by Bruce Bawer
The list reads, in large part, like an honor roll of courageous truth-tellers. In the U.S., people like David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes, Ibn Warraq, Mark Steyn, Robert Spencer, and Andrew McCarthy. In Canada, Ezra Levant. In the U.K., Roger Scruton. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders. In Denmark, Lars Hedegaard. And so on.
But no, this isn’t meant as an honor roll. It’s a list of individuals – and organizations, too, among them the David Horowitz Freedom Center – that, according to a new “Counter-Jihad Report” by a British group called Hope Not Hate, make up a nefarious network of Islamophobic extremists who inspired the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring-Breivik.
It’s no coincidence that this “report” was issued to coincide with the beginning of Breivik’s trial, which started on Monday. For the people at Hope Not Hate seek to draw an explicit cause-and-effect connection between writings by various critics of Islam and the atrocities of July 22.
One thing’s clear: Breivik has been a terrific gift to those who, for whatever reason, have long been eager to shift focus away from the danger of Islam and to argue that it’s the criticism of Islam that’s the real danger.
It hasn’t been easy for these folks. Over the last decade, as a result of one brutal jihadist atrocity after another – 9/11, Madrid, London, Beslan, Bali, Mumbai, etc., etc. – Islam has been associated in the Western mind with bloodthirsty slaughter. Then, on July 22 of last year, a single man, acting alone, killed dozens of people, purportedly in the name of anti-jihadism. His actions provided everyone who’d like to whitewash Islam with an opportunity to associate not Islam, but its critics, with savage violence.
The people at Hope Not Hate didn’t let this opportunity pass them by. So – voilà, the “Counter-Jihad Report,” the implicit premise of which is that to be opposed to jihad is, by definition, not only a bad but a downright dangerous thing.
Not that the “report” actually addresses the subject of jihad – no, jihad itself is left almost entirely out of the equation. Indeed, to read this thing, you’d almost think that jihad were some fantasy cooked up by “counter-jihadists” in order to smear Islam.
I won’t mince words: the “report” is a thoroughly repulsive piece of work. One repulsive thing about it is that it brings together the names of serious, respectable, and well-informed critics of Islam – individuals and organizations that are profoundly concerned about the rise of Islam in the West because they recognize it as a threat to freedom and human rights – with the names of neo-Nazis. Also repulsive is the masthead on this page, on which pictures of David Horowitz and Geert Wilders are juxtaposed with a photo of Breivik, in full faux-military regalia, aiming his gun.
In a sane world, such a juxtaposition of images would be more than enough to make it clear that Hope Not Hate is a despicable organization and that its “report” is not to be taken seriously. Yet this isn’t, alas, a sane world. Issued only a few days ago, the “report” has already been embraced by the international media, and the formerly obscure Hope Not Hate is suddenly being treated as if it were a definitive source of objective information.In Norway, for example, TV2′s coverage of the Breivik trial has included fawning interviews with a representative of Hope Not Hate and screen shots of that appalling masthead. (On the authority of Hope Not Hate, TV2 has labeled Jihad Watch a “radical right” website.)
TV2 isn’t alone. In the U.S., MSNBC treated Hope Not Hate’s “report” as gospel. Here’s how MSNBC’s reporter, Kari Huus, began her story about it: “Anti-Islamist groups and individuals like those that inspired Norwegian Anders Berhing Breivik to launch his bloody attacks in Norway last July are growing in number, reach and interconnectedness, according to a new report published in Britain.”
Huus described the “report” as arguing “that the 9-11 attacks by Islamic extremists provided fuel for counter-jihad extremists — themselves provoking violence by individuals like Breivik.” Note Huus’s use of the word extremist to equate, in essence, the jihadists who murdered three thousand people on 9/11 with writers who have simply sought to clarify those jihadists’ ideology.
The Guardian, too, was glad to lend legitimacy to Hope Not Hate’s “report.” Its headline: “Far-right anti-Muslim network on rise globally as Breivik trial opens.” For the Guardian, the question of whether critics of Muslim “inspired” Breivik to murder dozens of people wasn’t even a question: “The international network of counter-jihadist groups that inspired Anders Behring Breivik,” read the lede on Mark Townsend’s story, “is growing in reach and influence, according to a report released on the eve of the Norwegian’s trial.”
Hope Not Hate’s “Counter-Jihad Report” is, quite simply, a full-frontal assault on truth. It’s Orwellian. It turns reality on its head. It takes on people who have spent years monitoring and alerting the public to a clear and present danger and represents them as constituting the danger. Meanwhile, the people who really are the danger all but disappear from the picture.
None of which would matter much, except for the fact that the mainstream news media are eating it up. They love this. They’d prefer not to discuss Islamic terrorist networks in the West. And they definitely don’t want to talk about the kind of “soft jihad” that leads to a man like Lars Hedegaard being put on trial in Denmark for criticizing Islam. Hedegaard has warned for years that Islam is a threat to free speech; the fact that he’s now on trial for speaking his mind only proves him right. Yet the mainstream news media don’t want to go near such uncomfortable facts; they’d much rather have an excuse to depict Hedegaard, and all those who share his concerns, as dangerous extremists.
If there were any doubt about the determination of some people to use the Breivik trial to demonize critics of Islam, Hope Not Hate has removed that doubt entirely. Just check out what a Norwegian blogger associated with the organization wrote the other day: “The trial [of Breivik] is a lawful assize against the mass murderer of Oslo and Utøya, but in our minds it should be more than that: a tribunal to condemn the criminal thoughts that turned an insignificant young man into a mass killer.”
That’s what it’s all about, folks: putting “criminal thoughts” about Islam – thoughtcrimes, to use Orwell’s increasingly useful word – on trial. The depressing news is that all too many members of the Western cultural elite, from the judiciary to the media, have proven themselves more than eager to join groups like Hope Not Hate in prosecuting the case.Bruce Bawer
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