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In Conversation with Barbara Kay (Part Three)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/05/22


An interview with Barbara Kay. She discusses: clunky neologisms; shootings and political discourse; more than one person at a news cycle crime; having a religious life without practicing religion; God in her belief system; Wittgenstein, God, and the UN Charter and ethics; and the Divine Right of Kings.

Keywords: Bach, Barbara Kay, belief, columnist, Islamophobia, journalism, religion.

In Conversation with Barbara Kay: Columnist and Journalist, National Post (Part Three)[1],[2],[3],[4]

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: I think it is relevant. We have the term “Islamophobia.” It is clunky term. It is a neologism. We do not have words like “Jewishophobia,” Hinduismophobia,” and “Christianophobia.” I am sure; I did not invent that one.

However, when people say, “Islamophobia,” they mean, “Anti-Muslim bigotry.” That is, something most reasonable people would agree on, in general. If someone is a bigot against someone, as an individual for a belief system, whether religious or non-religious, then that is ethically or morally reprehensible.

However, the term is clunky with Islamophobia. It seems too amorphous, too vague, to pin down. Does that seem deliberate to you? Why do we not have those other terms?

Kay: It is deliberate. The word “Islamophobia” is a term invented by the Muslim Brotherhood. The goal was to, little by little, bring a proscription against the criticism of Islam throughout the world. That mandate has gained traction.

It has been very successful. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation made it their business to further that resolution through Resolution 15/17 in the UN. By using that word, it becomes a stalking horse. You use that word and then pretend it is equivalent to anti-Semitism.

But it is not because anti-Semitism is hatred against Jews, against people. It is not hatred of the Torah or hatred of Judaism or hatred of Israel or Zionism, but hatred of Jews. Islamophobia is meant to be hatred of Islam.

We know that. This whole farce, this Motion 103 farce, where nobody would define the word because everyone knew the elephant in the room was criticism of Islam. It is already entrenched as a social crime in many place, where criticism of Islam or Islamic culture, or Islamic events, or identifying talking about ISIS as an Islamic form of terrorism rather than just plain terrorism.

This has come to pass in other places. It will come to place here. They will get it instituted one way or another, probably through the ruse of a Day of Action. The Remembrance Day for the mosque tragedy and a day of action against Islamophobia.

Again, this word; the conservatives tried to get a motion in: “Let’s say anti-Muslim bigotry.”  It would have ended the problem. But they would not accept it. They said, “We insist on this word Islamophobia.” Why are they insisting on that word?

There is one reason. There could be only one reason. That is because it encompasses criticism of Islam itself. I think it is quite reasonable to expect it. I think the prime minister would like to see that prohibition because he is quite keen on protecting Islam from what he considers undue bigotry against Islam and Muslims.

He supports that idea, even though there is no real evidence that there is a special animus against Muslims. The statistics of hate crimes do not show anything special. This whole movement, this whole Islamophobia movement, it is quite startling, amazing, the success that the Muslim Brotherhood has had in normalizing it, banalizing it, and making it seem that if you are against measures to combat this scourge, which I do not think is a scourge, then you are a “racist.”

You are a “bigot.” It is the same as the transphobic thing. You cannot speak up. You cannot, for example, say, “Europe is awash in anti-Semitism and virtually 100% of the acts of violence against Jews in Europe are perpetuated by Muslims.”

There is a great deal of it. Islam as it is practiced or understood today. There is a great deal of inherent anti-Semitism in the more militant elements, in those who are Islamists. They are intrinsically. Islamism is an anti-Jewish and anti-Christian movement.

Christians are more persecuted than any other people in the world. Christians are the most at—risk people in the world. Our prime minister is not interested in hearing that. He is not interested in hearing about Yezidis, Assyrians, Coptics or any of the ancient Indigenous peoples of the Middle East.

He is fascinated by and obsessed with what he sees as Muslims as victims. He does not want to hear about them in the context of them creating victimhood among other people. It makes him uncomfortable.

He is quick to call the mosque tragedy terrorism. Within 10 minutes of hearing about the mosque tragedy, he was quick to call it an act of terrorism. But the Boston Marathon massacre perpetrated by the two Afghani brothers, he statement was that they perhaps were not well-integrated or excluded by society.

He was Mr. Social Services guy: let us not rush to judgment here. He did not rush to label the villains in the Boston Marathon massacre. This is a guy with a lot of bias. It is uncomfortable for a lot of people. It is recognized.

People see it. This bias. It is a little weird. Nobody quite knows what to do about it.

2. Jacobsen: I want to talk a little more about the general political discourse and outcomes. A reasonable person with a calm mentality in times of news crisis, not national crisis, if it is a small tragedy such as the mosque shooting, the Boston Marathon, or the Florida school shooting – there will probably be another one in a day at this rate…

Kay: …Alas…

Jacobsen: …that person will wait for the evidence and consideration of people that are experts on the ground who will then make a claim. “It was an ethnically motivated assault on a bunch of black people at a church by a white person.” “It was an anti-Muslim [or Islamophobic in their terms] attack on a mosque community while they were worshipping by a Christian nationalist.”

Or, the Orlando shooting with the dance club. “It was a girlfriend/wife who motivated a husband to become radicalized with a politically motivated version of Islam that happened to not be so cool with gay people, so he shot up a night club.”

After the fact, we can see the motivations. We can make those claims. You can make reasonable claims in each case. These things do exist. But it does seem like an exercise, again the self-congratulation with having premature statements only 10-minutes after the event. Yet, you do not have the evidence coming in.

Kay: Anything when it comes to our official victims list. Our prime minister said the same thing about the jury trial of this Gerald Stanley when he was acquitted of killing this Indigenous man in the truck on his property.

He was acquitted. Our prime minister immediately said, “This is wrong. This should not have happened,” because the victim was an Indigenous man. If this was a white man, I do not think the trial would have made any impression on him whatever.

He immediately assumed the verdict was wrong. He assumed that it must have been a biased verdict. I read the judge’s verdict. I think the jury acted in accordance with the judgments. This is the thing: you will have this victim status according to your collective.

If you are on the victim list, this guy that got killed – it is tragic that he got killed. But he was coming onto the property to rob or steal a car or something.

3. Jacobsen: Was he there with more than one person?

Kay: Yes, they had a flat tire. They were trying to steal a car or something. Then they had just come from ripping off another property owner. But the fact that there was criminal intent was totally irrelevant to anyone; they were totally focused on an Indigenous man killed by a white man.

That people would not have cared if the guy had set fire to the man’s house. It was like the Trayvon Martin case. Obama: “If I had a son, he would have looked like Trayvon.”

Hundreds of black children are being killed every single day by black shooters. Obama never opened his mouth once about any of them. But the minute a black person is killed by either a white cop or some white person. Then it is “look at what a racialized society we live in.” Again, it is the “I am on the side of right.”

It is Michelle Obama holding the “Bring back our girls” thing for Nigeria. The hashtag is over and then they are forgotten about. It is a real impulse to express narcissism. It is very narcissistic.

4. Jacobsen: If I recall correctly, at the beginning questions of the interview, you noted still having a religious life.

Kay: I am not religious in the practicing sense. But I am culturally and civilizationally [Laughing] very attached to my Jewish roots and Jewish concerns. To me, the defense of Israel is a very important part of my life.

So, the thing about Judaism unlike most religions is the religious aspect or belief aspect of it is not as important in it. Being Jewish is being part of a people, peoplehood is much more important to most Jews than what your actual beliefs are, or whether you drive on the Sabbath or do not.

That sort of thing. I would say that that is sort of central to my life.

5. Jacobsen: Does God play a role in your belief system around this?

Kay: That is what I mean by belief systems. I am agnostic in my intellectual approach. But I would like to believe; my heart tells me that there is something in my history. Something in the history of the world that there is purpose going on.

That this is not for nothing. I cannot accept a nihilistic view: “There is no God. It is just a quirk of our consciousness. That we invented Him. That He is just a projection of our hopes and dreams.” I do not know if that is true or not.

I act as though there is one. I try to act as though there is a God because I think it is a healthier way to live when you imagine that there is a transcendent power. That has created the ideals and the morality that you strive for.

I think that people must be aspirational to have a good life. It is hard to be aspirational. You know the Browning poem: “…a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

Jacobsen: [Laughing] I like that.

Kay: So, how can your reach exceed your grasp if you think there is nothing here except yourself? It continues to be an ongoing adventure in my head [Laughing].

6. Jacobsen: Also, Wittgenstein used to talk about language games. Whether aware of it or not, when traditional religious individuals speak of a transcendent ethic and when the non-religious or the religiously unaffiliated speak of human rights, they exist at about the same level of analysis of the moral world, of how we should relate to one another as human beings – to ourselves and human beings around us.

When someone speaks of a transcendent ethic, they speak of a higher good, “What is God? God is good. God is the locus of all that is good. God has aseity. God is self-existent. He has x, y, and z attributes: omnibenevolence, omnipotence, and so on.”

When the secular or the religiously unaffiliated talk about their own ethic, they tend to reference universal human rights.

Kay: Yes! Where did they get that idea, I wonder? [Laughing]

Jacobsen: It amounts to an abstraction. Both seem to come out of a consensus. One from a religious text and community interpretation, and acceptance of interpretation. Another from cultural consensus, which finds itself in international documents like the UN Charter.

These amount to abstract notions of how we should relate to each other. These seem like the same level of analysis to me with regards to morals.

Kay: The idea of rights at all, where do you get such a notion except for Christianity or Judaism? The idea of individual rights, that did not come from nowhere. This is an outgrowth of Western civilization. Who else has individual rights encoded in their culture?

People talk about morality and doing unto others. “These would have come into man’s conscience without religion.” They would not. I once wrote an article of people who are atheist and say, “You can have a perfectly moral life without religion.” They would not.

You cannot separate them out. So, I remember I once wrote a column on people who are atheists and say, “You can have a moral life without religion.” My response, “Of course, you can!”

Jacobsen: Most theologians say this.

Kay: Yes. “In the same way, that a kid with a trust fund can lead a perfectly good life without going to work. But you did not get all these ideas of morality and being good to other people, and not wanting to put stumbling blocks before the blind and all of this stuff, out of thin air. You got this because your grandparents and forebears were Christians or Jews, or religious, because your culture is the outgrowth of Christianity in this case.”

Christianity in our legal system began with Judaism in Rome. But our general morality is a Christianity morality. The ideal is love. Love for one another. If you cannot have absolute love for one another, you can at least have fairness. You can have respect. There are entire cultures where there is no respect for individuals. There is only family honor.

I do not know what Buddhism says. I am glad I was not born in India with a caste system.

Jacobsen: Nobody wants to be a harijan.

Kay: But the arrogance of people who say, “No, no, no, all my ideas about morality, fairness, and justice. I got those by applying my reason. My reason alone told me that these are good things.” I am like “No.” The only reason that your “reason” seems like a good thing is that it came from the culture.

That reason should be preeminent. That religion and reason can co-exist. There are cultures where the idea of reason does not even come into it. The idea of logic and these Enlightenment ideas are not happening.

Do not tell me you deduced them from sheer reason, that did not happen.

7. Jacobsen: The premises in any deductive argument have content. There is a continual re-analysis of ethics over time. We do not have the Divine Right of Kings anymore. We got rid of that.

Kay: But we do have the idea of hierarchy. It can shift around, who is at the top of the hierarchy or not. The king was always supposed to represent the hierarchy, the father, and the order of things. The natural order of things. There must be something to rule.

We have substituted for the kings. We have substituted with constitutions for the kings. That is an advance, progress. But the idea of wanting the stability offered by a figurehead that represents the best, hopefully, the benevolent monarch.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] The virtuous individual, yes.

Kay: There are such things as benevolent monarchs. It is, in fact, better under a benevolent monarch than communism or a secular system that is utopian and will sacrifice the individual to this idea of perfectibility. I would much rather live under a monarch than under communism.

8. Jacobsen: I am reminded of a statement by Glenn Gould in one of his public broadcasts. Again, it was another throwaway comment [Laughing]. I am reminded of it now. He was talking about Bach. Basically, with Bach, people were transitioning from a romantic era into “an Age of Reason.”

He pauses, “An Age of Reason, there have been quite a lot of them” [Laughing].

Kay: [Laughing].

Jacobsen: The idea of our ethics coming out of thin air does seem naïve. It does amount to a form of naïve realism. What I see in the world is the “real world,” rather than what is the context in which this ethic arose, I remember some person – I forget who – who was mentioning the cultures that run a civilization seem like operating software.

It really simplifies the whole analysis if you are looking for a general heuristic in the way people use Evolutionary Psychology. You can get heuristics about human behaviour. Nothing high fidelity, but enough heuristics to get your head around it, rules of thumb.

In that analysis, if you look at the cultures within a civilization as operating software, you have the program that goes in and look at what comes out. GIGO, garbage-in garbage-out, what happens in particular cultures if you look at the operating system that they have?

If you look at theocratic systems, under Islamic rule, it does not look that fun, especially for women.

Kay: [Laughing] Yes, I am sure not.

Jacobsen: In the case, you mentioned family honor based on that book, Honor. Something that we completely skated through. Something three to five times the size of Canada. Women who have undergone clitoridectomy, infibulation, or female genital mutilation in general.

Kay: That is not even counting the women who were never even born because of sex-selective abortion because people want male children. That is not only under Islamic culture. That is under many other cultures as well.

It is a terrifying thing when you think about it.

Jacobsen: And nature goes for good enough. We evolved systems good enough for survival plus a little extra.

Kay: Yes, one of the big differences between conservatives and leftists. Leftists are working with ideology. Conservatives are working with a point of view. When you have a point of view, when you have a perspective, you are not rigid about what you expect the outcomes to be.

You have no expectation of perfection. You are not looking at a system and looking for perfection where everyone should fit. You are saying, “This can be improved. That can be improved. We can try. We can save this from the past because this worked. We can let go of that because it didn’t work.”

You never let the idea of perfection be the enemy of the good. You can work towards the good. But when you have another system saying, “We can achieve perfection, but we are going to have to sacrifice or change human nature. We are going to have to manipulate human nature to fit into this utopian world. That is when you get hell, true hell.”

So, you know what, Scott. I think I am fading [Laughing].

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Barbara.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Columnist and Journalist, National Post.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 15, 2018 at; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018 at

[3]B.A., University of Toronto; M.A., McGill University.

[4] Image Credit: Barbara Kay.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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