Interesting Times: Irshad and Wafa

What we can learn from liberal Muslims who defend Jews and Israel.

saul singer 88 (photo credit: )
saul singer 88
(photo credit: )
When the scourge of militant Islam is finally bottled up, like smallpox, history should save a spot for the tale of a handful of Muslim women who put their lives on the line in the battle. Since a single interview on Al-Jazeera on February 21, Wafa Sultan, a Syrian-born psychologist now living in the US, has become an overnight sensation. The link to the clip on has received over a million hits, and Sultan has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Sunday Times and Le Monde. Sultan, in her original five-minute interview, became the Rosa Parks of the global struggle against jihad: the catalyst whose stubborn courage marks a turning point. "The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations," Sultan said in that interview. "It is a clash between civilization and backwardness... between barbarity and rationality... between human rights on the one hand and the violation of these rights on the other, between those who treat women like beasts and those who treat them like human beings." Then she went even further. "The Jews have come from tragedy and forced the world to respect them," she said, "with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling. "We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant... Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. ... The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind before they demand that humankind respect them." Perhaps inspired by Sultan, on March 11, the Syrian poet Adonis said on Dubai TV: "When I look at the Arab world, with all its resources, the capacities of Arabs individuals, especially abroad - you will find among them great philosophers, scientists, engineers, and doctors. In other words, the Arab... can excel - but only outside his society. I have nothing against the individuals - only against the institutions and the regimes... we Arabs are in a phase of extinction, in the sense that we have no creative presence in the world." (translation by MEMRI) The taboo has been broken. It has become impossible to prevent Arabs from questioning the mantra that has sustained oppressive regimes for so long: both denying backwardness and blaming it on America and the Jews. Perhaps the most striking and radical entry in this "Muslim Spring" of fresh thinking, however, was an op-ed in this week's New York Times by author Irshad Manji. "Like all Muslims, I look forward to the day when neither the [IDF] jeep nor the wall is in Abu Dis. So will we tell the self-appointed martyrs of Islam that... before the barrier, there was the bomber? And that the barrier can be dismantled, but the bomber's victims are gone forever?" Manji is even more heretical to the Muslim ear than Sultan because she not only defends Jews, but Israel, and not only Israel, but the security fence. Why did a Muslim battling militant Islamism defend Israel on such a controversial topic? One might think the last thing someone engaged in the debate over Islam would want would be to "discredit" herself by association with Israel. MANJI SEEMS to get something the authors of a paper that shamefully displays Harvard's logo don't. The paper, by John Mearheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, is really beneath rebuttal - some 40 pages of Pat Buchanan with footnotes. If anything, the two have probably done the world a favor by exposing, with a baldness bordering on parody, views widely held in academia. Already on the first page, we see the tautological premise that clearly drove this Protocols (i.e. the Jews run the world) remake: "Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state?" The paper goes on to argue that the "so-called rogue states... are not a dire threat to vital interests, apart from the US commitment to Israel itself... Even if these states acquire nuclear weapons - which is obviously not desirable - it would not be a strategic disaster for the US." Iranian nukes, in other words, are no biggy; what will really make America safe is to drop Israel so Muslims will stop hating the West. My hunch is that Sultan and Manji felt they had to go so far as defending Jews and Israel because they recognize that it is impossible to fight the Islamist jihad without exposing its Jew-hatred in an unapologetic manner. They realize that we - Jews, Christians, and non-jihadi Muslims - are in this together. As Muslims, these women understand that jihad is seamless. Christian Westerners are deluding themselves if they think that, by jettisoning the Jews, they will slake Islamist hatred, rather than simply whetting its appetite. This is not just a prediction, it's history. For decades, the West tolerated and even rewarded terrorism against Israel. It was the PLO, not Bin Laden, who first proved that terrorism does not delegitimate a cause but puts it on the map. In other words, it works. It was the teaching that terror works that brought 9/11, and threatens more and larger 9/11s. Undoing this lesson is the primary challenge of our age. And central to that challenge is for the West to realize that its problem is not "blind" support for Israel, as the Harvard diatribe alleges, but the opposite: a failure to call the Muslim world on its continuing violent refusal to accept Israel's right to exist. The West is not too pro-Israel for its own interests; it is not "pro-Israel" enough. The dynamic in which Palestinians can attack Israel and create a "humanitarian crisis" of their own suffering that will be blamed on Israel has yet to be fully broken. This is the logic Manji sought to expose when she blamed the bomber, not the barrier - and, by extension, the jihad, not Israel's existence. [email protected]