Raheel Raza being ‘controversial’

On September 3, 2016, the National Secular Society in Britain held a conference. I chanced upon videos of it in YouTube for my previous posting. The first speaker was Raheel Raza.

If you read about her in Wikipedia you are told that she holds “controversial views on Islam”. A few paragraphs later you read that she has “unequivocally condemned terrorism”. What a fascinating definition of ‘controversial’!

She is introduced by Afonso Reis e Sousa.

Her speech is preceded by a video documentary, produced and presented by her. It lasts till 14:30, is refreshingly forthright, honest, and not very comfortable. I commend it.

The controversial theme of Raza’s speech is essentially that of equality under the law, that there should be one law for all.  As Thomas Sowell has written –

If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.

Quite so. You can switch on the TV to almost any current affairs programme today to see some cretin condemning with a straight face that sort of equality.

Raheel Raza is a good speaker, particularly when she resists the lure of that script on the lectern. She has plenty to say, and says it clearly.

At 17:00 she hits us with revelations that certainly surprise me. Her ‘controversial’ theme obviously advocates resisting the advance of Sharia, and she tells us that just four Muslim countries of the world are run by it – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Sudan. She goes on to declare that in some respects Sharia has more influence in Britain than in Pakistan.

Her bottom line is that state and religion should be kept entirely separate. This obviously befits a speech made to a secular society, but it heaps more controversy in a country like Britain that has an established religion – even if it is fast becoming a minority one.

I’m very glad I watched this video. I learnt some interesting and disturbing things, including some that I haven’t mentioned here. I commend the whole thing.

She was followed on the platform by Maajid Nawaz. I plan to look at his speech next.

Douglas Murray and sincerity

There have been times on this blog that I avoided covering speeches by those who I felt had been covered here too often. Douglas Murray is one such. He is just so good that I know before it starts that my rhetor hat will be redundant, that I will sit and simply enjoy the quality of his speaking and be interested by what he says. The only negative will be the feeling of guilt at this self indulgence. Who cares! I’m going to permit myself a little R&R.

A month ago there was posted on YouTube a speech that he gave at Secularism 2016 which took place on 3 September last.

Though not wishing to get mired in semantics, I feel relaxed with secularism more than with atheism. I believe in the concept of a soul, yet organised religion bothers me – not least in its endless bloody bickering. (What on earth possessed factions within the C of E in the last few days with its hounding of Bishop Philip North?)  Secularism seems to be able to live with private spirituality while not caring much for liturgy, and that suits me very well. On the other hand I mistrust fundamentalism in all its guises, and atheists seem too easily to become tiresome ideologues. The late Christopher Hitchens used to be sneery, and even the admirable Matt Ridley in his otherwise excellent book, The Evolution of Everything is so obsessed with “skyhooks” that tedium threatens.

Enough of that. What has Douglas Murray to say?

He speaks with his audience, not to it. He has perfected the current speaking fashion for what I call ‘conversational sincerity’. If I put my rhetor hat on, I register the personal idiosyncrasies, the ‘ums’ and ‘ers’; but as soon as I doff it they disappear because he absorbs me completelyThat for me is the mark of excellence. I discern no trace of artificial persona: this is the real man. It is a stunningly good piece of speaking – but then that’s what he always provides.

He is also very sound on his subject, and very wise. What I like here is how he is tailoring to his audience. He is always well balanced, but here even more tempered and moderate than I have seen him. He recognises that this is an audience with grownup perceptions, so he doesn’t have to ram stark opinions down their throat.

That video above represents fourteen minutes that I am glad I spent. I am also pleased to have spent it twice. I am also pleased to have watched the panel’s Q&A at the same event. I am also pleased to have watched two other speakers at the same event. It shows that it was worth indulging myself. I shall cover their speeches shortly.

Tommy Robinson and free speech

I read on line an article written by Douglas Murray for the Gatestone Institute. It unfavourably compared the official treatment of Tommy Robinson and Anjem Choudary. I found it interesting because, whatever you may think of either of these gentlemen, the one absolute concerning the law is that everyone should be equal under it. This article suggests that in some respects they are not.

Within days I spotted that Tommy Robinson had delivered a talk at the Oxford Union, and although this happened in November 2014 I had not picked it up at the time. I felt rather ashamed of myself, because as a fervent believer in free speech I like to support it by heralding it on this blog. Well, better late than never …

There was also a Q&A session, but you won’t find it here, Robinson holds the floor for this entire video. Occasionally you overhear protest chanting from outside the hall, but inside the audience listens in decorous silence.

Let me get the rhetor stuff out of the way. Robinson could structure a little more clearly, but otherwise this is what public speaking should be. It is sometimes slightly garbled, but transparently sincere. He shoots from the hip a message that he wants to get across, and he sets about it without affectation or pretence. You can disagree with every word he utters, but I don’t believe that you can justifiably accuse him of hiding behind a false persona.

I tip my hat to the Oxford Union for this dramatic and excellent example of free speech. Providing a platform for views you might expect to find abhorrent, is by far the best way to challenge them.

I don’t think I have anything to add. I simply commend the whole talk. You may hate him throughout; you may not. Either way, I suspect you will come to understand better. I did.

The Q&A is pretty good too.

Maajid Nawaz: so-o-o close!

In May 2016, at AJC Europe in Paris, Maajid Nawaz delivered a talk on the global jihadist insurgency. He is a Muslim, founder of the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremist think-tank. AJC is a Jewish advocacy organisation. This talk represents ecumenism at an exalted level.

This is not the first time he has appeared in this blog. He was the third speaker on the magnificent panel that I featured here. He was very good and I said so. He subsequently sent me an email of thanks. It would be idle and foolish of me to claim that that event was not dangerous and stressful – it was, very – but in terms of the actual process of delivering a piece of speaking he was surrounded by elements of comfort. For instance there were the other speakers, all with varying versions of an agreeing message, they were all sitting behind a desk (curiously comforting), and so on. Therefore when I saw that he had delivered this speech, standing alone at a lectern, I was interested to see how well he coped without those comfort factors. I so want him to be as good as he can be.

Oh no, he has a script!

I could understand if a reader of mine viewed with exasperation my always harping on this point, but it matters even though Nawaz barely looks at it. Even if he never looked at it because he’d learnt it (and I suspect this is close to the case) I would still know it existed, and it would still matter.

I would know it existed because the sentences are just a little too well parsed to be spontaneous, and that’s why it would matter. Because there is a script the passion behind what he is saying is not coming straight from him, but from the script via him. I don’t say that the passion is not genuine: indeed I know it is genuine. My problem is that not being spontaneous the passion crosses the space between him and the audience with a tiny reduction in power. If ever there was a message of such importance that even a subtle reduction in power is a hideous pity, it is this one.

The reduction is so small for several reasons. He feels the passion strongly. He has obviously practised. He is driven by a fierce desire to get his message across. It is actually a  good script, written with the intention (very nearly achieved) that it should sound spoken rather than written.

He has done almost everything right. Almost. He now has to learn how to speak without a script whether or not it is memorised, and also learn that he can. Here and now with total conviction I can tell you that he can; but till he absolutely knows it he won’t dare try.

This is a very well-conceived speech, and such an important one!

At 08:14 someone in the audience shows agreement with a little clap that we can’t hear. It generates a round of applause, and this is just what he needs. Spurred, he departs from the script with a little aside of appreciation and then returns to the fray with added impetus. Now he is speaking as if with no script (I wonder whether he has departed from it and is speaking largely spontaneously around it). Now he is fully in the driving seat, instead of perching with half a buttock on the handbrake. This is how he should have sounded from the start: this borders on excellence.

At 11:50 he reminds us that he knows so much about the Islamist methods of persuasion because he used to be one who practised them. If you want to see how plausible he was, you can get a taste of his former self here.

It is his depth of understanding of the whole problem that makes Maajid Nawaz so valuable, and why his being even a tenth of a notch below excellence such a pity.

Pamela Geller makes a hate speech

In this blog I seem to have covered many speeches recently by ballsy American females. Can I help it if I like ballsy speakers? – and if they happen to be female so what? America seems to supply plenty. My only caveat is when they become shrill. Today’s speaker is not in the least shrill.

On 19 October, 2011, Pamela Geller spoke to the Sugar Land Tea Party in Sugar Land, Texas. The speech was intended to be at the Hyatt Place; but apparently a single email threatening to hold a protest caused the Hyatt Place to clutch its pearls, pick up its petticoats, and run screaming for cover, forcing the organisers to move to the Sugar Land Community Centre. What was so inflammatory that Geller was intending to voice?  Shall we find out?

You see why I like ballsy speaking? From the moment Geller begins you know that she means what she says: honestly and sincerely she means it. You can disagree with everything she says but you cannot accuse her of falsely representing her views. This is why I keep saying to my trainees that by learning to speak without script or notes, you elevate your credibility beyond measure. By daring to be yourself, warts and all, you are going to be believed more readily than some sort of talking-head avatar, however highly polished might be his oratory. Geller sometimes stumbles over words, sometimes scrambles her syntax in her eagerness to convey her message. So what? I bet you hardly noticed, if at all. That’s what a speaker’s transparent passion does – disguises any slips.

Even if you disagree with her you cannot deny that she shows her workings; therefore to repudiate her you are going to have to come up with some counter-evidence. I have searched a huge amount of online material condemning her, but it is nearly all ad hominem. They play the man not the ball. Why? Could it be that the ball is unplayable?

I could have looked at a later speech of Geller’s, but I chose for this posting to go back nearly five years, so that we may reflect on what has happened since and what has changed in the official line that we hear after each successive Islamist outrage. Here is a Wikipedia page that lists Jihad attacks worldwide since 1983. They make sober reading. Just the list since this speech in October 2011 is very long, and it doesn’t end with the appalling massacre in Orlando a few days ago. Today, 14 June 2016,  there was a double stabbing in France by a man who apparently swore allegiance to Isis.

If the media even bother to cover most of these obscene acts at all they do so in a way that paints the perpetrators as victims.  Who is to blame them as they take their lead from officialdom?

Is President Obama pathologically incapable of allowing the words “Jihad” or “Islamist” to pass his lips? Orlando was blamed on extremism – oh yes, and the availability of guns. Was today’s stabbing in France blamed on the availability of knives?

As Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam said in a debate I covered here some months ago, it’s like Voldemort being a name you may not mention.

We don’t stand a chance against this revolting movement till we are prepared to call a spade a spade. But certain very powerful movements in the west effectively shut down any attempt at free speech on the matter. In the light of the ongoing atrocities, we are compelled to question their motives. These powerful movements need to be held to account.

The truth is become hate speech, and it seems that Pamela Geller speaks it.

Brigitte Gabriel: courage and capability

On 8 September, 2014, the United Nations hosted a conference entitled Global Anti-Semitism: A threat to International Peace and Security.

One of the speakers was Brigitte Gabriel. If you read my previous post you will not be surprised that she is the subject of this post. When seeking a formal speech from her I was torn between this speech and this one. You have the link if you want to see why I was torn. Though the other has an equally powerful, and very moving message this blog is devoted to speaking skills. I commend both, but I shall be examining this.

Unlike the other speech, she is reading this one. I know why, and I can understand it. When you are in this sort of company you don’t want mistakes, nor is it good manners to over-run your time. I often argue with those reasons, but not with the following one: the press will almost certainly have received a transcript in advance, so she has to stick very closely to it. People like her, who have learnt to speak without the aid of paper, handle paper better. She has written the speech in spoken English as distinct from written English, she limits herself to the merest glances at the paper, and she absolutely doesn’t allow it to interfere with her audience engagement.

Clever opening! The story of the necklace is laden with human interest while also including interlinear ethos. Neat.

She enters the main body of the speech by way of an alliterative triad, “demonisation, double-standards, and delegitimisation”. The first of those enables her to list some of the accusations levelled at Israel and one of them is genocide to which she witheringly replies, “If Israel has been committing ‘genocide’ against the Palestinians, then why has the population of Palestinians increased more than 600% since 1948? Israel must be the most incompetent mass murderers in the history of the world.”

She kicks the legs out from under other criticisms of Israel with the same efficiency.

She turns to the effect of antisemitism on the rest of the world. That is, after all, the theme of the conference. She does it very effectively, and I won’t spoil it for you.

With both this and the other speech I find myself assailed by incredulity at her message. How did it come to this? Anyone who reads a newspaper, and has more than a passing interest in what goes on in the world beyond their own town, already knew the truth of the bare bones of what she is saying if not the horrific details. How did we arrive with our Establishment and mainstream media spinning every story that is remotely connected with the middle east into a narrative with Islamism as the victim? We look around at ugly antisemitism becoming widespread and the accepted norm even in communities where it once was unthinkable, like academia and the arts. A frighteningly skillful, ruthless and mendacious PR exercise has been at work.

Brigitte Gabriel has the courage and ability to fight back. It is up to us to fight back also, and start by supporting people like her.

 

An Inspired Outburst

I spend a great deal of browsing time, looking for material for this blog. I am specifically looking for speeches, but occasionally I turn the hunt on its head and look for egregious speaking in any other context. When I find it I then look to see if the speaker has speeches on line. It is a system that has proved very effective.

Thus it was that I happened upon this …

This is Brigitte Gabriel.

Man, can she speak! I often tell my trainees that passion is worth buckets of technique, but the dream ticket is to have both. Then the passion can be most effectively channelled.

She has both: buckets and buckets of both.

In three and a half minutes, shooting from the hip, she improvises a mini speech that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Boy, what an end – I love her last sentence! Furthermore this mini speech has a Face

The peaceful majority were irrelevant

Yes, I know that it’s the safest of bets that she has said all this before, and often, but that’s not the point. It is only by really understanding speaking structure that you can deliver a message instantly tailored to any time-slot required. This speech epitomises so much that I teach that it makes my head spin. I don’t flatter myself that she has read my book. On the other hand I can tell you that she doesn’t need to. I have seldom seen an audience’s g-spot hit so squarely.

Speaking personally, without my rhetor hat on, it was also good to hear her implied message of people ultimately being wiser than their “leaders” (I detest the term). That is the bedrock of democracy, and the reason that tyrannies always fail in the end.

I went seeking examples on line of her formal speaking.

No prizes for guessing who will be the subject of my next blog posting.