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Can non Muslims criticise Islam ?

Rabbi James Kennard in the context of discussing a speaker who spoke at Mount Scopus College communicated with his students via email. That communication is in the public arena, and we had published it here on this page. We have removed the full text and a detailed response to the text after discussion with Rabbi Kennard. What remains below are two points in which we criticise the email Rabbi Kennard sent and we welcome a response.

1. ... [The speaker's] views on Arabs and Israel which seemed close to a black and white view that one side is wholly good and the other is wholly bad is not [ view]. Although I strongly support Israel ... judgements of good and bad have to be more nuanced and realistic...

If someone read the above text and did not personally know the speaker, they could come to the wrong conclusion that the Jewish claim to Eretz Yisrael as an ancestral homeland is not wholly correct ("good"). However, anyone knowing Rabbi Kennard would be aware that he holds that the Jewish claim to Israel is clear and unequivocal.

2. "I do not believe it is correct for a non-Muslim to pronounce on what Islam does or does not say, just as I would not want a non-Jew defining [what Judaism does or does not say] for me..."

This one is hard to unpick.

The argument used by Rabbi Kennard rests on analogy. The analogy is between Judaism and Islam and assumes that Islam is basically good because Judaism is basically good.

To illustrate that this reasoning is invalid, imagine that Brigitte Gabriel had spoken out against the Ku Klux Klan (“KKK”). Imagine that despite not being a KKK member, she had seen its activity up close and that she subsequently became vocal in criticising it publicly. Surely Rabbi Kennard wouldn’t suggest that the only credible spokespeople to comment on the KKK are its own members.

If it is assumed that Islam is good, then Rabbi Kennard's analogy is valid. If Islam is questionable or worse, his analogy is invalid. Brigitte Gabriel contends that Islam is questionable or worse, therefore Rabbi Kennard's analogy is invalid.

Moreover, one can't prove that Islam is inherently good by assuming that it's inherently good and dismissing the testimony of people who say it's not inherently good.

The world of Wikipedia and Google now mean that a layperson can easily verify assertions made by others about Judaism, Islam and millions of other topics. It's possible to sift through information and determine what is credible and what's not. Rabbi Kennard may not like it, but it is happening and we all have to put up with it.

By virtue of his special expertise in Judaism, Rabbi Kennard is using his position of authority to denounce Gabriel’s credibility. In essence he is saying ‘you are not an authority on Islam and therefore are unable to make authoritative statements about Islam’. By the same token, Rabbi Kennard is not an authority capable of denouncing her view and is therefore invalid in attempting to do so.  

Ralph Zwier

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Political correctness supports bigotry by muzzling "dissent"

Posted on 2015-03-10 05:10:35 GMT

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has written an opinion piece saying he is "appalled" that many Australians fighting with IS were receiving government benefits before they flew overseas. Writing in The Saturday Telegraph, Mr Abbott said a federal investigation provided to him in September revealed 55 out of 57 Australians who went to fight with IS were on some form of welfare payment. He said Australians would be angry their tax dollars were being used to support "bloodthirsty killers".

Posted on 2015-03-10 05:05:45 GMT

Political correctness muzzles dissent to combat "bigotry", labels distortion as "inclusiveness" and punishes anyone who dares produce evidence to challenge this bullying - Melanie Phillips

Posted on 2015-03-10 04:15:09 GMT

It is hard to imagine that such defensive energies would be summoned if someone criticised Buddhism or Christianity. In fact, I have just heard atheist on an ABC radio program saying "Christianity as just as bad as ISIS". It seems clear that the atheist is confident that his statement will attract little or no complaint. So the reality seems to be it is could be unsafe to judge ideologies that use violence or intimidation. Else not.

Posted on 2015-03-09 10:36:02 GMT

Brigitte Gabriel risks her own life to defend Israel and Jews everyday , she is a moving target for the obvious culprits. However notwithstanding all this she is insulted by Jewish leaders by being told what she can or can not say and then ridiculed in a silly immature letter. What this letter writer has done is further stereo type the Cowing , cowardly Jew not willing to stand up and be counted. 85 y ears ago there were similar types trying to be holier than thou, self righteous , patronising but they to were loaded on the trains with all the others. We Jews have learn't nothing from the past. I am ashamed Brigitte Gabriel is owed an apology .

Posted by ashamed on 2015-03-09 09:59:52 GMT

Invited guests can be the most Anti- Zionist even Palestinian useful idiots but as long as they dare not criticise the very people that wish us harm .. Go Figure!

Posted on 2015-03-09 09:48:55 GMT

I believe that as a Jewish educator, I have an obligation to our youth, to present all sides of an argument and all views but do so from a completely neutral point of view. I'm not sure that the communication after the fact in this case is an act of neutrality. Students must be shown all sides and it must be explained to them in a way that they can clearly see opinions and sort out for themselves what they believe to be true for them. Everyone has a different truth and our youth should have a chance to work stuff out for themselves without being led down a particular path. It is not for us to push students down a left or a right path, but to question all ideas equally and let the students come to conclusions that they are comfortable with for themselves. That in my opinion is moral education. One must question whether that has taken place in this instance. I suspect that this intervention doesn't help. I had a robust neutral discussion in my class straight after and it was neutral and useful and educational without me pushing my own beliefs on the students.

Posted on 2015-03-09 09:12:35 GMT

Hard to believe!

Posted on 2015-03-08 00:59:29 GMT

Thank you for shining a light onto the morally ambiguous self-censorship

Posted on 2015-03-08 00:48:18 GMT

If Rabbi Kennard wants to stop non-Muslims from making remarks about Islam then he must be very opposed to the western politicians who tell their voters that ISIS is not Islamic while at the same time thousands of Muslims flock to battle flag of jihad.

Posted by Ym on 2015-03-07 11:30:38 GMT

She spends every evening on Fox News Channel (FNC) in USA berating the many depredations of Islam (as do most of their guests, Spencer, Bolton others), esp during the Paris massacre. I watched them every night. Her views are crystal clear.

Posted by GP on 2015-03-06 23:35:28 GMT

The real shame of this letter is that is serves only to discredit the other very important points that Ms Gabriel brought to attention. The school obviously though there was a need to educate the students as they invited BG to talk knowing full well her opinions. Kennard's comments may just be an attempt to bring political correctness to the view to avoid backlash from the wider community. The problem with this is that it only assist the delegitimisation movement and takes away from the first step of "naming" the disease of islamisation. If we succumb to the temptation of perceived political correctness then the plight of truth can only be hindered.

Posted by SK on 2015-03-06 23:33:06 GMT

Appreciate the time and effort Ralph has taken to clarify and formulate a more appropriate email, given Rabbi K's attempt at providing some 'balance'. Kol Hakavod Ralph! Avi P.

Posted by AP on 2015-03-06 07:17:30 GMT