Thursday 12 February 2015

Specially-commissioned (BBC) letters from Europe

Following on from Sue's post...

Radio 4's short Letters from Europe series is described as being a series of essays from "a range" of European writers, "specially commissioned" in the light of the killings in Paris and the Pegida demonstrations in Germany. 

That Radio 4 (pace Sue) specially commissioned Julia Franck (above) as its 'Jewish voice', and that she turned out to be both pro-mass immigration and utterly dismissive of concerns about Islamisation, surely tells us something about the way of thinking prevalent at BBC Radio 4. 

Similarly suggestive of the prevailing BBC mindset is the choice of tommorow's essayist, Henning Mankell - French-resident Swedish author of the Wallander novels and an ardent anti-Israel activist. What he'll have to say we'll have to see. (Will he shoehorn in an attack on Israel?)

As for the final writer in the series though, French writer Lydie Salvayre, M. Google ne est pas très instructif, so we'll also have to wait and see. Will she stand up for French secularism? Will she be a supporter of Marine le Pen? (I very much doubt it).

Yesterday's 'letter', from French-Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra, however, was precisely the sort of piece however, that many of us would have expected from the BBC.

It included plentiful denunciations of "Islamophobia", "racism" and "xenophobia", plus lots of criticism of "the West", charges of double standards, bags of 'we-are-all-to-blamery', talk of terrorism being "a social disfunction" and, inevitably, the claim that the atrocities in Paris must in no way be associated with Islam.

So far so easy for the BBC-basher. 

Here, however, is where things get somewhat more complicated - as things have a habit of doing. The two other 'letter writers' we've heard so far, both bearing Muslim names, were a pleasure to listen to. 

The first, Dutch-Moroccan writer Abdelkader Benali - now an atheist, according to Wikipedia - though he didn't let that slip in his letter - didn't engage in point-scoring. He recounted his own childhood experiences as an immigrant and his discussions with a Jehovah's Witness school chum about who was better, Jesus or Mo. He was quite funny about it, and charming. As a kid, his house had two books in it - the telephone book and the Koran. He liked the telephone book and would ring people at random. They were always kind to him. (I, wanting to be the next Jimmy Young (who my dad always had on in my youth), once rang Morecambe Library to ask questions on behalf of imaginary listeners. They were kind too.) He found renewed faith in Kafka and Robert Frost (went to bed as Abdelkader, woke up an insect after not taking the road not taken). 

Today's 'letter writer', Turkish-German writer Zafer Senocak, was similarly personal, talking about his father - and almost as good. 

He sounded as if he was going to be as dismissive of Pegida at first as Julia Franck, saying that Dresden is a bit behind the times and the modern multicultural vibe of the big western German cities. 

However, he went on:
When Muslims complain about 'Islamophobia' these days they ought to ask where this 'phobia' comes from. Is it unfair on Muslims if a lot of people are revolted by an Islam that spreads violence and terror and they turn away from such a religion and its followers? 
The confused, misled young people who carry out terrorist attacks in the name of Allah are only part of it. Conditions in many Islamic countries are beneath human dignity. Public executions, stonings, appalling medieval practices, which are far too seldom condemned by Muslim believers. Likewise, the widespread, systematic, pitiless discrimination against women and against people of other faiths. Elementary human rights are denied in the name of a great world religion. All this cannot and should not engender any sympathy, any good will. 
'Islamophobia' cannot be compared with anti-Semitism, which is also still part of the European mentality. 'Islamophobia' in Europe today is less irrational and less deep-rooted than the hatred of Jews. It is primarily the failure of Muslim elites to live out their faith and interpret it in such a way that it can be communicated to people of other faiths or none.
Above all though, violence in the name of Islam and the Koran has led to a deep alienation between Muslims and non-Muslims. What is expressed in this alienation is above all horror. 


  1. Just testing as your comments identity verification hasn't been working.

  2. Here were my comments from an earlier thread:
    I've been taking a look at the Letters from Europe series on Radio 4. I caught the end of the latest episode and I wondered what it was all about because it sounded like people had just been given a kind of extended "Thought for the Day" pulpit session.

    I found out it was billed as "reflections on recent events in France and Germany"...well I immediately got the French connection but what were the German "events"...well, wouldn't you know it that refers to the Pergida demonstrations. So - killing blasphemers and Jews in cold blood is somehow equivalent to protesting peacefully about the influences that have led to such killings!

    Yes we were back in the Land of Go Compare and Conclude There's Equivalence.

    Now the series of 5 episodes is billed as reflections by 5 European writers. Of the four named we have three people from Muslim communities within Europe. The other was from a Jewish writer who appears strongly sympathetic to allowing in asylum seekers from Islamic countries, no questions asked.

    Well you can imagine what you get:

    - Insulting comments about European society being governed by fear of the other...when all the evidence shows that Europeans get on very well with Hindus, Jews, Buddhists and other immigrants. European societies are now probably the most truly inter-racially integrated on the planet excepting perhaps Brazil.

    - Equivalence: suggesting harsh criticism of Islam (which - though it was never said - is thick with vituperation against other belief systems)is the equivalent of terrorism.

    - Suggestions it is somehow in the gift of non-Muslim European society to stop the terror by better understanding Islam and Muslims.

    - No questioning at all of the wisdom of continued mass immigration from backward Islamic countries.

    Once again, a complete lack of balance and every evidence of bias.

    A balanced series would have included one or two of those five predictable voices perhaps but should also have included people from Pergida, or champion of robust secularism in France.


  3. I wish I could be as positive as you Craig about the contributions. It seemed to me there was lot of special pleading going on and no analysis of why other immigrant communities don't produce terrorists in the hundreds as do the Sharia-following communities.

    I completely reject Senocak's claim that "It is primarily the failure of Muslim elites to live out their faith and interpret it in such a way that it can be communicated to people of other faiths or none."

    How on earth could the "elites" live out Sharia - which means treating all non-Muslims and all women as second class citizens?

    If he means "We need to completely throw out Sharia and make our peace with the modern world" he needs to say so but he is probably - and understandably -too afraid to do so,because that amounts to apostasy and is punishable by death.


  4. Craig, some background information on Lydie Salvayre. I don't think you're going to be in for any surprises.

    She was - a bit of a pattern by now - born to a family of refugees. This time left wing Republicans from Spain. Strangely right wing refugees seldom get a look in this series.

    [How very BBC-like to think that "a range of comments" should be invited only from refugees or people brought up in refugee families.]

    Secondly, she is trusted enough to be a guest editor on L'Humanite - what used to be the official mouthpiece of the French Communist Party. Here's her article:

    Combining my basic knowledge of French and a machine translation, I can report the article performs all the usual mental somersaults, acts of amnesia and denials of elephant-sized facts.

    She claims she (indeed the nation as a whole) was unaware prior to the killings that such murderous hatreds existed in French young people (she avoids all use of the words Muslim, Sharia or Islam). This despite the fact that France has been subject to murderous attacks since the 1990s by (initially) Algerian Jihadists.

    She refers to the banlieues without asking why Christians in the banlieues don't engage in such terrorist attacks.

    She referred to killings in a kosher supermarket, without any suggestion that Jews were being targetted.

    She refers to her own personal history swimming between two banks (her Spanish and French roots) without any recognition of just how close Spain and France are culturally compared with say Algeria, Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan.

    She makes no reference to having read the Koran, Hadith or Life of Mohammed. The other contributors are strangely silent on these texts with the terrorists themselves are only too happy to quote.

    All in all this has been for me one of the most biased and tendentious "factual" series programmes ever broadcast by Radio 4.

  5. Thanks for the information. She's not going to say anything that goes beyond the BBC's comfort zone.

    As for my quip about whether Lydie Salvayre might surprise us all and be a Front National supporter (as if the BBC would EVER dream of inviting such a person to give such a talk on Radio 4)...well, no...

    In L'Humanite (the old communist rag), there's an article called:

    Front national, un affront 
à l’histoire, à la vie
    (National Front, an affront to history, to life)

  6. Excellent stuff, Craig.


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