The Spectator prints my letter, with more twaddle from Roddle

The Spectator (with my letter!)

The Spectator (a right-of-centre British political magazine, formerly edited by Boris Johnson) has printed a letter from me in the current edition, written in reply to Rod Liddle who alleged that there is nothing in the Qur’an telling women to wear hijab (so as to legitimise denying women the right to wear it). This is quite a surprise, because not only have they never published a letter from me before, but on one occasion I got a letter telling me that my “poem” had been rejected. Perhaps I should have resubmitted that particular letter in iambic pentameter, but it’s too late now.

Meanwhile, Rod Liddle himself has his usual weekly diatribe, and this time (in five pages [1] [2] [3] [4] [5], which is how the Spectator often renders rather short articles like this - is this just a stupid web application or is it just to push more adverts?) he’s defending Harry Cummins, the nutcase who wrote four articles for the Sunday Telegraph in July 2004 under the pseudonym “Will Cummins”. I wrote in reply to his rantings here.

Liddle tells us that Cummins has been bombarding a lot of people in the media with an email demanding, among other things, a right of reply from the Guardian, which was prominent in raising concern about his articles which led to him getting the sack from the British Council. Liddle reckons that the Guardian’s “fairness” and “democratic” nature militate against Cummins getting a fair hearing from them, that the gist of his complaints about Islam were correct, that his views are now commonplace and even official, that he wasn’t racist despite being called one by a load of imbeciles although he “has a tendency to overstate the case on occasion”.

All four articles are still available on the Telegraph’s website ([1], [2], [3], [4]), and Liddle hasn’t quoted as much as a word from any of them. Cummins’ entire contribution to human literature at that point seems to have consisted of those four articles, virulent outpourings of hostility to Islam and Muslims. The fact that such material could be printed in a “respectable” Sunday newspaper is shocking, as did the fact that it went on for four weeks and did not lead to the sacking of the paper’s editor, Dominic Lawson (he did later resign, and is now a columnist at the Independent). They contain an awful lot of plainly false assertions, among them that Christians are the rightful inhabitants of almost every Muslim land; in fact, the Muslims in those lands today are largely descended from the Christians who lived there before. In this article, he alleges that the policies being advanced by Michael Howard’s Conservatives did “not even appeal to the local Janjaweed”, an obvious reference to Muslims in general as nothing like the actual Janjaweed (Arab Muslims who rape and murder black African Muslims in Darfur) exists anywhere in the UK; it is a bit like referring to Americans (or white people) generally as KKK or to Germans generally as Nazis. And in this article, he compares Muslim immigrants to Jewish settlers and the poor oppressed whitefolks to Palestinians; he also compares Muslims to dogs.

Some would say that this is Cummins’s right to express these views as we live in a free country; the fact is, though, that Cummins got space in a major newspaper to express his extreme views, has not been prosecuted for his writings, and the editor who published them neither lost his liberty nor his job. Cummins did lose his job, and perhaps he has spent the last four years contesting his dismissal by the usual channels. What job he had, and why the British Council deemed him unfit for it, remains unknown, to me at least. Perhaps the British Council, which has a major presence in the Muslim world, wanted to protect its reputation (and this was well before the Danish cartoons affair and the resulting embassy burnings). However, Cummins is no martyr or victim; his words would not have been printed if certain other minorities had been maligned in the way Muslims were, and the resulting outcry (which included replies in the Telegraph itself as well as the Guardian) demonstrates that there was resistance in the British media to a major newspaper being used to peddle such poison.

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