Conservatives are in high dudgeon because the legacy media has taken to calling them bigots for their opposition to the proposed mosque near Ground Zero.
National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru, for instance, objects to the media’s “latest screeds” and “rage” against the Right.
“We’re being cast as opponents of religious freedom, and that’s not fair,” says conservative blogger Pamela Geller.
“We are not Islamophobic,” protests former Newt Gingrich press secretary Tony Blankley.
“Muslims, not Americans are religious bigots,” insists the Washington Examiner’s editorial page.
Conservative frustration with the legacy media is understandable. After all, liberal reporters (which is to say most reporters) are adept at preying upon the politics of racial, ethnic and religious division. It is an underhanded political tactic that they have honed well and practiced often in recent decades.
I myself have seen firsthand how the Left grossly and unconscionably smears conservatives as racists and bigots.
I condemn this “new McCarthyism” as gutter-level politics that should have no place in our discourse. Because too often the charge of “racism” and “bigotry” is a manifestly false allegation designed to shut down political debate and silence legitimate opposition to liberal policies such as “affirmative action.”
This has been true, certainly, of the Tea Party, whose members have been smeared as racists, despite the complete lack of any evidence whatsoever to substantiate this vicious allegation.
But unfortunately, when it comes to Islam, many conservatives are at risk of conforming to the left-wing stereotype. Consider, for example, the Washington Examiner’s recent headline, “Muslims, not Americans, are religious bigots.” Substitute any other minority group for Muslims and consider the sensibility that the headline then conveys.
“Blacks, not Americans, are religious bigots.” Or: “Jews, not Americans, are religious bigots.” How about: “Hispanics, not Americans, are religious bigots”?
That doesn’t sound right, fair or just, does it? The clear and unmistakable implication is that blacks, Jews, and Hispanics are not authentically American. They stand apart from their fellow countrymen and are not part and parcel of the American experience. But Muslims, apparently, are fair game. They can be written off as the alien “other,” and no one seems to care.
Or consider Newt Gingrich’s depiction of ordinary Muslims as Nazis. “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington,” Gingrich said.
In other words, according to Gingrich, the proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York City is the same as, or analogous to, a Nazi center near the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C.
Well, if ordinary Muslims are Nazis, then the U.S. government is facilitating Nazi political conquests. Our strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, after all, depends upon working with moderate-minded Muslims to whom we expect to cede control of their country.
But if moderate-minded Muslims don’t really exist, and if moderate Islam is a fiction or a fantasy, then all of our efforts in those two countries are for naught: our soldiers and Marines are dying for a mistake, a rather big and dramatic mistake.
I don’t believe this, of course, but some on the Right apparently do — or at least they talk as if they do.
According to the American Spectator’s Jed Babbin, for instance, “We need to pull our ground forces out of both Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as the logistics can be managed.”
It is “a metaphysical impossibility for Obama’s fourteen-month Afghanistan counter-insurgency to succeed,” Babbin argues. And as for Iraq, it is “falling apart,” he insists. So we best face reality and get out of both countries now.
“In the Muslim culture,” Babbin explains,
the [Islamic] religion prohibits democracy. Under sharia law, the separation of church and state is prohibited. The Koran prescribes a comprehensive law that encompasses both religion and government.
Babbin doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Islam doesn’t “prohibit democracy.” The world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, is a democracy. One-third of the world’s Muslims live in south Asia: Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
These are imperfect democracies, to be sure, but all three countries have elected governments. Ditto Turkey and Malaysia. And I can remember when conservatives took pride in Iraq’s elections!
As for sharia law, it is “not a concrete legal code.” Instead, as Lee Smith points out in a very insightful post at Tablet magazine,
sharia is the idealized notion of God’s law. Because there is no way to approach what is ostensibly divine except through human agency, sharia as such does not exist except as interpreted by human beings over the long course of Islamic history. The word “sharia” necessarily means many things to many people.
Osama bin Laden and his Jihadist extremists condemn Muslim democrats as fake Muslims. Tragically, some conservative critics of Islam endorse the bin Laden interpretation of the faith. Thus, according to Washington Examiner columnist Diana West:
In our irresponsibly long war, we have never, ever acknowledged that Islam, with its supremacist cult of jihad, is the enemy threat doctrine. And that’s not because I say so. It’s because the enemy says so, 24-7, and so do his mainstream, unimpeachable Islamic legal and religious sources.
You can, of course, rummage through the Qur’an and produce blood-curdling quotes. You can pull even more from the Bible.
If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
But despite Biblical passages like this (Leviticus 20:13), which seems to require that homosexuals be executed, the Jewish and Christian faith today requires no such thing. That’s because Jews and Christians have developed an exegesis that reinterprets their more violent Biblical passages in more peaceful and non-threatening ways.
Mainstream Islam has done much the same thing with the Qur’an. Yet, some conservatives play fast and loose with history to condemn all of Islam as irredeemably vicious.
Thus, according to the influential blogger, Pamela Geller, “Hitler was inspired by Islam.” But such a statement is utterly ridiculous, as any historian of Nazism or biographer of Hitler will tell you.
It may be true that Hitler was emboldened by the Armenian Genocide. But the Armenian Genocide was carried out by a decidedly irreligious Ottoman government, fighting in alliance with Christian Germany and Austria.
In any case, if political massacres condemn religions, then what are we to say of Christianity and Judaism, which are not exactly massacre-free? In the Old Testament, for instance, Moses had massacred Israelites who refused to embrace Yahweh, or the monotheistic God of the Jews.
Geller and author Robert Spencer have founded a new group, the “Freedom Defense Initiative,” to act against, in Geller’s words
the treason being committed by national, state and local government officials, the mainstream media and others in their capitulation to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism, the ever-encroaching and unconstitutional power of the federal government, and the rapidly moving attempts to impose socialism and Marxism upon the American people.
According to the English newspaper, The Guardian:
One member of the board of the Freedom Defence Initiative is John Joseph Kay, who has written that all Muslims are out to kill ordinary Americans:
‘Every person in Islam, from man to woman to child may be our executioner. In short, that there are no innocents in Islam … all of Islam is at war with us, and that all of Islam is/are combatant(s).(sic)’
This is a sentiment that Human Event’s W. Thomas Smith Jr. seems to support. “Islam’s primary objective is conquest,” Smith warns in his most recent column.
Smith approvingly cites retired Army Lieutenant General William G. Boykin. According to Boykin, Islam “is not a religion.” Therefore, it doesn’t warrant First amendment protection. “That’s our fundamental mistake,” Boykin says: extending the First Amendment’s right of freedom of religion to Muslims.
Frank Gaffney also is troubled by the First Amendment, which he thinks is being used as an excuse to appease Islamic treachery.
Indeed, Obama, Gaffney warns, is surrendering to “shariah, the barbaric, totalitarian political program that masquerades as a religion.” And Obama is doing this out of a desire to “promote Islam” and religious freedom in America. Gaffney finds this “troubling.”
For these reasons, National Review’s Andrew McCarthy suggests we might have to reconsider whether the First Amendment ought even to apply to Muslims. After all, he argues, “intolerance is not just part of al-Qaeda; it is part of Islam.”
McCarthy cherry picks passages from the Koran to make Muslims look inherently and necessarily intolerant. And he insists that such intolerance is not an extreme al-Qaeda view, but rather the mainstream moderate Muslim view. The Koran, says McCarthy, forces Muslims to be dangerously intolerant.
Tellingly though, to support his contention, McCarthy cites a “Sunni scholarly commentary on the version of the Koran officially produced by the Saudi government.”
But the Saudi government has been busy propagating Wahhabism — an extremist, puritanical, and violent movement that has been at war with traditional Muslims for centuries, says Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, D.C.
Nonetheless, according to FrontPage magazine’s editor, Jamie Glazov, “There is no moderate Islam. Period.”
Glazov never says explicitly whether this means we should deny Muslims their First Amendment right to freely practice their religion. But he may well think that, since he believes that Islam’s goal is “world domination… war against unbelievers… and subjugation” of non-Muslims.
Glazov’s colleague, David Swindle (they both work for David Horowitz’s Freedom Center, which publishes both FrontPage magazine and NewsReal Blog), agrees. “It’s time to stop regarding Islam as though it’s a religion,” he writes. “It’s not
The ‘faith’ practiced as written and following the example of its founder is a totalitarian political program seeking world domination.
So I guess it’s global war then.
Yet, it’s curious: Few of the anti-Islamic militants ever articulate a program for dealing with this omnipresent and insidious terrorist threat.
Should we begin by stripping American Muslims of their citizenship because they are now deemed “agents of a foreign power”? And should we encourage our European allies to do the same?
Should we end our relationship with Muslim-majority countries? Should our government commit itself to disproving and discrediting Islam as a faith, in much the same way that we once worked to discredit communism?
They don’t say.
NewsReal’s David Swindle calls for the “eradication” of Islam, as does his NewsReal colleague Jeannette Pryor. When challenged about this, Swindle backpedals slightly, but only, it seems, for prudential reasons.
No, Swindle says, he doesn’t advocate a “fascist response,” which would involving “building concentration camps, exterminating Muslims and nuking Mecca.” His virulent anti-Muslim rhetoric, he contends, is designed only to “provoke and disturb the moderate center.”
In other words, it’s all posturing. But it’s posturing with a cost. Non-Muslim minorities recognize, as do all Americans, that when conservatives target one minority group for exclusion, other minorities might soon follow on the right-wing hit list
But a conservatism that intends to govern a multiethnic nation cannot long indulge religious bigotry without destroying itself politically and morally.
You can follow John Guardiano on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano