Remembering the Ayatollah
Posted: 26 February 2005 03:01 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Writing yesterday in the National Journal, Jonathan Rauch, with his typical good sense, recognizes the fearful symmetry between the 1989 call for the murder of author Salman Rushdie issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran and today's generation of faith-based hatred.  Osama bin Laden seeks the destruction of the West today, and we can resolve some of our present puzzlement at "why they hate us so much" by remembering that Islamist fundamentalism has hated and feared the West for long, long years.

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Posted: 26 February 2005 09:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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[quote author=“TomChicago”]Writing yesterday in the National Journal, Jonathan Rauch, with his typical good sense, recognizes the fearful symmetry between the 1989 call for the murder of author Salman Rushdie issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran and today’s generation of faith-based hatred.  Osama bin Laden seeks the destruction of the West today, and we can resolve some of our present puzzlement at “why they hate us so much” by remembering that Islamist fundamentalism has hated and feared the West for long, long years.

We also shouldn’t forget that the Ayatollah came to power at the head of a coalition force supported by wide sectors of the Iranian secular Left, whom he and his mullahs then proceded to purge and persecute.

A lesson for all those on our Left who seek, either consciously or inadvertantly, to make excuses for or common cause with clerical fascists.

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Posted: 26 February 2005 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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It’s also worth noting—as something of a canary in the coal mine—the incongruity of the responses to the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and the recent murder of Theo Van Gogh.

When the fatwa against Rushdie was issued, intellectuals from across the Western world united in his defense, signing petitions and widely condemning the Ayatollah. Rushdie became a cause celebre among progressives, regularly featured as a commentator in all the right liberal publications.

When filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered by an Islamic extremist, apparently working as part of an Al-Qaeda-affiliated cell, who left a note attached to the man’s body warning of the coming jihad against all of Europe, intellectuals from across the Western world held their tongues. Now that at least two members of the Dutch parliament are living in hiding under threat of death from jihadist death squads, the best that “progressives” in our society can seem to muster is vague mumblings about “despair” and “blowback.” A few have even suggested that Van Gogh brought it on himself for daring to make a film that protests the treatment of women in many Muslim countries.

Not a good sign at all.

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Posted: 26 February 2005 10:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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As Rauch points out, the Rushdie fatwa was analyzed, rather dimly, as a free-speech issue, while the murder of VanGogh is more clearly recognized as one of a series in the current torrent of grotesque, faith-based murders.  Perhaps the lukewarm response in the case of VanGogh is due to an unhappy recognition of the futility of discussion with his murderers.  We may have become too frightened to reply.

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Posted: 26 February 2005 09:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“TomChicago”]As Rauch points out, the Rushdie fatwa was analyzed, rather dimly, as a free-speech issue, while the murder of VanGogh is more clearly recognized as one of a series in the current torrent of grotesque, faith-based murders.  Perhaps the lukewarm response in the case of VanGogh is due to an unhappy recognition of the futility of discussion with his murderers.  We may have become too frightened to reply.

I think you’re onto something here—although it bears remembering that both the Rushdie affair and the Van Gogh murder are free speech issues. After all, if murdering a man for making an “offensive” film isn’t the ultimate form of censorship, what else is it?

I think the moral paralysis arises from the realization that it’s not just a free speech issue. That, as you said, discussion with fanatical murderers is futile.  Like the Terminator, they cannot be reasoned with, and they absolutely will not stop, ever, until secular liberalism is dead.

The recognition that Islamist violence is not fundamentally a respose to something the West has done wrong, but rather an expression of hatred for something we’re doing right, forces progressives to question their own lazy orthodoxies. Admitting that radical right-wing Muslims hate us for our good ideas and not our bad policies means admitting that a fundamental tenet of our worldview might be wrong. As does admitting in the first place that events like 9/11 and the Van Gogh murder are right-wing at all, far more so than even George W. Bush on his worst day.

Most people, being only human, cling to their comforting orthodoxies in times of crisis; hence, the silence, particularly on the Left, over the murder of Van Gogh, and the reflexive regurgitation of words like “imperialism” and “blowback” when confronted with the phenomenon of clerical fascism and its expeditionary death squads. 

This reactionary impulse—found among all True Believers of any political persuasion—helps explain, as well, the willingness of many “radicals” to believe that 9/11 was perpetrated by the CIA, or somehow “played right into their hands” (whoever “they” are),  or resort to talk of roosting chickens come home at last. It’s an abject refusal to look reality in the face, to admit that there really is something worse than the West.

And what’s more, that it’s coming for us.

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