Those who argued against Richard Landes at this recent conference aren’t saying that there is no intersection between Muslims/the Islamic world and antisemitism – heck, even Loonwatch probably wouldn’t say that – only that one should not make generalisations about all Muslims. However I do agree with Landes that it might not be correct to limit the problem to Islamists, as it seems possible to me that antisemitism might be disproportionately common, for cultural (not excluding religious) reasons, even amongst Muslims who could not be described as Islamists. In a sense this possibility could be used against the idea that it is the inherent and unique potential for antisemitism within Islam (as opposed to a complex blend of contingent factors) which is the root of the problem.
Dave Rich reported on some of Landes’ more extreme statements at the conference:
Then there was Richard Landes describing British Muslims as “resident aliens” and implying (in answer to my question) that every mosque and halal butcher is part of a global Islamist conspiracy to enslave mankind.
Although Landes does respond to Dave’s objections in his own post, he seems to occlude the middle ground between the position that there is no problem with Islamism, on the one hand, and, on the other, the idea that every halal outlet is a sinister pawn in Islam’s endgame.
At the same conference objections were also raised to Manfred Gerstenfeld who asserted that Islamic culture is inferior to Western culture. I’d like to make quite a soft response to this rather than an indignant rebuttal. Although there are plenty of problems in countries with Muslim majority populations, there are also pretty pressing problems in other countries too – Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, Belarus, even Greece. The West/Muslim binary is only part of the pattern.
The conference in question was sponsored by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and this connection has recently been analysed by Loonwatch. They take issue with the inclusion of Bat Ye’or on the editorial board. This does not surprise me, as I’m well aware that she is a controversial figure, associated with Eurabia theories. I’d want to look at her views more closely before dismissing everything she has argued rather than sum up quickly based on a cursory scan of the interwebs. But Dave Rich reported statements, apparently made by her at the conference, which are certainly startling:
‘Europe has been Palestinianised like it was Nazified decades ago’; ‘The Western mind has been impregnated with Islamic culture and concepts’; ‘the peace process is part of a European final solution for Israel’; etc etc were deeply objectionable.
The board also includes Daniel Pipes. He is not an extreme opponent of Islam, because he does acknowledge different strands, including reforming strands. But his support for Gert Wilders, for example, helps explain Loonwatch’s concerns.Loonwatch also objects to Andrew Bostom, who has in the past worked quite closely with Geller and Spencer, and to Phyllis Chesler, whose complaints about double standards in this article might reasonably be resented by American Muslims who probably feel they shouldn’t be held accountable for human rights violations in Muslim countries.
There’s much more which could be explored here. Loonwatch concludes by suggesting that the British walkout could be contrasted with American apathy in the face of those they would describe as bigots. But Dave Rich is still taken to task, by Garibaldi, for his ostensibly mild reaction to the conference – for only saying that statements made ‘could be construed as Islamophobic’. (And DR didn’t seem to feel, judging from comments he made following the earlier post on this issue, that he had been very accurately quoted by the JC.) But when it comes to understatement – Loonwatch’s Danios seems positively British: “Qaradawi has definitely said things that raise some eyebrows, and we certainly do not endorse those views or opinions” Whose eyebrows wouldn’t go up when hearing someone claim that Hitler had a point?
Building on the idea of mirroring patterns between the discourses of antisemitism and Islamophobia, I raised the possibility of parallels between the category of ‘self-hating Jews’ and those Muslims Loonwatch terms ‘loons’ or ‘native informants’. I then decided it would be interesting to investigate the editorial board of a Journal of Islamophobia Studies which Loonwatch flagged here. This was partly prompted by Garibaldi’s comment to me:
I mean if a Muslim or an antizionist were to write well about anti-Muslim bigotry but then spout nonsense about Jewish control over the media, would you tolerate such an individual as you do Melanie Phillips? I wouldn’t and I don’t think you would either.
Two figures from the journal’s editorial board stood out as noteworthy. Hatem Bazian emerges from his Wikipedia article as a controversial figure. Not all the assertions about him are properly documented, but here is one of the fuller accounts of one striking (alleged) episode.
Back in the 90′s when Hatem was at San Francisco State University, he participated in an assault on the offices of the Golden Gater student newspaper accusing it of being full of Jewish spies. Jewish students had complained about anti-Semitic behavior by Bazian, in his role as student body president, and his campaign against Hillel, the leading Jewish campus organization, was a direct attempt to disenfranchise Jewish students.
The SJP organization allowed Hatem an even larger platform for his violent bigotry. In April 2002, seventy-nine members of SJP attempted to disrupt a Holocaust Remembrance Day event and were arrested. At a rally to protest their arrests, Bazian said, “take a look at the type of names on the building around campus — Haas, Zellerbach — and decide who controls this university.”
Ramon Grosfuguel seems to think that Jews cannot really be victims of racism because they have been classified as ‘white’ whereas those who are black, Muslim or Arab cannot be racist because they belong to groups which are subjected to racism. He writes in lurid terms about Israel in this article (pdf), repeatedly making parallels between Zionism and Nazism:
How different is the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Hitlerism? GAZA is today the equivalent continuity of the Warsaw ghetto.
(And, yes, GAZA is printed in capitals throughout the article.) So, here we have one out of five board members apparently echoing the very trope Garibaldi cites as inexcusable (Jewish control) and another invoking ‘Zionazi’ parallels between Gaza and Warsaw which are as stupid as they are offensive.
Finally – I’m astonished Loonwatch didn’t point out that Ayaan Hirsi Ali was on the board of the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism!