As Mo Ansar looks wistfully off into the middle distance, what is he really thinking?
Mo Ansar is a Muslim social and policital commentator in the UK. He used to regularly appear in the mainstream media until questions were raised over the truthfulness of some of his claims about his professional history. I cover this (and link back to source evidence) here and here.
Mo rarely says, or Tweets, what he really thinks, so one is left cobbling together his worldview from snippets of interviews or Twitter exchanges. I think the best thing to do to be able to understand his worldview is to document these snippets to attempt to view the whole and then let that view stand the test of the court of public opinion.
It’s made slightly more complicated by virtue of the fact that, sometimes, Mo’s stated opinion on a particular topic doesn’t tally with his behaviour when directly engaging with someone on the topic. I’ll attempt to draw out the ‘nuance’.
Once I’ve uncovered his views on the leading ethical and political topics of our time, perhaps it will be clearer whether the views are sound, and if they can be holistically grouped together so people can easily judge what Mo stands for.
Secularism (Secular as a political outlook, not an adjective) of the State certainly seems, prima facie, the best way to guarantee freedom of conscience and religion. If political decisions can’t be made for the purposes of benefiting a particular religion, all religions will be equal under the law. Surely that’s all anyone with a personal belief wants, right?
As described here, Mo doesn’t have a high opinion of Secularists. In this case, these are Muslim Secularists:
He also was supportive of Egyptian ex-president Morsi and his Islamist government, so Secularism certainly isn’t a prerequisite for Mo:
So, perhaps he favours an Islamic theocracy? Maybe:
Mo starts this conversation with a claim to Muslim self-determination. He ends it saying that ISIS’ actions are “as bad & contorted as many so-called Christian nations”. I don’t know which nations he means here (committing genocide and beheading civilians, etc), but they don’t appear to be garnering much media interest.
The claim to self-determination is worth exploring. As questioned in the thread, ‘what about the Non-Muslims?’. This will always be a hypothetical questions, as any governmental system favouring a religion, obviously hinders non-believers of that religion. So ‘self-determination’ for Muslims here, just means lack of it for others. Only in a place of 100% Muslims would this be fair and then, of course, it would be no advantage at all.
So this leaves Mo has a self-labelled leftist & libertarian who supports Islamic values (ie Sharia). This is probably the reason why Mo’s political stance seems incoherent and disingenuous to those who’ve followed his political musings.
On homosexuality, ‘social libertarian’ Mo shows why this label and Islamic orthodoxy are not coherent:
He thinks it’s good enough to think that homosexual acts are immoral, but he can hate the sin and not the sinner. He’s at pains to say that, even though he support gay rights, he doesn’t “agree with it”, but he doesn’t want to see people persecuted as long as it’s kept in the home. He’s trying hard to show a humanistic side, but is constrained by the reins of orthodox Islam. Not very socially liberal!
On blasphemy and free speech, there are 2 examples which clash with his social libertarianism:
1: Mo calling for people to sign a petition to have Maajid Nawaz sacked following his (truly social libertarian) stance on Jesus and Mo cartoon strip. This has been covered in detail here and here. I can’t add anything to these pieces, suffice to say that respected journalists like Tom Chivers can’t make out Mo’s incoherent position (see addendum in Tom’s blog). It doesn’t make much sense.
2: The jailing for blasphemy of Saudi poet and activist Hamza Kashgari. Kashgari has recently been released from prison after serving 2 years for sending perceived blasphemous tweets. Social libertarian Mo said:
A clear case of protection of the Prophet trumping a person’s freedom of expression. Mo also used to threaten to sue people on Twitter for libel. Quite a lot. This has ceased since May 2014. Since this time, people have generally been asking Mo to sue his detractors for libel in order to clear up all the outstanding accusations. He has yet to do this. Makes you wonder……
On abortion, Mo takes his guidance for his input to this serious ethical debate from the Qur’an:
It’s certainly a strange stance on a very important question of medical ethics. He shouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t taken seriously by the physicians, scientists and lawmakers tasked with making these difficult judgments.
On animal welfare, Mo is supportive of halal meat for its superior health benefits. He thinks that Halal meat is the future for everyone in Britain. The article confirms Mo does not support pre-stunning of animals before halal slaughter. He believes that human religious privilege trumps animal welfare. He even thinks that talk of banning religious slaughter in favour of animal welfare would put the government firmly in parallel with the 3rd reich!
Mo throws a bit of scientific justification in there on top what is basically a religious doctrine argument. The Schulze study (from 38 years ago) referenced here, was questioned by the Schulze himself 20 years later as he feared the methodology was flawed.
On circumcision, again, religious privilege wins. Mo cites “Huge medical” benefits, but is disagreeing with the trained healthcare professionals:
Again, his opinion is based on doctrine with a very shallow reliance on an evidencial base.
On Segregation in universities Mo is clear that it should be a free choice for Muslim women to sit free from men. In the 21st century. In a liberal democracy. In a university. This thread starts with Richard Dawkins commenting on gender segregation at a debate organised by an Islamic Society at a British university (UCL). David Aaronovitch soon steps in:
Mo simply can’t see that allowing gender segregation impinges on the rights of the other attendees. Aaronovitch’s analogy of race is a sound one, and one that falls on deaf ears.
Also, notice the way he tries to credit Islam (the ideology that’s a complete guide to life (including politics)) for Secularism of all things!
We’ve seen that Mo will use science to back up views that are religious (ultimately divine revelation) in nature. Where science contradicts his religion, science loses.
On evolution, Mo thinks intra-species evolution occurs (Islam is fine with this), but speciation is, as yet, unproven. Mo says he’s read Jerry Coyne, and others on evolution, but is not compelled to believe it, yet. He says he doesn’t believe man shares an ancestor with other life (yes, all of it!) because there’s insufficient evidence. In the meantime, he’ll believe the first man, Adam, was created by Allah from mud. Doesn’t seem too logical does it? ‘I’ll not believe a conclusion support by rafts of evidence, and believe in one that has none. I’m willing to be convinced though.”
Mo thinks that his opinions on topics carry the same weight as the consensus scientific view:
Science as an epistemology has a long track record of showing how things work, making models to predict future behaviours, and applying this through engineering. It outweighs the opinions of individuals (who have alternate theories with little or no evidence) for this, very good, reason.
It reduces Mo to a good, old fashioned Creationist. ‘Each to their own’ you may say, but with his work on Hampshire SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education), they tried to have Creationism taught equally in science and RE in Hampshire. Religious privilege over children’s education and understanding of epistemology.
Mo uses the epistemology of revealed religion over that of science. Mo once claimed to have “studied physics to quite some level..”, I fear Mo didn’t understand that which he was studying. The study of science can be hard, but the rewards are worth it. A true understanding of the universe and the courage to say ‘I don’t know, I’ll keep on looking’ is true intellectual honesty. This phrase doesn’t appear in Mo’s current lexicon.
The promotion of Islam seems to form the basis for Mo’s interpretation of history. Again, there is no uncertainty, only surety.
1: Muslims in pre-Columbus North America? Mo seems to think so. The only reason I can see for these assertions is to show Islam’s superiority in a shallow ‘I did it first!’ sort of way. The claim is wholly debunked here.
2: Islam is responsible for most of the advances of humanity? Mo seems to think so.
Now, here you may think Mo isn’t crediting Islam, but Muslims (questionable anyway, but better than crediting Islam!)…. But in fact, Islam inspires these Muslims to do these things:
Mo thinks that the Qur’an’s command to ‘think & question’ is enough to provide it with credit for everything a Muslim’s ever thought. The reality of all these discoveries is that humans learned what other humans had previous discovered and added a bit. ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’ is very apt. Humans have taken great leaps where various civilisations have organised themselves so the brightest among them can just think; without the worry of starvation and fear for safety. The Islamic Golden Age was one such civilisation of many throughout history. It’s certainly not unique to Islam (look at the West now), so can’t claim credit.
911? Fresh from giving credit for all humanities advancements to Islam, Mo further entrenches the protection by excusing its perfection for anything bad. Mo’s blogpost continues all the lines of thought above and takes them to their natural conclusion: conspiracy theories (3rd paragraph from the end (but don’t read too far, anti-semitism is close behind!)).
So, it’s clear from Mo’s view of history, everything is viewed through the lens of Islamic protectionism.
Other Religions & Sects
Mo is an ‘experienced Interfaither’, so we should expect his utterances on other religions to be understanding and empathetic. This is what thinks about Judaism and Christianity:
This, on the face of it doesn’t appear very tolerant. Here’s an interaction with a Christian:
I don’t think anyone can have a problem with a religious person thinking they are following the ‘right’ religion. After all, why believe otherwise? But here, Mo is showing a supremacy around Islam because he believes he has the theological high ground. When his hypocrisy was pointed out, here’s his defense:
Having been called, he uses free speech as a defense (a good one), and then blames his interlocutor for picking a fight.
I would expect, then, for Mo to respect others’ right to engage academically on Islamic philosophy and theology….
By the same standards Mo applied to Sam Harris, Mo is a anti-semite. Good to know.
But Mo doesn’t stop there. Here are his thoughts on Shias:
It appears the Mo isn’t just an Islamic supremacist, he’s a Sunni Islamic supremacist.
Having examined the different areas of thought, we may have pieced together enough to get Mo’s worldview. Here it is:
- Prefers Theocracy to Secular democracy
- Thinks homosexuality is a sin
- Uses doctrine above evidence on ethical issues
- Is a creationist / evolution denier
- Is a Sunni Islamic supremacist
- Is a 911 Truther
- Is an historical ignoramus
- Thinks Islam’s perfect and responsible for all the good and no bad actions
Oh, and he’s a left wing social libertarian, too! Am I allowed to say ‘pigs might fly’? Or is that Islamophobic?