Freedom & Liberty,  Freedom of Expression

Tom Holland: caught out and stumped

This is a guest post by KB Player

Tom Holland’s documentary, Islam: the Untold Story caused controversy and Channel 4 cancelled a repeat screening because of “threats”.

As the Council for Ex-Muslims said:-

The threats and concerted attempt to stigmatise the documentary and its producers by attacking its credibility and even legitimacy as a field of inquiry is nothing less than an attempt to impose a blasphemy taboo by stealth and coercion against programming that scrutinises Islam.

About the documentary, John Crace in the Guardian, the last publication to speak evil of Islam, commented on Tom Holland’s deference to the religion:-

“Can a non-Muslim hope to understand the origins of the Muslim world?” asked historian Tom Holland. “No,” was the emphatic one-word response of Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University.

None should be forthcoming, as towards the end of the programme Holland returned to Dr Nasr for reassurance that he hadn’t caused any lasting offence. Which he more or less got, as Nasr told him that what he had discovered was “quite interesting, so long as you don’t try to impose your view on the Muslim world”, as that would be tantamount to “western imperialism”. Holland crept out of Nasr’s office more or less insisting that the last thing he wanted was for any Muslim to take him seriously, so no harm was done. The gap between western liberalism and Islamic liberalism suddenly looked frighteningly large.

For decades – centuries even – scholars have felt free to contest the accuracy of other religious texts. Not least the Bible; what’s true, what’s parable and what’s just wishful thinking has all been up for grabs without any serious damage being done to Christian beliefs. Not so with Islam, around which non-Islamic scholars tread with extreme caution. I’m all for cultural and religious sensitivity, but the degree to which Holland tiptoed around the subject and apologised for his findings went way beyond what was required. Or would have been on offer for any other religion. It was almost as if he was looking over his shoulder, half expecting a fatwa at any minute.

I don’t know if a fatwa has been delivered on Tom Holland’s, but he has now evidently been stamped “Handle with Care. Contents controversial”.  Not controversial in an edgy, “may  increase the click bait/ratings” way of Russell Brand, but “may cause offence somewhere or other and we’d better be careful”.

According to the excellent site Heresy Corner, Tom Holland was to appear on TalkSPORT and speak about cricket, one of his passions.  That sounds as harmless as you can get.  But no, at the last minute he was cancelled. without being told why. (Read the whole piece.)”

“I think they Googled me and got into a state, worrying I might be a security risk,” he speculates.   “It’s utterly weird.  Beyond weird.  Comic.  I think they think they’re being PC, when actually they’re being the precise opposite.”

Quite. If the station was acting pre-emptively to head off presumed Muslim anger, they must have a very low opinion of Muslims.  Nor does this kind of hypersensitivity do anything to further social harmony or good community relations.  It is in fact a form of Islamophobia: irrational fear of Islam in its most basic and literal sense.

As far as I can tell, there were no threats, or even complaints, in the run-up to Tom Holland’s planned cricket-themed appearance on TalkSPORT.  But perhaps they feared a boycott, or imagined that Anjem Choudhary and his mates would picket their studios.  (“Behead Infidels who talk about Cricket!”)  Or was the threat something more oblique — maybe they envisaged EDL supporters phoning in to congratulate Holland, not on his celebrated Six, but on his “brave” stand against Islam.”

So there we are.  My indifference to cricket overwhelms me and I wouldn’t even be able to find the frequency for TalkSPORT but now I’ve heard of this incident and I’m furious. It’s evidently some knucklehead in the station making a kind of ridiculous Health and Safety decision, of the sort which bans using cheese wheels at the Double Gloucester cheese rolling festival – only with more serious consequences for community relations.  Tom Holland’s book The Shadow of the Sword was a good and sober read  It seems he’s an accomplished cricketer and Heresy Corner says he’s one of the nicest blokes on Twitter.  This kind of misplaced  sensitivity just pisses everyone off, including Muslims who don’t want to constantly appear like grenades minus pins.  The only people who will be happy are the EDL, who can roll their eyes, with “see what we mean?” expressions and jihadists, who will no doubt regard this as another tiny victory in their war for undiluted “respect”.

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