Reply to Bolt

Andrew Bolt wrote a pretty scurrilous attack on me at his blog. So I emailed him. He did not reply. So I’ll post my email in full.


Dear Mr Bolt,

By chance, I happened to read your blog this evening. I saw this entry

Under a heading which says

Why is the ABC whitewashing the murderer of Jewish children?”

you allege Tariq Ramadan praised the murderer. And then go on to write

Which makes even sicker this other excuse offered by Michael Brull on the ABC:

It may be worth noting – however one feels about Merah’s grievances, they are plainly secular.

Now, firstly, your heading plainly implies that I whitewashed the murder of Jewish children. Have you read my article? Is that really what you believe I did? Do you think, for example, my opening sentence (“Mohamed Merah committed terrible, shocking crimes”) implies some kind of approval of what he did?

Secondly, do you consider it an “excuse” for murder to argue that the grievances which motivated it were secular? Do you think it would similarly be an “excuse” for Anders Breivik if I wrote that his grievances were secular? It seems to me that unless you regard religiously motivated actions as inherently more morally blameworthy, your claim is absurd.

Thirdly – I quote the Guardian. If you haven’t read my article, I will repeat my quote for your benefit.

It was reported that

he made some attempt to explain… just what had motivated his madness. The soldiers he killed in the back? Members of the 17th Regiment who had killed his “brothers” in Afghanistan. The small children from the Jewish school? A way of “avenging Palestinian children”.

I said – regardless of how one feels about those explanations, they are secular. Do you know what secular means, Mr Bolt? It means non-religious. Do you think that the explanations he gave for his murder were religious?

It is possible you think one should disregard what he said to justify his actions in determining why he did them. If the non-religious reasons he offered weren’t really why he committed his actions, then I would be inaccurate. I do not claim to know what was in his heart, and would be skeptical of anyone who claimed they did. Yet I fail to see how anything I wrote whitewashed his actions or made some kind of excuse for them. Assuming that the words you use have actual substantive meaning.

Best wishes,

2 Responses to “Reply to Bolt”
  1. glengyron says:

    I think Bolt is an idiot.

    But so are you if you read language about ‘brothers’ in Afghanistan and don’t understand its religious nature.

    Brotherhood is a fundamental principle in Islam, the Qu’ran itself refers to the brotherhood of all Muslims many times, for example: (Surat Al-Hujurat 49:10)

    “The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy.”

    The usage of the phrase ‘brothers’ has a clear religious tone to it. This phrase is encountered throughout the Haditha, for example in the Last Sermon quotations that many Muslims will be familiar with.

    In Merah’s perverted version of Islam all Jews are Idolaters (being ‘people of the book’ isn’t much good to extremists), and all Palestinians and Afghans are Muslim brothers. This is not a secular viewpoint.

    It’s entirely consistent with the Al-Qaeda death cult which distorts mainstream Sunni Islam to radicalise wandering fools like Merah.

    Bolt has clearly defamed you if he thinks you’re excusing the killings of Merah, but I think you’re being ridiculously naive to ignore the religious underpinnings of his motivations.

    The explanation in the Guardian, which comes originally from reports on France24, is consistent with the expected statements of a Sunni extremist Jihadi.

    • glengyron says:

      Just to follow up with a few links since I clearly didn’t make the argument very well in this comment.

      1. Judging motivation from the few grabs of information in the guardian isn’t going to really work whatever your viewpoint is. But I do suggest that using the term ‘brothers’ at least has to orientate your interest towards religion as a basis of the grievance. Beyond the “brotherhood of man” the only other way the people of Afghanistan were Merah’s brothers was through their shared religion. Ethnically he was North African, like the soldiers he killed.

      2. We do now have other information on Merah, of varying qualities and with varying additional spin. It does collectively support the idea that this kid became radicalised and went on a killing spree for religious reasons:

      “Mr. Merah’s lawyer, Christian Etelin, said his radicalization probably took root when he was jailed for 21 months after stealing a purse in December 2007 and became despondent about his future. Friends say he tried to hang himself. And he started to read the Koran, the police said Mr. Merah told them.”

      “After being released, he was rejected by the army and the Foreign Legion. He vainly sought work as a mechanic, Mr. Etelin said. Mr. Merah’s rage, the lawyer added, might have been fueled by the end of his brief marriage. He was divorced in the days before his killing rampage began.”

      “Before he went to prison, he told me that he wanted to join the army and defend France and the French flag,” Mr. Etelin recalled. “But after prison all his dreams were shattered. This boy with the face of an angel began his evolution into a monster.”

      Apparently he produced a video of the killings:

      “It’s a video montage of the various killings set to music and readings from the Koran,” a police source told Reuters, saying that the footage had been sent to the Paris office of the Arabic satellite network Al Jazeera.

      There’s certainly no evidence of any secular influence in connection to his murders.

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