Thoughts About Books (4) Koertge (Ed.) – A House Built On Sand

A House Built On Sand, which was published in 1997, is a collection of contributions by philosophers and scientists edited by Noretta Koertge of Indiana University. Its subtitle is “Exposing Postmodernist Myths about Science”, and I think it accomplishes that reasonably well.

This volume consists of five parts, each part consisting of three or four articles:

1. The Strange World of Postmodernist Science Studies.

This part chiefly consists of a post-Sokal affair discussion of the state of postmodern schools of thought on science. Alan Sokal, and, in a second article, Paul Boghossian (who later wrote Fear of Knowledge, which I plan on reading soon) reflect on what the Sokal hoax proved. The third contribution in this first part is a sobering, if slightly too consensual for my taste, call from Philip Kitcher not to throw the whole field of science studies under the bus.

2. Myths, Metaphors, and Misreadings

The second part takes the discussion to case studies. Biologist Paul R. Gross, co-author of what was arguably the first large-scale work devoted to “Exposing Postmodernist Myths about Science”, that is, Higher Superstition (which I also plan to read “soon”), has two contributions here. His first one deals with how some feminist scholars tried to spin embryology and the study of sperm and ova as sexist. His second one has a more defensive tone, as he tries to set the record straight after being accused of various wrongdoings because of what he wrote in Higher Superstition. In between Pr. Gross’s two contributions one finds Philip Sullivan’s patient discussions on a feminist’s misreading of fluid mechanics and a social scientist’s of the history of statistics. The second part of this volume is concluded by yet another defense of scientific practice against feminist objections, this time Michael Ruse’s defence of Darwin’s insights.

3. Interests, Ideology, and the Construction of Experiments

The slightly boring third part of the book focuses the discussion on the experimental method, both in principle and through examples. William McKinney’s contribution examines why the claim made by University of Utah scientists to have achieved cold fusion was eventually discarded. I found his exposition somewhat difficult to follow, unlike Allan Franklin’s somewhat clearer examination of a similarly spectacular claim in the field of natural sciences, that, is, the claimed observation of gravity waves. Allan Franklin follows up with an examination of a particular episode of nuclear/particle physics. In all three of these contributions, the authors do their best to disprove social constructivists’ claims that scientific disputes are not settled by an examination of the empirical data. This third part closes on John Huth’s refutation of Bruno Latour’s egregious misreadings of Einstein’s relativity. Huth’s piece is fun, and this is due in large part to Latour’s own antics.

4. Art, Nature, and the Rise of Experimental Method

The fourth part of the volume deals with similar themes to Parts 2 & 3. It opens on Alan Soble’s refutation of feminist scholars’ claims that the experimental method in particular and modern science in general were constructed on, or popularised through, sexual metaphors and especially rape-oriented metaphors. William Newman then tells the reader of such feminist scholars’ soft spot for alchemy, which they see as “an alternative to the ‘repressive’ and ‘patriarchal’ world of contemporary science”. The next two contributions, from Cassandra Pinnick and Margaret Jacob, are devoted to a discussion of postmodern scholars’ disingenuous versions of the history of science, focusing on the seventeenth century dispute between Hobbesian and Boyleian viewpoints.

5. Civilian Casualties of Postmodern Perspectives on Science

Noretta Koertge, who edited this volume, opens this fifth and final part with a warning on the increasing influence of identity politics on education, including scientific education. Paul R. Gross’s co-author of Fear of Knowledge, Norman Levitt, is next, with a terse but dense discussion of John Horgan’s The End of Science, which is much less an indictment of the scientific method in the grand tradition of postmodernism than it is a prognosis -and, to some extent, a diagnosis- that scientific progress is nearing its end. Last but not least, the final contribution in this volume, and maybe my favourite, is Meera Nanda’s analysis and refusal of what she calls “epistemic charity”, a phrase which refers to radical epistemic relativist and social constructivist defences of illiberal customs in the Third World. In Why Truth Matters, which I read before A House Built On Sand, Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom centred a passage of their text around Ms. Nanda’s analysis, and I remember I also enjoyed that passage.

Mehdi Hasan’s Deep Passion for Red Herrings

Mehdi Hasan is the political director of the British Huffington Post.  That is, until he joins Al Jazeera. He’s the quintessential “moderate Muslim” in the usual sense of the term. Polite, left-leaning as a whole, Western looking, and oh so threatened by free speech.  In the past few months he’s penned two pieces in his home outlet HuffPost.

The first one was published pre-Charlie Hebdo, pre Copenhagen in mid-November of the past year 2014. Let’s see what Mr. Hasan had to say back then:

Oh dear. What I am being accused of, and attacked for, now?

Apparently, I want to block all criticism of Islam or Muslims in the press and, effectively, ban free speech.

“A lie,” as the old saying goes, “will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.” Never has that particular statement been more apt and accurate than in today’s era of social media, of Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, in which a lie goes round the world three or four times before truth has even bothered to go looking for its boots.

First, some background: I gave a talk at Mindshare UK’s ‘Huddle’ in London on 13 November – a talk that I also gave at the Wilderness Festival in August, incidentally – in which I outlined the various ways in which sections of the British press routinely demonises, discriminates against and fearmonger about British Muslims, especially in the form of inaccurate, misleading and dishonest headlines, images and stories. (You can see for yourself a selection of the hysterical and flat-false front page headlines that I presented, via Powerpoint, here.)

This link is important for Mr. Hasan’s argumentation and I would encourage the interested reader to read it. It’s pretty short. I have to say it’s a bit hard to read because the two supposedly Muslim-baiting Daily Star front pages feature pictures of some girl, Lucy, which are kind of distracting. Notwithstanding, one can take Mr. Hasan’s point for what it’s worth: media coverage of Muslims is often negative and treats Muslims as aliens in the UK. My own take on this is that this is the result of right-wing media outlets monopolising the conversation on that topic, while left-of-centre outlets are too busy finding excuses for all acts of terror and general demands for special treatment on the part of Islamists to give a voice to true Muslim reformers such as Maajid Nawaz.

I suggested that, in the context of an ongoing British debate over the best form of press regulation, there needed to be tougher action by any proposed new regulator against the promulgation of falsehoods and smears against marginalised minorities of all types – Muslims, Gypsies, asylum-seekers, etc.

On the other hand, falsehoods and smears against other people are all right.

I made no mention of the religion of Islam, to beliefs, practises, theology and the rest. In the Q&A after my talk, while thinking aloud, I said I genuinely couldn’t think of any way of changing press attitudes and practises that didn’t involve some sort of sanction or penalty, maybe in the form of pressure from consumers or advertisers.

Fair enough.

I was referring here specifically to the campaign against the Daily Mail‘s homophobic response to the death of Stephen Gately in 2009. To be clear, the background and context to all my remarks was the Leveson-inspired debate over press regulation in the UK; I wasn’t advocating new laws or financial penalties or restrictions on speech – nor did any of the audience members present at either Mindshare or Wilderness interpret my remarks in that way.

Nevertheless, across the pond, right-wingers of varying hues – taking their lead from this news report in the Guardian and this spin-off report on Mediaite – took great offense at my remarks. CNN’s conservative host S.E. Cupp claimed I wanted to“censor anti-Muslim speech”. Michael Moynihan, a libertarian writer and editor at The Daily Beast, decided I had “come up with a really stupid and dangerous idea”.

JihadWatch’s Robert Spencer declared: “Mehdi Hasan goes full fascist, calls for sanctions for criticism of Muslims”. (The “fascist” charge is deliciously ironic, given the fact that Spencer, oft-quoted by Anders Breivik, has been banned by the Home Office from entering the UK due to his far-right views on Islam and Muslims.)

Gloating over someone being denied access to a First World country because of what he MIGHT say while staying there sounds a lot like fascism to me.

Egged on by Spencer and co, the Muslim-baiting trolls on Twitter and Facebook went further, falsely claiming that I wanted to “silence” and “punish” critics of Islam by introducing “genocidal blasphemy laws” and angrily demanding I be “shot” for my supposedly illiberal views. “It would appear that the Huffington Post has been infiltrated at the highest office by Islamists,” wrote one charming Facebook commenter.

Why on earth would I want to punish or prevent “criticism” of Islam or Muslims? I spend a good chunk of my time as a writer, commentator and TV presenter criticising and condemning the behaviour of certain Muslims, certain Muslim groups, certain Muslim-majority countries – see here, here, here, and here. Oh, and here, here andhere. Would I really call for a “penalty” on myself? Really?

Now, am I guilty of making off-the-cuff and perhaps clumsy remarks, during a brief audience Q&A, followed by an even briefer and impromptu interview with a Guardianjournalist in the crowd? Yeah, in hindsight, probably.

But am I guilty of trying to shut down debate or limit free speech on this issue? To quote the great champion of free speech, the late Christopher Hitchens: “Don’t. Be. Silly.”

Except you’re not a great champion of free speech yourself. At all. As we’ll see later.

I have a long history of defending, and promoting, free speech and open debate – especially (especially!) within Muslim communities. In October 2012, for example, I published an open letter to “Muslim protesters” who were rioting over the controversial YouTube movie about the Prophet, urging them to value free speech and tolerance while denouncing their violent antics.

I also happen to present a discussion show on Al Jazeera English, called ‘Head to Head’, in which my guests have included high-profile and very robust critics of Islam and Muslims – including atheist Richard Dawkins, ‘Muslim refusenik’ Irshad Manji, feminist Mona Eltahawy and Israeli settler Dani Dayan. None of them complained afterwards that they had been censored by me; in fact, Manji welcomed the opportunity to set out her stall on Islamic reform on one of AJE’s most-watched programmes. I disagree with much of what she says but I not only defend to the death her right to say it, I even offered her a global platform on which to do so (to the annoyance, I should add, of many of my fellow Muslims).

Wait for it. In the next article, we’ll see how much Mr. Nawaz really values free speech.

So, as I say, I support free speech, free expression, open debate. Apparently, you’re not allowed to add a ‘but’ after this statement. Hmm. The problem is that there is no such thing as an ‘absolute’ or untrammelled right to free speech. That’s not a controversial or provocative thing to say. It’s just a fact. People – especially journalists, ‘The Hitch’ or otherwise – who suggest otherwise are either being naive or just plain disingenuous.

My mistake. We just had to wait for one more paragraph.

Consider the European Convention on Human Rights: the ECHR in article 10 says “everyone has the right to freedom expression” before going on to add that “the exercise of these freedoms… may be subject to…restrictions or penalties”. Even in the United States, exceptions to the First Amendment include, among other things, incitement to violence, obscenity and child pornography, slander and defamation, copyright and patents and national security. Oh, and don’t get me started on John Stuart Mill and the ‘right’ to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre…

Don’t start. Watch this. Then do as you please.

Regardless, my talk had nothing to do with free speech, or restricting free speech. I was making a much broader, more moral point: you may have a right to be offensive and bigoted towards a group of people, but why should high-profile newspapers and media organisations exercise that right only in relation to one particular community, i.e. Muslims? Does S.E. Cupp want CNN giving TV shows to 9/11 ‘truthers’ to present? Does Michael Moynihan want The Daily Beast to give Holocaust deniers or KKK members a regular column? Why is it that there’s outrage when papers are racist or anti-Semitic or homophobic, but not when they’re Islamophobic? Why the double standard?

Who spotted the skillful replacement of “anti-Muslim bigotry” with Islamophobia?

As my good friend Nesrine Malik argued in the New York Times in April, liberal commentators’ “preciousness about the right to offend won’t be credible until they advocate extending it beyond Islamophobes — to racists, anti-Semites and homophobes, too”. Those who “fancy themselves defenders of free speech,” she concluded, “must be consistent in their absolutism, and stand up for offensive speech no matter who is the target”.

Liberal, you say? Liberal commentators’ “preciousness about the right to offend”? I have no idea what you’re talking about. Not the slightest idea. Except if you’re talking about Hitch, who was branded a neo-conservative. Or Douglas Murray, who has embraced the term whole-heartedly. Or Nick Cohen, who still asserts himself as a left-winger but has repeatedly expressed scorn about the liberal intelligentsia? Or Bill Maher, whose clarity on Islamism has made him many enemies in the American left?

Attacking me for my off-the-cuff remarks and poor solutions is a nice and neat way of avoiding the problem that I highlight: you can now say things about Muslims that you cannot say about any other minority community, and such an egregious double standard is both morally wrong and, from a counter-extremism and counter-terrorism perspective, completely counter-productive.

If someone is making a list of the most counterfactual statements in history, this has to be in it. This sentence crowns twenty-five years of self-censorship in the West about Islam, opened with the Rushdie affair. Ever since, every single -and taking the time to name even a small percentage is something few people could afford- Islamist attack on civil society, from Iraq to Australia to the United States to Pakistan to Spain to China to Denmark to Nigeria, was met with political leaders of legally secular, or sometimes Christian, Western countries telling us that “this has nothing to do with Islam”. My contention is the exact contrary to Mr. Hasan’s: no other ideology, not a single one, would have been able to get away with such soft treatment by Western politicians and mainstream media, if it had led to so much violence.

Can we deal with this point please? Rather than sticking our heads in the sand?

One final point: on Tuesday, the right-wing loons who run Breitbart London, and who bizarrely consider me to be an “Islamist apologist”, published online an error-strewn and fact-free ‘report’ on my comments at Mindshare headlined, “Mehdi Hasan: ‘British Papers Should Face Sanctions For Criticising Islam'”.

Notice the use of the quote marks around those words – words that I did not say. And have never said, and never will say.

Thanks, Breitbart London! I gave a talk about how so many Muslims in the UK are smeared and demonised as “Islamists”, misrepresented and misquoted, and subjected to hysterical press coverage and dishonest and defamatory headlines. And you guys, in covering my talk, then made my exact point for me.

Oh, the irony…

Now onto the main course. This first article was largely devoted to Mr. Hasan’s defending himself against claims made by right-wingers. Most claims were false or misleading and Mr. Hasan was right to set the record straight. He is indeed not an Islamist. Let’s go now to his post-Charlie Hebdo piece. Here Mr. Hasan will go public with his passion for red herrings, and he’ll also throw in a couple of outrageous false equivalences for good measure.

Dear liberal pundit,

I have no idea who Mr. Hasan has in mind here. People self-identifying as liberals have given up, in large numbers, on freedom of speech. See my comments above.

You and I didn’t like George W Bush. Remember his puerile declaration after 9/11 that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”? Yet now, in the wake of another horrific terrorist attack, you appear to have updated Dubya’s slogan: either you are with free speech… or you are against it. Either vous êtes Charlie Hebdo… or you’re a freedom-hating fanatic.

In the fight between the US government, military and secret services and jihad, positions such as “neutral”, “neither nor”, “pro-Bush on Thursdays and pro-jihad the rest of the week” were not logically excluded. But it seems to me perfectly logical to say that someone either is with free speech or against it.

I’m writing to you to make a simple request: please stop. You think you’re defying the terrorists when, in reality, you’re playing into their bloodstained hands by dividing and demonising.

Islam apologetics 101: if someone is too direct in their indictment of Islamism or too passionate in their defense of free speech, they’re putting “moderate Muslims” on the spot and hence being divisive and hence allies of jihadists. QED.

Us and them. The enlightened and liberal west v the backward, barbaric Muslims. The massacre in Paris on 7 January was, you keep telling us, an attack on free speech.

I can’t see how anyone could disagree that it was an attack on free speech. Let’s see how Mr. Hasan tries to disprove that.

The conservative former French president Nicolas Sarkozy agrees, calling it “a war declared on civilisation”.

Oh, well, then, if a conservative person said it, then one might as well stop arguing and agree that it is wrong. You know, just like when “Dubya” -to use your own non-word, Mr. Hasan- said that “Islam is peace”. Bush was clearly a conservative. Therefore he was wrong, right, Mr. Hasan?

So, too, does the liberal-left pin-up Jon Snow, who crassly tweeted about a “clash of civilisations” and referred to “Europe’s belief in freedom of expression”.

In the midst of all the post-Paris grief, hypocrisy and hyperbole abounds. Yes, the attack was an act of unquantifiable evil; an inexcusable and merciless murder of innocents.

Wait for it. You sense it. You know it’s coming. Wait for the “But”.


There you go.

was it really a “bid to assassinate” free speech (ITV’s Mark Austin), to “desecrate” our ideas of “free thought” (Stephen Fry)?


It was a crime – not an act of war – perpetrated by disaffected young men; radicalised not by drawings of the Prophet in Europe in 2006 or 2011, as it turns out, but by images of US torture in Iraq in 2004.

Red herring. Big, fat, juicy red herring. Mr. Hasan wants to shift the focus away from the attacks and, why not, blame the US, while he’s at it. He won’t mention the fact that many of the journalists who exposed the torture of Iraqi war prisoners by US forces were themselves American. Without the freedom of speech guaranteed by the American constitution, they would have been helpless to report on it and urge their fellow American citizens to confront their government and military about it. Mehdi Hasan doesn’t mention the name of Philip Gourevitch, a journalist who’s written about the horrors at Abu Ghraib and has always been a staunch defender of free speech. In other words, Hasan doesn’t mention the fact that thinking that Iraqis should be treated as humanely as Westerners doesn’t mean one is not a “free speech absolutist”. Of course, he does not point out the deafening silence of the media on what was going on in Abu Ghraib under the rule of Saddam Husein. “Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad,” Christopher Hitchens wrote, before clarifying that what was “an international byword for Yankee imperialism and sadism” had previously been “an abattoir, a torture chamber, and a concentration camp”. One does not have to take him at his word -bear in mind, though, he was a longtime friend of the Iraqi opposition to the ghastly Husein rule, and had travelled quite a bit to that country- but in any case, I think Mr. Hasan’s digression, which was built as a en passant shot at the most Western of the West countries, only highlights the selective outrage that has long been the norm: if Third-Worlders find themselves the victims of the US military, there’s a direct, univocal outcry on the left. If they are victimised by their local thuggish regimes Islamic theocracies for instance, everyone suddenly starts yawning and goes back to their Instagram photo editing.

Please get a grip. None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech. We all agree there are always going to be lines that, for the purposes of law and order, cannot be crossed; or for the purposes of taste and decency, should not be crossed.

Nope. Taste and decency should never be considered in free speech matters. We’re not in Victorian England, Mr. Hasan.

We differ only on where those lines should be drawn.

Has your publication, for example, run cartoons mocking the Holocaust?

False equivalence. Monstrous, bloating, greasy false equivalence. More about that later.

No? How about caricatures of the 9/11 victims falling from the twin towers? I didn’t think so (and I am glad it hasn’t). Consider also the “thought experiment” offered by the Oxford philosopher Brian Klug. Imagine, he writes, if a man had joined the “unity rally” in Paris on 11 January “wearing a badge that said ‘Je suis Chérif'” – the first name of one of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen. Suppose, Klug adds, he carried a placard with a cartoon mocking the murdered journalists. “How would the crowd have reacted?… Would they have seen this lone individual as a hero, standing up for liberty and freedom of speech? Or would they have been profoundly offended?” Do you disagree with Klug’s conclusion that the man “would have been lucky to get away with his life”?

Red herring. Fantastic red herring. Mr. Hasan seems to think that, if such a person had joined the march wearing such objects, and if he or she had been mauled to death by an angry mob, that would have disproved somehow that proponents of free speech have double standards. No Mr. Hasan, the only thing it would have proven is that the people who would have killed the “unorthodox” protester were not true proponents of free speech. I regard myself as such, and, in the wake of the attack, one of my favourite cartoons was this one, which was a play on a famous Charlie Hebdo cover. This drawing of Charb unable to defend himself from gunfire was extremely offensive in the context, yet I found it quite smart and funny. I had no idea who had had the idea for it, who had drawn it, who circulated it on the Internet. Apparently it was done by people with whom  I would agree on just about nothing. I still think the cartoon’s quite good.

Let’s be clear: I agree there is no justification whatsoever for gunning down journalists or cartoonists.

Wait for it. You sense it. You know it’s coming. Wait for the “But”.

I disagree

To quote Rachel on Friends, “That’s a fancy ‘but'”.

with your seeming view that the right to offend comes with no corresponding responsibility; and I do not believe that a right to offend automatically translates into a duty to offend.

I actually think, from my rather limited familiarity with Charlie Hebdo, that describing their outlook as that of people who think that they have “a duty to offend” is just about fair. But it was smart offense, as far as I know. Not that it matters, actually.

When you say “Je suis Charlie“, is that an endorsement of Charlie Hebdo‘s depiction of the French justice minister, Christiane Taubira, who is black, drawn as a monkey?

A textbook example in how wasting one’s time. Everyone who would care to know anything about Charlie Hebdo knew they were fiercely antiracist. This drawing was mocking racism. As Mr. Hasan would have known if he had cared to.

Of crude caricatures of bulbous-nosed Arabs that must make Edward Said turn in his grave?

No such article is complete without a mention of Edward Said. Once again, Mr. Hasan is miles off the point. He seems unable to understand what satire is about. Charlie Hebdo fought racism by mocking it. But Mr. Hasan knows it. It’s just that he doesn’t like it.

Lampooning racism by reproducing brazenly racist imagery is a pretty dubious satirical tactic.

It’s sad to think this is coming from an Oxford graduate. And apparently, this Oxford graduate does not seem to know that when your opponent’s position is blatantly stupid, you just have to tell people about it to convince them that your opponent’s wrong.

Also, as the former Charlie Hebdo journalist Olivier Cyran argued in 2013, an “Islamophobic neurosis gradually took over” the magazine after 9/11, which then effectively endorsed attacks on “members of a minority religion with no influence in the corridors of power”.

Mr. Hasan’s argumentation is so bad at this point it’s hard to stay focused. Yet this is the true heart of the article. After paying lip service to the victims and to free speech, this is where he’s telling us why mocking Islam is wrong.  Thanks, by the way, Mr. Hasan, for mentioning Mr. Cyran’s article, I shall tackle it later. In the meantime, you can take a look at this study of Charlie Hebdo’s front pages which show how rarely Islam was featured.

Mr. Hasan’s argument here, if you hadn’t noticed, is that Islam shouldn’t be mocked too much in France because Muslims have little political power there. Though I still do not regard him as an Islamist, he’s going for the typical “play the victim” Islamist Trojan Horse tactics. Without mentioning, of course, that in every single country where the political power is in the hands of Muslims, it is forbidden to mock Islam. Tunisia might be a slight exception here. But instead of being arrested you’ll be killed by an Islamist for insulting the religion of peace. Turkey also used to be a bit of an exception, but hey, not any more. So there’s the paradigm: if Muslims are a minority, don’t be an asshole by criticising Islam. If Muslims are the majority, criticise Islam at your own risk.

It’s for these reasons that I can’t “be”, don’t want to “be”, Charlie – if anything, we should want to be Ahmed, the Muslim policeman who was killed while protecting the magazine’s right to exist.

Identity politics at its finest.

As the novelist Teju Cole has observed, “It is possible to defend the right to obscene… speech without promoting or sponsoring the content of that speech.”


And why have you been so silent on the glaring double standards? Did you not know that Charlie Hebdo sacked the veteran French cartoonist Maurice Sinet in 2008 for making an allegedly anti-Semitic remark? Were you not aware that Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that published caricatures of the Prophet in 2005, reportedly rejected cartoons mocking Christ because they would “provoke an outcry” and proudly declared it would “in no circumstances… publish Holocaust cartoons”?

Let’s quickly evacuate Jyllands-Posten first. If they indeed rejected caricatures of Christ for these reasons, then it means there were at least some enemies of free speech in that publication.

Anti-semitism, Mr. Hasan might know, is racism. I would sack someone making a racist remark.

And finally, about the Holocaust. This is such a false equivalence it hurts. Who has not heard or read that “French people claim to be advocates of free speech yet they have a law against denying the Holocaust? Why don’t they have a law against criticising religions? That’s such a double standard”. All serious free speech advocates oppose laws that outlaw denying the Holocaust. I proudly count myself among these people. In this debate you will hear Philip Gourevitch and Christopher Hitchens arguing against these laws. Elsewhere Douglas Murray makes the standout point that making historical fact into law encourages intellectual laziness on the part of historians and the general public, and that it might end up in a situation where the most knowledgeable people on the history of Nazi Germany are the Holocaust deniers (a point which echoes Hitchens’s defense of Holocaust denier David Irving’s scholarship).

There is a sinister false equivalence lurking in the dark around these points. People like Mr. Hasan wants us to think that mocking the millions of victims of one of the worst crimes in the History of humanity, or denying that these crimes happened, is the moral equivalent of mocking someone’s religious beliefs. The former is nowhere near the equivalent of the latter. It’s so far from being its equivalent, I couldn’t think of a metaphor to describe what Mr. Hasan and other people have done there. And yes, I still think drawing cartoons about the victims of the Holocaust is fair game, and that it not only should, but MUST be legal to deny the whole event ever happened.

Muslims, I guess, are expected to have thicker skins than their Christian and Jewish brethren.

If someone is still making that list of the most counterfactual statements in history, this has to be in it too.

Context matters, too. You ask us to laugh at a cartoon of the Prophet while ignoring the vilification of Islam across the continent (have you visited Germany lately?)

Mr. Hasan is now about to do the classic “Criticism of Islam = Hatred of Muslims” routine.

and the widespread discrimination against Muslims in education, employment and public life – especially in France.

Mr. Hasan can’t be bothered to back that claim up with a single link.

You ask Muslims to denounce a handful of extremists as an existential threat to free speech while turning a blind eye to the much bigger threat to it posed by our elected leaders.

Does it not bother you to see Barack Obama – who demanded that Yemen keep the anti-drone journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye behind bars, after he was convicted on “terrorism-related charges” in a kangaroo court – jump on the free speech ban wagon?

Yes, yes it does.

Weren’t you sickened to see Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of a country that was responsible for the killing of seven journalists in Gaza in 2014, attend the “unity rally” in Paris?

Yes, yes I was.

Bibi was joined by Angela Merkel, chancellor of a country where Holocaust denial is punishable by up to five years in prison,

See above.

and David Cameron, who wants to ban non-violent “extremists” committed to the “overthrow of democracy” from appearing on television.

Then there are your readers. Will you have a word with them, please? According to a 2011 YouGov poll, 82% of voters backed the prosecution of protesters who set fire to poppies.

Apparently, it isn’t just Muslims who get offended.

Yours faithfully,


To sum it up, Mr. Hasan’s second article could be called something like “Free speech fundamentalists suck because some people are not free speech fundamentalists. Oh yeah, and also, don’t criticise Islam. You bigot”.

As I noticed above, two of the “Muslim-baiting” headlines mentioned by Mr. Hasan appeared next to quasi-naked pictures of that Lucy girl. Let’s make it a tradition: everytime I’ll rant about Mr. Hasan, I’ll post a picture of Lucy. In part, but not exclusively, because Muslims might be offended. Actually, I just realised, there’s a small cartoon of a bearded man with a turban on the top right-hand corner. Fantastic.