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20th October 2014

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Labour politician threatens to quit if bust to ‘pro-war’ journalist Christopher Hitchens goes up in Red Lion Square

    Red Lion Square, favoured site for a Hitchens bust

    Top: Red Lion Square, favoured site for a Hitchens bust
    Bottom: Christopher Hitchens; and Cllr Awale Olad (right)

    Christopher Hitchens; and Cllr Awale Olad (right)

    Published: 25 October, 2012
    by RICHARD OSLEY

    LABOUR councillors are blocking plans to honour campaigning journalist Christopher Hitchens with a statue, with one of them branding the late writer as a “pro-war Islamophobe”.

    A trail of emails leaked to the New Journal show a sharp exchange between the British Humanist Association (BHA), which wants the statue to be erected in Red Lion Square, Holborn, and politicians representing the ward.

    Hitchens, often known simply as “Hitch”, courted controversy with editorials supporting the Iraq War. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was among those who gave a warm tribute after the writer’s death from cancer in December last year.

    The writer also split opinion with his public criticism of religion, his book God Is Not Great selling hundreds of thousands of copies around the world. His brother Peter Hitchens is a commentator and columnist for The Mail on Sunday.

    In one message to the BHA, Councillor Awale Olad suggested he would rather walk away from council business than support a statue to Hitchens in the square.

    “I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead but I would resign before I’d ever support the bust of a pro-war Islamophobe,” he wrote.

    The New Journal has learned that plans for a Hitchens memorial have been in the pipeline for several months and its sponsors have already considered the garden squares in Bloomsbury.

    That area is already under scrutiny for the number of statues and memorials that have been installed and there is a growing feeling that a line should be drawn after a bust for Noor Inayat Khan – a spy working for the Allies in occupied France during World War II – was given planning permission for Gordon Square on Thursday night.

    The BHA favoured Red Lion Square because it was one of Hitch’s favourite spots in London and next to Conway Hall, famously the scene of many radical debates. It is currently home to a statue of philosopher Bertrand Russell and politician Fenner Brockway, and has a memorial tribute to a victim of the Lockerbie bombing.

    The emails seen by the New Journal show Councillor Julian Fulbrook, who also represents Holborn, rejecting the idea on the grounds he thought the suggested link was weak.

    He wrote: “I am not really sure it will be of much profit to debate Hitch’s political or theological perspectives. Difficult to know where to start or where to end… My main problem is that Hitch left for the United States in 1981 so any link with Red Lion Square would have to be fairly tenuous.”

    But he added, perhaps mischievously: “I also rather doubt that, in the long and possibly cruel march of history, any sort of case could be made out for Christopher Hitchens, even sporting his Third Class Honours degree from Oxford, as in your words, ‘one of the world’s greatest minds’.”

    Steve Ollington, digital strategist for the BHA, wrote back disagreeing with both councillors and suggesting they might not have digested enough of the writer’s work.

    “I would say that academic record is not all that makes a great mind… there have been many who have no formal qualifications at all,” he said. “It does seem that those who, like or dislike him, don’t agree on the great mind aspect have usually not even scratched the surface of his works, only having read or watched a small fraction of him.”

    Mr Ollington added: “Hitch wasn’t ‘pro-war’. Supporting a war doesn’t make someone pro-war.

    "Many people supported WW2 but that doesn’t make them pro-war.

    "Hitch went out there on numerous occasions and witnessed the suffering and oppression of people by Saddam Hussein first- hand. He believed, perhaps with a nihilistic view, that less suffering would result in the long run.”

    Mr Ollington warned how Cllr Olad was following a line that would lead him to accepting “your peers who supported the war in Iraq are also pro-war”.
    He added: “On the Islamophobe issue, Hitch was against all religions as an anti-theist. Not against the people of religion but the philosophies and the acts sometimes carried out in the names of these religions.

    “He criticised what he saw as wrong within them. If you or I were to criticise the Conservative Party then we could, in the same sense, be labelled Toryphobes… though that would not hold such a stigma as it’s a political party not a religion.”

    Approached by the New Journal about the email exchange, Cllr Olad said last night (Wednesday): “Hitchens was an incredibly divisive figure, very anti-religion and in particular, incredibly offensive about Islam, often referring to Muslims as ‘primitive’ and ‘aggressive’.

    “I respect the views of atheists and others but having a bust of Hitchens in Red Lion Square is counter-productive to social cohesion.”
     

    Comments

    An intellectual midget speaks.....

    An M.A. In 'European studies', from Kings College, London. Says it all really!

    Quit

    Mr Olum should quit now for defaming The Hitch. How dare he. He has clearly not read him - probably watched a few You Tubes when Hitch has destroyed Islamist apologists.

    Defaming The Hitch

    It now seems to be standard form to accuse anyone who attacks the teaching of Islam as an ‘Islamaphobe ,’ this is supposed to serve two purposes, one to shut down all argument and two place the accuser on the high moral ground.

    http://alextalbot.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/defaming-hitch.html

    Ohh boy...

    Mr. Olad,

    Please resign, go home and start reading Christopher Hitchens! You'll find a wonderful world called wisdom!

    Go ahead and quit, Mr. Olad

    Cllr. Olad would be doing his constituency an enormous service by quitting. A phobia is an irrational fear of something. Christopher Hitchens' criticisms and exposés about islam and other religions demonstrated no such pathology. "Islamophobia" is a phony word thrown around by those of Olad's ilk to silence those who dare speak truths about an ideology that some don't want to hear. Christopher Hitchens' intellectual rigor and honesty are of a standard Mr. Olad clearly will never reach, and should be required reading in schools. Were I a resident of your city, I'd consider it a point of pride to have a statue of Christopher Hitchens there.

    Always an Education

    I came to read the works of Christopher Hitchens two years ago and have regarded his work as a treasure trove. No where else have I found anyone who was so willing to enter or create debates on issues that most people were afraid to engage. He stood tall with the certitude of his beliefs against any and all comers.

    I have learned to look at issues in a different way from having read the works of Christopher Hitchens and we are diminished by his passing. Oh, and Councillor Awale Olad? Please leave. Your behaviour is embarrassing.

    agree

    agree

    Build that statue!

    The ignorance of these Labour councillors is embarrassing, Hitchens is a national treasure.

    Then resign

    If the British don't want the bust, let's put it here in D.C.

    to be pro "a war" is to be pro-war

    [“Hitch wasn’t ‘pro-war’. Supporting a war doesn’t make someone pro-war.]

    Well, in that case my supporting not having his statue there, doesn't make me anti-his statue.

    No, In fact...

    If you follow the logic of the original statement, your support for denying a bust of Hitch in Red Lion Square doesn't mean you are anti all busts, everywhere. Hitch supported the Iraq War as vigorously as he opposed the Vietnam War.

    Fire Olad

    Get him out of the council

    I'd rather a statue

    of his brother, Peter Hitchens.

    A much better writer and a proper 'old Labour/high Tory' who is genuinely anti-neo liberal interventions in countries that don't concern us.

    He's also a supporter of council housing, nationalising the railways and proper punishment of criminals.

    Go on, give him a try - you'll never know until you do!

    political intolerance and immaturity may merit resignation

    Mr Olad is surely there to represent the electorate of his ward (whether they voted for him or not) and not there to throw his weight behind his personal opinions/prejudice in respect of whether a statue is a good idea or not.

    To use words like pro-war and islamophobia to describe Hitchens' quite considered evolution of thought over the past decades is an insult. It doesn't matter if Olad doesn't understand Hitchens' politics, but then he shouldn't presume to pronounce on it in such a high-handed and arrogant manner. Hitchens did support the Iraq war, like a majority of MPs from Mr Olad's own party, but not because he hated muslims but because he opposed a dictatorship that murdered more muslims than any other since the second world war. Was the last Labour government "Islamophobic"? People should be careful throwing around allegations that are designed to wound but are transparently untrue.

    Whether the war was right or not isn't the core point - the core point is that we shouldn't throw around ill-considered insults that utterly fail to capture the politics of the figure we oppose. I have some sympathy with Mr Fulbrook's position, which seems considered. But as a Labour voter in Camden (thankfully not Mr Olad's ward!) I am embarrassed by Mr Olad's immature and intolerant outburst. He says he would rather resign than support a statue. Maybe he should think about following through on the resignation anyway?

    eh

    Because Hitchens never used ill-considered insults or immature and intolerant outbursts. But that isn't the "core point", is it?

    "the core point is that we

    "the core point is that we shouldn't throw around ill-considered insults "...

    Quite an ironic comment in light of the fact that Hitchens entire career consisted largely of "throwing around ill-considered insults".

    Can you give an example?

    Can you give an example?

    Anti-religion?

    I think it is still allowed in this country to be anti-religion, is it not? Erect the statue - to celebrate free speech and someone who still had the balls to speak up for the hundreds of thousands of us who loathe demagoguery and ignorance

    I voted Labour ...you are there to represent me, Mr. Olad

    ...and I believe a lot of Camden people have chosen to live in this area, as I have done, because it is a place where we feel, like Hitchens, that we are free to express our opinions, and I am perturbed, Mr. Owale, by your apparent ignorance.

    I do not particularly care one way or another about a statue, but I do think an elected councillor should consider why so many people loved Hitchens: it was for his opposition to "dictatorship, religion, demagogy, censorship, bullying and intimidation" and his celebration of, "literature, irony, humour, the individual ...and the defence of free expression."

    He was a man who removed his shoes when visiting mosques, who covered his head when visiting synagogues, but who relished his right to speak out against what he perceived as the injustices inflicted on others by people whom he thought arrogant enough to claim "divine warrant" as their excuse.

    Please, Mr. Olad, do not make the mistake of thinking Hitchens had singled any one religion out for criticism - he had merely exercised his right to express his opinion, and I quote him, "Religious faith is ...ineradicable. It will never die out ...and I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could."

    I was anti-war against Iraq. Yet, if a statue goes up for Hitch, I should not see it as a glorification of that war, I should see it as a continued celebration of our right to free expression, and to oppose the not-so-slow creep of demagoguery in 21st Century Britain.

    Well said

    Well said

    offensive rubbish

    Cllr Olad seems to be using accusations of Islamophobia as a weapon to attack those he disagrees with. Being trigger happy like that is inaccurate in this case and it's bullying and he needs to get a grip on mature political debate.

    Oh dear

    Councillor Olad - please just do the good residents of Covent Garden a favour and resign. You clearly have not read anything by Hitchin's and your rant indicates an immaturity not worthy of the role of councillor.

    Pro War? Perhaps

    Islamophobe? Not in a million years.

    Christopher Hitchens hated all organised religions, but he didn't hate people simply for believing.

    Councillor Awale Olad

    Councillor Awale Olad has either never read, listened or watched enough of Christopher Hitchens work, to make such ignorant and idiotic criticisms, or he is simply another example of why bad governments ignore the necessary wall between church and state.

    Social Cohesion?

    I would rather live In a more dynamic society than that.

    let him resign

    let him resign

    United Kingdom of Apologists

    Politicians have been huffing the fumes of social cohesion for too long. In the words of Monty Python...You Englishmen. None of you have got any balls.

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