As I reported here on Sunday, a post-doctoral researcher at a British university has arranged to interview me as part of a project “looking at different manifestations of populism across Europe”. To avoid as many “gotcha!” traps as possible, I arranged to have any potentially loaded terms defined to my satisfaction in advance of answering the questions.
As it turned out, there, was only a single term — “far-right” — that needed to be defined. The interviewer replied to my request this morning, and his response was eminently reasonable and helpful. His cooperative and non-ideological approach is a far cry from that of the British journalist with whom I exchanged emails several months ago.
This measured, thoughtful reply is not what I would have expected from any major university investigating Islam-critics:
Thanks for getting back to me. Glad you’re happy with most of the questions. I used the term ‘far-right’ in that question largely because it’s the term used in the report it references, rather than as a reflection of my own, or any organisation’s definition of far right. On reflection I think you’re right to question the definition as the term is used rather casually in the report, and I’ll confess, in my questions.
I’ve been wracking my brains about the best way to characterise the term ‘far-right’ violence, but on reflection I think this is likely to be somewhat counterproductive given the wide spectrum of violent acts in recent years. I don’t think that any definition could adequately include one set of groups whilst excluding others. Moreover, I don’t really want to exclude any form of violence. I’m interested in how you see your work as influencing or not influencing the behaviour of a range of groups, not just those that Kundnani sees as being on the ‘far-right’.
I think the best thing to do might be to remove any political description from violence altogether so you are free to add in your own if you so choose. So the question should read:
‘GoV has been criticised in the past as promoting a counter-jihadist narrative that in turn promotes violence (see attached report Kundnani, 2012: 6). Do you think this is a valid or fair criticism? How would you respond to claims like these?’
Hopefully the new wording is acceptable, but if not let me know and I’ll have another go.
So the Kundnani report, riddled as it was with knee-jerk leftist bias, provided the model for my interlocutor’s current undertaking. It’s gratifying to see that he is willing to recognize the model’s deficiencies, and modify his text accordingly.
Answering the question as it is now phrased will provide a welcome opportunity to discuss all types of violence that may emerge in reaction to those who openly oppose Islamization and sharia in Western societies. And, contrary to the current wisdom, Breivik-type violence is not at all what one can expect as a response to anti-Islamic rhetoric.
I’ll be writing more on this subject when I answer the interviewer’s questions in detail. For the time being, let’s just say he should have interviewed Theo Van Gogh instead of me if he wanted a truly meaningful answer to his questions.