Islamophobia as the ‘new antisemitism’: Guardian’s secular (Replacement) Theology of Victimhood

If arguments suggesting a dangerous post 9/11 increase in discrimination against Muslims and the abrogation of their human rights in the U.S. and Europe were treated with intellectual seriousness – if facts and reason drove the debate, rather than clichés, passions and ideology – such wild polemical ventures would be dismissed out of hand.

The nadir of such propositions – asserting that anti-Muslim bigotry has replaced antisemitism as the central challenge in the war against racism in the West – has become a banality among as-a-Jews who feel more comfortable chastising Jews and the West for all manner of sins rather than in shining their moral spotlight on the Muslim or Arab “other”.

However, any serious analysis of post 9/11 anti-Muslim bigotry and antisemitism in the U.S. would necessarily take into account the last decade of hate crime statistics which demonstrate that such acts of bias (including violence) against Muslims are extremely rare in the U.S. and that Jews are dramatically more likely to be targeted for such crimes than Muslims.  

Further, quite relevant are studies which indicate that Muslim Americans continue to enjoy social and economic success equal to that of non-Muslim citizens.

Additionally, polls in Europe indicate that antisemitic attitudes across the continent remain startlingly high, with a majority of those polled in ten European countries, for instance, questioning the loyalty of their Jewish citizens, nearly 40% believing that Jews have too much power in international finance and 22% still holding Jews, as a group, responsible for the death of Christ.

Yet ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Mya Guarnieri, in an essay titled “Islamophobia: the new antisemitism“, attempted to contextualize one marginal U.S. pastor’s burning of the Koran last year as “a mirror for the country” as a whole.  Of course, Guarnieri never tried to explain why the reprehensible behavior of one pastor was representative of the new national post 9/11 mores, nor what the connection was between individual acts of intolerance towards Islam and the broad phenomena of antisemitism.

Similarly, the Guardian’s Giles Fraser, in a piece titled “Martha Nussbaum and the new religious intolerance“, June 29th, in a review of Nussbaum’s book, “New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the politics of fear in an anxious age”, writes:

“Her latest book, The New Religious Intolerance, is a vigorous defence of the religious freedom of minorities in the face of post-9/11 Islamophobia. And by minorities she mostly means Muslims.”

Giles Fraser quotes Nussbaum, a philosopher, who he interviewed for the piece, thus:

“I use the example of antisemitism because I think it is useful to look back to a historical example with some detachment, and we can all admit that mistakes were made. And we can see that the treatment of the Jews was inspired by a kind of concocted fear – so The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is my example – and it has many ingredients in common with fear of Muslims today. What is similar is the demand for a kind of assimilation that extends to dress [regarding the Burqa] and ways of life as the condition for full civic equality.”

What Nussbaum fails to explain is that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion didn’t merely inspire fear of Jews, but rather “concocted” the belief in generations of non-Jews that Jews were engaged a plot to take over the world.  

This enduring conspiracy theory (positing an immutably duplicitous, dangerous Jew) has motivated not just bigotry and systemic discrimination, but pogroms and mass murder – the lethal legacy of centuries of antisemitism which is without parallel.

Further, Nussbaum fails to note both that the Muslim Middle East continues to represent the most fertile ground for the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and data indicating that such Muslim racism towards Jews is endemic in that region of the world.

This malign Jewish obsession (evident in Muslim newspapers, magazines, caricatures, websites, radio and TV news, films, and educational materials) has been characterized by the most preeminent scholar on antisemitism, Robert Wistrich, as similar to what was seen in Nazi Germany at its worst.

 Wistrich wrote:

“[In the Muslim world we see] the pervasive use of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion with its perennial theme of the “Jewish conspiracy for world domination;” or the medieval blood-libel…or the vile stereotypical image of the Jews as a treacherous, rapacious, and bloodthirsty people engaged in a ceaseless plotting to undermine the world of Islam.

To these grotesque inventions one must add such more up-to-date libels like Holocaust denial which…is increasingly pervasive in the Arab world.”

Not only is the “new antisemitism” still very much the same old antisemitism, but the Muslim Middle East represents the central address for its modern mutation.

So how then to explain not only the failure of so many within the “enlightened” classes to explicitly condemn such hatred, but the related tendency to advance the proposition that 1.6 billion Muslims have replaced 13.5 million Jews as the persecuted minority which urgently demands the West’s sympathy and a rigorous moral accounting?

A clue can be found by briefly examining the most egregious antisemitic sin of the Guardian-style left; a perverse ethics which has nurtured a weariness with Jews’ claim to their sympathetic imagination and a related heightened concern over what is seen as the moral legacy of Western colonialism in the Mid-East.

A replacement theology of victimhood now prioritizes Muslim over Jewish suffering, informed by the idea that the relative affluence and confidence of Jews both in Israel and the West, juxtaposed with the underdevelopment within the Islamic world, must indicate a relationship between the former and the latter.  

In the zero-sum game of the far left, one’s poverty is necessarily related to another’s prosperity.

An ideology which assigns fixed roles to Westerners and non-Westerns – assigning complete responsibility to the former while denying moral agency to the latter – is what may explain, in part, how Guardian editors could characterize a decidedly reactionary Islamist leader named Raed Salah as the victim of anti-Muslim intolerance while failing to name or express sympathy towards the Jewish victims of a cold-blooded Islamist terror attack in Toulouse.

The Guardian’s Giles Fraser encapsulates the strategy of Nussbaum’s book on religious intolerance as follows:

“…to reveal the inconsistencies and double standards that we apply to minority religious positions and from there to plead for a more sympathetic hearing of those whose worldviews we do not share.”

Left un-examined, of course, is the question of why a rigorous commitment to the values of pluralism, diversity and anti-racism would demand that we should even be sympathetic to those who possess a worldview which is hateful, intolerant and non-inclusive.

Written By
More from Adam Levick
CAMERA links in 3 languages – Oct. 21: BBC Watch, Snapshots, In Focus, Presspectiva and Revista
Our regular roundup of post from CAMERA affiliated sites: BBC not sure...
Read More
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *