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.) 

  • thabet

    assalaamu alaykum
    Is it possible you could direct me towards those criticisms of Rushdie by American conservatives?

  • svend

    If memory serves, Christopher Hitchens had a piece in Vanity Fair within the last few years that listed some examples of this.
    I think one critic was Mr. Family Values, William Bennett.
    Fatwah or no, Rushdie received a frosty reception in some conservative circles back in the day. He was viewed as part of the broader problem of secularist attacks on religion.
    Of course, now that the Red Menace has been repainted Green, that viewpoint is hard to find on the American Right. Muslims are no longer allies in the battle against Godless Communism. They’re its replacement as a rallying call on the Right.
    Now, conservatives make common cause with atheists and all manner of libertines to “contain” Islam.

  • TM Lutas

    Oh yes, those who take the islamist threat seriously have no concept of the word “cooptition”. Right.
    When the US votes to certify the ILGA as a UN organization, you might have a point about it making “common cause with atheists and all manner of libertines to “contain” Islam” but right now, the fact is that the islamic world and the US were on the same side of that vote and most likely countless others like it.
    In WW II, Germans, Italians, Romanians, and other nazi allied ethnics lived in terror that they too would be rounded up en masse despite their US citizenship and put in relocation camps as the japanese/japanese-americans were. It did not come out until much later that the US knew of Imperial war plans to make use of west coast japanese and 2nd generation JA to further their war aims. All these other ethnics were all scrutinized and, as the war went on and these people put on their best behavior, restrictions were reduced and fear subsided.
    Please do not imagine that reports that Al Queda operatives are being told to stay away from US mosques are not noticed. It’s a tremendous mark in your favor that US mosques are not considered safe places by the terrorists. Reports that European mosques are very often still considered safe havens also are remarked by the wider world and that’s not such a favorable mark.
    In WW II, I would have lived under the microscope as an ethnic romanian. I likely would have been marked on my military record that I was only to serve in the Pacific theater. At an early point, I might have been turned down for military service entirely due to my birthplace. I might even have had a hard time getting work in the munitions field because of fears I would be a saboteur. I would have had little patience and/or tolerance for my co-ethnics who, on purpose or by accident, committed acts to extend that term of suspicion and restriction even in the form of jokes in poor taste.
    I (and many others) look at muslims and see… a confusing mixture. We frankly don’t know what to make of you as you’re not fitting our template of “best behavior” but you’re not fitting the template of “enemy alien” either. Until one or the other template fits much better, be prepared to live in an uncomfortable place filled with misunderstanding and suspicion.

  • Peter H

    “In WW II, Germans, Italians, Romanians, and other nazi allied ethnics lived in terror that they too would be rounded up en masse despite their US citizenship and put in relocation camps as the japanese/japanese-americans were. It did not come out until much later that the US knew of Imperial war plans to make use of west coast japanese and 2nd generation JA to further their war aims. All these other ethnics were all scrutinized and, as the war went on and these people put on their best behavior, restrictions were reduced and fear subsided.”
    This is total BS. First, anybody familar with American history knows that “The Yellow Peril” hysteria goes back to way before World War II, to the beginning of the 20th century after Japanese started immigrating to the United States. So to claim that anti-Japanese prejudice was just an understandble response to Pearl Harbor is a load of crap.
    Second, the claims of Michelle Malkin et al. notwithstanding, no serious historian believes that military necessary was the primary reason behind internment. The top-secret decrypted evidence shows a very limited threat of fifth-column activity among Japanese and Japanese-Americans in 1942, one that in no way required the mass exclusion of the ethnic Japanese from the West Coast. Even John McCloy, FDR’s assistant secretary of war and one of the architects of internment, said that the Japanese were “moved largely because we felt we could not control our own white citizens in California.”

  • svend

    Thanks so much for the back-up, Peter. Couldn’t have done it better. Quite literally!
    Thanks for your comments, too, TMLutas.
    re: the Right & atheists
    Maybe I was unclear. I was referring to the way the rhetoric on the Right is evolving. Whereas once the Right, were it to attack Islam at all, would have critiqued it based on more intellectually substantial grounds, today so-called Christian conservatives are embracing the shallow rhetoric and ahistorical critiques of kneejerk secularists, arguments that could just as easily be applied to Christianity (and which in the past often were).
    The US may occasionally find itself voting on the same side of the UN as Muslim countries, but the days when American conservatives viewed Muslims as fellow supporters of family values (love ‘em or hate ‘em) are gone, I think. At least among what passes for the Right today.
    re: paranoia and discrimination towards minorities during wartime
    Peter H responded ably to many of your points.
    The only thing I’d add is that it sounds to me like you’re unconsciously assuming that the prejudices and paranoia of WWII were somehow logical and based on facts. I think that’s bunk, and I really doubt any amount of good, unthreatening behavior by Japanese Americans would budge the anti-”Jap” hysteria. More importantly, I don’t care–an American’s civil rights shouldn’t depend on their ethnicity or whether others approve of them. That’s second-class citizenship.
    re: fitting into the right “pattern” as an American
    Well, there is no right pattern. This is a society ruled by law, not prejudice or tribalism. This isn’t about Muslim Americans–it’s about all Americans. We either believe in certain values and rights regardless of race or creed or we don’t. Just as believing in free speech is only meaningful when you apply it to speech you find detestable, one’s belief in civil rights is only sincere when one applies it to those that does not like.
    So long as Muslims break no laws and present no threat to others, their beliefs are nobody’s business. Just as it’s none of my business whether Jerry Falwell believes God hears the prayers of Muslims or Jews. Unless he translates that belief into the political or social sphere in a way that undermines my rights as a Muslim, it doesn’t concern me.

  • TM Lutas

    Peter H – Why don’t you do a simple google search and find out the facts? A quick search shows that 11,000 german extraction WW II detainees were held. In fact, the last detainee released was german, not japanese in ethnicity and released in 1948. The relevant legislation authorizing enemy alien action was passed in 1798. Link at the bottom.
    Yes, there was a “yellow peril” fear out there. That doesn’t change the fact that alien registration and internment was far more extensive than just the japanese internment on the west coast. I don’t think that the internments were ultimately justified. We could have done better. That doesn’t mean that enhanced scrutiny of enemy aliens was unwarranted. It was justifiable and part of a very long tradition of US law that no doubt was first applied toward british crown loyalists.
    svend – The Nisei units fighting in the european theater pretty much shut up anti-japanese bigotry in the most compelling wartime language possible, their blood. Look up 442nd Regimental Combat Team for details (link below). A correction, european enemy aliens were not limited to fight in the Pacific, my mistake.
    The idea that you can live in atomistic isolation from your co-religionists and co-ethnics is naive at best and dangerously so. This is not a matter of bigotry, hate, or some sort of prejudice. It’s simply an artifact of the regrettable fact that muslim nutcases have decided to overturn the applecart of warfare that has been set up ever since the Thirty Years War ushered in the modern era of war rules with the Peace of Westphalia.
    Muslims are being called to war by Al Queda and being called to ignore nation and state boundaries for the greater glory of the restored islamic caliphate. That makes the problem an explicitly muslim one, not one facing all americans.
    If it’s any consolation, the PRC is putting ethnic chinese in the same sort of hot water by their policy of treating all chinese ethnics regardless of citizenship as part of greater China and thus having the obligation to provide secrets to the PRC government. Since this sort of thing hasn’t killed too many people yet, we don’t get too hot over it. That could change.

  • Peter H

    TM Lutas,
    Where did I deny that German-Americans (or Italian-Americans, for that matter) were interned during World War II? Of course, The difference is that in the case of the Japanese-Americans, it was wholesale and included those who were born in the United States.
    In my comment, I acknolwedged that there was a limited and narrow threat of sabotage by Japanese citizens and citizens of Japanese descent. That doesn’t change the fact that, as Svend says, the response to this threat was shaped by racist anti-Japanese paranoia. In the half-century before Pearl Harbor, Americans were bombarded by vicious propaganda about the threat posed by Japanese immigrants to the integrity of the white race and the safety of the American homeland. The wartime hysteria about Japanese was unmistakably a direct product of this bigotry.
    By the way, thanks for providing the link to the article on the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Since you claim that the 442nd Regiment “pretty much shut up anti-japanese bigotry”, you might want to read over this paragraph of the article again:
    “The unit’s exemplary service and many decorations did not change attitudes of the general U.S. population to people of Japanese descent after World War II. Veterans were welcomed home by signs that read “No Japs Allowed” and “No Japs Wanted”, and many veterans were denied service in shops and restaurants, and had their homes and property vandalized.”

  • TM Lutas

    Peter H – If your quotation had dropped the first sentence, you wouldn’t have conveyed the idea that you thought that german, italian, romanian, etc. internment too was “BS”. Be a little more selective in your quotations and you’ll get less misunderstanding of your point.
    As for attitudes toward the Nisei, wow, it took time, sometimes many years, for attitudes to change in a country of hundreds of millions of people. Do you want to do a comparative measure of say 4 decades of comparison between coptic christians in Egypt and japanese americans in the US? Pick any 4 post WW II decades you like. I’m not saying that America is perfect. Only a fool would do that. I’m saying that in this sad world, the speed of change has to be rated in comparison to the rest of it and on that comparative scale America’s pretty high in the “doesn’t suck as much” scale. In fact, the entire West is not doing too bad.
    Would I like brotherhood and harmony to break out across the planet right now? Of course I would as any decent human being does. That doesn’t mean that if the world or a section of it fails to immediately implement utopia I’m going to beat them up (especially if the rest of the world is doing worse).
    Up until 9/11, the US discriminated against Nazis, Anarchists, and Communists. Post 9/11 we’ve pretty much settled on adding Islamists to the list but haven’t quite figured out how. We run investigations against those three movements and have for decades. We spy on them, mark them down and keep them out of certain sensitive positions. Killing close to 3k people perfidiously gets our attention. So, yeah, it’s going to suck to be you until we all figure out how to target Islamists but not ordinary muslims. The entire USA needs help in target discrimination.
    Hunters wear blaze orange, soldiers wear uniforms, jews kicked the christians out of the synagogues what are you muslims going to do to help separate the Islamists out?