Tuesday, December 07, 2004

ABC News Spins for the Islamists

An article posted on ABC News' Web site, inadvertantly provides a window onto the thinking of the U.S. media elite and its multiculturalist worldview. The article, "Is Islam Endangering 'Europeanness?'", written by Leela Jacinto, makes little effort to disguise its prejudices. The title itself subtley mocks the very notion that there might exist a distinct European cultural identity - which the article soon makes clear is merely code for white racism.

Ms. Jacinto opens her little morality tale with the story of Salma Yaqoob, a British Muslim activist who was jeered at an anti-war conference in Paris last year because she was wearing a hajib, a veil worn by many traditional Muslim women to cover their hair. "I was genuinely shocked how people reacted just because I happened to be wearing a hijab," Ms. Yaqoob complained to Ms. Jacinto. "It was actually a very upsetting experience. It was shocking to see people so passionate and, in my view, so ignorant of basic things, basic things like etiquette." Of course, this incident is presented with no background information that would inform the reader about the cultural tensions in France at the time which led to the French government banning the wearing such such hajibs in French schools (see here and here).

Ms. Yaqoob's unfortunate Parisian experience serves as an example of "Islamophobia," never actually defined in the article, but equated by inference with hatred, and granted with the same negative moral status as racism by Ms. Jacinto .

Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines phobia as "a persistent irrational fear of a specific object, activity or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it." In this case, irrational would mean without reasonable basis. But given the events of the last several years, can European concerns over the large number of Muslims who have recently immigrated to their nations really be considered irrational? Much of the September 11th plot which killed 3,000 Americans, was conceived and planned in Hamburg by Muslim immigrants to Germany. The March 11th Madrid train bombings were committed by Muslims who had immigrated to Spain. Police in Germany, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain have uncovered Islamic terrorist networks within their own borders. Radical imans make London, Paris and Rome their homes, preaching jihad against the West. In France, Muslim immigrants live together in tight communities where gangs of radicalized young Muslim men enforce a harsh version of Islamic law and the police are afraid to intervene. In the Netherlands, attacks on native Dutch by radical Muslims who disapprove of the country's liberal, tolerant society, have been increasing for years. Many Europeans were stunned to emerge from their homes on September 11th, their minds reeling from the bloody horror broadcast on TV to see Muslim immigrants dancing for joy in the streets of their cities (see also here). Ms. Jacinto mentions none of this, of course.
"There is definitely a rise in Islamophobia across Europe," said Liz Fekete, deputy director of the London-based Institute of Race Relations. "Muslims collectively are being blamed for the attacks on the World Trade Center, and there is a general punitive climate toward Muslims. This has manifested itself in a variety of ways. On the ground, there has been a rise in racial violence on Muslim targets across Europe. And the biggest problem is that the scale of the problem has not been acknowledged," Fekete said.
Of course, Ms. Fekete deliberately fails to mention the hundreds of other incidents of Islamic terrorism within and outside of Europe that have occurred before and after the September 11th atrocity. Nor does she mention the various Muslims clerics who have publiclly praised the 9/11 hijackers and called for a jihad in Europe. Or the persistent discoveries of violent Islamist propaganda among young Muslims. Of course, if she did acknowledge the growing menace of Islamic violence worldwide, her claims of Islamophobia would sound rather empty. Ms. Jacinto, incidently, does not appear to have challenged Ms. Fekete's pronouncement. She simply accepted it as more evidence of the Islamophobia (read: European racism). This shouldn't surprise, however. The point of the article is to condemn Europeans. Actual journalism would have interfered.

Since the end of World War II, Western Europe has been widely viewed as a bastion of internationalism, moderation and social progressiveness -- a haven of affluent, eco-conscious citizens in stark contrast to the perceived unilateralism and parochialism of the United States. [emphasis mine]

But across Western Europe, immigrant and civil rights experts say a xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim wave appears to be gripping a region once famed for its tolerance.

Notice how Ms. Jacinto managed to incorporate a slap at current U.S. foreign policy into an article that ostensibly doesn't deal with the U.S. Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, whom Ms. Jacinto doubtless spent interminable hours reading in college, would be very pleased to see their toxic ideas regurgitated by an avid student.

Ms. Jacinto tries to paint a picture of rising racial attacks against Muslim immigrants, but is forced to concede that definitive statistics on such violence are lacking.

Nevertheless, Europewide opinion polls show an alarmingly high level of intolerance toward Muslims within the European Union. One recent poll found 14 percent of EU citizens admitted to being "intolerant" of minorities, while another 25 percent said they were "ambivalent" toward them.

Since when does 14 percent demonstrate "an alarmingly high level of intolerance?" Even if we add the 25 percent who described themselves as "ambivalent" - which is far from intolerant - to that 14 percent, we are stil left with a majority of 61 percent who did not express intolerant feelings. So 14 percent is high compared to what? What percentage described themselves as intolerant five years ago? Ten? Ms. Jacinto fails to provide any yardstick by which to judge such numbers.

Allegations of discrimination against Muslims are not exclusive to Europe. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the United States has come under heavy criticism for alleged civil rights infringements under the controversial Patriot Act. Rights groups have also recorded a dramatic increase in profiling complaints and backlash attacks against American Muslims. [emphasis mine]

And like Europe, immigration is at the front line of the anti-Muslim assault in the United States, where thousands of illegal immigrants have been indefinitely detained without criminal charges and summarily deported without access to lawyers.

Again, Ms. Jacinto delivers a gratuitous swipe against the U.S., while omitting mention of the extraordinary lenghts to which the U.S. government, from the president on down, went in the wake of September 11th to prevent violent retaliatory attacks on Muslims. Moreover, despite his assertion that a dramatic increase in anti-Muslim attacks followed September 11th, she cites no specific statistics, but only unnamed "rights groups." The reason for this evasion is that there were remarkably few violent attacks on Muslims. Despite the horrible deaths of 3,000 of their countrymen, the American people did not, except in rare instances vent their rage against American Muslims. This stands in stark contrast to the lnyching of many German immigrants during World War I. One suspects that the unspecified "rights groups" to which Ms. Jacinto obliquely refers most likely are Muslim advocacy organizations - many of whom have been exposed as front groups for terrorist organizations and whose ideological objectives must be questioned. As for the profiling charge, that can only be ascribed to the politically correct blindness from which Ms. Jacinto obviously suffers. The U.S. was attacked by a group of persons who derive from a specific racial and ethnic group who entered the U.S. from a specific part of the world. Given that this group has publiclly announced its intention to reproduce similar scale or worse attacks in the U.S., profiling based on this religous/ethnic/geographical profile would be entirely reasonable in order to prevent another attack. Unfortunately, again, the reality is that the U.S. have gone out of its way to avoid singling out the most likely suspect group - to the extent of strip-searching septagenarian, white U.S. Congressmen from Michigan at airports. But these facts do not fit into Ms. Jacinto's jermiad about Muslim persecution, so they are ignored.

Right-wing European politicians such as Peter Skaarup, deputy chairman of the Danish People's Party, say it's unfair to compare U.S. and European cultural track records.

"It's very difficult to compare the United States with Denmark, because the United States is a country built on immigration, on being a multi-ethnic society," said Skaarup, whose party recently ran a campaign warning Danes their country was turning into a "Muslim-majority nation."

"Denmark," Skaarup said, "does not have a record of immigration. We've been quite a homogeneous society for many years, and for many of us therefore it comes as a very big challenge when suddenly there is a very large immigration."

Mr. Skaarup strikes the proverbial nail on the head. European countries are not like the U.S., which has always comprised a multi-racial society and diverse, immigrant-driven culture. Europeans represent distinct ethnic groups living in their traditional homelands. And like ethnic groups everywhere else in the world, they do not respond well to challenges by invading outsiders. Regardless of one's opinion of this human proclivity, it remains a fact. Social programs - like permitting massive immigration of other racial or ethnic groups into geographies dominated by other ethnic groups inevitably results in violent confrontation. Nevertheless, Europeans scarred by the horror of Nazism, have for decades so immersed themselves in denial regarding the reality of ethnic and cultural differences, that it was not until radical Muslims violently rejected European culture that the European masses recognized the threat and responded.

At the heart of Europe's rising Islamophobia is the debate between integration and multiculturalism.

While countries such as the United States, Britain and Canada have rejected the social "melting pot" model for a "salad bowl" or "mosaic" metaphor, Fekete says the notion of multiculturalism in Western Europe is in jeopardy.

"Political parties have been introducing new 'integration measures,' and these enter into the highly public discourse about the limits of cultural diversity and a European fixation with social homogeneity that eschews pluralism," she said. "And the underlying theme is this is based on the Muslim community."

Noting that integration "is a two-way street," Fekete warns that by denying Muslim immigrants citizenship rights, European governments risk further alienating the community.

The "limits of cultural diversity" Ms. Jacinto refers to is the desire of Europeans to maintain the cultures they spent centuries building. One doubts Ms. Jacinto would find that desire objectionable if expressed by any other ethnic group. If Europeans were immigrating in large measure into a non-European nation, one suspects that Ms. Jacinto's sympathies would be with the indigineous population and not with the European colonists. Moreover, Ms. Jacinto fails to make any mention of the extent to which many Muslim immigrants have resisted integrating into the European cultures to which they chose to migrate, preferring to establish their own communities and enforce their own cultural norms - occasionally including such ethically advanced notions as wife beating and honor killings.

Interestingly, one fails to recall any referendum in which the people of the U.S. voted againt the concept of the "melting pot" and in favor of the wonderfully named "salad bowl" model. In fact, most U.S. politicians still pay homage to the - apparently rejected - "melting pot" model. But Ms. Jacinto has most probably spent more time reading the analysis of academically cloistered social scientists than she has talking to average Americans.

Ms. Jacinto finallyn gets around to mentioning some examples of Muslim violence - described as briefly as possible - including the spectacularly violent murder of Theo van Gogh, but she quickly quotes a Muslim expert who places the blame for such violence squarely on the victim:

While he condemns van Gogh's killing, Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, notes that the subject of his film, violence against women, is not exclusive to the Muslim community.

Pointing to the fact that some widely condemned customs, such as forced marriages and dowry deaths are as prevalent among Hindu immigrants from the Indian subcontinent as Muslims, Sharjareh claims that while effective legislation is necessary, it's also important not to stereotype communities.

"We do need infrastructure to limit extremism," said Shadjareh, "and this has to come from all sides. If the Dutch government had prosecuted van Gogh for his racism, he may have been alive. I'm not saying that anything, absolutely anything legitimizes a killing, but we also need to limit hate speech -- on all sides." [emphasis mine]

Parse that last sentence again and then ask yourself exactly what Mr. Shadjareh is saying. Mr. van Gogh criticized Islam harshly and was murdered, but the real fault lies with the Dutch government for failing to prosecute Mr. van Gogh for "racism" - now apparently defined as criticizing non-Europeans. So much for the idea of freedom of speech. I suppose it would also be racist to point out that freedom of speech is a notion founded in European Enlightenment thought and has no existence anywhere in the Muslim world. Mr. Shadjareh allegedly condemns Mr. van Gogh's murder but then shifts the blame to Dutch society in general under the all-purpose, politically-correct umbrella of "racism." This reveals the real motive behind the current push for anti-hate speech legislation in Europe: to crush dissent from the majority populations regarding the influx of immigrants, particularly Muslim immigrants. It is interesting to note the curious alliance of leftists and Islamists backing such laws - and unlikely pairing born of a mutual hatred of Western Civilzation and values.

Ms. Jacinto closes her anti-European, anti-American rant by returning to the tragic story of Ms. Yaqoob:

A year after she was booed at the European Social Forum, Yaqoob was back at the conference. But this time, things had changed. For one, it was held in London this year. For another, the conference took place months after France instituted its hijab ban, and most of the non-French delegates opposed the ban.

"I asked them [the French delegation], have you talked to them [French Muslim women]? And they said, no, we don't need to," she says. "I told them I personally chose to wear the hijab. And they told me, 'You're oppressed, you just don't know it.'"

An articulate activist, professional psychotherapist and mother of three sons, Yaqoob sometimes does believe she's oppressed. But not by Islam.

Indeed, Ms. Yaqoob lives in the United Kingdom, in a culture that celebrates the equality of women, the right of individuals to live as they choose, and the right of citizens to hold whatever religious beliefs they wish. Curiously, none of this exists in the Muslim world, and none of it will exist in Europe if Muslim immigrants get their wish. Ms. Yaqoob isn't oppressed by Islam only because she doesn't live in an Islamic country - but she's working hard to change that. With Ms. Jacinto's approval.


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