Monday, February 16, 2015

Nothing To Do With Islamism. Nothing At All.

In mid-January, a few days after the murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo, Vox's Max Fisher wrote

In October, as American attention to ISIS coincided with the previous of many upticks in media Islamophobia, the center of the conversation was Bill Maher, a comedian and HBO talk show host who is well-known for his Islamophobic views. Maher said that month that "vast numbers of Muslims want humans to die for holding a different idea" and share "too much in common with ISIS." This was all part of his ongoing argument conflating the tiny number of violent extremists with the 1.6 billion worldwide Muslims who largely abhor those extremists....

While Maher isn't just the loudest and most candid voice on the left in his bigotry toward Muslims, he is the ideological counterpart to Fox News that helps make hate bipartisan.

With their help, there is a subtler, more pervasive, and far more dangerous Islamophobia that has crept into mainstream news coverage. This is the Islamophobia that presents itself as a critical and candid study of Islamist extremism, but in the process does just what Maher and Fox News do: conflates extremists with the vast, un-extreme majority, perpetuating the assumption that extremism is the default, that Muslims share inherent traits that make them worse than the rest of us, and that they are guilty of extremism until proven innocent.

It seems that Islamist extremist has struck again, now that, as The New York Times reports

After killing a Danish film director in a Saturday afternoon attack on a Copenhagen cafe and then a Jewish night guard at a synagogue, the 22-year-old gunman responsible for Denmark’s worst burst of terrorism in decades unleashed a final fusillade outside a four-story apartment building before dawn on Sunday.

Cornered by the police in a narrow street near the railway station in Norrebro, a heavily immigrant, shabby-chic district of Denmark’s capital, the Danish-born attacker opened fire and was killed in a burst of return fire, the police said....

Though the gunman’s name and basic biographical details were still unclear late Sunday, he appears to have shared some traits with at least two of the militants responsible for the Paris violence, notably a criminal record and an abrupt transition from street crime to Islamic militancy.

This was no random attack, given that the afternoon attack took place when the gunman

sprayed bullets into the cafe where Mr. Vilks, who had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad, was speaking. That attack killed one man, identified by the Danish media as Finn Norgaard, 55, a film director. Three police officers were wounded. Mr. Vilks, who was attending a meeting on freedom of speech, was not hurt.

Muslim organizations denounced the attack, and much speculation centered on whether it was a copycat crime.  It was carried out by a 22 year old man very tentatively identified as Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, who like the assailants in Paris

was born in the country he sought to terrorize, into a Muslim immigrant family. He had a criminal record, and Danish TV2 television said he had been released from prison just weeks earlier.

The gunman then fled by car, and the vehicle was later found abandoned. Video footage from surveillance cameras showed the suspect talking into a cellphone, apparently to order a taxi. He then took a cab to Mjolnerparken, an area of Norrebro, where surveillance cameras caught him entering a housing compound and leaving 20 minutes later.

He then reappeared, according to the police, shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday at a synagogue in the center of the city, opening fire on the police and security guards, one of whom was killed.

Fisher, who condemns the "anti-Muslim bigot" Maher (with Charlie Rose last year, video below) for his "out-in-open racism," imagined the mainstream media "so effective at engendering Islamophobia that you can see attitudes hardening right before your eyes."  Given the scant attention paid in the USA to the weekend's incidents in Denmark, Fisher may want to lie a little low right about now.

He would be modeling President Obama, who left it to the spokeswoman for the National Security Advisor to state "The United States condemns today’s deplorable shooting in Copenhagen," thereby saving Mr. Obama the uncomfortable task.

It might be rude, then, to ask the President about his remark at the National Prayer Breakfast

And if, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another’s religion, we’re equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults -- (applause) -- and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who are the targets of such attacks.  Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t question those who would insult others in the name of free speech. 

It was generous of the President a couple of weeks ago not to contest "the legal right of a person to insult another's religion," though insertion of the word "legal" suggests that he finds any other right to insult another's religion to be mildly nauseating.   And it might have been vaguely hypocritical for the condemnation to have been issued directly by Obama, given that the perpetrator targeted "an event that featured Lars Vilks- a controversial cartoonist who has faced numerous threats for depicting the Prophet Mohammed."

Many conservatives believe President Obama defends only Islam and treats "Islamophobia" as a disease. But pending clarification, we know only that Obama believes insulting another's religion, whatever the faith may be, is unsettling and distasteful.  Still, he ought to be asked, given the Hebdo/Copenhagen killings, whether what is rotten in Denmark is due to failure of religious people generally to give the right of free expression its proper due, or to Islamist extremism specifically.  His response might be enlightening.

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This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...