Recently someone on a mailing list that I’m on asked for suggestions of American media or thinkers who challenge the Neocon world view that makes Muslims the root of all evil today. He was especially interested in sources coming at it from the right and that themselves had solid pro-Israeli credentials.
What follows is the gist of my response.
There was a time when this task wouldn’t have been quite so difficult, but now that we’ve replaced for most of the American Right the Reds as the Bogey Man/Anti-Christ/Raison d’etre/Justification-for-endless-Defense-pork I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a single person with widespread credibility on the Right who’s publicly refuting this Islamophobic nonsense while still being in the pro-Israel lobby’s good graces. These maladies tend to go hand in hand.
Of the big names on the Right, Robert Novack and Pat Buchanan are probably the only major pundits that could be said to be remotely pro-Arab or pro-Palestinian, but I don’t think they’re likely to critique Islamophobic myths except indirectly when they happen to shoot down these myths’ purveyors.
The simplest thing is probably to buy the person a subscription to The American Conservative , a fascinating paleocon publication that bluntly challenges the Neocon world view (including
uncritical support for Israel), and from a conservative perspective. While it’s not necessarily pro-Muslim in its outlook–its editor has said some rather problematic things about Islam and Muslims–it’s certainly an enemy of our enemies that calls into question the legitimacy of key
assumptions behind Islamophobic discourse today.
One refreshing recent example of dissent about Islamophobia on the Right (and in the New York Post of all places) was Ralph Peters’ couragous column, "Islam-haters: An Enemy Within", about which I’ve blogged previously.
I’d also recommend Charlie Reese, a rare conservative columnist who’s been courageously talking sense about Muslims and the Middle East for years, and no doubt paid a heavy price professionally for it.
There’s the Independent Institute in California, a libertarian think tank which seems to live up to its name and which has had the vision and courage to work with an up and coming Muslim organization ISPU. It has at times provided a platform for truly radical critiques of the tired post-9/11 Beltway thinking on defense and foreign affairs. Its Ivan Eland has been a particularly articulate critic of War on Terror hysteria and sensationalism.
Speaking of Eland and the Independent Institute, I think they illustrate the truth of the old business mantra, Location, location, location! Except with the twist that when it comes to political engagement and integrity in American politics today, you’re best off being away from where the "action" is:
Perhaps their secret is being in California, beyond the crushing gravitational pull of that intellectual black hole known as the "Beltway Consensus".
In an incisive essay after the 7/7 attack ("Why did terrorists strike London?"), Eland cut through the conventional weasel words and rationalizations and pointed to the elephant in the room so stuidiously ignored inside the Beltway, the inevitable radicalization caused by blatantly partisan and self-evidently immoral American foreign policy:
Anytime non-combatants are purposefully killed, a monstrous moral crime has been committed. But in the United States, no one ever seems to ask why the attackers are motivated to commit such horrendous acts. Much of the U.S. public seems to believe President Bush’s erroneous claim that the Islamists are attacking the United States because it is “free” instead of honestly examining the history of the U.S. government’s profligate meddling in the affairs of other countries.
There’s good old antiwar.com. Especially Justin Raimondo, who is a tiger who ruthlessly punctures Washington complancency and sound-bytes on the Middle East . (Would love to see him get into the ring with Christopher Hitchens.)
None of these tackle the pseudo-academic attacks on Islam of propagandists-in-historians-clothing like Robert Spencer or Daniel Pipes. (I should note that I do not categorize Bernard Lewis thus, even with his many faults and evident bias.)
That’s a different type of scholarly endeavor that will only (and, I suspect, can only) be done by Muslims. It’s happening piecemeal all over the place, but it’s much harder to come up with a "one-stop shop" for talking points in those equally critical debates.