I already knew that UC Berkeley was going to host a “scholarly” conference aimed at reconstructing Islamophobia. The promotional material, complete with the names of radical Islamist speakers, made it pretty clear that the conference’s focus would be on whitewashing Islam, as opposed to addressing a canker in one of the world’s major religions. Well, what can one expect of UC Bezerkeley, a school that used to be described as Kremlin West?
However, I did expect a little more of the San Francisco Chronicle, not because it’s anything but a liberal newspaper, but because I thought its own journalistic pride would demand at least a bow to the realities of terrorism in today’s world. How silly of me. The paper manages to report on the conference with one inverted allusion to 9/11 (you’ll see what I mean below) but otherwise without mentioning anything about the world-wide acts of terror perpetrated daily in Islam’s name.
I’m not going to fisk the whole piece, but let me give you a preview into what the article contains. It opens with some eye-catching puffery about Obama’s middle name and whether women with headscarfs should be searched at airports. From there, it explains that these questions and others are being addressed by world renowned scholars at a Berkeley conference, at which
the professors aim to study and understand how a religious identity of 1.2 billion people around the world has become fused with a monolithic set of beliefs and racial category. Under this dynamic, the beliefs of a Muslim engineer in Silicon Valley are rendered the same as those of a shopkeeper in Baghdad or a Hamas politician.
Perhaps the public is justifiably confused because, too often, the engineer in Silicon valley keeps his mouth shut about the distasteful beliefs of that Hamas “politician” — don’t they mean terrorist? — or because “man in the street” polls of Muslims show that their views are in remarkable harmony with their more activist brethren.
The article does the obligatory comparison to other groups that have been considered dangerous, including Jews. It makes no reference to the fact that Jews, for example, were considered dangerous only by taking the absence of evidence as proof positive that they were weaving dangerous behind the scenes conspiracies. Antisemities were wedded to the notion that, when it came to the horrors that Jews were planning on visiting on the world, the absence of evidence definitely wasn’t evidence of absence.
In that same vein, neither the conference nor the article give any consideration to the difference between an amorphous conspiracy theory unsupported by any concrete evidence whatsoever and this:
I guess that kind of more subtle analysis was a bit beyond the academics gathered in Berkeley.
The panelists spent a lot of time focusing on how unfair it is for people to attack Obama’s middle name and Muslim past. I actually think it’s stupid, too, but that’s because I don’t believe Obama has any religious affinity for Islam. I think that, more significantly, he has a Leftist affinity for those who champion radical Islam, and that this attitude is much more dangerous than any lingering longing he might have for a prayer session in the mosque.
The panelists apparently did mention 9/11, but only to put it in context: It started up attacks on Muslims that were comparable to the Spanish Inquisition:
Panelists at the conference traced the roots of Islamophobia well before Sept. 11, 2001: They include slavery, colonialism and the Spanish Inquisition against Jews and Muslims beginning in 1492.
Marquette University Professor Louise Cainkar presented a paper about hate crimes against those of Arab origin, a category that includes Christians but is often conflated with Muslims in post-Sept. 11 pop culture. In analyzing patterns in the Chicago area, she found that hate crimes were fewest in African American neighborhoods in the South Side, despite the high prevalence of Arab shopkeepers. But anti-Arab hate crimes were highest in “white flight” suburbs. A mosque in a southwestern suburb of Chicago came under a “three-day siege” by neighbors after the Sept. 11 attacks and had to be protected by more than 100 police officers in riot gear, Cainkar said.
As for me, I hold no truck with the Spanish Inquisition, since my ancestors too suffered from its effects, which is how they ended up in Hungary, rather than staying in Spain all those hundreds of years ago. Be that as it may, a little historical context is useful. The Spanish Inquisition’s primary focus was heretical Christians, not Muslims or Jews. Those who raise the Spanish Inquisition as an indictment against the West for its treatment of Muslims are confusing it with the fact that, at about the same time, in the 15th Century, Spanish Nationalism developed and took shape in the persons of Ferdinand and Isabella. They spearheaded the movement to drive out of Southern Spain the Muslim conquerers who had installed themselves there centuries before. In other words, the Muslims were kicked out because the indigenous people rose up against their Imperialist oppressors, something that should leave Leftists rejoicing. And as always when there was upheaval, everyone went after the Jews.
What’s very clear from the news report is that neither the conference participants, nor the reporter, have any interest in the much more compelling question of radical versus non-radical Islam, and whether anything can be done to make the latter less passive and more vocal. The obvious purpose of the conference is to whitewash Islam, and the Chron happily, and without any shame, went along with that approach. As I said at the start, the Berkeley would host this academic travesty is unsurprising, but I naively expected that the Chron would at least pay lip service to the facts on the ground (almost 11,000 acts of terrorist since 9/11 in the name of Islam), without joining in the Berkeley whitewash.
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