Nice But Naive? Australian Jewish leaders condemn “Islamophobia”

 

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.’

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9 comments

  1. The main tenet of the article is absolutely right. There are, however, a few points which need a bit of attention. While not expected to be a comprehensive presentation, certain “traditional” arguments on the matters discussed are misplaced. Emphasis on the following details should be reviewed for higher efficiency of the spirit of the ideas contained:

    – I would not elicit certain universalist religious notions, such as “proselytism” as being particular to Islam. ALL Universal religions have the implicit function of individual prevalence. The issue would be “traditional” discretion or otherwise in promoting the principle.
    – dietary laws and their local implementation is a very weak argument. Not only has no apparent association with the fundamental objections regarding specific unwanted , anti-social denaturation/behaviour of a certain group of concern, i.e. fundamentalist politicisation of Islam, but arguments “pro” in relation to the administration of dietary laws may demonstrate that the respective prescription may not be at all pernicious. In essence, it is not an essential issue. It detracts from the more important objections. As such, “halal” is not an issue worth following also because it may return to bite when “oppressive” impositions from “our” side would be ( and are ) elicited by the same people we want to show up as oppressive.
    – “supremacist religion” is a catchy term and it may even be correctly attributed to the fundamental, politically-radical strands of Islamic practice, but, extending it unqualified to the ENTIRE practice of Islam is bound to estrange those elements in it capable and willing to moderate the extremists and continue to behave themselves as necessarily accptable citizens.
    We must be AT ALL TIMES specific in pointing out the unwanted traits.
    – we must not blame almost exclusively the “left” or just the “looney left”. The apparent success Islam is showing in attracting non-Islamic supporters for their various associated causes, has transgressed long ago the political/ideological divide. Radical, antisemitic Islam has found readily available supporters among ANY places with longstanding antisemitic traditions, regardless of ideological strands. Europe and parts of USA as well as any other solid Christian countries, entire continents, such as South America, are fertile grounds for Islamic allegiance. Once the antisemitic common ground is identified, radical, antisemitic Islam functions in a harmonious spiritual osmosis.

    – the notion present here that “appeasing fanatics” cannot work is seriously flawed. If not appeasing, then what and how?

    We must discuss in detail the methods used by certain Jewish communal bodies and their leaders. We must offer alternatives in the most practical manner while demonstrating that some of the entrenched “initiatives” are not effective at all. Isi Leibler is, of course right. He has observed and articulated important issues within our fold. That is good and necessary. What we also need are suggestions for the betterment of our approaches. Tachles and good eitzes and methods of ensuring that what is necessarily comprehensively discussed in our community and arrived at points of “imperatives” , are being implemented even by those “immortals” among our revolving-door leadership who reckon that such discussions contradict their status as “untouchable leadership gurus”. That kind of arrogance needs to be address in-house if any good and necessary initiatives/changes are to be accomplished.

  2. There is nothing sadder than a Left wing Jewish person (apart from ones from Marrickville).
    1-There is nothing similar about Islam and other religions.
    2-Islam is an ideology that is closer to the other 2 main totalitarian groups of the last 100 years. Communism and NAZISM.
    3-Islam is a world controlling system, from birth to death, it does not allow for Nationalism,or Laws created by man.
    I could go on for hours about what Islam is and how it affects the minds of its follower. People need to except that Islam is real, and that it is based on a 1400 year old political doctrine.
    Once you start discussing Islam as a Political animal that has a very dangerous constitution, humanity can move forward in helping these people come out of the dark ages. The realistic problem about Islam is that it will always have a weak foundation, impossible to build on and impossible to repair.

  3. I apologise for the repetition re the very dubious Islamophobia and antisemitism analogy – did not notice it until now! Sorry about that.

    • No, Daphne, nothing to be sorry about. The analogy is quite accurate. The established term “Antisemitism” prompted in a certain vernacular way the creation of the Islamophobia term. The way Islamophobia developed as a concept would have to be particular to the circumstances and the purpose of the introduction of the term. Identity, however, of the two notions is not possible, as they are distinct in character, anyway, but comparative analysis is compulsory. To this extent, circumstantial analogy is totally acceptable.

  4. Daphne, I too am surprised that the Online Hate Prevention Institute, a worthy initiative, should display such politicial correctness that they conflate anti-Semitism, which is real, with the term Islamophobia, made up by Islamists to outlaw criticism of Islam.

    Isi Liebler was quite correct in saying that diaspora leaders are in denial about the provenance of anti-Semitism today – liberals and Muslims.

    Unfortunately, one cannot be politically correct and tell the truth at the same time. Our leadership are complicit in the lies, but to be fair to them, are in an invidious position; if they have the courage to speak out, they will be widely condemned by the media, academia and others agencies, which will further disadvantage the Jewish community.

    It seems we just can’t win!

  5. Pam

    do not think the leadership are impeded by some objective factors, think that most of them are unable to conceive an efficient way to express our JUST and perfectly rational position.
    Most, actually, of recent times, ALL statements from the Jewish leaders we are saddled with, repeat the same phrases of the correctness we have seen criticised here.
    There are ample arguments to be uttered WITHOUT causing any “disadvantage”. Such defeatist attitudes contradict the very essence of the right principles by which true Jewish identity has surviced and is making massive strides in Israel.
    This topic is meant to elicit valid arguments, “courageous” if you want, capable to convince all men of good-will that are causes are right.
    All you have to do is articulate your convictions !!

  6. I have spoken with André about this. He tell me it is part of a series of studies. They have done antisemitism, homophobia, something else and islamophobia is the last in the list.

    I had a ‘discussion’ with him and his defence of Islam a few month back and he has no issues at all with it. 🙁

  7. הבלוג מביא לכם חדשות על כל דבר שקורה בעולם