Phobia and Professor Merrifield

I had an amusing exchange of Tweets today with a constituent of mine, a certain Professor Michael Merrifield of Nottingham University.  He is a Professor of Astronomy – but he seems to be very knowledgeable about any other subject you care to mention.  And he is committed to left-liberal, right-on, politically-correct views almost to the point of self-parody.  I have had exchanges with him on Twitter several times, and it is flattering to think that he is able to devote so much time to the study and discussion of my observations.

Today, on the subject of Islamophobia, I Tweeted “A phobia is an irrational fear. Given recent atrocities, I don’t think that fear of Islamists is necessarily irrational”.  The good Professor replied: “Fear of the many due to the evil of the few is an irrational phobia” (note the tautology – not so good from an academic). “Stirring up such fears is worse”.  Given the recent sequence of appalling and indiscriminate Islamist attacks in which hundreds of people have died, plus the assaults on women in Germany and Sweden, I don’t think there’s any question of “stirring up such fears”.  They are entirely reasonable fears, and most commentators agree that it is only a matter of time before we experience similar attacks in the UK.

In reply to another participant (“The G-Man”), Merrifield says “I disagree, but that is arguably not phobic. This, however, is: (quoting my original Tweet, above)”.  Later, for good measure Merrifield adds “Roger Helmer is very welcome to express all his phobias: I would much prefer his irrationality remain in the public eye”.  Amusing, this, since so far as I know I have no phobias at all (though I’m not keen on spiders).  I responded “You are desperately trying to hang the label ‘phobic’ on anyone who disagrees with you. But it won’t wash”.  To which Merrifield weakly retorts “No anyone, just phobics”.

I have run into trouble previously over the misuse of this term “phobia”, which quite simply means “an irrational fear”.  I took considerable stick on social media for questioning the use of the term “homophobia”.  Of course no one doubts that homosexuals are subject to prejudice, discrimination and even on occasion violence, and all decent people (yes Michael, that includes me) will deprecate and condemn such attitudes and behaviour.  But this is not about substance, but about semantics.  It’s about the proper use of the term “phobia”.  Prejudice against homosexuals exists, but I know of no evidence that it is motivated by fear, and therefore it cannot be a phobia.  Much resentment is caused by the way the word “homophobic” is applied indiscriminately as a term of abuse to anyone who dares question the current modish political correctness in this area.

The problem with the use of “phobia” in “Islamophobia” is not (as with “homophobia”) about the element of fear, but about the element of irrationality.  I have argued that fears of Islamic terrorism are perfectly rational and rooted in experience.

Merrifield’s reference to “Fear of the many due to the evil of the few” is what I call “The IRA argument”.  It goes like this.  All IRA terrorists (more or less), are, or were, both Irish and Roman Catholic.  But it does not and cannot follow that all Irish people and/or all Catholics are terrorists, or sympathise with terrorists.  On the contrary, my experience suggests that the great majority of Irish people, and of Catholics, abominate the tactics of the IRA, and utterly repudiate them.  Is there a read-across here to Islamic terrorism?  I fear not, for various reasons.

  • Islamic terrorists have a well-funded and widespread international organisation, ISIL, which purports to be a state, and has indeed some of the attributes of a state.  It has an aggressive programme of recruitment and proselytisation, and there is a huge Muslim diaspora in which its recruitment takes place
  • ISIL is overtly dedicated to the overthrow of established, democratic Western governments and their replacement by a worldwide Islamic Caliphate, implementing Sharia Law for all.  However unrealistic this objective may be, they are clearly serious about pursuing it
  • ISIL urges, and implements, the murder of non-believers, and especially of homosexuals, and it carries out and promotes the large-scale mutilation of women.  If Professor Merrifield wishes to challenge assaults on human rights, he might like to start in Raqqa.  But promotion of female genital mutilation is not limited to ISIL.  A senior Muslim cleric in Russia has just called for mass FGM.
  • We have just seen the belated jailing of hate preacher Anjem Choudary  It is credibly reported that a number of mosques in Britain have provided a platform for hate preachers who spread their message of intolerance, alienation and violence.  It is difficult to exonerate the faith of Islam entirely for the behaviour of Islamic terrorists when Islam’s places of worship are used in this way.  There are also reports that some mosques have been recruitment centres for ISIL.
  • Following Choudary’s prison sentence, social media are reportedly awash with hate videos from him and his disciples.  Presumably someone out there is watching them.  Are they part of Merrifield’s “the few”?
  • Reputable opinion studies amongst British Muslims have shown an alarming degree of sympathy with Islamist fighters that runs well into double figure percentages on some measures.  For example more than a quarter of British Muslims sympathised with the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. (Are they also part of “the few”, Michael?).

Against this background it is impossible to dismiss Islamic terrorism as the work of a handful of deranged individuals.  Merrifield in another Tweet said “Basing a case against a religion on the actions of a small number of terrorists is phobic”. No Michael. It’s not phobic – it’s just a bad line of argument, which is why I didn’t and wouldn’t do it.  I spent four years of my earlier business career in a Muslim country – Malaysia – and have a high regard for many of the Muslims I met and worked with there.

I absolutely defend the right of any individual to hold any religious beliefs of their choosing (provided they don’t directly infringe the rights of others – as for example the Muslim position on apostasy), or to have no religion.  I am not making a case against any religion.  But I am making a case against mass immigration of Muslims from Syria and elsewhere, because they have a view of human rights which is incompatible with Western values, and represents a threat to our society.  And because while only a few of them may be active terrorists, it is likely that a significant proportion will have some sympathy with Islamism.  And most of them will have attitudes to human rights, women’s rights and minorities which are just plain unacceptable and dangerous.

 

 

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38 Responses to Phobia and Professor Merrifield

  1. 79% of British muslims polled, thought the Danish catoonists should be punished.

    From a cartoonists point of view that is a majority to be concerned about, not a ‘few’. And it would be irrational not to consider this.

    ……(Mr Merrifield is a bit worrying too.)

    • mike5262015 says:

      I think that cartoonists should avoid lampooning any religious belief, and although the freedom issue is central to this, good manners could be a place to start. In the matter of Islam, that faith has brought about an abatement of good manners, by it’s own actions. Also the murder of the RC priest, in his church, during a service, has intensified all our views of Islam, moving it away from respectable religion, and unfortunately tars all of Muslims with the same terrorist brush. Merrifield just used the wrong word, phobia, as there is not that much fear of Islam in the UK. Fear of an erroneous proposition, put forward 1.5 Millennium ago, by an Arab who was able to marry a rich widow, is not a matter for fear in this country, but the followers in this country that disrespect our laws, should be sent to an Islamic Nation immediately. UK Government take note !

      • Jane Davies says:

        Cartoonists have made fun of religion since time began and long may they do so. Comedians have a rich source of material too, the late Dave Allen for example, an Irish Catholic, made hilarious fun of his own religion and whether we are religious or not we laugh at them, it’s called having a sense of humour, something the radicals do not have. I’m sorry but that is their problem and if we censor our humour so as not to offend a minority then that is a slippery slope as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately, some religions frown on fun, banning music, TV, dancing etc they are free to do so. Those of us who like humour and can laugh at ourselves and our various religions should also be allowed that same freedom to do so.
        So there should be no censoring of cartoonists, my husband is an illustrator and cartoonist and not everyone ‘gets’ it (the humour, that is) but that doesn’t mean he should not express ‘it’.

      • If cartoonists shouldn’t draw it, then it shouldn’t be possible to discuss it either….As you are doing.

        Why do you imagine you have that right (to speak, or write), if you deny others the right to draw?

      • Jane Davies says:

        It is as I said in my comment a slippery slope to ultimately end the freedom of speech, which is what cartoons are…illustrated words.

  2. Oliver K. Manuel says:

    I invite Professor Merrifield to address here, openly and before the public, information that is indelibly recorded in rest masses of atoms of all known atoms:
    http://ierj.in/journal/index.php/Ierj/article/view/409/386

    • Oliver K. Manuel says:

      I agree, Roger, “A phobia is an irrational fear. Given recent atrocities, I don’t think that fear of Islamists is necessarily irrational”. Irrational fear has driven the recent history of civilization.

      1. Fear, a powerful natural emotion, overrules rational decision making in the survival instinct.
      2. Fear of worldwide nuclear annihilation united nations & academies of sciences 71 yrs ago.
      3. Fear left this mysterious last question from Dr. Peter Toth unanswered for about 39 years:
      _ http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v270/n5633/abs/270159a0.html
      4. The answer to Peter Toth’s question was found written in rest masses of atoms 5 Ga ago:.
      _ http://ierj.in/journal/index.php/ierj/article/view/409/386

      5. Fear of retaliation for 71-years of public deception now reunites politicians and academicians

  3. Dung says:

    I am reassured by your post Roger because I was not totally sure what your opinions were on Muslims/Islam.
    There is a certain section of society that poses a huge threat to our way of life, I call them bleeding heart liberals. These people have been responsible for the stupid climate change policies that are destroying our economy and also for the mass immigration that we have suffered, Blair, Clegg and Cameron are some of the headliners.
    The worry is not about Jihadists in the UK because they are relatively few in number, it is about the so called peaceful majority who want to peacefully ignore our laws and our way of life and build an Islamic state here.

  4. Robert Bentley says:

    I have had numerous ‘arguments’ with so called akerdemmiks living here in Cambridge and I have concluded that the greatest blasphemy is not taking them seriously. They are full of their own importance. If you want a lesson in how to parade your opinion as fact….aggressively, then see David Starkey or Simon Sharma for examples. Full of themselves.

    ……No one shall have a cogent, lucid opinion but me……sayeth the Akerdemmik. I tell YOU, you DON’T tell me……..

    • KennieD says:

      There is another saying which may be reminded to some of these academics/teachers, thus:
      Those who can, Do. Those who cannot, Teach.

      • David says:

        Like the akademiks who cant knock a nail in.

      • Oliver Manuel says:

        blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } Dear Roger, I agree, Roger, “A phobia is an irrational fear. Given recent atrocities, I don’t think that fear of Islamists is necessarily irrational”. Irrational fear has driven the recent history of civilization.  Fear, a powerful natural emotion, almost always overrules rational decision making in the survival instinct. 1. Fear of worldwide nuclear annihilation united nations and national academies of sciences 71 yrs ago. 2. Fear left this mysterious last question from Dr. Peter Toth unanswered for about 39 years: _ http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v270/n5633/abs/270159a0.html 3. The answer to Peter Toth’s question was written in rest masses of atoms 5 Ga ago: _ http://ierj.in/journal/index.php/ierj/article/view/409/386

        4. Fear of retaliation for 71-years of public deception has now reunited politicians and academicians. A new paper will soon be published on harms inflicted on society from this 71-year journey through irrational fear.  With kind regards,Oliver K. Manuel

        Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  5. mike5262015 says:

    I am totally against Islam as a religion, because if it is delved into, it shows itself to be nonsense. When compared at the personal level, Mohammed to Jesus, the question becomes very dark indeed. Now this is not a phobia towards Islam, it is just reading up the facts, gathered over a number of years. Once nonsense is raised upon any major item of a religion, the item should be checked in depth, to find if ones own upbringing is clouding the true facts.
    This Nation has taken the first steps to getting rid of E.U. dominance, and since in that area we are not looking at terrorists, the matter can run-on to eventual clearance. The same cannot be said for Islam, here in GB. Many Muslims are decent people, working hard to provide for their family, but are without doubt, of a faith that is wrong, but they are welcome to it. – This is just my opinion, but with some time taken to check the matter through. I require and demand that our Police, of all localities, make the enforcement of our laws an immediate requirement. The idea of no go Islamic areas just will not do, but it has been allowed and must now be corrected. Muslims who will not integrate, to at least obeying the laws of this land, must be deported. Again not phobia but fact. This will have no effect on decent Islamic families.
    Great Britain has a fine tradition of being welcoming to all, and all faiths, but in numbers that we can cope with. When you open the door to those in need, or individually want to live with us, but they spit on the welcome given, then it seems reasonable to require them to depart, for their wish as well as ours. We have the Police, though clearly not enough, so it is important that our own Government addresses this, without the pc approach re Islam, getting in the way of National requirements. Failure in this matter will result in this country being something unrecognised by the British in just a few years. We owe it to ourselves, as well as common sense !

    • Oliver K. Manuel says:

      Most, if not all religions, teach the same basic truth: A Higher Power is in total control.

      Physicists hid from the public this “reference frame” that all humanity needs to survive:

      http://ierj.in/journal/index.php/Ierj/article/view/409/386

    • Jane Davies says:

      ” We have the Police, though clearly not enough, so it is important that our own Government addresses this, without the pc approach re Islam, getting in the way of National requirements”
      I agree with your comment Mike and what is needed is a police force who do not run away when confronted by aggressive Muslims, as they do now, and a government who will stand up for British values and remove those who presume to overthrow it. This needs to be done now before it’s too late. Forget all this PC nonsense all this does is show those intent on changing the British rule of law, by blackmail and violence, that if they challenge and threaten enough they will win. For good measure close down the mosques that have been used to stir up hate and deport those who have preached said hate. This issue should never have been tolerated in the first place, the government has a duty to uphold the law of the land and to protect the law abiding citizens or why bother to swear an oath on becoming MP’s? People must now rise up and demand this of the government.

  6. martinbrumby says:

    Yet another arrogant and ignorant academic.

    I suggest “Professor” Merrifield might learn something if he reads this:-
    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/04/trevor-phillips-is-finally-discovering-the-pitfalls-of-the-term-islamophobia/

    Note that Trevor Phillips was for many years the head of the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission. Yet another “phobic”, perhaps, “Professor”?

    • Oliver K. Manuel says:

      martinbrumby, I should have given credit to my research mentor, P.K. Kuroda, for noticing the error in nuclear “binding energies” four months before I was born.

      On 13 June, 1936, this 19-year old student (Kazuo Kuroda) recognized that a ~30 year old physicist could not comprehend Aston’s MEASURED nuclear “packing fractions.”

      See page 7 of P.K. Kuroda’s autobiography: http://www.omatumr.com/abstracts2005/PKKAutobiography.pdf

      In 1936, a ~30 year old physicist (Hans Bethe) joined Carl von Weizsacker in developing Bethe-Weizsacker’s formula to CALCULATE nuclear “binding energies.”

      In 1960, P.K. Kuroda recruited me to research the “Origin of the Solar System and it’s elements,” probably to expose this error.

    • rfhmep says:

      Thanks Martin. A really important contribution to the debate — and a reproach to those like Merrifield who think that any concern about Islamism is bias, prejudice and “phobia”.

  7. Alan Wheatley says:

    The language we use is important. It is the means by which we communicate ideas and understanding. We may not agree because we have different ideas. We may not agree because of a misunderstanding. I remember a business meeting where two clever engineers were arguing, both convinced they were right and the other person was wrong. But it turned out they were at cross-purposes and both were right but in terms of their own, different idea. Once the communication problem was resolved all were agreed.

    A favourite maxim: what appears to be a sloppy or meaningless use of words may well be a completely correct use of words to express sloppy or meaningless ideas.

    One of the difficulties with English is that the meaning of words does change. No one owns English. Words are created, fall from use and change meaning as a result of common practice.

    A complaint expressed during the House of Commons debate on the Same Sex Marriages bill was that David Cameron was changing the lexicon. Until then there had been no idea that “marriage” could be “same sex”. This seems to be a case where the meaningless use of words was deliberate with, presumably, the intention of overturning a common practice idea.

    • KennieD says:

      “…with, presumably, the intention of overturning a common practice idea.”
      -No, with the intention of overturning a Christian and natural idea.

      • Alan Wheatley says:

        KennieD, the idea is common because it matches the natural way of things, but is definitely NOT limited to christianity nor uniquely christian.

      • KennieD says:

        Yes Alan, I agree with what you say. However, I was basing my reply on the fact that the law and the meaning of the words therein, have, until recently, had their foundation in Christianity.

      • Alan Wheatley says:

        Re KenneD @ 11:21 – fair enough.

        Much of what shapes us as British are ideas from religion, for that was where lay the power. If the ideas are sound then we can happily stick with them whether or not we are religious.

  8. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Yes…the medieval stuff:
    “And most of them will have attitudes to human rights, women’s rights and minorities which are just plain unacceptable and dangerous”.

    But, but but….for complete control, first you must abolish the individual:

  9. Humans are social creatures and we value and nurture our community, whether that is family, village or nation.

    It is not irrational to consider those ‘who are not like us’ with some caution. Sometimes this leads to unkindness or even rudeness and, in extremis, to violence. However, it is not a phobia in my humble opinion.

    Ultimately, without a ‘them’ there cannot be an ‘us’. That is the condition with many animals including humans.

    That is why, in my opinion, trying to create multiple cultures in one place (through a high rate of immigration) leads to tension and unhappiness.

  10. Brexiteer says:

    Having lived and worked in Muslim countries for over 20 years, I can assure you it is not a crazy minority who hold us in the west in contempt.
    My driver was a devout Muslim except when he wanted whisky for medicinal purposes.
    he would harangue me for drinking but not see the irony of his position.
    He asked me to sponsor his son for a trip to the UK, I refused but he managed to get a colleague to stump up £3000 as a bond for a visa. His son failed to return and my colleague lost the cash.
    Unfortunately his father got very ill and he returned to see him and was met by the authorities and deported to Pakistan.
    Most of the workforce wanted to emigrate west and the general criteria was UK and NZ for lazy benefit seekers and US, Canada and Auss for the genuine workers.
    An engineer got a visa for the USA and sent his family to stay in Chicago with relatives, he was hysteric when he found out his wife was working and learning to drive. Apparently she was given a ultimatum by her sister that she had to contribute too the household and she grasped the chance.

  11. Frances Fox says:

    The concern of most people in our Country that we are loosing our OWN IDENITY.

  12. David says:

    Where does Merrifield buy his rose tinted specs?

  13. Oliver K. Manuel says:

    I agree, Roger, “A phobia is an irrational fear. Given recent atrocities, I don’t think that fear of Islamists is necessarily irrational”. Irrational fear has driven the recent history of civilization.

    1. Fear, a powerful natural emotion, overrules rational decision making in the survival instinct.
    2. Fear of worldwide nuclear annihilation united nations & academies of sciences 71 yrs ago.
    3. Fear left this mysterious last question from Dr. Peter Toth unanswered for about 39 years:
    _ http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v270/n5633/abs/270159a0.html
    4. The answer to Peter Toth’s question was found written in rest masses of atoms 5 Ga ago:.
    _ http://ierj.in/journal/index.php/ierj/article/view/409/386

    5. Fear of retaliation for 71-years of public deception now reunites politicians and academicians

  14. KennieD says:

    Oliver K Manuel : “A new paper will soon be published on harms inflicted on society from this 71-year journey through irrational fear.”
    So please Oliver, tell us where and when this paper will be published. I have an irrational fear that I may miss it.

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