It seems that – one way or another – some people on this campus are intent on launching a sometimes overt, sometimes covert campaign against the Muslim members of our community. That is what I see in common between the attempt to ban Azzam Tamimi from speaking on campus after he was invited to do so by the Stop the War Coalition and the Palestine Society, the article in The Badger from four weeks ago telling us how Hamas is a horrible terrorist organisation and last week’s article in The Badger entitled ‘Freedom for criticism’.

This last article takes issue with probably the single commendable act of the British government for years. In effect, the Dutch parliamentarian and extreme right-winger (not that dissimilar to Nick Griffin and the BNP in this country) Geert Wilders was denied access to the country. This man has said that his film ‘Fitna’ aims to expose the intrinsically violent nature of Islam and how this religion constitutes a threat to ‘Western civilisation’. He has also argued that the Qu’uran is a ‘fascist’ book and should be banned. Now curiously enough, all this doesn’t make its way into an article entitled ‘freedom for criticism’. And to say that ‘the film shows some of the more vicious passages of the Qu’uran’ implies that the book is full of other less ‘vicious passages’, but nonetheless vicious and violent.

That’s not all though. To say that ‘our government’ is bowing ‘to pressure from a potentially violent minority’ is somehow suggesting that the people who are opposed to racism against Muslims are a minority and that this minority is ‘violent’ (read terrorist between the lines), thus anti-democratic and thus hostile to our so cherished Western value of freedom of expression.

Not for a second do I want to assume that the author of this article shares Geert Wilders’s views about Muslims. That’s why I want to focus on the way he presents the reaction of the Muslim community to such disgraceful and racist attacks as the Danish cartoons (which portrayed the Prophet Muhammed having a head which resembled a bomb, the association being that Muslims are terrorists). To start with, it wasn’t a minority which violently objected to it. It was the entire Muslim world, from the Maghreb to Indonesia which took to the streets in their millions. And they didn’t target Christian symbols, as someone who believes that there is today a clash of civilizations in the world would expect. They targeted the Danish and American embassies.

Why would they do that? Because they understand the Danish cartoons for what they are: a racist portrayal of what Islam is about coming from the countries which have sent their troops in the Middle East and have humiliated that region’s peoples. In other words, they see the cartoons as another manifestation of imperialism, and they are perfectly right.

‘The question then is not what to do about our so dear value of freedom of criticism, but what to do about racism’

For this is not about ‘being offended’ or not accepting criticism. Ever since the US’s war on terror begun, there has been a mounting wave of islamophobia in the West. Everywhere in Europe Muslims are viewed as potential terrorists. Muslim communities face aggression in all its different forms: from the odd look in the street, to openly racist remarks, to attacks on women wearing the hijab, to even attacks on mosques and properties owned by Muslims. Some European states have gone as far as banning the hijab from schools, the case of France. This is not offensive, it is purely racist, in the same way that Jews were targeted in the twenties and the thirties by Europe’s fascists and Nazis.

The question then is not what to do about our so dear value of freedom of criticism, but what to do about racism, or rather against it. Should we allow all those, like the BNP and the other fascist organisations of Europe such as Wilders’s Party For Freedom (PVV), Le Pen’s Front National in France or the Lega del Nord in Italy, to ‘freely express their views’? Or should we, if we are not the victims of this racism ourselves, stand by those who are, defend them and strike back together with them? It seems clear to me that this is the choice we are faced with and that for once the British government went the right way, albeit for reasons other than the ones I’ve just put forward.

For there has been a change in mood since last December and Israel’s atrocities in Gaza. The national demonstrations in London against the war in Gaza and the wave of occupations across the country have been full of anger and renewed anti-war militancy, especially on the part of the members of the Muslim community.

It is this renewed strength of the anti-war movement that has forced the government’s hand in refusing Wilders entrance to the country. But unfortunately, the government didn’t only react in that way. This renewed strength has also prompted the government to have the police arrest nine Muslims on board a mini-convoy and on their way from Blackburn to London to join George Galloway’s Viva Palestina humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza. They were arrested under anti-terror legislation. Their van had posters reading ‘Stop killing children, free Palestine’.

As Galloway commented, the timing of the operation suggests its aim was to intimidate the Muslim community and to clamp down on its renewed sense of anger and revolt. Why would the government want to do that, one might ask? Well, because a stronger anti-war movement means less room for maneuver for the British government in its efforts to assist the US in its war on terror – especially now that Obama has announced another 17 000 troops being sent to Afghanistan and that pressure is mounting on the US’s European allies to do the same. Pushing back the anti-war movement is the government’s aim, and it wants to do that by first attacking the most vulnerable of its members.

That’s why this is not an issue of ‘freedom for criticism’, but an issue of racism and imperialist war in the Middle-East. When Stop the War Coalition (StWC), of which I am proud to be a member, was launched in 2001/2, it had three slogans: No to War, No to attacks on civil liberties and No to the racist backlash against Muslims. The war on terror and the rise in islamophobia are intrinsically linked. We have to fight both. We’ve done that brilliantly on this campus with last month’s occupation. We need to keep it up. And we have a chance of doing that once again on 2nd April, in London. That’s where the G20 summit of the world’s leaders will take place. We all have to be there, taking part in the demonstration organised by various groups including StWC and CND, to say that we want the wars in the Middle-East to stop and that we want the racism against our Muslim brothers and sisters to end.

Categories: News


Freedom to criticise, or racism?

  1. Excellent article and one in which the illogicality of those who demand freedom for lowlifes like Wilders is clearly exposed. Of course, calling it illogicality is me being polite. Utter hypocrisy is probably closer to the mark.

    Still, that’s only to be expected from the larger population who refuse to think for themselves – even at universities.

    I condemn Israel and all its supporters for carrying out or supporting war crimes. I also condemn the UK government for the same crimes of course.

  2. So speaking out against Dr. Azzam Tamimi and Hamas is an active campaign against Islam.

    This is surprisingly similar to the argument that those who condemn Israeli war crimes are anti- semitic.

    Maybe you subconsciously harbor ‘Imperialist Israeli’ rationale….


  3. Read the article again and more carefully. I am saying that the whole attitude towards Muslims and their organisations as expressed in the three instances I cite at the beginning of the article is racist. I am not saying that criticising Tamimi or Hamas is racist – I do that myself all the time, although I support them both – but that treating them as fascist and trying to ban them from campus is.


    P.S By the way, if you want to debate this, here’s my email address:

  4. I use “racism” as a generic term meaning discrimination on the basis of the victim’s belonging to an ethnic, religious or racial group. I also use the term “islamophobia” to speak about the specific form of racism against Muslims. Does that satisfy your sense of semantic precision?

  5. No, sir, it does not. You insinuate I am a racist.
    Racism means an attack on a race, not a religion. A critique of the Bible is not racist, nor is criticism of Catholicism or Judaism. Islam is no different. Your manipulation of the meaning of words, such as racism, is a devious and deceitful tactic with the intention of rendering argument to zero. You wish to provoke a knee-jerk reaction at the suggestion of racism that makes criticism of Islam impossible. I resent that more than I can say.

  6. I would go further and say that the article is trying to make criticism of Hamas and Dr. Azzam Tamimi impossible.

    The article says that because Hamas and Tamimi are muslim, criticising their politics and military activities is an attack on their religion.

    And to go back to the point raised above, this is as absurd an argument as when Israeli’s accuse their critics of being anti semitic.

    If the author wants to ignore Hamas and Dr Tamimi because he does not want to be an ‘Islamophobe’, then it follows that he should also ignore Israeli war crimes in order to avoid anti-semitism.

  7. I am sorry to say that both of the above commentators overlook the arguments I am presenting and persist in repeating arguments to which I have adequately responded. Peter should read my article again and especially the parts where I comment on some of the things he wrote in his article. Indeed, I do suggest that there is hidden racist prejudice in what he wrote. I don’t know whether Peter holds overtly racist views and at the moment that is besides the point. My article was presenting an appreciation of the general state of discrimination against Muslims and how Peter’s article fitted – whether he realises it or not – in that framework. I didn’t wish to offend him but to present my own view of the matter.
    As for the other commentator – I regret to say that not knowing who I am dealing with isn’t helping the discussion but I suppose that the matter is sensitive enough for some people to want to conceal their identity – I can only repeat what I wrote yesterday but then again the arguments are already there.
    Both however allege I want to render criticism of Muslims and their organisations impossible. Why would I want to do that? If you think I am Muslim myself then I can let you know now that this is not the case. If you also think I espouse the politics of Dr Tamimi or of Hamas or of any other Islamist organisation, I can also let you know now that this is far from being the reality.

    If you want the discussion to move forward, then consider my arguments seriously.

  8. I don’t think its accurate to say that Islamophobia is racist, it’s a completely different sort of prejudice – Muslims come in all colours for one thing. And because we choose our religious beliefs they should be up for scrutiny, just as our political beliefs are. Wheras someone’s ethnicity is obviously not something it’s OK to criticise!

  9. Oy Peter, I have posted a reply to your article. Please explain your perspective in less belligerent and more reasonable terms than you have managed so far. Oscar “Geert” Wilde is most definitely a racist person, his tactic is to claim that he is not racist – this is what the NF used to do, as outlined in the recent fictional film “This Is England” starring Thomas Turgoose and featuring a soundtrack of various classics from great bands such as UK Subs and The Smiths.


    In response to Faceless’s comments on the larger population not thinking for themselves, speak for your damn self. I don’t believe it’s actually possible to refuse to think for yourself, maybe you can provide some kind of evidence to back up your revisionist claims regarding human behavioural patterns, you are running against the current zeitgeist in social science and I suspect you may have fallen under the influence of Emma Goldman or possibly even some of the more irritating residents of the Cowley Club

  10. PS Peter:

    Look do you really think random executions of, ooh I don’t know let’s make it 789,362 Iraqis is a requisite for whatever ridiculous ideology you subscribe to in your ‘interesting’ discussion of warfare which you printed recently

  11. Jess – it’s very easy for us white middle class Westerners to ‘choose’ our religious beliefs (or lack thereof). I dare say it wouldn’t be so easy if we had grown up in a war-ravaged Middle Eastern country. Religion is the opium of the masses and all that.

  12. I don’t really like this article very much. It’s because of opinion pieces like these that I never quite fully commit myself to left-wing politics, and always end up sympathising with the right-wing. Between naively P.C. articles such as this and the trash that gets published in the Daily Mail, it’s a wonder that people don’t abandon politics altogether.

    First of all, Islam is not a race. There are muslims who are caucasian, Asian, African, American, etc. To say that so-called “islamophobia” is racism is absolutely absurd. It’s trying to use toxic language to paint a bad picture of people who stand against fundamentalism.

    Now while your first few paragraphs speak of how commendable it was to ban a Dutch politician from the country for speaking his opinion; you harp on about ‘civil liberties’ in your last paragraph. The last time I checked, freedom of speech and freedom of opinion were civil liberties. I have no idea why it is a civil liberty for someone to hold up a sign near Downing Street saying “Death to the West”, “Death to those who insult Islam” and yet it is not a civil liberty to voice an opinion about a religion being violent.

    Islamophobia in the West did not begin when America began its ridiculous “War on Terror”. Islamophobia began when some muslim extremists flew a few planes into New York skycrapers. Have you heard about this event? Rumour has it that it got quite a lot of coverage in the news.

    The war in Iraq is ridiculous, it’s a farce fuelled by American domestic security fears misdirected towards an old thorn in the side of the U.S. government. But Afghanistan is another matter – as the Taliban are quite evidently there. To have America withdraw from the region completely would be grossly naive. Which country wouldn’t invade elsewhere when they’ve been attacked?

    I criticise Islam regularly, this does not make me racist. I criticise Judaism, Hinduism and Christianity, too. Does this make me some kind of mega-racist – or merely someone fed up with the stupid, rancid teachings of organised religion? Am I someone who is attacking races, or someone who has nothing but bile for the “invisible beings” that people worship and the bloodthirsty politics that worship spawns?

    Anyone with an I.Q. hovering above room temperature will realise that not all adherents of a religion are represented by their fundamentalist splinter groups. Fred Phelps and his church in America do not represent all Christians; Osama Bin Laden does not represent all Muslims. That much is obvious.

    However, anyone in this society ought to be free to criticise a religion as they see fit. Islam, Christianity and Judaism (in particular) have some disgusting teachings which have been nothing short of a scab upon the Earth for the last few thousand years. There are plenty of Bible verses, Torah passages and Sura quotes which display a fundamental prejudice towards women, homosexuals, other races and alternative ways of life. Cherry-picking the odd quote about love and peace does not obscure the fundamental substratum of male-dominated, violent monotheism which spawned these religions.

    To say that we can’t criticise people’s religions is to give religion an illogical immunity from criticism. This is like saying we can’t criticise someone’s politics, like joining the BNP. Since when are ideologies (secular or religious) sacred?

    Organised religion really is the biggest load of horse-shit known to man. So please stop defending attacks on it.

  13. A thought-provoking and well-researched article.

    In response to some of the previous comments, I would say that Christakis does not conflate religious criticism with racism. On the contrary, he points to how some individuals manipulate the right to criticise theology, in order to make attacks against all Muslim individuals.

  14. I would say that he is doing exactly that. Any suspicion gained from the article is immediately vindicated in the supporting comments by the author.

    “I use “racism” as a generic term meaning discrimination on the basis of the victim’s belonging to an ethnic, religious or racial group.”

    Peter said quite rightly that criticism of Islam is not racism, and for this he is a suspected racist. It’s turning into some bizarre witch-hunt.

    One can criticise a religion without saying all its members are terrible. In a mature society, I can disagree with other people’s views without disliking them personally. Many of my friends disagree on topics such as religion, abortion, envrionmentalism and other controversial topics; but they don’t start mud-slinging charged words like ‘racist’.

  15. Some of the most recent comments start to get on my nerves. Maybe the commentators haven’t realised what has happened. You have a fascist politician (Geert Wilders) who has produced a disgracefully insulting film about islam (it seems we all agree to call such attitudes islamophobia and that there is dissent as to whether this can also be called racism. Had I been aware of the refined linguistic culture that imbues certain commentators of my article I would have certainly stuck to the term islamophobia and not used racism in order to avoid a useless debate) and who was denied access to the UK. And then you have an article which criticises the government’s stance and even sympathises with the fascist scum in question. Not only that, but some of the things that Peter wrote were at least indirectly informed by an understanding of Islam which I call by its name: islamophobia. Now, you can be anti-religious but to assert that the people who are believers are all terrorists and violent and vicious and what have you has nothing to do with anti-clericalism. It is plain islamophobia and it is justified to say so.
    Last point. If you dont understant that there is islamophobia out there, then I invite you all to go to areas where Muslims live in this country and to ask them what they think. And ask them how things are going for them since 2001. And ask also what forms does this discrimination take. And lastly, ask them what they think of the BNP or similar fascist organisations.
    What you dont understand is that the formal liberalism you are so eagerly defending is being used to launch sometimes verbal sometimes physical attacks on certain minorities. Decide which side you defend then, the agressors or the victims?

  16. You’re right. I am terrible. I’m a big “Islamophobe”. I’m going to call Hamas and tell them that I want to join their cause. I wonder how they’ll react when I let them know that I’m a lesbian, feminist atheist. But then does it really matter? I’ve never enjoyed having a head very much anyway.

    Next time I hear about rockets being fired into Israel, I’m going to criticise Israel. Then I’ll make a “lock-in” on campus: the sure-fire way to change world events. To solidify my position I’ll put a box outside Falmer bar with all the essentials needed to rebuild their society: incense sticks and giant novelty pencils.

    Then I’ll demand that the University send all their surplus equipment to Gaza. They will have a whale of a time reading 1960s paperbacks on the nuances of Sartre’s existentialism. And I’m sure that the old projectors will come in handy for their thriving power supply and classrooms.

    That way, I can enjoy my middle-class smugness in believing that I helped those poor people I see dying on the front of the Guardian every day, while I enjoy my breakfast coffee and croissant. In fact, I won’t need to read the front articles anymore. I can skip straight to sudoku.

    If a radical Islamic preacher starts talking of Palestine I’ll ignore his comments about destroying Jews and focus on the stuff that I can talk about at the Cowley club on Tuesdays. How radical and bourgeoisie.

    Oh wait … this has all been done, hasn’t it? Silly me. Yes, I remember now. I actually *did* see those giant novelty pencils and incense sticks in the “gaza aid” box.

    Sarcasm aside, my initial gripe was that it is not racist to dislike Islam. (It’s not racist or “scientologistaphobic” to dislike Scientology either.)

    Welcome to the world of multiple opinions. Heaven forbid that if a holy book says a certain class of people (polygamists, homosexuals, polytheists, take your pick) should be stoned and put to death that people should dislike that religion! Perish the thought!

    To clarify, I haven’t said that Muslims are violent, or vicious. Right now the Israeli military is being ‘vicious’. I just dislike some of the teachings of Islam and have nothing but venom for people like Azzam Tamimi. I don’t know why this is such a large mental hurdle for some people to cross.

    I don’t like ugg boots either, but God knows I wouldn’t have many friends if I disliked everyone who wore them, would I?

    On Israel vs Gaza I don’t have a strong opinion one way or another. They’re both awful positions to be partisan about. On the one hand, you have the artificial state of Israel using any excuse to wage a war on its neighbours – going over the top and killing innocent children mercilessly. On the other hand, you have a country being exploited by a radical Islamic ideology while also being used by Iran as a tool against Western democracy.

    At the end of the day, it’s a terrible waste of human life with fault resting on both sides. Neither the Arabs nor the Jews have halos above their heads. I disagree severely with how Israel has handled the situation.

    In regards to the Dutch politician, I’ve seen his film on the Internet. I disagree with a lot (if not most) of his positions. Yes, he does resemble the BNP in some regards and his policies lack any kind of consistency. They have touches of what might be called ‘racism’ by some commentators yet it would be hard to treat them as such because they more easily fall into the category of anti-immigration. I don’t like his stances against immigration, nor do I agree with his nationalist persona.

    That doesn’t detract from the simple truth that many of his non-political claims are factual. Any basic exegesis of the Qu’ran will show that it has sentiments against many groups of people, namely women and homosexuals. Now the Qu’ran (like the Bible) is followed to varying degrees these days. Thankfully, few people take either book to the letter and practice all that’s in it. So you have some wonderful, kind and warm members of these religions (christian & muslim) who have the common sense to splice the antecedent messages from their religious texts.

    Regardless of whether the film is right or wrong, I don’t know why you didn’t take a leaf from the book of the Muslims in the United States. With dignity and wisdom they protested against the messages in the politician’s film, but without protesting for the removal of Mr Wilders’ free speech. Indeed, Peter made a seminal point in his article in that certain antisemitic Palestinian leaders have been welcomed with open arms to “Free Palestine” motions. The socialists have often turned a blind eye to things like this when an ally temporarily suits their current agenda.

    The political air in Sussex sometimes reeks of a smugness and self-righteousness. It’s as if all of these people protesting against this-and-that think that they are alone are politically savvy enough to protect the University from the terrors of the BNP and contrary thought. I remember feeling awfully patronised on behalf of the public when there was the big fuss about the BNP arriving on campus. “They might convince people to join,” I was told. Give me a break. People need coddled now? Anyone with half a brain would dismiss the BNP as racist lunacy.

    Strangling free speech is degrading and assumes that people cannot make the right decision upon hearing both sides of the argument. It’s denying autonomy and human dignity. By restricing a certain side’s argument, it only makes it more exotic and alluring to those on the fringe or inbetween decisions.

    The article by Ruthie Samuel was great. It highlighted, for me, how people can be very ‘vogue’ about what they’re campaigning against – often at the expense of their own morality.

    What a wonderful world it would be without organised religion causing all of these wars.

  17. Student93,
    You have no intention of engaging in serious dialogue it seems. Apart from the fact that I could challenge one after the other your allegations in the last comment, the problem is twofold: one, you make a series of assumptions about who I am and what my motives are which are to say the least insulting. I am an atheist myself and I come from an ex-colonial country which is still suffering from what the British empire did there almost fifty years ago. Now if this falls under your category of the white middle-class self-righteous Cowley club member, you should better look into the subject with a bit more care and less self-sufficiency.
    Second point: You systematically overlook my points and rave and rant about things which I never suggested. Do you have any understanding of what Islamophobia is? Of what fascism is? I dont think so. In that case, please inform yourself and then we can talk about it.
    Be careful about your comments on Islam. You may think there is a clear line between criticising Islam the religious doctrine and criticising Muslims, but you will be surprised to find out that this line is a lot thinner than what you think and that some of the things you say are islamophobic.

  18. Out of interest, what’s wrong with criticising Muslims anyway? Surely the same as criticising Christians?

    Criticising people of Arabic descent on the basis of race = wrong
    Criticising people of Caucasian descent on the basis of race = wrong
    Criticising a choice of religion?

  19. Do you see any parallel between the offense Muslims feel when an Islamaphobic person is invited to speak in our country, and the offense Jews and Israelis feel when a member of an anti-semitic party is invited to speak at our University?

    Separate point: What could possibly be worse for British Muslims who resent being stereotyped as extremist, and harassed and arrested by the police, than having a prominent Muslim academic go on national television and say that he would commit a suicide bombing if he could? And having someone from Palsoc claim that he represents all Muslims?? I don’t believe that. he does. I also don’t believe that being pro-Palestine has to mean being pro-Hamas. I thought I made that clear in my article.

  20. Just to clarify, the full stop between “that” and “he does” was a typo. I meant to say “I don’t believe that he does” (represent all Muslims).

  21. Student93: Fair enough for your commentary as far as it goes, I don’t know much about ‘anti-semitism and the left’ issues but certainly it seems as though potentially you have a point in the abstract. With regard to Wilder I think you are pretty much wrong. I mean come on, anyone who makes a film which juxtaposes footage of Muslim people walking around in Holland with discordant synthesiser music, and a series of graphs of immigration statistics clearly deserves only enough rope to hang himself with.

  22. interesting debate. i also didn’t like the article due to the many good points that have been raised about it although i do respect the author’s right to publish it.

    however what everyone seems to be floating around and no quite saying explicitly ,although student 93 did come rather close even if it was a bit rantesk (still enjoyed your points greatly though), and what has also been expressed by other articles in the comment section this week, more specifically Damien Valentine’s and Jim Boyle’s articles, which i thoroughly enjoyed and agree with. To some extent at this university a lot of student voice is oppressed by that of a highly vocal and mostly faceless minority of which I gain the impression hold substantial sway in the union. I would like to say left wing group and I’m sure they consider themselves thus however I subscribe to liberal/left wing ideology and yet our thoughts don’t align. I have felt a growing resentment among students against this group and I can only offer my own subjective views about why this group isolate many students. Firstly the overriding voice they have in union affairs and how our agenda for debate is usually set by members of this group I very much doubt this is a purposeful planned action for political domination but merely just a preference towards political activity verses what appears political apathy of other students. I would argue that because our union is so left wing dominated a lot of differing opinions turn into apathy. Secondly sometimes members of this group can come across very egotistical and self glorifying for example if I take a quote from this article, “when stop the war coalition, of which I am proud to be a member.”(Please note I make no claim that you are egotistical or self glorifying it just appears that way). Sorry it is no great achievement to become a member of stop the war coalition , while a noble pursuit, you only have to turn up to a meeting to become a member, in fact I even think I’m on the email list. My last point is this group is rather faceless and not a strict organisation although it does become embodied in certain societies and it does come across, even though it may not be, elitist. I would urge people who think they may belong to this group to take a look and ask themselves that if they really support the causes they claim they do, and I hope they do, are the really using the best methods to gain widespread support for some truly good causes by isolating students.

    I don’t mean this to be a personal attack on anyone, I just wanted to express the Isolation some students in which I include myself feel and let you know that if you want support for usually good causes or want to increase student participation things need to change! While it may be true that this student population is predominantly left wing we need more open debate , more tolerance of different views and to encourage political participation of students to gain a healthier, more vibrant and enthusiastic union that is truly representative of it’s students not just a vocal minority that bother to turn up to the AGM.

    Isolated Greg

    PS please don’t comment back using union AGM statistics or petition signings they really prove very little
    And sorry for this comments lack of relevance to the article its just my perception of what the following debate represents.

  23. Ruthie,
    Did you come to the Tamimi meeting (remember I invited everyone to come assuring that any anti-semitism would be immediately put down)? If you did, would you dare say that anything Tamimi said was anti-semitic (particularly when he mentioned the support he is getting from his Jewish friends and anti-zionist rabbis in New York)?
    I never said there was no trace of anti-semitism in Hamas. I said the organisation’s political line was in no way anti-semitic, hence the quotes from prominent Hamas members in my article.
    It is true that there is a rise in anti-semitism. This has to be countered. But have you asked yourself why this rise in anti-semitism? Why every time Israel commits acts of atrocity more and more people turn against t Jews? Israel kills and destroys and justifies this in the name of Judaism. It seems to me then that the best way to fight anti-semitism is to fight Israel itself for this is not what Judaism is about.
    I never said that being pro-Palestine meant supporting Hamas. I wrote an article with my opinion about Hamas.

  24. Replace the word anti-Semitism with Islamaphobia and Israel with a group like Al-quaida. Are you still arguing the same point? Why is it any different to you?
    Let me just make it clear that I am not saying that the rise in either anti-Semitism of Islamaphobia is right or justified at all.

  25. ‘Replace the word anti-Semitism with Islamaphobia and Israel with a group like Al-quaida’. This is new. Have I ever spoken about Al-Qaida? Why does this come into the debate then?

    Greg, I appreciate your comment very much, although I don’t agree with a series of things you wrote. It may seem as if there is a group of people ‘setting union agenda’, but unfortunately the only remedy to that is for more students to get involved. I spend a fair amount of time trying to do that and it is not very easy. If left-wing politics are prominent it is because this reflects the general mood of this campus. In other universities the opposite is true and those are universities where the general mood among students is far less radical than at Sussex.
    Just a point about myself. I said I am proud of being a StWC member because this organisation has consistently defended Muslims from islamophobia and consistently contributed to building opposition to the war on terror. This has been possible because many people have given time and commitment to it, not just signed up to a student society. It is a bit different.
    I feel that many people are following this web-debate. If people who defend the position in Peter’s article want to do this, it would be a good idea to organise a debate on campus and argue it out properly, in real time.

  26. Christakis, the general mood amongst students on campus is one of resounding apathy, as shown by turnouts in the recent elections (less than one in seven students) and the AGM (5% of the student body). The Union’s left-wing slant is due to the fact that the small group of people who do set the Union agenda all share similar left-wing political ideals. Naturally so, as Sussex has a well-earned reputation as an outspoken left-wing university. I imagine I speak for the majority of students when I say that while I was dimly aware of this fact, it in no way influenced my decision to apply to the university, but I would assume that for some people it was a factor.

    This is mere conjecture however – you are right when you say that the only remedy is for more students to get involved. If you have any ideas about how this can be achieved I’d be very interested to hear from you. My email address is – please do get in touch.

    Changing the subject as I feel I should post something relevant to the article, I’ve always found the very idea of a “war on terror” ludicrous – terror is an emotion and as such cannot be fought with guns and bombs. The government should have called it what it was from the start – “a war to show the Americans that we’re on their side, just in case they decide to share some of the oil”.

  27. Greg, the society I am part of (StWC) and myself would certainly be happy to confront anyone on the issue of islamophobia and the war on terror. We need a proposal and the participation of those who have criticised my views (although it must be made clear that those views were my own and I alone am responsible for them).
    Dorian, I disagree with you about the mood on campus. The turnout to elections is not 5% to start with, but somewhere around 25% if my math is still good (2700 voters in the recent sabbatical elections out of a student population of around 12000). But elections are not the main thing. I have studied in France and taken part in huge student mobilisations. Election turnout at the university I studied at was around 4% and then went up to around 8%, hardly indicative of the mood among students. Now the UK doesn’t compare to France in terms of student militancy, but Sussex is quite radical. The occupation was the second biggest in terms of participation out of the 30 or so across the country, and the Tamimi meeting which triggered it was huge by national standards (around 300 to 350 people – elsewhere meetings with around 100 led to occupations).

  28. If you read my comment properly Christakis, you will notice that I applied the figure of 5% to turnout at the AGM, not the elections. I will concede that I underestimated the electoral turnout (or rather, I overestimated the total number of students studying here), although 2700 still seems a little high compared to the figures I have in front of me.

    Secondly, you and I seem to have been talking to very different groups of people concerning the general mood on campus. How you consider 350 people to be indicative of anything in a group of 12000 is anyone’s guess, but taking the definition of majority (i.e. more than half), I can state as fact that the vast majority of students did not turn out to the AGM, did not take part in the occupation and did not vote in the sabbatical elections. Even adding the turnout of all these three events together, you are still left with the majority of students having no apparent political interest.

    Sussex may be “quite radical” and have a good electoral turnout when compared to other institutions, but by the same argument China has a good human rights record when compared to other countries. Comparisons don’t prove anything – the point still stands that over half the students on Sussex campus are not having their voices heard, and in this there is vast room for improvement. Please, prove me wrong.

  29. “Ruthie,
    Did you come to the Tamimi meeting (remember I invited everyone to come assuring that any anti-semitism would be immediately put down)? If you did, would you dare say that anything Tamimi said was anti-semitic (particularly when he mentioned the support he is getting from his Jewish friends and anti-zionist rabbis in New York)?
    I never said there was no trace of anti-semitism in Hamas. I said the organisation’s political line was in no way anti-semitic, hence the quotes from prominent Hamas members in my article.
    It is true that there is a rise in anti-semitism. This has to be countered. But have you asked yourself why this rise in anti-semitism? Why every time Israel commits acts of atrocity more and more people turn against t Jews? Israel kills and destroys and justifies this in the name of Judaism. It seems to me then that the best way to fight anti-semitism is to fight Israel itself for this is not what Judaism is about.
    I never said that being pro-Palestine meant supporting Hamas. I wrote an article with my opinion about Hamas.”

    1) No, I didn’t attend the meeting because I was sick of putting myself in situations which I knew would upset me, purely to stand up for my principles. However – Several friends of mine went and found the whole experience extremely upsetting. Not just Dr Tamimi’s speech – the whole sentiment of the meeting was pro-Hamas. Obviously I didn’t expect Dr Tamimi to come in and say “I hate Jews!”, if he did have any anti-semitic sentiment, which I have absolutely no idea if he does, he wouldn’t exactly express it in public! So he has Jewish friends! It’s the oldest, weakest excuse in the book. I used to have a Jewish friend who told me that she didn’t like Jews. She thought it was ok because her dad is Jewish, I think, and because I’m not ‘the kind of Jew’ she was referring to. It wasn’t ok. But – I do think it is racist to place the value of certain people’s lives as less than other peoples lives just because those people are Israeli, and that he is certainly guilty of.

    2) You define their ‘political line’ according to what you want it to be. An impartial way to define an organisation’s political line might be by their charter and their spokespeople, perhaps. What do you think the BNP’s ‘political line’ is? When was the last time Nick Griffin admitted that his party is racist?

    3) The Israeli government does not go to war in the name of Judiasm – it’s justifications are self-defence. I find it really deplorable that you are basically saying that if a guy gets beaten up because he’s wearing a Kippah, that’s the fault of Israel for going to war and making everyone hate it, and hate everyone from the religion it affiliates with. I actually find that argument almost apologist of the attacks.

    4) The best way to fight anti-semitism is to fight Israel? Rather than, maybe, anti-semites?? There are people who would hate Jews whatever Israel does. The holocaust happened before Israel existed as a state – anti-semitic people still managed to find reasons to hate Jews! Israel attacking Gaza just pushes people who are already anti-semitic, and makes it easier for some people and forms of media to spread lies about Jews and Israelis.

    I’m sick of explaining to people the nature of anti-semitism. Can’t people just use their sense of empathy, notice when fellow students are upset, intimidated etc, and refrain from being downright disrespectful (e.g. flyers given out on campus with cross running over the Israeli flag including the star of david, which is the Jewish religion’s symbol).

    I didn’t want this thread to turn into a discussion about anti-semitism, because Islamaphobia is definitely a problem which deserves discussion as well, but I really feel that it is hypocritical to bring up Islamaphobia and accuse me of it on absolutely no basis, when Jews and Israelis recently have been going through all this stuff and keeping relatively quiet about some of it (like the flyers).

  30. 1) I think what you are saying about Tamimi is really dangerous. Basically you are telling people that the man is anti-semitic but that he won’t say so and that we have to take your word for it. This is not enough. There was one contribution during the meeting which was anti-semitic (by a guy who was clearly not a student and who put forward the conspiracy theory) and I personally intervened a bit later to argue against that and to say that what he said was anti-semitic. So the meeting, you say, was pro-Hamas. Is that a crime? Are people not allowed to express their support for that particular organisation? On what grounds would you argue that?
    About Tamimi’s jewish friends. The point here is that prominent members of both the Muslim and Jewish community have personal links which goes a long way to proving that any accusation whatsoever of anti-semitism (or of Islamophobia against the New-Yorkean rabbis and Tamimi’s friends for that matter) against Tamimi is ridiculous. How could then prominent Jews maintain links with the man?

    2) About Hamas’s line. You are the one who defines it in the way you want Ruthie. In your article you mentioned nothing about when suicide bombings begun or ended/renounced, nor about Hamas’s offer of a long-term truce, nor that all of Hamas’s leaders have made it plainly clear – in articles such as the one I quoted or in statements in the Palestinian parliament – that they are not fighting the Jews but Zionism (nor of course did you mention that some dozens of Hamas MPs are detained in Israeli prisons). And you quote ‘spokespeople’ for Hamas without telling us who they are or what they said exactly, when, where and so on (or where you found their words, remember that translation is a tricky business). Every time I’ve written about Hamas, I’ve presented the facts and nothing more. That’s why I don’t deny the suicide bombings by the way – read my article again if you need proof.
    On the Hamas charter, Wikipedia tells me that according to a translation stored at a Yale University website, the charter states that the organization’s goal is to “raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine, for under the wing of Islam followers of all religions can coexist in security and safety where their lives, possessions and rights are concerned.” It further asserts that “The Islamic Resistance Movement is a humanistic movement. It takes care of human rights and is guided by Islamic tolerance when dealing with the followers of other religions. It does not antagonize anyone of them except if it is antagonized by it or stands in its way to hamper its moves and waste its efforts. Under the wing of Islam, it is possible for the followers of the three religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – to coexist in peace and quiet with each other. Peace and quiet would not be possible except under the wing of Islam. Past and present history are the best witness to that.” Yale university translation….

    3) See, we won’t agree on this one. Israel according to me is a terrorist and racist state founded on the dispossession and permanent persecution of the Palestinians. It has broken international law and UN resolutions repeatedly and has never respected the Oslo agreement which it signed, not to mention its attitude concerning the refugees. And not to mention the massacres it has perpetrated during all these years (too numerous to be enumerated here). The argument about self-defence is ludicrous.
    About anti-semitism and Israel. I said in my comments that in recent years (emphasis on this), the rise in anti-semitism is strongly correlated with Israel’s atrocities. I never said anti-semitism doesn’t have a long history in Europe, nor that we should excuse anti-semites (that’s one of the reasons why I support te ban on the BNP). I know many Jews who stand up and say ‘not in my name’ (see the thread on the article ‘Double Standards’). Their argument is that Zionism contributes to anti-semitism because it accepts the racist argument that Jews can’t live with others in Europe. That might also explain why the leaders of the Zionist movement protested against the British governement’s decision in 1938 to allow Jews to come to the UK from the continent. They wanted them to have only one choice – Palestine, a choice which most Jews turned down before 1945.

    I am really and honestly sorry that this is proving difficult for you or other Jewish members of our community. This has never been nor is my intention. But the problem lies with the fact that you identify with Israel (incidentally, a cross over the Israeli flag is not anti-semitic but anti-Israel). You have no reason to do that. The interests of the State of Israel are not those of Jews across the world (or of most Jews living in Israel by the way). The more we contribute to discredit and isolate Zionism, the less will Jews be asked to justify Israel’s crimes and the more it will be proven that this is not about religious conflict but about oppressors (Israel) and oppressed (Palestinians).

    P.S I never thought that you are a racist person yourself Ruthie. My point was that the general picture that your article presented of Hamas played into the hands of those who try to vehiculate islamophobic ideas so as to disarm the Muslim community.

  31. 1) I am not implying that Dr Tamimi is personally anti-semitic – I’m saying that it’s irrelevant, and more importantly, he’s specifically xenophobic against Israelis, all Israelis, and member of an organisation which has a far greater history of anti-semitism than the BNP.

    2) You don’t deny the suicide bombings, but you call them freedom fighting if I recall rightly! I don’t actually know how to argue with someone who thinks targeting innocent people is an acceptable form of warfare. It goes against basic morals. Re the Hamas Charter, I’ve been over this in my article, there are many anti-semitic statements, ranging from accusing the Jews of conspiracy with the freemasons and the Rotary Club (a charity) right to the more explicit, “The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! ” article 7. Look it up if you don’t trust my sources.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by quoting other parts of the charter. Yes, I’m aware that Hamas has goals and ideas other than ‘kill all the Jews’! They do some good humanitarian stuff in Gaza. For an organisation to be anti-semitic, by your definition, do all its members have to only, ever say “kill the jews jews are bad bad bad jews” on repeat, same the with the charter?

    Here is the source for the quote “They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people”:

    3) Well, yeah, you would think that if you get your information from Hamas propaganda. Israel has committed crimes over the years, but that’s unsurprising considering that it was founded surrounded by countries bent on its destruction, and its done many, many good things including taking in thousands of Ethiopian refugees, and has a Muslim Israeli population who have equal rights to Jews. England has a history of attacking other countries which is worse if anything. Didn’t see many demoes on campus berating about its Pakistani bombing of India, or China’s various human rights issues. Actually, I don’t think there should be, because it’s fine to protest the action, but to stand in library square slagging off a foreign country is downright arrogant and disrespectful in most contexts.

    However, I wasn’t saying that attacking Gaza was legitimate self-defence, just that Israel do NOT attack in the name of Judaism as you claimed – therefore the idea that they are automatically tainting the reputation of Jews worldwide is ridiculous.

    “So the meeting, you say, was pro-Hamas. Is that a crime? Are people not allowed to express their support for that particular organisation?” –

    Do you think I implied that is a crime or should be banned? I thought the whole point of my article was to outline why supporting Hamas on campus is basically misguided, hypocritical and offensive to Jews who know what Hamas represent. You’re perfectly free to support whoever you want to support. You should just be aware that people will rightly be judging you for it, and some people might be upset and intimidated as well. Especially if you go about defacing their religious symbol.

    4)”But the problem lies with the fact that you identify with Israel (incidentally, a cross over the Israeli flag is not anti-semitic but anti-Israel). You have no reason to do that.”

    Oh really? So I’m being ridiculous in identifying with a country I’ve been to around 7 times since I was a baby, where my grandfather and his family were raised, where I have four first cousins, many second cousins, and where my elderly great Aunt (who looked after me while she was ill with Hepititus) was born? Also where my best friend lives, incidentally living in an area which she described as “quite safe, because it’s so close to the Lebanese border that the rockets go straight over”.

    There are quite a few Israelis at Sussex, so obviously they identify with their own country, even if its mostly on an emotional level.

    I think that you’ve got too caught up in political theory and forgotten that the country you’re condemning is full of millions of living, breathing human beings.

    Back to the defaced flag. It’s not just a flag, it’s a flag with a religious symbol on it. I’m not sure if any formal complaints are being made, but I know that people noticed and were angry and upset. Did you have anything to do with the choice of picture on that flyer?

    5)”P.S I never thought that you are a racist person yourself Ruthie. My point was that the general picture that your article presented of Hamas played into the hands of those who try to vehiculate islamophobic ideas so as to disarm the Muslim community.”

    Right, charming little post-script there. Phew, I’m so relieved that you don’t think I’m a racist! merely “intent on launching a sometimes overt, sometimes covert campaign against the Muslim members of our community”! Just to clarify: No I am not attacking or criticising and have not criticised the Muslim community in any way.

  32. Why the heck would people support Hamas? As far as I’m concerned, Hamas would KILL ME if I went over there for being gay.

    Mahmoud Zahar (Co-founder of Hamas) said that gays are “morally sick” and “perverts” – and this guy was elected by the Palestinians. If the Palestinian people elected these people and think this is good then I don’t give a damn about them or their welfare.

    How come the political left usually supports gay rights, but then attacks the *only* country in the middle east (Turkey is not in the M.E.) which protects gay rights and other civil liberties?

    Why would I support somewhere like Palestine which hangs gays? I’m so sick of this campus for praising places like Palestine, Iran, etc. when they HANG HOMOSEXUALS. Out of the whole damn middle east israel is the only place where i could live without being persecuted. Why wouldn’t I side with it when people are firing rockets into it, and it wouldn’t imprison me for who I am???

  33. “The interests of the State of Israel are not those of Jews across the world (or of most Jews living in Israel by the way). ”

    Hear hear!

  34. “How come the political left usually supports gay rights, but then attacks the *only* country in the middle east (Turkey is not in the M.E.) which protects gay rights and other civil liberties”

    Same complaint with the SWP and StWC, Supports anyone regardless of ideology just so long as their actions can vaguely be interpreted Anti-West / Capitalism

    Who cares about Socialist values, lets support hardline islam – just so long as it’s America bashing.

    Bit like the Truman Doctrine in reverse I guess.

  35. Christakis is wrong on so many levels. Hamas are NOT freedom fighters- this idealistic vision from parts of the far left is frankly disgusting. Hamas is not a national liberation movement. It is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Islamist organisation which wants to unite the Islamic world in submission to its own, austere and totalitarian, view of Islam. Hamas has never changed its charter either. “‘The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out, ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him’.” It amazes me how the far left has united itself with far right organisations in the middle east. No wonder Christakis is a galloway supporter- galloway fronts press tv, an Iranian state tv channel. He was mates with saddam hussein.

  36. The problem with Hamas is simple: it won’t recognise any kind of Israel, ever. All some Hamas leaders have intimated is that they might be prepared to instigate a truce, a hunda. A hudna is not peace. it is a temporary lull in an ongoing jihad whose goal is the extinction of any kind of Israel.

    All Hamas had to do in 2006 was sign up, like the P.A., to the principles of the Quartet and the Road Map. It prefers to reserve the right to jihad until the extinction of any kind of Israel (a bit like George Galloway, who recently insisted on a single and not a two state solution. Azzam Tamimi is even more extreme).

    Israel isn’t obliged to not take that threat seriously. Israel isn’t obliged to let Hamas import whatever it needs or wants to prosecute that jihad.

    “Free Gaza”? From what? The obligation to not prosecute jihad until the extinction of any kind of Israel? To sign up to the principles of the Quartet and the Road Map.

    Had it done so, there might have been a functioning Palestinian state by now.

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