Everyone is a “moderate” these days. The Economist used the word “moderate Muslim” in three articles in its January 28 edition. In Malaysia there was “moderate Muslim culture.” Indonesia has “moderate Muslim leaders.” Morocco has a “moderate Muslim” political party. The moderate-hardliner spectrum is one of the most facile media clichés.
Hamas’ new Gazan leader is a “hardliner,” while Iran’s president, enforcing the most extreme discrimination against women, is a “moderate” and Saudi Arabia’s former king, who did not allow women to drive, was a “reformer.”
For almost two decades since 9/11 the mainstream media in every Western country, and to some extent the rest of the world, has adopted Orwellian language to whitewash and mislead the public about the nature of Islamist regimes, political Islamism and the creeping bigotry, hatred and extreme right-wing, conservative, fundamentalist intolerance in parts of the world.
There needs to be a push-back against this agenda, or our world will slowly become dominated by the most hateful and intolerant views, passed off as normal and even liberal. The quiet alliance between Islamist right-wing extremists and parts of the Western Left will leave a wound on human societies that will be impossible to heal. We saw that wound in Iraq when Islamic State (ISIS) “insurgents” overran parts of the country, committing genocide, ethnic cleansing and systematic rape and enslavement of people as media described their acts and “militant” and an “insurgency.” 5,000 ISIS members booked tickets from European airports to go to Iraq to commit genocide, and hundreds returned home without ever being held to account. Even today you will not encounter the terms ethnic cleansing or genocide in mainstream media coverage of ISIS, or hear it described as a right-wing death squad.
The unwillingness to question the nature of Islamist conservative hate-mongering and chauvinism was on display when Sweden’s trade minister made a pilgrimage to Tehran to beg approval from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The Swedish minister dressed her female delegation in long coats and head-scarves so as not to offend the extreme right-wing, theocratic hate-mongering Iranian regime. Facing criticism in the media for the veiling, she told the newspaper Aftonbladet that “she was not willing to break Iranian law,” according to reports.
What would be a red line in “Iranian law,” for Sweden, which boasts a “feminist government,” to finally say no? If the delegation had to take part in the hanging of a Baloch dissident, would that be too much? Or perhaps if they had to remove any avowed homosexuals from the delegation lest they “pollute” Iran? While Kurdish women train with AK-47s to resist the Iranian regime, Sweden’s politicians heap adoration on it. It wasn’t enough to don a head-covering, the delegation draped themselves in heavy coats so as not to offend the religious fanatics with their “immodest” bodies.
When the Iranian president brought a delegation to meet the Swedes in Tehran he brought only men. No women, no problem.
COUNTRIES THAT respect human rights and equality shouldn’t send delegations to Iran in the first place. It’s one thing to cover one’s hair or remove shoes when entering a house of worship, to observe the local custom, but when a country has vicious discriminatory laws forcing women to dress a certain way, it’s time for governments to say “no.” No meetings, no respect, no stamp of approval to fascist treatment for women.
If Iran can force foreign diplomatic delegations of women to wear large coats and cover up their hair, what if a government forced female diplomats to go topless? Would that be a red line? You may think it’s ridiculous – but why is it any more ridiculous to force women to disrobe then to force them to robe? If Iran can force women in a delegation not to present their hands to a male leader, lest he be “contaminated,” then why can’t Western countries force the Iranians to shake the hands of women and observe Western customs? It might offend them? You’d think, maybe, it is logical to show deference and respect for another culture if that culture and religion shows deference and respect for your way of life. But what happens when the Iranians visit Europe? Italy covered up nude statues so as not to offend the Ayatollah.
What is wrong with our culture? Why is it we change our way of life when visiting the countries of others and then change it again in our own countries in order to always please others? Why is it that every time a hate-monger finds something “offensive,” such as the sight of a woman’s hair, a woman’s legs, a handshake, a statue, that Western culture runs to cover it up? How about some dignity? We will get to a point in the failed and pathetic Western civilization where European diplomats will deny the Holocaust to please their Iranian handlers.
There is no point at which someone will say “no.”
Saudis require segregated beaches for their vacations in France? No problem.
Why is Islamism the only right-wing extremist movement that always gets a pass? Hindu nationalists? Distasteful. Lord’s Resistance Army? Disgusting. Russia decriminalizing domestic violence? Aghast. Le Pen? Racist. Pat Robertson? Objectionable religious right-winger.
Consider that The Guardian ran an op-ed in 2015 condemning the UK government for hosting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had worked for a “gang of religious fascists…inciting religious hostility... as a boy joined the far-right.” How come the same writers don’t use these terms for Saudi Arabian or Iranian leaders, whose policies are more right-wing, more hostile, more extreme? Why isn’t Modi a “moderate” or a “reformer” if the last Saudi king was? What is called “moderate” in every Islamic country is “far right” in every neighboring society. “Reform” translates to “intolerance” and “hardliner” is equivalent to preaching ideas akin to those of the Nazis. Our major media uses these terms to shield our societies from reality.
The reality is a world becoming more religious and hateful every day – and almost all of this hate is driven by Islamists. Sitting with Saudi Arabia’s right-wing conservative King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the new UN chief Antonia Guterres claimed that “one of the things that fuel terrorism is the expression in some parts of the world of Islamophobic feelings and Islamophobic policies and Islamophobic hate speeches.” There is something perverse about the UN leader sitting with the heads of a regime that has been responsible for funding more hate speech than any other, in addition to beheadings, gender apartheid and exporting religious right-wing bigotry which fuels terrorism, and blaming terrorism not on that regime but on “Islamophobia.”
In the UN chief’s narrative, blame for terrorism never rests with the regimes that cultivate education systems that spread intolerance and hatred. Where did the 9/11 hijackers come from? Did they grow up in America and suffer “Islamophobia”? No one in America even knew they were Muslim when they came to learn to fly airplanes. They looked and acted like average Americans when they arrived on their mission to kill. The sole responsibility for laying the groundwork of far-right-wing Islamist hatred and fueling terrorism lies with groups like the Taliban, the Wahhabi preachers, and the hate on social media. Did Islamophobia cause the Taliban to blow up the Bamiyan Buddhas or ISIS to dynamite Palmyra? Islamophobia caused the genocide of Yazidis by ISIS? It caused wealthy Bangladeshi men to torture and hack to death secular bloggers and foreigners and pledge allegiance to ISIS? They never saw “phobia,” they only listened to Nazilike supremacist preaching encouraging them to “kill the kuffar.”
Next we will hear Germanophobia caused Auschwitz.
No, Germanic supremacism and hatred caused Auschwitz.
Why is it that if you write “kill the kuffar” on social media, that doesn’t fuel terrorism, but the rise of the Right in Europe does? Perhaps it is terrorism that fuels Islamopbobia, not the other way around? Perhaps the real Islamophobia is that preached by Sunni jihadists against Shi’ites and Ahmadis? But in the eyes of the UN chief, driving in a country where women may not travel without permission from their male “guardians,” the Saudis are reformers, liberals; a model to be adopted, while the problem is Le Pen in France. So why not adopt Saudi Arabia’s laws for France? Why not adopt Iranian law for Sweden? If you’re concerned about the rise of the Right in Europe and feel it fuels ISIS, then the solution should be to import moderates and reformers from Tehran and Riyadh and model our laws on those countries’.
Our Orwellian world is entirely upside down. Leaders see Iran as moderation and Saudi Arabia as tolerance.
They never question the bigoted, far-right leaders of these societies. In such a system we have to rebel. We have to demand an end to Orwellian rhetoric that brainwashes us to avert our eyes from the crimes of ISIS and pretend that ISIS is fueled by Donald Trump or Brexit. ISIS came first. Al-Qaida came first. Iran’s Islamist revolution came first. Wahhabi Islamism came first. And all of it is a far-right, hate-filled, bigoted, conservative, religious fundamentalist challenge to the world. The more we are told it is “moderate,” the more its fascism grows. And the more the terrorist ideology based on it grows.
Beyond being honest in our language, we need to have a different policy when it comes to Iran and Saudi Arabia and regimes like them. We must demand that Rouhani’s delegations to the West consist of Iranian women dissidents, such as those imprisoned for attending volleyball games, or he won’t be allowed to come. Saudi Arabian diplomats must be forbidden to drive when they visit, and their male diplomats in our societies will have to ask permission from women who will be appointed their guardians before they travel.
Don’t like it? Then don’t come. Stay home, where things are more moderate.Follow the author @Sfrantzman