Monday, 30 January 2012

"Geert Wilders Says There's No Such Thing as Moderate Islam"

I picked up the latest Newsweek the other day, when I had nothing else to read and liked the cover.  Mind, I don't often pick up Newsweek; it's hopelessly leftie, but of a sort that I can't abide usually: that is, simplistic, shallow, insipid. Not at all like, say, the The New Yorker, also a leftie mag, which I happily read from week to week, or The Atlantic, ditto.
The "Newsweek magazine" inside had a longish story by Christopher Dickey about the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, titled as above, and subtitled: "Can't Someone Tell Geert Wilders to Stop His Anti-Muslim Diatribes Before Somebody Gets Hurt?".
This is a trashy piece, long on ad hominem short on analysis of what Wilders has actually said in his years talking on the topic of Islam.  And the sub-title's a shocker.  For a start, Wilders doesn't do "diatribes" against Muslims, but speeches against the ideology of Islam (for Dickey, I guess it's a "speech" if he agrees with it; a "diatribe" if he doesn't).  Muslims as people and Islam as ideology are very different things; Wilders has been at pains to point this out time and again.  Dickey may not know this, in which case he's inexcusably ignorant, or he knows and doesn't care, or mixes the two deliberately duplicitously, to heighten the impression that Wilders is a "bigot" and "islamophobe".
I think Wilders has made a tactical error in calling for the banning of the Koran.
I know why he does it: he says that if Mein Kampf is banned, then for consistency so should the Koran, for it's equally supremacist and anti-semitic.  But he'd be better calling for no book banning rather than more -- indeed he does call for a European First Amendment, to entrench freedom of speech. A grand idea and one that he ought to highlight ahead of book banning...
But by calling for a banning of the Koran, that's what gets the news and makes it easy for his critics to label him extremist. ("bigoted diatribes by the Muslim-hating book burner!")
And some of his other views are expressed with a pungency that borders on confrontationalism.  The wonderful anti-jihad fighter, Ayaan Hirsi Ali suggests that some of Wilders' views could be somewhat more carefully expressed, and I agree with her.
But as to whether he's peddling lies about Islam: he's not.  There's much discussion in Islamic and non-Islamic circles about Islam vs moderate Islam, and whether Islam can be reformed.  It's doctrinally consistent and correct to say that there is only one Islam, and therefore no such thing as a "moderate Islam".
Muslims themselves say this.
Take Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan who has said: "There is no such thing as moderate or immoderate Islam.  Islam's Islam and that's it.".  So, is Erdogan an "Islamophobe"?
Still, I think there's some strategic sense in acting as if there's a moderate Islam. [eg]
But, back to Wilders, it's not at all incorrect to argue that Islam's Islam, and that according to its core texts it's inherently violent.
Now, the article by Dickey, referenced above, is a case of what Bruce Bawer says "... this is what happens, alas, when a mind is so besotted with ideology as to blind itself to even the most obvious of realities".
What is encouraging, though, is that the comments tear into Dickey and his views (if we can dignify his half-digested inanities as "views").  They're having none of his rubbish.  In that sense they're like the commenters on a recent Karen Armstrong apologist piece in The Guardian, in which they tore into her duplicitous piece on an exhibition of the Hajj.  In this regard, the readers of Newsweek and The Guardian stand in stark contrast to those on the Daily Kos, where they are willfully ignorant of Islam -- which doesn't stop them, however, from heaping contumely on someone who does (E.A. Bell).  I wrote about that here, et. praecedente.