Terrorist disrespects Islam

CCTV Footage of Yassin Omar (from the BBC website)A couple of London’s evening papers yesterday published pictures of Yassin Omar, alleged terrorist, caught on CCTV as he escaped London… dressed in a burka.
In the two versions of the story I read, in the Lite and the Evening Standard, there’s a detectable but unspoken subtext, which is that these garments somehow undermine the ability of the security services to keep us safe.
No more than other head coverings. Yet “criminal flees justice dressed in hoodie” (or motorcycle helmet, or baseball cap, or Halloween mask) is not front-page news, because pretty much every criminal will conceal his identity from CCTV cameras in such a way.
If the Burka is sacred to some people, then it is they who should be outraged in such a stunt. Indeed, Omar’s insensitivity suggests that his ideology (whatever it may be) is far removed from mainstream Islam. But “terrorist disrespects Islam” is not the message I get from either the Lite or the Standard.

31 Replies to “Terrorist disrespects Islam”

  1. I think what makes this different from “criminal flees in hoodie” is the gender-bending aspect. Yes, the Burka clearly does undermine the security services’ ability to keep us safe, and yes, it does so much more than a mere “head-covering”. I’m sure any Afghan woman under the Taliban would agree that a burka is much more than simply a “head-covering”.
    This case illustrates very nicely how the Burka does not only reduce our ability to identify individual women (as a recent study at UCL mentioned in their magazine, PI, demonstrates) but can also be used very easily to disguise a man as a woman. Given that men tend to commit more crime than women, I can see how the burka could make things very handy for any would-be male criminals out there.
    In non-burka-wearing communities, for a man to effectively disguise himself as a woman is much harder, and takes much longer, than simply throwing on an all-covering over-garment, as I’m sure any transvestite or cross-dresser will tell you.
    I also think the silence from “the muslim community” on such matters is rather deafening.

  2. I also think the silence from “the muslim community” on such matters is rather deafening.
    I think this is unfair. I don’t think that the muslim “community” is responsible for the misuse of its cultural dress, any more than motorcyclists or halloween revellers are responsible for crimminal acts committed with the aid of their easy-to-wear clothing.
    Nor would I be comfortable with issuing any restrictions on dress in public. Many people want to conceal their identity or gender in public, for religious or other law-abiding reasons. So if the burka does hinder the police (say), it is only in the same way that other privacy rights also hinder them. I kinda feel that the reporting on this issue seeks to undermine those rights.

  3. Hi Rob
    I do not think that “the muslim community” is responsible for the misuse of its cultural dress, and neither did I say so. But either they are being censored out by the media, or they have nothing to say on the matter, which is tantamount to endorsing it. As you say, “If the Burka is sacred to some people, then it is they who should be outraged in such a stunt.” Precisely. I suspect the people to whom the burka is most sacred (eg the Taliban) are the same people who would applaud a terrorist act committed in the uk.
    I think the comparison with motor-cyclists or halloween revellers is not a fair one, since these groups do not form a cohesive community, defined by shared philosophical, moral or social beliefs, as organised religions do.
    The question of privacy and civil liberties I think is an interesting one though.
    It is difficult for me to see what possible “religious reason” could make one wish to conceal one’s identity or gender in public – apart from the oft-cited “modesty” argument, or should I say, non-argument. If you buy that one, you endorse the position that women should be made to mitigate for male sexuality, and I’m afraid I do not. If there were another “religious” argument put forward, I’d be interested to hear it, as long as it isn’t “because god said so”.
    As for “other, law-abiding reasons”, in a non-big-brother society, there should be plenty of anonymity and privacy available, and plenty of options for disguise, without wearing a mask, or indeed a burka. The only reason I can think of for wishing to conceal one’s gender would be to avoid prejudice, discrimination, or harrassment. I’d sooner attack the causes of those, than have to pander to them by concealing my identity.

  4. Have to say I found the clip at the bus station on the TV news unintentionally comical. The guy was over six foot tall and was not exactly taking dainty, feminine strides, he reminded me of Brians mother in the film Life of Brian.
    Seriously, apart from the ability to conceal identity (which an armed robber and police murderer also took advantage of to leave the country recently) the bigger problem is that government officials, hamstrung by political correctness, are afraid to challenge anyone in a burka for fear of “offending” muslim sensibilities (as though that is any way important compared to upholding the law) and muslim criminals will take advantage of this, knowing that as a minimum they can “demand” that only females see the wearers face. The only solution is for a ban on the wearing of all religious dress in public.
    I hope recent events will also persuade the government to abandon the “porous borders” concept which allows criminals to enter and leave the country, at will and undetected.
    The comparison with hoodies is absolutely ludicrous, irritating as they are, hoodies are not a religion, or an idealolgy, nor are they given to blowing up large numbers of the general public.

  5. Are they really so hamstrung, though?
    Are there actually any cases of a policeman being formally disciplined, losing his job, taking a pay cut, or being transferred, or having a complaint upheld, as a result of simply questioning a muslim person, or seeking to identify someone in religious dress?
    If it is merely a fear of “offending”, then these officials need to be reassured of their position by their own leadership. This might thicken their skins.
    muslim criminals will take advantage of this, knowing that as a minimum they can “demand” that only females see the wearers face.
    All crimminals, surely?
    Also, how exactly does a man dressed in a burka ‘demand’ anything? The moment he speaks he rather gives himself away, no!?

  6. Well, yes, but he could claim to be a pre-op transvestite muslim, couldn’t he? Presumably muslim transvestites are obliged by law to spend a year living “as a woman” prior to gender reassignment just like non-muslim transvestites are?
    I think part of the problem is the very severe reactions, fatwahs, jihad, death threats and all the rest that have happened on the grounds of being religiously “offended” – salman rushdie and the danish cartoons spring to mind. The thing is, as non-muslims (and often onesignorant of muslim culture, perhaps understandably so), we still don’t actually want to cause offence, and we certainly don’t want death threats or to fuel terrorism. I think we just don’t speak the same cultural language, and when we feel as if we can be threatened with death for unwittingly “causing offense”, whether we are muslims or not, of course people are going to be jumpy and want to wear kid gloves. We’ve been made to feel like we’re walking on egg-shells. I don’t think it’s fair to blame the police for this.
    I certainly can’t tell from looking at a woman in relgious dress whether she’s a dangerous fanatic or a peace-loving law-abiding civilian. The signs and signifiers have been allowed to become confused, because of the things that have been done in the name of Islam.
    But you’re right, there does need to be a clear message from “leadership”. The problem is, our leadership is not what you’d call whiter than white…

  7. But that isn’t how political correctness works. It’s an implict, rather than an explicit threat, it’s an atmoshpere of menace, the threat of potentially career limiting denouncement and internal disciplinary process which scares people far more than any official directives about this or that “ism”. Surely its obvious that the police are collectively terrified of being seen as racist, it’s the only explanation for their cack handed inefectiveness againts any form of crime perceived to originate in the ethnic minority communities. Witness the complaints made by the muslim community every time there is any action against terrorist suspects, and the demands for apologies, any mainstream group demanding such an apology would be laughed out of court.
    It’s far easier for the police (and much better for the clear up rate) to fine a few hundred white middle aged sales reps for speeding on the M6, than to risk exposure to the inevitable racism cries from community leaders and the liberal left.
    The point about leadership is a good one but the problem is the higher up an organisation you go, the more you have to lose, senior officials in the police and elswhere are if anything more intimidated by PC than those at the bottom, so they are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

  8. Well, yes, but he could claim to be a pre-op transvestite muslim, couldn’t he?
    But at that point, the police have engaged him in conversation, and may begin to determine whether he is the man they are searching for…
    How does Islam see transvestism? Is it possible to be one, but also be such a devout muslim that one would want to wear not just a headscarf, but a full veil!

  9. Matt, I’m not sure your definition of political correctness is how “it works” either. You portray a world where poor government officials are being overrun by the lawlessness of minorities with carte-blanche to say and do what they feel. This is is the precise feeling that the newspapers I mentioned in my original post (above) wish to conjour for you, and you swallow it hook, line and sinker. The hundreds of thousands of muslims and (to reference an earlier discussion here) immigrants have a very different experience of life in Britain. The ‘implicit’ threat you speak of is mirrored by a second order, ‘implicit’ racism which still blights their lives.
    This is one reason why it is difficult for me to be dismayed when minority groups organise, and are politically emboldened. Sure, they do clamour about discrimmination, and for apologies, all the bloody time. They’re lobbyist groups, and that’s what they do. If anything, I would say that we have something like ‘complaint fatigue’, whereby we expect some kind of media whine every time someone from a minority is arrested. I was reading PC Copperfied’s book the other day, about how lawbreakers routinely claim ‘police brutality’.
    But they don’t always get the apology they have been lobbying for. Often, the police have gone by the book, so no apology is deserved! If the police are forced to apologise, it is either because 1) they were actually racist (c.f. Stephen Lawrence/MacPherson), or else 2) they did not follow procedure and thus fucked it up. I see no problem with anything that inhibits either scenario. Call it political correctness if you want, but I call it common sense and common decency.
    I don’t deny there is a problem with people who worry that they might be percieved as racist, when actually they are not. Like I say, I think this can be solved by better leadership telling the police (or whoever) what exactly they can and can’t do. This is the way to solve that underlying fear. But I still think that the underlying racism experienced by minority communities, and the worries they have as a result, are a greater threat to our society. ‘Political correctness’ seems to be the new bogey-concept, used in each and every situation to avoid taking any action or responsibility for anything, or ever admitting to any flaws in the way the media report a story, or how the majority go about their business.

  10. Although we have a large Muslim populatiion in Dallas, I have never seen a Muslim woman waring a Burka. Muslims are far better intigrated into ther social mainstream than in Europe. They are better educated and have higher incomes than the adverage native born American. Needless to say, American Muslims are not disatisfuied with their lot. We have acomplished this becayse were are not saddled with the arcane European Multicultural approach. Of course you Europeans would never think there is something to learn from the way we intigrat emmigrants into our country. After all in Europeans eyes we Americans are barberic Neanderthals who reside in an uncivilized country.

  11. I also think the silence from “the muslim community” on such matters is rather deafening.
    Clarice makes a good point. Had this been a non-Muslim abusing the burkha, there would have been uproar from the various self-selected representatives of Britain’s “muslim community”. Witness the outrage from these people whenever somebody makes a comment or carries out an action which is perceived to be offensive to Islam, whether intentional or not.

  12. Charles Barton – I’m in a minority here, but I totally agree with you – the way America manages integration is far better than the way Europe manages it. What’s needed is an overarching national identity, with which all citizens, whether they arrived yesterday or two centuries ago, can identify. In Europe we are far too concerned with the perceived need for migrants to maintain their ethnic (i.e old) identity at the expense of acquiring their new (integrated) one – as if somehow you cannot identify with both your new and old culture simultaneously. I would fail Norman Tebbits “cricket test” but that doesn’t mean I can’t manage to be both English and Italian/Irish. Only non-migrants fail to grasp that ethnic origin isn’t the only source of identity, thus you have African-American, which to me is a perfect description of a US migrants status and his mindset.
    Unfortunately, the failed dogma of multiculturalism (which increasingly seems to mean all things to all people) has taken root here so deeply that even when it’s erstwhile proponents (e.g Tevor Philips) admit publicly that it’s a busted flush, the liberal left continue to trot it out like an old record permamently stuck in 1992.
    Rob – I don’t think I’ve fallen for anything. I rarely read the tabloid press, or indeed any papers, my main sources of news are the BBC website and Channel 4, both of which are pro minority almost to the point of parody.
    Rather, I am speaking from personal experience of nearly 20 years in a large public sector organisation, where in the last 5-10 years there has been a steady and perceptible growth of paranoid and over sensitive PC thinking. I attend mandatory training courses and seminars where being “culturally sensitive” is positied as being as important as delivering the service I am paid to deliver. Admittedly much of this is down to the legal priciple of vicarious liability, and the desire to avoid litigation, however it precipitates what many perceive to be a poisonous atmosphere where anyone male, white and over 40 is a de facto thought crime suspect.
    I agree about pressure groups, and I have an issue with them generally – because it increasingly seems that policy (e.g anti-smoking, anti-car use, the whole eco movement) is made in response to whichever lobby shouts the loudest. Not only does this result in the opposite of “joined up government” but it allows insignificantly small numbers of people (e.g muslims who are only 3% of the population) to give themselves a spurious level of relevence, and a disprortionate impact on public life.

  13. Matt, I attended a mass demonstration in Dallas last year. 500,000 people were in the crowd. Most of them were Hispanics who were in the United States illigally. The most outstanding impression i came away from this experience was how much these people loved the United States, and how much they wanted to become citizrns. Most had a hard life here, but they were far better off than they were before leaving Lain America. They also knew that there was a payoff for their hard work, if not for them, then for their children. They believed in their own futures and the futures of their families. The eleven million undocumented immigrants in the United States, have five million American born children. They will play a role in the furure shaping of this country. This is the vision that Europeans lack.

  14. After all in Europeans eyes we Americans are barberic Neanderthals who reside in an uncivilized country
    Come off it, Charles, this is a willfully simplistic approach which you know to be an exaggeration. If the USA is accused of barbarity, it is over specific policies, as you well know!
    But to address the substance of what you say, I do not deny that there are plenty of positive lessons to learn from the USA, and I often ponder how ideas of ‘the melting pot’ relate to what is and what should be the definition of ‘multiculturalism’. It is also a country that has undoubtedly benefited from, and perhaps sustained by, mass immigration at various points in its history… to the point where I hear that hispanics outnumber Afro-Americans as the largest ethnic minority group. Is that correct? If so, it would be a huge demographic shift due to immigration, one that must have cultural consequences.

  15. It is also a country that has undoubtedly benefited from, and perhaps sustained by, mass immigration at various points in its history
    Not counting the Native Americans, isn’t the whole country made of immigrants? Like Australia? And as for the benefits, doesn’t that depend on your point of view? If decimating the indiginous population is a benefit to the country, then and only then would I agree with that position. I thought the native americans and native australians had had an abominable time at the hands of their country’s multitudinous and marrauding immigrants.

  16. Robert, I will respond to your question about Hispanics first, and then go on to adress the subject of European anti-Americanism. When the United States anexed Texas, in 1845, it acquired a substantial hispanic minority. Since then Hispanics have migrated to the United States in large numbers. During the last 20 years, something like 11 million hispanics have entered the United States illegally. In addition many Hispanics enter the United States legally. Both legal and illegal immigrants are looking for jobs, and a better way of life. The Hispanic community is split fetween people whose ancestors were here for hundreds of years,children and grand children of immigrants and people who crossed the border with out papers in the recent past. The Hispanic community is also split between people of Mexican heritage, People who roots are in Central or South America, Cubans, and Peurto Ricans, who are born citizens of the United States. culturally this is a quite diverse lot. In 2004 it was estimated that 41 million people of Hispanic heritage lived in the United States.
    Now as far as European anti-Americanism, it is redicuously easy to find quotes from well Europeans expressing it. Take Jean Baudrillard who described the terror attack on 9/11 as manifesting the world’s dreams: “All the world without exception dreamt of this event, for no one can avoid dreaming of the destruction of a power that has become hegemonic. . . .It is they who acted, but we who wanted the deed.”
    American bashing has become the favorite indoor sport of Europeans including you Brits. We have the case of EU Vice-President Margot Walstrom who stated in an interview: “When I started my job [as Commissioner for Communications] two years ago, I decided very early against the superficial – let’s call it American – way” Walstrom openly denigated governmental communications in the United States, but displaying prpufound ignorannce by doing so. What is most shocking to me is that this abhorant woman was not fired. Indeed this remark passed largely unnoticed by Europeans. The internet provides me with ready access to what people are saying in Europe. I am constantly encountering anti-American comments by Europeans that reveal a simplistic and hostile immage of my country. These statements go well beyound criticisms of government policies and suggest that many Europeans hate and despise the Eunited States.
    I will not assert, mearly quote Jean-Francois Revel, a European who is honest enough to admit European anti-Americvan bigotry.
    What picture of American society is likely to be imprinted on the consciousness of average Europeans? Given what they read or hear every day from intellectuals and politicians, they can hardly have any choice in the unpleasant particulars, especially if they happen to be French. The picture repeatedly sketched for them is as follows:
    American society is entirely ruled by money. No other value, whether familial, moral, religious, civic, cultural, professional, or ethical has any potency in itself. Everything in America is a commodity, regarded and used exclusively for its material value. A person is judged solely by the worth of his bank account. Every U.S. President has been in the pockets of the oil companies, the military-industrial complex, the agricultural lobby, or the financial manipulators of Wall Street. America is the “jungle” par excellence of out-of-control, “savage” capitalism, where the rich are always becoming richer and fewer, while the poor are becoming poorer and more numerous. Poverty is the dominant social reality in America. Hordes of famished indigents are everywhere, while luxurious chauffeured limousines with darkened windows glide through the urban wilderness.
    Poverty and inequality like this should cause Europeans to cringe in horror, especially since (we have it on good authority) there is no safety net in America, no unemployment benefits, no retirement, no assistance for the destitute–not the slightest bit of social solidarity. In the U.S. “only the most fortunate have the right to medical care and to grow old with dignity,” as one writer recently put it in Libération. University courses are reserved only for those who can pay, which partly explains the “low level of education” in the benighted USA. Europeans firmly believe these sorts of caricatures–because they are repeated every day by the elites.
    Another distinctive feature of the United States: the pandemic violence. Everywhere you go, violence reigns, with uniquely high levels of delinquency and criminality and a feverish state of near-open revolt in the ghettos. This last is the inevitable result of the deep-rooted racism of American society, which sets ethnic “communities” against one another, and ethnic minorities as a whole against the oppressive white majority. And the unpardonable cowardice and venality that has prevented American leaders from banning the sale of firearms results in regular bloodbaths in which teenagers mercilessly gun down their teachers and fellow students in the classroom. Criticisms of the U.S. system of law bounce back and forth between the idea that it is paralyzed by legalism and the claim that the nation is a lawless jungle.
    Yet another universally held conviction is that these social ills are unlikely to ever be cured since Americans make it a point of honor to elect only mental defectives as Presidents. From the Missouri tie salesman Harry Truman to the Texas cretin George W. Bush, not to mention the peanut farmer Jimmy Carter and the B-movie actor Ronald Reagan, the White House offers us a gallery of nincompoops. Only John F. Kennedy, in the eyes of the French, rose a little above this undistinguished bunch, probably because he had the merit of having married someone of French extraction; naturally, this union could not fail to raise President Kennedy’s intelligence to at least average level–but doubtless still too high for his fellow citizens, who never forgave him and ended up assassinating him.
    Revel adds: “On the whole, American society is sweepingly condemned as practically the worst association of human beings in history. Fresh evidence can do nothing to dispel such views, which, filled with distortion as they are, reflect little on the true strengths and failures of American society. But they tell us a great deal about the psychological problems of those Europeans who proffer the criticisms.”
    Revel’s entire statement is found at this link:

  17. Very interesting Charles. Without Revel’s account, we might not have realised that the entire French nation thinks with one mind about the USA. I was still labouring under the impression that there was still some diversity of opinion in Europe.
    All this does tie in with the issues raised in my original piece, regarding the media speaking on behalf of the people. On the one hand, sometimes the media’s stance on an issue is at odds with that of the people. In other cases, it shapes and skews the people’s opinion. Which is why we should be wary, and call it to account when you feel they are unfairly biased. Hence the original post.
    But both you and Matt seem to be operating an unfair dichotomy. Whenever the media reports something you disagree with, you brand them as biased and untrustworthy. But as soon as some newspaper prints something you agree with, they are suddenly a reliable and representative source of the people.

  18. Robert, In my own blog I do a great deal of documentation, rather than relying on media summeries. I have developed profound mistrust of the main stream media, which often suggests the shallow biases of the journalists. The biases may be left wing or right wing by the way. I have encountered far to many instances of false information in the media to give it unconcitional trust. I posted EU Vice-President Margot Walstrom denigating comment on the shallowness of American communications on her own blog, togeather with some questionsd, about how well this reflected the EU Commission’s point of view. Needlerss to say the EU Commissioner for Communications did not respond to my post.
    You are right that there is a diversity of openion in Europe, but for every statement from a Europen expressing admiration for American Civilization, i encounter 10 statements suggesting that we are uncoth barberians. It is not hard to find Europeans who acknowledge the depth of the problem. For example two Norwegian journalists, Dag Herbjørnsrud and Stian Bromark have written about Norwegian and European Anti-American in a book titled “The Fear of America: A European History (Frykten for Amerika. En europeisk historie))”. They stated:
    Today, Anti-Americanism is the closest we come to a common ideology in Europe. And this ideology is not primarily about American foreign policy. During the 1990s Europe has demonstrated, and most recently during the 2003 Iraq war, that the countries on the continent choose their own ways when the big challenges pile up. On the other hand, most countries in Europe agree about the necessity to protect the continent’s specific culture, whether the challenges come from the US or Muslims. If we are to chose a loaded term like ‘anti-Americanism’ then this is the source for it.
    Tn an interview in The Bergens Tidende, they stated:
    – It is impossible to make a Norwegian say that Americans are intelligent. Our prejudices against Americans are much greater than against both Muslims and Africans, Stian Bromark argues.
    – And we don’t benefit by calling them ignorant and superficial, Dag Herbjørnsrud adds.
    It is writers, journalists flim critics and professors that spearheads the arrogant attitude towards the USA, they think.
    We abuse them time and again, and use the USA as a scapegoat.
    And in this context it doesn’t mean anything that 70 % of the Nobel Prize winners in history have been Americans?
    – No, it doesn’t help. Even if all American citizens had been professors, we would call them stupid.
    – Why?
    – Because by speaking negatively about them, we elevate ourselves. It confirms that we are the opposite. Us Europeans have refinement, culture and intellectual life. To think this way elevates our self-image, Herbjørnsrud believes.
    Wence comes this attitude? Hundreds of thousands of Norwegians left Norwar in the 19th century to come to the United States. These were people Norway did not want, and for whom Norway did not provide an honerable place in Norwegian society. there five million American decendents havbe carved out conspicuous roles in the United States, including one American Vice-President, numerous actors, entertainers, writers and musicians. sports stars, sucessful business people, scholats and scientist including seven Nobel Prize Laureates. In fact more Norwegian-American have won Nobel Prizes than have Norwegian natives. And these were the people that Norway did not want!
    Is there not a discomfort with the European past” Is there not an issue that the people Europe rejected and who Europe drove out of their mids by condeming them to lives of povertyt, went on the build a great nation that far surpassed European acomplishments in many fields? It is time that you Europeans grew up and acknowledge who we Americans are.

  19. We’re way off topic now, but…
    Be careful not to assume that ciriticism of the US is because we Europeans think we are different or better. As I have tried to argue previously, I think much of the criticism towards the US stems from our shared culture and languages, a feeling that we are intimately bound together. If we are critical, it is not because of hate, but because we love you and we see ourselves reflected and magnified in you.
    If, for example, I complain about western consumer culture, then the US is likely to be the whipping boy, as the most visible example. But do not for a moment think that I beleive these issues are unique to the USA. They apply to the UK too. As the dominant cultural force of our age, it is inevitable that the US will come in for greater and more sustained criticism than other countries. In terms of human rights (say) then this may be regrettable while the Chinese regime (to name but one) is still in power. But not so regrettable when we talk about mass media, popular culture, economic and trade arrangements, etcetera. I see no problem with criticising and complaining about a country in proportion to its influence over the rest of us. Until we Europeans federalise into one massive, socialist beuracratic superstate, you may have to put up with some whining for a while longer.

  20. Allow me to post a comment made on Samizdata some time back. I’ve forgotten who the original author was, but it makes some excellent points:
    What I find so amazing about articles like this is the idea that it was ever any different. I realize that most of the people here are younger than I am, but surely there are still history courses taught somewhere that involve more than multi-culti nonsense and race/gender politics.
    The reaction of the ruling classes and the intelligentsia to the United States was immediate and hostile, and has never relented. Those on the aristocratic right looked down their long, long noses and sniffed that we were mongrels who engaged in (shudder) commerce almost as a national religion.
    Those on the collectivist left saw an entire culture built on individualism and (shudder) capitalism, and declared total war—a condition that has continued generation after generation, whether marxist or socialist or progressive or green.
    For most of the last two centuries, in book after book, lecture after lecture, speech after speech, casual conversation after casual conversation, one theme has been pounded into the psyches of the world’s population—that evil, greedy, uncaring, imperialist, crude, arrogant American capitalists are coming to ruin your life, your culture, and your society.
    Read the writings of the “socially” conscious critics of the 19th century. The avant garde of the early 20th. The thinkers, the artists, the writers who came back from seeing the “Future”, and wasted no time condemning everything American. Have you forgotten Russell? Shaw? There’s not enough bandwidth to list the whole chorus just from Britain, without even getting to the rest of Europe and Asia.
    As late as the 1980’s, the wailing and screeching about the stupid, clumsy American leadership that was leading the whole world to disaster because of its belligerence towards the peace-loving USSR routinely filled the newscasts as thousands of marchers took to the streets to protest whatever terrible thing we had done, and support whatever position was held by our opponents.
    Europe, and Britain, complain constantly that the US doesn’t listen enough to your wisdom and experience. But we watched, and were drawn in, as your wisdom and experience gave birth to three of the most virulent and monstrous tyrannies ever devised by man, which then proceeded to slaughter dozens of millions of people, following the leadership of some of the most deranged and murderous lunatics since Attilla the Hun.
    The US never wanted to be in this position. As late as 12-6-41, we didn’t even want to get dragged into your latest civil war. Well, we did our part, and then we held off the other monstrosity for several decades until it finally imploded, all the while listening to “our betters” castigate us for standing in the way of the wave of the future.
    Now our attention is directed elsewhere. Economically, toward Asia. Militarily, towards a foe which has declared war on us. We’re getting our troops out of Europe, where they aren’t wanted anyway, and restructuring for a prolonged and nasty conflict.

  21. Dear Robert, Your responce was a non sequiter to my last argument. We Americans ought to have the same right to criticism that you Europeans have. I pointed out to you statements by two Norwegian journalists, Dag Herbjørnsrud and Stian Bromark, These gentlemen looked at stories published in the Norwegian press on one day. They found that the immage of the united States in these stories was overwealmingly negative. This is their data. Based on their data they concluded “Even if all American citizens had been professors, we would call them stupid.” Your argument then isn’t with me, I am just the messanger. Other Europeans have acknowledged the problem and provided far more data than I have. Your argument is with them.
    What i take to be your anti-American attitude is all to evident in your statements You state, ” If, for example, I complain about western consumer culture, then the US is likely to be the whipping boy, as the most visible example.”
    Of courst, one of the standard bugaboos of European anti-Americans is our consumer culture. your assumption is that consumers should not have access to a free market where they can buy anything they choose. Our American consumeri economy insures that Americans are far more likely to have full employment than Europe does with its anti-consumer attitudes. You support an economic sustem that limits employment, and criticizes one that encourages it. Oh how European.
    You say, “I see no problem with criticising and complaining about a country in proportion to its influence over the rest of us.” My responce is that maybe you ought to see American Influance on Europe as a European problem and not a problem with American culture. From my puint of view, the biggest source of Eurpopean problems stems from old and embeded anti-Democratic tendancies in Europe.
    Again I will mention EU Vice-President Margot Walstrom statement suggesting that Americans take a shallow approach to communications. But I’ll bet that Walstrom does not have the slighest idea how really sophisticated governmental communications is in the United States. I don’t read of the EU Commission holding hearings all around Europe to determine public views on the effects of proposed regulations as Amerucan Federal govenmental agencies do.
    I do see evidence that the EU Commission is highly corrupt, and thus is not an instrument of Democracy. The EU Commission has not instituted a fundamental measure that woulod assure the integrity of its operations. i refer to double entry book keeping. The EU’s books have not been audited in well over a decade, That would be inconceivable in that land of shalllow consumerism, the United States.
    I find it truely amazing that Europen intellectuals are more concerned with attacking American consumerism, than in exploring the potential for truely massive corruption in ther EU Commission. By making the United States your whipping boy, you are creating an appearance of moral order, while ignoring evidence of moral disorder in Europe that has nothing to do with the United States. In doing so you are sherking your duty to the citizens and consumers of Europe.

  22. Nice one, Rob.
    Charles Barton seems to equate criticism with denigration and hatred. While the latter are perhaps not very nice, and often ill-founded, the former I would say is a pre-requisite of a just and free society. Strange that someone from “the land of the free” seeks to attack others’ freedoms like this. This type of behaviour is exactly why some people don’t like the USA.
    While England is “free”, Charles Barton, I reserve the right to be anti- anything I fancy, to criticise anything I think deserving of it, and to hate anything that harms people. I’m anti-American and proud of it. And if I think you’re superficial, I reserve the right to say so.
    All the best.

  23. Clarice – is that you “Anti- American”!!!!!! is that people, pie, literature, politicians,accent,policies, TV or what – I can’t think you would say such a general thing – help

  24. “My responce is that maybe you ought to see American Influance on Europe as a European problem and not a problem with American culture. From my puint of view, the biggest source of Eurpopean problems stems from old and embeded anti-Democratic tendancies in Europe”
    Good point, and an ironic inversion of Robs usual stance on Islam (it is the UKs problem in not accomodating it, rather than any intrisic issue with an alien ideology). If we “must” accept Islam as beneficial then why not the US, which is far more tangibly beneficial to the UK than Islam will ever be ?
    Personally I see the UK as a function of both US and European culture – so we have Starbucks, Gap, easy jet and chewing gum, but also the faux intellectalism, snobbery and the failed social model we imported from the French. Since WW2 at least this countyry has lacked the confidence to develop a strong identity, leaving it open to the influence of a multitude of influences, some see this as a strength, but maybe the US influence is an example of it being a weakness.

  25. (it is the UKs problem in not accomodating it, rather than any intrisic issue with an alien ideology)
    You should know very well that it is not my usual point. Its just because you find everything wrong with the Islamic world (or rather, any world-view that does not match your own) that you attribute extreme, zero-sum, absolutist positions to everyone else.
    Or to put it another way…
    You’re right, though, to suggest it is analagous to a lot of my blogging here, since I often bang the relativist drum. Charles comment is thought provoking for that very reason – the Americans only have a problem if they give a shite about what the rest of the world, Europe especially, might think of them. I’ve tried to explain before why they may care about Europe in particular, and why Europe cares particularly about America.
    In seeking to define multiculturalism, I constantly come back to ideas of subversion, evolution and change. Since I tend to post thoughts about what is going on in the UK, and because I am a white middle-class heterosexual English man, then it is probably going to be what we might call ‘mainstream British culture’ that I am going to discuss and debate most frequently. But as Charles shows us, the door swings both ways. I would be interested to see which parts of my writing you think would give succour to an Islamist.

  26. Hi Kathy
    I mean the nation state. I don’t like what America stands for, I’m afraid, or what it does in the world, or to its own people, or to the concepts of democracy and truth and justice.

  27. Hmm, stodgy ground here, Clarice. My critique might well begin by suggesting that many of its recent actions have undermined the very things it is supposed to stand for. But the USA is much more complex than that. A look at the two most recent presidential elections, and the recent mid-terms, suggest that there are a lot of people, a lot of American people, share your ideals. Does that make them anti-American too?
    Just like the debates over Israel, I think to be anti-American is rather meaningless unless you point out precisely which America (or rather, what facets of it) you dislike…

  28. Oh wait. You did actually do that in your previous comment! So, to put a respinse in the form of a question: Isn’t there anything about America that you like? What about those covered bridges of Madison County? Or Bob Dylan?

  29. Rob makes a good point about “which America” you dislike. There are at least 2, which can be caricatured as
    Profit seeking, neo con christians who would sell their grandmothers for a barrel of oil
    3rd Wave feminists writing dreary anti- male literature, launching speech codes, behaviour pamphlets and generally waging war on the above.
    Personally I can’t decide which is worse and I certainly wouldn’t choose to have dinner with either.
    I’m not sure I was positing a zero-sum/false dichotomy/strawman argument, and I don’t have an issue with Islam per se, but with the idea that unquestioning acceptance of it, or worse, adaptation of culture to accomodate it, is a desirable, or even necessary position. My question is what’s the end game ? What does a “post Islamist” UK society look like ? For me any change has to have net benefits, and I don’t think it has.
    Personally I think cultural relativism is bollocks – how can you argue that all cultures are equal without having some sort of absolute against which to measure that equality ?, To use a mathematical analogy; 2+2 can only be deemed as equal to 3+1, if we have a shared and absolute understanding of what 4 is….
    Having said that I accept relativism as a coherent intellectual position, IF it is properly applied. What annoys me is how selectively it is deployed, for example, genuine cultural relativism would say it is inappropriate to judge the Empire by contemporary cultural norms, and yet we are supposed to beat ourselves up about it constantly. Cultural relativism would say that white working class culture is as valid as minority “Identity politics”, and yet there there is a perpetual open season on white working class culture. Relativism has been hijacked by the liberal left and used selectively as a stick to beat cultures which are deemed to be undesirable or problematic.
    Trying to have it both ways is a bogus and indefensible position, you cannot simulataneously claim that relativism is valid whilst casting judgements on cultures you dislike, once you exercise judgement, you are no longer in the relativist paradigm.

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