Broadening Our Response to Radical Islamism

by Lorna Salzman

Dear friends:

As a recent communication from Stand With Us proved, the threats to those who practice the Jewish faith are unceasing and increasing; regrettably, these threats do not emanate solely from the radical islamists but from many misguided Jews and from sectarian American leftists.

Two things need to be heeded:

The knee-jerk support of radical Islam, as illustrated by the US Green Party extremist resolution 190 for a boycott/divestment stance towards Israel (a policy now wisely retracted by the Presbyterian Church), stems less from a love for Islam than from hatred of the United States and its hegemonic ambitions abroad. Israel is no longer seen as a bulwark against communism but against radical Islam. As such, it has an important role in present American foreign policy, whether you like it or not. Because American leftists are politically ineffective, divided and dedicated to fanatic ideology, they are nonexistent on the American political indeed they have always been. This has been a benefit up until now. But with the onset of the Iraq war, the Bush regime, the oil crisis, and of course worldwide Islamic terrorism, the American left has found new ways of ranting and raving. This is no substitute for political action of course, but it does find supporters among the small minority of Americans who also hate this country. Their inability to function in the political arena means that they will continue seeking surrogates, such as the US Green Party, churches, labor,peace groups, etc., to do their dirty work. It is crucial that Jews, whether Zionists or not, whether pro or anti Israel, understand how they are being manipulated by these extremists from the far left and from radical Islam.

The second thing is the existing and long-term threat to secular democracy and the urgency of not being intimidated and prevented fromcriticizing radical Islamism and its horrific human rights abuses against women, non-Muslims and secularists everywhere in the world. The anti-semitism routinely broadcast by Arab and Moslem countries and inculcated in their media, schools and public policies is vile and dangerous, but this intolerance of non Muslims is not limited to Judaism. Christians too are now being suppressed and oppressed in these countries. Islamic terrorism, as you well know, is not limited to the US or to western Europe. It takes place in Asia and Africa as well. The myth that US support for Israel is the main reason behind Islamic hatred and terrorism is one of the biggest lies ever perpetrated. Anyone who follows the statements and policies of Islamic states knows full well that Islamism is dedicated to wiping nonMuslim nations off the face of the earth in the long term; in the short term it will rely on intimidation, terrorism, the pretense of being "victims" (as opposed to perpetrators) of repression, Political Correctness, and in general all kinds of behavioral strategies to draw attention away from the execrations they believe in and practice: oppression of women and staunch opposition to civil liberties, personal freedom and democracy. If you go to Islamic web sites, you will see clearly their opposition to these fundamental principles of secular western nations and political systems. It will scare you, I guarantee.

Peace activists and religious organizations continue to pretend that these views are subject to moderation and modification, and that peaceful dialogue and "multicultural" societies will assist in bringing radical Islam into western society without conflict. The problem is that Muslims, with some exceptions depending on the country they live in, do not WANT to be assimilated and do not WANT to accept the norms and principles of secular society. They want to be able to get the benefits of these societies without giving up their patriarchal authoritarian beliefs and practices. In Canada, they tried (unsuccessfully) to get a law passed that would have given Muslim men the legal power to control women's behavior and rights. Wherever they are given an inch, they will take a mile. We cannot, we must not, allow any breaches in secular democracy. Above all, we must not allow ourselves to be silenced. We must demand and we must practice our right of freedom of expression, whether it applies to Muslims, Catholics, Jews, or any other religion. The notion of "cultural relativism" has allowed female genital mutilation to continue in western Europe, where fathers take their daughters (born in western Europe) back to their native Muslim countries for mutilation. Religion is not exempt from criticism any more than any other system of belief. Criticism of Islamic oppression of women must become louder. In this respect, we must rebut the American left which has studiously ignored the barbarisms of present day Islamism in much the way same way that American leftists supported Stalin and refused to acknowledge his crimes against humanity.

Human rights activists like the courageous Ayaan Hirsi Ali, now resident in the US, have made this exact point. Ali,in her book The Caged Virgin, talks about how she had looked for support to western secular leftists..and found NONE. Western, and especially American leftists, have taped their eyes and mouths shut at radical islam, at the beheading of 7 year old girls by their fathers, by gang rapes and reciprocal murders sanctioned by families and islamic communities as well as religious leaders. THE AMERICAN LEFT IS COMPLICIT IN ISLAMIST CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY. It needs to be confronted, challenged, and undermined. The American Left is now, arguably, as dangerous to secular democracy and freedom as islamism is. But we cannot leave this job to the neoconservatives; we must make it clear that as Americans of all political stripes, who may or may not support some conservative policies, we must insist on our right to criticize those who threaten our freedom, whether from the left or right.

The Jewish community in the United States needs to understand the joined threats of terrorism, oppression of women, and destruction of secular democracy. These are not separate. The fight against Palestinian violence against Israel is not enough. Israel is only one brush fire in the potentially global conflagration.
American Jews need to broaden their views and their objectives, and understand that even if the Israel-Palestine battle quiets down, the enemies of democracy, civil liberties and women's rights will continue on other fronts, both in the US and elsewhere. Truly, we are in a war, a clash not of civilizations but a clash between fanatic ideologues with a totalitarian religious view of how the world should be run, and those who live under Enlightenment values and principles, where religion has no more influence than astrology (and of course neither one has any more validity than the other).

To accomplish this, we need more than interfaith dialogues and entreaties on how to include spiritual values in our daily life. We also need to be able to speak freely about religion .....after all, radical leftists dont seem particularly bothered by islamist anti semitism when it is broadcast daily throughout the Arab is only when secularists criticize islam that they start to foam at the mouth.

Let us hope that the Jewish community will put the Israel-Palestine conflict in this broader context and that it will understand that the fight is on many fronts and will continue indefinitely. What is at stake is our freedom, nothing less.

© 2002 Lorna Salzman. All rights reserved. Material may be quoted with permission.