Terra Incognita: A war is being fought between the 21st and 15th centuries

To paint all objections to extreme right-wing Islamism as “anti-Islam” is like treating objections to the KKK as “anti-white.”

Jakarta's first non-Muslim governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama raises his hand as he arrives at the Cipinang prison in Jakarta, Indonesia May 9 (photo credit: ANTARA FOTO/UBAIDILLAH VIA REUTERS)
Jakarta's first non-Muslim governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama raises his hand as he arrives at the Cipinang prison in Jakarta, Indonesia May 9
In mid-May the former governor of Jakarta in Indonesia was sentenced to two years in prison for “insulting Islam.” Outside the court far right wing Islamists shouted that the sentence was too light.
What had Basuki Rjahaja Purnama, often known as Ahok, done to commit “blasphemy”? He had accused his right-wing Islamist opponents of using a verse from the Koran to argue that Muslims should not vote for a non-Muslim. Ahok is a non-Muslim. In finding him guilty of blasphemy the court basically ruled that the right-wing Islamists are correct, that the Koran says Muslims should not vote for non-Muslims. To argue otherwise is blasphemy.
Of course, the legions of media experts must now be trotted out to “explain” that the Indonesia blasphemy case isn’t really about right-wing Islamist intolerance but actually about “politics.” In The New York Times Yohanes Sulaiman, an academic, writes that “liberal, multi-cultural democracy in Indonesia isn’t dead yet.” In fact the ruling is a “chance for Indonesia’s moderates.”
But, Sulaiman, there are blasphemy laws in Indonesia.
“Ahok’s sudden demise may jolt many moderates into opposing the growing threat from the radicals.”
But, Sulaiman, there are blasphemy laws in Indonesia.
Op-eds about Ahok don’t want to talk about these laws – because they don’t oppose them. They accept the 15th-century, extreme Right religious fundamentalist Islamist Inquisition, and simply argue that we should see it as “moderate.”
Who are the “moderates” in this “liberal” country? One in 14 students support Islamic State (ISIS). According to another survey quoted by Sulaiman, “more than 58 percent of respondents did say they believed non-Muslims should not lead Muslims.” Is this liberal and moderate? If a survey in the United States, France or the UK found that more than half of the people felt Muslims should not be elected to public office, would that be liberal and moderate, or Islamophobic and intolerant? If one in 14 American students supported the KKK, would that be liberal? If one in 14 German students supported the Nazis, would that be moderate?
The bar for “moderation” in most Muslim countries is extremely low. Everything that isn’t an Islamist version of the KKK is considered “liberal.” So if you don’t support beheadings for blasphemy, you are a moderate. This is the case in Pakistan, in Saudi Arabia, in most of the countries spanning the world from Morocco to Indonesia and encompassing almost two billion people.
The reality of the world today is that there are more blasphemy laws enforced in 2017 than there were in 1917. There are more beheadings. The mere fact that ISIS operated open slave markets and used Twitter and Facebook to sell women holds up a mirror to 2017. The 21st century is at war with the 15th, and the 15th century is winning. You may think that of course ISIS is not really winning because it is being defeated by a 68-nation US-led coalition. That’s true: militarily, it is not winning. But culturally it is.
Over the past 20 years the number of native European Muslims and converts who become jihadists and dream of mass murder and slavery has increased. In 2000 there were just a few right-wing Islamist extremist cells operating in Europe, affiliated with al-Qaida or clustered around hateful, intolerant preachers who used free speech to spread support for murder. Between 2014 and 2015 more than 5,000 EU citizens joined ISIS. So those few cells became a massive flood.
And for every man and woman who went to Syria and Iraq to join the ISIS genocide, there are 10 who stayed behind. Ten who listened to the extremist hate-filled rantings and agreed. When their friend “Thomas” who had converted and become “Khaled” told them he was going to “slay the kuffar and enjoy the booty of conquest” they said “oh, interesting.” He boasted on Twitter and Facebook and people nodded in approval.
You don’t think so? Remember the case of a Canadian imam who gave speeches in Montreal in late 2016 calling for Jews to be murdered? Everyone thought it was “case closed” simply because it was reported. But actually the mosque had put the hate speech on Youtube, which means they approved. And the video shows a room full of men, paying rapt attention.
Imagine a Christian preacher exhorting his congregation to “kill all the black people” during his Sunday sermon, with no one speaking up or walking out, and then the church posting it online.
In another case, in Denmark, an imam during a Friday service recently said: “judgment day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.” The roomful of men didn’t object. That is because they agree. Actual Nazi-like hatred of Jews under the guise of religion is spread and we are told “it’s the imam.” It’s not the imam; it’s the 15th century, it’s neo-Nazism, it’s the KKK. When the KKK holds a meeting and the Grand Wizard says, “It is your duty to prevent the mixing of the races,” is the Grand Wizard the problem, or all the racists he speaks for?
There are no substantial efforts in Europe, Canada, Indonesia, Pakistan or anywhere to stop far-right Islamist hate speech and the intolerance that it begets. In the US after 9/11 the far-right Islamist Anwar al-Awlaki was invited to visit the Pentagon to teach tolerance for Islamists. He went on to become a murderous terrorist. “Anti-radicalization” programs have had no affect, and in fact tend to be exploited by Islamists to gain more followers under the guise of moderation, while they indoctrinate and use government resources to do so.
Most of them don’t actually encourage people to confront hatred, they teach people to excuse it. They teach people to say “ISIS is not Islamic.” If it’s not Islamic then why did 40,000 people from all over the world join it, all of whom define themselves as Muslims? If it’s not Islamic then why aren’t ISIS members on trial for blasphemy in Indonesia, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia?
They aren’t on trial because in every country dominated by far-right Islamist laws ISIS is considered Islamic. They may dislike its exact brand of Islam, but no one denies that it is in fact Islamic, just like no one denies that the Inquisition and Crusades were Christian.
They say, “If you don’t blame Christians for the KKK why blame Muslims for ISIS?” Because the KKK was defeated by rooting out racist mentalities, not by simply saying “the KKK is not white and not Christian, it’s not a real expression of white values.”
Qasim Rashid writes at The Independent that “If we go back to the [Koran], we can see that what’s happening in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan isn’t faithfully Islamic at all.” This is always the answer to anything relating to farright Islamist hatred – “it isn’t Islam.” Female circumcision? Not Islamic. Blasphemy laws? Not Islamic. ISIS? Not Islamic. Triple Talaaq divorce? Not Islamic.
Let’s say none of it is. Why then are the countries that are so good at hanging and beheading people for crimes against Islam doing all these other “non-Islamic” things? Surely, during the Inquisition, as infidels were being roasted alive they accused their tormentors of not being true Christians. But they were Christians.
There is a slow, creeping war being fought between those who are hanging, jailing and beheading people for blasphemy, and those who don’t want to live in the 15th century. To shield themselves from critique, far-right Islamists shout: “Islamophobia!” That’s like the Inquisition leaders shouting “Christianophobia!” But we aren’t afraid of “Muslims,” we are afraid of hatred, bigotry and intolerance spread by the far-right Islamists. It is Islamistophobia. Fascistphobia. And people should not be cowed by this accusation.
You don’t like female genital mutilation? You’re anti-Islamic.
Wait, I thought you said genital mutilation is a “tribal” practice and non-Muslim?
You don’t like instant divorce whereby Muslim men, but not women, can get rid of their spouses? You’re anti-Muslim.
But wait, isn’t it a “cultural” practice?
Niqab and burkas, you don’t like them, so you’re intolerant of religion.
But aren’t they not “really” Islamic?
To paint all objections to extreme right-wing Islamism as “anti-Islam” is like treating objections to the KKK as “anti-white.” If you oppose the KKK you aren’t “anti-white,” you are anti-white supremacist. And opposing hate-filled imams who incite to murder isn’t “phobia,” it is anti-Islamist supremacist. If you don’t want the 15th century returning, you have to be willing to have this argument. They aren’t just “radicals” and “extremists,” any more than Nazis are just radicals. Far-right Islamists are a very real threat to daily life throughout the world. So either you confront them, or start preparing your kids for the return of the Salem Witch Trials. Because that will be the future.
Follow the author @Sfrantzman