Back in the 1960s (or was it the 1970s?) the Left had a mantra, as irritating as it was foolish:
“We are all guilty.”
It seems nowadays that the Left’s new mantra is
“Thou shalt voice no criticism of Islam”.
And that particular piece of foolishness has infected many people whose self-interest alone should induce them to know better.
Last Wednesday, December 10, was “International Human Rights Day,” and to coincide with it a major report by the Melbourne-based Online Hate Prevention Institute on “Islamophobia” on Facebook was made public. I meant to blog about it at the time, but other topics have intruded, so I’ll give my ten cents’ worth now.
Covering the following categories
Muslims as a Security Threat or Threat to Public Safety
Muslims as a Cultural Threat
Muslims as an Economic Threat
Content Dehumanising or Demonizing Muslims
Threats of Violence, Genocide and Direct Hate Targeting Muslims
Hate Targeting Refugees / Asylum Seekers
Other Forms of Hate Speech
this is the largest report ever undertaken by the Institute, itself a Jewish initiative, which is headed by a supporter of Israel, and has been endorsed by a number of Jewish organisations, including the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.
This is all commendably well-meaning. It is also, in my view, worryingly naive.
The problem is, of course, that the very term “Islamophobia” (advanced in recent decades as a counterpart to antisemitism and intended by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to stifle critical scrutiny of Islam) is, of course, highly contentious.
What some observers have dubbed “Islamofauxbia” to emphasis its lack of validity, has been advanced in recent decades as a counterpart to antisemitism.
The notion of “Islamophobia” is intended by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation(OIC) to stifle critical scrutiny of Islam, as demonstrated (for example) the OIC’s recent demand (see more here) that Western governments
“Take all necessary measures within their power and legal/jurisdictional systems to ensure a safe environment free from Islamophobic harassment… by strictly enforcing applicable hate crime and discrimination laws;
Create, whenever necessary, specialized bodies and initiatives in order to combat Islamophobia… based on internationally recognized human rights principles and standards;
Combat Islamophobic hate crimes, which can be fuelled by Islamophobic hate speech in the media and on the Internet;
Take all necessary measures to ensure that the media refrains from serving as a platform for the dissemination of hate speech… by associating extremism and terrorism to Islam and Muslims… and presents the true positive nature of Islam….”
The attempted analogy between it and antisemitism, between distrust of Muslims in the West and Europe’s historic oppression if Jews, is less than convincing. After all, opponents of the term point out, there are aspects of Islam, not least its well-documented and ongoing misogyny, that are totally contrary to western values, so that the so-called phobia against the creed is understandable and legitimate; moreover, Judaism has never been a proselytising religion (whereas teams of Muslims seeking to convert passers-by, long a feature of European cities, are now to be found on Australian streets) nor have their dietary laws or other requirements been imposed on the wider society. Unlike Muslim extremists, no Jews have ever demanded that Halachah should be imposed all inhabitants of the neighbourhoods, much less the nations. And, needless to say, no Jew has ever caused the carnage of a 9/11 or a 7/7.
Accordingly, while this report is worthy in many respects (few us are likely to do otherwise than condemn the crude, hate-filled examples of bigotry shown in the report such as advocating violence upon persons who happen to be Muslim and instances of gratuitous insult against such persons), it would appear to play into the hands of those who oppose any public discussion of the problem of Islamic extremism (is it so very wrong to coin a slogan that observes “It’s not Islamophobia when they really are trying to kill you”?) and Islamic intrusion into the public space that impinges upon the rights of non-Muslim citizens (as with the almost ubiquitous presence of Halal-certified produce at certain general supermarkets where no alternative for the non-Muslim consumer is available). And spare a thought for the Christians around the world who are presently experiencing a sickening onslaught at Islam’s hands, an onslaught so savage, so unremitting, so comprehensive that at least one British MP during a debate on the subject earlier this month in the Commons compared it to the Holocaust.
I’m sure most of us deplore such incidents as the pulling off of a Muslim schoolgirl’s hijab in the Melbourne outer suburb of Werribee the week before last.
I’m sure that most of us deplore the rush to judgment of all who assumed (and assumed publicly) that the perpetrators of the recent bashing of a group of Jews in Bondi was the handiwork of Muslims: such an assumption, wrong as it turns out, echoes the medieval cry that Jews poisoned the wells. It’s a manifestation of prejudice, pure and simple.
Of course interfaith dialogue is a worthy enterprise, and of course there are plenty of decent moderate Muslims in the West who reject extremism and violence. There are even some who speak out on behalf of Israel, and their courage in doing so, and their integrity, is very greatly appreciated.
But there’s a huge difference between blanket hatred of all Muslims and the well-founded fear of Islamism, a supremacist ideology governing all aspects of human existence that sees its manifest destiny as vanquishing and subjugating the entire world.
For the latter reason it’s unreasonable of the report to insist that Islam is merely a religion like any other, and that fear of Islam is irrational. Moreover, that characterisation disregards the deep antisemitism that infects so much of the Muslim world, to say nothing of the vilification of Israel.
What the sorely-missed Australian Jewish leader Isi Leibler, now of Jerusalem, wrote some years ago concerning Jews and Islamophobia is relevant still, notwithstanding the well-meaning sentiments of the report and those who endorse it:
‘It is surely high time for Diaspora leaders to stop living in denial and get their act together. Instead of competing with each other in oozing political correctness, they should display some backbone and call a spade a spade.
We are currently witnessing the greatest revival of global anti-Semitism since the Middle Ages. This permeates all classes of society, and, ranging from academics to illiterates and European leaders who retain office despite making unabashed neo-Nazi remarks about Jews to mobs at anti-Israeli demonstrations carrying placards “gas the Jews.”
It encompasses the entire political spectrum, but is spearheaded by liberals and Muslims. Muslim radicals relate to Israel in a manner reminiscent of the Church’s medieval attitude toward the Jews. They promote popular TV programs depicting the blood of Muslim children being used for baking matzot, and have revived The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a best-seller. They certainly compare favorably with the worst Nazi Jew baiting, with imams quoting genocidal religious texts to the faithful, inciting them to murder Jews, “the descendants of apes and pigs.”
It is macabre to observe the alliance between liberals and jihadists who represent the antithesis of everything the Left purports to represent. The extremist Islamists are the most reactionary elements in the world. They reject fundamental human rights, proscribe freedom of expression and religion, promote the degradation of women and, to this day, implement barbaric laws including stoning of adulterers and homosexuals and the amputation of limbs for petty crimes. More than 50 Muslim countries deny Judaism or Christianity equal standing with Islam….
Alas, Jews who exaggerate the presence of Islamophobia become leading proponents of the campaign to sanitize and understate Islamic extremism….
…. [T]he relative tranquility which Muslims experience in Western societies is a great tribute to tolerance – a tolerance unlikely to have been extended to Jews in similar circumstances. Imagine the response if Israel had a track record like some of the Arab states, or if Jews in Western countries were blowing up their neighbors….
There is indeed a desperate need to encourage moderate Muslims. But appeasing the extremists and groveling to Muslim bullies merely emboldens them. There is not a single instance in history in which appeasing religious fanatics of any faith has brought about progress. If we allow ourselves to be intimidated or fail to confront Islamist jihadists, they will succeed in destroying the very tenets of our civilization.
This is an area in which Jews, who have the most to lose, must surely stand up and be counted.’