Tag Archives: Islam

Anticipating Islam’s conquest of Europe and America at Al-Aqsa

Any European who would oppose Muslim immigration by arguing that the current waves of desperate people hoping to find safety and prosperity north of the Alps will pave the way for a hostile attempt to conquer Europe for Islam would certainly be denounced as an “Islamophobe.” But what do you call it when a preacher at the Al-Aqsa mosque – which is usually described as Islam’s “third-holiest” place – passionately announces that “soon, we will trample them [Europe’s Christians and Jews] underfoot, Allah willing”?

Europe will fall to Islam

In an address delivered some two weeks ago at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Muhammad Ayed argued according to a translation provided by MEMRI that in Europe, “all the hearts are infused with hatred toward Muslims.” According to the Sheikh,

“Europe has become old and decrepit, and needs human reinforcement. […] they have lost their fertility, so they look for fertility in their midst. We will give them fertility! We will breed children with them, because we shall conquer their countries – whether you like it or not, oh Germans, oh Americans, oh French, oh Italians, and all those like you. Take the refugees! We shall soon collect them in the name of the coming Caliphate. We will say to you: These are our sons. Send them, or we will send our armies to you.”

If this sounds “Islamophobic,” the politically correct thing is of course to simply ignore this story – and this is just what most of the mainstream media seem to have done. It almost goes without saying that this is not the first time that politically inconvenient stories from the Muslim world have been ignored. Frequently these are stories that would show deeply ingrained Muslim Jew-hatred; however, the arguably very belated revelations in a recent New York Times report about the shocking “tolerance” adopted by the US military regarding the widespread sexual abuse of children by its Afghan allies also provide a more general indication of how eagerly western institutions apply double standards that downplay or ignore profound evils in Muslim societies.

Personally, I would agree that the above cited remarks by the Al-Aqsa preacher are not necessarily newsworthy. After all, one can find fanatics who come up with deranged rants in every creed. But since Muslims claim the Al-Aqsa mosque as Islam’s “third holiest” site, one should assume that the Islamic Waqf – which was left in charge of the whole Temple Mount after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War 1967 – would ensure that crackpots don’t get a platform in this supposedly so important mosque.

Unfortunately, however, the hate-filled rant envisioning a Muslim conquest of Europe was by no means a unique incident. Over the past year, MEMRI has documented several similar “sermons,” and one can only speculate how many go undocumented and what is preached in local mosques all over the Muslim world.

On July 24, Sheik Ahmad Al-Dweik declared in an address at the Al-Aqsa mosque that the “Caliphate” promised by Allah “will be the number one country in the world.”

“It will fight the U.S. and will bring it down. [The Caliphate] will eliminate the West in its entirety. […] Allah promised that there would be an Islamic state, and that we would prepare for the West whatever strength and steeds of war we can, in order to strike terror in the hearts of the enemies of Islam and of Allah, until we become those who command and Islam rules [the world].”

Similar remarks were made by two other persons speaking at the mosque in early July.

Islam will rule earth

In March, another preacher addressing worshipers at the Al-Aqsa mosque on two different occasions recalled Islam’s history of conquest and declared:

“today, the religion and ideology of Muhammad – including Islam’s men of Truth, the men of the Caliphate and of jihad – are laying siege to America, despite its nuclear arsenal. They are laying siege to Europe and to the fabricated democracy, the great lie.”

“America will be trampled by the hooves of the horses of the Caliph of the Muslims, Allah willing. This is the promise of Allah.”

In February, Palestinian political researcher Ahmad Al-Khatwani (Abu Hamza) urged his fellow Muslims at Al-Aqsa to treat “Islam in a political manner, on the basis of the Islamic creed in its political sense.” He explained:

“If the Muslims accept Islam as a political and ideological foundation and guide, they will be able to confront America and its war on the Muslims, and they will be able to vanquish it with ease. We pray that Allah will enable the Muslims to wage war on America and against its true terrorism. May He grant victory to the Muslims, and may they raid America on its own land and the land of heresy everywhere.”

In January, a cleric speaking at the Al-Aqsa mosque praised the terror attacks in Paris as “defense of the Prophet Muhammad.”

Last November, a Palestinian publicly prayed in the Al-Aqsa mosque:

“Oh Allah, annihilate America and its coalition. Oh Allah, enable us to cut off their heads. Oh Allah, help our brothers, the mujahideen in the land of Iraq and Syria.”

Annihilate America

These “sermons” seem to indicate – and encourage – support for the savagery of the Islamic State terror group.

In addition, there are plenty of examples showing incitement of Jew-hatred in the vilest and most primitive terms imaginable.

Jews are evil

The video clips show that most of these rants are not formal sermons with worshipers listening attentively. It seems more like a Muslim version of Speakers’ Corner, where anyone – any man, that is – who feels like delivering a hate-filled rant against the Jews and the West can do so at Islam’s “third holiest” site. Men and young boys mull around, some stop to listen; but in general, the reaction of the audience shows that no one regards it as unusual to come to a supposedly very sacred place of worship and hear non-Muslims demonized and Islam exalted as destined for the bloody subjugation of the non-Muslim world.

So it seems that Muslims are quite flexible when it comes to perceived violations of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa. As the recent violence has shown once again, the mere idea that non-Muslims might dare to even just think about a prayer while visiting the Temple Mount easily enrages Muslims, whereas they apparently don’t mind at all when self-styled “defenders” of Islam use the Al-Aqsa mosque to stockpile rocks, debris and incendiary devices to attack police and visitors. Likewise, nobody seems to have a problem with fanatics bellowing out hate-filled rants at Al-Aqsa on a fairly regular basis.

To be sure, there are a few individual Muslims who have sharply criticized Muslim conduct at Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount, notably the well-known writer Qanta Ahmed who has repeatedly published heart-felt calls for tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Last December, a Jordanian preacher even explicitly suggested that a part of the Temple Mount platform “where there are trees” should “be allocated for the prayer of the Israelites.”

But those lone voices are drowned out by overwhelming support for Muslim hypocrisy and supremacism. As I have argued previously, the Temple Mount has become a symbol of Muslim fanaticism, and those who most like to invoke the platitudes about Islam as a religion of peace are perhaps most cowed by the constantly repeated threats of Muslim violence. The well-practiced reflex of deferring to threats of Muslim rage was starkly illustrated when the UN Security Council (UNSC) published a warning about the recent violence avoiding any mention of the historic Jewish ties to the Temple Mount by referring to the compound only with the Arabic term “Haram al-Sharif,” and demanding that “Muslim worshipers at the Haram al-Sharif must be allowed to worship in peace, free from violence, threats and provocation.”

As documented above, the reality ignored by the UNSC is that Muslim worshipers at the Haram al-Sharif are absolutely free to indulge in violence, threats and provocation.

While Israel may have little choice but to constantly try to appease the always simmering Muslim rage about as yet unfulfilled dreams of Islam’s global domination, Arab leaders and media try their best to pour fuel on the flames. Particularly noteworthy is perhaps that Al Jazeera chose to promote incitement even in English: there is little doubt that the news network knows (or could know) about the vile rants that are regularly delivered at Islam’s “third holiest” place; yet, it featured a contemptible “analysis” explaining “Why Israel wants a religious war over Al-Aqsa.”

This is quite plainly what psychologists call projection: since the days of the Palestinian leader who later became notorious as “Hitler’s mufti” – who is still considered a Palestinian hero – Arab and Muslim leaders, as well as activists like Ali Abunimah, have fabricated Jewish or “Zionist” threats to “Al-Aqsa” (increasingly understood not only as the mosque, but the entire Temple Mount compound) to incite often lethal violence.

It should not be overlooked that this incitement also serves as an important tool to prop up Muslim “solidarity.” The powerful Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was established in 1969/70 after the guards employed by the Islamic Waqf failed to prevent a mentally ill Australian Christian tourist from entering the mosque to set a fire there. At the OIC website, there is no hint of the negligence of the Islamic Waqf guards; instead, the implication is that the “criminal arson of Al-Aqsa Mosque” happened because Jerusalem is “occupied.” Palestinian media regularly repeat the libel that the Australian was a “Jewish terrorist;” most recently it was featured in TV programs and media commentaries marking the anniversary of the arson towards the end of August. Similarly, the previously cited Al Jazeera screed also implies that the 1969 arson happened because “Jews wanted to take the Noble Sanctuary.”

It is thus hardly surprising that the OIC currently plans once again “to hold an emergency meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the OIC Member States to discuss the Israeli violations in the occupied city of Al-Quds and ways to stop the Israeli aggressions on Al-Aqsa Mosque.” In addition, the OIC secretary general recently sent a letter to the heads of major international organizations voicing “his strong condemnation of the Israeli attacks on the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque” and warning “that burning parts of the mosque, attacking worshipers inside it by occupation forces, and arresting those stationed in its courtyards are crimes, aimed at freedom of worship.”

In the same letter, the OIC insists without the slightest sign of embarrassment that Jews and Christians should be denied freedom of worship on the Temple Mount.

This shameless hypocrisy is perhaps inevitable as long as freedom of worship for Muslims at Al-Aqsa includes the freedom to indulge in vile fantasies of Islam’s coming conquest of the non-Muslim world.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

The vicious campaign against Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ever since Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s latest book “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now” came out at the end of March, the writer who should be celebrated as a “hero for our time” has been maligned in numerous articles. It was arguably no surprise that Israel-haters like Max Blumenthal would try to denigrate Hirsi Ali, but it was pathetic to see that supposedly serious media professionals like Al Jazeera presenter Mehdi Hasan promoted Blumenthal’s smear campaign on Twitter.

MHassan vs AyaanHAThe latest attack against Hirsi Ali describes her as “dangerous” and sets out to explain why “we must reject her hateful worldview.” The sub-header hints already at the major reason: endorsing Hirsi Ali “insults and mocks a billion Muslims” – and as we know from many incidents, that can indeed be very “dangerous”… But of course, nobody knows that better than Ayaan Hirsi Ali herself.

What is particularly noteworthy about this attack against Hirsi Ali is that it is authored by a very successful self-described “Muslim” woman whose own life-story and life-style is quite unthinkable in any Muslim country. Indeed, in an interview Rula Jebreal gave to an Italian blog in 2009, she described herself as “married to Western values ​​of freedom and democracy, secularism and tolerance.”

RulaJebreal vs AyaanHA

Jebreal claims now that it is her “own, very different experience of Islam” that “compels” her “to challenge Hirsi Ali’s work.” She accuses Hirsi Ali of conflating Wahhabism with Islam and asserts that her own experience shows the “inherent pluralism” and “diversity” within Islam:

“As a Muslim woman married to a Jew and the mother of a Catholic daughter, I have lived in Jerusalem, Cairo, Rome and New York, and I am a regular visitor to other Muslim countries. What I have seen, particularly after the 9/11 attacks, was a broad rejection, not only of the extremism of Al-Qaeda but also of the authoritarian violence of Western-backed secular dictators — who, by stripping Muslims of their constitutional rights, jailing and torturing them, accomplished only the mass radicalization of young Muslims.

My father, a guard at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, believed, like most of the world’s one billion Muslims, that Sharia is not fixed and monolithic, but always in flux, its core principles — such as preserving life, faith, intelligence, family and property — remaining sacrosanct, but requiring translation into more flexible rules to match our lives in a changing world.

He believed that context and interpretation matter when reading the Quran and the Hadiths, and that interpretations had changed along with centuries of social change. Context mattered since the early days of Islam. We always, for more than a millennium, understood text in context. We have 1,400 years of inherent pluralism within Islam to testify to that diversity within our religion.”

Apparently, Jebreal has never asked herself in how many Muslim countries she could live with her Jewish husband (Arthur Altschul Jr.) and her Catholic daughter if both wanted to freely and safely practice their religion. She has also apparently never wondered if her personal experiences and her impressions from her “regular” visits to Muslim countries provide a sound basis for general conclusions about Muslims views.

So according to her, “after the 9/11 attacks, [there] was a broad rejection … of the extremism of Al-Qaeda.” That fairly vague statement could perhaps pass as not entirely untrue, but the regular surveys by the respected Pew Research Center show a much more problematic reality than Jebreal would like to acknowledge: for years after 9/11, there was actually considerable admiration for bin Laden, particularly among Palestinians and in Jordan as well as in supposedly “moderate” Indonesia; likewise, Nigerian Muslims also were ardent bin Laden fans.

1 Pal confidence in binLaden

Pew surveys tracking Muslim support for “suicide bombing and other acts of violence that target civilians” also show that actually many millions of Muslims remain willing to endorse such acts “in defense of Islam.”

Moreover, all Pew surveys show that, among Muslim populations, Palestinians hold very extreme views on many issues. This is not only true when it comes to support for terrorism, but also when it comes to Sharia punishments. Jebreal, who often highlights her Palestinian identity, has a daughter who was born out-of-wedlock, and more than one-third of her fellow-Palestinians would have considered it justified if her family had killed her for this “stain” on their “honor.”

In most Muslim-majority countries, there is massive popular support for having Sharia as the country’s official law; and contrary to the benign views Jebreal attributes to her father, clear majorities of Sharia supporters in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, want to see criminals mutilated and those who leave Islam executed. In addition, huge majorities of Muslims condemn homosexuality and sex outside of marriage as immoral, and among many Muslim populations, clear majorities want to see adultery punished by stoning.

Similarly, Jebreal claims that “most of the world’s one billion Muslims [believe] that Sharia is not fixed and monolithic, but always in flux.” As a matter of documented fact, however, overwhelming majorities of Muslims believe Sharia is “the revealed word of God,” and particularly observant Muslims who pray several times a day tend to insist that there can be only a single interpretation of Sharia.

Jebreal may have her own, personal “experience of Islam,” but it is clearly not representative of well-documented mainstream Muslim views, which are – certainly in the context of the 21st century – often reactionary, fundamentalist and extremist. But since Jebreal states that it is her own “experience of Islam” that “compels” her “to challenge Hirsi Ali’s work,” her apparent ignorance of prevalent Muslim attitudes and views reduces this purported “challenge” to just another pathetic attempt to malign Hirsi Ali and discredit her entirely justified arguments about the urgency of a reformation of Islam.

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First published at my JPost blog in May.

Insulting Islam: the flogging of Raif Badawi

Aptly described as “the survivors’ issue,” the new edition of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo reportedly “sold out within minutes;” though for this week, the now so tragically famous publication will come out in five million copies instead of the normal print run of 60,000. But since the magazine’s defiant staff once again put a caricature of Mohammad on the cover, there are already – once again – plenty of complaints, accusations and threats. An Al Jazeera contributor sharply criticized that “Charlie Hebdo continued with its provocative editorial line” and failed to respect “the red lines” and “all of the calls issued by Muslim clerics.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah, who had enjoyed their photo opportunity during last Sunday’s solidarity march in Paris, rushed to condemn the new Charlie Hebdo cartoons, while the International Union of Muslim Scholars ominously warned of “dire consequences to the continued insults to the Prophet.”

It is 2015, and Muslim leaders once again tell their fellow-believers that drawings in an originally fairly obscure European publication are such a terrible insult to Islam that outrage and even “dire consequences” are justified.

But what is not an insult to Islam is that in 2015, Saudi Arabia, an “Islamic state based on principles prescribed by the Qur’an” and governed by a monarchy claiming a “deep sense of responsibility toward Islam,” is putting on a weekly spectacle of sadism in the name of Islam. Via Amnesty International, here is an eyewitness account of what happened in front of the al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah last Friday, and what the pious Saudi regime wants to happen there for another 19 weeks every Friday:

“When the worshippers saw the police van outside the mosque, they knew someone would be flogged today.

They gathered in a circle. Passers-by joined them and the crowd grew. But no one knew why the man brought forward was about to be punished. Is he a killer, they asked? A criminal? Does he not pray?

Raif Badawi had been brought to the square in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah just after midday. […] He was handcuffed and shackled but his face was not covered – everyone could see his face.

Still shackled, Raif stood up in the middle of the crowd. […]

A security officer approached him from behind with a huge cane and started beating him.

Raif raised his head towards the sky, closing his eyes and arching his back. He was silent, but you could tell from his face and his body that he was in real pain.

The officer beat Raif on his back and legs, counting the lashes until they reached 50.

The punishment took about 5 minutes. It was very quick, with no break in between lashes.

When it was over, the crowd shouted, ‘Allah-hu Akbar! Allah-hu Akbar!’”

Yes, Allah-hu Akbar, it is 2015, and a father of three can be sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes by a pious Muslim regime that will drag him in front of a crowd of its pious Muslim subjects to have him flogged publicly for the unspeakable crime of having tried to encourage political and social debate with his entirely reasonable, if rather restrained, writings.

Are there any Muslim leaders, any Muslim scholars, who consider this medieval barbarity an insult to Islam? Are there any sizeable Muslim grass root movements to protest against Saudi sadism – the regular public floggings, the beheadings on “Chop-chop square,” the absurd trials of witches – all of it justified as required by Islam?

Apparently not. Nothing that Muslims do in the name of Islam can be as insulting to their religion as the drawings of European cartoonists.

Saudi blogger Badawi


Also posted at Harry’s Place and my JPost blog.

News reports now indicate that today’s scheduled flogging of Badawi has been “postponed ‘for medical reasons’. ” The Telegraph report concludes with the observation (my emphasis):

“an indefinite postponement would be a neat compromise for the Saudi authorities, who would be reluctant to be seen to bow before western pressure, particularly at a time when activists are calling for wider political change in the country, as across the Arab world.

They are also bound by the opposite pressure internally, with large numbers of traditionalist Saudis taking to social media to defend the punishment, and accusing the authorities of being weak in the face of insults to Islam in the West – for example from the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in publications like Charlie Hebdo.”

So this suggests that the Saudi condemnation of the terror attacks in Paris is paid for by the likes of Raif Badawi: to burnish their “moderate” image – that western politicians and media so eagerly and cynically help to promote – the Saudi regime will join in the condemnation of some spectacular Islamist terror attacks like those in Paris; but at the same time, it will assure its hardline supporters at home that the regime remains committed to defending the violent and repressive form of Islam it has always championed.

Indeed, Saudi support for spreading their peculiar and extremely intolerant version of Islam is an important point brought up in the debate of this post at Harry’s Place. Here are a few links to relevant reports on the “astronomical” amounts of money Saudi Arabia has been spending for at least two decades to radicalize Muslims around the world:

Saudi Government Paper: ‘Billions Spent by Saudi Royal Family to Spread Islam to Every Corner of the Earth’ (2002)

Wahhabism: A deadly scripture (2007)

Saudi Arabia funding fuels jihadist terror (2013)

Finally, though I rarely agree with The Guardian when it comes to their coverage of the Middle East, they published a great editorial on this subject today. Particularly noteworthy are the “lessons for the world” highlighted by The Guardian:

“The first is a much-needed reminder of their bare-faced hypocrisy. Saudi is, so far as its rulers can make it, closed to all foreign ideas. They equate atheism with terrorism, and propose to apply the same punishments for both. At the same time it is a fountain of Islamist poison, of antisemitism, of narrow-minded and fanatical preachers, and of young men who leave to fight in other people’s countries and help to destroy them in the cause of Wahhabist Islam. Let us not forget that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis and that Saudi money has funded cruel and pointless wars all over the Middle East. If the kingdom now draws back in horror at the spectacle of Islamic State rampaging through the river valleys of Iraq and Syria, it is the horror of Dr Frankenstein seeing his monster walking.

The second is the spineless hypocrisy of western governments, not least our own, who take their oil, and hope for their money. When the spokespeople for the British Foreign Office assure us, as they always do, that there are forces of reform within the kingdom, shame should make the words taste like soap in their mouths.

In this country we have censored television programmes and cancelled a major bribery inquiry rather than disturb Saudi sensibilities, and those are just the cases that came to public knowledge. The punishment of Mr Badawi is a reminder to us all that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an enemy of free speech, of free thought, of honesty and of courage wherever they may be found in the world today. The British government should remember the slogan used against the mafia in Sicily: to be silent is to be complicit. Last week, many expressed their solidarity by saying we are all Charlie Hebdo: it is as true and just as necessary to remember and proclaim that we are all Raif Badawi.”

By way of a further update, the Times of Israel (TOI) reports that some 500 Palestinian Muslims demonstrated against Charlie Hebdo at the Al Aqsa mosque after Friday prayers, burning the French flag and chanting “’jihad, jihad, we will die in the name of God’ followed by ‘Allahu Akbar’ … and ‘Muhammad [is] our master and leader forever.’”

According to TOI, “Muslims across Middle East cities marched on Friday to protest the publication, as Qatar warned the image would ‘fuel hatred’.” The largest rally was reportedly in Jordan, “where around 2,500 protesters took to the streets of the capital Amman.”

By contrast, it seems that protests against Badawi’s flogging and imprisonment were held mostly in western countries.


Christmas propaganda from Palestine

It’s this time of year again when Palestinians and their supporters gear up to use Christianity’s most popular holy day for their own ugly political purposes. Elsewhere it may be the season of goodwill to all, but for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), it’s just another welcome opportunity to stir up ill will towards Israel and the Jews.

For this purpose, the PLO has just released a short animated clip, which the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department (PLO-NAD) helpfully tweeted with the hashtag #ChristmasUnderOccupation.

PLO Xmas propaganda

The clip shows Santa passing all the usual symbols of Palestinian victimization: the evil kippa-wearing Israeli settler, armed and accompanied by a fearsome dog; a checkpoint guarded by an armed Israeli soldier; a sad girl with her teddy bear in front of a ruined house, and of course the security barrier built in response to the terrorist carnage of the Al-Aqsa intifada. But the best part of the clip is arguably the short text that accompanies it, which explains that on Christmas, “Palestine celebrates the birth of one of its own, Jesus Christ.”

Perhaps one should view this as a huge improvement over some of the other “Jesus was a Palestinian”-fantasies that are part of the annual Palestinian Christmas propaganda routine – last year, for example, an op-ed in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida proclaimed:

“Jesus is a Palestinian; the self-sacrificing Yasser Arafat is a Palestinian; Mahmoud Abbas, the messenger of peace on earth, is a Palestinian. How great is this nation of the holy Trinity!”

Given that Palestinians are used to being indulged by the world, there is indeed no reason why they should care that elsewhere, practicing Christians acknowledge history and think that it is important to remember

“that the first Christmas was first and foremost a Jewish event. Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper, the shepherds, the baby: they were all Jewish. And as the baby Jesus moved toward adolescence and adulthood, it was Jewish religion, Jewish literature, Jewish culture and Jewish history that shaped his personality and his mind.”

The fact that the historic Jesus was a Jew is of course also reflected in the concept of shared Judeo-Christian values. But all this is merrily ignored by Palestinians and their supporters, who don’t seem the least bit embarrassed to press Jesus into the service of Palestinian nationalism – never mind the fact that the declared goal of this nationalism is a state with Islam as “the official religion” and the “principles of Islamic Shari’a” as “the main source of legislation.”

In this context, it is rather interesting to ponder the popular Palestinian propaganda fantasies about the terrible hardships that would be inflicted by cruel Israeli soldiers on a present-day Joseph and the pregnant Mary on their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  For this Christmas season, the PLO-NAD chose to retweet a tweet by the virulently anti-Israel (not to say antisemitic) website “If Americans knew,” which apparently sponsored a billboard in Atlanta depicting Joseph and Mary being blocked from reaching Bethlehem by the security barrier.

PLO Xmas propaganda2

That Palestinian propagandists would choose such an image is a perfect illustration of their confidence that when it comes to maligning Israel, neither facts nor Christian beliefs matter. After all, the historical Joseph and Mary were Jews, and according to the Christian Bible, they travelled “out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he [Joseph] was of the house and lineage of David); To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”

Can you imagine what would happen nowadays to a Jew from Nazareth who claims to be of the lineage of David and goes to Bethlehem because he regards it as the “city of David” and therefore his hometown?

I’m afraid the best case scenario is that the international media would denounce him and his pregnant wife Mary as extremist settlers who have only themselves to blame if anything happened to them and their newborn baby. And one thing is for sure: if this present-day Joseph tried to buy any property in Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem, any Palestinian willing to sell to him would risk being either lynched or sentenced to death for the crime of selling property to a Jew.

But the arguably most distasteful aspect of the annual Palestinian Christmas propaganda is the implicit belittling of the desperate situation of Christians all over the Muslim Middle East. To be sure, the West’s politically correct elites also don’t like to dwell on the fact that Christians nowadays suffer more persecution than any other religious group, and of course it counts for little that Christianity was born in the Middle East long before the region was conquered by Islam. By now it seems that the millennia-old native Christian communities may be facing the same fate suffered by the ancient Jewish communities of the Muslim Middle East. As Robin Harris put it in a Spectator column: “The ‘Sunday’ people are now following the ‘Saturday’ people out of the Middle East.”

Well, as a matter of fact, the “Saturday people” are still clinging to a tiny patch of the Middle East – and Palestinian propagandists work not just on Christmas, but all year round to create the impression that this is what ails the region.

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First published at my JPost blog.

The Temple Mount as symbol of Muslim fanaticism

In recent weeks, there have been numerous media reports warning about escalating tensions and possible violence on the Temple Mount.  Even if you just read the headlines and leads, the situation sounds pretty dire, as this selection from Al Monitor, Sky News and the Washington Post illustrates:

Israeli Restrictions at Al-Aqsa Mosque Could Spark Violence: Israel is imposing tighter restrictions on Palestinian Muslims wishing to access Al-Aqsa Mosque while allowing more Jewish visits that disrespect Islamic customs.”

Sacred Shrines Become ‘Ticking Time Bomb: ‘The chief cleric at one of the world’s holiest mosques tells Sky News that acts of Jewish prayer could spark a regional war.”

Jewish activists want to pray on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, raising alarm in Muslim world.”

These headlines and leads also tell us already who is to blame for this potentially explosive situation: Jews who want to visit the Temple Mount and maybe even pray there. Well, who could imagine a greater outrage than Jews wanting to visit and perhaps pray at the historic site of the Jewish Temples?  And who would dispute that followers of the “religion of peace” have every right to react to such an outrage with threats of massive violence? After all, Muslims are used to having their holiest sites off-limits to “infidels.” True, frustrated journalists who don’t make it into Mecca and Medina may point out that “You don’t have to be a Catholic to go to the Vatican. You don’t have to be Jewish to go to the Western Wall… You don’t have to be Buddhist to hear the Dalai Lama speak” – but there is obviously no reason to expect similar openness from Islam. Indeed, as a Guardian contributor casually remarked: “a billion Muslims worldwide would go ballistic” if Jews were allowed to freely visit the Temple Mount and pray there. And of course, in the Guardian as elsewhere, it’s the Jews who are the extremists.

However, this kind of reporting and commentary isn’t as biased as it may seem, because it unfortunately reflects the view of the Israeli authorities.  As a recent Jerusalem Post report about violent attacks by Muslims explains:

“Although the [Israeli] Supreme Court has upheld Jewish prayer rights at the Temple Mount – which is overseen by the Wakf Muslim religious trust – the court also allows police to prevent any form of worship there if they believe such activities will incite a ‘disturbance to the public order.’ […] Asked what has precipitated the pronounced uptick in violence, Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said Arabs are growing increasingly incensed by religious Jews who increasingly illegally pray there in an act of civil disobedience. ‘The Arabs don’t like Jews coming there to pray, and an extreme group of Jews is going there to provoke them,’ he said.”

In other words, Israel’s Supreme Court has acknowledged that Jews have the right to pray on the Temple Mount, but it has also given Muslims a veto right: if they don’t like it and become violent, then they’ll get their way and Jews who exercise their supposed right are accused of engaging in a provocative “act of civil disobedience.” In practice that means that the Saudi policy of treating “infidels” like dogs who have to be kept off Muslim holy grounds is all too often also enforced on the Temple Mount.

Temple Mount threats

 Sky News screenshot

While I myself am not religious and have little sympathy for the political agenda of the more prominent activists who push for greater access to the Temple Mount, I don’t quite agree with the conclusion offered in a recent article by Avi Issacharoff that “[r]adical Muslim and Jewish groups at times seem to have forged an unholy alliance to push for holy war.”

As most of the reports on anything that happens on the Temple Mount emphasize, it is probably the most explosive spot on earth – but it is so explosive because the whole world takes it for granted that it is perfectly acceptable that “a billion Muslims worldwide would go ballistic” if they had to acknowledge the fact that first and foremost Jews, but also Christians have a historic attachment to the Temple Mount and that the claim of exclusive Muslim control is a ridiculous anachronism rooted in the glorification of Islamic imperialism and supremacism.

One of the very few Muslims to publicly acknowledge the long pre-Islamic history of the Temple Mount and its significance is Qanta Ahmed, who earlier this year published a fascinating four-part report on her visit to the site. In the final part of her report, she recounts her visit to the Al Aqsa mosque, where her Muslim guide showed her some massive ancient columns, explaining: “This was the entrance to the Second Jewish Temple that was here before Al Aqsa. You can see it is absolutely distinct.”

Reflecting on this sight, Qanta Ahmed writes:

“Somehow, these hardy arches, these massive pillars had escaped even the Romans’ determined destruction of the Second Temple. Before this place was made ours, it had clearly been theirs. We were on borrowed ground.”

Already in a melancholic mood from the decay and neglect she witnessed all over Islam’s supposedly third-holiest site – something noted also more recently by another Muslim visitor – Qanta Ahmed ends her report with a somber conclusion:

“Nowhere in my long ago travels and imperfect memory is the anoxia of Islamism more apparent than [in] the spent bosom of the Farthest Mosque [i.e. Al Aqsa]. Here, we have become the Farthest Muslims. I feel our departure most acutely in Jerusalem, the world’s gentle biographer, the beating, romantic heart of all belief, to all People, of all Books. Jerusalem, dear Muslims, is home to a gilded dome rendered hollow, little more than a fading husk to the richness once contained therein. She is ours no more.”

Once we hear even remotely similar sentiments from Muslim leaders, we will know that the Middle East is on the mend and peace is really possible.

In the meantime, it would be already a big step in the right direction if journalists and commentators hesitated a bit before they nonchalantly report – and implicitly justify – threats of Muslim violence. Ironically enough, the recent “Islamophobia” report of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) lectures us that the notion “that Muslims are inclined to violence including revenge and retaliation” is “Islamophobic.”  So the next time a Sky News reporter hears the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem threatening that the “whole region will be engulfed by war” if Jews want to pray on the Temple Mount, he could perhaps ask the Grand Mufti to explain this threat in view of the historic Jewish attachment to the Temple Mount and claims that Islam is a “religion of peace.” And maybe next time a Guardian blogger – particularly if he happens to be a Christian priest – writes about how easily “a billion Muslims worldwide would go ballistic,” he could ask himself what it would take for him to write with equal understanding about the threat of a billion Christians worldwide going ballistic.

As long as the media depict Muslim violence in the name of Islam as an inevitable reaction to any perceived provocation and give a free pass to the Muslim leaders who never tire to threaten such violence, we can regard the OIC definition of “Islamophobia” as no more than a cynical political tool that allows Muslim leaders to incite violence with impunity – and we can expect that the Temple Mount will remain a dangerous symbol of Muslim fanaticism.

* * *

First published at my JPost blog on December 12, 2013


Islam and the war of ideas

A few weeks ago, the New Yorker published a very interesting post by George Packer on “Islamist Violence and a War of Ideas.” Packer began by giving “a very partial box score of global Islamist violence during the month of September.” Highlighting that “hundreds, of people…most of them Muslims…are being murdered every day, blown to pieces, burned alive, shot to death, beheaded, in the name of an extremely violent strain of Islam,” Packer argued that

“the violence flows from ideas, terrible ideas, about the meaning of Islam, the character of non-Muslims, and the duties of Muslims. These ideas are promulgated in mosques and coffee shops and schools, and on satellite TV and the Internet, with the aid of conspiracy theories, half-truths, deceptive editing, and lies.”

Packer warns that Americans, and presumably the West in general, must not be indifferent to this bloody violence even when its victims are primarily Muslims themselves. In his view, Americans have relied too much on fighting Islamist extremism by military means, while not giving “enough thought to… addressing the heart of the violence: the terrible ideas that license massacres in the name of religion.”

However, as Packer reports, there is a new initiative to fight these “terrible ideas.”  A recently created joint U.S.-Turkish fund to combat Islamist extremism, called the Global Fund for Community Engagement and Resilience, is supposed “to identify and finance grassroots groups around the Muslim world that will do the difficult work of opposing extremist ideas at home.” As Packer emphasizes, the “American role would be very much in the background;” indeed, he notes that “Americans are not in a position, morally or practically, to lead this effort.” Instead, “citizens, organizations, and governments of key Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, would take the lead.”

While I agree that America can’t lead this “effort” for practical reasons, it seems to me that giving Saudi Arabia and Pakistan a leading role in combatting Islamist extremism is like putting a pyromaniac in charge of the fire brigade.

No less problematic is Packer’s failure to fully acknowledge what it means that the Islamist violence he denounces so wholeheartedly flows indeed, as he himself writes, “from ideas, terrible ideas, about the meaning of Islam, the character of non-Muslims, and the duties of Muslims.” These “terrible ideas” are by no means propagated by just a handful of extremists; indeed, Packer rightly notes that they “are promulgated in mosques and coffee shops and schools, and on satellite TV and the Internet.”

In other words, these “terrible ideas” are mainstream Muslim fare – which means that in the politically-correct West, non-Muslims are generally expected to refrain from any criticism.

A good example for an influential Muslim leader who spreads truly terrible ideas is Yusuf Qaradawi. Many millions of Muslims regard Qaradawi as a great scholar and, due to his enormous influence, he has even been described as the “Global Mufti”. Among the terrible ideas Qaradawi has propagated is his fervent belief in a divinely ordained battle between “all Muslims and all Jews,” his view that the Holocaust was well-deserved “divine punishment” for the Jews, and his hope that “the next time will be at the hand of the believers.” Yet, the politically-correct view of Qaradawi (expressed e.g. by a widely respected Middle East expert in the influential magazine Foreign Affairs) is that we should politely ignore Qaradawi’s genocidal Jew-hatred and instead appreciate him as a leading Muslim moderate:

“He [Qaradawi] is best known for his doctrine of wasatiyya, or ‘centrism,’ which lays out a middle ground between secularism and fundamentalism. He rejects the doctrinal extremism of the Salafists and the violent extremism of al Qaeda[…] At the same time, he often takes issue with U.S. foreign policy and is certainly hostile toward Israel, not to mention being a highly successful proselytizer of the Islamist worldview. This potent mixture may be troubling, but it largely defines the mainstream Muslim position. Indeed, one of the keys to Qaradawi’s popularity is his ability to anticipate Arab and Muslim views; […]  Qaradawi is a barometer of Muslim opinion as much as a cause of it.”

The message here is clear: if the “mainstream Muslim position” reflects a “troubling” mixture, the West should simply be grateful that it’s not worse…

Qaradawi genocidal prayer

Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradawi leads a prayer for the annihilation of the Jews, broadcast on Al-Jazeera TV (Qatar) – January 9, 2009 (MEMRI screenshot)

Maybe this is a very pragmatic approach, but it hardly provides a sound footing for fighting a “war of ideas.”

Indeed, when it comes to Islam, the West seems very reluctant to engage in fighting any “war of ideas,” despite the fact that particularly in Europe, the radicalization of fast-growing Muslim minorities is very worrisome. An excellent feature essay for the November cover of Standpoint Magazine is devoted to the question if the West is losing “The War For The Soul Of Islam.” Author Douglas Murray notes early on that historically, “in the battle for the soul of Islam the extremists tend to win” and he concludes pessimistically:

“it is assumed that Islam is like all other religions, that suspicion of Islam is as dangerous as suspicion of any other religion. In short, they [British and Western governments] have tried to treat Islam like any other faith. And the problem is that it is not. Not just because Islam behaves in significantly different ways from other faiths, but because at the very point  that it is swiftly growing in our own countries its global direction of travel is consistently regressive.”

Several of Murray’s central observations are confirmed in a recent post on the popular blog Harry’s Place, where a liberal Muslim notes despondently that nowadays, Muslim leaders in the West “can happily believe and even state publicly that the death penalty should apply to anyone who has sex outside of marriage, takes part in a homosexual act, insults the Prophet or leaves Islam without being [criticized as] ‘extreme’.”

So maybe instead of spending resources on funding an unpromising campaign to combat Islamic extremism in countries whose governments continue to promote fundamentalist Islam, the West would be better off to stop the appeasement of Muslim reactionaries and instead start vigorously supporting reform-minded Muslims in Europe and the US?

* * *

First published November 1, 2013, at my JPost blog.


Destroying Muslim heritage [updated]

There is a veritable industry out there producing an endless stream of “reports” about imaginary Israeli efforts to destroy, damage or defile Muslim sites, in particular the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. I have repeatedly written about this vicious campaign that goes back to the days of Haj Amin al Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who later gained notoriety as a Nazi collaborator. Many recent examples of this ongoing incitement have been compiled by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), and for the very latest installment, you can always turn to the website of Quds Media Center .

The manufactured outrage that usually accompanies the false reports on invented Israeli transgressions against Muslim holy places stands in stark contrast to the docile silence that has allowed Saudi authorities to transform Islam’s holiest places into glitzy luxury destinations.

However, by now several reports highlighting the destruction of historic Islamic sites in Saudi Arabia have appeared in the media. A CNN report includes some fascinating photos dramatically illustrating how much reckless construction has transformed the area of Islam’s holiest site.

CNN Mecca screenshot

As the CNN report notes:

“Lavish skyscrapers now tower over devotees circling the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque.

Most imposing is the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, a 120-floor hotel that resembles London’s Big Ben and which, at 601 meters, is the world’s second tallest building.

The U.S.-based Institute for Gulf Affairs estimates that 95% of Mecca’s millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades.”

The Independent has also published several related reports; the most recent one is headlined “The photos Saudi Arabia doesn’t want seen – and proof Islam’s most holy relics are being demolished in Mecca.”

Saudi destruction 1of3

Previous reports include a September 2011 piece on “Mecca for the rich: Islam’s holiest site ‘turning into Vegas’” and another report from last October about “Medina: Saudis take a bulldozer to Islam’s history.”

Saudi destruction 2of3 Saudi destruction 3of3

In a related article in October 2012, The Independent’s Jerome Taylor asked “Why don’t more Muslims speak out against the wanton destruction of Mecca’s holy sites?

It’s of course a good question given that the affected sites are part of Islam’s holiest places.

As Taylor pointed out:

“One area that you might think would see Muslims speaking out with one voice is the wholesale archaeological and historical destruction of Islam’s birthplace. Over the past twenty years, fuelled by their petro-dollars and intolerant Wahabi backers, the Saudi authorities have embarked on cultural vandalism of breath-taking proportions.

Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam, are being systematically bulldozed to make way for gleaming sky scrapers, luxury hotels and shopping malls. […] Most appallingly dozens of early Islamic sites – including those with a direct link to the Prophet himself – have been wiped off the map. The situation is so bad that the Washington based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 percent of the millennium old buildings in the two cities have been destroyed in the past twenty years.”

Taylor goes on to argue that “Muslim silence on this issue isn’t just cowardly, it’s deeply hypocritical,” noting that it is of course “politically a lot more convenient to blame infidels for disrespecting your religion’s founder than it is to point the finger of blame at your own kind.”

But while nothing may beat the political convenience of getting all worked up about imaginary Israeli plans to destroy Al Aqsa, it turns out that the real destruction wreaked by the Saudis includes a centuries-old column (possibly dating back to the 8th century) that was “supposed to mark the spot where Muslims believe Muhammad began his heavenly journey on a winged horse, which took him to Jerusalem and heaven in a single night.”

This means of course that from the monuments associated with Muhammad’s legendary “Night Journey,” only the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem remains.

I doubt very much that any of the purveyors of the “Al-Aqsa-in-danger”-libel and similar incitement had anything to say about this. And if one hears anything from these quarters, one can expect something along the lines of a screed posted last December by Iran English Radio under the promising title “Saudi-Zionist plot to destroy cultural heritage of Muslims.” About two-thirds of the piece are devoted to summarizing western media reports about the destruction of Islamic sites in Saudi Arabia – with some added heartfelt comments like: “the Saudis are following the footsteps of the pagan Arabs in their hatred of Islam, and the Prophet’s family;” but inevitably, the last third moves on to all the usual fantasies about nefarious “Zionist” plots that justify the conclusion that “the Wahabbis and the Zionists have joined hands to destroy the cultural and religious heritage of the Islamic world.”

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.


Under the wonderful title “McMecca: The Strange Alliance of Clerics and Businessmen in Saudi Arabia,” The Atlantic has now also published a piece on the destruction of historical sites in Islam’s holiest city. Zvika Krieger notes there that “developers and retailers have found an unlikely ally in Wahhabi clerics, who consider the veneration of historical sites to be a form of idolatry, and are happy to see all them demolished.”

Krieger highlights a pamphlet published by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs that was endorsed by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and distributed at the Prophet’s Mosque – where Mohammed, Abu Bakr, and the Islamic Caliph Umar ibn Al Khattab are believed to be buried – which declared: “The green dome shall be demolished and the three graves flattened in the Prophet’s Mosque.”

According to the article, examples of already destroyed sites include an “ancient house belonging to Mohammed [that] was…razed to make room for, among other developments, a public toilet facility. An ancient mosque belonging to Abu Bakr has now been replaced by an ATM machine. And the sites of Mohammed’s historic battles at Uhud and Badr have been…paved to put up a parking lot.”

Krieger writes that when he questioned the head of all the hajj-related construction projects about the destruction of historical sites in Mecca, “he seemed unconcerned about their religious significance. More important to him was that the hajj was ‘a good opportunity to visit Mecca and Medina, do some shopping, make a vacation out of it.’”

It should go without saying that only Muslim vacationers are welcome in Saudi Arabia’s holy cities…

Saudi apartheid[Screenshot]


Qaradawi for the (deliberately) clueless

It’s probably not a good idea to try to debate Islamophobia on Twitter – but I got involved in such a debate anyway because I was thinking about this issue after having read a very interesting post on “Theocracy in the UK.” However, the Twitter debate wasn’t at all related to this post. At the point I joined in, the focus was on the controversial term Islamophobia, which in my view is very problematic because it implies that the teachings of Islam cannot legitimately be criticized.

To illustrate my point, I linked to a post of mine entitled “Who’s defaming Islam?,” where I argued that there are plenty of examples of popular Muslim leaders or widely respected authorities making statements about Islam that depict the faith as requiring Jew-hatred and support for jihadi terrorism.

I then focused in particular on Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, because he is without a doubt a mainstream figure who is regarded as a great scholar by many millions of Muslims and who has even been described as the “Global Mufti” due to his enormous influence.

But unfortunately, Qaradawi’s views fully justify the conclusion of Mark Gardner and Dave Rich that he represents “the combination of theological anti-Judaism, modern European antisemitism and conflict-driven Judeophobia that make up contemporary Islamist attitudes to Jews.”

Indeed, Qaradawi is an avowed Jew-hater who fervently believes in a divinely ordained battle between “all Muslims and all Jews.” As Qaradawi emphasizes in his “Fatawa on Palestine” in reference to the notorious hadith that features prominently in the Hamas Charter:

“The last day will not come unless you fight Jews. A Jew will hide himself behind stones and trees and stones and trees will say, ‘O servant of Allah – or O Muslim – there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

“[W]e believe that the battle between us and the Jews is coming … Such a battle is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging; it is rather driven by religious incentives. This battle is not going to happen between Arabs and Zionists, or between Jews and Palestinians, or between Jews or anybody else. It is between Muslims and Jews as is clearly stated in the hadith. This battle will occur between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews. (p. 77)”

 Perhaps even more disturbingly, Qaradawi has expressed the view that

“Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place.

“This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.” […]

On another occasion, Qaradawi prayed:

“Oh Allah, take your enemies, the enemies of Islam. Oh Allah, take the Jews, the treacherous aggressors. Oh Allah, take this profligate, cunning, arrogant band of people. Oh Allah, they have spread much tyranny and corruption in the land. Pour Your wrath upon them, oh our God. Lie in wait for them. Oh Allah, You annihilated the people of Thamoud at the hand of a tyrant, and You annihilated the people of ‘Aad with a fierce, icy gale. Oh Allah, You annihilated the people Thamoud at the hand of a tyrant, You annihilated the people of ‘Aad with a fierce, icy gale, and You destroyed the Pharaoh and his soldiers – oh Allah, take this oppressive, tyrannical band of people. Oh Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.”

However, in the debate on twitter, two people were resolved to downplay both Qaradawi’s Jew-hatred and his influence. @LutherBlissetts claimed triumphantly that Qaradawi wasn’t the only one who regarded the Holocaust as a divine punishment inflicted on the Jews, citing the fervent (and controversial) supporter of Israel John Hagee and Rabbi Yoel Teitlebaum (the Satmar Rebbe).

Now, it is indeed true that both Pastor Hagee and the Satmar Rebbe have argued that the Holocaust should be understood as God’s punishment for the Jews – and they both have done so in the context of a theological quest to explain the unspeakable evil and suffering of the Nazi genocide. To suggest that this is in any way comparable to Qaradawi’s views is simply beneath contempt: Qaradawi makes it crystal clear that he thinks it was praiseworthy that the Nazis “managed to put them [the Jews] in their place” and he explicitly expresses the hope that there will be a “next time…at the hand of the believers [i.e. the Muslims].”

The argument advanced by @TellMamaUK  – an organization that encourages Muslims to report instances of harassment and bigotry – was very different: they claimed that Qaradawi’s views “do not reflect the range of British Muslims” and complained that I was “really hung up on the ‘mainstream’ thing,” arguing that “Communities are diverse or does that not matter?”

But it is of course a platitude to say that there will be some diversity and a range of views in any given group of people – whether it’s a religious, political, social or ethnic group. It’s also a platitude to say that in any group of people, there are likely some fringe figures with bizarre and outrageous views – and Qaradawi wouldn’t be worth mentioning if he was such a fringe figure.

In the context of the debate about the term Islamophobia, my point about Qaradawi being mainstream by virtue of his huge following and influence was therefore a different one: while Qaradawi’s standing obviously does not justify bigotry against individual Muslims, it illustrates very well the problems with the term Islamophobia.

The Runnymede Trust’s definition of Islamophobia – which was mentioned in the debate as the relevant definition – includes the point that Islam “is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a clash of civilizations.”

While Qaradawi may not accept the wording here, he certainly is an enthusiastic advocate of an Islam that stands for violence – indeed for genocidal violence – and a “clash of civilizations” when it comes to the Jews (and to a somewhat lesser degree to the US and the West).

So should Qaradawi – and the many other Muslim clerics and scholars who preach similar views – be denounced as Islamophobic ?

The problem is obviously – as this debate illustrated all too well – that it is much more likely that it is considered Islamophobic to argue that there is a serious problem when somebody with Qaradawi’s views is mainstream.

How to stoke Islamophobia [updated]

Addressing Congress just a few days after the devastating terrorist attacks on 9/11, President George W. Bush repeatedly emphasized the need to distinguish between the peaceful teachings of Islam and the fanaticism of those “who commit evil in the name of Allah.” The terrorists who had struck on 9/11, were, Bush asserted, “traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”

Even Bush’s most vitriolic critics would echo this view for years. Writing in the Washington Post in July 2007, John L. Esposito, Founding Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding – which in 2005 was renamed The HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding – insisted: “In our post-9/11 world, the ability to distinguish between Islam itself and Muslim extremism will be critical.”

But soon enough, this was no longer good enough. With a new administration in Washington trying to distance itself from Bush’s “war on terror” at least rhetorically, there were determined efforts to avoid any reference to Islam.

By now, however, it seems clear that this avoidance strategy hasn’t been helpful in any way.

In a scathing essay peppered with lots of sarcasm, Walter Russell Mead recently commented on the “War That Nobody Wants,” arguing:

“But roads paved with good intentions don’t always take you where you want to go, and denial does not look like an effective or sustainable strategy in the current state of what is and remains a multi-theater war against a set of armed religious fanatics and bigoted zealots with a crazed world view and the capacity to make a lot of trouble in a lot of places at the same time. […]

If you want to stoke Islamophobia, don’t level with the people about the nature of the problems we face. […] sometimes truth needs to be told. […] We are fighting a battle first to contain and then to defeat a vicious ideology of murder and hate that masks itself as religious zeal. We are fighting this war both at home and abroad, and there is not an inhabited continent anywhere on Planet Earth where this threat is not a serious concern. All Muslims are not our enemies — far from it, and many of our most important allies and associates are decent, pious, enlightened Muslims who loathe the hate-spewing murderers as much as anybody else — but all of our enemies claim to be fighting in the name of Islam.”

Unfortunately it seems that Mead’s common sense arguments won’t be welcomed by those who prefer to complain loudly about “Islamophobia” while they themselves dismiss the distinction between Muslims and violent extremists who justify savage acts of terrorism in the name of Islam.

As the recent controversy about ads in several US cities that denounce violent jihad as “savage” illustrates, we apparently live in a time when it is “anti-Muslim” to feel it is “savage” that self-described jihadists would consider videos of beheadings “very, very important” tools for recruiting volunteers to their ranks. And apparently, it’s also beyond the pale to recoil at the savagery of Muslim fanatics who proudly announce that they will keep trying to kill a fourteen-year old girl that they already injured grievously to silence her demands for education, respect and dignity.

The prominent Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy, who is widely considered a liberal activist, has done much to publicize the controversy about the ads denouncing violent jihad as “savage.” As I have documented, she responded to the ads by declaring herself a “proud savage;” she then proceeded to deface one of the ads and, in the aftermath of being arrested and charged with misdemeanor and criminal mischief, she started a very successful publicity campaign to style herself as a latter-day heroine of the Civil Rights movement – while boasting at the same time that she and her supporters succeeded in getting the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to announce revised advertising guidelines.

After all this agitation, Eltahawy has now decided that it was finally time to do what one could have expected from a prominent writer long ago, and she has taken to the pages of the Guardian’s Comment is Free (CiF) website to make her case in writing.

It is quite obviously a weak case. The headline of her post announces “If anti-Muslim ads are protected, so must be my free speech right to protest” – but the text reveals that even Eltahawy is aware that her act of vandalism wasn’t really an exercise of free speech, because she admits: “I broke the law, yes.”

But Eltahawy adds defiantly: “So what? I broke it to make a point of principle. Eleven years after the 9/11 attacks, American Muslims are still being bullied and vilified.”

Indeed, Eltahawy tries hard to make the case that there is at least some “coincidental correlation” between the ads that denounce violent jihad as savage and various incidents of anti-Muslim violence and bigotry. Her article opens with a reference to a recent arson attack on the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo:

“Five days after I spraypainted over a racist and bigoted advertisement in the New York subway, a man set fire to my brother’s local mosque. He struck just a few hours after the mosque’s kindergarten had been filled with children at Sunday school, including my four nieces and nephews.

It was a coincidental correlation but there was nothing casual about either the hate speech on the walls of the subway […] or the arson in Ohio, which was described as an ‘act of terrorism’ by officials who announced federal hate crime charges against the suspect.”

Leaving aside the fact that Eltahawy of course knows full well that the accused arsonist was reportedly motivated by his anger about recent anti-American violence in the Middle East, it is noteworthy that it apparently wouldn’t occur to her that, due to the fanaticism of violent jihadists, hundreds of thousands of Israeli children live daily under the threat that her nieces and nephews might have faced attending Sunday school in a mosque in Ohio.

One could also recall in this context the terrorist attack on a religious seminary in Jerusalem in spring 2008 that resulted in the killing of eight students and the wounding of 11 others – a result that was cheered and celebrated by Hamas supporters in Gaza.

In the world of Mona Eltahawy, it is “anti-Muslim” to denounce any of this as savage. And in Mona Eltahawy’s world it is also “anti-Muslim” to point out that there is not just a “coincidental” but a very direct “correlation” between the thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians as well as the many brutal terrorist attacks and the ringing endorsements of a divinely ordained genocidal battle against the Jews by leading clerics like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who – according to Eltahawy herself – is “mainstream” and “commands a huge audience on and off the satellite channels.”

While Eltahawy would not hesitate to express her loathing of Qaradawi’s views on women in the strongest terms, she apparently takes no offense when Qaradawi tells his “huge audience” of followers that the extermination of Jews by Muslims is divinely ordained – so much so that even the “stones and trees” will do their part by betraying any Jew who might hide behind them.

Whether Eltahawy and her supporters like it or not, the kind of Jew-hating jihad preached by Qaradawi and recently threatened by the Supreme Guide of Egypt’s  Muslim Brotherhood is indeed savage in the context of 21st century civilization.

The claim that it is “anti-Muslim” to say so unfortunately makes sense only if one accepts that Qaradawi’s Jew-hatred is and should be part of mainstream Muslim beliefs. Mona Eltahawy seems to accept that when she rails against the condemnation of jihad as savage and adopts the hashtag #ProudSavage, but fails to even acknowledge the appalling ideology and acts of the violent jihadists of our time.

Rather bizarrely, she concludes her CiF-article by emphasizing that her nieces – who apparently live in the US – “will not grow up to be scared or apologetic for being Muslim, or Egyptian, or brown.” She also praises the “refusal to be intimidated by bullies” shown by many young Muslims who “were just 10 or 11 when 9/11 happened, and […who] refuse to apologise for something they had nothing to do with.”

Very different from what Eltahawy suggests, nobody who wants to be taken serious will demand that young Muslims apologize for “something they had nothing to do with.” But it is entirely reasonable and justified to expect Muslims – whether younger or older – to understand that demands to ignore the horrors advocated and perpetrated by violent jihadists won’t do much to combat anti-Muslim bigotry.

Mona Eltahawy clearly doesn’t understand that and concludes her article declaring: “The only hashtag I will consider is #ProudSavage.”

* * *

This post was first published at my JPost blog and, under a slightly different title, cross-posted on CiFWatch.


Only after I published this post, I saw that the Wall Street Journal had an article on this issue on October 1. The brilliant title says it all: “Call a Terrorist a ‘Savage’? How Uncivilized.”

Here is one of the examples highlighted in the WSJ to illustrate that the description “savage” is justified:

“This is a Reuters photo that ran on the New York Times front page for Sept. 1, 2004. It shows an Israeli bus after it had been blown up by a suicide bomber. Neither bloody nor gory, the photo is nonetheless deeply disturbing, because it shows the lifeless body of a young woman hanging out a window.

The Times news story added this detail about the reaction to that attack. “In Gaza,” ran the report, “thousands of supporters of Hamas celebrated in the streets, and the Associated Press reported that one of the bombers’ widows hailed the attack as ‘heroic’ and said her husband’s soul was ‘happy in heaven.'” What part of any of this is not savage?”

Some three weeks have passed since the controversy about the ads denouncing violent jihad as savage erupted, and neither Mona Eltahawy nor her fans and supporters have bothered to explain why they object to this. I have asked this question a few times on Twitter, but either I didn’t get any answer – which actually was sort of the best-case scenario – or I got blocked (this was Mona Eltahawy’s response) or I had some abuse hurled at me. Sad times for self-described progressives: it seems they can function only in a well-insulated echo-chamber.

In any case, I’ve in the meantime also come across a report on reason.com about Mona Eltahawy’s defacing of one of the ads, which notes:

“Eltahawy is not a raving lunatic. In the past she has made some fairly intelligent criticisms of extremists. But even allowing that few people keep cool heads while getting handcuffed by burly cops, she has obviously gone off the deep end here.”

Following the links provided here leads to two articles by Mona Eltahawy. The first was written in July 2005, shortly after the 7/7 London bombings; the second one is from January 2006 and comments on the riots staged by Muslims in response to some cartoons published in an obscure Danish newspaper. In both articles Eltahawy expresses views she apparently no longer holds – because if she did, it’s hard to see why she would have been so incensed by the denunciation of violent jihad as savage.

Consider these statements from Eltahawy’s commentary on the cartoon riots:

“the cartoon incident belongs at the very center of the kind of debate that Muslims must have in the European countries where they live – particularly after the Madrid train bombings of 2003 and the London subway bombings of 2005. While right-wing anti-immigration groups whip up Islamophobia in Denmark, Muslim communities wallow in denial over the increasing role of their own extremists.

As just one example, last August Fadi Abdullatif, the spokesman for the Danish branch of the militant Hizb-ut-Tahrir organization, was charged with calling for the killing of members of the Danish government. He distributed leaflets calling on Muslims in Denmark to go to Fallujah in Iraq and fight the Americans, and to kill their own leaders if they obstructed them. […]

Not only does Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organization banned in many Muslim countries, have a branch in Denmark, but Abdullatif has a history of calling for violence that he then justifies by referring to freedom of speech – the very notion the Danish newspaper made use of to publish the cartoons. In October 2002, Abdullatif was found guilty of distributing racist propaganda after Hizb-ut-Tahrir handed out leaflets that made threats against Jews by citing verses from the Koran. He was given a 60-day suspended sentence.

Abdullatif used the Koran to justify incitement to violence! And we still wonder why people associate Islam with violence?

Muslims must honestly examine why there is such a huge gap between the way we imagine Islam and our prophet, and the way both are seen by others. Our offended sensibilities must not be limited to the Danish newspaper or the cartoonist, but [must extend] to those like Fadi Abdullatif whose actions should be regarded as just as offensive to Islam and to our reverence for the prophet.”

I sure couldn’t agree more – indeed, about a year ago, I argued in a post asking “Who’s defaming Islam?”:

“efforts to shield Islam from defamation by non-Muslims will inevitably look like an attempt to proscribe free speech as long as authorities that claim a leading role in the Muslim world as well as mainstream Muslim groups and widely revered Muslim scholars come out with statements that sound quite ‘Islamophobic’ when quoted as representative of mainstream Muslim views.”

However, in the meantime, Mona Eltahawy seems to have changed her views. She apparently no longer thinks it is worthwhile to make demands on her fellow Muslims and prefers instead to add her voice to the chorus of complaints about western “Islamophobia” and styling herself as a potential victim by declaring herself a “proud savage.”

But while Muslim extremism and militancy remain as much of a problem today as they were on 9/11, we know that the charges about “Islamophobia” have been greatly exaggerated. As Jonathan S. Tobin pointed out in a post entitled “FBI Statistics Belie Islamophobia Hysteria:”

“It has become an accepted trope of contemporary journalism that American Muslims are under siege and beset by hatred and prejudice. But the evidence for this conventional wisdom is lacking. The story line of Muslim persecution in the United States has always been a matter of anecdotes and perception, not facts. That truth was confirmed this week when the FBI released their annual crime statistics report which showed once again that hate crimes against Muslims remain rare and are far outnumbered by attacks on Jews. […]

Because the far greater number of attacks on Jews is not viewed […] as proof the country is boiling with hatred for Jews, how can anyone rationally argue that the far fewer number of assaults on Muslims can justify the conclusion that Islamophobia is rampant?”

Tobin, however, is making the same mistake that I made: he wrongly assumes this is a rational debate. But it isn’t a rational debate – and as far as Mona Eltahawy is concerned, it shouldn’t be a rational debate. Indeed, it seems she feels that as long as she has some 165 000 followers on Twitter, rational argument is just a waste of time.

Mona Eltahawy defends jihad: We are all proud savages now! [Updated]

On Tuesday, the prominent Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy informed her almost 160 000 Twitter followers in no uncertain terms that she was incensed by an advertisement that had been placed in some New York City subways stations. Quoting a Reuters report about the ad, Eltahawy referred to it as “‘Savage’ jihad ad,” and, by adding the hashtag  #ProudSavage, presumably declared her solidarity with maligned jihadists who see themselves in a war against Israel and (western) civilization.

Indeed, as the day wore on, Eltahawy playfully pondered on Twitter how best to protest the ad, deciding eventually that defacing it with pink spray paint would be “sexier” than the alternatives. A few hours later, Eltahawy was going through with her plan to cover one of the ads with pink paint, but was confronted by a woman resolved to stop her. The ensuing brawl was captured by a New York Post camera crew, and Eltahawy was eventually arrested and held overnight to face a criminal mischief charge in court.

This story is a perfect, if utterly depressing, illustration of the mindless sloganeering that all too often passes for political action and debate nowadays.

First, let us consider what the ad that Reuters described as “inflammatory” really said. As the Reuters report noted, the ad equates “Islamic jihad with savagery;” saying specifically:

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.  Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

To me, the most straightforward reading of the message here is: Jihad, understood as war, and in this case specifically as war against Israel, is savage. This is only “inflammatory” if you worry that many Muslims would be insulted to see violent jihadi acts of war denounced as savage.

But apparently, this is not how Eltahawy and her many ardent supporters read the ad. The most revealing illustration for their reading was provided by the well-known cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who has rightly been criticized for his “staggering amount of work dedicated to advancing explicitly anti-Semitic political imagery.”

Latuff was quick to support the #FreeMona campaign developing on Twitter with a drawing that, according to Latuff’s own caption, meant to illustrate that “equating Muslims with savages is freedom of speech – protesting against it is not…”

But while Latuff claimed that the ad was “equating Muslims with savages”, his rendering of the ad tellingly left out the last line “Defeat Jihad.”

It wasn’t the text of the ad that equated Muslims with savages, but Latuff – as well as Eltahawy and her admirers – apparently equated Jihad, understood as war, and specifically as war against Israel, with Islam and therefore with Muslims.

That would probably please jihadists everywhere.

Let’s now consider what the solidarity expressed in the hashtag #ProudSavage really means in the context of contemporary jihadist declarations and actions.

First, I would hope that we can all agree that self-described jihadists who consider videos of beheadings “very,very important” tools for recruiting volunteers deserve to be denounced as savage.

Unfortunately, jihadi rhetoric can hardly be considered as all that more civilized.

Among the most widely known examples is probably the Hamas Charter, especially the declaration:

“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

The enormously influential Egyptian Islamic leader Yusuf Qaradawi – who is even regarded by some as “Global Mufti” – has explicitly praised this declaration as “one of the miracles of our Prophet,” noting:

“[W]e believe that the battle between us and the Jews is coming … Such a battle is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging; it is rather driven by religious incentives. This battle is not going to happen between Arabs and Zionists, or between Jews and Palestinians, or between Jews or anybody else. It is between Muslims and Jews as is clearly stated in the hadith. This battle will occur between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews.”

Qaradawi has made many similar statements encouraging hatred and violence between Muslims and Jews; indeed, a few years ago, he even used his popular Al Jazeera show that reached an audience of tens of millions of Muslims to praise the Holocaust as a divinely ordained punishment for the Jews, expressing the hope that “Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.”

How “racist” or “hateful” is it to denounce these racist and hateful views as savage?

Indeed, if there is such a thing as universal values and universal human rights and if we all share a common humanity, then it cannot be that denouncing calls by mainstream Muslim organizations and personalities for a bloody Muslim Jihad against Jews is somehow worse than this incitement to Jew-hatred and violence.

Well-meaning people like Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, are therefore arguably wrong to criticize this specific ad by repeating the well-worn piety that “for the vast majority of Muslims, ‘jihad’ refers to a spiritual quest, not the more politicized idea of holy war.”

That may be true, but the fact of the matter is that, as I have documented above, there is today also a mainstream Muslim understanding of jihad as bloody and, as far as Jews are concerned, ultimately genocidal war. There are also numerous violent jihadi groups, and the “vast majority of Muslims” who understand jihad as a spiritual quest have arguably little reason to feel offended when violent terrorists are denounced as savage.

Indeed, in the wake of 9/11, there were countless appeals by western leaders and commentators admonishing people not to conflate terrorists who kill in the name of Islam with the religion followed by more than 1.5 billion Muslims. But when we have an ad that denounces jihad as savage, the “politically correct” consensus now seems to be that this is an “anti-Muslim” ad.

Unfortunately, this view appears to reflect the sad fact that when it comes to Israel, most Muslims are indeed opposed to the Jewish state’s existence and Jews are viewed negatively by an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Middle East.

Another reason why this ad is interpreted as “anti-Muslim” is of course the fact that it was sponsored by a group that has often rightly been criticized and condemned for campaigns that betray anti-Muslim bigotry. Yet, such groups arguably only stand to gain adherents when it becomes anti-Muslim bigotry to denounce violent jihad as savage.

As deplorable and objectionable as it is that some believe that by denigrating Islam and Muslims in general, they are engaging in pro-Israel activism, it is not all that much better to pretend that widespread hatred of Jews, Israel and even the West doesn’t exist in the Muslim world.

Particularly a prominent writer like Mona Eltahawy surely had the option to turn to numerous widely read media outlets to explain what she finds so objectionable in this specific ad – and perhaps also what she thinks of the mainstream Muslim views of jihad I cited above. Engaging in an act of futile vandalism accompanied by a few rather vulgar tweets and claiming that this is an exercise of free speech and anti-racist political action is indeed a poor reflection on a widely admired writer of our time.

But while I am writing this, Eltahawy’s most recent tweet announces:

“I return to court to face my charges – proudly – on Nov29. #ProudSavage #FuckHate #NYC

And, in yet another tweet posted just five minutes ago and already retweeted by almost 100 people, Eltahawy declares:

“I spray painted that racist piece of shit poster out of principle, protected speech & non-violent disobedience. Proud & absolutely no regrets!”

Unthinking demagoguery attracts a lot of fans, it seems. And what do you know: there is also a new slogan, because, naturally, when a much-despised fringe group sponsors an ad describing the jihad that targets Israel as savage, the most anti-racist thing to do is to declare that we are all proud savages now…

* * *

This article was published on my JPost blog and in the Algemeiner.


There is an amazing article in The Forward, which reports under the title: “Jewish Groups Object to Anti-Muslim Ad; Hope To Limit Damage From ‘Savage’ Controversy

“The timing of the [ad] campaign could not be worse, as anger is still simmering worldwide over the anti-Islamic YouTube film ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ which insults the Prophet Muhammad. Despite the small reach of the AFDI campaign – only 10 ads among the 11,000 spread across New York City’s 400-odd subway stations – the reaction to it is unpredictable.

Jewish advocates are particularly disturbed by the ads because they combine anti-Islamic propaganda and pro-Israel discourse as if supporting Israel and rejecting Islam were two sides of the same coin.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and a longtime champion of interreligious dialogue, told the Forward that he was “troubled” by the linking of Islam and Judaism in such a contentious way.

“People must understand that there is not a conflict between Muslims and Jews,” Schneier said. “The only conflict there is is between those who believe in coexistence and those who seek to destroy human rights.”

Schneier added that in the same way that other seemingly small manifestations against Islam have been taken as extremely offensive in the past, it would not be hard to imagine how this “could mutate in other parts of the Muslim world” — and raise anti-Israel feelings.

“These ads are Islamophobia at its worst, and in a very irresponsible fashion, since Israel has been brought into the frame,” Schneier said.”

So let’s get this straight: The good Rabbi Schneier, who thinks that these ads present “Islamophobia at its worst,” also thinks that “10 ads among the 11,000 spread across New York City’s 400-odd subway stations” could cause terrible riots all over the Muslim world and “raise anti-Israel feelings.”

On the last point, the Rabbi might be less worried if he knew that “anti-Israel feelings” and outright Jew-hatred are so prevalent in the Muslim world that it’s hard to “raise” them. And when it comes to his inordinate fear of Muslim mob violence, the Rabbi might want to check out the excellent World Affairs Journal piece by Michael Weiss on “Guilt and the ‘Innocence of Muslims’.”

But, most pathetic – if likely well-meaning – is of course this part:

“People must understand that there is not a conflict between Muslims and Jews,” Schneier said. “The only conflict there is is between those who believe in coexistence and those who seek to destroy human rights.”

Rabbi Schneier should tell this one time to Global Mufti Qaradawi – though unfortunately, he won’t be able to do this in person, because Sheikh Qaradawi doesn’t meet with Jews

The Forward’s coverage of this story also includes a blog post that reports gleefully that at least five of the 10 ads have been politically corrected – which is to say, partly plastered over by stickers claiming “Racism” or “Hate speech.”

The morale of the story is clearly that it is “Islamophobia at its worst” to distinguish between Muslims and jihadists – which presumably means: all Muslims are jihadists and anyone who wants to say something not so flattering about jihad should be told to shut up so as not to risk a frightful outbreak of jihadi=Muslim rage…