Sunday, May 10, 2009

Anti-jihadist meltdown

Russell Shorto is an American journalist, of liberal persuasion, who has recently settled in Amsterdam. He has just published an article in the New York Times Magazine (“Going Dutch,” May 3) lauding the interventionist social policies of his adopted country. His love letter to the “Dutch utopia" contains only one sentence acknowledging (obliquely) the growing menace of dissident Islamists in this venerable land. Most liberal commentators prefer to ignore or mimimize the problem of jihadist militancy in countries like Britain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

As Bruce Bawer and others have shown, many of the new immigrants in Europe have learned to game the system in order to get welfare benefits to which they are not entitled. If allowed to run unchecked, these abuses--together with their high birthrate--will end up wrecking the social compact that has long sustained the structures of the Western European welfare states. Unshakably committed, its seems, to the dogmas of multiculturalism, these liberal observers cannot discard their rose-colored glasses. If we will just be patient and tolerant, assimilation will work its magic. Yeah, yeah, as the man said.

Arrayed against these latter-day disciples of Polly Anna are the anti-jihadists. A good many years ago the path for this tendency was inaugurated by Bat Ye’or, with her fears about the rise of Eurabia (see my earlier posting). Currently the view is forcefully advocated by such writers as Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Mark Steyn. For his part, the ubiquitous David Horowitz continues to promote the dubious label of "Islamofascism." While these utterances are sometimes alarmist, and even over the top, it is undeniably the case that the Third Abrahamic faith is not a religion of peace. It began in violence and coercion, and has spread in conformity with that heritage. That is why one must be skeptical of such academic apologists as Juan Cole, who claim that violence is only cultivated by tiny fringe groups of Islamists.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, jazz musician and Web designer Charles Johnson has devoted much of his right-leaning blog Little Green Footballs ( to exposing Islamist extremism. A very popular site, LGF helped spread the lexicon of the self-styled “anti-jihadist” blogosphere, including “moonbat” (”an unthinking or insane leftist”) to “anti-idiotarian” (”anyone who grasps the significance of and does his or her best to combat the post-9/11 political alliance between the ‘Old Left’ and militant Islam”).

Now, though, Charles Johnson seems to be having second thoughts. In recent postings, Johnson has signaled his concern that many of his anti-jihadist allies have been cozying up to far-right European political parties. “I don’t think there is an anti-jihadist movement anymore,” Johnson laments. “It’s all a bunch of kooks. I’ve watched some people who I thought were reputable, and who I trusted, hook up with racists and Nazis. I see a lot of them promoting stories and causes that I think are completely nuts.”

Johnson’s disillusionment goes back to October 2007, when some of the leading terrorism-focused bloggers flew to Belgium for a Counterjihad Summit sponsored in part by the Center for Vigilant Freedom (now the International Civil Liberties Alliance), an outgrowth of the LGF-inspired blog Gates of Vienna). The summit included members of Vlaams Belang, a right-wing Belgian political party that criticizes Islam and sharia law.

“Some people at that summit in Belgium were not people we should have been associated with,” Johnson said. He deplores the fact that his more fervent erstwhile allies in the anti-jihadist camp have become supporters of Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who wants to outlaw Islam in his country. “Some of these people outright want to ban Islam from the United States, which I think is crazy, completely nuts. That’s not something we do in this country. These people will outright defend banning the Koran or deporting Muslims. That’s popular with the Geller/Spencer crowd.” Some of his targets have responded by claiming, improbably, that Johnson has become a left-winger.

Now comes Bruce Bawer, with a scathing piece reprinted in LGF. Bawer is author of “While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within” and “Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom.” (Full disclosure: Bawer was once an Internet friend of mine--though not primarily in this context.)

Here are some excerpts from Bawer’s piece.

“I can testify that in the last couple of years some significant, and lamentable, shifts have taken place on the anti-jihad front. Writers and bloggers whom, not very long ago, I would unhesitatingly have described as staunch defenders of liberal values against Islamofascist [sic] intolerance have more recently said and done things that have dismayed me, and that, in many cases, have compelled me to re-examine my view of them.

“Once upon a time, these people made a point of distancing themselves from far-right European parties such as Belgium’s Vlaams Belang – whose most prominent Internet voice, Paul Belien, has declared himself to be fighting for “Judeo-Christian morality” not only against jihadist Islam but also against “secular humanism.” Belien has made no secret of his contempt for gay people and for the idea that they deserve human rights as much as anyone else. Now, however, many of the anti-jihadist writers who once firmly rejected Vlaams Belang have come to embrace it wholeheartedly. In fact, for reasons unknown to me, this regional party in one of Europe’s smallest countries appears to have become, for a number of anti-jihadist writers on both sides of the Atlantic, nothing short of a litmus test: in their eyes, it seems, if you’re not willing to genuflect to VB, you’re not a real anti-jihadist.


“The other day [Bawer continues], in the wake of my City Journal piece “Heirs to Fortuyn?”, a couple of anti-jihad writers who had not yet rebuked me for my stance on Vlaams Belang finally got around to doing so. Not only did they send me e-mails taking me to task for criticizing VB in that article; one of them also took it upon himself to chew me out for, in his view, admiring Pim Fortuyn too much and Geert Wilders too little. (Never mind that I’ve defended Wilders frequently and that Wilders has blurbed my new book, Surrender.) Wilders, this individual felt compelled to lecture me, is a far greater figure than Fortuyn ever was. Why? Because, he explained, Wilders stands for “Western values,” while Fortuyn stood only for – get ready for this – “Dutch libertinism.”

“Yes, “Dutch libertinism.” The words took my breath away. During the last few days (while, as it happened, I was visiting Amsterdam) I haven’t been able to get them out of my mind. For a self-styled anti-jihadist – who, by the way, I first met three years ago at the Pim Fortuyn Memorial Conference in The Hague – to refer in this way to a man who sacrificed his life for human liberty is, in my view, not only incomprehensible but profoundly despicable. This is, after all, precisely the sort of language that Dutch Muslim leaders hurled at Fortuyn during his lifetime. And in the present case the words were plainly aimed not only at Fortuyn but at me – a writer who, like Fortuyn, that great martyr for freedom, is gay.”

Clearly, the Bawer-Johnson faction is upset--to the point of obsession--about the Vlaams Belang connection. Why is this a deal-breaker for them?

In all likelihood the menace that they now so acutely perceive stems from their almost fanatical devotion to the state of Israel. This devotion is partly based on opposition to anti-Semitism, an opposition which has been orthodoxy among both mainstream liberals and conservatives since World War II. What such people don’t understand, however, is that the interests of Jewish people (who are very diverse) are not identical with those of the state of Israel. Many perceptive American Jews have confirmed this point. In addition, the Bawer-Johnson folks seem to believe that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Since Israel is locked in a struggle with Islamic states and peoples, it must be on the side of the angels. Bull. All three Abrahamic faiths have much to answer for, as I have illustrated in many previous postings.

Little Green Footballs has consistently ranked high in the honor roll, if you will, of pro-Israel blogs. This approach is the lodestar of its existence. It looks very much as if Johnson is one of Jerusalem’s useful idiots (to adopt Lenin’s apt descriptor).

My own conclusion is this. Allowing for some cherry picking of evidence and exaggeration, the anti-jihadists have made some valid contributions. They are more nearly right than the liberal deniers. However, they want us to turn a blind eye to today's repressive Israeli policies. They also ignore the fact that much that is regrettable in the Islamist tradition goes back to the intolerance and violence that are central to the Hebrew bible. Ethnic cleansing was made in ancient Israel.



Blogger Ben said...

My Google Alert for "Ban Islam" was triggered by this post. The excerpt led me to expect a condemnation of the affirmative case.

Instead, I found a wide ranging, inconclusive essay on internal conflict within the anti-Islam movement.

I openly advocate a constitutional amendment to exclude Islam from the First Amendment's umbrella of protection.

I openly advocate the closure of Islamic institutions, deportation of Muslims and their exclusion from our territory.

If Islam has any right, then we have none. It is that simple. The fatal fact is plainly evident on the face of 8:39, 9:29, and Bukhari 1.8.387.

In the short form: Islam is commanded to make war upon us until we submit to it; until then our blood and property are not sacred to Muslims. Open season, no bag limit.

Tolerance is suicidal.

2:44 PM  

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