Hamza Tzortzis is Policing thought crimes

big+brother+orwell+rally+privacy+lossHamza Tzortzis is a well-known Islamic apologist who is one of the movers and shakers behind the rather dubious hate group known as iERA.

A Hate group … really?

Yes indeed, you will find a rather extensive report on them here that has been published by the Council of ex-Muslims. A few quick highlights from it concerning Hamza are as follows (see page 14 onwards, they back this all up with evidence):

  • He completely rejects the very concept of Freedom of Speech
  • He is still very much in bed with the extreme Islamist group Hizb ut Tahrir
  • He has openly expressed his support for beheading (yes murdering) people for simply leaving Islam
  • He has also promoted the idea that being gay is on par with cannibalism and necrophilia
  • He supports the idea of middle aged men marrying very young underage girls
  • He supports stoning and amputation as an appropriate response for those that break the law
  • One of the Boston bombers was quite fond of his videos

… so in essence, no this guy is not a moderate, and so he is promoting ideas that should indeed be robustly challenged.

The debate

Hamza has announced on Facebook that he intends to hold a public debate and there he explains …

Freedom to insult, freedom to degrade, freedom to dishonour goes against the very objectives of #freedomofspeech

… and in reply to that, one commenter (a historian) has presented a rather interesting argument …

Norman Parniker The Prophet is both an authority figure and a sacred icon. And in democracies it is important to hold ALL sources of authority to the most detailed scrutiny.

Religious/sacred authority figures are even more of a danger because so many demand that they
 cannot be criticised – that they are untouchable. But these same people regard these figures as authorities that must be followed without question. These figures are a danger because of the phenomenon of ‘authority worship’.

I suggest reading George Orwell’s book 1984.

If you read that book – part of Western literary tradition – you will understand why the West does not exclude religious authority figures from attack. The citizens of Oceania ‘love’ Big Brother and obey his commands (actually the commands of the ruling elite) without question.

The attitude of the citizens of Oceania to Big Brother is one of ‘love’, obedience and immunity from criticism. How then is Big Brother not in many ways an analogy for Allah/Muhammad?

Authority worship is used as a tool of totalitarianism. How can a functioning democracy allow any authority figure whether secular, religious or sacred to be immune from criticism or ridicule? Ridicule is a means by which the sacred in authority is challenged, and the ‘lovers’ of that sacred authority hopefully made to think.

Hamza replied …

Hamza Andreas Tzortzis Deliberate ridicule is not an intellectual challenge – it’s immoral and arrogant. No one is saying don’t have intellectual debate, critique and dialogue. If one wants to engage one should do so that is conducive to engagement. Imagine I wanted to explain to atheists that God exists yet started by ridiculing and degrading them. Would that promote and facilitate truth – the key objective of freedom of speech? No. It’s self defeating. I appreciate there’s a grey area of subjectivity in what entails gratuitous insult, however since no one can claim absolute freedom of speech, the right question we should ask is what moral framework must we use to facilitate truth, accountability and progress? All of which are the very objectives of freedom of speech. 

Your comment I feel builds a straw man as no one is saying don’t attack or critique religious figures. In the Islamic tradition Islam was always open to this intellectual discussion. However the right thing to do is to do it a way that facilitates truth, accountability and progress.

.. and Norman then replies to that and completely nails it as follows …

Norman Parniker Deliberate ridicule is not meant as an intellectual challenge. It is meant as a means to address IRRATIONAL positions.

In this case the psychological relationship between many Muslims (certainly not all) and the Prophet Muhammad.

For what is rational about ‘loving’ a long dead man that you have not met, and who is known to you only through stories and ancient traditions? What is rational about claiming that the word ‘perfect’ can be used to describe any human being? And what is rational about deeply emotional and violent responses to the mocking of that long dead man?

Rational argument is of no use against such a psychological state. All that we can do is demonstrate the absurdity of the position. Mocking is perhaps the only effective response that we have.

George Orwell NEW that authority worship was irrational, and that it could be used as a tool for obedience, conformity and control. The relationship of the citizens of Oceania toward the unassailable authority figure Big Brother (who reminds me of the figure of Muhammad in Islamic tradition in many ways) is his warning to us of the dangers.

He is spot on, it is indeed exactly like this. Ever so many embrace this Orwellian idea that their Big Brother is beyond criticism and any who dare to do so will become the target of their wrath.

Charlie Hebdo

What is of course not really appreciated by many is that the satire and ridicule deployed by Charlie Hebdo was in no way exclusive to Islam, but rather was a very generic criticism of any and all who threatened people with tyranny. They championed justice for all, including Muslim immigrants, and so their primary target for Satire was the right wing national front / Le Pen, then the next tier of targets were the criminals and crooked politicians, and finally they also went after the religious beliefs that attempted to dominate and oppress the lives of people, Catholicism, Orthodox Jews, and of course Islam, were all in the crosshairs.

What happened is tragic in ways that we are all familiar with, but what is not truly appreciated by some is that the passing of Charlie Hebdo also means that the Muslim community also lost one of their very best allies when it comes to the threats they face from the rising tide of right wing political extremism.

So Hamza will be giving a talk and will no doubt once again arguing as follows …

We as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom

Yes, that is indeed his stance, you can listen to him here repeat those exact words (at 4:44) … and so rather bizarrely what he argues against is the very foundation upon which he stands to promote this rejection of freedom of speech.

(Damn, I just broke my industrial strength irony meter)

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