Poor Mehdi. He’s had a tough few weeks.
It’s no secret that I have little time for Mehdi Hasan’s rose-tinted views of Islam and his unhealthy fixation with what he calls “Islamophobia”.
I’ve written two posts about him. In the first I argued he has little right to be considered a moderate and in the second I illustrated the obsessive way he likes to smear people through their perceived but very tenuous associations with each other, as a diversionary tactic when under pressure himself.
Despite our differences on the beauty or otherwise of Islam, though, I do try and listen objectively to Hasan’s commentary on general current affairs. I don’t consider myself particularly on the left or the right though on balance I’m probably ever so slightly more on the right. Despite that I do make a conscious effort to battle my own instincts and so I don’t dismiss Hasan’s general leftiness out of hand.
Hasan is considered one of the country’s foremost commentators on the left. The thing is, in some ways he’s not really a lefty at all. On BBC’s Question Time a couple of weeks ago he launched a major broadside against the Daily Mail and its socially conservative views, to rapturous applause. He left viewers in no doubt at all that he despised the newspaper and everything it stood for. But shortly after the programme it emerged he had written a rather grovelling letter to the newspaper’s editor Paul Dacre only a few years previously, asking for a job and displaying his own views which were rather, well, socially conservative. Look:
As a chin-stroking QC might remark: “Hmm, interesting case this Hasan”. From what I can see he seems to have at least four different faces: moderate; not moderate; lefty; socially conservative.
Will the real Mehdi Hasan please stand up? Does Mehdi Hasan even know who Mehdi Hasan is anymore? Actually, does Mehdi Hasan even exist? Maybe he only exists in our imaginations? Perhaps we all have a Mehdi Hasan-shaped hole in our brain that only Mehdi Hasan can fill? Will there be a book one day called The Hasan Delusion?
Hasan has now generously given us his views in the New Statesman on Tommy Robinson’s decision to leave the English Defence League and collaborate with Maajid Nawaz, the founder of the counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation (I discussed their collaboration in my previous post here; I generally think it’s a very positive step forward).
Mehdi isn’t a happy bunny. The sands are shifting dramatically and he is absolutely livid. He has lost his big bad wolf Robinson – his bogeyman – and he is devastated that Robinson’s views are now being given a mainstream airing as they thoroughly deserve to be.
To add insult to injury Hasan is (or at least was) fairly matey with Maajid Nawaz. He no doubt feels let down by the brave, visionary Nawaz for siding with the UK’s Kaffir-and-Islamophobe-in-Chief. You see, Hasan likes to speak “as a Muslim” and so it’s in his interest for as many Muslims to agree with him as possible – especially Muslims with a rising public profile and box office appeal like Nawaz. Otherwise it starts to sounds as though Mehdi Hasan is only speaking for, er, Mehdi Hasan rather than for other Muslims. By contrast Nawaz likes to emphasise he is a citizen who happens to be a Muslim. He doesn’t preface everything he says with a reminder of his religious status (“as a Muslim I find the weather unseasonably mild today”; “as a Muslim I find this smoky pepper houmous pairs well with my lamb doner”, etc).
Hasan is now on the ropes with his I love Mecca boxing pants around his ankles. Three heavy punches have rained down on him: whether he is a “moderate” is anyone’s guess; his supposed leftiness is a sham; and now his arch-nemesis is being publicly rehabilitated at breakneck speed – and his views flooding into a very receptive public domain – with the help of what Hasan considered to be his fwend.
On the ropes and in a tight corner Hasan has no choice but to lash out with the same old punches but they just aren’t connecting. His piece in the New Statesman about Robinson reads like one of the Daily Mail’s paranoid and barking mad Christianity under attack pieces.
Have a look at this:
“It was the most stunning volte-face since Libya’s foreign minister Mousa Kousa defected to the west in 2011. Or perhaps since Sol Campbell left Spurs for Arsenal on a free transfer in 2001. On 8 October, Tommy Robinson (aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Andrew Mc- Master, aka Paul Harris), the co-founder and leader of the English Defence League (EDL), quit the far-right group and joined hands with the Quilliam Foundation, a “counterextremism” think tank.”
Hasan has two objectives here.
Firstly, he is desperately trying to put Robinson’s rehabilitation into reverse by reminding readers he has used different names – which he did for his own security because we all know how excitable some Muslims can get – and therefore to cast doubt on his integrity. After all, using false names is a crime against humanity. I believe the International Criminal Court in the Hague will shortly be hearing the landmark case of The People v. Prince, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Captain Sensible et al.
Secondly, he’s still trying to report as fact that the EDL is a far-right group, which is exactly what he and the vast majority of commentators have done so shamefully for the past four and a half years, rather than even let readers countenance the idea that there might be some or even many decent individuals associated with the EDL as well as some undoubtedly nasty ones. It was precisely this kind of supposed factual reporting that so hampered the EDL, that made it impossible for Robinson to be heard until very recently, and that actually encouraged far right elements to be drawn to it.
And how about this:
“Can a fascist renounce fascism?”
See what he did there? Hasan’s subtle assumption here is that Robinson was in fact a fascist who must now prove he has renounced fascism. Robinson need do no such thing. He wasn’t a racist or a fascist before and he still isn’t now. He doesn’t need to change. He therefore doesn’t need to prove he has changed.
Towards the end Hasan throws in some succulent morsels:
“No faith or community should be protected from criticism and even ridicule”.
Of course not. It’s just that if you exercise your sacred right to free speech to analyse Islam or Muslims then you must accept you are a racist, a fascist and an Islamophobe. It’s your choice. Guess what most people decide to do? That’s right, keep their mouth shut.
“In the past year, I have challenged anti-Semitism and homophobia inside Muslim communities in Britain on these very pages.”
Mehdi, Mehdi, ra-ra-ra.
This is classic Hasan. He is allowed to speak out against anti-Semitism and homophobia inside Muslim communities – and he expects to be thanked for it – but if anyone else does they are an Islamophobe (see Douglas Murray’s excellent Spectator piece here). What’s outrageous is that Hasan is trying to claim credit for his supposed defence of human rights when in fact he has personally made things worse. His annoying and thoroughly unhealthy obsession with shutting down anything other than glowing discussion of Muslims and Islam perpetuates the harm Islam causes, including the homophobia and anti-Semitism which he rightly acknowledges as challenges within his community.
This is someone who expects to be admired for making things worse. This is a sad excuse for a man.
Mehdi, the game is up. You are a fraud and a hypocrite. People are turning up the volume when Robinson speaks and turning it to mute when you speak. You want to live in the past and so it is in the past you shall live. Your determination to unearth racism and “Islamophobia” under every rock and where it simply does not exist – or certainly not in the volume or seriousness you want everyone to believe it exists – has contributed immeasurably to the poor perception of Islam and Muslims in this country, and to the harm caused by Islam through ever-greater self-censorship. You have done decent Muslims a grave disservice. Simply be grateful that you have got away with your duplicitous taqiyya for so long and please now quietly retreat into obscurity. Go, Mehdi, just go.