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October 2020
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I’m an atheist but I’m 120,000% with Mesut Özil

By Tony Attwood

Reading on your phone?  Look for the “Show simplified view” tab at the bottom and click there for a clearer view of the article.


Arsenal and Ozil: Why Mesut should be allowed to speak his mind – the video

As anyone who has bothered to ask me knows, when it comes to religion I am a Pastafarian a group that I have loved since I first read about them in New Scientist about 15 years ago.  (I first mentioned them here in 2008, and a quick search suggests I’ve only mentioned the cult three times since, so I’m not really forcing it down readers’ throats by adding one more reference).

But that preference for making fun of religions doesn’t stop me appreciating the right of Mesut Özil to express his view over the treatment of the Uighurs by the government of China.  Nor does it stop me worrying about the way Arsenal seem (along with much of the rest of football) to want to sell themselves to anyone with money.

I am far from happy about Arsenal’s association with Rwanda which has a record of “arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and torture.”  Nor with any engagement with Qatar of which I have written on numerous occasions on this site.  In fact there are all sorts of things and places that I don’t like, and places I choose not to go, and from time to time I have probably mentioned most of them here.

Arsenal on the other hand seems to want to deal with any government it can find.  China, Rwanda and probably quite a few more, and of course lots of Arsenal players will quite happily engage in the forthcoming world cup secure in the lack of knowledge about how many workmen and women, died or were maimed on the construction sites.

And we’re all used to this: supporting a club that is a money-making machine first and foremost, and a place that cares about human rights, well, not too much at all.   And no I am not saying that Arsenal should not do deals in China.

But I am, along with a few other people, pretty fed up that such an amoral club as the club I (for historic family reasons) support, comes out with a statement that says, “Arsenal has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics” as if it were a good thing.   “We turn our back on morality in order to make money” is probably a better way of putting it.

However this is not a simple issue that can be dealt with in one quick apology to the Chinese state and a faster transfer out of the club than Mesut might have otherwise got, because Arsenal is not the only club kowtowing to dictators worldwide, as long as they can pay.

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As the Guardian’s article on the topic reminds us, the general manager of the Houston Rockets showed support for democracy protesters in Hong Kong.  In that case the Chinese government then demanded that the general manager be sacked while they removed coverage of the NBA from Chinese TV.

The club then told the Chinese government that American values travelled with the league wherever it went. And one of those values is freedom expression.  Although perhaps not for Arsenal.

Players are people who have and are of course fully entitled to have, opinions.   If the deal is now that they have to give up the expression of their opinions when they enter Arsenal, that stops us being a football club based in a western democracy.  It means Héctor Bellerín can’t talk about his friendship with and support of Jeremy Corbyn.   And after that – do they take away my season ticket because I’m also an active Labour Party supporter?

I don’t support Mesut Özil’s promotion of a religion, because I think religions reduce the chances of freedom of thought – but that’s my view, and thankfully in the UK I am at liberty to express that.

Personally I would also love Arsenal to have a view that stopped them supporting any organisation or country that promotes arbitrary detention, torture and lack of freedom.   I thoroughly dislike the policies of my country’s new government, but much more important to me is the freedom that still exists in my country that allows people to have an election, and the freedom of speech which allows me the right to criticise PGMO, the FA and the government which funds them, and have a laugh at the expense of Donald Trump.

The more we allow our sponsors to dictate what we can do, the worst things become – and the thing about doing deals with countries that do not value or even recognise personal freedom is that they will always seek to extend their influence further.  And as that happens then the less our club is related to the Royal Arsenal FC that the workers at the Woolwich Arsenal factories set up, and that Henry Norris rescued with the aim of creating a club once more owned by its own fans.

Given our origins, maybe the club could remember that in England where the club was formed, and America, wherein the club is now owned, freedom of expression is key value, and that value travels with the club, always.

Arsenal really need to clean up their act, or come out with a new message appropriate to its new style.   “Kowtowing to dictatorships across the world” would seem to do it, and make quite sure that we all know just what sort of mindset now runs Arsenal FC.

30 comments to I’m an atheist but I’m 120,000% with Mesut Özil

  • John L

    Well said Tony.

    Since Rod Stewart is entitled to express his views, perhaps we should not mind his message congratulating B…. Johnson.

    However, I will never again buy any of his records and I applaud the numerous Celtic fans who displayed their message, along the lines of F… O.. Rod Stewart

  • steven silbert

    Well said. Well thought out. And more to the point, totally true.

    I didn’t know that Bellerin is a friend of Corbyn. Sad, but its his choice. And we cannot take it away from him.

  • I think that is part of the point John L: what Mesut was talking about goes beyond our personal views into something far deeper – something relating to our very essence as humans. No matter what, there are things that are utterly wrong.

  • Lima

    But Tony even on untold there’s no absolute freedom of expression. You make rules and enforce them arbitrarily, selecting posts to publish and those to bin. You justify your actions -arbitrarily too. When challenged and you can no longer give tenable justification you say “there are over a million arsenal blogs the poster can go post on”. You are a dictator on your blog(your place of influence), you dont allow freedom of expression and feel justified. Therefore you, more than most should be able to understand the countries you accuse

  • Lima, I don’t think taking the argument to an extreme position helps understand the point. All groups of people, be they families, friends, countries, or people coming together on a blog, have to have a set of rules in which to operate, otherwise some who have a mind to do it, can destroy the whole grouping. Which is a shame if their point of view is already represented in many other places, whereas ours is not.
    If I were to allow a person who sends in a comment that says “you are a ****ing ****” to have that published, it alienates a vast number of other people. If I allow people who endlessly argue against the ideas behind this site to put their point of view over and over then it becomes just like other sites putting the standard viewpoint and thus has no value.
    But, I believe there are issues beyond this which are much more important than whether I allow a person to argue against the point of view I put. For example, arguing against genocide and the wholesale manipulation of minds is so much more important than debating whether the decline in Arsenal is in part due to the negativity of the media. And I can’t see how they can be brought together for any sort of comparison.
    On this site, I have found in the past 11 or so years that if I don’t intervene on behalf of those who put forward the view that (for example) statistics are helpful, that certain alternative analyses are worth considering etc, then those arguments are drowned out, and this site becomes like most others – arguing the standard lines that dominate the discussion. In other words I act to protect the debate on this site.
    But the fact is that the contrary view dominates in the UK and can be expressed on hundreds of other sites. In China that is not the case.
    In my view, sometimes the rights of people to express a minority view, without being shouted down, needs to be protected – especially when the majority view is readily available to anyone who wants it.
    I’m sorry you disagree, but I am of course perfectly aware that there are many like you, who disagree with my attempts to put forward a point of view that is less commonly heard, and protect the discussion so it is heard and not blown off course.

  • Lima

    Tony, I’m not debating whether you have a good reason to censor your blog or not, I’m only saying if you feel justified doing it, surely China can find justification censoring public speech. Let’s take the issue of evidence for example, I have read the content of Ozil’s comments against the Chinese government. Is it true or false? I do not know, however what I can say about it is that there is no evidence given. Now if saying arsenal is crap without giving evidence is too grievous to be allowed on a blog, how much more grievous is it for Ozil to make such accusations without evidence (or maybe without even knowledge of the facts on ground)? I may just be a devil’s advocate here, I obviously don’t know what the facts are in China, but surely based on your argument in favor of censorship on your blog, I can certainly understand the position of the Chinese government.

  • Chris

    @Lima,

    comparing a football blog with what happens in China to millions of people being robbed of basic freedom ? Comparing the person responsible for the blog with dictators? Words fail me.

  • Menace

    Good article Tony and honestly portrayed. The Chinese are being inhuman with their own and in some ways worse than the Nazis. Brain washing in todays world is truly shocking. We talk about climate change and economic policies but we shy away from inhumanities occuring around the world including in India.

    The BIG brother process that is going on in India is frightening considering the huge population and the devastation it will have on human life. No group nor individual will be safe irrelevant of religion, ethnicity or social position. When a political party can openly buy its opposition with obscene amounts of money democracy is ‘pissing in the wind’.

  • Adamu

    @Chris. Well, I feel if someone can censor a blog, making sure people can’t say something as insignificant as “Wenger out”, with due respect I feel such a person would feel more of a responsibility if in position to, to block people saying more significant/ weightier things like “communism out” or “Kim Jung il out”. For me its a matter of principle. If it’s easy for you to abrogate right to decide what is speakable or not to yourself and censor what doesn’t go with what you adjudge speakable, then its all a matter of whatever you believe. Any other thing gets blocked.

  • Well Lima I am sorry to say that I’ve failed to put across the central views behind my running of this blog. Evidence does not have to be presented each and every time, just the once. There is a lot of evidence from UNHCR, and that is good enough for me. It is also perfectly evident to me that “Arsenal is crap” is a personal opinion which I am not sure if very interesting. What is interesting is the question “why is Arsenal so far down the league this season?” and where that is answered with evidence I find that very interesting.
    But clearly we are miles apart on this point, and we are not going to agree, so I think it is best to leave the debate at this point. I am sure readers here have got the gist of your point, and you can of course continue to make it on many other websites that will welcome your perspective.

  • Mikey

    @ Lima

    If someone comes into my house and insults my family does it make me a dictator if I ask them to stop saying it, ask them to leave and tell them not to come back? They can choose to go elsewhere and say those things or, if serious enough, I can actually take legal action against them to stop them saying those things. I think you need to get back in touch with reality and do a bit of research on the principles of despotism. You really haven’t quite grasped it yet.

  • Adamu

    Mikey, indeed you will be right to take what action you considered necessary. You should also extend that courtesy to China and indeed arsenal who have distanced themselves from Ozil’s statement. And that’s when insult is involved(like Ozil’s accusations against China) However in untold’s case it doesn’t even involve insults. Just mere disagreement with the untold point of view will earn you a ban, that I feel is extreme. But that’s beside the point.

  • Adamu, this is exactly the problem that people like me face. A statement such as “Just mere disagreement with the untold point of view will earn you a ban”. Since I am the only person who bans anyone, I can tell you that is utterly untrue and you have no grounds for saying that.
    But what puzzles me is why, if that is what you think, you waste your time being here, reading the blog and replying to it. Of course it is just my opinion, but it really does seem a very strange thing to spend your time doing.

  • Chris

    @ Adamu,

    My point was that comparing Tony’s moderting a blog making about a, let’s face it, trivial subject – with all due respect to players, fans etc – with what is happening in China is something that strikes me as odd.

    Furthermore, Tony does not and has never hidden the fact that he moderates the blog. And given is criteria. The blog is free, people can come and contribute, they have no innate right to do/say what they want and not respect the basic rules Tony has put forth.

    Were they to go out on the streeet or into a pub, they can say whatever they want, it is a free society. The bolg is a space Tony has set up, his rules apply.

    And for having been reading this blog for years, I can just confirm that he accepts contradiction as long as there are arguments with it. Which incidentaly in not something that is commonplace in China for example…..

  • Nitram

    Lima

    “I’m not debating whether you have a good reason to censor your blog or not, I’m only saying if you feel justified doing it, surely China can find justification censoring public speech.”

    Really? I mean REALLY ?

    I’ve heard everything now.

  • “It is true you block posters/ comments even though they don’t break your comments rules.”
    OK so you are on this blog calling me a liar and expecting me to publish your comments. Isn’t that rather ironic.
    Anyway, farewell, I really don’t think this is very interesting.

  • Gord

    OT: Beth Mead injury update.

    Good news, not a fracture.

    https://www.arsenal.com/news/beth-mead-injury-update

    Best of luck in your recovery Beth.

  • It’s said that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

    Ozil Mesut is like a whistleblower to human atrocities China Islam killings.

    And he speaks his voice loud and clear. He has a right to express his feelings as a person before him being player. The sanity of collective world depends on of voice of reason, every life losed brutally echoes every corner of world. So Ozil Mesut has every right to express needed feelings

    Massagre in Rwanda was tragic human experience that need not be repeated anywhere else since international world fraternity remained naive and then rivers of blood flow into UN offices in New york because we remained mute. Should remain quiet to the killings because it’s not us? Then when comes for us should everybody be equally quiet? Shall we be quiet on Uighur people killings because we’re scared by loss of business, isn’t population fans of our team arsenal,.
    Is it not like economy without morality?

  • Barasa Samuel

    It’s said that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

    Ozil Mesut is like a whistleblower to human atrocities committed by China to Islamic minority killings.

    And he speaks his voice loud and clear. He has a right to express his feelings as a person before him being player. The sanity of collective world depends on voice of reason, every life losed brutally echoes every corner of world. So Ozil Mesut has every right to express needed feelings.
    Supposing they came and killed your family and everybody remained mute!

    Massagre in Rwanda was tragic human experience that needs not be repeated anywhere else since international world fraternity remained naive and then rivers of blood flow into UN offices in New york because we remained mute. Should remain quiet to the killings because it’s not us? Then when they come for us,should everybody else be equally quiet? Shall we be quiet on Uighur people killings because we’re scared by loss of business, what comes first, life or business;? Isn’t Uighur Islam population also fans of our team arsenal,.
    Is it not like economy without morality?

  • Pat

    In this country we get a one sided view of the world via the mass media which is owned by billionaires. The west’s armed wing, NATO, has decided that China and Russia (and a few other countries) are the enemy. So that’s the way it is put across in this country.

    Maybe what China says is true. Maybe a certain section of the Uighur population is being used as a tool by the west to unleash terrorism and cause chaos in China. It wouldn’t be the first time. It is very likely that is what is happening in Hong Kong, Britain’s former colony.

    If the mass media can put across a consistently biased picture of as relatively trivial a matter as Arsenal, how much more likely that they do it for bigger matters such as doing down a rival on the world scene such as China?

  • Jakes Mradu

    Lima the proof is there …. if you look..You will find it… it’s now common knowledge…..btw that part of china has a lot of minerals…

  • Pat

    Jakes

    Minerals? They belong to the Chinese people. What better way of the west getting their hands on them than backing a separatist movement. It has happened so many times before….

  • Debs

    Jakes I looked it up, what I found was UN ambassadors from 22 countries accusing the Chinese government of human Rights abuses in Xinjiang. I also found a reply from UN ambassadors from 37 countries, including many Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait. Defending the actions of the Chinese government as appropriate and humane, stating that they have had to deal with extremist separatist movements and they know how difficult it can be, but nonetheless supporting the way the Chinese government has handled the situation. I also found that the Chinese government has invited UNHCR to come inspect the so called camps

  • Debs that does raise the interesting point that many Muslim countries are not democratic in the sense that most people in Western Europe understand democracy. Also it raises the point that few, if any, governments that commit appalling acts against their own people openly admit it. We live in a time of denial; even holocaust denial. Each person has to weigh up the evidence, and consider the source of the evidence and then draw a conclusion. All I am saying is that my conclusion is that Arsenal would be better off not following the Kroenke model of pretending to be outside of the real world.

  • Polo

    Seem like history is repeating itself, the world turned a blind eye in the 1930’s. When will humanity learn?

    The CCP is fast becoming like Imperialist China before them. Torture and controlling the population was the norm back then and it is the same now.

  • Debs

    At Tony it also raises the interesting point that just as Pat says, the western world might just have an ulterior motive and may be spreading propaganda. Another interesting point it raises is that countries in Europe, Asia, Africa who have faced/are facing radical terrorism should be in a better position to appraise China’s actions. America had the world trade centre attack and launched full scale invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, yet want to criticize China for dealing with radical terrorism in its country? This is some of what the 37 ambassadors said “faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism, China has undertaken a series of counter terrorism and deradicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational, education and training centres”. They also say “Security has returned to Xinjiang and the fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic and religious groups had been safeguarded” finally they say “there have been no terrorist attacks there for 3years and people enjoy a stronger sense of happiness, fulfilment and security”

    Now I don’t know who is telling the truth so I won’t support any group- either the group of 22 or the group of 37, however based on incontrovertible facts I can say
    1. Xinjiang used to be a hotbed of Islamist terrorism, suffering many attacks in the past.
    2. Religious terrorism obviously breeds insecurity and is not in the intradicalization religious groups
    3. Religious terrorism usually involves a high degree of radicalization that cannot be curbed by normal means. Even western countries who have encountered this have not treated those involved with kid gloves, they have also taken measures which involved limiting freedom of those associated with the radicals or deemed to have been at risk of radicalization.
    4. It is also on record that since the Chinese have taken the measures it has taken, attacks have drastically reduced, security has improved in Xinjiang.

    Based on these I can say countries who are not going through such issues are not in the best position to criticize China. Maybe they could suggest better ways China could deal with those issues, but a country who at the first significant terrorist activity on its soil went out to invade other sovereign states, cannot be criticizing China.
    Another thing I read was the comments of yaya Toure who currently plays in China, he’s a Muslim, he’s in China and he’s of the opinion that Ozil spoke without having all the information

  • Debs

    I agree with you Tony when you say the club shouldn’t bury it’s head in the sand. But I also applaud the club for dissociating itself from Ozil’s statement. My experience overtime is that radicals/extremists have used statements like Ozil’s to justify their calumny. Claiming all sorts of phantom evils perpetrated against them and their religion by governments. Meanwhile these governments many times only acted to defend the rest of the population from the actions of these same radicals. Arsenal FC should not be forced into any political position by any one of its playing staff, and indeed should warn Ozil about future conduct. What if we had a Chinese player who also decided to post his political position on the matter and called the Uighur Muslims terrorists and all that?

  • Polo

    If everything is so good, then China has nothing to fear and they should allow foreign media to report in Xinjiang without restrictions. Why are they so secretive?

  • rondejonge

    Very good piece Tony!
    Please keep up and dont get disheartened by the wouldbe wiseguys who just want to feel smart,
    I say to those people comparing you with China: you have freedom of expression. Start a blog and express yourself like there s no tomorrow. This is Untold! Stay on topic with a minimum modicum of common sense and courtesy and you get to say your say. Comparing Tony with torture and dictatorship doesnt fall in that category! If Tony was a dictator an would abolish every discontent, than you would have a point. But that s just ridiculous! Dont you see the obvious?
    Anyway Tony your message is so important. The international Money world legitimates immoral conduct in a frightening way in a frightening scale. Push back is needed hard and your writing contributes to that. Thank you