The French daily Le Figaro captured the tragic condition of Muslim dissidents: "Seen as 'traitors' by their communities, they are accused by the elites in the West of 'stigmatizing'".
Le Point called it "the malediction of the dissident": "For the European left, a bright danger threatens humanity. This is not terrorism or religious fundamentalism. But dissident intellectuals in the Muslim world".
This is the meaning of a recent list of fifteen "anti-Islamic extremists," published by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Among them are, for example, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former member of the Dutch parliament and the most famous dissident from Islamic world, and Maajid Nawaz, a British Muslim who founded the Quilliam Foundation to fight radicalism, and who has been a consultant to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has attacked principled and courageous critics of radical Islamism such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali (left), a prominent ex-Muslim writer, and Maajid Nawaz (right), a moderate practising Muslim writer, radio host and politician. (Images source: Wikimedia Commons)
Nick Cohen, in The Spectator, explained:
"in the liberal orientalist world view the only 'authentic' Muslim is a barbarian. A battery of insults fires on any Muslim who says otherwise. They are 'neo-conservatives,' 'native informants,' and 'Zionists': they are as extreme as jihadists they oppose, or, let's face it, worse..."
In short, according with Cohen, "a section of the Western left has adopted the ideology of the Salafists, Khomeinists and Islamists. It supports their blasphemy codes, and apologias for murder".
The Wall Street Journal, in an unsigned editorial, attacked the report of the Southern Poverty Law Center: that "as if facing down violent Islamist fanatics isn't enough, Muslim reformers now have to dodge attacks from the American left".
Lee Smith, in Tablet, noted:
"Yet now, the SPLC is putting bounties on the heads of Muslims like Maajid Nawaz, who are opposed to Muslim extremism... The document is simply an enemies' list, of the kind that fascists, Stalinists, and other totalitarian thinkers can't help producing".
Nick Cohen called it "the first fatwa of the white left". But it is not the first. That horrible document belongs to the long "flight of the intellectuals" denounced by Paul Berman: the abandonment of Enlightenment values in the face of threats to freedom of expression.
"It is time to extend our solidarity to all the rebels of the Islamic world, non-believers, atheist libertines, dissenters, sentinels of liberty, as we supported Eastern European dissidents in former times", French writer Pascal Bruckner said. Most of Western liberals are doing exactly the opposite. Not only are they refusing "to extend our solidarity" to these rebels; instead, they are actually targeting them.
The Director of the Middle East-Mediterranean chair at the Ecole Normale Superieure, and professor at Sciences-Po, Gilles Kepel , just published a book, Fracture, in which he blasts "the intellectuals paralyzed by postcolonial guilt" and the "blindness which leads them to minimize the jihadist risk". It is what Kepel in the book calls "Islamo-Leftism" ("Islamo-Gauchisme"), which currently targets Muslim dissidents to exclude them from the debate.
The debate reminds one that during the Cold War, when the Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the author of The Gulag Archipelago, was attacked by fellow writers such as Pablo Neruda, a Nobel Prize for Literature laureate and devout communist.
In 2006, a group of 12 writers put their names to a statement in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, warning against Islamic "totalitarianism". "After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new global totalitarian threat: Islamism", read the appeal. "We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all". Among the 12 promoters, eight came from the Islamic world. Most of the solidarity to French cartoonists under threat has come from even braver -- but ostracized -- Muslim intellectuals. In the global struggle for the confrontation of ideas between the West and political Islam, too often the Western values are represented by Muslim dissidents and downplayed by the liberals who should be safeguarding them. It is an unpleasant spectacle.
And what was Islamo-Leftism doing? Busy targeting them. Timothy Garton Ash, a leftist opinion-maker, has asked how much the success of Ayaan Hirsi Ali depends on her beauty, and has defined her "an Enlightenment fundamentalist": "It's no disrespect to Ms. Ali to suggest that if she had been short, squat, and squinting, her story and views might not be so closely attended to".
Similar criticism against Hirsi Ali came from Ian Buruma, a Dutch "radical chic" journalist transplanted to Manhattan's Upper West Side. Ibn Warraq, another Muslim dissident isolated by the Left, attacked Buruma: "Disgraceful has been Buruma's vilification of human rights activists, especially his attacks on such heroic figures as Afshin Ellian and Ayaan Hirsi Ali". Buruma achieves his goals in a most insidious manner: hinting and insinuating.
In the German magazine, Perlentaucher, the French author Pascal Bruckner defended Hirsi Ali from the criticism of Buruma and Garton Ash:
"It's not enough that Ayaan Hirsi Ali has to live like a recluse, threatened with having her throat slit by radicals and surrounded by bodyguards. She -- like the French philosophy professor Robert Redeker who has also been issued death threats on Islamicist websites -- has to endure the ridicule of the high-minded idealists and armchair philosophers. She has even been called a Nazi in the Netherlands. Thus the defenders of liberty are styled as fascists, while the fanatics are portrayed as victims! ... It is her wilful, short-fused, enthusiastic, impervious side to which Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash object, in the spirit of the inquisitors who saw devil-possessed witches in every woman too flamboyant for their tastes".
Geert Mak, a Dutch historian, likened the film "Submission", written by Hirsi Ali, and which cost the life of the Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, to the Nazi propaganda film, "The Eternal Jew". According to Mak's "logic", Hirsi Ali "stigmatized" Muslims as Joseph Goebbels did Jews. Leon de Winter rightly attacked Mak's shameful comparison in a column for Volkskrant newspaper:
"If anything can be compared with the propaganda of Goebbels, these are the decapitation videos and anti-Semitic propaganda of Arab satellite stations in Amsterdam West. Mak turns the world upside down. Anne Frank has been abused enough".
The "Index on Censorship", in an article by the associate director of the magazine, Rohan Jayasekera, has painted Hirsi Ali as a silly girl who had allowed herself to be manipulated by a white man (van Gogh) in exploitative employment". The Index on Censorship was founded in 1972 by Stephen Spender in response to a plea from Soviet dissidents facing show trials in Moscow, on the principle that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that the international community has a duty to safeguard. What would people have said of his organization if it had blamed those Soviet writers instead of their persecutors?
Two years ago, Hirsi Ali was even uninvited from Brandeis University, one of the cradles of American academic liberalism that was supposed to celebrate her with an honorary degree. 85 of 350 professors at the Massachusetts university refused to host such a speaker on the Third World and Islam. If one reads what Hirsi Ali would have said on campus that day, the leftist fear of Hirsi Ali it is understandable:
"We need to make our universities temples not of dogmatic orthodoxy, but of truly critical thinking, where all ideas are welcome and where civil debate is encouraged.... I stand before you as someone who is fighting for women's and girls' basic rights globally. And I stand before you as someone who is not afraid to ask difficult questions about the role of religion in that fight. The connection between violence, particularly violence against women, and Islam is too clear to be ignored. We do no favors to students, faculty, nonbelievers and people of faith when we shut our eyes to this link, when we excuse rather than reflect. So I ask: Is the concept of holy war compatible with our ideal of religious toleration? Is it blasphemy — punishable by death — to question the applicability of certain seventh-century doctrines to our own era?"
Dissident ex-Muslims from the Islamic world, who have fled to the West to escape persecution and sectarianism, also see their hosts are "going soft" on their persecutors. A motion in the European Parliament to fund Hirsi Ali's U.S. security failed to reach a quorum of half the deputies in the 785-member body. She was "abandoned to the fanatics" in Europe's shameful capitulation to intimidation and threats.
Directors, actors, producers, writers, and film critics, who usually pontificate on everything and side with any minority, all stood silent when Theo van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam and threats were made against his brave writer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
In the last few months, we have seen many Western feminists, especially on the "left", standing in defense of burkini. The New York Times ran an article entitled: "At the beach with my burkini". It is the burkini and the veil, that have become symbols of human rights, and not Hirsi Ali and other Muslim feminists who fight against these religious symbols coerced on women. For many feminists and liberals, submission is demanded only by white male Christian westerners. All minorities, such as Islamic dissidents, who face this enemy are considered provocateurs. Submission of women in the Islamic world? Female mutilation such as that suffered by Hirsi Ali? Much better to rally against Dominique Strauss Khan, the French Socialist sexual predator. Hirsi Ali criticized the Western feminist silence:
"The current situation in Europe is deeply troubling: not only are Muslim women within Europe subject to considerable oppression in many ways, such norms now risk spreading to non-Muslim women who face harassment from Muslim men. One would think that Western feminists in the United States and Europe would be very disturbed by this obvious misogyny. But sadly, with few exceptions, this does not appear to be the case".
When mullahs in Iran placed a bounty of $2.8 million -- recently raised by an additional $600,000 -- on the head of a British citizen, the Muslim dissident, Salman Rushdie, for having written a novel, The Satanic Verses, a large part of London's literary "left" sided with the Ayatollah Khomeini rather than the persecuted writer. The feminist writer Germaine Greer called Rushdie a "megalomaniac, an Englishman with dark skin". Roald Dahl, the bestselling author of children's books, defined him a "dangerous opportunist". The king of the literary spy stories, John Le Carré, called Rushdie an "idiot". At the time of the fatwa, the literary "Left" stood with the Muslim "anger", not with the persecuted writer - while all around, translators and publishers were being killed and wounded by the Iranian murderers.
The Algerian writer, Kamel Daoud, in addition to the edicts of Islamic preachers in his country, had to face a far more sinuous menace in France a year ago. Daoud had the courage to break the taboo against criticizing Cologne's sexual attacks. According to Daoud, Europe welcomes immigrants with visas and material sustenance, but without addressing values. What Cologne showed, says Daoud, is how sex is "the greatest misery in the world of Allah".
First, twenty leftist academics launched an appeal in Le Monde, where Daoud was accused of a series of ideological crimes, such as "orientalist clichés", "essentialism", "psychologizing", "colonialist paternalism", which correspond, all together, to an accusation of "racism" and "Islamophobia". Then a book entitled "Kamel Daoud the Enquête Contre" -- signed by Ahmed Bensaada and with a preface of a French journalist, Jacques-Marie Bourget -- attacked "these intellectuals in North Africa, who are auxiliaries of the French neo-conservative thinkers" who need "the good negro", a "native alibi". Daoud was accused of being an instrument of "neo-colonialist thought".
"The process of Islamophobia against Kamel Daoud is worthy of the Stalinist era", wrote at Le Figaro political scientist Laurent Bouvet. In the weekly, Le Point Étienne Gernelle attacked "the fools of the regressive left". Rafik Chekkat called Daoud a "native informant", while Olivier Roy, an Islamic scholar, in an article accused Daoud of stigmatizing Muslims: "The machismo and sexual harassment exist all over the world, why isolating this phenomenon among Muslims, instead of trying to counteract all forms? Just because they are Muslims". A great number of articles in the French press attacked Daoud.
The same treatment was reserved for the deputy editor at the time of Italy's largest daily, Il Corriere della Sera, the Egyptian journalist Magdi Allam. He was targeted in an appeal signed by two hundred intellectuals, historians and writers, all belonging to the cultural milieu. Allam has also recently been attacked as a "racist" by the liberal Democratic Party in an Italian town which had wanted to honor him with the honorary citizenship:
"They imply that I have a prejudice against immigrants or Muslims and this corresponds to an offense because we speak of racism. I reminded them that I was a true Italian immigrant for reasons of study. They represent me as a terrorist but I am a victim of terrorism and of those who sow intolerance: I have been living under guard escort for 14 years".
This cowardly interdiction of Muslim liberal voices in the West went ahead with Maryam Namazie, another Islamic intellectual of Iranian origin, was "disinvited" from the University of Warwick, in England, because her lecture could "feed the Islamophobia". The left-wing press, led by The Guardian, supported the exclusion of Namazie:
"Does the withdrawal of an invitation really amount to censorship? Her words have not been banned, the state has not gagged her. Is Namazie's capacity to share her ideas diminished if she doesn't appear in front of 50-odd students? After all, she can still tweet and blog, as she showed over the weekend. If anything, the whole episode has increased her audience".
Duke University students tried to stop the talk of another Islamic dissident, Asra Nomani, author of "Standing Alone". In France, the book of the Egyptian writer, Hamed Abdel-Samad, was taken off the market because, according to the self-censoring publisher, Piranha, it would bring "water to the mill of the extreme right". A Muslim author denouncing "Islamic fascism" was repudiated by the fascist anti-fascist "leftists" because of false "Islamophobia" claims.
Self-righteous liberals love "moderate Islam" when it appears under the guise of Tariq Ramadan, whose goal has been summed up by Jacques Jomier: "His problem is not the modernization of Islam, but the Islamification of modernity". But the same liberals target as agents provocateurs those dissidents trying to modernize Islam. The fatwas of the white liberals hit hard as the violent ones of the Muslim extremists.
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.