Guardian

Reactionary Radicals: Owen Jones and the Rainbow Qur’an


Cross posted from the blog, Jacobinism

OJKoran

In a 2012 article for the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland had defended his friend Mehdi Hasan by convicting Hasan’s critics of a strange form of racism:

[Subtle examples] can be confusing, because they often dress up in progressive, Guardian-friendly garb – slamming Islam as oppressive of gay and women’s rights, for example – but the thick layer of bigotry is visible all the same. Call it progressives’ prejudice.

An example of the pitfalls into which this kind of thinking can lead the Left was recently provided by a fractious twitter exchange on the subject of gay rights and Islam involving Freedland’sGuardian colleague Owen Jones [storified here].

The US Supreme Court ruling legalising gay marriage had been handed down a few days earlier and the summer’s Pride festivities had just begun. Profile avatars superimposed with solidarity rainbows swept social media in celebration of both; a touching display of the breadth and depth of support the once-lonely campaign for marriage equality has come to enjoy.

A mischievous variation on this theme was an image of the Qur’an, tweeted by the ex-Muslim writer and activist Saif Rahman, which a twitter user calling himself ‘Colt’ then gave a speculative punt in the direction of Owen Jones:

When Rahman asked why this had not been dignified with a response, Jones answered: “Because I think this is self evidently trying to provoke [rather] than win people over to LGBT rights? Are you LGBT (genuine question)?”

Owen Jones is a notoriously thin-skinned and bad-tempered tweeter, so the petulant tone was hardly a surprise. But I would imagine Jones is also understandably anxious to avoid accusations of bigotry from people like Jonathan Freedland.

The difficulty here is that Islamic homophobia is not a mere calumny or figment of ‘progressive prejudice’. Muslims are not simply the hapless victims of Western prejudice, as Jones and Freedland apparently prefer to believe; they are individuals perfectly capable of holding bigoted views of their own, which it is surely every progressive’s responsibility to oppose.

A 2006 Populus poll conducted for Policy Exchange found that 61% of UK Muslims thought “homosexuality is wrong and should be illegal”, a figure consistent across genders and social class. This figure is admittedly nearly 10 years old, but the Populus also reported that younger generations were less tolerant on this issue than their elders, which does nothing to inspire optimism that things have been moving in the right direction.

Nevertheless, their survey did provide a reminder that UK Muslims’ views on homosexuality – whilst profoundly dispiriting – are not uniform. A majority appear to be deplorable and reactionary, but a minority – evidenced by projects like the Inclusive Mosque Initiative – are enlightened and progressive. The aim of gay rights activism, surely, is to stigmatise the former and empower the latter. And on this point, Colt’s tweet to Jones was specific.

If Rahman’s original image of the Qur’an was intended to mock the incompatibility of modernity and the Qur’an’s 7th Century ideas, Colt’s additional reference to LGBT Muslims and solidarity invites another interpretation: that LGBT Muslims living in communities and families hostile to the open expression of their sexuality deserve support in their struggle for acceptance under a modernised, gay-friendly Islam.

But, sensing a trap, Jones reflexively counterattacked with a spurious distinction between ‘provocation’ (bad) and advancing LGBT rights (noble), before accusing Colt and Rahman of the former.

To see a self-professed radical advance an argument of such painful conservatism makes me cringe for Jones. Had his activist forebears afforded reactionary attitudes the respect he demands from contemporary critics of Islam, he would not enjoy the freedoms he takes for granted today.

The overthrow of religious authority in the West – a necessary precondition of sexual liberty – was not achieved simply by the polite suggestion of a rationalist alternative. It also required the unrelenting mockery of its Enlightenment enemies who took great pleasure in making its ideas look ridiculous.

Nor was the later movement for gay liberation and acceptance bashful about provoking its opponents, for whom its mere existence was an affront. Provocation and offence were understood by activists to be engines of change, not its regrettable by-products.

In 1971, for instance, radical Gay Liberation Front activists in drag invaded a meeting of Mary Whitehouse’s Christian pressure group, the Nationwide Festival of Light, held at Westminster’s Methodist Central Hall, and began kissing one another and unfurling sloganeering banners before shutting off the power. The queer art, literature, music, theatre, and cinema that proliferated with the rise of gay activism likewise revelled in its capacity to generate traditionalist outrage.

Had he been alive, would Owen Jones have pursed his lips in disapproval and defended the sensibilities of offended conservative Christians?

But times have changed, and in the process radical opposition to reactionary inter-cultural ideas seems to have mutated into a perverse solidarity. Multiculturalism’s emphasis on the need to show deference to cultural and religious difference, and the concomitant empowerment of all kinds of identity politics, has meant that a declaration of offence taken is no longer presumed to be the start of a discussion but its final word.

“Are you LGBT?” Jones had demanded of Rahman in his first tweet. An irrelevance to the matter at hand, but a question of pressing importance to Jones who – as an openly gay man – reserves for himself the right to decide who may and may not advocate for gay acceptance and under what circumstances.

“If you want to be a straight ally, welcome,” Jones instructed Rahman. “But I’m done with people only mentioning LGBT rights when Islam is involved.” When an Indian ex-Muslim calling himself ‘Desi Liberal’ pointed out that it was Jones who was proving himself to be a feckless ally by downplaying Islamic homophobia so as to comport with politically correct niceties, Jones retorted: “I’m not going to be lectured on LGBT rights by a straight man. Incredible.”

It is undercover of this politics of identity and broad-minded respect for other cultures that, as a non-Muslim, Jones excuses himself from criticising even the most regressive elements of another minority group. In his own mind, it is not his business to do so.

So, instead, he declares his unconditional and indiscriminate solidarity with all Muslims, irrespective of how hostile a given individual’s views and values may be to his own. And, consequently, he finds himself objectively defending the Islamic religious right from the pressures of progress at the expense of those they victimise.

The message for LGBT Muslims may be the unintended consequence of a well-meaning impulse, but it is clear, just the same: gay liberation for me, but not for thee.

40 replies »

  1. No chance of The Guardian saying anything critical about homophobia in Gaza or Iran. Bigotry is fine as long as they support the bigots.

  2. @Adam Levick –

    Owen Jones clearly needs a lot of guidance from you on how to combat homophobia through provocation, mockery and ridicule. So how about showing him the Enlightenment way with a practical lesson of your own?

    According to the Pew Research Centre (see http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/06/04/the-global-divide-on-homosexuality/ ) 61% of Israeli Jews who describe themselves as traditional, religious or Ultra-Orthodox think homosexuality is “unacceptable”. And no doubt some of these antediluvian bigots cause awful grief to gay members of their own families and flocks as well as hapless secular LGBT Israelis whose paths they cross.

    A good, sharp poke in the ribs on an influential site like UK MediaWatch (illustrated maybe with a hilarious cartoon of a bearded Torah-brandishing weirdo) would surely teach those religious nutters the error of their ways – wouldn’t it?

    If, on the other hand, you fear that what I’m suggesting is “a trap” – a sly way of getting you to add stereotypical fuel to antisemitic/anti-Israel propaganda tropes rather than helping promote LGBT rights one whit – I will of course understand perfectly…

    • Perhaps you could explain why you failed to quote the full para. from the report you link to above, which is;

      “In Israel, where views of homosexuality are mixed, secular Jews are more than twice as likely as those who describe themselves as traditional, religious or ultra-Orthodox to say homosexuality should be accepted (61% vs. 26%); just 2% of Israeli Muslims share this view.”

      A mistake on your part or a deliberate attempt to mislead?

      • @gerald53 –

        “Perhaps you could explain why you failed to quote the full para. from the report you link to above … A mistake on your part or a deliberate attempt to mislead?”

        Neither. (You found that stat easily enough via my link!) This blog ALREADY addresses Muslim homophobia at length. I wanted to see whether the author had the courage of his convictions – or would duck the issue in exactly the same way he accuses Owen Jones of doing – when offered the bait of a JEWISH homophobia statistic to chew on.

        • (You found that stat easily enough via my link!)
          Indeed I did, but that was not the question.
          I asked you to explain why you failed to quote the full para., but instead picked out parts and even then misquoted them.

          “I wanted to see whether the author had the courage of his convictions..”
          Really?
          Sadly your attempt to test the courage of the author backfired and makes you look very silly and desperate to scrape the barrel to find something you can throw at Israel even if it means you selectively misquoting, or quoting out of context from a survey.

          I am not persuaded that yours was a genuine attempt to add anything or make any constructive point. It is for others to make their own minds up about your silly attempts to test the courage of the author’s convictions or your own veracity.

          • @gerald53 –

            “I am not persuaded that yours was a genuine attempt to add anything or make any constructive point.”‘

            Hmm… In other words, your response to my (overtly provocative) post is almost identical to Owen Jones’s response to Saif Rahman’s (“mischievously” provocative) tweet. Strange you see absolutely nothing “ungenuine” or “unconstructive” to criticise in THAT one, though…

    • Good Lord. Miranda thinks she has set a trap by detailing the more than 50% ratio of religious men sharing ignorant presumptions regarding homosexuality. I think the surprise is that 39% of these guys actually do accept or have no opinion regarding homosexuality. Go find what the other people in other religions on that level of religious practice and get their perspective. I have a black Baptist friend who is very nice and sweet and dear while also thinking that Aspartame in his diet cola can play with his chemicals and lead to a gay child.

      Maybe now is a good segue into mentioning that Israel is a secular state with a secular government whose rules and laws are geared to provide freedom to society as seen via the ultra-secular Israeli supreme court.

      Oh, Miranda, you’re so pathetic and desperate for attention. It must distress your family that you’re so unhinged.

      • @koufaxmitzvah –

        “Good Lord. Miranda thinks she has set a trap by detailing the more than 50% ratio of religious men sharing ignorant presumptions regarding homosexuality.”

        The actual figure for religious Israeli Jews was 61%, which – spookily enough – PRECISELY meshed with the figure cited re. UK Muslim homophobic beliefs by the blog’s author in applauding Saif Rahman’s trap for Owen Jones. (But that piece of selective statistical jiggery-pokery didn’t bother you in the slightest, did it…?)

        “Go find what the other people in other religions on that level of religious practice and get their perspective.”

        I’ll do better than that. Among the most homophobic nations on earth (according to the Pew poll I so kindly linked for you) is the distinctly secular Russia, where “just 16% …. say homosexuality should be accepted by society”.

        • “I’ll do better than that. Among the most homophobic nations on earth (according to the Pew poll I so kindly linked for you) is the distinctly secular Russia, where “just 16% …. say homosexuality should be accepted by society”.

          But ‘according to the Pew poll you so kindly linked for us, it reports that
          “Overwhelming majorities in the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed also say homosexuality should be rejected, including 97% in Jordan, 95% in Egypt, 94% in Tunisia, 93% in the Palestinian territories, 93% in Indonesia, 87% in Pakistan, 86% in Malaysia,….”

          Once again your selective quoting demonstrates your increasing desperation.

          Have you ever considered reading through a report before you post a link to it?
          It might help you if you do so in future at least you would not look as silly as you do at the moment.

        • See what you did there, Babbling Goose, is continue to insist that Israel is among the most homophobic nations on Earth when all of your freaking “evidence” is based on Judaism as a religion. And apparently it has to be repeated to you for the 1 millionth time (at least) that the Jewish religion has little to do with a Jewish government.

          BM Backwards. That’s you, Toots. 110% batshit twit incapable of criticizing her own rampant hate monger tendencies.

          What’s best about your anti-Semitism, BM Backwards, is that you broadcast it non-stop for us Yids while proclaiming that we’re all so sensitive.

            • I always say, if you’re cheap enough to lie about the Jewish people, or even about being a Jewish person, and especially intend to instill more violence upon others, then you kind of get what you deserve, which is a public mocking.

              Golly gee, JonnytheZionist. What other amazing facts may we discuss now?

                    • Oh….. It’s a transliteration.

                      Is that something like a transsexual? Because you know that nation of Israel is real stringent with guaranteeing the civil rights of all her citizens, including the transsexuals.

                      I bring this up because the thread was about gays. And then you decided — as only a good Jew would — to defend a blithering, and blathering, dipshit of a moron who insists that Jews — you know, like Jonny Zionist! — really actually hate gays. And she has numbers, see, that proves it (!!!!!). And so I’m wondering just why it is, Jonny Jew, that you’re here again?

                      Oh I remember…. I have tendency of making insults to people who insult Jews. And so that’s the tikkun olam you hope to practice on this thread, telling the meanies to stop picking on the blithering and blathering Jew despising morons who can’t seem to tell the difference between Orthodox Jewry and the secular State of Israel.

                      But you really know what’s happening, Jon Jonny the Jewy Joo-Joo. Point taken!

                    • Dear Jonny,
                      First of all, May you get a life.
                      Second, May that space between your ears currently full of shit, one day be occupied by a brain.

                      Now be a good boy and STFU!
                      You are beginning to annoy the adults.

          • @koufaxmitzvah –

            “See what you did there, Babbling Goose, is continue to insist that Israel is among the most homophobic nations on Earth…”

            I did nothing of the kind! The Russian figure I offered puts Israel (even its religious sector taken in isolation) in a comparatively GOOD light. I quoted it simply to illustrate that homophobic attitudes don’t necessarily stem from one particular doctrine as Fritz was trying – with his Islamophobic flag hysterically waving – to convey. The seed-bed of such bigotry isn’t even necessarily religious, but (seemingly, in Russia’s case at least) one that can flourish very successfully in secular society too.

            PS: If I am a “babbling goose”, heaven knows what kind of bizarre creature your incoherent screeches in response make you.

            • Are you a member of JfJfP? I ask only because you exhibit very similar characteristics to a chump I tried to debate with (I won) – passive-aggression (that is if you are Jewish and the person I “debated” with was) and an unhealthy sort of pleasure in undermining your own people by lying. Does it give you some sort of rush?

            • You did nothing of the kind! You just continue to insist that these “numbers” of orthodox Jewish men is analogous with the entire state of Israel. And you can’t stop yourself, Miranda. Why would you?

              Hey, Toots, this is called Criticism, is it not? You like to redefine certain terminology to make your narratives work, don’t you? You like to take anywhere between 70 and 200 years of history and parse it down so we can all understand that if it wasn’t for Israel and the Jews who live in there that this wonderful, beautiful planet full of awe inspiring, gorgeous human creatures wouldn’t be at war all the time. Of course it’s one sided! Of course the Jews are terrible! Of course you yell and scream and carry on about Israel but how dare anybody treat you or the other BDS morons in the same fashion. Because you are bigger than Israel (duh). You and JonnyZionist are just so real.

              If only the entire world would turn their backs on Israel. If only the history books wouldn’t be so Zionist driven!

              That must be it. Because BM Backwards can’t possibly be a tool. And the BDS movement couldn’t possibly be a bunch of misguided, hate driven and hypocritical baboons.

              Not you guys, BM Backwards. Never.

              • @koufaxmitzvah –

                “You just continue to insist that these “numbers” of orthodox Jewish men is analogous with the entire state of Israel”

                Please quote any post of mine (or line from it) where I did that.

                “You like to take anywhere between 70 and 200 years of history and parse it down so we can all understand that if it wasn’t for Israel and the Jews who live in there that this wonderful, beautiful planet full of awe inspiring, gorgeous human creatures wouldn’t be at war all the time.”

                Please quote any post of mine (or line from it) where I did that.

                Same question goes for all the other things you’ve accused me of saying – or “thinking” or “believing” – without producing a single shred of evidence that i actually DID.

                (PS: What does “BM Backwards” mean? I assume it’s an insult of some kind, but without knowing where it falls on the spectrum of UK MediaWatch ad homs, I’m not at all sure how offended to feel.)

                • Let me see if I got this straight. BM Backwards is upset because of so-called false allegations made about her unhinged commentary regarding all-things Israel. Including this thread which is in response to Israel’s open views of homosexuality that can’t possibly be true (according to BM Backwwards) because, see, she says that the Russians say that the Orthodox Jews really don’t like homosexuals. Ergo, with Israel being a Jewish state and all, then the Jews are once again…. doing what? See I didn’t get to why this is important. I felt it was more important to explain to the dear batshit BM that Israel is, indeed, a secular country. And that apparently was the wrong answer.

                  And now you want proof? Uh……..

                  So let’s go over this. When the subject matter is Israel, any type of unhinged batshittiness will do. But when the subject are the unhinged and batshit, well, we need proof of all the unhinged batshittiness.

                  No, BM Backwards. Sorry.

                  I suggest you play with people who are like you rather than insist that those you hate (and who hate you back) somehow “come to their senses” and (I don’t know what you’re expecting) I guess kill themselves. That is your end game for Israel, is it not? For all the Jews to leave the Middle East or else face a barrage of missile strikes and homemade bombs blowing up pizzerias and dance clubs?

                  See, I think you think more like Hamas (and the Klan, the Nazis, the Iranian Government). Maybe you can join their sites and beat up some gays together. I’m not sure what the gay bashing numbers are in Israel, but I bet it’s low compared to the US, Mexico, and Canada (or even England, France, and Germany). So this will be like a win-win. You get to pal with people who think you’re swell (and not swine). You get to bash other people while demanding that you are, indeed, the true victim of the moment. Mostly, though, you’ll get to not be in Israel because gay bashing doesn’t seem to be accepted by that society (starting with the government). So…….

                  I’m sorry. Tl/DR as the kids say. You said something of no to little interest?

                  • @koufaxmitzvah –

                    That was an EXTREMELY long way of saying, “I can’t find one single, solitary line from a post by Miranda to support my accusations”. But – congratulations, MFK Backwards! – you did manage to sneak a particularly bonkers NEW one in…

                    I wrote, quoting a Pew Research Centre poll: ‘Among the most homophobic nations on earth … is the distinctly secular Russia, where “just 16% …. say homosexuality should be accepted by society”.’

                    Your version: “… she says that the Russians say that the Orthodox Jews really don’t like homosexuals.”

                    Hilarious.

                    • No. That’s actually me saying, Gee, for someone who likes to castigate Israel with a bunch of nonsense, you sure do demand a buttload of proof in order for a (gasp) Zionist to explain how batshit you happen to be.

                      In other words, you think you’re bigger than Israel. Which is laughable.

                      If BM Backwards hates Israel so much, and can’t handle the criticism of her batshit approach by Zionists, then what the fuck is she doing by posting obnoxious, race driven blabber to and about the Zionists she despises?

                      This is a constant the anti-Israel crusader. They are insane, and it’s other people making them that way. You see it in Greta Berlin. You see it in Roger Waters. You see it Assghar the Shoe Boy. And we see it very clearly in you, BM Backwards.

                    • “I’m Miranda Basner. If you have an opinion about me, you better back it up with facts, Mister Gay Hating, Arab Murdering, Apartheid Practicing, Money Stealing, Government Controlling fucks!”

  3. Yes, but surely the issue is how the state of Israel treats people of differing sexual orientation. I would defend a person’s right to hold an abhorrent view but not his right to use that view to harm or discriminate against others. Similarly for a state.
    So, how does Israel, as a state, compare with its neighbours and countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia and Iran in this matter?

    • @Miranda, fyi, I didn’t write the post. Perhaps the blogger will respond to your question.

            • Exactly Miranda. The textbook example of classical antisemitism penned by a volunteer kapo. If a Jew doesn’t give to a beggar then he is a greedy niggard, if he does then he just wants to hide his avariciousness. Thank you for your contribution.

            • Yes, of course not all people in Israel do everything with pure motives. And yes, in the democratic Israeli state there are sometimes human rights abuses.

              However, the rights of Israeli Jewish and non Jewish citizens, be they politically opposed to the state,Palestinian, Moslem, Christian or Gay are upheld infinitely more strongly and abused far less than those of the citizens of the the Palestinian Authority or of Gaza or of any other middle eastern country. Do I really need to ask you to look at Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria or Iraq?

              And of course here is the problem. How can the Israeli state, its citizens and indeed progressive thinkers throughout the world expect Israel to allow itself to be at risk of being governed by a political entity controlled by Hamas, ISIS or the PLA? Because that is what progressive left wing critics of Israel demand, expect and would welcome.

              Israel would become yet another middle eastern graveyard of human rights run by a medieval barbarian dictatorship. Enslaving women, murdering those who dissent and heaven help Israeli Jews.

              I am just amazed that progressive people like Owen Jones (who is not an antisemite) cannot appreciate this.

            • The classical antisemitic answer, they do it on purpose, not sincerely.
              But you Antisemite can`t answer the demand I put forward, `cause your beloved Islamist countries are all homophob, you piece of shit.

            • May I ask, Miranda, what you are doing to highlight the cruel, inhumane treatment of gays in Islamist countries? You lose credibility if you focus only on alleged Jewish shortcomings.

              You’ve already been caught out being economical with the actualite here, so can you link us to any verifiable and triangulated comments of yours below the line, anywhere, about your justifiable outrage that “enemies” of the Islamic State are being accused of homosexuality and hurled off buildings in Syria and are taken for unscheduled rides at the end of a rope behind motorbikes by Hamas?

  4. I’m now in pre-mod on CIF. It was for comments on an Owen Jones article recently. I’m not even sure what was offensive, but i merely suggested that Owen was being naive in thinking that we can simply ‘debate’ radicals (and that he is wrong in suggesting that Muslim terror is the result of the west’s actions alone. I backed my argument up with facts, got a lot of ‘likes’ and then…’boom’ (pun not intended)…in pre-mod.

    Seems I upset the precious little Oxbridge ‘working class wannabe’ (yeah right…nice try with that northern ‘accent’, but it ain’t fooling anyone) with some home truths (and a shed load of ‘likes’).

    I used to enjoy the Guardian. It used to be a liberal paper that stood up for the poor, for workers rights and very pro-free speech. In the early days of CIF, it was almost impossible to get banned.

    Now, while in pre-mod I have noticed that the majority of posts that fail publication, seem to be if you have a go at the Guardian for being anti-semitc (which they clearly are). Or that I’m fed up of seeing ‘Free Palestine’ bracelets for sale at my English uni and don’t agree with seeing scarves whose designs are based on terrorist organisations.

    Anti-semitism is on the rise and the Guardian makes it worse as they are no longer a liberal publication. They hold a right wing fascist Progressive ideology and many are waking up to this.