Cathy Young, a writer for the Boston Globe and Reason magazine, is waging a campaign against “Islamophobes.” She attacks Fallaci in today’s Boston Globe, and Jihad Watch and Hugh Fitzgerald in the June issue of Reason magazine.
Fallaci gets the treatment in “Extremism and bigotry” in today’s Globe. Some extracts, with my comments:
Such labels as “bigotry” and “Islamophobia” are often indiscriminately slapped on all outspoken critics of fanatical Muslim radicalism. But the real thing does exist….
Does it really? I suppose such labels could be applied to vigilante attacks on innocent people, but “Islamophobia” is in fact a newly coined word, manufactured only to stifle criticism of Islamic doctrine as a source for jihad violence. Here is a fuller response to one attempt to invest the term with some substance.
Fallaci, who is currently facing legal charges of defaming Islam in Italy, has many defenders who describe her as a passionate anti-Jihadist unfairly accused of racism. Yet her recent writings do have an unmistakable whiff of racism, indiscriminately lumping together radical Islamic terrorists and Somali vendors of fake designer bags who urinate on the street corners of Italy’s great cities. Journalist Christopher Hitchens, himself a strong polemicist against radical Islamic fundamentalism, has described “The Rage and the Pride” in The Atlantic magazine as “a sort of primer in how not to write about Islam.” He has noted that Fallaci’s diatribes have all the marks of other screeds about filthy, disease-ridden, sexually threatening aliens….
There are several problems with this. One is that the Somali vendors and other Muslims in the West have not made any serious attempt to root jihad terrorists out of their ranks. Another is that such people as Young’s Somali vendor do exist, and while they are not members of terrorist groups, they are manifesting disrespect for the country and culture to which they have come. Is Fallaci wrong to be indignant about that? Such disrespect, of course, stems from the same sources as jihadism: contempt for the infidel and for jahili society, the non-Islamic society of ignorance and impurity. Thus one feeds into the other.
And in any case, to suggest that by being indignant at this Fallaci is echoing “other screeds about filthy, disease-ridden, sexually threatening aliens” obscures the fundamental point: screeds about “filthy, disease-ridden, sexually threatening aliens,” such as Nazi anti-Semitic tracts, were slanderous not only in those particulars, but in suggesting that those aliens had any plan to dominate or subjugate the host people. In contrast, the Islamic ideology of conquest and subjugation of infidels under Islamic law is not fiction; it is constantly reiterated not by “Islamophobes,” but by jihadists. To take umbrage at a rapidly growing population among whom many, if not most, hold to that ideology and are ready to advance it by peaceful as well as violent means is not bigotry; it is common sense and self-preservation.
But some of Fallaci’s own words as quoted by Talbot are quite damning.
About Muslim immigration, [Fallaci] tells Talbot: “The tolerance level was already surpassed fifteen or twenty years ago . . . when the Left let the Muslims disembark on our coasts by the thousands.”
This is damning? Damning, maybe, of Young’s apparent ignorance of the implications, for the present and future, of massive and unrestrained Muslim immigration into Europe. Europe has admitted an unknown number of jihad terrorists, who move about freely within Muslim communities that, despite their protestations of moderation, have done nothing to expel them. The demographic trends for a suicidally self-absorbed modern European population are dire: many European countries will have Muslim majorities by the end of this century, and then we will see civil wars and Islamic states in Western Europe.
But in the face of this and more we are supposed to tut-tut Fallaci’s concern about Muslim immigration as “Islamophobia.” Well, I value too much about Europe as a social and cultural entity — too much that will be destroyed by Islamization — to accept that.
She rejects the idea that there can be a moderate Islam or moderate Muslims: “Of course there are exceptions. Also, considering the mathematical calculation of probabilities, some good Muslims must exist. I mean Muslims who appreciate freedom and democracy and secularism. But . . . good Muslims are few.”
As I have written many times, there are moderate Muslims, but there is no moderate Islam. All the orthodox sects of Islam, and all the schools of jurisprudence, teach the subjugation of the infidel, by violent means if necessary. This puts “good Muslims,” even if they are a majority, at a distinct disadvantage when jihad recruiters come around preaching “pure Islam.” They can mount, and have mounted, no serious Islamic response to the mujahedin — and thus young men who want to serve a great cause and be serious about their religion join the jihad groups, and the “good Muslims” can do nothing to prevent this.
She claims, in a rather blatant distortion of history, that since its birth Islam has had a unique propensity among all religions to slaughter or enslave “all those who live differently.”
A blatant distortion of history? History, perhaps, of the Armstrong/Esposito whitewashed variety, but not the real thing. Islam is indeed unique among the religions of the world in having a developed doctrine, theology, and legal system mandating warfare against and subjugation of unbelievers. If Cathy Young believes that other religions have such doctrines, theologies, and legal systems, or that any sect or school of traditional Islam does not, she should produce evidence.
The planned building of a new mosque and Islamic center near Siena enrages Fallaci so much that she promises Talbot that, if she is alive at the time of its opening, she will blow it up: “I do not want to see this mosque — it’s very near my house in Tuscany. I do not want to see a twenty-four-metre minaret in the landscape of Giotto. When I cannot even wear a cross or carry a Bible in their country!”
These are ugly words, based on the bizarre assumption that the West must respond to religious intolerance in many Muslim countries with religious intolerance of our own.
Here again, if we were talking about refusing to let a band of Amish build a church in the landscape of Giotto, that may be “ugly” religious intolerance. But Young thinks Fallaci’s statement is “ugly” because she is unaware of or indifferent to the deep roots that the jihad ideology has within Islam. In light of that ideology, and its deep-rootedness, Fallaci’s rhetorical excess is simply an expression of the will of one European to defend Europe. Would that more Europeans felt that way.
Despite its manifest problems, Islamic culture today is not monolithic. There are regions, such as Bosnia, where the Muslim populations are modern and moderate; there are progressive and reformist forces within Islam. In the United States, where the social and economic structures are far more flexible and more conducive to the integration of immigrants than in most of Europe, Muslim radicalism has not been a serious problem. (In the United States, all Muslim protests against the publication of the infamous Danish Mohammed cartoons have been nonviolent.)
Bosnia is a prime example of what I noted above: that cultural Muslims have no way to defend their communities from jihadist recruitment. And the fact that “Muslim radicalism has not been a serious problem” in the U.S. doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist here, or that the overall goals of the mujahedin are not shared even by some who profess Islamic moderation.
The problems posed for the West, from within and without, by radical Islamic fundamentalism need to be honestly addressed.
Yes, they do. But Cathy Young has yet to do this, despite some close brushes with clear thinking.
But if this response turns to anti-Muslim bigotry — which on some “anti-jihadist” websites turns to defending Slobodan Milosevic’s genocide against Bosnian Muslims — it will leave us with little reason for hope. Fallaci’s passion ultimately leads to a dead-end.
Has Fallaci defended Milosevic? If not, what is this paragraph doing in Young’s story?
Of course, in this she may be speaking of this website, although any support for Milosevic that may have been expressed here came from unmoderated comments, for which I cannot coherently take any responsibility: if I did, I would have to take responsibility for all of them, and that would make me simultaneously an anti-jihadist and a jihad sympathizer, since many of the latter group have posted here. Or if Young or anyone else wishes to hold me responsible for only some of the comments here, then let them establish my sympathy with the views expressed by the commenters by reference to my own writings — but that is something that neither she nor anyone else can do.
She may not be referring to Jihad Watch there, but she certainly refers to us (and Milosevic) in “The Jihad Against Muslims: When does criticism of Islam devolve into bigotry?” in the June issue of Reason.
…In some “anti-jihadist” circles, the Butcher of the Balkans was mourned as a misunderstood hero in the war against the Muslims.
On March 12, the group blog Infidel Bloggers Alliance ran an item titled “Memorable moment in the Milosevic trial.” It described, without further comment, an episode in which Milosevic tried to portray himself as fighting the same forces of terrorism now threatening the West. Co-bloggers chimed in with such comments as “Wouldn’t it be strange if Milosevic ends up being remembered by history as a hero and a kind of prophet?” and “Ever since 9/11, one question after another about whether we were on the wrong side in the Bosnian conflict has come up. The only thing you can trust a Muslim to be is a Muslim.” (Including, it seems, the famously secularized and nonradical Bosnian Muslims, some 100,000 of whom died in Milosevic’s assaults of the 1990s.) Similar attitudes, somewhat less stridently expressed, could be found on Jihad Watch, FrontPage, and other popular right-wing sites.
Once again, as the great avant-garde saxophonist Charles Gayle once responded to similar criticism, “Man, I ain’t got no wings.” But anyway, let Young produce any statement by me or Hugh Fitzgerald expressing support for Milosevic. If she cannot, then her mention of Jihad Watch in this context makes about as much sense as saying that Jihad Watch is an Islamic apologetics site, since some comments here have contained Islamic apologetics.
Words like Islamophobia and phrases like anti-Muslim bigotry are bandied about too liberally, often applied to those who merely criticize fanatical Islamic radicalism or point out the deep-seated problems in much of Muslim culture today. But the real thing does exist, and it frequently takes the cover of anti-jihadism.
Whoops. Recycled column alert! (I think the Reason piece came before the Globe one, actually.)
Jihad Watch””a fixture on the blogrolls of MichelleMalkin.com and Little Green Footballs, two of the most popular right-wing blogs””traffics fairly openly in such stuff. After the sister of Mohammed Taheri-Azar, the Iranian-born young man who had plowed his car into a crowd of students in North Carolina this March, expressed shock at her brother’s act, contributor Hugh Fitzgerald commented, “Why should Infidels take a chance, if the likelihood of their being able to distinguish the “˜moderate” from the “˜immoderate” Muslim is even slimmer than that of the closest relatives of those Muslims found to have engaged in”¦acts of terrorism?”
Fitzgerald’s phrasing may be fuzzy, but his sentiment is clear: All Muslims are a threat. Indeed, in another post Fitzgerald asserted that any Muslim who claims Islam’s teachings have been distorted by terrorists is “objectively furthering the Jihad–”and that a moderate Muslim who has not renounced Islam is still dangerous because his children may revert to the extremist form of the religion.
Fitzgerald’s phrasing isn’t fuzzy in the least. If Young thinks he is wrong, she should produce evidence of a clear distinction within the American Muslim community between those who support the global jihad and those who abhor it. Since she criticizes him for criticizing deceptive and factually wrong declarations that Islam teaches peace, she should produce evidence of a mainstream Islamic sect or school of jurisprudence that rejects the idea that the Islamic social order must be imposed upon non-Muslims. If she cannot do that, and she cannot, then her criticism of Hugh Fitzgerald is wrong on all counts.
Is Islam inherently more intolerant and violent than other faiths? That’s a complex question that many scholars, and many Muslim reformers, have grappled with for years. Because of the historical circumstances in which Islam emerged, its scriptures include many passages mandating armed struggle against “unbelievers,” ostensibly in response to oppression or persecution of Muslims. Other parts of the Koran, however, explicitly discourage aggression and counsel moderation in the struggle.
Here Young demonstrates that, while she may be aware of the distinction between the relatively (but not completely) peaceful Meccan suras and the more violent Medinan suras, she does not realize that traditional, mainstream Islamic sects consider that the Medinan suras supersede the Meccan ones.
The truth is that the canonical texts of every major religion are full of contradictory statements that can be cherry-picked for a variety of messages. The Bible contains expressions of intolerance, from divine commands for conquest and genocide to the mandate of death for anyone who tries to lead a Jew astray from the worship of the one true God. The Gospel of John literally demonizes Jews who do not accept Jesus as children of Satan, and while the gospels promote peaceful evangelizing, Christian doctrine for centuries mandated Christian rule by force.
Here we go again. Dhimmis never seem to tire of moral equivalence arguments, however empty. In the first place, it isn’t cherry-picking when one realizes that not only are there violent texts in the Qur’an, but that these texts are merely one foundation, along with numerous passages of the Hadith, of a broad legal system mandating war against unbelievers. No other religion has this, or ever has had it. The Bible’s “divine commands for conquest and genocide” have never been understood by any Jewish or Christian group as an open-ended mandate for the subjugation of unbelievers. Even the Crusades, which dhimmis like to invoke erroneously in this connection, did not proceed on the basis of such passages. Why do so many Muslims take violent passages of the Qur’an very seriously indeed, while Jews and Christians have never viewed supposedly equivalent passages of the Bible in the same way? That is not to say that Christians have never been violent — obviously they have, but Young is flat wrong when she says that “Christian doctrine for centuries mandated Christian rule by force.” She should produce such a doctrine, but she can’t, because it doesn’t exist. (And by the way, the Gospel of John says that about the Jewish leaders, but not Jews in general — and it was written by a Jew, which further complicates the picture. Nor does it ever mandate violence against any group. But I digress.)
I”m not an expert on Islamic teachings. Then again, neither are the people convinced that Islam is a violent death cult.
Since in this Young is possibly referring to me, although I have never used such language, I wrote to her — twice — asking how it is that she came by her knowledge of what I know and don’t know, and inviting her to a friendly debate with me on the content of Islamic teachings and their role in today’s global jihad. No response. Maybe the name of the magazine should be changed from Reason to Prejudice.
What seems evident is that in much anti-Muslim rhetoric, criticism of the religion is enmeshed with cultural and ethnic hostility that extends to largely secularized immigrants from traditionally Muslim countries.
When mostly North African youths rioted in France, columnist Mark Steyn compared the rioters to “the Muslim armies of 13 centuries ago”; others spoke of a “French intifada.” Yet by all indications, the riots were driven by resentment about unemployment, discrimination, and the generally marginalized status of ethnic minorities in France. In one news report, an 18-year-old rioter named Ahmed was quoted as saying, “You wear these clothes, with this color skin, and you”re automatically a target for police.” He and his friends were not wearing traditional Muslim garb but polo shirts, sneakers, and T-shirts.
By all indications? And the evidence for this is that they were wearing polo shirts? The rioters were shouting “Allahu akbar.” They attacked churches and synagogues. They attacked no mosques. But apparently Young would have us ignore all this because they were wearing polo shirts. Ralph Lauren may be pleased by this. I think it’s irrelevant — it manifests ignorance of how jihadists interact with Western society.
To the extent that many disaffected young North Africans and Arabs in France have been drawn to a radical Muslim identity, it seems to be the vehicle rather than the cause for their anger.
In other words, give them jobs, give them a role in French society, and they will be fine. It’s all about assimilation. Young no doubt does not know that Muslim leaders in Europe have been preaching against assimilation for decades — and now Europe is reaping the fruit of that preaching.
Likewise, the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci’s 2002 book The Rage and the Pride makes hardly any distinction between radical Islamic terrorists and Somali street vendors who supposedly urinate on the corners of Italy”s great cities. Christopher Hitchens, who described the book in The Atlantic as “a sort of primer in how not to write about Islam,” correctly notes that Fallaci’s diatribes have all the marks of other infamous screeds about filthy, disease-ridden, sexually threatening aliens.
Recycled Column Alert #2.
Yet The Rage and the Pride received only slightly qualified praise in conservative publications such as National Review and Commentary. Writing on National Review’s staff blog, The Corner, the neoconservative pundit Michael Ledeen hailed it as “a terrific book” and commended Fallaci’s “wonderful way with words, as in ‘the children of Allah spend their time with their bottoms in the air, praying five times a day.'”
Uh oh, he’s a “neoconservative.” This is Young’s way of signaling to her readers (and Young is by no means alone in this) that Ledeen is a bad guy, not to be trusted. But of course it has nothing to do with the substance of Fallaci’s critique.
Young goes on to bash Mark Steyn and praise Irshad Manji, but the drumbeat remains consistent: jihad is bad, but so are those who resist it. That way, she says, lies Milosevic. Well, I’m not buying. And my invitation to Ms. Young for a public discussion of these issues remains open.