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Anti-Islamist chic

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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–

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.

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13 Responses

  1. gamal
    July 7, 2017, 12:55 pm

    “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 real problems with dictators, as Gross points out.”

    in the war for Islams soul, suppose the dark side wins, which it must do, if you understand the frame and nature of this “narrative”, what then?

    there is a war being waged in support of Imperial extra-territorial interests, contrary to “law”, thats one way of looking at it, sure there are other ways of looking at it , but are they useful? and if so for what?

    the struggle over meaning in Islam has been pervasive, continuous and intense from day one, in the cave, I wouldn’t expect it to end soon, but I doubt it has significant geo-political impact.

    “Dictators” is doing way too much work, do we have dictators because the soul of Islam is not yet ready for democracy, and why is that any of your business, if you keep framing things in the same way you will keep seeing chimera like Islams soul on some imaginary field of battle,

    “as Gross pointed out” well he googled “Arab”, its like parkour is made infinitely more difficult in a Zimmer Frame, consider your framing of these issues, I guess you could do with out it, sometimes the frame is the issue.

    Islam is characterised by ikhtilaf in all things, so is quite soulless and not an issue and will never settle down, no matter how much it is bombed.

    • Citizen
      July 7, 2017, 5:55 pm

      For those ignorant as I am: Search Results
      Ikhtilaf (Arabic: disagreement‎‎) is an Islamic scholarly religious disagreement, and is hence the opposite of ijma. Islam teaches that when there is a scholarly disagreement on a certain issue, it is impermissible to condemn a person who follows a position that is different from one’s own.

      Question, is there a similar term in the Talmudist tradition? Does it impact differently than iktilaf in the same way?

  2. DaBakr
    July 7, 2017, 1:24 pm

    Poor PW. Still can’t figure out why his creatures, MxB & a. Rothschild don’t make it into the
    mainstream left media.

    • Mooser
      July 7, 2017, 2:33 pm

      “Poor PW. Still can’t figure out why his creatures, MxB & a. Rothschild don’t make it into the mainstream left media.”

      Poor “DaBoer”, he still can’t figure out why he is posting at Mondoweiss, and can’t make it into Zionist media.

      • Citizen
        July 7, 2017, 5:57 pm

        Is it true or not that anybody with google can ascertain credible evidence of the impact of the Rothschild family on world events over the last few centuries? Just asking.

      • Mooser
        July 7, 2017, 6:11 pm

        ” impact of the Rothschild family on world events over the last few centuries?”

        Well, that’s nice, but I tend to think Alice Rothchild (no “s”) will have an impact on the next few centuries.

  3. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    July 7, 2017, 2:40 pm

    San bernardino, orlando, manchester. I conclude: anti islamist chic is not about to disappear. Myself, I do not know the path forward. I’m offended by trump, but I know human politics too well to see this issue disappearing. We’ll see how the Supreme Court rules on the trump ban and how europe deals with their extremely more fraught tensions. But no. This issue will not disappear.

    A discussion of zionism here on mw and in the comments section in particular is an absurd enterprise. Like Eugene McCarthy in chicago 68- I think you know where I stand.

    • Mooser
      July 7, 2017, 4:10 pm

      “A discussion of zionism here on mw and in the comments section in particular is an absurd enterprise.”

      In that case “Yonah”, you should remain adamantly aloof from this “absurd enterprise”, and refuse to lend your credibility and authority to it. And don’t dignify my comment with a response.

      “This issue will not disappear.”

      Whew, so you figure you’ll be able to count on anti-Muslim bigotry for the foreseeable future?

      ” I think you know where I stand.”

      Could you reiterate your position? Where you stand is of desperate importance to us.

    • Mooser
      July 7, 2017, 4:23 pm

      “San bernardino, orlando, manchester.”

      Don’t forget Winona, Kingman, and Barstow.

      • gamal
        July 7, 2017, 5:16 pm

        “and Barstow.”

        say anyone tried shouting Allahu Akbar(u) (min kuli shai) in your local mall, then you going to see the bats and feel the fear and loathing

        allhumak finihim bima sh’ta

  4. JoeSmack
    July 8, 2017, 2:11 am

    In fairness Hayes has had on Noura Erakat, who is against Zionism.

  5. Jackdaw
    July 8, 2017, 3:37 am

    I thought this article was going to about Islam, not Israel.
    What happened?

  6. YoniFalic
    July 8, 2017, 12:59 pm

    As far as I can tell, US media panders Jewish bigotries in many ways far more than Israeli media.

    I have been doing some research in IP for an Appeal Brief to which I have input.

    I came across a play called “Peace Warriors” by Fordham University Professor Doron Ben-Atar.

    It appears to be trashy bad scripting that makes fun of American academics that take anti-Zionist or anti-Israel positions.

    Please try the following google-search.

    Then look at The New Republic’s review.

    Peace Warriors
    By The New Republic Staff
    July 9, 2009

    David A. Bell teaches History at Johns Hopkins and is a contributing editor of The New Republic.

    Too much “political” playwriting these days is painfully predictable: a textureless mash of piety, platitude and outrage. Peace Warriors, which premieres this weekend at the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, and will move to New York next month, is a welcome exception. Written by the Israeli-American historian and playwright Doron Ben-Atar, it is a savagely witty satire of elite American academics, and their attitudes towards the Middle East. Ben-Atar, a former basketball player for Maccabi Tel Aviv who teaches early American history at Fordham, considers himself on the left within the Israeli political spectrum. But he has long lost patience with the unthinking anti-Israeli prejudice he has found at American universities. In Peace Warriors he brilliantly exposes just how unthinking and destructive it can be. The play has already garnered considerable attention in Israel (see this story in Haaretz), but it is on the East Coast that it deserves to have its greatest impact.

    –David A. Bell

    And then look at the review from

    Peace Warriors (Teatron, Toronto Jewish Theatre)
    Teatron’s attempt to break into a more daring, contemporary theatrical world just didn’t work, not because they or their core subscriber base can’t handle a more daring, contemporary theatrical world (in fact, the audience seemed to be appreciating the change of pace) but simply because they picked a bad play and did it badly. Doron Ben-Atar’s text is populated by unlikeable characters who don’t have enough interesting things to say to pull off being so unlikeable, and the cast assembled to bring them to unfortunate life suffered from awkwardness and universally clunky delivery styles. Nothing here felt honest at all, from the accent work to the chemistry between characters in a longstanding affair (or those wrapped up in a sudden hookup, for that matter) to the family photos on the mantel that were really just actors’ headshots, to the New York intellectual in a Red Sox t-shirt who randomly quotes Guys & Dolls. An ill-advised Rachel Corrie reference hung a lantern on the fact that this play is very conscious of its controversial topics but isn’t good enough to be worth kicking up a fuss over.

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