Wednesday, September 12, 2012

World Community Takes On ‘Islamophobia’

by Bruce Bawer

Want to see just how far our lords and masters are willing to go in appeasing Islam? Take a gander at a recent report entitled Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims: Addressing Islamophobia through Education. A joint product of the Council of Europe, UNESCO, and something called the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (otherwise known as OSCE/ODIHR), this document was put together in consultation with “education experts, teachers, civil society representatives and governmental officials” around the world. I will call it, for short, the Jagland Report, after Thorbjørn Jagland, the ambitious Norwegian politician who, as head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, was chiefly responsible for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama, and who, in his current capacity as Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, is one of the report’s three signatories. Given that he is a classic example of the slick, phony European technocrat par excellence – like Dominique Villepin in France and Zapatero in Spain – it is perfectly appropriate to affix his name to this slick, phony masterwork of bureaucrat-speak.

I have written previously about the Obin Report, a detailed study of French schools produced in 2004 by the French education ministry. That report boldly identified Muslim students and their parents as causing crucial problems in France’s schools, problems that affected every aspect of education: Muslim students refused to read literary works that their religion considers salacious or blasphemous; they would not brook accounts of history that differed from what they had been told at the mosque; they demanded Muslim menus in cafeterias; and so on. Among the report’s conclusions was that Muslim students tormented their Jewish classmates to such an extent that it was impossible for the latter to get an education in France. The Obin Report, in short, made it plain that discrimination against Muslim students was not a major problem in French schools – but that discrimination by Muslim students is nothing short of a crisis.

The French report was a brave statement of the facts, set forth in clear, straightforward language. (The report was so brave, in fact, that the government shelved it at first, only to release it officially after it had been leaked onto the Internet.) The Jagland Report is both its stylistic and moral opposite. Take, for example, the very first sentence of the foreword:

Promoting mutual understanding and respect for diversity, along with countering all forms of intolerance and discrimination, must today, more than ever, be absolute priorities for the international community, in order to maintain peace and stability at both the global and regional levels.

The entire report is written in this kind of prose. Indeed the whole thing reads as if it were designed to be the quintessential example of everything George Orwell complained about in his landmark essay “Politics and the English Language.” As Orwell pointed out, prose like this, consisting of long series of abstractions strung together in familiar ways, is generally perpetrated by people (or committees) who are setting forth a “party line”: “Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style.” The problem with such prose, as Orwell stressed, is not just its lifelessness, however, but the insidious purpose that usually underlies this lifelessness – namely, a determination to avoid facing up to ugly realities. (“The great enemy of clear language,” Orwell noted, “is insincerity.”)

Later in the foreword to the Jagland Report comes this sentence: “The attitudes and tensions that lead to inter-communal conflict are often deeply rooted in stereotypes and misconceptions, and one of the most pressing contemporary challenges is to promote knowledge about, and understanding of, different cultures. Educators play a fundamental role in meeting this challenge.” Note the unspoken assumptions here: first, that tensions between Muslims and others in the West are, in large part, the result of “stereotypes and misconceptions” about Muslims; second, that if non-Muslims come to know about and understand Islam, the “conflict” will disappear. This claim, which is repeated again and again in the Jagland Report, is, needless to say, contrary to the experience of many non-Muslims, who have discovered that the more they learn about Islam, the more deeply they are concerned about it.

Not surprisingly, the Jagland Report avoids mentioning the origins of the term “Islamophobia,” which was cooked up by the Muslim Brotherhood as a means of shutting down legitimate criticism of Islam. In addition to using this term, the report also approves of the expression “anti-Muslim racism,” which, it says, “places the issue of intolerance against Muslims in the broader framework of racism and implies the racialization of a religious category. The term stresses the multi-dimensional aspect of intolerance against Muslims, which can be based on factors beyond religion.” The purpose of this sheer gobbledygook, of course, is to legitimize the idea that criticism of Islam – a religion – can be considered racism. Later on, in a reference to the danger of “driving racist views underground,” the report explicitly affirms that “Islamophobia” is a form of racism. (At the same time, curiously, the report stresses the importance of communicating to students that Islam isn’t a skin color – that, in other words, Muslims come in all hues.)

One of the Jagland Report’s major emphases is on the need to recognize “the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others.” What it avoids mentioning is that Islam itself, as stated unambiguously in the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights, rejects the very concept of “universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The Cairo document, issued in 1990 in response to the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, repeatedly makes it clear that if any supposed right or freedom is contrary to sharia, that right or freedom is illegitimate, period. The Jagland Report dwells at some length on the question of rights, providing a list of “basic human rights principles relevant to preventing intolerance and discrimination against Muslims,” including “the equal dignity and rights of all human beings,” “non-discrimination, including on the basis of religion,” “equality of all before the law,” and “freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief.” It is interesting to note that every single one of these principles is utterly contrary to Islamic “principles.” Indeed, there is no hint in the Jagland Report that much of what it describes as “Islamophobia” is, in fact, a matter of non-Muslims reacting to manifestations of Islam’s utter rejection of the concept of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Obin Report devoted considerable attention to the refusal of Muslim parents to allow their children to participate in various activities, such as school trips and swimming classes: they considered some of these activities to be a violation of girls’ “modesty” and rejected others simply because they didn’t want their kids getting too friendly with infidels. The Jagland Report brings up this matter too, but approaches it from an entirely different angle: for example, if Muslim parents refuse to let their daughters take co-ed swimming classes with boys, the report makes it clear that the school, not the parents, should be regarded as intolerant because it has failed to “tailor” its swimming program to those parents’ demands.

The Jagland Report offers plenty of recommendations. It counsels that “school policies and practices should be set up, in partnership with communities and parents, to prevent and counter discrimination against Muslim students.” It recommends “textbook revision” to eliminate material that might give offense. It instructs schools to “monitor” students’ expressions of “prejudice.” It calls for the formation of “focus groups” in which students are encouraged to talk about the “climate of tolerance” in their school, these discussions being “moderate[d]” by “an experienced person, for example, someone from a nongovernmental organization dealing with discrimination and intolerance.” The report, after serving up a pro forma acknowledgment of freedom of speech, goes on to maintain that certain forms of speech are simply not “appropriate or acceptable in a school classroom.” So can it be ruled “inappropriate” simply to state the facts about Islam? (By the end of the report, one gathers that the answer is yes.)

The report further calls for “portrayals of Islam and Muslims” to be “accurate, fair and respectful.” But how can portrayals of certain aspects of Islam, such as the death penalty for apostates, be both accurate and “respectful”? The report stresses the importance of discussing “issues where misunderstanding is especially acute, such as the role of women in Islamic societies.” “Misunderstanding”? Are we to understand that the message being sent to educators here is that the unpleasant facts about women’s second-class status under Islam are not to be acknowledged in the classroom, and that students who express concern about sexual equality in the Islam world are to be disabused of their “stereotypes and misconceptions” and, if they persists in their error, are to be regarded as intractable Islamophobes? (In any case: do you notice that when you add up all these recommendations, the picture that results is reminiscent of nothing so much as a Maoist re-education camp?)

Although the Jagland Report pretends to be all for inclusion and integration, it gives its full support to Muslim demands for differential treatment. It insists, for example, that schools bend to demands for such forms of “religious accommodation” as “prayer rooms, holiday issues and school or sports uniforms that accommodate the need for modesty.” (Note, by the way, the report’s use of the word modesty: by using the word in this sense, it implicitly accepts the Islamic view that females who don’t wear hijab are immodestly dressed.) The report also approves of schools granting “exemptions” to Muslims in regard to such things as “religious holidays, non-obligatory religious teaching, participation in class camps and excursions, and clothing restrictions.”

Finally, the report urges teachers to “provide information” to students “on Muslim artists, writers, politicians and scientists that disproves the negative stereotypes held about Muslims.” Writers? Salman Rushdie, anyone? Are teachers allowed to mention the many artists and writers in today’s Muslim world who have been imprisoned, tortured, even executed for crossing the line? Surely not. No, let’s not look at the hard facts – let’s not try to figure out why the numbers of scientists, Nobel Prize winners, patents, translated books, decent universities, and so on in the Muslim world, relative to the rest of the planet, are all stunningly low. Let’s not have an open, honest classroom discussion of the ways in which Islam stifles scientific inquiry and free literary and artistic expression alike. Let’s just play pretend.

Reading through this mind-bogglingly Orwellian document, one finds oneself wondering continually: How can these people bring themselves to put their names to this disgraceful document? Do they fully understand where they’re taking us with this sort of thing? Do they not grasp that what they’ve produced here is a set of directives that has nothing whatsoever to do with combating intolerance but everything to do with adapting schools in the non-Muslim world to sharia norms? Indeed, virtually all of the examples of supposed intolerance that the report offers up are not examples of intolerance but, rather, of a failure on the part of non-Muslims to shift quickly enough into submissive mode when Muslims come a-complaining. The basic message of this “report” is that when it comes to Islam, the last thing non-Muslim educators should do is to educate – instead, they should replace the grim facts about Islam with pretty lies, and condemn truth-telling as Islamophobia while training students to be craven dhimmis.

In short, a mischievous, mendacious piece of work – yet another thing for the reprehensible Thorbjørn Jagland to be ashamed of, were he capable of shame

Bruce Bawer


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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