Robert Kilroy-Silk, morning talk show host on BBC1 and former Labor MP, wrote an editorial in the (UK) Sunday Express last Sunday entitled “We Owe the Arabs Nothing” – stink has ensued:
- The Muslim Council of Britain denounced the BBC discussion show presenter’s piece as a “gratuitous anti-Arab rant”.
….The Commission for Racial Equality has also reported the matter to the police.
The MCB secretary general Iqbal Sacranie said in a letter to BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey that Mr Kilroy-Silk had failed to distinguish between the terrorists behind the 11 September attacks and 200 million “ordinary Arab peoples”.
Mr Sacranie questioned whether if the word Jew or black was substituted for Arab in the piece, the presenter would not still be occupying a high-profile spot on television. [BBC]
Sacranie may have a point there, but sensitivities aside, what did Kilroy-Silk (great flipping name) actually say? I found a transcript at the MCB site – thanks Muslims! I have added my thoughts in brackets.
- WE ARE told by some of the more hysterical critics of the war on terror that “it is destroying the Arab world”. So? Should w e be worried about that? Shouldn’t the destruction of the despotic, barbarous and corrupt Arab states and their replacement by democratic governments be a war aim? After all, the Arab countries are not exactly shining examples of civilisation, are they? Few of them make much contribution to the welfare of the rest of the world. Indeed, apart from oil – which was discovered, is produced and is paid for by the West – what do they contribute? Can you think of anything? Anything really useful? Anything really valuable? Something we really need, could not do without? No, nor can I. Indeed, the Arab countries put together export less than Finland. [Arab music and art are of value – they did some good science and curating of human knowledge about 1000 years ago. Islam isn’t all bad.]
We’re told that the Arabs loathe us. Really? For liberating the Iraqis? For subsidising the lifestyles of people in Egypt and Jordan, to name but two, for giving them vast amounts of aid? For providing them with science, medicine, technology and all the other benefits of the West? They should go down on their knees and thank God for the munificence of the United States. What do they think we feel about them? That we adore them for the way they murdered more than 3,000 civilians on September 11 and then danced in the hot, dusty streets to celebrate the murders? [clear oversimplification and overgeneralization. I believe more Arabs than not were outraged by the events of 9/11]
That we admire them for the cold-blooded killings in Mombasa, Yemen and elsewhere? That we admire them for being suicide bombers, limb-amputators, women repressors? [overgeneralization, except for the third one] I don’t think the Arab states should start a debate about what is really loathsome.
But why, in any case, should we be concerned that they feel angry and loathe us? The Arab world has not exactly earned our respect, has it? Iran is a vile, terrorist-supporting regime – part of the axis of evil. So is the Saddam Hussein-supporting Syria. So is Libya. Indeed, most of them chant support for Saddam. [he is lumping non-Arab Iran in there, but Iran is Muslim, maybe he means to speak to the Islamic world of the Middle East]
That is to say they support an evil dictator who has gassed hundreds of thousands of their fellow Arabs and tortured and murdered thousands more. How can they do this and expect our respect?
Why do they imagine that only they can feel anger, call people loathsome? It is the equivalent of all the European nations coming out in support of Hitler the moment he was attacked by the US, because he was European, despite the fact that he was attempting to exterminate the Jews – and Arabs.
Moreover, the people who claim we are loathsome are currently threatening our civilian populations with chemical and biological weapons. They are promising to let suicide bombers loose in Western and American cities. They are trying to terrorise us, disrupt our lives.
And then they expect us to be careful of their sensibilities? We have thousands of asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries living happily in this country on social security.
This shows what their own people think of the Arab regimes, doesn’t it? There is not one single British asylum seeker in any Arab country. [the comparison is stark and uncomfortable, but certainly holds] That says it all about which country deserves the epithet loathsome. GEORGE GALLOWAY, the member of parliament for Baghdad Central, as his tormentors describe him, called the British and American troops “wolves” and called for the Arab countries to rise up and fight them and to cut off oil from the combatants. Later he called upon British troops to refuse to obey “illegal orders”. He has, predictably, been vilified. His comments have been termed a disgrace, disgusting, outrageous and so on.
He has been called a loony, naive, gullible and a traitor. There have been demands that George’s constituency party should deselect him, that his constituents should not vote for him at the next general election, and that he should be deported to Iraq. No one, as yet, has demanded that he be put in the stocks or burnt at the stake, though no doubt this will come.
But why all the fuss? Why is everyone getting into such an excitable lather over the predictable remarks of a no-mark?
Who with any sense cares an Iraqi dinar for what dear George thinks? Like Clare Short, George is a licensed court jester. He acts the buffoon while she’s the straight part of the act, though she exaggerates her sanctimonious seriousness.
Neither are taken seriously. Both are totally discredited laughing stocks that add to the variety of political life. At least George is open, honest and sincere. [The Express on Sunday]
The second half of the piece is a description and dismissal of notable UK Arab-sympathizers Galloway and Short – no direct attacks on Arabs there. There is no sin whatsoever in calling amoral idiots and loons “amoral idiots and loons”: in fact, the sin is in leaving it unsaid.
So what is Kilroy-Silk guilty of here? Other than confusing his Arabs and Persians, his central “crime” is overgeneralizing the anti-Anglo-ism of the Arab-Islamic world and dismissing their general contributions to the world.
These errors and exaggerations are unfortunate because overall he is more right than wrong: we sure as hell have done more for them than they have for us. I am not defending Western imperialism here, but the Arab-Islamic’s world’s decline began at least 700 years before the West had any substantial input – and for most of that time, if you’ll recall, it was the Muslims who were the imperialists. Their very sorry state of affairs is of their own making, but their response to the aid and comfort of the West is wholly predictable within human nature as well: let no good deed go unpunished and let no benefactor be unresented. And Kilroy-Silk’s basic premise that the political structure of the Arab-Islamic world is a corrupt, autocratic, loathsome mess is dead right. We can only hope that the War on Terror does it severe damage.
Try this: rather than substituting “Jew” or “black” for Arab in this piece, add in the word “many” in front of Kilroy-Silk’s accusations – it is a pity he did not do so himself.