Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Ilhan Omar of American Journalism? - Bruce Bawer

by Bruce Bawer

The L.A. Times’ shameless Islam apologist.

I first became aware of Lorraine Ali over a decade ago, when, as a staff writer at Newsweek, she cruelly savaged another Ali, namely Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who, like Lorraine, had a Muslim background, but who, unlike Lorraine, had (on 9/11) rejected her faith, courageously calling it out for its ideology of brutal conquest, its systematic subjugation of women, its inculcation of contempt for the infidel, its endorsement of such primitive practices as honor killing and forced marriage, and its prescription of the death penalty for apostasy, adultery, homosexuality, and other transgressions. In her memoir, Infidel, Ayaan (who, owing to jihadist threats, has lived for years with round-the-clock bodyguards) recounted her rise from dire poverty and barbaric oppression in Somalia and Saudi Arabia to a seat in the Dutch legislature, where, defying dhimmi colleagues, she eulogized Western freedoms and stood up for the rights and equality of Muslim women – thereby becoming, for many of us, a world-class heroine. For Lorraine, however, the L.A.-born daughter of an Iraqi immigrant, Ayaan was, and is, a traitor against a religion that routinely romanticizes; hence, in her review of Infidel on February 26, 2007, Lorraine accused Ayaan of “throwing a rhetorical hand grenade” at Islam – thereby providing, as I  wrote in my 2009 book Surrender, “a good example of how anti-jihadist rhetoric is described in violent terms by the same kinds of journalists who, when describing jihad itself, opt for delicate euphemisms.”

Looking into Ali’s work – officially, believe it or not, she’s an entertainment writer, and is now based at the Los Angeles Times – I soon realized that promoting Islam and smearing its critics are this woman’s stock-in-trade. Writing about her a couple of years ago, I took note of her sympathetic 2010 profile of young women who wear niqab (the garment that covers everything but the eyes), in which she claimed, ridiculously, that “nothing [in the Koran] justified the [9/11] attacks,” that post-9/11 America had carried out a “backlash against Islam,” and that the niqab, far from symbolizing subordination, is “liberating.” I also cited a piece in which she recounted the dilemma supposedly facing a young relative of hers, Abdullah, an Iraqi student at a California university. Would Trump’s evil travel ban keep him out of the U.S.? Would the new president’s bigotry prevent this gentle lad from attending the Metallica concert for which he’d bought tickets? Spoiler: Abdullah made it to the concert. As it happens, Ali has gotten a lot of mileage out of Abdullah (whom she invariably refers to as her nephew, even though he’s the son of her cousin, and thus also a cousin). In 2016, for instance, she wrote a would-be-heartwarming piece about taking him to the Coachella rock festival, where her main concern was that Abdullah, with his pure Muslim values, would be corrupted by American debauchery and commercialism.  

Checking in on Ali the other day, I discovered that she hasn’t changed her stripes. Reviewing The Looming Tower, a recent miniseries about the rise of Al Qaeda, she it praised for including in its cast a Muslim FBI agent “who convincingly illustrates the despair and frustration of watching one’s faith hijacked in the name of an ungodly cause” (as if jihad weren’t a foundational Islamic concept!). The Muslim FBI guy, she noted, “smokes and drinks because, despite what television and film have portrayed for years, not all Muslims are fundamentalists, or pious, or even practicing.” In fact, Islam having never had an Enlightenment, it’s meaningless to identify Muslims as “fundamentalists” or “pious” or “practicing”; either you’re an honest-to-God Muslim or you’re not. The G-man in The Looming Tower may say he’s one, but no Islamic scholar would agree. Under Islam, the drinking of alcohol is “the mother of all evils,” punishable by “eighty lashes for a free man and forty for others”; a self-described Muslim who imbibes regularly is, in his heart, an ex-Muslim who, knowing that the penalty for apostasy is death, prefers not to trumpet his heresy, because he’s not as brave as, say, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

When she’s not plugging Islam, Ali is busy toeing the leftist line, although she’s such a tenacious ideologue that she stays in lockstep even when her fellow lefties have scattered. For example, when Roseanne was expelled from her triumphant sitcom reboot, even the most hard-core progressives recognized that Roseanne without Roseanne was a dud. But not Ali, who asserted that it was “sharp, funny and cuts deeper than its predecessor.” The Conners, she assured us, were “doing just fine without” Roseanne, taking “the new narrative in wonderfully awkward, wry and entertaining directions” and bringing to the series “a renewed sense of humor and relevance.” As for the resurrection of Murphy Brown, never mind that virtually everybody else admitted it was a disaster, built entirely on familiar, witless Trump-bashing: Ali professed delight at the show’s “nuance, smart humor, and still surprisingly sharp edge,” said that Murphy had returned “just when we need her the most,” and insisted that “if the first three episodes available for review are an indication of what’s to come, she’s prepared to slay this time around,” because “this sitcom character created in the 1980s does a better job at skewering our modern media culture…than most of her present-day scripted competition.”

Similarly, while it was all but universally agreed that last January’s Golden Globes Award ceremony – in recent years an occasion for irreverent and genuinely amusing japery – had been turned this time around into a politically correct borefest, Ali again dissented. Indeed, what was widely considered the most awkward moment in the whole show – namely, when co-host Sandra Oh pontificated so tiresomely about the joys of diversity that some members of the woke audience actually started tittering, thinking she was doing a bit – was singled out by Ali for special praise. Oh’s pretentious diatribe, maintained Ali, summed up the triumph of the evening, in which “those who’d been locked out for so long were, for the first time, the majority in the room.” Similarly, Ali extolled the January 2018 Emmys as a “show of solidarity against the patriarchy” – by which, of course, she meant the imaginary American patriarchy, which she despises, not the very real Islamic patriarchy, which she defends.

This past January, 76% of Americans gave a thumbs-up to President Trump’s State of the Union address. But Ali’s account of it was nothing but a string of sneers. She dismissed the President’s references to savage Latin American gangs and child trafficking as “buzz words: ‘Caravans!’ ‘MS-13!’ ‘The dangerous southern border!’” When the Democratic congresswomen in attendance – all dressed in white – responded to terrific employment numbers by sitting on their hands, only to cheer themselves when Trump mentioned the record number of women in Congress, some viewers saw it as a puerile, narcissistic display; Ali, however, contended that they’d “upstage[d]” the president.” Trump, she wrote, may have “promised…that we, as’ a nation, were stepping boldly into the next chapter of this great American adventure,” but “It was the women in white on the House floor — like the Muslim immigrant and Minnesota Rep. Omar – who ensured we’re already on our way.”

Ali never misses a chance to champion Islam – all the while fastidiously deep-sixing pretty much everything that’s unpleasant about it. Even so, it came as something of a surprise to read her utterly absurd take on last month’s New Zealand mosque shootings. “Most everything Americans thought they knew about Muslims...has been challenged,” she wrote. Nonsense: in what way did the Christchurch massacre, this freak occurrence in an era of rampant jihad and Islamization, challenge anybody’s understanding of anything? “Muslims are not only perpetrators of terror attacks,” Ali went on, “they are also victims.” Yes, except that more than 99% of the time the perpetrators are Muslims, too – doing precisely what the Koran tells them to do. “Up until now,” Ali added, “the West’s exposure to Muslims had been cultivated over decades and from afar.” What? You’d think that people all over the West haven’t long since become accustomed to the sight of women in hijab – and that New York, Madrid, London, Berlin, Orlando, Paris, and many other Western cities haven’t been exposed to Islam in, shall we say, very dramatic ways. 

How to sum up the phenomenon that is Lorraine Ali? Even at a time when all too many mainstream-media journalists are reliably PC, rarely if ever deviating into objectivity and unhesitatingly turning the truth on its head for political reasons, Ali stands out. She dials it up to eleven. In her readiness to politicize absolutely everything, to replace aesthetic with political judgment, and to be a prominent voice for red-green orthodoxy – consistently depicting Islam as peaceful and its adherents as victims – she’s not just a personification of the worst aspects of contemporary journalism but a veritable caricature of them. Not so many years ago the question might have been: how can a major newspaper like the L.A. Times employ such an inveterate prevaricator? Today, the question is: why do so few of the knee-jerk leftists and eager Islam apologists at the once-respected metropolitan dailies measure up to this one?

Bruce Bawer is the author of “While Europe Slept,” “Surrender,” "The Victims' Revolution," and "The Alhambra." "Islam," a collection of his essays on Islam, has just been published.


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