Douglas Murray

Peter Hitchens vs Mehdi Hasan

Peter Hitchens vs Mehdi Hasan
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A fascinating column in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday by Peter Hitchens asks ‘Am I an “animal”, a “cow” — or just another victim of BBC bias.’ The spur for asking this otherwise surprising question is a BBC radio programme presented by the former New Stateman writer, Mehdi Hasan.

While presenting ‘What the Papers Say’ a couple of weeks ago Hasan found the opportunity to misquote a column by Hitchens, who promptly complained to the BBC. For its part, the BBC seems to have accepted that the quote was doctored and has tried to make up for this. But now Hitchens asks some questions about Hasan’s own opinions. For, as Hitchens points out, Hasan:

… 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.’

Last month Hasan took to the pages of the Guardian to try to claim that the same comments Hitchens referred to are:

1) ‘Selectively edited’

2) Something which has caused him and his family significant upset and led to people threatening him on comments threads

3) That criticism of them, and him, is an attempt to silence all Muslims

In order:

1) People can consider the context of the clips (which can be seen here and here by reading Hasan's effort to provide a context for them.

2) Whilst horrible in any circumstances, directed at anyone, most people in the public eye, even talented young divers, have a similar problem. This is particularly the case for critics of radical Islam, and especially Muslims who are critics of the same.

3) In the process of trying to claim that criticisms levelled against him are in fact part of an attempt to ‘silence’ all Muslims, Hasan singled out Charles Moore, Melanie Phillips and me. How very wrong he is. Far from wishing to silence British Muslims all three of us — along with many others who Hasan has attacked — have called for years not for fewer but more Muslims to speak up and speak out. One problem in recent years has been precisely that radical voices have been given such a disproportionate amount of airtime whilst reformists and liberals have been given so little oxygen. Happily, when they are given airtime, young Muslims like Irshad Manji, Hasan Afzal, Raheem Kassam, Mona Eltahawy and Shiraz Maher are able to do an important amount to assure people that although relatively few in number, there are today — unlike even a few years ago — a growing number of Muslims who are willing to speak out and stand up to the extremists.

Hasan wishes to shrug off his personal difficulties by confusing them with difficulties suffered by Muslims as a whole. He wishes it to be thought that anybody who criticises him is in fact criticising all Muslims. Fortunately this is not the case.  Certainly there are problems which face British Muslims. There are also problems facing Mehdi Hasan. Despite his best efforts, they are not the same thing.

At least that’s what this old cow thinks.