Paul Sheehan again

05 Feb

Paul Sheehan needs to read Isis’ Guide to Sensible Islam Posting, all the more as Isis is a self-confessed conservative Republican in the USA.

I have of course mentioned Paul Sheehan before, here and on on the Big Archive. I have even agreed with him occasionally; he did oppose the Iraq War. Back in January 2006 (post-Cronulla) I introduced him thus:

Back in the late 1990s when Pauline Hanson was a real political force, before John Howard co-opted many of her ideas and neutered her with his anti-PC PC, the old racist who used to hold court in the Beauchamp Hotel would often sing the praises of Paul Sheehan, while muttering dark stereotypes about “Asians”, though get him off that and he could also be interesting — on music especially. Sheehan’s Among the Barbarians [1998] did indeed show him to be the thinking person’s Pauline. Go to the link in the last sentence: it is a very funny article. Of Among the Barbarians, Anne Henderson [LINK UPDATED] rightly says: “This is a book with axes to grind and scores to settle. It’s lucidly written and has a clever style. It is also a confusing mix of overstatement and understatement, a tract rather than a considered thesis; much preaching and not too much research.” He is still much the same, to judge from this article.

But first note this:

Australia welcomed 123,424 new immigrants in 2004-2005, the highest number in more than 15 years… Britain was the biggest source of immigrants, with 18,220 out of a total of 25,000 Europeans. There were 33,000 Asian immigrants and 24,000 from Africa and the Middle East, while smaller numbers came from North and South America. (UPI)

Now for Sheehan…

Today he rides the appeasement/Nazis/blackshirts analogy into the valley of death: Appeasement takes hold again, again “a tract rather than a considered thesis.” There are three items at the core of this tract:

1. A polemical clash of civilisations piece by Robert Redeker, a French high-school philosophy teacher, published in Figaro last September, which led to the usual unhelpful fundamentalist reaction, some of it extreme and homicidal in intent, in certain Islamic quarters. My reaction is a plague on both their houses…

2. Bruce Bawer, gay US neocon expat, and his book While Europe Slept , caught between pluralism when it comes to sexuality and opposition to pluralism just about everywhere else.

3. Former Dutch member of parliament and former Muslim, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

In an interview last week I asked her why there was such censorship, denial and silence from so many European liberals in the face of so many attacks on liberalism.

“There is a combination of imperial guilt, and the civil rights movement,” she said. “It created an attitude that all cultures are equal, that Western culture is not superior, that Christianity is not superior. This is especially so in the intellectual elite, the media, the education systems, in politics. But for the intellectual elite this belief is only theoretical.

“It is the working-class communities who were the first to experience the realities of immigration and cultural differences. When there were the first protests in these communities about problems with immigration, and about problems with how immigrant women were being treated, the elite immediately turned on them by calling them ‘racists’.

“Instead of facing up to this new face of misogyny, the elites pretended it was because of discrimination. The immigrants became the new working class. The proletariat was reinvented …

“Holland’s multiculturalism has deprived many Muslim women and children of their rights. It is tolerance for the sake of consensus, but the consensus is empty. Many Muslims never learn Dutch and reject Dutch values of tolerance and personal liberty. I read rants about Islamophobia, but none of this pseudo-intellectualising had anything to do with reality.

“Until I came on the scene, no one wanted to say that the criminal behaviour of so many young Muslim men had anything to do with culture. There is such a resistance to quantifying, to statistics, because everybody knows where the statistics will lead. And if you publish that Muslims commit most violent crimes, there will be violence from the Muslims, and they will be supported by the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Socialist Party, which will explain away this behaviour as ‘poverty’.”

Faced with the rising tide of bomb attacks, plots, threats, demands and belligerent victimology from a violent, ignorant and sexually repressive subculture, the centre of European civilisation appears to be doing exactly what it did the last time blackshirts were on the march in Europe – appeasing, denying and capitulating.

Ten, fifteen years back Sheehan was also sallying forth against the demon multiculturalism, pointing out that “Asian crime” was behind Australia’s sinking into chaos and barbarian hell…

Not one point in Sheehan’s analysis is new, and much is old templates applied to new demons. I always ask of people like Sheehan: What exactly are you proposing? Think about that for long enough and I venture to suggest you will find something quite as ugly as the enemy they claim “liberals” are appeasing.


Eteraz has promoted to his front page a very important essay, With Us Or Against Us: The Rhetoric Of The War On Terror by Yahya Birt, not irrelevant to weighing one-sided arguments like Sheehan’s.

After 9/11, there has been a shift in the cultural representations of Muslims towards more direct political themes and about the use of terrorist violence. In particular, there has been the emergence of a shared political rhetoric, particularly between Washington and London, that is central to “war on terror”. Rhetoric, which is part and parcel of political speech making, is vulnerable still to the ancient criticism of Plato that it is too concerned with the means of persuasion rather than the framing of good argument itself. One species of rhetoric identified by Aristotle commonly features an unstated premiss, the enthymeme, the veracity of which is a probable rather than an established truth. A comparison with actual policy would show that rhetoric can have a contested relationship with reality.

This essay offers an analysis of this rhetoric to see what it seeks to persuade Muslims to do, what its unspoken premises are and which categories it uses to mobilise Muslim sentiment. Five years on after 9/11 and with the descent of Iraq into bloody civil war, it is essential that Muslims develop a critical distance from this rhetoric, not only because it can be internalised and have negative consequences for Muslims and how they evaluate themselves and their faith, but also because the rhetoric does much to justify an aggressive militarism that feeds the very terrorism it purports to be ending…

Cited in the interests of Isis’s rule: Give Humanist Muslims their due.

I note too that Jim Belshaw has posted in response to this entry. Jim and I disagree less than you may think. I am all in favour of drawing those of all backgrounds into a place where there is a consensus on core values, and know from items like the essay I just cited it is possible. It is not achieved necessarily by the stridency Sheehan and his like adopt. It is not necessary to paint all Muslims into a corner, where gradations of accommodation to what we think of as “western values” (and quite rightly prize) become in fact harder for Muslims to make.

It is not beneficial to accept the idea that a clash of civilisations is inevitable, and worse to think, as many Muslim and Christian extremists do, that it is desirable. I would love to see a time when Muslims can live so confidently with the Salman Rushdies of this world that they just say Insha’Allah calmly when such things arise, knowing the value of free speech guarantees their own message too. Probably quite a few already do think this way, but we never hear of them do we? Even better, they might actually listen to the Salman Rushdies to see where they may in fact be worth attending to, as they are. Rushdie is one reaction, very understandable, to the tragedy of Kashmir. I am reading Shalimar the Clown at the moment and commend it to all, Muslims included.

All this has nothing to do with our being wishy-washy and politically correct, one reason I resolved to avoid the term as much as possible this year; it has everything to do with believing in our own values and their power to win people to them, if we too are confident enough to carry them into practice and honest enough to face the various hypocrisies we need to face.

Sheehan worries me because in fact he does not embody what western civilisation has so painfully evolved, but instead is a divider. Yahya Birt’s essay ends thus:

However while it might be difficult to set a context for political resolution to this new and endless war on terror, the burden of my criticism is that seeking to leave the mode of war for politics is not even being imagined at present. And thus this failure of imagination therefore devolves into a generalized anxiety that opposes simultaneous loyalty to the nation and to the ummah (the Muslim supernation), which is a particularly pressing issue for Muslim minorities of the West, whose loyalties, presently, must first be ascertained before they may be trusted. The other feature that this failure of imagination provokes is a fear of unrestrained and apparently motiveless violence, which is stripped of historical context and is reduced to ideology, which casts a pall of fanaticism over all Muslims. It is this presumption that prevents a conversation of humankind, a dialogue within and between civilisations, from eclipsing the partisans and the warmongers on all sides.

That, it seems to me, is a statement of core western values. I fear we are in danger of losing those values, pushed by dangerous fanatics of several kinds, pulled by our fears and prejudices.

NOTE: A point I made (eventually!) on Jim’s blog: [This post] a work in progress of course, a thinking aloud. I am sure you know what I mean.. Always remember that when I rant; I am not a prophet…

Jim, meanwhile, has called the coming NSW election correctly, in my view: a hung parliament with some interesting independents.


Compass: Islam On Parade.

The Yoni Jesner Foundation. Last night ABC repeated the moving documentary A Mother’s Journey:

Poignant story of a mother’s journey to meet the seriously ill child who is alive today because her Jewish son’s kidneys were donated after he was killed in a suicide bomb attack in Israel.

Nineteen-year-old Scot Yoni Jesner was killed when a suicide bomber targeted a bus he was on in Tel Aviv in 2002 while visiting relatives in Israel during his gap year before going on to University. In accordance with Jewish religious law, his organs could only be donated to a specific individual in danger of death. Yoni’s remarkable mother Marsha Gladstone travels to Israel to meet the 8-year-old Palestinian girl who will grow up because her Jewish son was so tragically died.

Now read again the quote from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in the sidebar. We need more of that on all sides and less of the culture warriors, Muslim or non-Muslim.

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2 responses to “Paul Sheehan again

  1. Lexcen

    February 5, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    A very interesting blog. OK, so I’m an Islamophobe. But just because I’m inclined to agree with Paul Sheehan, does that also make me a xenophobe? I wonder. BTW, can you dismiss Hirsi Ali ? She has more experience of the “forces of evil” than either you or I.

  2. ninglun

    February 5, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    I think it is fair to say she is a controversial figure at least, as the link to Wikipedia indicates. This doesn’t mean everything she says is wrong, but it does mean we should weigh anything she says. Much she says is right, but as a Muslim atheist for starters she is “on a crusade” to say the least. Danger woman is interesting and not unsympathetic. I would apply Isis’s advice to her — remembering too that Isis is not a Muslim, not even a Democrat! 😉

    I became disillusioned with Paul Sheehan’s balance because at the time he was especially attacking the Chinese community (1998 or so) I actually knew some of the people he cited in evidence, and also knew how he had distorted them and what they had to say. I saw too that he was intent on painting his picture in the most lurid colours possible to flesh out his *barbarian* thesis. It went down well with those who knew little beyond what Sheehan chose to tell them, I’m afraid. He was contributing to the problem rather than to the solution, raising barriers rather than building bridges. I am all in favour of bridge builders.

    Sheehan certainly appeals to the One Nation set: see One Nation (NSW Division) News Australia & The World.

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