In the New York Times last week, columnist Nicholas Kristof officially became an Islamophobe. More precisely, he finally adopted somewhat the same stance toward Islam as the Cassandras whom Kristof and his ilk relentlessly demonize as Islamophobes – all the while trying to distance himself from them.
“In country after country,” a concerned Kristof begins, “Islamic fundamentalists are measuring their own religious devotion by the degree to which they suppress or assault those they see as heretics, creating a human rights catastrophe as people are punished or murdered for their religious beliefs.” No, really? Surely it is no surprise to him that writers such as those of us at FrontPage have been expressing our concern about Islamic fundamentalists for many years. We’ve noted repeatedly that the most numerous victims of Muslims are other Muslims, many of whom are ostracized (at best) or killed (at worst) precisely because they aren’t sufficiently hardcore believers.
But Kristof dismisses such writers as “Islam-haters in America and the West,” who “denounce Islam as a malignant religion of violence, while politically correct liberals are reluctant to say anything for fear of feeding bigotry.” It’s not bigotry or hate to point out that orthodox Muslims themselves demonstrate its malignance and violence every day around the world. Moreover, “politically correct liberals” aren’t silent only because they don’t want to feed bigotry; the most radical are silent because they see Islam as an ally in their multiculturalist siege of the West.
“Yet there is a real issue here of religious tolerance,” Kristof continues, “affecting millions of people, and we should be able to discuss it.” No kidding. As I mentioned above, the freedom fighters that the left dismisses as Islam-haters have been trying to discuss the Islam problem for decades, but have been relentlessly attacked and delegitimized for it. Now however, Kristof decides we need to have an open discussion, as if it’s his idea.
He was apparently prompted to address this topic by the murder of a Muslim friend at the hands of his friend’s co-religionists. “Such extremists,” he posits, “do far more damage to the global reputation of Islam than all the world’s Islamophobes put together.” This is his grudging way of admitting that orthodox Muslims themselves are the ones responsible for Islam’s dismal reputation. Now if only he would connect the dots and acknowledge that perhaps the world’s “Islamophobes” have legitimate concerns.
But Kristof hedges his newfound realistic perspective on Islam with an historical aside: “The paradox is that Islam historically was relatively tolerant… Anti-Semitism runs deep in some Muslim countries today, but, for most of history, Muslims were more tolerant of Jews than Christians were.” He cites the Holocaust and “the killing of Muslims by Christians at Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina” as evidence for this. First, anti-Semitism has always run deep in Muslim lands, not just today, because Jew-hatred is endemic to Islam itself. Secondly, Islam has not been “tolerant” for most of its history, and whatever its historical sins, Christianity has evolved and Islam has not; the pressing issue is that Islam remains violently intolerant today.
Kristof asserts that “some of the bravest champions of religious freedom today are Muslim” – for example, Iranian lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, who successfully defended a Christian pastor from charges of apostasy, but suffered for it by being jailed himself. This is genuinely commendable. Unfortunately, this example does not demonstrate that Islam itself champions religious freedom.
He goes on to note that Saudi Arabia and Iran “are twins in religious repression. Saudis ban churches; it insults Islam to suggest it is so frail it cannot withstand an occasional church.” Actually, the fundamentalists know full well that Islam cannot withstand an occasional church, which is why apostasy is punished by death and Christians are brutally persecuted. They are keenly aware that the freedom of conscience to choose one’s religion would mean a vast exodus from, and possibly the end of, Islam.
“I hesitated to write this column,” Kristof concedes, “because religious repression is an awkward topic when it thrives in Muslim countries. Muslims from Gaza to Syria, Western Sahara to Myanmar, are already enduring plenty without also being scolded for intolerance.” The only reason it’s “awkward” for Kristof and other leftists is their defensive sympathy for Islam; if Christians around the world were massacring Muslims, putting mosques to the torch, and executing apostates, you can bet Kristof and his fellows would have no trouble “scolding” them.
Kristof is also uncomfortable addressing worldwide Muslim atrocities because he believes that “we in the West live in glass houses, and I don’t want to empower our own chauvinists or fuel Islamophobia.” Excuse me? The West has no moral high ground on the issue of religious intolerance? That is frankly a crock. A January 2014 Pew Research study which Kristof himself describes as “a sad index of rising intolerance” notes that the world’s only region essentially untouched by religious repression is the Americas, and that the worst regions for it, as in previous years, are the Middle East and North Africa. Kristof himself concedes that “some of the worst abuse actually takes place in Muslim-dominated countries.” Indeed, and things are getting worse there and in Western countries with burgeoning Muslim minority populations.
“Some heroic Muslims,” Kristof closes, “like my [murdered] friend Rashid in Pakistan, have sacrificed their lives to protect religious freedom. Let’s follow their lead and speak up as well, for silence would be a perversion of politeness.” What gall. Again, those he derides as “Islam-haters” are the ones who have been and still are leading the way in speaking up against the rising tide of Islamic supremacism, only to be met with vicious smears from progressives such as Kristof. Apparently it’s not bigotry if the left does it.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 7/18/14)