Quote of the day: Nick Cohen

July 9, 2015 • 9:30 am

Nick Cohen is an outspoken critic of those Western liberals who cower and dissimulate before extreme Islam. Here’s a bit of his new Guardian piece on a recent talk in London by Rafidya Bonya Ahmed, a secular blogger who survived a brutal attack by Muslims with meat cleavers. She was badly cut up and lost a thumb, but also lost her husband and co-blogger Avijit Roy, who died of his wounds. This is from the piece “Islamism prevails even as we suppress free speech”:

Compare the bravery of Bangladeshi intellectuals with the attitude of the bulk of the western intelligentsia. Whole books could be written on why it failed to argue against the fascism of our age – indeed I’ve written a couple myself – but the decisive reason is a fear that dare not speak its name. They are frightened of accusations of racism, frightened of breaking with the consensus, frightened most of all of violence. They dare not admit they are afraid. So they struggle to produce justifications to excuse their dereliction of duty. They turn militant religion into a rational reaction to poverty or western foreign policy. They maintain there is a moral equivalence between militant religion and militant atheism.

On occasion, they drop even that spurious attempt at evenhandedness and seem to suggest, as Professor Craig Calhoun, director of the London School of Economics, did recently, that the real menace facing universities is not students heading to Syria to rape and behead but secularists whose calls for free speech “challenge the faith and beliefs of religious students” and disrupt “campus harmony”. [JAC: do have a look at the link about the reprehensible Calhoun.] David Cameron will clearly have trouble taking his mission to “root out” extremism to the LSE.

For all the similarities, there is no moral equivalence between Britain and Bangladesh. They have thinkers of the calibre of Rafida Bonya Ahmed and Avijit Roy, while we have liberals whom Karl Marx might have looked at and said: “Religion is the opium of the intellectuals.”

Roy and Ahmed are precious defenders of free speech in a country where that very concept brings death; Nick Cohen is a precious critic of pusillanimous Western liberals who are apologists for Islam. Cohen reminds me of George Orwell, who issued, in his “Notes on Nationalism,” one of the smartest quips of our age:

One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.

20 thoughts on “Quote of the day: Nick Cohen

  1. Orwell’s quotation is certainly apposite; it has strong echoes of a comment in Peter Medawar’s review of Teilhard’s The Phenomenon of Man:

    …a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought.

  2. They turn militant religion into a rational reaction to poverty or western foreign policy.

    “Who, who, who let the dogs out!?”

  3. I got curious about Orwell’s text (which I should read, point about patriotism vs nationalism well taken!), and the context of the quote is:

    “He could believe these things because his hatred for the British ruling class forbade him to admit that British plans could succeed. There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind. I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.”

    It is not a surprise to see that conspiracy theories were abundant already then, even if the motivations were different. (And perhaps more rational than to shore up imagined patterns with absurdities: to assuage cognitive dissonance.)

  4. We will not be surprised to see free speech met with death in Bangladesh or most other Islamic nations but to see it disallowed on campuses in Britain and the U.S. is disgusting. “Campus Harmony”? What a joke.

    A very recent example of what free speech is was in view this week when the local newspaper editor published my rebuttal to an article he wrote last week regarding the flag issue in South Carolina. He does not know much about the issue or the war, but he does know what free speech is.

  5. Here in Canada PC is rampant . From the description of suspects wanted by the police to terrorists. Black people are now “dark complexioned , Asia are “light complexioned” and whites are usually not described by skin colour.
    Terrorists are now “rebels” and “militants”.
    We are orchestrating our own demise

    1. Pursuant to my first comment I must add that honest ,non biased criticism of religion or visible minorities that are responsible for violence is quickly denounced and dismissed by many people and the media.

    2. Actually, describing a skin color is probably more accurate than trying to guess an ethnic origin. Possibly a change for the better, regardless of the reason for it.

  6. It’s not only fear of being labeled, it’s a positive belief that the West is wrong on every level: capitalist, racist, misogynist, and colonialist. Democracy and liberty are just tools to break up communities, and impose the goals of the plutocrats. They have no desire to defend the West; they think Western Civilization is the problem.

    1. Well…its kinda both. Libertarian and quite a bit plutocratic or robber-baron capitalist.

      The key point these people miss (IMO) is that any other system they want to put in place – theocracy, autocracy, marxist communism, etc… – will also “break up communities and impose the goals of the plutocrats.” Just look at the House of Saud. But they do so with none of western democracy’s benefits.

      1. Another point that they miss is that marxist communism is PART of Western Civilization. Or do they think that Karl Marx was an Arab?

    2. If they seriously believe this I wonder how they get up in the morning and function. Aren’t we living in homes on property that really belongs to the Native Americans? The same would be said for the schools and campuses where they go to school? And why would the Muslims from these countries come here to attend Western Schools? Why would so many head for the western countries in Europe? It is puzzling.

      1. And the plutocrats seem to be very powerful in current times with no end to their power grab in sight. It’s pretty scary actually. The world is getting smaller as the few get richer. I don’t know if they think Western Civilization is the problem (I need to think more on that) but I think they see themselves as ‘above’ all civilization: an uber class of powerful sociopaths.

  7. These apologists for Islam should read the Q’uran they would find justification for all the Atrocities committed by IS, you could say IS are Islams most pure followers.

  8. Let’s face it, “race” is a bogus, invented concept. Color, on the other hand, is merely descriptive if used accurately.

    When I hold a white card up to my face, it reveals that I am clearly not white, nor is my skin black. To refer to someone with, for example, copper-toned skin that appears to resemble people from Africa as African-American or African-French, or “negro” or “black,” is simply incorrect. One might say “light” skin or “dark” skin, but one really needs a color chart to describe a person with any accuracy. I have seen people with truly black skin, but I’ve never seen anyone with purely white skin, therefore we are all “colored.”

    “Race” is imbedded in the lexicon, but that does not make it true or even relevant in a scientific context. That has nothing whatever to do with political correctness. As a number of notable people have said (something to the effect of), “One is entitled to one’s own opinion, but no one is entitled to one’s own facts.”

    However, I will defend anyone’s right to make a fool of himself or herself. I sit in judgment of no one, but I do decide, at least provisionally, the relative merits of statements in the pursuit of intellectual discipline.

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