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Why Liberals Fear Islam

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    The Only Good Muslim is the Anti-Muslim Why Liberals Fear Islam By M. JUNAID LEVESQUE-ALAM http://www.counterpunch.org/junaid08272008.html For some, Barack
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2008
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      The Only Good Muslim is the Anti-Muslim


      Why Liberals Fear Islam
      By M. JUNAID LEVESQUE-ALAM
      http://www.counterpunch.org/junaid08272008.html


      For some, Barack Obama's stature as a man of the left has fallen
      precipitously, like late autumn leaves shed by branches bowing to
      the will of winter.

      Disappointment has often been self-inflicted. Supporters have dipped
      their pens deeply into the inkwell of Obama's inspiring story and
      written their own lines on Afghanistan, oil drilling, or the death
      penalty - only to see these wishful words unceremoniously erased by
      presidential politics or the senator's own views.

      But for American Muslims and progressive allies, both eager to see
      an end to the vilification of Arabs and Muslims in the United
      States, Obama's mantra of hope and change barely set in before it
      expired.

      First we witnessed the embarrassing spectacle of micro-level ethnic
      cleansing when two Arab women with headscarves were whisked offstage
      ahead of a campaign photo-op in Detroit. Then we heard Obama call
      false claims about his purportedly Muslim identity "smears" – as if
      he was accused not of belonging to an Abrahamic faith observed by
      more than 1.2 billion people, but of slinking out of Congress to
      visit a brothel. Soon after we saw the senator genuflect before
      AIPAC and call for a permanently Israeli Jerusalem - a vision the
      Jewish state has assiduously tried to realize by macro-level ethnic
      cleansing, purging its Arab residents.

      A more recent political maneuver also turned out to be a purge: the
      Obama campaign's Muslim outreach coordinator, Mazen
      Asbahi, "resigned" this month after a brief stint of several days.
      The event went almost unnoticed.

      But two sharply different responses to this episode - and the
      standing afforded to the authors of these responses - reveal that
      the senator is not alone in failing to stanch America's anti-Islamic
      miasma. Rather, the shortcoming is a collective one, shared by many
      liberals whose prejudice against Muslims and Arab-Americans is
      surpassed only by an apparent disinterest in correcting it.

      One response to the resignation came from James Zogby. An Arab-
      American Christian, Zogby's credentials as a man rooted in his
      community are matchless. He helped found the American-Arab Anti-
      Discrimination Committee. He led non-sectarian campaigns to assist
      war victims in Palestine and Lebanon. And he serves as president of
      the Arab American Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank.

      Yet despite 30 years of community advocacy and experience, his views
      on Arab and Muslim issues appear in just two popular non-ethnic
      publications. One is The Huffington Post. The other is in Egypt.

      Commenting on Asbahi's short tenure, Zogby writes, "In the brief
      time he held his position we spoke almost daily. He learned so much
      and did so much to make Arab Americans and American Muslims feel
      included in the campaign."

      "Then," Zogby observes, "it happened." One of the many
      websites "monitoring" Muslims in America discovered that eight years
      ago Asbahi served on a board which included a controversial imam.
      Asbahi resigned from the board after two weeks.

      Like vultures eyeing a wounded gazelle, the usual assortment of
      right-wing bloggers descended on Asbahi. They vilified him as a
      closet fundamentalist for once belonging to the Muslim Student
      Association, a well-established mainstream group with branches on
      dozens of college campuses across the U.S. and Canada.

      Not to be outdone, the Wall Street Journal threatened to amplify the
      echo chamber, the walls of which reverberate with the hysterics of
      its associates in the right-wing "blogosphere."

      Faced with mounting pressure and bereft of support from any quarter,
      Asbahi and the campaign "agreed" he would relinquish his post.

      This sequence of events comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with
      neoconservative methods. It is but a reenactment of previous
      attacks: the mendacious 2005 campaign to oust Columbia University
      professors who used Israel's own archives to dismantle pleasant
      fictions about its history; the dissemination of e-mails containing
      crude anti-Semitic nonsense sent out in professors' names to destroy
      their credibility; and the ongoing efforts to publicly intimidate
      universities into denying academics employment or tenure.

      But amid the past few years of attacks, outrages, and, yes, smears,
      hurled at Muslims and Arabs in this country, one Muslim figure
      stands curiously unsullied: Irshad Manji. She, too, wrote about
      Asbahi's dismissal, though we would do well to acquaint ourselves
      with the author first.

      Unlike most of her coreligionists, Manji has been lavished with
      attention and awards by mainstream and liberal America. She garnered
      Oprah Winfrey's first "Chutzpah" award, Ms. Magazine's "Feminist for
      the 21st Century" seal of approval, New York University's Wagner
      School "Moral Courage Project," a column in The Huffington Post,
      production of a PBS documentary, and the list goes on.

      In an era when Muslims find themselves boxed in by political attacks
      here and military assaults abroad, one wonders: what is Manji's
      secret to success?

      She wrote a book - and not just any book. Titled The Trouble With
      Islam Today, hers won applause not only from liberals but other,
      more interesting quarters. The Wall Street Journal praised it
      as "refreshingly provocative" and "deserv[ing] of the attention it
      is receiving." Daniel Pipes declared, "Manji - a practicing Muslim -
      brings real insight to her subject." Phyillis Chesler beamed, "Manji
      has written a bold, sane, passionate, compelling book." And Alan
      Dershowitz announced, "Manji is a fresh, new and intriguing voice of
      Islamic reform."

      A fine example of damning with loud praise.

      What could a Muslim have written that would delight supporters of
      bombing and torturing Muslims? What sweet words could have moved
      Daniel Pipes - who specializes in hyping anti-Islamic hysteria on
      Fox News and elsewhere - to welcome into his generous bosom the
      ideas of a "practicing Muslim?" What might motivate Alan Dershowitz,
      better known for backing the torture of Muslims than for reading
      their books, to plug Manji's effort?

      The answer lies in the content. The Trouble With Islam Today is an
      unhinged polemic that derides Muslims and demeans their faith.
      Examining a few of the book's points should reveal what has caught
      the fancy of neoconservatives and liberals alike.

      The author devotes two pages to comparing Osama bin Laden to Prophet
      Muhammad. "Is it mere happenstance," Manji rhetorically asks, "that
      bin Laden spends so much time in caves, like the meditating
      [Prophet] did?" With penetrating and piercing logic - in the sense
      that one must penetrate one's skull and pierce the cortex to succumb
      to it - she goes on in this vein, declaring "camel saddles"
      and "online transactions" twin evils. The "parallels" between Osama,
      the man who blesses the murder of innocent people, and Muhammad, the
      man who forgave the murderers of his closest companions, "continue
      to proliferate," Manji insists, much to the delight of the Muslim-
      haters behind the curtains.

      A good portion of the book is also dedicated to attacking the Quran
      (and the Quran alone), which the intrepid author does without any
      background in religious studies or a single footnote. But no matter.
      This book, Manji intones, is "profoundly at war with itself."
      Religious texts should apparently read like do-it-yourself plumbing
      guides, bereft of subtlety or layers of meaning, particularly if you
      are trying to flush the whole thing down the toilet to boost your
      celebrity status among Islamophobes.

      Manji's fans must especially enjoy her excoriation of Muslims as
      fake victims. Muslims wallow in their "screaming self-pity," she
      snickers, as though one ought to see the fuselage of cruise missiles
      as half-full rather than half-empty as they fly en route to the
      nearest wedding celebration or apartment building.

      Manji's attacks on Muslims appear almost kind next to the beating
      she doles out to logic itself. She surmises that since Muslims have
      been more harmed by Muslims than non-Muslims (based on what data or
      criteria, we dare not guess), there is little reason to complain
      about atrocities authored under the "war on terror." She does not
      add whether she also ordered families of Sept. 11th victims to get
      over themselves when the casualties were surpassed by that year's
      domestic homicides - a case of "Americans having been more harmed by
      Americans than non-Americans."

      Finally, Manji enjoys ridiculing dispossessed Palestinians. Ignoring
      over two decades of work by Jewish scholars and human rights groups
      on Israeli ethnic cleansing and massacres, she neatly eliminates the
      Palestinians altogether by dubbing them Jordanians and hails Israel
      for its "compassion." It must have been precisely this "compassion"
      that moved 23 ANC veterans, several of them Jewish, to compare the
      Israeli occupation with South African apartheid during a recent
      visit.

      Now well-acquainted with America's favorite Muslim, let us turn to
      her article on the departure of Obama's former coordinator, Mazen
      Asbahi.

      In a Huffington Post piece, she demonstrates no concern about the
      vilification enabled Asbahi's dismissal. Indeed, she fails to
      mention it even once. Is this because Manji is too busy contributing
      to the problem to pause and reflect? Or is it because this would
      upset her core base - the neoconservatives who mount these smear
      campaigns?

      Whatever the case, Manji performs her predictable pre-programmed
      attack routine, observing contemptuously, "…Mazen Asbahi has just
      resigned. I can't say I'm disheartened. He'd been embraced by groups
      like the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Islamic Society of
      North America, renowned for their conservative politics
      and `moderate' double-speak."

      Writing a piece occasioned by attacks on one Muslim, Manji manages
      to magnify the insult by attacking thousands of other Muslims.

      According to her politics, anyone who does not dance to the
      detonation of cluster bombs is already suspect. So her invective
      aimed at groups representing thousands of American Muslims, which
      she never bothers to back up with arguments, is understandable.

      Not yet satisfied with herself, she goes on to pant about "most"
      American Muslims being stuck in a 7th century - or perhaps 10th
      century, depending on her mood - "time warp." Serving as 21st
      century America's doctors, teachers, engineers, shopkeepers, and
      plant workers, Muslims have been too busy to notice this worrisome
      defect.

      Concluding with a few shopworn words about "moral courage"
      and "revolutionary ethos," Manji polishes off her attacks on the
      community by invoking vague platitudes about Muslim "reform."
      This is Manji's sole gimmick: disingenuous calls for Muslims to move
      forward belied by support for those pulling America backward.

      What does the liberal adulation of a professional Islamophobe - one
      openly adored by neoconservatives, no less - say about the state of
      American liberalism? Will liberals come to respect and support
      genuine Muslim and Arab voices, like Zogby and countless
      unrecognized figures? Or will they continue to lazily rely on self-
      professed stand-ins like Irshad Manji?

      If liberalism persists on its present path, it will not only
      alienate a targeted community in America but pave the way for
      further persecution.

      Perfectly illustrating this point is The New York Times' fawning
      characterization of Manji as "Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare."
      This is very far from the truth.

      For years, many Muslim and non-Muslim voices have said bin Laden's
      ideology is a freak phenomenon, fashioned in the ghoulish laboratory
      of Cold War politics and fed on a steady diet of American –Israeli
      assaults in the Middle East. At odds with more than 1,300 years of
      Muslim thought and history, these voices have insisted, bin Laden is
      a perversion of genuine Islam.

      But Manji argues the opposite: bin Laden is a genuine product of
      Islam, which is itself perverted. Osama, we will recall, is for
      Manji the new Muhammad.

      In showering attention and accolades on Manji, many liberals thus
      validate and promote the idea that extremist Islam is Islam itself.
      Could bin Laden dream of a greater gift? Could the neoconservatives?

      Perhaps liberals find Manji's message appealing because ascribing
      extremism to some innate feature of Islam "disappears" from view the
      consequences of American foreign policy. Invasion and occupation
      disappear. Torture and abuse disappear. Corpses of slaughtered
      civilians and carrions of neutralized nations disappear.

      The desire to own a clear conscience, even one obtained through the
      muddiest logic, should never be underestimated.

      There may be other answers: a fear of questioning the dominant
      narrative; of criticizing Israel; of discovering Islamic
      perspectives; of engaging the Other, who is often harangued but
      rarely heard.

      Whatever the reason, American liberals would do well to stop
      glorifying anti-Muslim celebrities and start building relationships
      with honest Arab and Muslim voices.

      We are waiting.

      M. Junaid Levesque-Alam blogs about America and Islam at Crossing
      the Crescent ( http://www.crossingthecrescent.com ) and writes about
      American Muslim identity for WireTap magazine. Co-founder of Left
      Hook, a youth journal that ran from Nov. 2003 to March 2006, he
      works as a communications coordinator for an anti-domestic violence
      agency in the NYC area.

      He can be reached at: junaidalam1 AT gmail.com

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