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The New Islamophobia

There’s a longstanding joke, around since young people first started dabbling in New Age spirituality, that the “faith” of rebellious youth who call themselves “spiritual but not religious” is A.B.C. — Anything But Christianity. It’s hard not to see that concept underlying most mainstream discussions of religious issues these days, most notably in recent public discussions of Islam.

Richard Landes writes in London’s Telegraph (Aug. 24) about an “elite that controls much of the discussion in the public sphere (journalists, academics, talking heads, mainstream politicians) and who fear being called Islamo­phobes and racists more than they fear Islamist racists.” This elite can be found shaking fingers at the man on the street who voices concern about the behavior of Muslims, chastising him as an Islamophobic racist. Landes describes how Islamic religious culture is an honor culture, where it is legitimate, expected, even required, to shed blood to save face or to redeem the dishonored face. Since public criticism of a Muslim figure is a perceived assault on the very “face” of the person criticized, a genuinely free press, among other freedoms, is impossible in a Muslim culture, no matter what the laws on the books might proclaim. Landes continues:

The “thin skin” of Muslims is proverbial, and much public, diplomatic, and even academic discourse tacitly acknowledges and placates that cultural reality. In the last decade this has gotten much worse. The behavior of the self-identified “progressive” “left” — traditionally the bastion of stinging public criticism of abuse of power, misogyny and belligerence — has been overwhelmingly placatory towards touchy Muslims. Repeatedly, they step in to prevent anyone (fellow infidels), whom they smear as Islamophobes, from saying something that might bruise Muslims feelings.

The final point Landes drives home is that journalists and academic talking heads are subject to a different kind of Islamophobia: an inordinate fear of criticizing Islam.

This fear sometimes regrettably translates into “interfaith educators” placating Muslims by mindlessly elevating Islam while deliberately shortchanging — even outright lying about — Christianity. Case in point: A heated dispute is well underway in the U.S. between parrot-mouthed Pollyannas who repeat the stock line that Islam is a “religion of peace” and those warning of a creeping jihadist takeover. These two groups, who refer to each other as “conservative pundits” and “clueless liberals,” have locked horns over New York’s Ground Zero in recent months, hosting competing events to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

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