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Humza Yousaf’s identitarian privilege

Would Kate Forbes have been celebrated for praying in Bute House?

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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Picture the scene. Kate Forbes wins the leadership of the Scottish National Party. She moves into Bute House, the official Edinburgh residence of the first minister. And one of the first things she does is post a photograph on social media of her and her family praying to Our Lord Jesus Christ. They’re on their knees, hands clasped, heads bowed in supplication to the Messiah. ‘A special moment’, Ms Forbes might have tweeted alongside the holy image.

There would have been uproar online, wouldn’t there? Godless millennials would have cringed for days. New Atheists would have risen from the coffin of irrelevance to condemn her garish religiosity. Humanists UK would have been straight on the blower to Conway Hall to organise a meeting on the importance of separating faith and politics. LGBTQIA groups would have fretted over their eradication now that Scotland had fallen to Christian theocracy. And imagine the memes. It would have been wild, and we all know it.

And yet the actual first minister, Humza Yousaf, does the equivalent, and no one bats an eyelid. Some, in fact, gush. Yousaf was elected SNP leader earlier this week. Yesterday, he posted an image on Twitter showing him ‘leading my family in prayer in Bute House’. He and five other men are standing in a line, facing Mecca, in solemn worship of Allah. I wager there will be very little cultural cringe over this showy act of devotion. No one will make fun or wonder ‘WTF’. Not unless they want to be called racist.

Anyone who denies that a double standard is at play in modern Britain, and that Forbes would have been mauled for doing what Yousaf did, is kidding themselves. Indeed, Forbes has already been mauled for expressing her Christian beliefs. And the only reason she expressed them is because interviewers kept asking her about them. Media luvvies seemed bewildered to be in the presence of a practising Christian, and a Calvinist to boot, who believes what she reads in the Bible. It was like colonialism in reverse, with the godless happening upon one of the godly and goading her to account for her exotic beliefs. The way the media talked about Forbes, you’d think she was a ‘terrifying theocratic tyrant’, said the Telegraph, ‘who plans to force everyone in Scotland to spend their Sundays bellowing “Onward Christian Soldiers”’.

And yet Mr Yousaf can do his religion very publicly indeed – on Twitter, where the world can see – and the woke set loves it. No, this doesn’t mean that he’s the real ‘terrifying theocratic tyrant’. His conspicuous act of worship is not proof that Scotland is now an Islamist outpost. That’s nonsense. But it is striking that the new elites seem far more comfortable with ostentatious displays of Islamic virtue than they are with any public manifestation of Christian belief. In this sense, that Yousaf pic represents a victory, not for Islam, but for political correctness.

One of the most noxious things about the ideology of wokeness is its construction of a hierarchy of identity. We’re all placed, against our will, in boxes marked ‘Privileged’ or ‘Oppressed’, which often just means ‘good’ or ‘bad’, even ‘cringe’ or ‘cool’. White cishet men are the worst. Jews aren’t much better – they’re mostly white and successful, too. Boo. White Christian women – like Forbes – can also do one. What’s she going to do next, now that she’s basically been ousted from Yousaf’s government – cry some white-women tears?

Then there are the other identity groups, the ones lovingly elevated by the architects of the new hyper-racialism. Refugees, black youths, ‘transwomen’, non-binary people and, yes, Muslims – all are accorded the status of ‘Oppressed’, all are targeted by the ironically patrician sympathy of the middle classes. A new divide emerges, a poisonous one, splitting the public into positive identities and problematic identities. Increasingly, even access to the democratic sphere of public discussion is awarded on the basis of identity. Witness the trend for sidelining the ‘stale, pale and male’ (white men) in favour of amplifying the voices of the allegedly oppressed. And so we find ourselves in a world where Kate Forbes is derided for agreeing with the Book of Leviticus while an autistic schoolkid is suspended for scuffing a page in the Koran.

This isn’t just Christian-bashing – though Christian-bashing is all the rage among the very same members of the smart set who’ll go mental if anyone dares ‘punch down’ on poor old Muhammad. No, it’s something new. It really is a reflection of woke’s sinister organisation of the masses into camps of moral worth and unworth. Indeed, Rishi Sunak, a Hindu, has also been treated as suspect by the new guardians of identitarian esteem. The difference in the reactions to Yousaf becoming the first Muslim leader of Scotland and Sunak becoming the first Hindu leader of the United Kingdom was extraordinary. And a little chilling.

‘Britain’s first Hindu prime minister’ is nothing to celebrate, said a writer for the Guardian. He’s mainly brown cover for white supremacy – his presence in Downing Street will embolden the Tories’ ‘insolent racists to present themselves as the purveyor of racial diversity’. Novara Media focussed on the relationship between Sunak’s father-in-law and Indian PM Narendra Modi, in a piece titled ‘White and Hindu supremacists are a match made in heaven’. One writer accused Sunak of carrying water for the ‘Hindutva-Zionist alliance’. I invite you to imagine the uproar, the headline-dominating fury, that would follow if anyone were to suggest that Yousaf is a water-carrier for some nefarious Islamist alliance.

The instinctive bristling at Sunak’s identity alongside the paternalistic fascination with Yousaf’s identity shows how rotten identitarianism has become. The woke are not even capable of welcoming the ascendancy of both men as proof that Britain is a post-racial nation in which people of Asian heritage can make it to the very top. No, they only see a ‘privileged’ Asian (the Hindu Sunak) and an ‘oppressed’ Asian (the Muslim Yousaf) and they make their judgements accordingly. It’s a species of dehumanisation. You are now accorded humanity less for your character and deeds than for your cultural origins.

I suspect very strongly that even if Forbes wanted to post an image of her and her family praying, she wouldn’t do so. The intolerance of the identitarians would frighten her out of it. Yousaf will have felt no such fear. He knows that among the people whose support he most feverishly covets – the well-connected shapers of opinion – his heritage is viewed as interesting, good and deserving of complete protection from the ‘phobias’ and ‘blasphemies’ of the throng. In that sense, he enjoys more privilege than white Kate. He enjoys identitarian privilege. That’s not equality, is it? It’s evidence of a sinister new culture of moral validation on the basis of skin colour and religious heritage rather than public contribution.

Humza Yousaf happily prays in public and yet he dreamt of arresting and punishing people for expressing beliefs that he considers to be ‘hateful’, which made some Scottish women fear for their right to publicly say that transwomen aren’t women. It seems some beliefs are freer than others in modern Scotland. When there’s a female first minister who can pose in Bute House in a t-shirt saying ‘Adult Human Female’ and not be called a cunt online for months on end, I’ll believe Scotland has equality and has come to its senses.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Humza Yousaf.

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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