Monday, July 07, 2008

Is Trevor Kavanagh an Islamophobe?

You don't necessarily have to know anything about Islam to be an Islamophobe. Quite the reverse, in fact. The more ignorant about Islam and everything else, the better it is for the hopeful candidate for Islamophobia. So, just because Trevor Kavanagh thinks that "Sunni Iran" is "oil hungry", don't think that he can't possibly be an Islamophobe. The reason this has come up is that Peter Oborne, the right-wing journalist and documentary maker, has recently struck gold with an attack on Islamophobia - a quite unsporting thing for a right-wing commentator of any description to do, so far as his co-ideologues are concerned. Trevor Kavanagh of The Sun, responsible for some of the worst delirium that appears on that paper's front pages, was interviewed for the programme, took umbrage at the fact that he evidently came across as a guttersnipe, and has composed a bilious response.

Kavanagh's reply, unlike the original documentary and pamphlet that produced it, will be read by millions. His argument, such as it is, boils down to the assertion that there are indeed 'extremists' and bad people, doing very bad things, and the implication that these are somehow a manifestation of something essential to Islam. Rather than rely on such antiquated practises as logical argument, which is to The Sun as daylight is to the vampire, Kavanagh relies on the simple procedure of citing approved Muslim voices. For example:

In the wake of 9/11, the Muslim head of Al Arabiya TV, Abdul Rahman al Rashed, said: "Not all Muslims are terrorists but, with deep regret, we must admit that almost all terrorists are Muslims."

Is he an Islamophobe?

Try watching Syrian-born Dr Wafa Sultan on YouTube as she challenges a furious cleric to name a single Jew or Buddhist suicide bomber.

"Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by killing people, burning churches and bombing embassies," she storms.

Is she Islamophobic? Or simply spelling out the facts?

Dr Sultan also condemned the way Muslim hardliners "treat women like beasts".

Al Rashed's stupid comment (stupid, both because it was untrue and because it is liable to feed an atmosphere of violent anti-Muslim feeling) is quite widely repeated in one version or another. Hitchens likes it a lot, for example, as he would. But it was not made "in the wake of 9/11", (and nor was Al Rashed the head of Al Arabiya television at that time, since Al Arabiya television didn't come into existence until 2004). The comment was published in a Saudi-run newspaper based in London and Jeddah following the Beslan massacre. It was made at a time when Russian troops had been terrorising Chechnyans for some years - strange to relate, those Russian troops were not, on the whole, of the Muslim persuasion. Wafa Sultan, for those of you who don't know her, is hardly even worth your attention. She is adored by the Luce media and the NYT, because she says the right things: only Muslims do wicked things, Islam is responsible, Muslims are medieval, the West is enlightened and modern. Were it not for the patronage, she could summarise her views on the back of a postage stamp and mail it to her brain, presently lodged halfway up her colon, and save us all the trouble. I assume no one needs me to rebut the view that only Muslims defend their beliefs by killing people (but if you do, just supply your address and I'll come and sort you out).

Anyway, having run out of native informers, Kavanagh finally resorts to his own expertise:

Muslim men are entitled to beat their wives and take more than one wife. Women are automatically suspect, banned in some communities from showing their faces or limbs because they are sexually tempting — to men. Visit an Arab country, or watch TV shows about them, and you will see plenty of men and boys.

Women appear rarely and, when they do, are covered head to toe. The rest are under virtual house arrest, living behind closed doors in ignorance and isolation.

We cannot interfere in the way other countries order their societies.

But such barbaric treatment of women has been imported and thrives here.

The Sun, would you believe it, is now a feminist concern. We can assume that those many forms of misogyny that were not 'imported' will now feature as a daily concern in that paper, next to Mandy, aged 23. I doubt Trevor Kavanagh has actually visited an "Arab country" for longer than fifteen minutes, during which time his feet would have been firmly planted in a Mercedes, although I am sure he has seen "TV shows" about them. But which Arab countries is he watching? Oh, it doesn't matter: I'm sure he is as learned about Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Mauritania, Morocco, Jordan, Syria and Kuwait as he is about Sunni Iran. And I'm sure that when it comes to Muslim populations beyond the Arab world, he could discourse eloquently on the fate of the Indonesian women who stitch his Gucci soles in what is colloquially known as a sweatshop (the 18 hour shift in the high security compounds is like house arrest, only with added slavery).

Is Trevor Kavanagh an Islamophobe? Well, he passes the first qualification at least: he doesn't know shit about Islam.