Yet more ducking and diving from Mehdi Hasan

This is a guest post from LibertyPhile

I like The Huffington Post. Its photos are brilliant and it is always worth a look. The same cannot be said of its articles, and it produces a stream of very mixed material. It has now hit the bottom of the barrel allowing its new Political Director UK, Mehdi Hasan, the space to complain yet again about the stick he gets for his infamous speeches.

He has been stung into this by a recent exchange with Peter Hitchens of the Daily Mail. Hitchens took exception to Hasan while on a BBC programme “misquoting” what he, Hitchens, had said about the Olympics opening ceremony. In an article headlined  “Am I an ‘animal’, a ‘cow’ – or just another victim of BBC bias?” Hitchens writes:

“Mr Mehdi Hasan, biographer of Labour leader Ed Miliband, can be found on YouTube saying as follows: ‘The kuffar, the disbelievers, the atheists who remain deaf and stubborn to the teachings of Islam, the rational message of the Koran; they are described in the Koran as “a people of no intelligence”, Allah describes them as not of no morality, not as people of no belief – people of “no intelligence” – because they’re incapable of the intellectual effort  it requires to shake off those blind prejudices, to shake off those easy assumptions about this world, about the existence of God. In this respect, the Koran describes the atheists as “cattle”, as cattle of those who grow the crops and do not stop and wonder about this world.’

On a separate occasion, jabbing his finger as he speaks with some force, Mr Hasan is recorded as saying: ‘Once we lose the moral high-ground we are no different from the rest of the non-Muslims; from the rest of those human beings who live their lives as animals, bending any rule to fulfil any desire.’

Note that Hitchens is referring to two speeches.

Accusing Hitchens of a “hatchet Job” Hasan responds

“Did I, invoking a verse from the Quran, refer to unthinking, incurious non-Muslims as “cattle”? Yes but – and here’s where context matters! – if you listen to the full speech (1),  you’ll hear me refer to unthinking, incurious Muslims as “cattle” too.

Then there’s the quote in which I seem to refer to non-Muslims as “animals, bending any rule to fulfil any desire”. Again, I was quoting from the Quran and, in fact, if you listen to the full speech, it is very clear that I was referring to those human beings, both Muslims and non-Muslims, who live their lives without a clear moral code, without an ability to distinguish between right and wrong.

In hindsight, I accept in this particular case that my phraseology was ill-judged, ill-advised and, even, inappropriate, but it is a bit of a stretch to claim I was attacking non-Muslims when the entire 45-minute speech (2) is primarily an attack on Muslim extremists.

The link Hasan gives at (1) is not to the speech itself. It is to a post by Sunny Hundal on Liberal Conspiracy, written in support of Hasan, in which he quotes from the speech.

In response to his use of the Quranic statement that unbelievers have no intelligence, they are like cattle, Hasan defends himself by saying that he also considers some Muslims to be like cattle.

It’s not just kuffars who are defined thus. We shouldn’t feel so bad about it is the implication. He is excused. After a nano-seconds reflection you see this for the dissembling nonsense that it is. The Qur’an has all kuffars down as cattle and Hasan has no qualms about using that statement in his public speeches.

Hasan goes on to say “In hindsight, I accept in this particular case that my phraseology was ill-judged, ill-advised and, even, inappropriate”.

If that is what he feels about his speeches it would be helpful if he said now what he wishes he had said then. Might he not have said to his Muslim audiences: “ … the Quran was produced at a particular time and place and we now have to interpret it in light of modern times. Most kuffars like most Muslims are intelligent caring people most unlike cattle”?

Hasan also complains “…. I was especially shocked when he [Hitchens] admitted to me, over the phone on Friday, that he hadn’t bothered to listen to the two speeches in full in order to discover the proper context of those remarks. “Where would I find them?” he asked, apparently having never come across www.google.com.”

Hasan harps on about the “full” speeches but he himself doesn’t give any links. Fortunately I have a downloaded complete audio copy of the first speech which I have listened to in full, all 64 minutes (and I can understand Hitchens’ failure to study these speeches if he had any inkling of what they might be like).

Googling for the second speech produced only the HP YouTube excerpt which Hasan finds so misleading.

The greater part of the first speech is an exhortation for Muslims to seek knowledge especially from non-Muslims. Hasan quotes instances of how Islam and Islamic teaching in the past have been a strong force for education and literacy. He explains how the Qur’an is full of encouragement for individuals to expand their knowledge even from non-Muslims, even from as far away as China.

The speaker’s voice is continuously raised, shouting at times, you can picture him banging the podium and gesticulating. The audience participates responding in unison with religious incantations to the speakers cues, like the name of the Prophet, which come often.

He condemns the backwardness of the present Muslim world in science and research giving figures for how little Muslim countries spend on R&D compared with other countries. Muslim countries spend far too much money on bombs he says.

About two thirds of the way through the speech, the style and rhetoric undergo a dramatic transformation. The style, tone and content become that of an over-the-top religious fanatic. It is foaming at the mouth time.

The turning point is the speaker’s reference to the Imam Ali and how he is a gateway to knowledge. He goes on to talk, scream is a better word, at length about the trials and tribulations of Muslims. This goes on for the rest of the speech, nearly 20 minutes.

No doubt other religions have emotional meetings but in listening to Hasan he gives the impression he might just believe non-Muslims are “like cattle”. It is in his holy book!

It is all very well to bang on about the need for knowledge, even from as far away as China. Who can disagree with such a generalisation? Hasan boasts about his support for pluralism, his stand against violent Muslim extremism, and his political writings in the New Statesman, but it would be far more interesting to hear what he has to say about other Quranic injunctions such as those concerning inheritance, polygamy, divorce, and child custody. What would he say to a Muslim audience and would he be so fierce?

Sarah adds: In the recent HuffPo piece linked to by LibertyPhile, Mehdi Hasan repeats his half-hearted and tardy expressions of regret for his earlier words.  Even though they were rather weak and grudging, if he’d just left it at that, I’d certainly think a line should be drawn under the matter. But he continues to assert that the criticism was unfounded – that his words were being taken unfairly out of context.  Maybe this is what he really thinks – but it’s certainly not what I think.

But it is fair enough to observe – as he does in the HuffPo – that he has also spoken out on issues relating to human rights within Islam.  And as well as being subjected to crude insults, some apparently more reasonable criticisms of Hasan may perhaps reflect anti-Muslim bigotry too.  For example yesterday I noted someone on Twitter trying to see if bloggers, including @hurryupharry, were interested in this Hasan tweet. ‘I don’t sing the national anthem. I think God has better things to do than ‘saving’ Elizabeth Windsor.’  I don’t see any great significance in a leftie Brit being snarky about the royal family.  I think – perhaps I am wrong – that Hasan’s tweet would not have attracted this interest if he had not been a Muslim.

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