably dull and passé: modern art-galleries are filled with images which are meant to make us "question", "re-evaluate" and "ask troubling questions of" the Church, sexuality and other pressing issues. Gilbert and George and co. constantly display their genitals, but you don't have to look closely to notice they're not big enough to tackle any really hot issues of the day, such as, say, the tendency of Muslims to kill you if you say something they don't like. Avoiding this issue is a quiet but popular way of being a "dhimmi" - being someone so lacking in pride or self-worth that you're willing to follow the strictures of Muslims while not yourself being a Muslim: in other words, it is to kow-tow to the rabble.

And if there's one thing that can be relied upon more than the tendency of phoney revolutionaries to attack Christians, it's the silence of the "rebels" when the Mohammedans come a' knocking. Last September Tate Britain pulled a work of art by John Latham before it was even shown because Muslims could have been offended by the piece. Which you would have thought would give cutting-edge artists a whole new field to play in? But no – it seems unlikely that we are about to see Andres Serrano try a Piss Mohammed or Gilbert and George question which way Mohammed swung.

This cowardice is now endemic. In November 2004 the pro-Kerry revolutionaries in Hollywood were so busy shouting about George Bush that they never got round to noticing that a member of their own profession had been comprehensively censored by a man called Mohammed. No displays of solidarity followed – no "standing together in the face of extremism". In fact – worse: the film Theo van Gogh was killed for making, Submission, got pulled from the film festivals it was due to show at. People got scared. One crazed Islamist shot and stabbed a Dutch director and the entire Western film industry put its hands in the air and ran so fast there was no one left to shout "cut".

We're now five years into a war, and no major Western studio has yet made a film in which a Muslim is a bad guy. In fact they've yet to even give us a film in which the good guys win and the bad guys get beaten up. The present war's movies range from Kingdom of Heaven ("there are a lot of fundamentalists about, Christians are the worst") to Munich ("if someone hits you and you're a Jew, stay perfectly still") and Flightplan ("if you're on a hijacked plane, odds are these days that the flight-crew, not Islamists, are to blame").

It's farcical, but it's also becoming more than a little sickening that so few people are willing to stick their heads above the parapets. It's especially dispiriting that this wimpishness should come about when the incoming missiles are so very far from being sophisticated - are in fact brutish, medieval and dumb.

Which is why the Danish cartoon episode does matter, and why left and right are missing a trick here.

You don't have to be a fully signed up dhimmi like Jack Straw to get this one wrong. Straw is in any case not a free man: blackmailed by his vast Muslim constituency, Straw sees no political choice but to appease and proclaim, as he did last week, that though we have the right to free speech we do not have the right to offend. Which is – of course – bullshit: I have every right to offend, and so does everyone else. Personally I regard a British Foreign Secretary acting as a political hostage of Islam to be among the most offensive things imaginable. But if he wants to behave ignobly he can. And as compensation I have the right to offend jihadists. Indeed I believe I have not just a right, but a duty to offend such people. Certainly I do not think – like so many in the British media – that the threats of an illiterate with a crayon and a burka should be considered highly by free people with any sense of self-worth.

On the left this affair is too much seen as being about multicultural good manners, but on the right there are many who see it as an opportunity to lambaste our secular-ish society and its attitude to the Christian religion. They have an argument, but they have chosen the wrong time to air it, and the wrong people to empathise with. Christians who express sympathy with Islamic sensitivity are treading a dangerous path. They are also being fooled. Omar Khayam, the Muslim who dressed as a suicide bomber for the London protests, has previously received a five-and-a-half year jail sentence for drug dealing. The Madrid bombers paid their way in Spain as drug dealers. The 9/11 hijackers spent their last precious days before murdering 3,000 people by getting drunk in whore-clubs. The right's admiration for the extremists' sensibility and piety is misplaced. Islamists are not more sensitive, just more violent, enraged and misguided than most people. To think otherwise is, in any case, to make a concession. That is something we cannot afford to do. Any concessions to the conglomeration of racism, sadism and thuggery currently masquerading as religiosity are not just misguided, but dangerous.

We are currently offered a deal by representatives of the Muslim faith: "Say my religion is peaceful, or I will kill you". The Danish cartoons reflect this. The irony is not noted, and is not explainable. Last week in London, followers of the "religion of peace" spent their Sabbath hollering for the slaughter and beheading of British civilians. At the weekend their co-religionists in the Middle East burnt Danish Embassies. In a remarkable demonstration of cultural sensitivity they also burnt a Norwegian embassy. "Scandinavians - they're all the same", appears to be the gist of it. In return I would say that this is a very good time to encourage the Danish and Norwegian governments to give Damascus a very bloody nose for allowing such aggression and discourtesy.

In these circumstances – indeed in any circumstances – it is not possible for ground to be given. Not an inch. The Danish cartoons should be republished widely and often. We in the West have no special duty to Islam, and should not be persuaded that we do by the offer currently on the table of acquiescence or violence. The protestors from Friday should be arrested, imprisoned and deported even when they were born here. It is high time people like the drug-dealing jihadist Mr Khayam tried their luck with the Saudi authorities.

But it is now seven months since "the rules of the game changed", and the British government has still not deported one cleric, nor banned one extremist group. The UK government is losing the momentum. Right or left wing – this is a time for consensus: the only stand to make is with the Danes and cartoonists who now live under death sentence because they drew pictures of someone else's prophet.

Douglas Murray is the author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It and of Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas. He will be lecturing at the first Pim Fortuyn memorial conference in the Netherlands this month.

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Douglas's "Neoconservatism" is damn good book, but I don't think this latest argument is all that sound. It might - just - be right to so conduct oneself that the UK's loopier Muslims knock up some placards and fancy-dress outfits and take to the streets. But it can't be v sensible to aereate the hotheads of countries where they are inclined to burn Embassies and get themselves shot.

But what I really don't get is why it makes sense to portray the prophet Mohammed at all, let alone offensively, when we know Muslims of any stamp really, really don't like it - including those trying their best to get along with the rest of us.

Those intrigued by such matters may enjoy my

Posted by: Richard D North at February 8, 2006 02:34 PM
Gilbert and George and co. constantly display their genitals, but you don't have to look closely to notice they're not big enough ...
I'll take it on trust. :-)
Islamists are not more sensitive, just more violent, enraged and misguided than most people.
Well, yes, but the conservatives who had broached that argument weren't referring to the Islamists but to Muslims in general, so that argument falls flat on its face.

However, I think conservatives who are arguing that way aren't taking a broad enough view of the matter. The appalling reaction to the cartoons - 14 dead and counting, death threats carried on the streets of London while the Met looks the other way, etc., etc. - is a reminder of everything that escapes their purview.

Posted by: Damian at February 8, 2006 03:01 PM

What Muslims would those be that are trying their best to get along with us? Are they as numerous as the Germans who were trying their best to get along with the civilized world in the '30s? They have certainly been if anything less effective. No "reasonable" Muslim would be offended by the cartoons. And so what if they were? They need to grow up.

Posted by: Robert Speirs at February 8, 2006 08:01 PM

I'm all for good manners, but in this instance it is obvious that good manners are just a euphenism for cowardice. Does anybody these days read Max Frisch's brilliant play Biedermann und die Brandstifter, written shortly after WW2. The similarities with our present situation are amazing. 'Good-mannered' Biedermann not only invites fireraisers into his home, he gives them the matches that they need to blow it up. 'If they were real fireraisers, don't you think they'd have their own matches' are his last words to his wife. What does that remind you of? G. K. Chesterton correctly points out that an excessive concern for manners prevents us from calling sin sin: everything has to be wrapped in euphenism.

It's ridiculous to say, as I have heard, 'Yes' to free speech, 'No' to causing offence. Everything is potentially offensive.

Posted by: K. McQUIGGAN at February 9, 2006 06:22 PM

A series of comments on the above article have been removed for editorial reasons.
Social Affairs Unit

Posted by: Social Affairs Unit at February 10, 2006 11:47 PM

Do we really have freedom of speech in this country? Is not the issue of homophobia one which the powers that be are using to turn themselves into the more-powers that be? I have in mind how the police in Bournemouth prosecuted Harry Hammond, rather than his attackers (Peter Tatchell came out against this), and more recently Joe Roberts received a visit from the police after he expressed concern to Wyre Borough Council over some of their homosexualist policies.

Why raise this particular issue? Because Douglas Murray is about to speak at the Pim Fortuyn memorial conference, and earlier, when promoting the cause of an Iranian dissident in the Netherlands, the ground chosen was the murder of Theo van Goch. Both of these gay Dutchmen were specialists in causing offence.

In Islamism, we are confronted with a truly implacable enemy whose motto is not "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", but "We can call you pigs and dogs, but you musn't reply in kind because that's against our religion".

Faced with such an enemy, we may have to stand with the Danish cartoonists and their like. But I would rather not stand next to them. As a Japanese senryu has it:

A horse farts
Four or five suffer
In the ferry-boat

Anyway, Sir Elton John ought to be breathing a sigh of relief. After the government's latest-but-one fiasco, he can not be prosecuted for Incitment of Religious Hatred over his song "Burn Down the Mission".

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at February 11, 2006 01:52 PM

As the author of two of the comments which were removed, I think the Social Affairs Unit were right to remove an unnecesarry discussion which had little or nothing to do with the actual content of Douglas Murray's excellent article.

Well done for removing these comments and I hope that this diversionary discussion is now closed.

Posted by: David F at February 11, 2006 03:38 PM

Well done Douglas Murray for having said what needed to be said - and well done Social Affairs Unit for publishing it. Clear thinking and a breath of fresh air.

Posted by: Gerald at February 11, 2006 03:52 PM
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