Cross Post

A reduction of reality at the Guardian?

This is a cross post by Shiraz Maher from Standpoint

Oh dear, it really hasn’t been a good week for the Guardian.

On Monday Comment is Free invited Gerry Adams to pontificate about – would you believe it – the killing of civilians. Yes, really. Since when did theGuardian recognise Gerry Adams as the moral arbiter on informers and leaks?

On Tuesday they published an outrageous piece which – even by their standards – plumbs new depths. Norman Geras noted the ‘miserable evasion’ of Priyamvada Gopal who trivialises the ordeal suffered by Aisha, the Afghan woman featured on the front cover of Time magazine. After fleeing an abusive marriage the Taliban tracked her down and ordered that her ears and nose were cut off as punishment. It is a haunting image; the mania of millenarianism.

Gopal does not see it that way. Instead, she is ‘concerned by the continued insistence that the complexities of war, occupation and reality itself can be reduced to bedtime stories’. Without a hint of irony, her piece is titled ‘burqas and bikinis’.

As if that were not bad enough, David Thompson alerts readers to the inevitable invocation of racism by Gopal in the comments section of her article. She argues ‘the favoured game in town really is White Men Rescuing Brown Women From Brown Men’. No reduction of reality there, natch. Thompson notes:

[Gopal] also objects to “assertions of civilisational superiority,” as if the society in which she lives, and lives quite comfortably, offered women no more opportunity for self-determination than one in which girls’ schools are burned to the ground in the name of piety.

Ah yes, the rote rhetoric of relativism, I’m only surprised it took Gopal that long to get there.

Elsewhere, Vikram Dodd wrote about the leaking of a private Quilliam document which, aside from the intemperate use of language when describing some civil servants and their departments, is hardly scandalous. Even Quilliam’s most ardent critics have failed to make hay of it – with the exception of the excitable Inayat Bunglawala – so why did the Guardian run this non-story as news?

Dodd objects to groups like the Muslim Safety Forum being declared Islamist. That is the Muslim Safety Forum whose one-time chairman, Azad Ali, issued thinly veiled threats against a Channel 4 journalist who exposed Islamist politics in East London. Ali told him (listen to it here):

Yes, Atif, we’ve got a picture of you and a lot more than you thought we had…We’ve tracked you down to different places, but that’s for another day. And if those people are gonna turn what I’ve just said into a threat, that’s their fault, innit.

Azad Ali has also praised the al-Qaeda theorist Anwar al-Awlaki as having ‘an uncanny way of explaining things to people which is endearing‘. In 2008Ali told us:

So, since we are all working our socks off, in different ways, for the resurgence of the Khilafa [caliphate], I have one question who would you give bayyah [allegiance] to today and what would you say are the qualities needed for them to get your vote? Please, no essays or dissertations!


My vote for the title of Amir al-Mu’mineen [commander of the believers] would have to go to the Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh. Not only is a motivational leader, with political depth and skill, but also he is a Hafiz of the Qur’an, Mashallah!

Name me one other Muslim leader that is currently leading his people in salat al-Tarawih? I cannot think of another single leader that can lead his people like this!

Yup, that’s Vikram Dodd’s non-Islamist Azad Ali ‘working his socks off’ to revive a Caliphate. And who does he want as Caliph? Well, none other than terrorist leader Ismail Haniyeh of course! Haniyeh is a ‘motivational leader’, Anwar al-Awlaki is ‘endearing’ – it doesn’t take much to realise Azad Ali’s politics does it?

In April 2009 the Muslim Safety Forum announced that Abdurahman Jafar was taking over as ‘interim chair’. Since then they have refused to confirm the permanent chairman so we have no way of knowing whether Azad Ali is still involved. That is, until you look at the minutes of a meeting from theMetropolitan Police Authority from May 2009 which states:

Azad Ali (Chair of the Muslim Safety Forum)


Dodd also objects to groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain, and the Islamic Human Rights Commission being labelled Islamist. In fact, there are too many groups in his piece to go through them all but regular readers will be familiar with most of them. (My colleague Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens will have more on this later today).

Priyamvada Gopal is right to argue we should all be concerned by the reduction of complex realities – a delusion from which the Guardian appears to be suffering particularly badly.