HRS International

Clueless

One of the most widely read and influential online magazines in the U.S. is a thing called Slate, and one of its regular features is a column called “Slate Explainer,” which purports to clarify mystifying matters of current interest for its readers. Last Friday, Slate staffer Christopher Beam ventured to address the topic of Islam in the West, with a special focus on the Netherlands, commented by Bruce Bawer.

Clueless

By Bruce Bawer, HRS

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One of the most widely read and influential online magazines in the U.S. is a thing called Slate, and one of its regular features is a column called “Slate Explainer,” which purports to clarify mystifying matters of current interest for its readers. Last Friday, Slate staffer Christopher Beam ventured to address the topic of Islam in the West, with a special focus on the Netherlands.

Beam began by noting that Geert Wilders’s trial in Amsterdam “for allegedly inciting hatred and insulting Muslims” begins this week, and by reminding readers of the brutal murders of Theo van Gogh and Pim Fortuyn, both of them Dutch critics of Islam. One might think that the questions which naturally arose from these events would be: “Why are critics of Islam being murdered in the streets of free countries?” And: “Why is a Western democracy putting a man on trial for speaking his mind?” But no: the question Beam proceeded to address, under the title “Nation of Anti-Islam,” was this: “Why is there so much anti-Muslim rhetoric in the Netherlands?”

His answer: “Because it’s a tiny, densely populated country with a high immigration rate.” He added that while Muslims “are ghettoized in countries like the United Kingdom, they’re more visible in the Netherlands, with largely Muslim neighborhoods abutting Christian ones and more integration between them.” And that, essentially, was it.

“As it turns out,” concluded the decidedly low-beam Beam, “permissiveness when it comes to drug use does not always translate into accommodation for any and all lifestyles and religious views.” Beam was careful, of course, not to say a word about the nature of those “lifestyles” and “religious views.”

Nothing about the Dutch Muslim communities which are essentially under the sway of barbaric sharia law. Nothing about the Dutch mosques, religious schools, and community centers in which imams regularly remind the faithful to despise democracy, infidels, America, Jews, gays, uncovered women, and individual freedom generally – in short, to despise the very people whose tax money is helping to fund these Muslim institutions. Nothing about the Dutch Muslims who cheered on 9/11. Nothing about the staggeringly high rates of unemployment, welfare fraud, forced marriage, honor killing, and physical abuse within Dutch Muslim communities. Nothing about the steady rise in street crime by Muslim youth gangs. Nothing about the rocketing rape statistics (the victims, of course, being infidel women who, by appearing in public unveiled, are asking to be defiled). Nothing about the Jew-bashing that has made the Netherlands, once a sanctuary for Jews, a country in which they are no longer safe. And nothing about the gay-bashing that has transformed the face of what was once the most gay-friendly city on earth, causing more and more gays to switch their votes from the pro-immigration left to the anti-immigration right and/or to move out of town.

In the last decade, numerous books have examined the Islamization of Europe, and some, such as my own While Europe Slept (2006), have given special attention to the Netherlands. It is a scandal that in 2010 a major news website is capable of running the kind of nonsense that Beam served up. And one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when one discovers, at the bottom of Beam’s piece, that it took no fewer than three “experts” to provide Beam with this nonsense: “Explainer thanks Erik Jones of the School for Advanced International Studies, Jytte Klausen of Brandeis University, and Peter Mandaville of George Mason University.”

The topic of Islam also came up in a curious piece published last Sunday on the website of the San Francisco Chronicle. It was not easy to figure out exactly where the author of the piece, Joel Brinkley, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a professor of journalism at Stanford University, was going. The title didn’t help: “We are living the age of discontent – with Islam.” Did this mean Brinkley shared the discontent or viewed it as bigotry?

Government leaders and ordinary people around the world,” Brinkley began, “seem to be giving up on the view, oft-argued since 9/11, that Islam is not to blame for the violent acts of its militant miscreants. That is spawning an epidemic of attacks on Muslims, their religion, its icons, practices and customs.” Brinkley’s use of the word “attacks” seemed to be a reference to the fact that at least a few scattered people in the Western world have, of late, been daring to speak uncomfortable truths about Islam. In such a context, of course, it might be advisable to avoid referring to frank critiques of a monstrous religious ideology as “attacks,” and to reserve that word instead for, well, the actual attacks in places like London, Madrid, Bali, Mumbai, forth that have led “ordinary people around the world” to be suspicious of Islam and whose perpetrators, needless to say, have been motivated by that monstrous ideology.

Brinkley cited the debate over the Ground Zero mosque, the would-be Koran-burner in Florida, and the recent publication in Germany of a book by Thilo Sarrazin that “disparages Muslim immigrants.” But then, without any explicit transition, Brinkley’s list shifted from examples of Islam criticism to examples of Islamic violence – namely, killings by Islamic militants in Tajikistan who, according to the Tajik military, were “using the holy religion of Islam as a guise to turn Tajikistan into an arena of civil war,” and a warning by Interpol about the thousands of “Islamic-extremist websites intended to recruit members for al Qaeda and adjunct terror groups.”

Brinkley then reported that in the U.S. the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has “reported a 60 percent increase over the past few years in Muslim workers’ complaints about discrimination and mistreatment.” He quoted a EEOC lawyer who told the New York Times: “I’ve been doing this for 31 years, and I’ve never seen such antipathy toward Muslim workers.” “As if all of that were not enough,” Brinkley went on to say (enough what?), “the Texas Board of Education passed a rule last month ordering publishers to keep ‘pro-Islam’ textbooks out of the state.”

It was still not clear exactly what point Brinkley was trying to make – was it that Islam actually is a real problem, or that people in the West are being unfairly critical of it?

“This,” Brinkley summed up, “is becoming the greatest issue of our age.” But what, exactly, was the antecedent of “this”? Conflating Islam with Arab identity, Brinkley noted that “[m]oderate Arab commentators continue to argue that the religion is not to blame for the violence a few of its followers foment.” But this, Brinkley said, “is becoming a losing argument” for “[m]ost people know by now that imams in many Islamic states regularly preach jihad during Friday prayers, and their governments generally do nothing to stop them.” While the Catholic Church, he pointed out, is finally addressing the problem of pedophilia, “I see no similar effort in the Islamic world to quiet those imams who urge their followers to commit violence and terror in the name of the faith.” Which finally brought us to his point, and his conclusion:

No doubt, the virtual entirety of the Catholic world, 1.1 billion people, opposes pedophilia. But has that quieted the acrimony? Hardly. And it is certainly true that the vast majority of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims oppose the violence instigated by some of their religious leaders. But until these Muslims step up and make a concerted effort to curtail the provocateurs, they will continue to take some of the blame. It’s just human nature. Do something – or get used to it. Around the world, people have just had enough.

The best one can say about this is that it’s better than one might have expected. But then again: Sigh. How many times over the years have we read a confident statement by some Western observer to the effect that “the vast majority” of Muslims worldwide oppose Islamist violence? How many times have we seen such Western observers encouraging “Muslim moderates” to do – um, something – about Muslim “extremists”? And how many times has it been dramatically demonstrated that the majority of Muslims, while perhaps not inclined to commit terrorist acts themselves, are not about to rush to the side of Western infidels in the struggle to defeat armed jihad? To know anything at all about Islam is to know that armed jihad, far from being a corruption or betrayal of the faith, is the very essence of the faith; and while hundreds of millions of Muslims may be uncomfortable with this fact, it is a fact, and they know it, and they are not eager to challenge it, for the Koran is, after all, as they have been told all their lives, the very word of Allah.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem here, and it’s depressing that leading intellectuals and journalists in the West – even Professor Joel Brinkley of Stanford, whose heart appears to be closer to the right place than most – still don’t get it.