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The dangerously ignorant Tom Harris

What happened in Oslo was horrific beyond belief. On that, there is agreement across all the political divides.  However,when it comes to the cause and the consequences, there is little agreement. For many, Tom Harris MP has epitomised the crassness of the right-wing response to the tragedy. As the events unfolded, he waded in with a silly tweet assuming that the perpetrators were Al-Qaeda — something he has, today, at least acknowledged was wrong. However, his apology is laced with the caveat that ultimately, although he was totally factually wrong, he is in fact, in the abstract, totally right.

Tom’s contention is that the left is ‘soft’ on the terrorism perpetrated by Al-Qaeda. Let’s be honest, in some instances, he is right — but he is missing the bigger picture, a media and establishment using Al-Qaeda as an excuse to scapegoat one community. He corrects a one-sidedness with his own one-sidedness. For example, he criticises a banner stating “Bush and Sharon are the real terrorists, not Bin-Laden” — I happen to take the view that all three of terrorists, but two have used state machinery to inflict terror on innocents. Harris has no consistent line against all three and that is where his stand becomes unprincipled and bigoted in its overtones.

He ignores the fact that terrorists inspired by fundamentalist Christian beliefs do exist, and will kill having been, at least in part, motivated by them. Above all he fails to see the complex interweaving of religion and politics. He rightly makes distinctions between Al-Qaeda and the IRA, but ignores the fact that Al-Qaeda also has a political programme of demands (a feature that it shares with the IRA). Specifically, it focuses on the withdrawal of Western military forces and bases from the soil of Arab countries, notably but not exclusively Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, Al-Qaeda has drawn on the concept of “defensive jihad” and sees itself as responding to Western ‘aggression’. Tom is therefore completely clueless when he ascribes to Al-Qaeda purely religious motivation for their attacks — but it serves the purpose of further de-sensitising us to ignorant scaremongering if you conveniently airbrush out the political motives they have. It also means you avoid a proper discussion about Western foreign policy. The heavenly reward Harris lays heavy stress on is also there as an incentive, but it is not the primary motivation for Al-Qaeda’s attacks.

Harris ends his piece with a dangerous apologia of his own, saying that if the left won’t condemn “militant islamism” [sic], people will turn to the right and the likes of Breivik. Having spent an entire article condemning the ‘dangerous softness’ of the left, it is more than a little ironic that Tom ends his piece by dismissing Breivik as someone who shares “the same ignorance about the difference between “islam” and “islamism” as many on the left” and who is one of the “right wing loners and psychopaths” who inevitably carry out “isolated terrorist outrages” now and again.

Tom is unable to face down the complicity of his own politics for the events which led to that brutal murder and in doing so, he is showing himself to be a dangerous, hypocritical demagogue whose own politics need facing down and defeating if we are to avoid tragedies such as that of Utøya.


  1. Geoff Lange says:

    My worry is that he is not the only Conservative with views like this. Remember Cameron’s view on multi-culturalism? That on the day the EDL were about to march on Luton.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      He’s a Labour MP… not to discount what you say about Tories.

  2. He is a Labour MP but I can’t help but think Geoff’s mistake might tell us something…

  3. Robert says:

    Poor old Tom he must feel so lonely without his New labour…….Pals

  4. @Robert,

    Give me a second…i’ll fetch the worlds smallest violin…;)

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