Friday, September 09, 2011
Muslims: Leftists try to make black look white
Last week the Center for American Progress released the latest in an increasingly desperate series of reports by far-left and Islamist groups attacking my colleagues and me at the Center for Security Policy and others for our work educating Americans about Islamist terrorist threats and exposing the underlying doctrine — Shariah — that motivates them.
In what could be called a “Shariah Defense Lobby,” a growing number of far-left groups have joined ranks with Islamist groups to whitewash and protect the political, legal, military, and religious doctrines of Shariah from scrutiny. This latest report joins previous efforts by the Center for American Progress, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Political Research Associates, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. One of the major goals of these reports — in addition to the glowing coverage they receive on friendly outlets like the Iranian state-run PressTV and Al Jazeera — is to silence all criticism of Islamist aggression, jihadist violence, or Shariah violations of human rights and civil liberties.
The premise of “Fear Inc.: The Roots Of the Islamophobia Network In America” is that a shadowy network of activists and experts conspire to “misinform” the American public about jihadist terror. Frustrated by the prevalence of this common-sense concern, far-left and Islamist groups try to explain this by searching for conspiracy, sources of funding, economic arguments, or xenophobia. For the Center for American Progress — a leftist propaganda mill widely recognized to be the Obama White House’s “think tank“ — a cabal of conservative plotters (which, they readily admit, works on a small budget) is responsible for American’s increasing concern about jihadist terrorism and awareness that elements of Shariah pose a threat to our national security.
While this shrill report suggests that millions of Americans have been manipulated into becoming “Islamophobes,” it shows nothing more than the frustration of their authors. While the Center for American Progress conspires to demonize an American public that watches as millions the world over march under the banner of installing Shariah law — complete with its brutal punishments, subjugation of minorities, and obligation to wage jihad — they are clearly losing a battle with reality.
Even without the work of the experts and activists in highlighting the characteristics of this ideology and its dangers, the far-left is hoping their fellow countrymen don’t notice as jihadist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood rally for a Shariah that is straight from the pages of the Center for Security Policy’s book, Shariah: The Threat to America.
Shariah: The Threat to America – and, indeed, much of the work by those vilified in the report, including Steven Emerson, Daniel Pipes, Frank Gaffney, Robert Spencer, and David Yerushalmi — gives voice to millions of Americans who look at the news and see the sharp end of a worldwide movement, like a storm, touching down in every continent. From the Middle East to Europe and Africa, to Russia, India, and the United States, there exists violence or intimidation in the name of Islam. These disparate engagements are seen by millions of Muslims as campaigns in a war called jihad. For too long, Americans have been told to understand these campaigns as disparate events, triggered by political, territorial, or national grievances.
To understand what’s happening, however, a worthwhile analysis must begin not with those grievances, but must take into account how the belligerents see themselves: their goals, aspirations, how they justify their actions based on their self-enunciated code, Shariah. This is a conversation both the far left and Islamists are desperate to avoid; they have gone on the offensive, unsurprisingly, by labeling their opponents “Islamophobes.”
Rather than look for the predictable “root causes” of economics, xenophobia, conspiracy, and the like that are catnip to the far left and the academy, the Center for American Progress and their fellow travelers in the “Shariah Defense Lobby” could find a more accurate reason for Americans’ increasing concern with Shariah: They could turn on the TV news.
Our war on the politics of fear
The complexity and constant change of the modern world has generated fear of the unknown in many
Contrary to what we have been told a thousand times over the past decade, and particularly this week, 9/11 was not ‘the day that changed the world’. No act of terrorism alone, even one as bloody as the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, could ever do that. What 9/11 and, more importantly, the fear-driven responses to it did was to confirm that the world had already changed, and to act as a further catalyst accelerating the end of the old political order.
As I wrote on spiked a day after the collapse of the twin towers: ‘It is not the act of terrorism itself that has changed the course of history, but the reaction to it may well do so.’ Our expectations have been borne out over the subsequent decade. The dreadful events of 9/11 came just six months after we had launched spiked, with me as its first editor. spiked was the online successor to LM magazine (née Living Marxism). In LM and elsewhere, writers subsequently associated with spiked had already gone a long way towards establishing a framework for understanding the post-Cold War world, navigating a shifting political map without the safety of the old signposts. Among the key features of this developing analysis were the end of the traditional ideologies of left and right; the crisis of authority in Western societies from the top downwards; and perhaps most pertinently, the creeping advance of the new politics of fear.
These trends created a context in which to situate the attacks on 9/11. It did not mean that we were any less shocked than anybody else. But it did allow spiked to make more sense of these events and the fallout from them. From the first, we emphasised the importance of the powerful culture of fear in Western societies shaping reactions to 9/11. As one US columnist wrote on the day of the terror attacks, ‘the next big thing… is likely to be fear’. On spiked, however, we had already identified the culture of fear as a dominant characteristic of the age, evident in seemingly trivial panics over public health and wellbeing about everything from food to flying. The result, as we put it afterwards, was that ‘we were scaring ourselves to death long before 9/11’.
The terror attacks on America did not create the culture of fear. But the reactions to 9/11 did demonstrate how powerful the politics of fear had become. That first spiked editorial on 12 September 2001 noted how the actions of a few zealous terrorists had effectively caused ‘the collapse of the American government’, with President George W Bush sent off around the country in search of a bolthole, Congress closed down, and all in chaos: ‘In the heart of the only superpower on Earth, the traumatised authorities suddenly seemed bewildered and powerless.’ These events, I also argued, gave ‘an insight into the fearful state of the contemporary Western mind’, as the authorities everywhere moved to pull up drawbridges and lash out at their invisible enemies. As another spiked editorial two days later had it, after 48 hours of bellicose panic-mongering in Washington and London, ‘It’s war – but against whom?’.
spiked’s immediate response to 9/11 and the forces it helped to unleash was to step up our own war of words against the culture of fear, arguing on 12 September that ‘by adopting a precautionary approach to modern life, and reorganising society on the basis of worst-case scenarios, we risk squandering opportunities to create a more progressive, civilised world’. This, I recall, caused confusion among some readers who had expected a more routine left-wing response. spiked, after all, came from a political and intellectual tradition of anti-imperialism, where the response to an attack by the IRA or the PLO in the 1980s would have emphasised the context of oppression that gave rise to such movements.
But we saw straight away that 9/11 was different. There was no shred of anti-imperialism in the attacks on New York and Washington, launched by Westernised and affluent young Saudis who appeared to have been shaped more by the malaise in Western society than any oppression in the Third World. Instead these acts of nihilistic terror-for-terror’s-sake – of adolescent ‘apocalyptic barbarism’, as one spiked writer described them – were in part a product of the global demise of the progressive left and of the national liberation movements it had supported, leaving behind a vacuum to be filled by terrorists whose explosive tantrum was so incoherent they could not even claim responsibility for their attacks or articulate a cause.
The same decay of radical politics was evident in the response of those left-liberals in the West who tried to speak for the suicide attackers, some even claiming that people working in the New York finance industry should not be considered innocent victims.
If 9/11 was both a product of, and an attempt to prey on, a weakness at the heart of the West, the response of the authorities suggested that the attackers were banging on an open door. At another time such a terrorist attack, however deadly, might have been seen in a wider sense as ‘throwing snowballs at our castle walls’. This time, however, the politics of fear dictated that it was treated as if posing a mortal threat not only to the people in those planes and the twin towers, but to Western civilisation itself.
The politics of fear is often understood too narrowly and conspiratorially, as a conscious attempt by those in power to control the population by spreading fear and justifying authoritarian measures. An element of that has often been evident over the decade since 9/11. But arguably more important has been the impact of the politics of fear on the insecure authorities themselves, who increasingly live in fear and loathing of a world that appears beyond their authority and control. That was evident in the panicky reactions on 9/11, and in the years of turmoil that followed.
We saw the influence of the politics of fear in both the launch and the conduct of the West’s desperate wars of intervention that came after 9/11, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. It was witnessed, too, in the reorganisation of domestic politics around ‘homeland security’, not only in the US but in Europe. Here in the UK we might recall Tony Blair’s New Labour government making plans to flee London in the event of a fantasy terrorist dirty-bomb attack on the capital, while after the 7/7 attacks on London transport Gordon Brown declared that every department of government must effectively become a security department (see Gordon Brown’s tyranny of security, by Brendan O’Neill).
Meanwhile, spiked fought running battles against both sides of a ‘culture war’ that came to dominate and distort much public debate: on one hand, the fearmongers spreading panic about ‘Islamofascism’, as if the handful of Islamists really were the equivalent of Nazism on the march; and on the other, the rival fearmongers worrying about ‘Islamophobia’, imagining an army of white racists about to set fire to Britain’s inner cities.
And the politics of fear has not only been focused on terror. It predated 9/11, and it has since been behind many of the new forms of authoritarianism and lifestyle control that have flourished in recent years. Yet many critics of the ‘war on terror’ have focused only on the most extreme legal attacks on civil liberties, such as the infamous attempt to extend detention without charge to 90 days for terrorism suspects in the UK. The fact that many celebrated keeping the legal limit to ‘only’ 28 days, and welcomed new attacks on free speech as a defence against ‘Islamophobia’, confirmed how far the politics of fear has helped to drive liberty out of our public life over the past decade.
The identification of the politics of fear as a central theme of Western culture has shaped much of what spiked stood for since 9/11, first under my editorship and then, since 2007, under that of Brendan O’Neill. We take no pleasure in the way that our warning about the dangers of ‘reorganising society on the basis of worst-case scenarios’ 10 years ago has been proved right, most recently in the panicky, precautionary reaction of the New York authorities to the prospect of Hurricane Irene (see The politics of fear blows into New York, by Tim Black). But it has convinced us to redouble our efforts.
Back on 12 September 2001, that first article also tried to sound a more optimistic note, expressing the hope that, ‘in the face of adversity, people will rediscover the resilience and resourcefulness that made us capable of going out and building a modern wonder like Manhattan in the first place’. In the decade since then, many people have indeed shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity. But the Western authorities and their apologists have ensured that post-9/11 political life remains weighed down under an atmosphere of misanthropy, miserabilism and fear. Ten years is more than enough of that.
Where once it was a mark of pride to take care of oneself in difficult situations, there is now an expectation that the government should save us, salve us, and secure us in all areas of our lives.
For example, travelers and expats are increasingly expecting the government to rescue them from volatile foreign hotspots.
A further example of our coddled citizenry comes from a couple who, according to Richardson, queried whether they could claim frequent flyer points from a government-arranged emergency flight out of Egypt during the recent upheavals – where the taxpayer was footing the bill.
Government is a mechanism to ensure a degree of order, national security, and representation in our lives. It is not a substitute parent whose role is to fund, soothe and cater to the demands of overindulged and heedless children, although with pandering to the polls and policy-on-the-run, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
A recent commercial on television showed a fit, young man offering his dole cheque to win tickets to a rugby competition. What was most striking about this ad – its tongue-in-cheek nature notwithstanding – was the assumption that it’s normal for a healthy and able-bodied man to be on welfare.
Such attitudes are becoming commonplace in today’s dysfunctional welfare society, but this is certainly not desirable. Welfare statism effectively reduces elements of its citizenry to an enfeebled and dependent state, unable or unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives, actions and decisions. And it infuses the culture with a widespread belief that it’s up to the government to fix and manage just about everything, including help in claiming air miles.
The final word goes to acting Foreign Minister, Craig Emerson, who said recently: ‘There are limits to what the Australian government can do in a consular crisis.’ There are indeed limits to what the Australian government, or any government for that matter, can do – and should do – in our lives. Period.
The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 02 September 2011. Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.
God's truth, believers are nicer
I'm getting ready to duck, but don't shoot the messenger. The results are in: religious people are nicer. Or so says Robert Putnam, professor of public policy at Harvard.
Described by London's Sunday Times as the most influential academic in the world today, Putnam is not a religious believer. Best known for Bowling Alone, the book that made ''social capital'' a key indicator of a healthy society, Putnam, with his co-author David Campbell (a Mormon), has waded into the debate about religion in the public square with his latest offering, American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides Us. The book emerges out of two massive and comprehensive surveys into religion and public life in America.
Their most conspicuously controversial finding is that religious people make better citizens and neighbours. Putnam and Campbell write that ''for the most part, the evidence we review suggests that religiously observant Americans are more civic, and in some respects simply 'nicer' ''.
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On every measurable scale, religious Americans are more generous, more altruistic and more involved in civic life than their secular counterparts.
They are more likely to give blood, money to a homeless person, financial aid to family or friends, a seat to a stranger and to spend time with someone who is ''a bit down''.
Putnam and his team interviewed 3000 people twice over two years, asking a range of questions about people's religious lives as well as their civic involvement, social relationships, political beliefs, economic situation and demographic profile.
The religious landscape is very different in Australia, but what information we do have suggests similar results here. A 2004 report by the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Research and Philanthropy in Australia, found that people who said they were religious were more likely to volunteer, and for more hours, than others. The Australian Bureau of Statistics data suggests the same. Nonetheless, a study here as in-depth and wide-ranging as Putnam's would be fascinating.
Putnam says religious people don't like everything about his book, but they do like this material.
Yet, despite what I'm writing here, I'm not really claiming that people of faith are better people than non-believers.
Many of my friends have no faith and would outdo me on measures used in these surveys.
In the church, just like any area of life, it's a mixed bag of the good, the not so good and the, well, nutty.
But this research is in stark contrast to claims by prominent authors such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. After reading their works, you'd swear that religion makes you immediately abandon rationality to become an inward-looking extremist. What Putnam's book does at the very least is to bring a bit of balance into the conversation.
A sobering note for believers is that this study reveals that the content of a person's belief isn't what matters so much as their level of involvement in a religious community.
An atheist who comes to church to support her partner will rate as well as any believer on these scores.
What can't be denied, according to Putnam and Campbell, is that there is something unique about a religious community, that has an impact on people for good.
So next time a removalist truck delivers a bunch of God-botherers into your neighbourhood, don't despair. It might be reason to celebrate.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.