Tuesday 25 June 2019

Miriam shows guts in going for the hard questions

Illustration by Jim Cogan
Illustration by Jim Cogan
Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

Courage, says Aristotle, is the chief virtue. Without it, other virtues won't work. A judge who can be intimidated cannot dispense justice.

The same is true for journalists and truth. That is why I respect Miriam O'Callaghan. She is one of the few journalists who asks hard questions of hard men like Martin McGuinness.

Last Thursday, she did not allow the incendiary Anjem Choudary to intimidate her or smooth away the problem of reconciling free speech with Islamic religious teaching. Jennifer Kavanagh, a law lecturer at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), showed bottle too.

The more timid in the media are terrified to tackle the thorny issue of Islam. After the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, they will be even more cautious. But Miriam's bravery forces me to say three things flatly.

First, I don't believe the bromides from Barack Obama and other leaders that Islam is a "religion of peace". Centuries of history and current experience do not support that description.

Second, I don't believe in the myth of a majority of moderate Muslims. Polls show ambivalence about Jihadi actions analogous to the attitude of nationalists in Northern Ireland to the IRA in the aftermath of H-Blocks. The majority may not approve of terror, but still have a sneaking regard.

Lastly, I believe that Western leftists and liberals have failed to resolutely defend Western values in a way that would encourage secular Muslims to stand up to the Jihadis.

Let me try to prove these propositions. First, what is my authority for saying there is a link between Islam's religious texts and Jihadi terror? I have three sources.

Let me start with a powerful act of good authority by a Muslim leader. On New Year's Day, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt delivered an amazing speech which the mainstream media missed.

Clearly referring to the Koran, he said: "It's inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!"

In case the Immams missed his point, he went on: "That thinking... that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralised over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonising the entire world."

He hammered home his hard message: "That 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world's inhabitants - that is 7 billion - so that they themselves may live? Impossible!"

That's what I call good authority. He did not, like Lara Marlowe of the Irish Times on RTE radio, blame Jihadi violence on the invasion of Iraq. He said that the community of believers is "being lost by our own hands".

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the brave Somali woman who rejected Islam to fight the radicals on behalf of Muslim women, agrees. She says Muslim reformers cannot win the battle for minds and hearts unless they face the fact that religious texts sanction Jihadi radicalism.

She says: "If you want to stand up to these people, you have to address the doctrine. You have to look at the Koran and say that there are parts of it you don't consider moral anymore."

My second point was to query the notion of "moderate Muslims". My authority for that belief is WZB, the Berlin Social Science Centre, a renowned institute set up by the Bundestag.

A 2013 poll taken by WZB showed that Islamic fundamentalism is widespread among European Muslims. The majority said religious rules were more important than civil laws. Three-quarters of respondents rejected religious pluralism within Islam.

My third point concerns the betrayal of Western values by bourgeois liberal and leftist intellectuals. Ayann Hirsi Ali thought the massacre in Paris might cause these ostriches to finally put away the "legion of useless tropes trying to deny the relationship between violence and radical Islam".

Fat chance. Tony Barber, columnist in the Financial Times, in a (subsequently amended) column wrote that "too often editorial foolishness has prevailed at Charlie Hebdo".

Jon Snow of Channel 4 struggled like an eel to avoid blaming radical Islam, asking Baroness Warsi: "Did we contribute in any way for this to happen?"

The liberal failure to face up to a barbaric belief system, which oppresses women, homosexuals and writers, also seems to have affected the Writers Guild of Ireland, which issued this statement: "Today 12 people, including journalists, artists, and police officers, at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were killed as they went about their business. The Writers Guild of Ireland is keeping their friends, family, and colleagues in our thoughts at this terrible time. Best wishes to those who are injured for a full recovery."

Anyone would think there had been a bad traffic accident in Paris. Does the Writers Guild not know that Turkey has jailed more journalists than any other country in the world?

Finally, a few words about Islam in Ireland. Most Irish Muslims seem to be integrating better than most of their European counterparts. But there are worms in that rosy apple.

Back in 2006, Prime Time did a major investigation into Islamist radicals in Ireland. It quoted from Irish intelligence reports, both police and military. Prominent Muslim figures also took part.

Prime Time's research gave good reason for concern - and remember, this was 10 years ago. Because the team turned up three worrying facts.

First, there was - and presumably still is - a Jihadi propaganda campaign in Ireland. Second, there was - and presumably, still is - a high level of sympathy for radical Jihad among Irish Muslims and a minority of between 17pc and 19pc said they supported terrorist actions.

The majority Muslim community spokesperson, Dr Ali Selim, recently called for separate Islamic religious education in State schools.

This is the thin edge of a wedge that would grow wider. Muslims have been slow to integrate in other European countries. So why import further obstacles to integration into Irish schools? Surely not in the name of the moribund doctrine of multi-culturalism?

Are we to believe Irish Muslims have become more moderate since that time?

Jim Cogan, who draws the cartoons for this page, knew two of the cartoonists, Wolinski and Tignous, who were murdered in Paris. They deserve better than politically correct sermons.

Time we stood firm for Western values, for democracy, for a free press. But the best way to honour the brave men who died in Paris for all we hold dear, is to stop the PC sermons and tell the truth.

Sunday Independent

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