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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Moderate Muslims Are A Myth

Brendan O'Neill does a good job of tearing down the myth of Islamophobia. Noting that the first reaction among the liberal elite after a terrorist attack is to worry about a "backlash" against Muslims, O'Neill observes:
It’s not surprising that there is such a gaping chasm between liberals’ hand-wringing over a potential violent and sweeping Islamophobic backlash and what is actually happening in France and elsewhere. Because the idea of Islamophobia has always been informed more by the swirling fantasies and panics of the political and media elites than by any real, measurable levels of hate or violence against Muslims. ... But fears about widespread anti-Muslim violence, about the spread of toxic Islamophobic hate through the streets and in workplaces, are unfounded, because their driving force is the anti-natives, anti-pleb prejudices of the elites rather than any hard evidence of extreme hostility to Muslims. 
Liberals’ angst about violent anti-Muslim uprisings always proves to be empty. So after the 7/7 Tube and bus attacks in London, there were wide and wild warnings of a violent backlash against the Muslims of Britain. Journalists predicted bloodshed. National Health Service workers were encouraged to keep their eyes peeled — ie. spy — for any signs of anti-Muslim agitation among their patients. But there was no spike in anti-Muslim crimes. According to Crown Prosecution Service crime figures for 2005–06, covering the months after 7/7, only 43 religiously aggravated crimes were prosecuted in that period, and only 18 of those crimes were against Muslims. “The fears of a [post-7/7] rise in offences appears to be unfounded,” the Director of Public Prosecutions later admitted. 
After the Boston Marathon bombings there were loads of media panic about the “ignorance and prejudice [that arise] in the aftermath of a terrorist attack” and concern that Muslims in America would get it in the neck. But Muslims have not been assaulted en masse by stupid Americans in recent years, including in the wake of 9/11. According to federal crime stats, in 2009 there were 107 anti-Muslim hate crimes; in 2010, there were 160. In a country of 330 million people, this is exceptionally low. After the Lindt cafĂ© siege in Sydney at the end of last year, there was once again heated fear on the pages of the broadsheets about dumb Aussies going crazy and attacking brown people. Nothing happened. No mob emerged. Muslims were not attacked. 
Islamophobia is a myth. Sure, some folks in Europe and elsewhere no doubt dislike Muslims, just as other losers hate the Irish or blacks or women. But the idea that there is a climate of Islamophobia, a culture of hot-headed, violent-minded hatred for Muslims that could be awoken and unleashed by the next terror attack, is an invention. 
Islamophobia is a code word for mainstream European elites’ fear of their own populations, of their native hordes, whom they imagine to be unenlightened, prejudiced, easily led by the tabloid media, and given to outbursts of spite and violence. The thing that keeps the Islamophobia panic alive is not actual violence against Muslims but the right-on politicos’ ill-founded yet deeply held view of ordinary Europeans, especially those of a working-class variety, as racist and stupid. This is the terrible irony of the Islamophobia panic: The fearers of anti-Muslim violence claim to be challenging prejudice but actually they reveal their own prejudices, their distrust of and disdain for those who come from the other side of the tracks, read different newspapers, hold different beliefs, live different lives. They accuse stupid white communities of viewing Muslims as an indistinguishable mob who threaten the fabric of European society, which is exactly what they think of stupid white communities.
Or, as Obama characterizes Americans in "fly-over" country--bitter clingers to their guns and religion.

But there is more than just a bigotry against the "great, uneducated and unwashed masses" (which haven't existed since the widespread adoption of public schooling, the spread of universities, and indoor plumbing; and now simply is short-hand for someone not educated at an Ivy League institution). Is also represents an extraordinary misunderstanding of the so-called "moderate Muslim".

Milo Yiannopoulos writes about how Islam is a tarnished brand:
I have dozens of friends who practice Islam. They are, of course, to a man, horrible bores on the subject of Palestine. Some of them wear “boycott Israeli goods” t-shirts, to which I turn a blind eye so as not to start a fight. But have any of them, in any of their supper rants, ever so much as addressed the question, unsolicited, of terrorism performed in the name of their faith? Have any of them shown up to lunch in a “not in my name” shirt? 
The answer, I’m afraid, is no. And it has also been only very recently that solemn processions of Muslim authors, celebrities, and “community leaders”–whatever that ridiculous phrase means–have passed through television studios to denounce the acts and beliefs of fundamentalists and, of course, to say that whatever crime has just occurred is “nothing to do with Islam.” 
I say this not because I get sadistic pleasure from squeezing awkward apologies for terrorist atrocities from innocent friends–but because the silence of Muslims until the last couple of years on the subject has been mystifyingly self-defeating: did imams, writers, and journalists not realise that by refusing to distance themselves strongly from such awful crimes, they open themselves up to suspicion? Did they not see what would happen? 
It sometimes feels as though it might be too late to save Islam’s reputation in the west. If that sounds like an alarmist or absurd thing to say, consider the facts. For decades, Muslim communities turned a blind eye to what was going on in their mosques and schools, with the result that thousands of young western boys have flown to Syria to join ISIS to commit barbaric acts in the name of Allah. 
They also failed to denounce terror where it happened, allowing hate-mongers to blur the distinctions between Islam and Islamism to such a degree that the subtleties are now lost on non-Muslims. Myself included, at times, if I am completely honest. Non-Muslims like us were left to conclude that they must, on some level, secretly sympathise with the acts of their radicalised cousins. Who could really blame us?
She goes on to discuss how Islam could redeem its reputation. However, I believe she starts from a false premise: that most Muslims--or at least those who would self-describe as "moderate"--do not sympathize with the extremists.

Watch the video clip below:


In this clip, CNN's Don Lemon interview a Muslim human rights lawyer, and editor of "The Islamic Monthly", Arsalan Iftikhar, about the attacks in Paris. The interview begins with the general banality about how much Muslims have contributed to the world, that the religion preaches peace, and it is unfair to paint all Muslims with actions of a few. When the Lemon asks if the problem is "radical Islam," Iftikhar says that it is improper to bring religion into it--that these (speaking of the terrorists) are irreligious criminals. Where the interview begins to be interesting is about the 3:30 mark. Lemon sets up a question about how 16% of French Muslims support ISIS, and asks Iftikhar whether those Muslims are extremists. Iftikhar then says that sympathy for the ideology does not equate to justification of the killings; then proceeds to point out all the "bad" things Christians did (mostly centuries ago). Lemon asks the question again, then makes it more pointed about whether Iftikhar supports ISIS. (About 4:45 into the video). A simple "yes" or "no" question, and Iftikhar instead responds that he had already answered the question: 16% supporting the ideology does not equate to supporting mass murder.

Iftikhar's answer is interesting. When asked point blank whether he supports ISIS, he does not deny that he supports ISIS. Earlier, he had described the terrorists as "irreligious"--that they didn't have the support of Muslims and it was a mistake to conflate their motives with the religion. However, after the ISIS question, he essentially acknowledged that these Mulims (and apparently himself) sympathize with the ideology, but don't support mass murder. That Iftikhar would not disclaim support for ISIS personally, and included himself among those he described as having sympathy for their ideology, seems to show where Iftikhar--described as a "moderate" Muslim--stands.

I suspect that what Iftikhar means through his dancing around the question is that, yes, a large number of Muslims sympathize with ISIS. They, themselves, would not dirty their hands by carrying out an actual mass murder, but they will secretly applaud those murders.


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