David Cameron’s speech on “extremism” and segregation

Stop extremismDavid Cameron has recently given a major speech on “extremism”, and the full transcript can be read here. Here is my reaction to parts of the speech.

The title states that “Prime Minister David Cameron set out his plans to address extremism”. What sort of extremism? Well, we all know that we’re referring to extreme versions of Islam, though many politicians are reluctant to spell that out. Let’s see how Cameron fares.

Early on he declares that “Today, I want to talk about … how together we defeat extremism”. It is another nine sentences before he overcomes the “Voldemort effect” and actually names it:

“And because the focus of my remarks today is on tackling Islamist extremism — not Islam the religion — let me say this.”

Well done! Islamist extremism (even if it is accompanied by the hasty and obligatory assurance that Islamism is nothing to do with Islam).

After denouncing violence Cameron continues:

“But you don’t have to support violence to subscribe to certain intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish. Ideas which are hostile to basic liberal values such as democracy, freedom and sexual equality.”


“Ideas which actively promote discrimination, sectarianism and segregation.”

David Cameron

Discrimination? You mean, such as state-funded schools discriminating against children, refusing to admit them owing to their parents religion? Segregation? You mean the policy of segregating children into different schools according to the religion of their parents? Is Cameron finally admitting to the faults of such “ideas which are hostile to basic liberal values”? Wow!

“Ideas – like those of the despicable far right – which privilege one identity to the detriment of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Privileging one identity? You mean like allowing councils to hold prayers in council business, thus privileging those who identify as Christians while the non-religious are expected to know their place and stand around in respectful silence? That might be a fairly trivial example, but Cameron is known for his “this is a Christian country” spiel, and what is that about if not privileging one identity?

After dismissing the “it’s all the West’s fault” excuse, so beloved of “the left”, Cameron is adamant:

“No – we must be clear. The root cause of the threat we face is the extremist ideology itself.”

Good! Here I recommend Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book Heretic, which clearly shows how the “extremist ideology” is a version of doctrines that are core to the mainstream versions of Islam. She explains why basic doctrines of Islam need to be over-turned and reformed.

Cameron continues:

“And how can it be that after the tragic events at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, weeks were spent discussing the limits of free speech and satire, rather than whether terrorists should be executing people full stop? When we allow the extremists to set the terms of the debate in this way, is it any wonder that people are attracted to this ideology?”

Exactly. Spot on. Any Western “liberal” who criticises Charlie Hebdo, or thinks we should self-censor our own free speech to appease Muslims who are “offended”, is playing into the hands of the Islamists.

“Indeed, there is a danger in some of our communities that you can go your whole life and have little to do with people from other faiths and backgrounds.”

And, Mr Cameron, do you think that faith schools help remedy that or hinder?

I’ve got a great idea, as a social experiment let’s pick on somewhere like, say, Northern Ireland. Let’s split the community into two, sending all the children from Protestant families to one set of schools, and all the children from Catholic families to another set of schools. This will work really well, and will be great for community cohesion. Why, after a generation or two they’ll likely be killing each other! Sadly, and despite the sarcasm, I do not exaggerate.

“We should contrast their bigotry, aggression and theocracy with our values. We have, in our country, a very clear creed and we need to promote it much more confidently. Wherever we are from, whatever our background, whatever our religion, there are things we share together.”

Note the lack of “… or none” after “whatever our religion”. Half the nation now has no meaningful religious affiliation.

“We are all British. We respect democracy and the rule of law. We believe in freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of worship, equal rights regardless of race, sex, sexuality or faith.”

Let’s note that list for a moment.

“Whether you are Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian or Sikh, whether you were born here or born abroad, we can all feel part of this country …

And whether we are non-religious? Are we allowed to feel part of this country also?

“We must stand up to those who try to suggest that there is some kind of secret Muslim conspiracy to take over our government, or that Islam and Britain are somehow incompatible.”

Or that Islam and Britain are somehow incompatible? Somehow? Well here’s how: It is back to that list of British values, those notions of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and the others. How many Islamic nations are properly functioning democracies? How many Islamic nations or major schools of Islamic jurisprudence allow freedom of speech and religion? Almost all of them have blasphemy laws and most have prohibitions on apostasy. Wherever Islam is dominant it tends to produce a totalitarian system that rejects Western ideas of democracy and individual liberties.

Cameron continues:

“I also want to go much further in dealing with this ideology in prison and online. We need to have a total rethink of what we do in our prisons to tackle extremism.”

Well here are some suggestions. Don’t give prisoners a wider choice of food if they identify as Muslim. Don’t give prisoners more time out of cells (for prayer) if they identify as Muslims. Don’t allow Islamic gangs to dominate other prisoners. Things like that are just encouraging prisoners to convert, and to come under the influence of the often-extreme ideologies of their fellow inmates.

“Let’s also recognise that we will have to enter some pretty uncomfortable debates – especially cultural ones. Too often we have lacked the confidence to enforce our values, for fear of causing offence. The failure in the past to confront the horrors of forced marriage I view as a case in point. So is the utter brutality of Female Genital Mutilation.”

Yes, well said. And let’s also put an insistence on free speech and the drawing of satirical cartoons in the same category of “too often we have lacked the confidence to enforce our values, for fear of causing offence”.

“In the past, governments have been too quick to dismiss the religious aspect of Islamist extremism.”


“It cannot be said clearly enough: this extremist ideology is not true Islam. I have said it myself many, many times, and it’s absolutely right to do so. And I’ll say it again today.”

But what do we mean by “true” Islam? Cameron, a Christian, would not regard any version of Islam as “true”, and nor would the non-religious. Or, by “true”, do we mean faithful to the original? In which case, well, actually, Islamic State ideology is much truer to the original than many mainstream versions.

“[ISIS] claims to be based on a particular faith. Now it is an exercise in futility to deny that. And more than that, it can be dangerous. To deny it has anything to do with Islam means you disempower the critical reforming voices; the voices that are challenging the fusing of religion and politics; …”

Yes, exactly. And there you see the influence of Maajid Nawaz, who contributed to the writing of this speech.

“And let’s remember that it’s only the extremists who divide people into good Muslims and bad Muslims by forcing their warped doctrine onto fellow Muslims and telling them that it is the only way to believe.”

Err what? Cameron’s whole speech has been about dividing Muslims into the extremist Islamists [bad] and the moderate Muslims [good]. His mention of “true Islam” is certainly telling them about ways to believe!

“But as well as tackling isolation, there is one other area we must look at if we are to build a truly cohesive society — and that is segregation.”

Excellent! This is the bit where Cameron is going to announce the ending of state-mandated segregation in “faith” schools, and the ending of the exemption of schools from the 2010 Equality Act, allowing them to discriminate over religion!

“It cannot be right, for example, that people can grow up and go to school and hardly ever come into meaningful contact with people from other backgrounds and faiths.”

He’s just warming up to it!

“Now let’s be clear that these patterns of segregation in schools or housing are not the fault or responsibility of any particular community.”

Err, yes they are, the pattern of segregated schools is entirely the responsibility of the religious establishment, the overwhelmingly Christian religious establishment, which has long promoted such segregation to serve its own ends.

“Now, bussing children to different areas is not the right approach for this country. Nor should we try to dismantle faith schools.

What?? Why not?? Why should we not dismantle faith schools? Come on Cameron, joined up thinking! Have you actually read your own speech?

“Many faith schools achieve excellent results …”

Which they would, since they get to select their intake, and turn away the children who are less easy to teach, making them socially selective. It’s easy for a school to get excellent results if it gets to pick its pupils. Just look at the private sector.

“… and I’m the first to support the great education they provide. I chose one for my own children.”

Ah right, so this refusal to question faith schools is all about personal advantage. After saying that he does not want to privilege any identity, he now wants to privilege the identity of being religious, because he is among those who benefit.

“ Today I visited King David’s school, a Jewish school here in Birmingham where the majority of children are from faith backgrounds.”

And you don’t see anything wrong with that? Jewish families are less than 1% of the British population, and yet you don’t see anything wrong with a child’s schooling being entirely in a school surrounded by fellow Jews — and this in a speech about the damage to social cohesion caused by segregated schools?

And how about a boarding school where the pupils are “banned from watching TV, listening to the radio or reading newspapers” where they are “banned from wearing un-Islamic garments and using music players or mobile phones at any time”, where pupils “caught socialising with outsiders . . . will be expelled if there is no improvement after cautioning”?

That school was rated “good” by the government’s inspectorate, Ofsted, because “the students’ Quranic memorisation” is “outstanding” and because “spirituality is further promoted by five daily congregational prayers attended by all students”!

Earlier in the speech Cameron lauded religious freedom as a great British value that we must enforce. Now, I just wonder, how much freedom to choose whether to participate in religious worship would pupils at that school get?

“But it is right to look again more broadly at how we can move away from segregated schooling in our most divided communities.”

And why not also in the somewhat-less-divided communities? It’d help there also.

“ We have already said that all new faith academies and free schools must allocate half their places without reference to faith.”

Well that’s a start, I suppose, though how about applying the rule retrospectively to all schools, as a second baby-step?

“We have refused to compromise on our values or to give up our way of life. … Together we will defeat the extremists and build a stronger and more cohesive country …”

Laudable sentiments. Overall, I’ll give Cameron a B+. Good in parts, and some welcome directness and recognition of problems. But seriously flawed by a lack of joined-up thinking.

29 thoughts on “David Cameron’s speech on “extremism” and segregation

  1. Phil

    Hi again Coel,

    You said, “Any Western “liberal” who criticises Charlie Hebdo, or thinks we should self-censor our own free speech to appease Muslims who are “offended”, is playing into the hands of the Islamists.”

    I would propose instead that for Westerners criticizing Charlie Hebdo is exactly the very same thing you would reasonably call upon Muslims to do in regards to the extremists in their ranks.

    You seem not to grasp the difference between “self-censoring our own free speech” and “criticizing Charlie Hebdo”. In fact, it seems you wish for us to self-censor our speech when it comes to Charlie Hebdo.

    As example, you said ” And let’s also put an insistence on free speech and the drawing of satirical cartoons in the same category of “too often we have lacked the confidence to enforce our values, for fear of causing offence”.

    I would propose that Charlie Hebdo cartoons have nothing to do with our values. Charlie Hebdo cartoons were not heroic, but only a cynical attempt to make money by pissing off as many people as possible. Charlie Hebdo cartoons are an example of extremist excesses within Western consumer culture, where money and ego is so often worshiped above all else. Sorry, no heros there to celebrate.

    Honestly, I see your own writing, which seems largely uninterested in making careful distinctions between the best and worst of what religion can produce, to be in danger of becoming the very thing you are reasonably against. I propose that a more reasoned analysis would immediately see that religion is far too big a phenomena to be usefully described with simplistic one sided slogans.

    1. Coel Post author

      Hi Phil,

      I would propose that Charlie Hebdo cartoons have nothing to do with our values. Charlie Hebdo cartoons were not heroic, but only a cynical attempt to make money by pissing off as many people as possible. Charlie Hebdo cartoons are an example of extremist excesses within Western consumer culture, where money and ego is so often worshiped above all else.

      Really? On what basis are you making this assessment? I’m not French and don’t read Charlie Hebdo, but as I understand it it is a left-wing magazine, holding the establishment to account. It is secular, attacking any religious establishment; anti-authoritarian, usually attacking the government; left-wing, attacking capitalism and right-wing ideas; and anti-racist. As for making money, well it was loss making for many years, bumping along and barely able to keep publishing.

      Overall, it is the sort of thing that does a very valuable role in a Western society. I do think that many non-French people misinterpret Charlie Hebdo because they can’t easily sort out what is satire from what is not, and so mistake what is satire for being straight, but to native French people it is clear.

      I also have no objection to Western liberals disagreeing with Charlie Hebdo and criticising what it says, but I do think that if they want it to shut up and fall into line with Islamist demands then they are playing into the hands of Islamists.

    2. Patrice Ayme

      Charlie Hebdo’s critique of Islam was a sideshow of its critique of Judeo-Christianism, itself a sideshow of its critique against organized religion, itself a sideshow of its more general political critiques, itself part of even more general social and philosophical critics, and general humor.

      Religion is not big enough, right. What we need is more gods. The god of Abraham has obvious issues, Better to drown it in a sea of gods, as India has done. One million gods do much to re-establish rationality to fanatics.

  2. Alex SL


    I see a bit of a difference between criticising Charlie Hedbo and focusing one’s discussion of the attack on criticising Charlie Hedbo. The first is desirable political and aesthetic criticism, the second is victim blaming.

    Even if you are right about the journal – and from what I have read about it you aren’t -, at worst on the one side we have somebody drawing immature and ugly cartoons, on the other we have mass murder. So when mass murder happens and the immediate reaction is, well, they really shouldn’t have drawn those cartoons, what signal does that send? And what is the next step? Once nobody dares to draw any cartoons of Mohammed any more, do you think the extremists will be happy? Or will they not rather start targeting those who write critical books next, and so on? Well, you just shouldn’t write such an offensive blog that criticises faith if you don’t want to be chopped to pieces? Well, women just shouldn’t show their faces in public if they don’t want to have acid thrown into it?

    This is all the same principle: something is done that should be inoffensive to any decent and rational human being, the extremists claim to be offended and commit violence, and ‘moderates’ instinctively take the side of the extremist.


    The faith schools are a very obvious problem with a very obvious solution. Unfortunately, I have no idea where you would ever get people with an incentive to enact the obvious solution.

  3. Phil

    Hi again guys,

    You both make good points, with the exception that if I started acting like Charlie Hedbo on this blog, you would cut off my ability to speak here in the blink of an eye without hesitation. All I’m really arguing for is the same standards of behavior you require for this blog.

    I don’t object to intelligent reasoned challenges to Islam, and more is better when it comes to drone strikes on violent Islamic extremists. And I completely agree the government should not be who controls what Charlie Hedbo prints.

    We should do that job. We should stop celebrating any media outlet that serves no purpose beyond stirring the pot of hate with junior high school level pseudo cleverness. Celebrating free speech does not require us to celebrate everybody who speaks.

    We should use our free speech to elevate Western civilization so that it offers a truly civilized alternative to what the Islamic extremists are selling. If we aren’t willing to challenge our extremists, on what basis do we suggest that Islamic society challenge theirs?

    1. Coel Post author

      Hi Phil,

      If we aren’t willing to challenge our extremists, …

      Do you regard Charlie Hebdo as “extremists”? In what way? Can you point to specific cartoons/writings by them that you think are so “extreme” that we should all deprecate them? I’ve previously linked to images of Charlie Hebdo covers on this blog, and regard them as a normal and welcome contribution to the free debate that any free society needs. Many people would regard drone strikes, which you support, as far more dubious, and certainly more “extreme”, than Charlie Hebdo.

  4. Phil

    Hi Coel,


    I can assure you with absolute certainty, based on twenty years of real world experience, that if I posted cartoons like this aimed at atheists on atheist forums, I’d be banned in the blink of an eye. You don’t find the cartoons offensive for the simple reason that they aren’t aimed at you. You don’t find the cartoons offensive because they are aligned with your ideology.

    You look at those who murdered Charlie Hebdo as Islamic extremists because that fits the narrative you pursue in almost every blog post. It’s you who are playing their game, by elevating them to the role of spokesmen for one of the world’s largest religions.

    I see those who murdered Charlie Hebdo as street thugs, common criminals, a sadly routine matter for the police, who seemed to have resolved this case with brisk efficiency, case closed.

    You welcome Charlie Hedbo cartoons as “normal and welcome contribution to the free debate” except that, um, you would not welcome them here on this blog if they were aimed at you. Which I find to be entirely reasonable.

    You do however welcome and engage intelligent respectful challenges to your positions, and for that I salute you.

    All I’m arguing for is the very same level of discourse which you pursue and enforce on your own blog. Relentless intelligent challenging, yes. Insulting junior high toilet humor, no. Discussion in a free society is supposed to produce light, not just heat.

    1. Coel Post author

      Hi Phil,

      Anti-atheist cartoons and anti-atheist commentary are very common in society. I may not agree with them or like them, but nor do I regard them as “extreme” or unacceptable. Rather I regard them as entirely normal and mainstream free speech.

      Whether I’d have them on my blog is irrelevant — no-one is asking Muslims to display Charlie Hebdo cartoons in their Mosques — but I certainly accept them in society and would want people to be free to speak their mind.

      I see those who murdered Charlie Hebdo as street thugs, common criminals, a sadly routine matter for the police, who seemed to have resolved this case with brisk efficiency, case closed.

      So you’re doing the standard thing of over-looking any religious motivation? What would it take to persuade you that such acts did have, at least in part, a religious motivation?

      You call it “common” criminality that is `routine”, well how often do such cases occur without any religious element? Common criminality is normally about obtaining money, or about grudges with personal acquaintances. This sort of thing, not done for profit, and aimed at strangers, is not routine criminality.

      Discussion in a free society is supposed to produce light, not just heat.

      To which the standard answer is that one has to accept and welcome both, otherwise you give way too much censorship power to whoever gets to decide what is “light” and what is “heat”. Further, humans are emotional creatures, and appealing to emotions is a normal and necessary part of public discourse.

    2. Patrice Ayme

      Phil: Rabelais put the church, and the Sorbonne, in the toilet, and then flushed. So we are here. Do you ever flush?
      The church, and the Sorbonne, reacted by burning several of the printers associated to Rabelais. Rabelais himself, as a noble, a celebrated surgery professor, and a Franciscan monk, was a more difficult target.

  5. Phil

    Hi again Coel,

    I would agree that insulting commentary is routine and normal. That doesn’t make it useful.

    I want people to be free to speak their minds also, and so I am enjoying that right by speaking out against speech which, imho, does nothing to promote the kind of civilized society we’d all like to live in.

    I know we will never agree on the following, so I won’t say much about it beyond this. I find atheist concerns about ideological violence to lack any credibility.

    Ideological crime certainly does exist, agreed there, but if we’re only concerned about it when the other side does it, then we’re not actually concerned about it all. I’ve been discussing such topics relentlessly for years, and have yet to see a single ideological atheist admit that atheism played an important role in some of the most horrific crimes of the twentieth century. Such crimes are always rationalized away with blatantly dishonest arguments and a lazy sweep of the hand. Thus, when I see ideological atheists wringing their hands about religious violence, I yawn, roll my eyes, and turn the page.

    Yes, we have to accept almost all forms of speech, we agree there. But we don’t have to welcome all forms of speech. I agree that Charlie Hebdo should be legal, I just don’t agree they should be applauded.

    1. Coel Post author

      Hi Phil,

      I would agree that insulting commentary is routine and normal. That doesn’t make it useful.

      But I don’t see Charlie Hebdo as being insulting for the sake of it, I see it as providing satirical critique for good reason, the sort of thing that is entirely normal in politics. The religious cartoons are a rather small part of Charlie Hebdo, most of their cartoons are satires from a left-wing viewpoint of politicians who are to the right of them. And there’s no complaint about those.

      … yet to see a single ideological atheist admit that atheism played an important role in some of the most horrific crimes of the twentieth century.

      Well, I’ll join in not admitting that! You’re talking about communist nations and crimes motivated by communist ideology. A-theism is not an ideology, it is an absence of an ideology, an absence of theism. People are motivated by ideas they do hold, not by ideas they don’t hold. The communist crimes were motivated by communist totalitarian ideology — which in itself is nothing to do with atheism.

      Now, communist ideology is totalitarian, and so doesn’t tolerate any competing loyalties, and religious loyalties were loyalties that conflicted with communism. Therefore the communists oppressed religion. But the motivation there was the desire to impose communism.

      Communism has nothing to do with atheism. As an atheist who is not a communist, I don’t see that communism (or its crimes) has anything to do with me or my ideologies.

      What I do take from that is that any ideology that is totalitarian is dangerous, whether that is a religious ideology that is totalitarian (e.g. Islam) or a non-religious ideology that is totalitarian (e.g. communism).

      Most atheists today are very pluralistic and opposed to totalitarianism. One of the best ways of being anti-totalitarian is to support free speech — including speech one disagrees with or sees as irresponsible. So long as Charlie Hebdo is allowed to draw satirical cartoons about the government we will not have totalitarianism.

    2. Patrice Ayme

      Phil: You clearly never read seriously Charlie Hebdo. None of the handful of covers on Islam was “insulting”. Except to idiots. Several of the principals at Charlie Hebdo were either Muslims or married to Muslims. About 25% of them, that is. Three of them were killed in the attack. I was raised in the Sufi tradition, and attacking Charlie Hebdo is attacking not just civilization, but the very root of the human spirit.

  6. Patrice Ayme

    Reblogged this on Patrice Ayme's Thoughts and commented:
    The “Right Honorable David Cameron, MP”, Prime Minister of Great Britain, gave a speech entitled “Extremism”. What Cameron truly meant was “Islamism”. I have been thinking about writing an essay on Cameron’s thought processes. As astrophysics Professor Coel wrote well on it, I decided to use his analysis instead. Coel concludes: Cameron’s speech is “seriously flawed by a lack of joined-up thinking”.

    In other words, although Cameron makes some progress out of the Politically Correct abyss, he ends up all entangled in contradictions between his logic and his policies.

    I will assert the following complements to Coel’s work. As Coel points out, the Islamist State, and, more generally Fundamentalist, knife-between-the-teeth, Islam is close to the essentiual violence found in the Qur’an, and the Hadith. I have documented this pretty well, over the years. Both sacred texts recommend to torture and kill all sorts of “non-believers”, and those deemed not to “believe” anymore (“apostates”).

    See for the general problem:


    For why Israelis are leery about Islam, see the Hadiths which order to exterminate them all, before God can finally proceed with the (highly desired) Apocalypse::


    The Qur’an’s violence makes for eventful reading:


    Last point: attacking “extremism” in general, promotes silliness. Any thought process starts by considering extremes. This is true in poetry, philosophy, science, and even technology. All and any creative thought process, and, a fortiori, the thinkers who hold them, can be, correctly, viewed as “extremism” at some point, early on. Thus the very title of Cameron’s self-contradictory attack on Islam is embarrassing: if the aim is to get rid of “extremism”, without further characterization, we may as well get rid of any creative process.

    The West, and, more generally, civilization itself, whose supremacy was historically founded upon victory on superstition and fossilized thinking, needs more from its so-called “leaders”, be it only to tackle the CO2 crisis (and the wars if could lead to).

  7. Phil

    Hi Coel, you said…

    “A-theism is not an ideology, it is an absence of an ideology.”

    All I can say here is that every ideology has it’s dogmatic fantasies, including my own. As example, I am sure I know that nobody knows, something I couldn’t possibly know. Even seeing that clearly, and saying it out loud, does not cure me of my fantasy. So I’ve lowered my sights to shooting for a sense of humor. 🙂

  8. Phil

    I think we all agree completely the government should not be controlling speech except in rare circumstances where a direct threat of imminent violence is presented etc. The issue of contention seems to be what our relationship should be with speakers who may be seen as controversial by some members of the public.

    My fellow members appear to feel that while Charlie Hebdo is legitimate in criticizing others, it’s not legitimate for others to criticize Charlie Hebdo.

    I don’t need to argue with you guys, as that would interrupt you arguing with yourselves.

    1. Coel Post author

      My fellow members appear to feel that while Charlie Hebdo is legitimate in criticizing others, it’s not legitimate for others to criticize Charlie Hebdo.

      It is certainly legitimate to criticise Charlie Hebdo, but it is playing into the Islamist’s hands. In saying that I am criticising those who criticise CH for criticising Islam — and you’re criticising me for criticising those who criticise CH for criticising Islam! :-).

    2. Coel Post author

      My fellow members appear to feel that while Charlie Hebdo is legitimate in criticizing others, it’s not legitimate for others to criticize Charlie Hebdo.

      It is certainly legitimate to criticise Charlie Hebdo, but it is playing into the Islamist’s hands. In saying that I am criticising those who criticise CH for criticising Islam — and you’re criticising me for criticising those who criticise CH for criticising Islam! :-).

    3. Patrice Ayme

      Charlie Hebdo was very careful to criticize Islam, or Islamists, in ways that could only be reproached by murderously inclined idiots just out of the fanum (temple in Latin, hence fanatics).

      For example one of the four covers or so, about Islam, out of hundreds of covers on other debatable subjects, represented someone one could guess was the so-called “Prophet” hiding his eyes, and saying: “It’s tough to be loved by idiots.”

      Only idiots would be offended. Only idiots would find that such a cover is “anti-Islam”.

      The Charlie Hebdo crew was extremely anti-racist, and far-left. Less than 1% of the covers was about Islam. More than 99%, a scathing critique of the plutocratic system. “Criticizing others” is exactly what this sort of French press is about. And this has been going on, for at least five centuries.

      Rabelais’ critique of the Catholic church was more violent and keen to make Catholicism grotesque, than Charlie Hebdo ever was about Catholicism and Islam. This is how the West got rid of religious fanaticism, and it’s high time for another dose of the treatment, the religious bug having mutated enough to not be recognize as the infamy it is. As Voltaire said: “One must crush infamy!”.

    4. josh

      Hi Phil,

      You have every right to criticize Charlie Hebdo as you see fit. That does not mean you have a legitimate criticism. So far you haven’t presented much of a case.

      The issue though, is when you criticize someone for allegedly being rude in the aftermath of their murder, especially when the express purpose of that murder was to intimidate everyone into not repeating them. It suggests you have some badly misaligned priorities. You don’t have to agree with what they said, but the appropriate response is something like: “I don’t agree with everything they said but the right to say it needs to be defended unambiguously. My disagreement does not matter right now because we are talking about life and death, and as a show of solidarity against the people who would destroy our ability to live and argue peacefully, I am posting the cartoon in support. I have disagreements with my fellow members of civil society. I have nothing but contempt for barbarians.”

  9. Phil

    Hi Coel,

    I propose the opposite, that when we celebrate Charlie Hebdo, that’s when we are playing in to the Islamic extremist narrative. When thousands march in the streets of western capitals chanting “We are Charlie Hebdo!” the extremists take the idiot bathroom humor cartoons back to their fellow Muslims and say, “See, we told you, the West is degenerate, and they all hate us.” And they have a point!

    The only way to defeat Islamic extremists is to divide them from the majority of Muslims. That’s not going to be possible while we celebrate disrespect for Islamic traditions. Please note carefully, challenging aspects of Islamic culture in an intelligent objective (reason, NOT ideology!) manner is not the problem, Muslims debate such things themselves. It’s the _celebration of disrespect_ I’m referring to.

    Again, your position is not consistent with itself. On your own blog you welcome the kind of respectful challenging dialog I am suggesting, but understandably would not tolerate commenters who celebrated disrespect of your views with juvenile toilet humor. All I’m suggesting is that we relate to the Islamic world the very same way that you yourself expect to be treated.

    1. Coel Post author

      That’s not going to be possible while we celebrate disrespect for Islamic traditions.

      I disagree, it’s *only* going to be possible if we celebrate disrespect for Islamic traditions. The Islamic traditions are there precisely to prevent criticism of Islam. We need to openly disrespect Islamic ideology, in the same way that society allows us to openly disrespect both capitalist and socialist ideas. The idea that non-Muslims should submit ourselves to Islamic traditions is exactly what the Islamists think.

      Again, your position is not consistent with itself. On your own blog you …

      There is no inconsistency or double standard. I am not asking Muslims to tolerate Charlie Hebdo cartoons in their Mosques, merely to tolerate them in society. I adopt exactly the same standard myself about anti-atheist material (of which there is a vast amount in society).

  10. Phil

    Patrice, you’re attempting to replace hateful religious extremism with hateful secular extremism. Sorry, just not interested.

    1. Patrice Ayme

      Charlie Hebdo is not hateful. You are trying to say it is. But you failed to read what I wrote. Instead you accuse me of “hateful secular extremism”. (What did I do to you, that you accuse me of being “hateful”? Is it that you cannot do without accusing people of hatred?)

      Charlie Hebdo is tender and affectionate with those perverted by religion. You, instead, are interested to tell us that Charlie Hebdo is full of hatred.

      It’s a traditional method of those full of anger: they accuse those they want to persecute of “hatred”. The method was used against Jews for centuries. So you tell me that representing Muhammad crying “It’s tough to be loved by idiots,” is a mark of hatred. I claim that such an extreme interpretation of such an innocuous cover is itself extremist…

      What seems to interest you, is to have an enemy in Charlie Hebdo, full of hatred in your mind, A magazine to some extent written by Muslims (and its assassinated chief’s girlfriend was, is, a famous Muslim politician and lawyer).

      The tradition of the satirical magazine, as I said, is more than 5 centuries old in France, it’s central to the French character. This is why France is a Republlc, instead of an official plutocracy (*monarchy”), It’s also why France originated the Human Rights charter, now central to the United Nations, and made it so, that the USA became independent.

      The international campaign against French satire does not help Muslims, but it sure helps plutocracy and those who hate the French Republic. It is itself a hateful drive.

      By the way, there is well in excess of five times more people of Muslim origin in France than in Great Britain, and most of them are perfectly integrated. About half of the individuals killed during the combined attacks against Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish market were black, Muslim, or Jewish. Please tell me about their hatred for Islam, I collect examples of curious thinking.

      Genetic markers show that massive numbers of Muslims were integrated in French society, as early as the Eight Century. Secularism does not have to be hateful. It’s only the hateful who are obsessed by hatred, and not interested by anything else.

    2. josh

      Hi Phil,
      I’ve been reading through this thread and you keep conflating murder and widespread human rights abuses with tacky cartoons. They are not two sides of extremism. I’m not sure why this is confusing to you. You say Coel wouldn’t tolerate insults to atheism on his blog. I have no idea if that’s true, but it completely misses the point. Coel can run his blog however he wants. What he can’t do is go out and tell everyone else how to run theirs.

      Have you seen the South Park episodes making fun of atheists? Dawkins is portrayed as a naive, pompous jerk who falls madly in love with a transsexual (this is meant to be humiliating) and whose ideas lead to terrible wars. I thought it was mildly funny while not actually making a valid point. You’ll notice what didn’t happen is atheists calling for the show to be banned and for only “respectful” criticism to be allowed, much less did we see actual assassins and riots. And if some idiot somewhere had issued a threat, I would expect atheists everywhere to post clips of the show; not because they all supported it, but because they can deal with it like an ethical person and there are much bigger concerns at stake.

  11. Phillip Helbig

    This goes back at least to the Mohammed cartoons in the Danish newspaper. As some have pointed out, the protest, which tried to paint itself as spontaneous, was well organized: many more Danish flags were burned than had even existed in the corresponding countries before. In other words, they were imported especially for burning in televised protests.

    The proper reaction would have been that all newspapers print one of the cartoons on the front page until Islamic terror stops. How many newspapers reported on this, but didn’t reproduce the cartoons for fear of offending someone?

    1. Patrice Ayme

      Phillip: There has been a failure of the intellectuals to maintain the Enlightenment. As I tried to explain in some of my essays, the drive of the USA to control Middle East oil, passed through a deal made with the Saudi family in 1945. Basically the government of the USA got the oil, the Saudis and then the Shah got full power, implemented with the help of religious terror. The proceeds of oil sales were re-invested in Wall Street and London.

      Intellectuals who went along with that scheme saw their fame and careers grow. The CIA paid journalists and editors of renown to create the proper ideology (more than 50 were on payroll of the CIA, in France alone, including the most famous). So now to frustrate in any sense the ideology of Muslim Fundamentalists of the worst type is viewed as racism, by the Politically Correct. It is reminiscent of past attitudes of much of the intellectual class relative to Nazism or Stalinism. We need some spine, and some mind.

  12. Patrice Ayme

    @ Phil: A friend of mine, Dominique Deux, asked me to transmit to you the following message (I doubt you will answer, as you already accused me of ” hateful secular extremism”, but I do my duty):

    Posts such as yours always lead me to wonder about the crowd of useful idiots every fanatical conspiracy not only attracts, but relies upon. The best that can be said about this weird phenomenon is that even idiots need to feel useful.
    I am not unduly abusive. By mouthing the same idiotic platitudes the politically correct ignorants of American academia, who could not be bothered to actually read a single issue of Charlie Hebdo, you chose your side.

    Islam needs to be potty-trained, like the Church was, to take its place in civilized nations. Islam gone feral, like the Church gone feral, can only be subdued by violence – the legitimate violence any democratic State has a mandate to use on behalf and in protection of its citizens, including its Muslim citizens who are in greater need of protection than the rest of us. And I know a great many Muslims who feel exactly that way.
    The alternative is non-State violence, civil war. A bit more than one century ago, long lines of priests and nuns were gunned down in ditches by Mexican revolutionaries. Not a pretty sight.


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