Rahman, Ansar and the inequality of scrutiny

Mr Luftur Rahman-the independent mayor for the London borough of Tower Hamlets- stands accused of “cronyism and corruption“. These are surely serious allegations. Mr Rahman is also a Muslim of Bangladeshi descent. Therefore, the serious allegations levelled at Mr Rahman are an axiomatic expression of racism. These are the arguments, in essence, of many of his supporters. That the robust scrutiny of a publicly elected politician might not just be the robust scrutiny of a publicly elected politician is the argument they peddle, and peddle with notable vigour.

His two main defenders George Galloway and Ken Livingstone have declared, in very emphatic terms, that a racist witch-hunt has been launched by the establishment to discredit and destroy Mr Rahman. With the sanctimony with which they denounced his supposedly racist detractors, one may be forgiven for thinking Mr Rahman was a principled and important activist, dragged down by waspish devils- a modern day Martin Luther King Jr. He is nothing of the sort. He is a mediocre politician who thrives in a culture of cronyism and subordinates himself to useful interest groups within his community. He is more a politician from a Martin Scorsese film than a Martin Luther King. It is unclear what underpinned the reasoning Galloway and Livingstone both exhibited though. It can be argued it was informed by a cynicism, which set out to exonerate their political chum from scrutiny. Or more unpalatably, it may have been informed by an adherence to a particular type of thinking, as provincial as it is pernicious: a thinking that suggests all scrutiny of non-white people by white people is, by it’s very nature, expressly racist.

On my Friday afternoon twitter feed I noticed something similar. The bulbous charlatan Mr Mohammed Ansar- in similar vein to Galloway and Livingstone- had declared that the questioning he received from the author Jeremy Duns and the lawyer David Allen Green, constituited the workings of a ‘cabal‘-intended to impugn his integrity. Personally speaking, I think Mr Ansar does an exceptional job of impugning his own integrity himself. What interested me most about that exchange though was his casual deployment of a type of rhetoric. A rhetoric of paranoid victimhood, and of conspiratorial hysteria, characteristic of some people that would staunchly define themselves as anti-racist. Except they are not.

Why can’t the same moral standards apply to everyone? The most authentic expression of egalitarianism, and of humanism, is surely the equitable application of moral standards to all humans. Shouldn’t this also be the pre-requisite for any soi disant anti-racist? Except it isn’t. Just as being potentially benign entails being rightly afforded equality of opportunity- the inverse should also be as equally applicable. The potential for malignancy, within all humans, should also entail all people are subject to equal standards of scrutiny and accountability. Therefore, if Mr Rahman is accused of malignancy-with well substantiated evidence-it is surely incumbent upon anyone with a respect for transparency and integrity to examine these claims, and to surely do so without the hysterical invocation of racism. Surely, except they don’t always.

What if, contrary to Galloway et al, the investigation into Mr Rahman’s alleged misdeamonour isn’t motivated by malice, improper vindictiveness, or even racism? But is rather, underpinned by an insistence upon a single virtue that politicians and people should be held to account- irrespective of their identity. This is essence of the democratic ethic, an elemental virtue that is being compromised by acquiescence to projected victimhood. Rather than holding up non-white politicians and portentous ‘community leaders’ to the same inquisitional standards we apply to white politicians and portentous ‘community leaders’-Mr Rahman’s racial identity dictates we don’t. Virtues are not virtuous in of as itself but are virtuous to an extent. Rather than saying the virtue of transparency is good in of as itself, the virtue of transparency is good only to the extent that it doesn’t make the life of Mr Rahman uncomfortable. The morally forthright simplemindedness of saying I’m a virtuous person and that’s that, is superseded by saying I’m a virtuous person to an extent that it doesn’t upset community leaders. And always give the benefit of the doubt to politicians from ethnic minorities. And doesn’t appear unpleasant and appear intolerant. And is understanding of their hard circumstances. And is paralysed with the fear of appearing racist. I think being a straightforward liberal and a straightforward democrat is far more important.

Tom Owolade
Twitter: @owolade14


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