Fri 13 Jul 2012
A variety of Islamophobes have comfortable media niches, including “opinion writer” Charles Krauthammer, whose Krauthammering away at Islam as a political force in yesterday’s Washington Post is yet another low blow. Krauthammer admits, almost laments, that Libya “appears to have elected a relatively moderate pro-Western government.” But, then who cares since “Libya is less a country than an oil well with a long beach and myriad tribes.” I suppose one could expand on this to argue that Texas is less a state than an oil well with a long beach and myriad rednecks. Libya is a country, Mr. Krauthammer, and one that is struggling to remake itself after decades of a dictator that the West loved to hate but actually did nothing to undo. Ah, but after all, this is obviously an exception in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring.”
They say that ignorance is bliss, so consider the bliss as Krauthammer’s view unfolds: “Tunisia and Morocco, the most Westernized of all Arab countries, elected Islamist governments. ” The most “Westernized”? This might come as a surprise to the Lebanese, unless they fail to qualify as Arab. Does he mean that they happen to be rather close to Europe? Is being “Westernized” a geographical issue? Does being “Westernized” mean accepting American foreign policy without reservations or having access to iphones and Hollywood movies? Morocco, by the way, is still a kingdom and not part of the “Arab Spring.”
But then comes the slippery turn of phrase: “Moderate, to be sure, but Islamist still.” This is a new twist in the usual media hype about “Islamism,” which almost always is simply a euphemism for “terrorism” with a veneer of Islamic rhetoric. The Taliban are Islamists who shoot women accused of adultery and Mali rebels who tear down centuries-old Islamic shrines and Boko Harem who target fellow Africans converted to Christianity in the heyday of unfettered missionary exploitation. So it seems like being a moderate Islamist is an oxymoron. Or is Krauthammer trying to smooth the electoral path of Mitt Romney, of whom it might be said “moderate, to be sure, but Mormon still.” Reading along we see that Egypt has experienced an “Islamist sweep” but that the ones in power are not the “openly radical Islamists.” Aha, but then they must be in Krauthammerian terms stealth radical Islamists, because the only good Islamist is one that is so thoroughly Westernized that he or she could conceivably just be called a “Muslim.” Imagine that.
Now comes the domino, and I don’t mean pizza. Once Syria falls, it too will be Islamist, as will Jordan and we already know that Hamas has taken over Gaza. Krauthammer is entirely right when he talks about the failure of the dictators: “But the self-styled modernism of the Arab-nationalist dictators proved to be a dismal failure. It produced dysfunctional, semi-socialist, bureaucratic, corrupt regimes that left the citizenry (except where papered over by oil bounties) mired in poverty, indignity and repression.” But he fails to understand why it was a failure. We in the West, along with the Soviets in Cold War collusion, supported these tyrants, flooding their countries with arms and failing to press them on their blatant human rights violations.
Of course this is not a simplistic “Facebook Revolution”, but it is hard to image the spread of the uprisings without digital and social media. No, it was not a plot arranged in advance by the Muslim Brothers. The dictators stifled all legitimate opposition, which is why so-called “Islamist” groups gained support. Indeed “they” have been the best organized, but who exactly is the “they” here. The term “Islamist” homogenizes Muslims into a particular political paradigm that commentators like Krauthammer define as anti-Western to the core.
Krauthammer is right when he says that “Radical Islam is the answer to nothing, as demonstrated by the repression, social backwardness and civil strife of Taliban Afghanistan, Islamist Sudan and clerical Iran.” But he does not appear to believe that any kind of Islam can fail to take the same political road. It has to “adapt to modernity” as though modernity is some neutral stage that must be defined in a certain “Western” way. So perhaps Krauthammer thinks he himself is moderate, but he is still Islamophobic.
Daniel Martin Varisco