It’s an ongoing puzzle: Salon, which routinely excoriates Pamela Geller and me as “bigoted” “Islamophobes,” even more frequently allows Atlantic writer Jeffrey Tayler to tell the unpopular and unwelcome truths that Salon otherwise lambastes us for telling; see, for example, here and here. One can only speculate as to the provenance of this editorial inconsistency. Do Salon’s publishers owe Tayler some huge sum of money? Did he catch them with their fingers in the till? Has Tayler tied their daughters to the railroad tracks?
I am not seriously suggesting that either Tayler or Salon is engaged in blackmail or any other illegal activities. But it is a head-scratcher: why — for several years now — does Salon allow this single writer to go against the editorial stance it manifests in every other article it publishes on these issues?
In any case, this is another thoughtful and well-reasoned piece from Tayler. One wonders if any of the Salon-reading lemmings will take heed.
“The left has Islam all wrong: Bill Maher, Pamela Geller and the reality progressives must face,” by Jeffrey Tayler, Salon, May 10, 2015:
Whatever her views on other matters are, Pamela Geller is right about one thing: last week’s Islamist assault on the “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest she hosted in Texas proves the jihad against freedom of expression has opened a front in the United States. “There is,” she said, “a war on free speech and this violent attack is a harbinger of things to come.” Apparently undaunted, Geller promises to continue with such “freedom of speech” events. ISIS is now threatening to assassinate her. She and her cohorts came close to becoming victims, yet some in the media on the right and the center-right have essentially blamed her for the gunmen’s attack, just as far too many, last January, surreptitiously pardoned the Kouachi brothers and, with consummate perfidy to human decency, inculpated the satirical cartoonists they slaughtered, saying “Charlie Hebdo asked for it.”
No…. The meme “Islam – the religion of peace” might evoke snickering now, but it was wildly inaccurate long before 9/11 and the plague of Islamist terrorism. For starters, the Prophet Muhammad was a triumphant warlord leading military campaigns that spread Islam throughout Arabia and initiated the creation of one of the largest empires the world has known. His was a messianic undertaking. He preceded his invasions by demands that populations either convert or face the sword. Verses sanctifying violence against “infidels” abound in the Quran. Even the favorite verse of Islam’s apologists, Surat al-Baqarah 2:256 (“There is no compulsion in religion”), prefaces a warning that Hellfire awaits those worshipping anything besides God. The real meaning of the word “Islam” is, in fact, surrender — to God and the inerrant, unchallengeable path He lays out for us. Surrendering denotes war, groveling, and humiliation – not exactly the kind of behavior liberals tend to value.Many know that “jihad” means both spiritual and non-spiritual striving in the name of Islam, with the latter connoting holy war. As we speak, the violent are bearing it away, rendering the peaceful definition irrelevant. The Charlie Hebdo massacre and the shooting at Geller’s “Draw Muhammad” contest attest to how extremists are determining our discourse about Islam, and compelling us to deal with the religion at its worst. Even though the majority of Muslims in the West are hardly on the warpath, the overarching aim of jihad, of the messianic mission launched by the Prophet Muhammad, remains Islam’s conquest of the planet — the most illiberal goal imaginable, threatening to every aspect of Western civilization.
The canonical glorification of death for the sake Islam, or martyrdom, similarly belies those who would argue that the religion’s nature is pacific. If you, as a progressive, do not believe in the veracity of the Quran, then you have to accept Arthur C. Clarke’s diagnosis of those who “would rather fight to the death than abandon their illusions” as complying with the criteria of “the operational definition of insanity.” Insanity hardly engenders peace.
All those who, à la Reza Aslan, maintain that Muslims today do not necessarily read the Quran literally have lost the argument before it begins. What counts is that there are those (ISIS, say, and al-Qaida) who do, and they are taking action based on their beliefs. To the contention, “ISIS and al-Qaida don’t represent Islam!” the proper response is, “that’s what you say. They disagree.” No single recognized Muslim clerical body exists to refute them….
The above are the stark doctrinal and practical realities of which no honest progressive could approve, and which form the bases of the religion. Regardless of what the peaceful majority of Muslims are doing, as ISIS’s beguiling ideology spreads, we are likely to face an ever more relentless, determined Islamist assault. We can delude ourselves no longer: violence is an emergent property deriving from Islam’s inherently intolerant precepts and dogma. The rising number of ethnic Europeans mesmerized by Islam who set off to enroll in the ranks of ISIS attests to this; and may prefigure serious disruptions, especially in France, the homeland of a good number of them, once they start returning. There is nothing “phobic” about recognizing this. Recognize it we must, and steel ourselves for what’s to come.
This is no call to disrespect Muslims as people, but we should not hesitate to speak frankly about the aspects of their faith we find problematic. But it’s not up to progressives to suggest how an ideology based on belief without evidence might be reformed. Rather, we should cease relativizing and proudly espouse, as alternatives to blind obedience to ancient texts, reason, progress, consensus-based solutions, and the wonderful panoply of other Enlightenment ideals underpinning our Constitution and the liberties characterizing Western countries.
The only path to victory in this war in defense of free speech lies through courage. We cannot wimp out and blame the victims for drawing cartoons, writing novels, or making movies. We need to heed Gérard Biard, Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief, who declared, as he received the PEN award, that “They don’t want us to write and draw. We must write and draw. They don’t want us to think and laugh. We must think and laugh. They don’t want us to debate. We must debate.”
In doing as he urges, we will give the terrorists too many targets to attack and convince them that we will not surrender, not cede an inch. That means the media needs to begin showing Charlie Hedbo’s [sic] Muhammad cartoons. We must stop traducing reason by branding people “Islamophobes,” and start celebrating our secularism, remembering that only it offers true freedom for the religious and non-religious alike. And we should reaffirm our humanistic values, in our conviction that we have, as Carlyle wrote, “One life – a little gleam of time between two eternities,” and need to make the most of it for ourselves and others while we can. There is nothing else.
This is not a battle we have chosen; the battle has chosen us.
It’s time to fight back, and hard.