Are the enlightened losing the battle of ideas? It would certainly seem so. Moral decay, hypocrisy, ginned-up hysteria, and denials of verifiable fact are suffusing our public discourse. Atavism, nativism, undue respect for religion (and one religion in particular, about which more below) are now ascendant; a childishly intolerant, tantrum-like brand of Leftist militancy has emerged, with intersectionality, cultural appropriation, and “privilege” being the fashionable catchwords, and de-platforming controversial speakers a common manifestation. (The specter of postmodernism hovers over all the above.) This militancy displays a strain of ideological derangement so outlandish that it resembles the most vicious of nuthouse satire and would be risible if it weren’t so dangerous. We can safely say that we’re teetering on the brink of civilizational suicide—a suicide assisted by those of the illiberal left.
Nowhere is this more evident than on university campuses. In mid-May at Dartmouth College, a student group saw fit to host a speech by unabashed Islam-apologist Linda Sarsour—she with whom Bernie Sanders urged us to march in Washington, D.C, in January, but who had earned notoriety for issuing (and then deleting) regressive, at times nasty tweets, including one in which she announced in 2011 that she wished she could “take away the vagina” of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the heroic Somali-born public intellectual and apostate from Islam. (Hirsi Ali happens to have suffered female genital mutilation. The cruel, sick irony of Sarsour’s tweet can escape no one.) At Sarsour’s talk, a (white male) student stood up, announced that “women’s rights are human rights,” and impertinently asked her about this tweet. Sarour’s response? To call for “context,” cite the young man’s sex and skin color as reasons for dismissing his question, and then prevaricate clumsily about the tweet, which she said (untruthfully) he “got from a right-wing blog”, and which she “did or did not tweet,” and, anyway, she was in her twenties when she posted it, and “people say stupid shit sometimes” at that age. “Right?” The students shamelessly rewarded her evasive non-answer with applause and hoots of approval.
But we are losing more than the battle of ideas. As the recent Islamist attack in Manchester shows, we are losing the lives of our children. The bomb-splattered blood, shreds of flesh, and feces of the pubescent victims had not yet dried on the skin and in the hair of surviving bystanders when, predictably, calls rang out cautioning us all against “Islamophobia”—see here and here, for example:
— Prof Aisha K Gill (@DrAishaKGill) May 24, 2017
By casting the frank discussion we desperately need to have about Islam and its violence-inducing doctrines as reprehensible, those issuing such calls abet the perpetrators of Islamist atrocities and fittingly find themselves in the company of the Manchester terrorist, who himself filed an “Islamophobia” complaint against a teacher.
Shame on them.
There is nothing new in such “Islamophobia” warnings, which, after each episode of mass Islamist murder, rain down upon us like shrapnel from the bomb blasts themselves, inflicting collateral damage on reason and on our sense of human decency. But a certain Shaun King, who writes for the New York Daily News, did manage to pen one such admonition that is newsworthy; he managed, in fewer than eight hundred words, to pack all the regressive left’s prevailing Islam-pertinent fallacies into a single, grotesquely self-important declaration of civilizational surrender. Titled in a way that neatly exemplifies the dilemma true liberals now confront when demanding honest discussion of Islamist terrorists’ motives, King’s essay—“Why we must never hate Islam, or Muslims, because of the violence of its fake followers”—might be dismissed as a preachy, gross sort of parody. But King is serious—and earnest to a discrediting fault.
We must never hate Islam, or Muslims, after violence from fake followers who abuse the faith. https://t.co/gSNGn32IgB
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) May 23, 2017
King’s opening line portends the unseemly solipsism that is to come, and straightaway insults the grieving victims’ family members by equating their unimaginable anguish with his rather mundane qualms about being of mixed-race heritage. “My dear mother is a sweet, supportive, 66-year-old white woman from rural Kentucky. I love her without hesitation.” In an article prompted by the Islamist extermination of innocent children, two entire paragraphs then follow in which Kings touts his own fair-mindedness as a journalist. He is still nattering on about this in the third graph, but at least he finally introduces his central (and so unoriginally wearisome) Islam-exculpatory fallacy: “we must always resist the urge to throw an entire race of people under the bus even if we truly despise whiteness or white privilege or white supremacy.”
So adherents to an ideology constitute a race? Islam is a faith-based ideology, with nothing biologically inherent about it. How would King account for (white) Taliban-combatant John Walker Lindh, or the thwarted shoe-bomber Richard Reid? What would he say of the European converts who joined ISIS? What about Muslim-majority Albania and Kosovo? By King’s illogic, we should declare red-state Republicans a race, since they mostly share a skin color and dogmatically professed beliefs. Religions are thought systems—thought systems conceived in ages of ignorance, asserted without evidence, and deployed to control human behavior—above all, female behavior.
(In a similar vein, imagine the storm of popular outrage that would erupt if any modern-day political party wrote into its charter sex-slavery, wife-beating, and clitorectomies; declared said charter to be immutable and sacrosanct; announced its headquarters stood on sacred ground; and promised to kill anyone who dared leave the party. Even the reddest of red-state Republicans would never go this far.)
And let’s be clear: King urges us to look benignly upon an ideology that does endorse taking female captives as sex slaves, instructs husbands on how to beat their wives, values women’s testimony as half that of men, and sanctions the barbaric butchery that is female genital mutilation. These tenets are matters of scripture, not distortions concocted by a few renegades from the faith.
Religions, to be sure, deserve not a pass, but relentless critique, and Islam is no exception. After all, it declares its remit over humanity as a whole and thus must face criticism by us all. The sort of wrongheaded respect King demands we show Islam (not Muslims, who obviously deserve respect as people, but Islam) we already display enough of, with the result that, for instance, the media suppressed the eminently newsworthy cartoons of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists (slain by Islamist assassins in 2015); and straight-talking heroes like Hirsi Ali and Sarah Haider (co-founder of Ex-Muslims of North America) must live as hunted outcasts in a country that should celebrate them. Telling us “never to hate” the ideology behind terrorist massacres may be evidence of Stockholm Syndrome. After all, those cautioning us to feel kindly toward Islam could potentially themselves be targets of the gunmen and bombers.
King next tells us that many of the Manchester victims were the same age as his own four daughters—nota bene, this; I’ll address it below—and then slips into understatement that defies rationale: “our unspoken understanding is that the carnage there in Manchester was severe.” Our “unspoken understanding”? “Severe?” What does this mean? Is he trying to downplay the ghastliness of the attack? It would seem so.
King then gets to his point.
[W]hat happened [in Manchester] is no excuse to slide into Islamophobia. Whoever did this is no more a Muslim than those who lynched African Americans during Jim Crow were Christians. Wearing the garb of a faith no more makes you a follower of that faith than me wearing a Steph Curry jersey makes me a Golden State Warrior. From the beginning of time, people have perverted religions to justify the worst possible behaviors imaginable. This man who decided to blow himself up at the exit doors of the concert venue just as families exited was not a Muslim.
Is there an Islam-apologist who does not trot out the “no true Scotsman” dodge? (Apparently not.) In any case, who granted King the right to impugn the piety of the Manchester attacker, Salman Abedi, and on what basis does he do so? A committed Muslim who did not hide his faith, Abedi, we have every reason to think, believed he was committing an act of jihad, for which he would be rewarded with instant access to paradise. Jihad and martyrdom are fundamental tenets of mainstream Islam.
King goes on:
Suicide itself is forbidden in Islam. Well over a billion Muslims believe this. Murder, doubly so of innocent women and children, is forbidden in Islam. This is commonly understood and peacefully observed by everyday Muslims all over the world. These terrible, ignorant violent betrayers of Islam who blow themselves up in the names of causing such carnage are not Muslims.
It goes without saying that a majority of Muslims are not killing themselves or murdering women and children. But far too many are, as the wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere attest; most victims of Islamist terrorism are, in fact, Muslims. (The West’s role in helping to ignite some of the current conflicts deserves attention, but King, fixated on the notion that Islam is a race, ignores it.) Nevertheless, alarmingly large numbers of Muslims, Pew polling data show, believe that suicide bombing is “often” or “sometimes” justified. From their burgeoning ranks ISIS and similar groups draw their recruits. What “everyday Muslims all over the world” are doing does not matter to us; those slaughtering innocents are the ones pushing us to examine the faith that impels them to act.
Without any theological justification, King informs us that Islamist acts of terrorism “are fundamentally un-Islamic. They not only violate the letter of Qur’an, but violate the spirit of it as well.”
Heartbreaking. I continue to clarify – members of ISIS are not Muslims. Muslims are their primary targets & victims. https://t.co/1GKEeee7RO
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) May 31, 2017
Calling such bloodshed a “bastardization of Islam,” he segues awkwardly into the “[t]rans-Atlantic slave trade” and one of its “early ships” that “was actually known as the “Good Ship Jesus.” KKK lynchers, he notes, also professed Christianity. Hence there’s nothing in particular wrong with Islam.
Well, the Muslim slavers who sold the human beings they had captured to their Western counterparts found nothing problematic with their profession either (and they began their odious trade long before the Europeans). Not surprising, this; the Quran condones slavery, even sex slavery. Of course, Europeans could also turn to their holy book for slavery’s justification. That neither Islam nor Christianity outlaws slavery stands, most of all, as evidence for junking religion. King appears to be unaware of any of this.
“Of all the friends I have,” King tells us, “none are more consistently warm, peaceful, supportive, and kind than my Muslim friends.” This line is too transparently silly to be worth refuting; no one is contending that Muslims are not nice as people. At issue, we recall, is the motivation of the Manchester attacker and those like him. For King, “fake Muslims and Christians—who cloak themselves in the accoutrements of religion but do so for the asinine and insincere reasons” amount to a grave danger. An editor at the New York Daily News would have done well to ask King to state clearly these “asinine and insincere reasons” as well as the criteria by which he so reliably discerns “fake” followers of religions from “true” ones. In another era, this was the business of the Holy Inquisition’s murderous sleuths.
King closes with a conflation of Islam and its practitioners, and tells us that we “must find a way to be angry at what happened in Manchester without hating Islam and its more than 1.5 billion adherents. Blaming all of Islam for what this idiot, or for what the few hundred other idiots like him have done, is not just simple, it’s both dumb and dangerous.”
Actually, it’s King’s conflation that is “both dumb and dangerous.” As former Muslim Sarah Haider has pointed out, considering all Muslims as innately, unalterably religious “will come back to hurt Muslims since you can end up saying ‘this religion has issues that don’t mix well with modernity, so these [Muslims] need to go!’” King’s is just the sort of faulty thinking behind Trump’s Muslim bans, which, had they been in place decades ago, would have barred both Haider and Hirsi Ali from entering the United States.
The truly “dumb and dangerous” approach is to see Islamic ideology and its followers as inseparable and place them above criticism. We do not need a wholesale prohibition on Muslim immigration, and we do not need to “love” or “hate” Islam; but, rather, we need an honest, open talk about just why Islam is driving so many to shed blood today. The point here would not be to attack the Islamic faith’s followers—the U.S. Constitution guarantees religious freedom, of course, as do the constitutions of other Western countries—but to start a dialogue about two Islamic tenets in particular—jihad and martyrdom—and what can be done to lessen their allure. This might seem impossible, but it’s worth a try. Let’s not forget that free speech about religion can have the effect of freeing people from religion. Secularizing trends are well underway—and in the Islamic world as well.
That King penned the above essay while himself having four daughters demonstrates the degree to which he (and others like him) are willing to go in capitulating to the politically correct nonsense notion that Islam has nothing to do with today’s wave of terrorism. Even the murder of children won’t shake them. Deception of this sort has consequences. Trump likely beat Hillary Clinton in November because she refused to speak forthrightly about Islam’s relation to terrorism.
Public’s policy priorities for 2017. pic.twitter.com/12EFi5NF2X
— Fox News (@FoxNews) June 3, 2017
Freedom of speech has already numbered among the casualties of the left’s reaction to Islam—and free speech is what keeps society healthy and helps preserve it from civil strife.
Yet all is not lost! There are signs that a more truthful discussion about Islam is beginning. The horrors of the Manchester assault seem to have prompted a refreshing openness (see also here) from at least a few on the Left and even among some of the Muslim clergy.
Cable news stations have rarely sought commentary over the past couple of years from flagrant Islam-obfuscators Reza Aslan and Dean Obeidallah – and after Manchester was no exception. The edifice of distortion, doubletalk, and lies built around Islam is starting to crumble.
There may, after all, be hope for our civilisation yet.