would have been if he had been killed for drawing pictures of Mohammed. The obligatory “but” after the statement “freedom of speech is important” would have been even more pronounced for Dawkins. So let’s not create a hierarchy. Let’s remember that this particular discussion is about blasphemy, not racism.
And really, what makes you think that Islamists are bothered about racism? Do they seek to create equal, multicultural societies where everyone is equal before the law? No. They don’t care about racism. They care about protecting their blasphemy codes – and they can do that by changing the subject to racism after their fellow Muslims have just gunned down people for committing blasphemy.
I was also disappointed with all the discussions about a “backlash”. Let me emphasise, before I get misquoted: any racism at all is bad, and any backlash, even one small incident, is too many. But let’s try and remember what happened after the unimaginable horrors of 9/11, 7/7, Madrid, Sydney, Paris. Was there this huge “backlash” against Muslims that we’re always being told about? Even the respected author Kenan Malik has previously said: “In reality, discrimination against Muslims is not as great as is often perceived.”
I heard the 7/7 bus explode in Russell Square from my office. I remember the windows shaking. What was my “backlash”? I went to work the next day. I am involved now in challenging sharia. That’s my “backlash”. A friend of mine lost her brother. What was her “backlash”? She goes to a memorial every year. My family are Armenian. Some of them were wiped out by the Ottoman Turks. The lucky Armenians were given the choice of converting to Islam. What was the “backlash” of the survivors of the massacre? They went all over the world and they became successful professionals and business people.
I think this constant talk of a “backlash” demeans us. I’m a little tired of being told the British people are racist. I’ve been all over the world and this is the least racist country I’ve set foot in. How nice it would be to hear from organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain that this is the best country in the world to be a Muslim, the safest country for them.
Back to free speech
Well I said this discussion is not about offence. And nor is it really about cartoons. Think of the prohibition on depicting Mohammed as the firewall that protects Islam. It’s a way of protecting Islam as
code comes from Islam. These aren’t my opinions. These are facts. That’s all there is to this.
I want to talk briefly about all the discussions we heard on racism in the aftermath of the massacre. The first thing to say here is that even if the journalists had been racist, and there’s no evidence they were, it wouldn’t have made any difference at all. Racism is bad, yes, of course it is, but it is not punishable by death.
The American secularist and moral philosopher Sam Harris put it well recently. He said something along the lines of: if your first question on finding out about the murders was “what kind of cartoons were they” or “were they racist”, then you’ve already missed the point. As Sam Harris put it, “People were killed for drawing cartoons. End of moral analysis.”
Do you think the Kouachi brothers who gunned down the cartoonists used to sit at home saying to each other, “Personally bruv, I am absolutely comfortable with non-racist satire of our prophet Mohammed (PBUH), it’s just the racist satire that does my head in”? Of course not.
I think all the discussions about racism in the aftermath of the shootings were an unnecessary distraction – and they suited our opponents very well, because all the time people were talking about racism was time they weren’t talking about Islam’s blasphemy code.
Unfortunately even secularists have spent quite a long time “proving” that the journalists and the cartoons weren’t racist. In fairness it’s been a noble attempt to preserve the good names of the fallen, and I understand that completely. But when they announce their eureka moment of “proving” that Charlie Hebdo weren’t racist, ok congratulations, you’ve shown they’re not racist. But you know what else you’ve done? You’ve moved the discussion away from Islam’s blasphemy laws to racism. That’s not helpful. We need to keep our focus here. The problem here is a blasphemy code.
And we have to be careful we don’t create a hierarchy of victims here. Think about how noble the journalists were, and consider despite that just how many smears there were after their deaths and how much discussion there was about racism. Now think about other people who are in the public eye, who often get accused of racism. Take Richard Dawkins, for example. I don’t think he’s racist but just imagine for one second what his social media post-mortem