On the Message Board

A recent Irish Times opinion article by Theodore Dalrymple, ‘Fanaticism has real consequences for relations with Muslims‘, attempted to rationalise discrimination against Muslims:

“The fundamental problem is this: there is an asymmetry between the good that many moderate Muslims can do for Britain and the harm that a few fanatics can do to it. The one in 1,000 chance that a man is a murderous fanatic is more important to me than the 999 in 1,000 chance that he is not a murderous fanatic; if, that is, he is not especially valuable or indispensable to me in some way.

And the plain fact of the matter is that British society could get by perfectly well without the contribution even of moderate Muslims. The only thing we really want from Muslims is their oil money for bank deposits, to prop up London property prices and to sustain the luxury market. Their cheap labour that we imported in the 1960s in a vain effort to shore up the dying textile industry, which could not find local labour, is now redundant.”

We responded to Mr. Dalrymple’s piece, as did Gabriele Zamparini of ‘The Cat’s Dream‘:

Dear Ms. Kennedy,

Theodore Dalrymple’s piece in today’s Irish Times (via The LA Times), ‘Fanaticism has real consequences for relations with Muslims’, really should have began with “I’m not racist, but…”

His introduction explains that the lack of violence towards British Muslims following the recent terrorist attacks is a result of either Briton’s (but not British Muslims, they are different) tolerance or ‘inability, or unwillingness, to make the effort to defend’ themselves. A morally reprehensible cul-de-sac you would not have thought he could find his way out of. But you’d be wrong.

He continues – ‘we have had Somali, Pakistani, Arab, Jamaican, Algerian and British Muslim terrorists’, in an excellently crafted piece of work, that shrewdly omits unfortunate elements of the story which may have forced him to actually address the question of why Britain is a target. Such as the news that one of the latest terror suspects is an Iraqi doctor.

Media Sceptic, a UK based media monitoring organisation, noted that “Only 0.2% of all “terrorism” in Europe (in 2006) was “Islamist”, according to new figures from Europol.” In other words, it seems that, to use Mr. Dalrymple’s formula, the fundamental problem is that there is an asymmetry between reality and the Europe relayed in this article.

Of course what Mr. Dalrymple could not have been aware of is that being demonised and tarred with the same brush as a violent minority is not something Irish people are unfamiliar with.

Yours sincerely,

David Manning

The Irish Times has also made clear it’s refusal to put the Iranian nuclear ‘stand-off’ in perspective, obediently relaying the West’s (i.e. Washington’s) ‘suspicions’:

“Iran has offered to draw up an “action plan” to address Western suspicions that its nuclear programme is a front to obtain nuclear arms. Tehran says it needs nuclear technology only to generate power.”

We wrote to ask they consider the “possibility they are inadvertently helping to build a false case for another unwarranted and deadly war.”

RTE Radio 1 recently broadcast an interview with George Galloway and Professor Gwyn Prins of the London School of Economics and Political Science. However the interview was cut short following Galloway’s departure, though not before he had taken the opportunity to highlight the absurdity of what had gone before. We wrote to the interviewer Derek Davis, also copying the email to Professor Prins:

Dear Derek Davis,

Your interview with Professor Gwyn Prins on Today this morning struck me with the same impression George Galloway verbalised in his ‘brief interlude’; I could imagine a similar discussion took place somewhere in polite English society at the height of the troubles. You simply offered Professor Prins a ‘clear run’ to expound the merits and mistakes of ‘imperialism light’. Yet almost as soon as Mr. Galloway began, you interrupted him with your opinion – stating that Saddam was a ‘blood thirsty barbarian’, and thus had to be removed? That is no doubt the disparity that caused him to discontinue the interview.

In answer to your statement, an uncontroversial one at that, but one that actually implicitly defines your support for the invasion and thus highlights your opinion as that shared by Professor Prins, thus explaining his willingness to ‘engage’ – the US led invasion and occupation has caused far more deaths in the last 4 years than Saddam’s 24 years of rule. Saddam’s killing, as Professor Prins alluded to, was also made possible by tacit and direct Western support. Would you re-evaluate your position in light of this stark fact?

No one questions Saddam’s despotic title, what is validly questioned is the idea that Western imperialists acted with some sort of benign intent, or ‘moral motive’ – which was ‘devalued’ by unfortunate revelations of fabrications and deception. Not once did you posit that the invasion was not just a ‘mistake’ but a crime, as was stated by the UN’s Kofi Annan when he called the invasion ‘illegal’. Nor did you seek to examine the situation from an Iraqi perspective, a point made to you by George Galloway. The vast majority of Iraqi people are opposed to the continued occupation and a similar number support attacks on coalition troops – who are the predominant target of insurgents. Instead you simply offered Professor Prins the opportunity to eloquently hammer out, almost verbatim, the imperialist’s rhetoric.

I accept the Today show is light radio, but if you are going to treat issues such as these like this, perhaps it would be better to forgo the pretence of impartiality.

Yours sincerely,

David Manning

Professor Prins responded in defense of Derek Davis:

Dear Mr Manning

Thank you for taking the trouble to write.

I feel that you are being a little unfair to Mr Davis when you accuse him of unprofessionalism by reason of not opening a wider raft of questions than those which were slated for this interview. Plainly there is a debate to be had about “legality” – it has been had at great length; plainly there are different judgements about the strategic interests of the West (of which Ireland is part) and how best to pursue them; plainly there is – as always – a judgement on greater and lesser evils. Those especially were the delicate matters that I sought to open when the interview continued after Mr Galloway chose to go away. But the agenda for that conversation was none of those: it was about the consequences of the mess made by the stubborn and arrogant Mr Rumsfeld. That is an especially painful subject for thise, like me, who believe that the removal of the Saddam regime was moral (had both ius ad bellum and in bello), legal and made strategic good sense

I would have been perfectly prepared to discuss that in a triangular conversation with Mr Galloway; but he refused to do so and then behaved in the way that you heard. Calling names rarely advances understanding of anything in my experience.

But Mr Davis exposed nothing of his own views – certainly not those which you ascribe to him. He did, however, observe that he (as I also) had a knowledge of irish history when accused of not have such

Yours sincerely

GP

We responded the same day:

Dear Mr. Prins,

Thank you for responding.

Like you I would have welcomed a debate between yourself and Mr. Galloway. Though my concern is that Mr. Davis really did relinquish all claims to professionalism for the reasons I mentioned; also pointed out by Mr. Galloway.

That Mr. Davis can, even with his extensive knowledge of Irish history, allow discussion of an event such as the invasion and occupation of a sovereign country descend in to abstract musings of mending broken china evidences much about the state of informed discussion on Irish radio. A moral case for the removal of Saddam perhaps did exist, but if it did, it existed at a time when the West fully supported the despot – and as you know indirectly encouraged his ‘despotic-ness’. ‘You cannot use deaths which occurred in 1988 as a post-hoc justification for invading in 2003. The only relevant statistic is what was happening in the years immediately preceding the war and on the eve of war, not what had happened fifteen or twenty years before.’ According to Amnesty International Saddam was responsible for ‘scores’ of killings in the years leading up to the invasion – a despicable record, but not a moral case for causing the deaths of over 650,000 people.

I realise too that there was debate over the legality of the war, but this has long since been clarified. There was no legal basis for regime change, therefore the facts were ‘fixed around the policy’ in order for it to appear an act of defence – which I may add was not in accordance with international law and could not have been thought to have been sanctioned by previous UN resolutions.

It was self evident that Mr. Davis fully agreed with the frame imposed by Washington and London, and that the interview sought not to discuss anything outside this illogical frame. This is supported by his interjection to Mr. Galloway’s, perhaps forthright, introduction. This is in direct contradiction to the weight of public opinion in both Ireland and the UK.

I co-edit a media monitoring organisation www.mediabite.org, would you object to my publishing this correspondence in full?

Yours sincerely,

David Manning

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