Are you a liberal? I am. I still wish Adlai Stevenson had won, in 1952 and 1956. I still want Fiorello la Guardia for Mayor, and for that matter Millicent Fenwick in the House, and Henry Jackson in the Senate. Do you prefer Mill's "On Liberty" and the quiet voice of Michael Oakeshott to the "conservative" blowhards on the radio?
Are you perhaps what might be called an old fashioned liberal, who has seen the word "liberal" misapplied and mistreated and mistakenly subject to attack? Are you one who deplores the treatment of women in the Muslim world and, what's more, have found out about the roots of that mistreatment in the texts, tenets, attitudes of Islam -- attitudes not tangential but rather central, to that ideology? Have you read with understanding Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Infidel"? Are you, in the saga of Afghanistan and all the vain attempts to help Muslims without addressing, through attempts to weaken, the main source of their misery, Islam itself, most impressed with the efforts of Sarah Chayes and other Western women to help Afghani women?
Are you one of those who laugh at the transparent attempts of apologists for Islam, such as the abu-lughod lady who recently received -- thanks to the unshakeable support of her MEALAC colleagues, carefully hiring and promoting all those who think exactly alike, and unopposed by a pusillanimous administration -- tenure at Columbia, one unmerited on scholarly grounds? She is an apologist for Islam (I don’t know if she is a Muslim herself, but that is hardly relevant in her MESA-Nostra Galere) who makes a defense of the burqa, the niqab, and all the other coverings forced on Muslim women (and which some of the most brainwashed are taught to accept and defend) based on the notion that women love it -- that women want that "portable seclusion." "Portable seclusion"!
Now comes Barack Obama, the famous liberal, the supporter of liberalism. And when Barack Obama has to choose between liberalism and the defense of individual rights, including the full equality of women on the one hand and Islam on the other, Barack Obama chooses to abandon liberalism and even to mock it.
Here is how he put it in the Speech That Will Live In Infamy:
“We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism."
Where shall we begin with such a remark, or a dozen other such incredible remarks, in this incredible speech?
Please note: "The pretence of liberalism." It is all this talk of full equality for women that is merely a "pretence of liberalism." Those who talk about that must have their motives questioned, and they must be denounced -- because, you see, they might merely be using their interest in the rights of women not to be forced, out of fear or filial piety, to wear the hijab (which Obama pronounced "hajib," showing how unfamiliar he is with things he spoke with such smooth and presumptuous authority about).
And presumably, you must also be denounced if you raise the issue of "freedom of speech" -- if, for example, you do not think that Danish citizens should receive death threats from Muslims living in their midst or from Muslims elsewhere, for that matter, and if you do not think that Danish goods should be boycotted, or diplomatic relations with Denmark be cut, or Danish institutions abroad not only threatened but attacked, in order to prevent Danes, liberal Danes in famously liberal Denmark, from exercising their rights of free speech in their own countries. What does Obama think, if anything, about the threats against French people (see the death threats to Robert Redeker, the brave lycee teacher) and against English people (see the case of Will Cummins), and against Italians (those death threats that Oriana Fallaci ignored, and that Magdi Allam can't afford to ignore), and that are not only made against both Geert Wilders and the celebrated truth-telling apostate Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but also have been carried out, by lone murderers who were either Muslim or manipulated, in the case of van der Graaf the killer of Pim Fortuyn, by Muslims? See the corpses of Theo van Gogh and Fortuyn.
And what does Obama make of the climate of fear that causes hotel chains to cancel conferences in Florida and, most recently, in Tennessee? Is he aware of all this?
Could it be that people really do care about freedom of speech and legal equality for women, and that these are not "pretexts" for an underlying pre-existing hostility toward Islam? Could it be that these concerns are in fact among the many reasons why people who had no knowledge of Islam at all begin to ponder, and then to find out more, and more, and more about Islam? And it is these things that indeed do make them hostile to Islam in the end, because unlike Obama, even if they call themselves "conservatives," their attachment is to individual liberties that have been the achievement, over slow time, of the West, and are essential to "liberalism" -- in the older, and truer sense. Think of the old-fashioned liberal who would have no trouble finding his support in those who wrote the American Constitution, and in John Stuart Mill and the line of liberalism that runs all the way to Michael Oakeshott and Karl Popper and even to John Rawls, and which can be found to have been given expression in the Bill of Rights of the American Constitution, and in the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is so very very different from the "Islamic" version concocted by the Muslim states to pretend that they too subscribed to the very same, or "almost" the very same, rights, save for a little clause about the Shari'a that fatally vitiated the whole thing.
Do see, if you have time, and Barack Obama of course doesn't have the time, the Cairo Declaration, and compare it to the Universal Declaration of which it pretends to be merely an innocuous variant.
What a farce. How dangerous his particular blend of self-assured presumption, the result of decades of never having been challenged to think or to learn, but rewarded with so many glittering prizes for, it is clear, his "personal narrative" and his "personal journey." For Barack Obama takes an inordinate interest in, and displays an exaggerated respect for, those narratives and those personal journeys, for that is most of what he has to offer. And that is most of what he has been so richly rewarded for, from his days at Columbia, and then at Harvard Law School -- where being elected President of the Law Review, on grounds other than those of merit, set him on his ambitious path. Today Gannett House, tomorrow the world!
And there goes "liberalism" in the mouth and mind of Barack Obama, when that "liberalism" conflicts with, or possibly even encourages, hostility toward Islam. But if Islam's texts and tenets and teachings flatly contradict the solicitude for individual rights, and for full legal equality for women and all minorities (both of which are principles antipathetic to the letter and spirit of the Shari'a), why shouldn't those who care about these things be hostile to Islam? Do we not have a perfect right to be hostile to such an ideology, the one that contains a clear politics and geopolitics, but that Obama, like Bush before him, insists on characterizing solely as a "religion" and then, just like Bush, claiming for "religions" a special status that puts them above critical analysis, and apparently makes them immune to hostility based on what that critical analysis may reveal.
He's got a good deep voice. A good delivery, especially when teleprompted, though prone to sudden revealing lapses. But he's ignorant about many things, and the most important of those things is Islam. He has been raised in a world where he has been made much of, and in turn tends to make much of in others, a "personal journey" and a "personal narrative." For one who has frequented Langdell Hall and Gannett House, and who thinks of himself as an intellectual, he gives no signs of hours in a library, of a habit of reading as a habit of being. And at this point, given not only the hectic vacancy of his job, there is no time for quiet study followed by a wrestling with, a meditation upon, a successful final coming into possession of a sufficiently deep understanding of the ideology of Islam and of the behavior of Muslims prompted, quite naturally, by that ideology.
Furthermore, his reception has been such -- talk about Teflon Presidents -- that at this point, not even six months into his Presidency, he is already far too pleased with himself to sit down, and try to learn what he would do if he truly wished to instruct and protect us. Lincoln, with whom he thinks he has something in common, would have done so. He should try to be a little more like Lincoln in the right deployment of his intelligence. And he ought too to try to emulate John Quincy Adams, who had both deep knowledge of Islam and far more direct experience with Muslims than any of our presidents, not excluding Barack Hussein Obama.
So here's all one asks at this point of Barack Obama. Read more, study more. Start, if you will, with John Quincy Adams. You, Barack Obama, may know of John Quincy Adams as the famous defender of the slaves who rebelled on the "Amistad." You may know him, then, as a quintessential American "liberal." But he was not only one of the noblest of American presidents. He was also the most learned, and among those things he was most learned about, was Islam. Start there, with what John Quincy Adams had to say about Islam. And then take another old-fashioned liberal, who knew a good deal about America and American democracy, and who was so penetrating in his analysis that does not date, though he was not an American himself. See what Alexis de Tocqueville had to say about Islam -- the Islam of the immutable texts, the Islam that cannot be changed, not by wishes, and not by speeches in Cairo or anywhere else. That speech in Cairo may win a few passing plaudits among Muslims eager to press what they see as a vulnerable point, a president who is willing to misstate many truths, and who shows every sign of being vulnerable to the temptations of appeasement.
But the harm that speech in Cairo did to the world's non-Muslims (including the Copts, Maronites, Chaldo-Assyrians, Yazidis, Mandeans, as well as to Hindus living in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kashmir, and Christians in Indonesia and Pakistan and the Sudan) is great, and must be undone.
Read, Obama. Read. Don't, as The Times says you did, take tuition on Islam from Muslims who "head corporations" or from Dalia Mogahed or from John Esposito. Start with John Quincy Adams and Tocqueville. Start as well by reading "The Dhimmi" by Bat Ye'or. Then have in, for discussions, Ibn Warraq and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Wafa Sultan and Ali Sina. Don't let Dalia Mogahed, don't let Rahm Emanuel -- sitting quite complacently and well-pleased, on a chair, akin to a little temporary thronelet, right there in Riyadh (not bad for a Chicago boy whose father was a Likud supporter, thinks Rahm Emanuel to himself -- something to talk about at the next Seder) -- get in the way. See them. Talk to them. Educate yourself. You have uttered a great deal of nonsense in Cairo. You must undo the damage.