Sunday, March 18, 2007
Tolerance of what, exactly? The British government's foreign policy. Take Kelly's Observer piece today (one of two 'opinion' pieces by right-wing senior Labour figures, the other being Denis MacShane of the Henry Jackson Society), more or less recapitulating her speech to the British Muslim Forum in February. It affirms the usual stuff about tackling extremism, supporting the mainstream British Muslims who share the values that we all share etc etc. I'd like to see someone actually probe that rhetoric on the BBC, just once. It implies a sort of national collective will, a Volkish mystical unity based on nothing more substantial than a set of advertising slogans. It is hardly unknown for states to appropriate 'the nation', to take acquiescence for consensus, and dissidence for deviancy - these days, it simply happens to avoid basing itself in 'racial' myths because that is out of fashion for now. Yet, you would think someone offering this idealist nonsense in the name of 'tolerance' would have to explain how it comes to pass that this general, national psyche manages to exclude most of the actual citizens of the nation.
Let me explain: Ruth Kelly says that "the government is proud to support organisations such as the Bradford Council of Mosques and the Muslim British Forum which are taking action to promote tolerance." This follows a prolonged series of attacks on fairly mainstream Muslim organisations, especially such as the Muslim Council of Britain. The MCB isn't politically militant or even very radical, but it isn't quite timid enough. So, who are the British Muslim Forum, whose name Kelly gets wrong? It is an invention and derivation of the Sufi Muslim Council, with more or less the same people and politics involved. Who are the SMC? Oh, neocons. Affiliates of right-wing American instititions, such as the Hudson Institute, the Nixon Centre, the Committee on the Present Danger, the American Enterprise Institute and so on. Opponents of various forms of Political Islam, supporters of the Uzbek dictatorship and of American government. About as 'Islamic' as Bandar Bush, on the whole, with a spokesperson in Haras Rafiq whose popular base is roughly the same as that of Hamid Karzai before the Americans put him in designer clothes. Haras Rafiq is a Labour Party supporter, of course, whose speciality is to repeat the government's "evil ideology" explanation for terrorism. While the previously unknown 'Chief Executive' of the BMF has repeatedly backed the government in media articles, such as when the Mirror reported government moves to ban the niqab. When Martin Bright produced his expositions of MCB evil on Channel 4, who should assist him but Haras Rafiq? Same with John Ware's similar effort for the BBC. When the government wants racial profiling at airports, guess who's on their side? They are always there to reassure the government that it is right when it says Muslims' sense of victimhood is baseless.
Those promoting 'tolerance' and representing the 'vast majority' are therefore those who have no problem with British foreign policy, support the government in most of its domestic initiatives and think Muslims spend too much time being political and entertaining grievances. That 'vast majority' excludes not only most British Muslims but most British people of any background. Kelly's notion of 'tolerance' is only slightly more inclusive than that of Torquemada, which could possibly be related to her membership of a Spanish Catholic sect that supported Franco and Pinochet. Or it could be related to her membership of a powerful British sect whose support for militarism, capitalism and tyranny is boundless, and whose unreasoning imperviousness to reality grows by the day.