The Corner

Struck a Nerve?

Over at the always readable Oxblog, Josh Chafetz is very, very upset about the term ‘health mullah’. “Disgusting moral equivalence,’ he calls it, analogous to American leftists describing this country’s religious right as ‘the American taliban.’ He wants an explanation. Well, with the striking exception of his views on salmon, Josh is (usually!) a sensible guy, and the subject he raises is an interesting one, not only for the point he makes, but also for what it reveals about the sometimes too anodyne nature of contemporary political debate, so here goes…

Let’s start with those mullahs. The term ‘mullah’ is an English translation of a word widely used throughout the Middle East denoting a man who is (very roughly speaking indeed) a cleric. There are mullahs in, for example, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan and, for that matter, all over the Western world. Well, Josh, in my view and (for what little it’s worth) as I’ve written before, health has become the new holiness, a secular religion that, for far too many of its adherents, comes with many of the weaknesses displayed by the followers of other faiths, secular or otherwise, intolerance, bigotry, superstition and the insistence on compulsion. Of course, there’s a touch of exaggeration about it, but comparing some of its adherents with “mullahs”, a word that, thanks to Iran and elsewhere, now comes freighted with notions of oppression seems entirely appropriate within the context of debate over the increasingly aggressive tactics of the anti-tobacco fanatics, the anti-obesity warriors, the anti-alcohol crusaders, well, you get the point…

As for comparing America’s ‘religious right’ with the Taliban (a specific regime, remember, with specific policies), that’s silly, and, with the principal exception, say, (from what I understand of them) of Christian Reconstructionists (hardly the most significant of groups) it doesn’t stand up to much examination, but as a debating tactic by the Gulag-nostalgic commies of the American Left, it doesn’t worry me, and it shouldn’t worry Josh.

’Health mullahs’ it is.

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