National Review on Denmark’s “Democratic Muslims”

There’s an unremarkable piece in The National Review by Andrew Stuttaford on Denmark’s Naser Khader and his Democratic Muslims group.

Predictably, the article cites Ahmed Akkari’s infamous quip about killing Khader by blowing up the Ministry of Integration as prima facie proof of dangerous extremism, as opposed to what such silly melodramatic declarations generally are in the real world, exagerrations for dramatic effect and/or rants to let off steam.

Yes, I said "silly", not "outrageous" or "dangerous".  I don’t know Akkari, but I do know that like everybody else, Muslims sometimes joke in poor taste, overreact, exaggerate, misspeak, or otherwise stick their foots in their mouths by saying things in way that can misconstrued as endorsing violence, prejudice, or some other dark force in human affairs. 

When a cleancut non-Muslim does so towards Muslims, the media briefly and mildly chides the offender for his unenlightened words; the offender explains that his words have been misunderstood either because they were taken out of context or because they do not represent his values; and the world forgives, forgets and moves on. 

When a Muslim commits the same sin, a firestorm of indignation erupts, along with a that now familiar chorus of I-told-you-so’s from the bigot gallery, the offender is instantly tried in the media, found guilty of the worst possible intent (regardless of his explanation), and branded an extremist for for all eternity. 

So, Muslim utterances are to be judged by a special standard.  That’s the beauty of the circular reasoning of Muslim bashers today.  No matter what Muslims actually say, their words get spun as incriminating, which reinforces the stereotypes fueling this whole cycle in the first place.

The same pundits who explain away "Bomb Mecca"-type rhetoric against Muslims and Islam take Akkari’s quip as an unamibiguous threat rather than what probably was given the context, an expression of hostility towards an unpopular and polarizing figure among Muslims. 

Imagine if Clarence Thomas, an outspoken critic of Affirmative Action and rightwinger whose politics are deeply out of step (if not downright offensive to) the values of most African Americans, were being considered to head the NAACP.  To many Black people, this would not only be an insult but a grave threat.  Would it be all that shocking if Al Sharpton were were to joke that he’d blow the place to smithereens before he let that come to pass?  Well, the situation was similar in the case of Khader being considered for the post of Minister of Integration.  By Khader’s own words, his foremost qualification for such a post is that he’d be his conservative Muslim opponents’ "worst nightmare".  Sounds like an unlikely peace maker, and a figure who’s guaranteed to raise Muslims’ hackles and inspire passionate reactions.

Finally, there’s the "How is this any of your damn business?" factor.  Is it frankly anyone’s business, much less that of non-Muslims who aren’t even part of the Danish Muslim community, what kind of jokes Akkari makes in private to his associates?  Is it my business whether you tell offensive jokes to your buddies?  Is it a legitimate subject of public outrage if X person makes politically incorrect jokes behind closed doors?  Is this something for the government to be sticking its nose into, all you proponents of "small government"?

Imagine if the FBI started tracking deeply offensive statements about or possible threats against Muslims  comparably.  I bet a single table’s dinner conversation at a reception at just one of the various Beltway institutes promoting endless conflict with Islam and Muslims (e.g., AEI, WINEP,…) would keep the agency busy investigating nebulous threats for days.  Worse, imagine if they started monitoring prominent online fora like LittleGreenFootballs, where Muslims, Arabs and Islam are slurred in language that would make a Klansman blush, as they do Islamic  websites.

I will give the author a bit of credit, though, for realizing that Khader’s cultural brand of Islam is out of sync with that of many if not most Danish Muslims.  (He notes his doubts that Khader’s religious sensibilities reflect those of most Danish Muslims.) 

The irony is that were Khader not the avowed foe of the National Review’s enemies and were Islam-bashing not the new rallying call for much of the American Right, he’d probably getting tarred as another postmodern liberal intellectual.  But happily for him, geopolitics trumps religious values these days.  (There was a time when a conservative American publication might’ve been less kind to Khader’s worldview, as the criticisms of Salman Rushdie from prominent American conservatives during the 1980s show.) 

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