Yesterday on the NPR show Fresh Air, Terry Gross hosted Haroon Moghul, discussing his memoir, How to Be a Muslim. Moghul is charming and intelligent. The book involves his struggle to reconcile a sophisticated American life with the traditional code he grew up with.
Moghul: I wanted to be Muslim, and I wanted to figure out a way to do that on my own terms.
Gross: It’s so important for you to challenge the stereotypes that some Americans have of Islam – the stereotype of like, you know, terrorism – that in order to challenge those stereotypes, does that make it difficult for you to also challenge the parts of Islam that you don’t like, you know, the dictators, ISIS?
Moghul: It’s like walking a tightrope. How do you be publicly critical of a community and a religion that you love? And at a time when those identities are under attack, what does it mean to be sincerely critical of your own community?
Last year Bernie Sanders said there’s a war for the soul of Islam, and no doubt he is right about this. A number of Arab societies have problems with dictators, as Gross points out. But what about the war for the soul of Judaism? Today a great number of Jewish institutions are committed to a militant nationalist ideology, Zionism, that is completely out of step with 21st century pluralist values, an ideology that roughly half of the people under Israel’s governance reject– the non-Jews– and that has no other devotees outside the intolerant rightwing Christian community, which ought to tell you something. But both Gross and Sanders remain committed to this traditional code, so they can’t interrogate it. It really is much easier to see the mote in someone else’s eye than the beam in your own.
The mainstream can’t get enough of the anti-Islamist struggle. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and another Muslim woman lately gave testimony to Congress on “Islamist oppression.” A few days later they were featured on the New York Times op-ed page. The same page that employs a stable of Zionist columnists, and not an anti-Zionist in sight.
There really is something camp about all the anti-Islamist material in these venues. Because it’s not ours. We have our own crap to deal with — militant religious nationalism — and there’s a war for the soul of Judaism over it — but you’d never know it from these leading media figures. Terry Gross has never featured Miko Peled or Max Blumenthal or Anna Baltzer or Alice Rothchild — Jewish authors who are struggling with their community’s Zionist inheritance. The most important issue in Jewish political culture: swept under the rug. The New York Times can’t go near this struggle either. Except to dis anti-Zionists.
Chris Hayes at MSNBC isn’t much better, by the way. He’s from the Nation, and he knows the story about Palestine. But even as he brags about being open to rightwing Republicans–
Today we asked literally every single Republican Senator to come on our show. They all declined.
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) June 23, 2017
he can’t find Alice Rothchild or Max Blumenthal’s phone number. Hayes has never to my knowledge had an anti-Zionist on air to talk about the war for the soul of Judaism. Could that have anything to do with the fact that the top execs at Comcast have Zionist bona fides, David Cohen having raised money for the Israeli army and for the effort to redeem the Jewish land of Israel? But of course. Over at Time Warner, a top exec has served as a speechwriter for Benjamin Netanyahu. No problem!
Speaking of the monoculture, Gross’s guest, Haroon Moghul also works for a Zionist institution, the Shalom Hartman Institute. Though Moghul was careful to say he’s not a Zionist.
One thing I do for Hartman, however, is I do teach courses on Islam and the Muslim world and share my perspective and Muslim and Palestinian perspectives on the conflict, again, not because I want my audience to necessarily agree with everything I’m saying but simply to develop an appreciation for a narrative they may have never encountered. And I say that as someone who’s studied the region academically, who’s traveled throughout the region and feels deeply invested in the conflict.
Despite his deep investment, Gross asked him nothing about the Palestinian story yesterday. Monocultures are unstable, monocultures can disappear. There are too many oaks in the forests in upstate New York. There used to be too many chestnuts. A squirrel could go from Maine to Florida just leaping from one chestnut to another, it was said. Now they’re almost all gone. The same thing is going to happen to this anti-Islamist chic.