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In the wake of the incident of the “Allahu akbar”-shouting Olympic torch-snatcher in London, the headline on a July 8 article in the Guardian by a British Muslim journalist named Mehdi Hasan may seem, shall we say, a mite ironic: “We mustn’t allow Muslims in public life to be silenced.” The piece was a bid for pity. “Have you ever been called an Islamist?” it began. “How about a jihadist or a terrorist? Extremist, maybe? Welcome to my world….Every morning, I take a deep breath and then go online to discover what new insult or smear has been thrown in my direction….the abuse is as relentless as it is vicious.” Hasan’s claim is that this “abuse” – mostly by readers commenting online on his articles – is evidence of “Islamophobia” and is part and parcel of a widespread, insidious attempt to suppress the voices of Muslims in the public square.
Hasan says that he has been targeted throughout his career in journalism by this repulsive effort to silence Muslim voices. “On joining the New Statesman in 2009 [as political editor], I was promptly subjected to an online smear campaign….Three years later, as I leave the New Statesman to join the Huffington Post UK [as political director], little seems to have changed.” If anything emerges clearly from Hasan’s plaint, it’s that if anyone’s trying to silence him, it sure ain’t working. Au contraire – this guy’s journalistic career is thriving. Though he’s leaving the New Statesman as editor, he’ll remain in its pages as a weekly columnist. He’s been a welcome regular contributor to the Guardian for some time now. He appears frequently on the popular political talk shows Newsnight and Question Time. And he’s just been given his own series on – where else? – Al Jazeera. In short, despite the supposed campaign to “silence” him and other Muslims, Hasan has held top positions at some of the top media organizations in Britain – few (probably none) of which would ever dream of hiring anyone remotely critical of his religion.
One reason for all the vitriol directed at him, Hasan insists, is that “Islamophobes” have misrepresented his views and twisted his words. But the evidence is out there, and the facts are plain – and damning. In a 2009 talk to a group of his fellow Muslims, Hasan disparaged non-Muslims as “animals, bending any rule to fulfill any desire.” In another 2009 talk to a similar audience, he called atheists “cattle” and “people of no intelligence.” Last November, in an essay for the Guardian, he turned the truth about Iran’s nuclear ambitions on its head, defending that country’s desire for an H-bomb by depicting Israel as an aggressor out to destroy Iran and representing Iranians as consequently, and understandably, “fearful, nervous, defensive.” As for Hasan’s contributions to The New Statesman, Douglas Murray summed them up in 2009 with the wry observation that “Hasan appears to be doing everything he can to chase any non-Muslim readers away from [The New Statesman]….[he] has a dim view of the worth of us non-Muslims.”
None of these facts, however, kept Hasan’s fellow Guardianistas from taking his side against the evil Islamophobes. In a July 10 piece, Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland offered as proof of the validity of Hasan’s lament the “vile” reader comments on the lament itself. Among the comments Freedland considered “vile” were those “branding Islam backward or denouncing its beliefs and practices as ‘odious,’ and culminating in an ultimatum by which Islam’s, and therefore Muslims’, place in Britain was deemed conditional on adaptation to suit the critics’ tastes: ‘If Islam is to be truly accepted as part of British society it must embrace science. It must embrace rationality, sexuality and reason.’” Freedland lambasted all this as “racism.” In Freedland’s eyes, indeed, even the critics of Islam who, as he put it, “dress up in progressive, Guardian-friendly garb – slamming Islam as oppressive of gay and women’s rights, for example,” are, deep down, nothing but racists: “the thick layer of bigotry is visible all the same.”
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