Tuesday 13 January 2015

Eddie Mair and David Aaronovitch v Nabila Ramdani

The seemingly omnipresent Nabila Ramdani turned up again on tonight's PM

Her apparent omnipresence, naturally, suggests bias. However, the treatment she got on PM for her extraordinarily disingenuous statements was a pleasure to hear. Between the two of them David Aaronovitch of The Times and Eddie Mair filleted her, fried her and served her up whole. 

Eddie Mair seemed to be hearkening to our call to stand up firmly for democracy and free speech against the dissembling enemies of democracy and free speech - and good on him for so doing. 

If you wish to linger over what happened here's a transcription of the whole thing:

Eddie Mair: David Aaronovitch is a columnist at The Times. He chairs the Index on Censorship, which is showing the Charlie Hebdo cover on its website. Nabila Ramdani is a French-Algerian journalist based in London. Nabila, what do you personally think of the new Charlie Hebdo cover?

Nabila Ramdani: Well, I've written about it today in the Guardian actually and I think, you know, we're talking about the most godless magazine in France...

Eddie Mair (interrupting): Is that a good or a bad thing? 

Nabila Ramdani: Erm...well, it's a thing. Er, I don't, you know. we..it can be an atheist magazine ..I have no issues with that...and yet it has published, you know, what is a remarkably...a show of remarkably Christian values, effectively turning the ultimate cheek, portraying a prophet crying and, all is, er, forgiven. I think it's a bit too soon, perhaps, in the wake of such sadistic murders really. 

Eddie Mair: What do you mean 'too soon'? When...when is the right time to publish that cartoon after the murder of 17 people by religious extremists? 

Nabila Ramdani: Well, my point is the idea that, you know, we're hearing reports that there might be, you know, other terrorist cells on the loose as well, ready to strike again, and this idea that, you know, you have a prophet who, you know, can just take so much violence on the chin and then move on...er...I think it's...er...it's sending a very muddled message really....

Eddie Mair: And what do you think...?

Nabila Ramdani: And no particular brilliance really in their imagination. It's rather dull. 

Eddie Mair: And what do you think British newspapers and publishers, broadcasters...What should they do with the image?

Nabila Ramdani: Well, Britain has been admirably restrained in its approach to publication. It doesn't allow racist and hateful material...er...aimed at stigmatising people to appear in print or, indeed, to be broadcast. So why should it suddenly allow this? I mean, isn't restraint and respect crucial in any civilised democracy? Is it really the suggestion that we should now all start drawing childish, racist pictures of black people or bigoted ones about homosexuals or anti-Semitic ones about Jews? Is that really what Britain wants? How far should we regress?

Eddie Mair: David Aaronovitch, what do you make of the fact that so few British publishers, including the BBC, have shown it, and then only sparingly?

David Aaronovitch: Well, I think it's not very surprising given the history of this and given people's twofold problem with it. Firstly, there's the fact that people genuinely are intimidated and, second is, there's a great fear of causing offence. We are, as a society, very reluctant to cause offence, even when, actually, in order to inform our audiences properly we would have to take the risk of causing a little bit of offence. I mean, Nabila Ramdani has just said she didn't take offence from this cartoon. In fact she criticised it on purely aesthetic grounds and from her argument, it seemed, she would have preferred it if Mohammad has been depicted...had been angrier and as something of more of a stereotype because that would have represented the moment better. Erm...If it's not at all problematic for Nabila then I can't really quite see why it should be problematic for our news sources. In other words, I can't see why it shouldn't be on the main news bulletins and why it shouldn't have been represented in all newspapers. In other words, this kind of inhibition which we have about it is actually wrong. It's not necessary. And it's also a kind of sign of the way in which a certain kind of commitment to free speech, I think, has been put at hazard in recent years as a result of this discussion.

Eddie Mair: David, do you know of any British editors or journalists who've been offered police protection in recent days?

David Aaronovitch: I don't personally of any, but I do know of many who've reviewed their own security, and I think, actually, it probably went the other way round. I think that there were quite a few publications who went to the police and said, 'What kind of things should we be doing to increase our security?' And, quite possibly, one of those organisations would be the BBC.

Nabila Ramdani: Well, actually, I think, David, you've got me completely wrong there. I was by no means suggesting that the cartoons were not offensive at all. In fact, my view is that the cartoons should not be published in France, especially not at these extremely sensitive times. They are very much provocative and they are evidently making millions of French citizens deeply unhappy, and...

Eddie Mair (interrupting): But was it offensive to you? Did you look at it and think. 'I'm offended'? Did you feel offended?

Nabila Ramdani: Well, absolutely. As a religious person I felt absolutely offended, and I think that a handful of criminals are even ready to kill over what they see as blasphemy is perfectly good reason to prevent them being published, and let's no forget....

Eddie Mair (interrupting): And that's not letting the criminals win?

Nabila Ramdani: No, absolutely not. Let's not forget that in 2012, when the cartoons were published, it led to so much anger in the Arab World that it led to a considerable loss of lives in the Middle East...erm...and I think, fundamentally, I can't see any great principle here either. This is not a test of free speech or any great democratic ideal...

David Aaronovitch (interrupting): Of course it is... 

Nabila Ramdani: It's an argument about mocking cartoons...

David Aaronovitch (interrupting): Of course it is, of course it is...

Nabila Ramdani: ...which insult millions around the world...and if we've got...

David Aaronovitch (interrupting): A test of...a test of...

Nabila Ramdani: ...and if we've got...

Eddie Mair (interrupting): Hold on, Nabila. David Aaronovitch?

David Aaronovitch: A test of free speech is not whether or not you publish things that you don't mind. A test of free speech is when you publish things that people do mind. That's fairly obvious. Now, you actually slid, very, very quickly, when Eddie asked you that question, from the question about whether or not the cartoon was offensive to the question of whether or not it might cause a breach of public peace because some people might overreact to finding it offensive. That's a category change. Those are two entirely different categories. I put it to you, Nabila, that actually you didn't find it offensive. There's nothing in that cartoon, if people were to look at it, which anyone could say was racist, that they could say was intimidatory, that would make any ordinary person feel that somebody was harbouring hatred towards them. And if there was, you tell me what in that cartoon actually suggests any of those things.

Nabila Ramdani: David, there are very strict legislations which actually, you know, legislate on the expression of racial hatred. You are not the person to tell me how I feel....

David Aaronovitch (interrupting): I'm asking you...I'm asking you a question.

Nabila Ramdani: ...especially when I'm telling you I'm deeply offended. I'm telling you.

David Aaronovitch (interrupting): I'm asking you...I'm asking you...I'm asking you to explain the offence, in the light of that particular cartoon...

Nabila Ramdani (interrupting): I believe...

David Aaronovitch: ...not by going off into generalities....

Nabila Ramdani (interrupting): OK, if you give me a chance I will...

David Aaronovitch: ...Pretty soon we're going to be in Iraq, etc, and the history of Western colonialism. 

Nabila Ramdani (interrupting): I will be extremely specific.

David Aaronovitch: ...That cartoon?

Nabila Ramdani: If you give me a chance, I'll be extremely specific. I'm utterly in favour of freedom of speech, but I also believe that the great tradition of satire where a cartoonist can literally draw a line....

David Aaronovitch (interrupting): But again...

Eddie Mair (interrupting): But, if I may say so, Nabila, you're not answering his direct point.  

Nabila Ramdani: I often visit the Holocaust Memorial in Paris where ...

Eddie Mair (interrupting): You're still not doing it.

Nabila Ramdani: Let me finish. And I can tell you that I saw the most disturbing images around about Jews, which are portrayed in the most hateful way, and these kind of cartoons have actually played a huge part in whipping up racial hatred in the years leading up to the war. Why can't we learn from that lesson? What do we once more have to regress into a situation where vicious stereotypes are used to harm communities and people hate each other?

David Aaronovitch (interrupting): The cartoon...the cartoon you described...the cartoon you described clearly did not fall into that category, did it? It did none of those things. It did not whip up hatred. It wasn't an attempt to create hatred of Muslims. It didn't even depict Muslims. You actually, as you first described it, seemed to suggest it was too mild. You've now come back and said that it is to be compared with the worst of the cartoons out of Der Stürmer which depicted Jews as being vermin. Nabila, that's utterly....

Nabila Ramdani (interrupting): That's exactly what Charlie Hebdo did with previous editions of its magazine...

David Aaronovitch (interrupting): No, they didn't actually, and that is utterly and completely wrong, but stick to this cartoon...

Nabila Ramdani (interrupting): No, I stick to Charlie Hebdo's cartoons in general...

David Aaronovitch: It didn't do that and yet you still...and yet you still don't want it published. And yet you still don't want it published despite the fact that it does none of the things you complain about.

Nabila Ramdani (interrupting): No, I'm talking about Charlie Hebdo's tradition in publishing cartoons about the Prophet Mohammad in general...

Eddie Mair (interrupting): We're trying to talk about what's topical and on the front page of the new edition, and that's really what David's question was about. 

Nabila Ramdani: And my point is this will inevitably lead to a great deal of anger in the Muslim World...

Eddie Mair (interrupting): But rather than predicting what other people might feel why don't you tell me what you feel about it? What is it that's offensive about what's depicted?

Nabila Ramdani: As a deeply spiritual and religious person I cannot...I do not accept that the Prophet is depicted on the front page of a cartoon magazine...of a cartoon that is not particularly funny, not particularly satirical, and which is utterly designed to whip up racial hatred.

Eddie Mair: David Aaronovitch, last word?

David Aaronovitch: Well, as you can see, that's not an argument about the cartoon itself. It obviously doesn't whip up racial hatred otherwise that's the first way Nabila would have said it. She objects to the depiction per se...

Nabila Ramdani (interrupting): David is...

David Aaronovitch: ...hold on...no matter what it actually does, and that, I'm afraid, is a prescription we cannot run with any more. Not in a free society. You're going to have to allow the possibility that people for whom Mohammad has become a very big figure, for all of us, are allowed to talk about and to depict it the way they see fit.


  1. Thanks for posting this, Craig. Sometimes, though, the BBC has somebody on blanket coverage so they can break them down in successive appearances and get the whole wide spectrum of BBC audiences seeing them get attacked. Tommy Robinson comes to mind. He was on air more times than the hourly news bulletin for a few days, getting hassled on various radio and tv shows, until he faced Andrew Neil for some good old-fashioned character assassination. I think he got arrested shortly afterwards and has since fallen off the radar. Job done.

    Having said that, it was good of the BBC to allow Aaronovitch to show up the fascist side of thoroughly modern Muslims. The woman is unable to see the message in the cartoon and can only repeat "it stirs up racial hatred" over and over. If anything, it's trying to do the exact opposite, and it's too bad that message won't get across.

  2. Thanks for giving us the transcript. It was a very revealing interview.

    That smiling photo of her is not very representative I find. Normally she seems scarcely able to suppress her anger, scowling intensely. I used to wonder what she was so angry about. Now we know. She hates this free speech society she has to operate in. She wants to dismantle it.

    1. That's exactly it !! - she wants to dismantle western civilisation and can do this by claiming they are against her values !!! "freedom of speech" allows hatred and incitement to flourish and is even promoted by the BBC See http://netanyalynette.blogspot.co.il/2012/12/the-bbc-sponsers-supporter-of-terrorism.html

    2. So you don't support free speech it would appear.

    3. It is wrong and evil to murder . Giving someone the opportunity to encourage murder by justifying it and praising it as a solution to problems is where "freedom of speech" is no longer appropriate.

  3. She's just been on Newsnight and was given a very light dusting of questions by a curiously disengaged, purringly feline Evan Davies.

    She was just allowed to state her case which now is clearly that the front page cartoon is "blasphemous" and Islam has special protected status as a "world religion". She was also very aggressive in saying this "argument" (My translation = threat) has not gone away.

    After a relatively good week for the BBC: Andrew Neil's bruising homily, John Ware's truthful programme, Davies himself holding up the Hebdo cover and Mair's fairly robust* questioning of Nabila "Neveroff", we seem to be back to square one.

    *Not robust enough though, someone needs to ask her whehter she supports the Sharia punishment of death for blasphemy and if not what punishment she does support.

  4. La Ramdani was on the Daily Brillo today. Same smokescreens (she actually said at one point, while trying to excuse Islamic terrorism as just a case of unfortunate exploitation, that capitalism was one of the ideologies used to justify violence), same denials, same lies. Neil did an okay job, but really he and the other guests were having the usual argument about whether or not Islamic beliefs were the problem. Which goes nowhere, of course, as they're all obliged to agree that it isn't, but....something.....no, wait, don't tell me....ah...bad guys twist it....er.....blah, blah, blah. It was almost as if that Panorama episode never happened. But that's the wrong argument entirely.

    They all agree that the current problem is that it's Muslims doing these things, even La Ramdani. Instead of the usual theological pantomime, mostly preformed by people who have next no religious education of any kind (Giles Fraser being the rare exception here, and still all he could do was confirm that Islam was a religion of peace), they should be saying, okay, Muslims are doing it, twisting their religion for whatever reason, if that's how you want to play it, so what are we going to do about it besides making everyone else bow down to Muslim sensibilities? Nobody wanted to talk about the new Charlie Hebdo cover. They talked about it before (the Fraser boil was appropriately condemning of all their previous work), but this would have been the time to bring it up, as they did get into how those horrid brutes often attacked the poorest and most vulnerable, not just powerful organized religions. I mean, WTF?

    I had a brief moment of hope, when Fraser quite rightly mentioned that the French secular tradition and the accompanying genre of political satire came from a time when the Catholic Church was immensely powerful, a political force, with some control over the State. For a nanosecond or two, I thought maybe somebody would make the connection to the fact that the current version of Islam causing all the problems is ultimately the same kind of political force, which is why it should be acceptable to talk about it as a bad thing. But no, they all had to keep with the "A beautiful religion hijacked by baddies" narrative.

    And why was Giles Fraser there as some sort of sidekick for the entire show today? A really unpleasant, rather extremist fellow. Which I already knew, but had never seen him in performance on a full-length, serious broadcast like this. Sitting there in his working class costume, correct accent (which I don't remember being so obvious when I first heard him on the radio back during the Occupy days, but perhaps my foreign ears deceive me, or my cynicism leads my memory astray), straight out of central casting. The sour, scrunched up look on his face when Tim Montgomerie said the State wasn't the answer to everything was pretty revealing of his personality. No wonder he quit helping people go through their spiritual lives in favor of being a fascist Occupy supporter.

    1. Is she ever off our screens?

      If she is supposed to be the voice of the reasonable believing Muslim, it can only be to keep off people who even more revealing in their views - people like Mehdi Hassan maybe, who referred to us non-believers as unreflective cattle.

      I'd like interviewers put some specific questions e.g. do you support the traditional penalty for blasphemy under Sharia? what do you think should be the penalty for blasphemy against Islam in the UK? do you want Sharia to rule in the UK at some point in the future? which of the traditional punishments under Sharia (e.g. crucifixion, cutting off of hands) do you disapprove of?

      Instead we get mostly nebulous questions..."What more do you think can be done to prevent this divide getting worse?" "Isn't free speech important though?" - that sort of thing.

      You'd think none of them ever went to journalism school.

    2. I have no idea why they chose her to be the spokesman for European Muslims for the last few days. Obviously it was not to expose her and have them all pile on. It's especially odd considering that the Panorama staff must have at last discovered some other people besides Mo Ansar and Anjem "Jihadi-seekers' Allowance" Choudray, or the usual liars from the MCB. Maybe the producers know her from something and thought she'd be good enough to do the rounds.

      They weren't going to do a Tommy Robinson on her, otherwise they would have asked the questions you mention. So I guess she's there to hold up the "You musn't offend Muslims, there are so many factors" side. Which she doesn't do very well, I must say. But they all keep having the wrong argument, and seem afraid to stand up to her.

  5. PS: On re-reading my comment, I may have gotten the chronology of events wrong there regarding when Fraser talked about French secularism and the powerful Church versus today's Charlie Hebdo attacking the weak (which is BS). Also, I meant to say that Neil and Fraser talked about the CH cover in an earlier segment (the very, very young, not very well trained or paid Beeboid who did the chyrons spelled it "Ebdo" the first time up, and it took longer than it should to correct), not earlier in that same panel discussion. Doing email plus a glass of Highland Park is to blame if I got it wrong.

  6. The more we see this woman the better.
    The ultimate twisting in the wind apologist fir Islam-no matter what it does.
    Not always a fan of Aaronovitch, but he was cerebral and rational enough to tear the pretensions and platitudes of this creeping taqqiya merchant apart.
    Yet it was clear that Islam is just that...reflex fascism, on-the hoof cavils and always the victim.
    Imagine the MCB will report this interview to the EOC for being sexist...her hiding behind the Holocaust victims was the usual Muslim barrel-scraping...as soon as reason and history is applied to Islam, its protests and cultural claims are laid bare-and out pops the Nazi snarling threats and claims for being peaceful.
    The salt of reason turns the Muslim snail to slime on the slightest contact...so -like the Left-we need plenty more, the Left-Islam nexus is unused to argument nowadays...hence the Stanley knives and injunctions/recourse to quangos.


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