• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens vs Spinwatch

Here’s one I missed from a couple of weeks ago; the website SpinProfiles was recently temporarily shut down, after the journalist Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens made a complaint to the service provider; the project’s director David Miller writes:

Our SpinProfiles wiki website at www.spinprofiles.org was shut down by web firm 1&1 Internet on 21 June because we did not remove a profile on think-tank researcher Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, son of journalist Christopher Hitchens.

In an email dated Friday 18 June, 1&1’s lawyers said SpinProfiles must ‘immediately remove the profile’ by midday Monday, or face being shut down. Although 1&1 do not host our site, the URL is registered with them. They gave no explanation of how the webpage violated their terms and conditions except that it included ‘personal information’ we did not have ‘permission’ to use.

SpinProfiles’ editor David Miller wrote back asking for more precise details of the objection, arguing, ‘It is clear that the content of the webpage in question is factual and backed up by sourced information. It cannot be wholly contrary to your conditions of service…’

Meleagrou-Hitchens now explains himself:

About a year and a half ago, I was contacted by my former university, informing me that someone was using freedom of information requests to look into my academic past. The university secretary requested my permission to release the information, and although I was quite uneasy that a shadowy group was rooting around my personal life, I allowed it. It later turned out that the information request was made by a website called Neocon Europe, which is also run by Miller. They used the information to create a rather lengthy profile of me, in which I was presented as a sinister neoconservative thinktank “operative”.

Despite being very uncomfortable with Miller’s cyberstalking, I did not respond, and made no complaints. This remained the case until I was recently informed that in the past, Neocon Europe has published the work of Kevin MacDonald, who has expressed antisemitic views and has testified on behalf of the historian David Irving, to define neoconservatism.

…People who are profiled by his websites should be allowed to reserve the right not to have any association with him, and this was the primary issue upon which my complaint was predicated. I asked the site administrators that, due to the past publication of antisemitic views on Neocon Europe, my profile be taken down from the page. Instead, Miller’s team moved it to SpinProfiles, and it was at this point that their web providers took it upon themselves to shut the whole site down.

…”Watch” sites like these, although highly unpleasant, must be allowed to exist, but free speech cannot be taken as a licence to attack and harass political opponents while expecting no censure or response.

I’m not impressed with Meleagrou-Hitchens’ argument here: I looked at the offending profile on Google cache, and the only “personal information” consists of some details about his education. It contains nothing that can be characterised as personally intrusive or as harassment. The assertion that “People who are profiled by his websites should be allowed to reserve the right not to have any association with him”  hints at the suggestion that he was protecting his reputation from some sort of misrepresentation. But this is an insult to the intelligence: no-one who reads a profile of a person on a website assumes that the subject must be “associated” with the site’s owner, particularly if the profile is critical. Although he agrees that such sites “must be allowed to exist”, how exactly does his rather tortuous formulation differ from the more obviously absurd assertion that “People should have the right to disallow critical profiles of themselves on websites that expound political views that they find objectional”?

Of course, SpinWatch is controversial – and not just for the MacDonald fiasco, which resulted in an apology from Miller (the material had been added to the site by another researcher, and Miller removed it as soon as it came to his attention). An article at Standpoint by Shiraz Mather makes some substantive criticisms about the project’s methodology and focus; I agree that the term “neo-con” is thrown about too loosely, as are – worse than that – accusations of racism. Meleagrou-Hitchens also mentions an Israeli scholar named Sagit Yehoshua, who claims that important factual details about her on the site are incorrect. However, none of this changes the fact that Meleagrou-Hitchens’ form of “censure” and “response” to his own profile – a profile which he does not claim was libellous – is not attractive, and his justification does not redound to his credit.

(I should disclose that I have occasional contact of my own with the people who run Spinwatch, and they were helpful in relation to events I blogged here and here.)

SIOA Advertising on Taxis in Chicago

Stop Islamization of America is now advertising on taxis in Chicago, using photos of  girls and women murdered in honour killings to promote its “Leave Islam Safely” website . Similar ads have featured on buses, as I blogged here.

The advertised website leads to Pamela Geller’s “Refuge from Islam” website, where there are some cursory blog postings. The top one reads:

If you are thinking of leaving Islam, be wary, be careful. Do not tell your Muslim friends or family. The Qur’an commands your death for leaving Islam (4:89 calls for the murder of renegades from the faith), and Muhammad is explicit in a hadith: “If anyone changes his religion, kill him” (Bukhari). Many, many ‘honor killings’ have been committed for “crimes” that are in Islamic law considered far less serious than leaving Islam.

Think you’re safe in America? Rifqa Bary has been threatened numerous times for leaving Islam. Rashad Khalifa was murdered by Islamic supremacists in Arizona in the early 1990s — because of his “heretical” teachings. If you doubt that you’re in danger in America, be aware that apostates have been threatened or murdered in recent years in Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere. It doesn’t matter how free or open your country’s society is: the law of Islam recognizes no national borders.

If you fear for your life, contact info@avoiceforthepersecuted.com. If you are unsure of how your family or community will respond to your admitting that you’re leaving, don’t take chances. Write to Pamela Geller at writeatlas@aol.com or Robert Spencer at director@jihadwatch.org. If you need immediate protection from a threat, call the police immediately.

A

Start here — these are your best resources for Muslims who have made the journey. They can hekp you.

Contact Nonie at Former Muslims United

Apostates of Islam

 Speak to Ali at  Faith Freedom org

Answering Muslims

Muslims Against Sharia

Above all, don’t give up hope. We can provide safe houses.

There follow several blog posts puffing SOIA and related subjects (of little interest to anyone besides activists) , and, at the very bottom of the page, the addresses of some women’s refuges in Miami. That’s it. No links to any serious resources on either honour crimes or protection for women – instead, there’s a motley collection of websites critical of Islam, some of which are primarily concerned with gaining converts to Christianity.

What little practical advice is given is contradictory:

If you fear for your life, contact info@avoiceforthepersecuted.com… if you need immediate protection from a threat, call the police immediately… We can provide safe houses.

Aside from “call the police immediately”, the rest of this is useless: “avoicefortheperscuted.com” is the website of a Christian writer named Nikki Arana, who lives in Idaho. Arana is the co-author of Through the Eyes of Christ, which presents strategies for persuading Muslims of the truth of Christianity; she doesn’t even claim to have any useful practical advice for ex-Muslims fearful of honour killings. And what exactly do Geller and Spencer know about running a “safe house”? Again, if a “safe house” is needed, that should be a matter for the proper authorities – and not for a pair of publicity hounds more interested in using ex-Muslims as trophies than in offering discrete assistance. The Rifqa Bary case, with which Geller and Spencer have been involved, quickly degenerated into a circus and something of a fiasco.

Plus, once again, there’s a conflation of “honour killings”, which are performed to assert patriarchal authority over females, with threats against apostates and heretics – Amina and Sarah Yaser Said, used in the advert above, were murdered for having boyfriends; we don’t know that they wished to “leave Islam”. All threats, of course, are reprehensible, but I’m incredulous that Geller really cares about someone like “Rashad Khalifa… murdered… because of his ‘heretical’ teachings”. Are she and Spencer really going to provide “safe houses” for heterodox Islamic teachers? Are we going to see a picture of Khalifa on the roof of a taxi?

Nothing here has been thought through properly; this is a stunt calculated to provoke rather than a serious effort to help ex-Muslims.