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M Blackman

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

A 4 Point Response to J Birdwell of the Manchester Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jul/08/religion.islam

I have 4 points to make.

1) I find it strange that the press find it necessary to refer to itself as an entity with a single homogenised outlook. Journalists always seem to suggest that the whole press is somehow guilty of the sins of its more disreputable elements. This crucifixion complex not only occurs in the UK but it also busy nailing itself up in South Africa. After the xenophophic massacres journalists constantly stated that one of the causes of the killings was that ‘the press’ had propagated the notion that immigrants were behind much of the crime in the country. I must say the papers I read in South Africa contain very little xenophobia (except maybe for an unfortunate article by one rather mediocre satirist). In fact it is quite the reverse, for if it wasn’t for the press and editors like Mondli Makhanya there would almost be no tolerant and democratic voice left in South Africa.

2) What the press does sometimes raise, which is often castigated, is the issue that Islamic normative judgments are very different to the secular normative judgments of Britain. But then again the normative judgments of the Anglican Church are also disparate to certain secular ones and there is no reason why the press should not point this out as well. If the normative judgement of any religious group demand that all woman must walk backwards in the presence of men then the press should report this because it is not only news worthy but goes against the overriding values of British society.

3) As you, who have read Hume, understand that there is no such thing as a rationally held belief. This is to say that induction can only suggest at what, in the future, can plausibly happen rather then what will in fact happen. The fact that westerners fear turban wearers and some South Africans fear people who do not know the Zulu word for elbow is often because they have been personally threatened and harmed by elements of Islam or the immigrants in South Africa. Of course these kinds of generalisations can lead to the vilest form of intolerance but, when placed in certain circumstances, generalisation of induction can save ones life. For example I often generalise about results of jumping off a 50-storey building and the side effects of drinking 28 pints in 30 minutes. There is sadly a reality, which admittedly certain elements of the press overstate, from which these generalisations arise. It is a fact that immigrants, who do not have the right to work in South Africa and have been brutalised by Mugabe, sometimes resort to crime and that suicide bombers who have killed in New York, Madrid and London were devotees to a vile sect of Islam. When faced with this reality and faced with the fear that we may be killed we don’t often have time discover that the probability of this spur of the moment induction is in fact very low. That is to say that the majority of Muslims do not want to kill me and that most Zimbabweans – excluding their government – are not criminals.

4) No matter whether the Islamic fundamentalists took their turbans off or not when they killed thousands of innocents does not mean that Islamic fundamentalist should not be feared. Hitler in a nice English tweed jacket and jewel encrusted tiara and without a swastika would still be Hitler no less. Of course I take your point that all those wearing the armbands, for example the Red Cross, should not be mistaken for Nazis nor should certain elements of the press say that they are Nazis. It goes without saying that if the press is guilty of this kind of mendacity then they must be exposed on each occasion and prosecuted if needs be.

 

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