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High Priests of Islamophobia

Islamophobia comes to the fore in the poorly written articles of Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis.

High priests of Islamophobia

by Tanvir Ahmed Khan (Gulf News)

All across the world of Islam, we find responsible thinkers, analysts and creative writers engaged in deep introspection on how their societies became vulnerable to religious extremism and how this issue became a casus belli for the West.

Some of the affluent Arab states invest considerable sums of money in the promotion of inter-faith harmony and understanding. Many intellectuals from the West respond positively and help place issues in a constructive perspective.

Unfortunately, the dominant trend in the West continues to be the exploitation of terrorism to demonise Islam. This becomes particularly noticeable when writers of repute give up all pretence to objectivity and weigh in on the side of low order propagandists against the Muslim world.

Christopher Hitchens is a famous British writer who migrated to the United States some 20 years ago. In due course he abandoned his leftist past and became an ardent neo-conservative.

He also claimed a Jewish lineage on facts that his own brother considers rather exaggerated. In internal debates on both sides of the Atlantic, he fiercely supported the invasion of Iraq. In the latest issue of Vanity Fair he returns to Pakistan, a country that arouses visceral hatred in him and lambasts it in a language that does not fight shy of using four-lettered words.

The occasion is the hunting down of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. The very opening of his polemic, however, shows that he wants to use the incident to attack the Pakistani society from every conceivable angle. So blatant and biased is the denunciation of Pakistan that the best refutation so far has come from Christine Fair, a regional specialist who teaches at Georgetown University.

Hitchens employs his old trick of seizing on some isolated feature of a Muslim society and dresses it up as its dominant trait. The opening gambit comes from the well-known fact that Islam has not been entirely successful in uprooting some old tribal customs, usually in remote areas. Pakistan still faces the evil phenomenon of honour-killing that raises its head in some communities from time to time.

In the opening paragraph of a very poorly researched article that Vanity Fair thought it fit to publish, Hitchens first finds that much of Pakistan has been Talibanised and then goes on to make the extraordinary observation that Pakistan ‘is a society where rape is not a crime’. “It is”, he declares ” a punishment” to which women can be sentenced by tribal and kangaroo courts.

He then quickly moves on to savage President Asif Ali Zardari as the man who “cringes daily in front of the forces who openly murdered his wife, Benazir Bhutto” ; a man ‘lacking in pride’ and indeed ‘lacking in manliness’. As he ridicules the very concept of sovereignty of Pakistan, very few Pakistani readers would doubt that the writer is a typical American Zionist-neoconservative who cannot bear the thought of a Muslim state equipped with nuclear weapons in violation of the ‘law’ that only Israel in this region has the right to possess them.

Hitchens’ ludicrous claim that much of Pakistan has been Talibanised is a reminder that most polemics against Islam and Muslim societies rely on such sweeping generalisations.

Qutb’s impact

In October 2006, Hitchens’ closest friend, the distinguished British novelist, Martin Amis, published a long essay on extreme Islamism in London’s Sunday Observer. He based his lengthy thesis on the premises that liberal Islam has already been defeated and supplanted by violent Islamism.

For evidence he relied heavily on a critique of the impact of Sayyid Qutb. In his native Egypt as, indeed, in most Muslim countries his philosophy and political activism continue to generate controversy. This dialectical debate about his work is an essential part of intra-Islamic disputations. Amis completely ignored this fact and presented him as the triumphant influence on Muslims.

As a critique of Qutb’s ideas the essay was a non-starter. Having made a most perfunctory reference to this aspect of Qutb, he went on to ridicule him almost entirely in terms of his presumed frustrations in dealing with liberated western women during his travels and study in Europe and North America. The idea was to locate the true provenance of Qutb’s struggle against western imperialism in his discomfort in dealing with western women.

Some time back, a thoughtful article by Michael Vlahos in the American Conservative discussed in detail how the ‘great Muslim War’ replaced the story of globalisation and how American insistence on ‘you are either with us or against us’ is now promoting counter-movements all over the globe. Hitchens and Amis wilfully ignore the context — centuries of western colonialism and the revived quest for western hegemony at the turn of the century — because their basic purpose is to support war as an instrument of restoring dominance.

By trying to show all Muslims as potential Al Qaida followers they sell their militarism to the anti-war majorities in the West. It is unfortunate to see the broad humanism of distinguished writers who should claim a universal audience being made available to the neo-imperialists of our times.

The writer is a former ambassador and foreign secretary of Pakistan. Till recently, he worked as the Chairman of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad.

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  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Christopher Hitchens? An intellectual? Don’t make me laugh. Do tell snackbar, what exactly are his ‘glowing accomplishments’? What has he done to benefit humanity at all? So far as I can tell, he’s just another journalist. His English accent and vocabulary merely serve to make him seem ‘exotic’ to the American public. And he’s not a particularly talented writer at all… just another former Commie who now writes for the neo-Cons. Ironic as Spencer was a Commie as well, but I fail to see the attraction.

    He CLAIMS to be a great atheistic philosopher… yet he supports Bush and the invasion of Iraq. He claims to be for human rights and opposed to Zionism… yet he blindly supports Israel and ignores the Palestinians. It strikes me he is a hypocrite of the highest order, and one who follows the popular trends in American politics. His anti-Islam writings are an outgrowth of this. He is an ‘atheist,’ but by defining himself through western culture, he puts himself at odds with everyone else.

    Basically, it’s racism repackaged for the 21st century. Instead of using the excuses of skin color, they simply say ‘foreigners can’t/won’t assimilate’ and are done with it.

  • Skhan

    ^screw you. See that? I treated you with the contempt you deserve. Am I an intellectual yet?

  • hellosnackbar

    Christopher Hitchens is one of the world’s most gifted public intellectuals.
    Naturally as a profound atheist he treats Islam with the contempt it has worked hard to attract.
    He and Richard Dawkins are doing a great job in keeping the vacuous nature of all religions in the public arena.

  • RDS

    @David
    Then if someone can prove that there is indeed rule of law (no matter how inadequate), then Hitchens is rightly talking bollocks. It doesn’t matter if he said it as a rhetorical argument, he’s basing it off stereotypes (poorly-researched, to boot) to make a point, which is helping no one. If he made the point that rampant tribalism is going around (which may or may not even be true) in Pakistan’s northern areas, then maybe it can be taken with a grain of salt, but bleh.

    Also, what creepy comment? o_O

  • Isa

    Christopher Hitchens has one of the worst minds on the planet. He is not a scholar. All he knows how to do is write polemics and say vitrolic things against those he hates. His criticism of all religions is the same thing. Because some people do bad things in the name of religion, that therefore makes all religion bad, no nuance, no liberal interpretations of scriptre, nope – all bad, end of story. But if someone brings up the fact that officially atheist countries like the Soviet Union killed more people in a single century, than all of the religious wars of the past combined, that is lambasted as being “below the belt.” It’s as Danios always says, “moving the goalposts” so the opposing side can never get a fair chance to fight back.

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    Well rape is a crime in Pakistan
    There are areas in Pakistan where the rule of law is not up to the standard that most Pakistan people would expect . But its not the only third world country like that .
    And your point is ?…………….

    Is this your own view or belief ? If so this is the second creepy comment you have made on this site.
    I am sure there are other web sites where you can find others who share your views.

  • RDS

    Sensitive question alert:

    “…Pakistan ‘is a society where rape is not a crime’. “It is”, he declares ” a punishment” to which women can be sentenced by tribal and kangaroo courts.””

    How much of the above statement is true?

  • Anj

    Who cares what hitchens writes, he sold his soul to the $ many years ago. He is only liked in America because of his British accent. Makes him sound smarter than he is! He can troll away at Pakistan until he is blue in the face. It’s always the same old tired attack points mixed with a holier than thou attitude.
    His attacks are always one sided. Typical example would be pakistans nuclear programme and IQ khans selling of technology. He hasn’t the balls to mention that alot of other countries sell nuclear technologies and they have signed the non proliferation treaty.
    Eg nuclear weapons facility in the nagaev desert
    code named “Damona”
    built by the French
    heavy water supplied by britian and Norway
    uranium and plutonium supplied by the US
    delivery systems supplied by the US
    enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet!

  • Anj

    Who cares what hitchens writes, he sold his soul to the $ many years ago. He is only liked in America because of his British accent. Makes him sound smarter than he is! He can troll away at Pakistan until he is blue in the face. It’s always the same old tired attack points mixed with a holier than thou attitude.
    His attacks are always one sided. Typical example would be pakistans nuclear programme and IQ khans selling of technology. He hasn’t the balls to mention that alot of other countries sell nuclear technologies and they have signed the non proliferation treaty.
    Eg nuclear weapons facility in the nagaev desert
    code named “Damon”
    built by the French
    heavy water supplied by britian and Norway
    uranium and plutonium supplied by the US
    delivery systems supplied by the US
    enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet!

  • Sam Seed

    Where’s Dan?

  • JD

    waiting for our local Hindu nationalist , who hates Muslims to show up since Pakistan as mentioned in the article….

  • O/T

    Check out my exchange here with a friend of the Islamophobes, Asra Nomani

    http://islamophobiatv.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/islamophobic-tactic-7-co-optation-of-the-neocon-muslim-traitor/#comment-26

    🙂

  • JD
  • Al

    Hitchens is an academic troll, he shouldn’t be afforded a platform from which to spew his verbal diarrhea.

  • mindy1

    Interesting. Nothing wrong with debate, but make it well researched

  • Ustadh

    Great piece. Very interesting synopsis of the failures of both Hitchens and Amis to substantively tackle the subject at hand. Can’t wait for the Pakistan haters to jump on this now.

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