Dr. Charles Jacobs is a longtime anti-slavery and pro-Israel activist, one of the founders of CAMERA and the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG). He has also been a persistent critic of the ADL, arguing that it concentrates way too much on ‘old-fashioned’ neo-Nazi antisemitism and not enough on threats from Islamists and the extreme Left. What I found interesting in a recent exchange was this:
Shifting the focus away from skinheads, neo-Nazis, and Christian bigots and onto radical leftists and Muslim Jew-hatred would be extraordinarily difficult. It would require a massive and unpopular effort: leading the Jews to think difficult thoughts about their new situation, thoughts that put them at odds with their comforting universalist theology of Political Correctness. And it would be costly: ADL would forfeit loads of leftwing money – and its liberal bona fides. The organization would hardly ever get a letter published in The New York Times. It would be viciously attacked by Islamist leadership. CAIR would be relentless. Abe Foxman, ADL’s head, acknowledges that Islamic Jew hatred is the biggest threat we face (he’s still shy about the radical left) – yet ADL spends much, much more time, effort, resources and focus on the older, less dangerous threats while practically ignoring the new, more ominous ones.
The problem he touches on is not just an issue for Jews and Israel. The taboos of political correctness (PC) applied to anything connected with Islam or Muslims have the Orwellian effect of making it impossible to describe the motivating force of the great majority of armed conflicts in progress today, or even the future of Western civilization.
PC says that one may not criticize a religion or a group of individuals characterized by a religion. Someone who does that is accused of practicing hate and is called a bigot. Haters and bigots are considered the morally defective dregs of humanity, and anything one of them says can be ignored. Hitler and Bull Connor are common examples of bigots, and the Holocaust of the European Jews is used as a cautionary tale about the wages of hate.
On the other hand, it is considered entirely legitimate to attack ideologies or political or economic systems in the most vicious terms possible. It is even permissible to exaggerate and lie when doing so, because “it’s politics.” Marxism, Capitalism, Communism, Fascism, Zionism, etc. are fair game.
Probably the trauma of slavery and institutionalized racism in the US and the Holocaust in Europe had something to do with the development of the shibboleths of PC, which even have the force of law in many nations. PC can be understood as an attempt to root out the darker aspects of our culture that allowed these atrocities to happen.
PC distorts the truth, and doesn’t even achieve its intended goals. Direct expressions of Jew-hatred in the developed world have been severely limited by PC. But, unfortunately, the same feelings are now expressed as rage against Zionism or Israel, entities not protected by PC rules. Unacceptable Jew-hatred evolved into ‘normal’ Israel-hatred. Today, the inevitable reaction against PC is bringing back traditional antisemitism as well.
Islam is more than just a set of religious beliefs. The main texts of Islam also include a legal system and a political ideology. What we call ‘political Islam’, ‘militant Islam’ or ‘Islamism’ is the attempted actualization of the political ideology of Mohammad — a highly particularist, aggressive and warlike one — in today’s world.
As a political ideology, and an unfriendly one at that, it is essential that we have the ability to learn about, to discuss, and to criticize it. But the position of the major Muslim organizations in the US, the Obama Administration, the ADL, most politicians and political organizations of the Center and Left, most academics, etc. is that the rules of PC forbid this. This has led to such absurdities as a government dictate that official discussions of terrorism must not use the word ‘jihad’, although most present-day terrorism is in fact perpetrated under the banner of jihad!
Part of the ideology of political Islam is that the Islamic legal system, Shari’a, must be applied to Muslims and of course to countries under Islamic control. Principles of Shari’a directly contradict our modern views about the equality of all people, regardless of gender or religion. Shari’a is all about a pervasive hierarchy of rights and privileges given to Muslim men, women, Jews and Christians, and others. Conflict is guaranteed when Islamists become a sizable minority in a liberal culture, as is becoming apparent in the UK and other European countries.
It is necessary and possible for non-Muslims to learn to understand the principles of political Islam and Shari’a. It is not inappropriate to criticize their application to unbelievers and women.
It’s way past time to distinguish the religious and political parts of Islam.