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Newsweek Trumpets Hirsi’s War Against Muslims

War on Christians

February 12 Cover

Newsweek has apparently abandoned any pretense of actual reporting in favor of tabloid-style sensationalism. Career hatemonger Aayan Hirsi Ali‘s alarmist screed in the February 12 issue is a jumble of half truths culled together with the obvious purpose of demonizing Muslims, at the expense of Christian minorities she pretends to defend.

Hirsi ignores US-led invasions–actual wars–against one Islamic country after another, and the impact on Christians, especially in Iraq. In fact, according to her apocalyptic vision, the West must destroy Islam, by any means necessary–in the name of peace and civilization, of course.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s War

by Anthony Alessandrini, Jadaliyya

For a couple of centuries now, we have had to make due with Samuel Johnson’s famous phrase: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Thanks to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, we can now revise this phrase for the twenty-first century. Tthe last last refuge of a scoundrel, it appears, lies in taking up the battle against something called “Christophobia.”

Hirsi Ali coins this term as part of her alarmist and deeply hateful cover story for Newsweek. “The War on Christians” is splashed across the cover, but the actual target of Hirsi Ali’s piece becomes more clear in the title provided for the online version of the piece: “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World.”

The terms of Hirsi Ali’s argument, such as it is, are all set out in her opening paragraph:

We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring’s fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway—an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.

The criminally careless tossing out of the term “genocide” gives us a clue about what is to come. So too does the style, which is a classic version of her usual mode, that of the lone brave voice crying out about injustice in the wilderness, surrounded by dupes who are too busy portraying Muslims as “victims or heroes.” Fortunately, Hirsi Ali is prepared to offer us “a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends,” leading to what she sees as her inevitable conclusion and allowing her to coin her useful new term: “the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other.”

Having already reached her inevitable conclusion in her opening, Hirsi Ali appears to feel little need to support it with anything so mundane as actual facts. Instead he offers a loosely-connected cherry picking tour that ties together incidents of violence against Christians and other religious minorities in Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, and Indonesia. All the instances she references are real and terrible acts of violence. And all of them are symptoms of complex political and social situations that need to be analyzed and addressed. This makes it all the more horrible that Hirsi Ali treats them as mere data to be added to her deeply simplistic argument. Indeed, she raises the same two points in each case: first, that Muslims are killing Christians; second, that the world (by which she means “the West”)—apparently distracted by its uncritical admiration for the revolutionaries of the Arab Spring and its obsession with stamping out Islamophobia—stands idly by and watches. So Hirsi Ali is forced to beg her readers to help break what she refers to as a “conspiracy of silence.”

Were the consequences of such an argument not so grave—and I will come to those consequences shortly—it would be possible to simply dismiss this article as the nonsense that it is. To reduce the complexity of the political violence in Nigeria and Sudan to instances of “Christophobia,” for example, is simply ludicrous, as is the suggestion that somehow Western political and media figures have been “reticent” or “silent” when it comes to Darfur. This is in no way to downplay the full horror of these situations; indeed, what is most disturbing here is Hirsi Ali’s cursory citing of them—Nigeria merits just two paragraphs of her article, Sudan just one—in the service of her hateful argument.

In other cases, what is striking is the utter thinness of the arguments she tries to marshal. When, for example, she tries to make the case that “not even Indonesia…has been immune to the fevers of Christophobia,” she cites data complied by the Christian Post suggesting an increase in violent incidents against religious minorities of nearly forty percent between 2010 and 2011. Again, this is certainly a cause for concern, but it would be interesting to ask Hirsi Ali how she would compare this increase to the more than fifty percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the United States between 2009 and 2010, as reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She might also have turned to data on Indonesia produced by Human Rights Watch rather than that of an obscure Christian website, which would have confirmed her point about an increase in attacks on religious minorities (including Ahmadis) in Indonesia—except that rather than attributing this increase to the rise of “Christophobia,” HRW’s conclusion about this key US ally is quite different: “The common thread is the failure of the Indonesian government to protect the rights of all its citizens.”

Of course, these sorts of fact-free claims about the “Muslim world” by conservative commentators are nothing new. What is more worthy of note, however, are those claims by Hirsi Ali that suggest a number of moves taken out of the contemporary neo-conservative playbook. Hirsi Ali’s connections to the neo-con movement—she is, among other things, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute—have been widely noted. For example, Hamid Dabashi lists her prominently among the “comprador intellectuals” who have helped sell the neo-con agenda in the United States and Europe. (Indeed, it is clear that the title of her article is meant to resonate in this election season with the claims being made by conservatives about an alleged “war on Christians” here in the United States.)

One strand of this neo-conservative reasoning as it can be read out of Hirsi Ali’s article has to do with her references to Egypt. She only devotes one paragraph to Egypt, but the print version of the article includes four images (including the cover image), some quite graphic, of violence against Copts in Egypt. Hirsi Ali preludes her point by noting that the alleged rise of Christophobia in Egypt comes “in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.” Her key example is the attack by security forces on pro-Coptic protesters outside Maspero on 9 October 2011, which killed at least twenty-four people and wounded more than three hundred. From this example, Hirsi Ali moves forward with her relentlessly superficial line of argument: “By the end of the year more than two-hundred thousand Copts had fled their homes in anticipation of more attacks. With Islamists poised to gain much greater power in the wake of recent elections, their fears appear to be justified.”

The first and most obvious problem here, of course, is Hirsi Ali’s attempt to transform an attack by security forces against protesters—the sort of attack that has marked the bloody fule of the Supreme Council of Armed Force (SCAF)—into yet another example of “Muslims attacking Christians,” driven solely by the relentless power of Christophobia. The deeper problem, and the one that betrays the mark of neo-con logic, is her implication that the source of this violence springs from, not the US-supported and armed military junta currently ruling Egypt, but the forces supposedly unleashed by the Arab Spring. This becomes clear in the final sentence, which resonates with the neo-con mantra that has been constant since the beginnings of the popular uprisings: if they get their democracy, we’ll wind up with the Islamists.

This disdain for the forces of democracy in Egypt (as contrasted to the neo-cons’ own preferred model of “democracy promotion” through military intervention) becomes even clearer in the admiring take on Hirsi Ali’s article posted on the blog of the National Review by Nina Shea. Concurring with Hirsi Ali’s thesis regarding the rise of Christophobia in the region, Shea adds, “Unfortunately, Arab democracy in Iraq and Egypt, the ancient homelands of two of the three largest Middle Eastern Christian communities, seems to be exacerbating the religious persecution.” (“Arab democracy,” we are thus invited to conclude, must be quite different from, say, “Western-style democracy.”)

As Shea notes, Hirsi Ali also uses the example of violence against Christians in Iraq, which is again awarded a full paragraph of attention. “Egypt is not the only Arab country that seems bent on wiping out its Christian minority,” she writes, continuing her “fair-minded assessment.” She goes on to note the rise in violence against Iraqi Christians since 2003, and the fact that thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled the country—“as the result of violence directed specifically against them”—leading to what she calls “an incipient genocide or ethnic cleansing of Assyrians in Iraq.”

And then, she moves on. The fact that 2003 is hardly an arbitrary date is not so much as acknowledged. Here we find yet another example of the almost unbelievable gall exhibited by neo-cons, as part of the larger forgetting of the war on Iraq in the United States. That Hirsi Ali—who was, like her neo-con colleagues, a vocal supporter of the war—can avoid not only accepting responsibility for the shattering of Iraqi society, but can actually use this shattering to advance her own hideous Islamophobic arguments, is simply obscene. Just as she fails to acknowledge that the attacks on pro-Coptic protesters in Egypt need to be understood within the larger framework of SCAF’s systematic attacks on all protesters, so she refuses to acknowledge that the thousands of Christians who have fled from Iraq are part of the one and a half million Iraqis who have been made refugees by the war she supported.

This forgetting of the carnage unleashed by the criminal war against Iraq is especially important today, as some of the same neo-con forces have not ceased to bang the drums for a new war against Iran. Hirsi Ali, not surprisingly, whole-heartedly endorses an attack on Iran. This is one of the clear dangers presented by her article in the current moment. I had decided not to mention another, more intimate connection between Hirsi Ali and neo-con ideology, represented by her marriage to the dean of neo-imperialists, Niall Ferguson. But it becomes impossible not to mention this connection when, in the very same issue of Newsweek—in fact, only four pages away from her article—we find an article by Ferguson, arguing vigorously for supporting an Israeli attack on Iran, using logic that could have been lifted straight out of the pro-war op-eds of 2002 (“Sometimes a preventive war can be a lesser evil than a policy of appeasement.”) Hirsi Ali only manages to work Iran into her argument regarding “Christophobia” in an indirect way, but given her long-standing views—she has, for example, argued that the Bush administration should have attacked Iraq and Iran after 9/11—her larger framework is clearly intended to support this march towards a new war.

But this is still not the most insidious aspect of Hirsi Ali’s argument. This becomes apparent only as she reaches her conclusion, which begins with a reiteration of her two theses: “It should be clear from this catalog of atrocities that anti-Christian violence is a major and underreported problem.” Helpfully, she goes on to offer an explanation for both aspects of the problem. This “global war on Christians” is not, she suggests, the result of coordination by “some international Islamist agency.” “In that sense,” she goes on, “the global war on Christians isn’t a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.”

In a word: Muslims are killing Christians because Muslims hate Christians. And if this global war remains “underreported,” Muslims are to blame for this as well: part of the reason for “the media’s reticence on the subject,” she suggests, “may be the fear of provoking additional violence,” but the “most likely” explanation is “the influence of lobbying groups such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.” Such groups, she concludes, “have been remarkably successful in persuading leading public figures and journalists in the West to think of each and every example of perceived anti-Muslim discrimination as an expression of a systematic and sinister derangement called ‘Islamophobia’—a term that is meant to elicit the same moral disapproval as xenophobia or homophobia.”

We discover a few important things here. The first is that the seeming disconnectedness of Hirsi Ali’s argument is in fact intentional. There is no need to draw logical or factual connections between the various incidents she raises because the logic can be found in the very structure of her thesis: what she cites are simply examples of Muslims attacking Christians, and Muslims attack Christians because Muslims hate Christians. When Egyptian security forces attack Coptic protesters, it is not the army attacking protesters; it is Muslims attacking Christians. When Iraqi Christians flee the violence of a country destroyed by a US-led war and occupation, it is not Iraqis fleeing from carnage; it is Christians fleeing from Muslims. Hirsi Ali has developed the perfect machine for circulating and defending Islamophobia, since it directly implicates every individual Muslim in the actions of every other individual Muslim—not to mention the actions of any government of any Muslim-majority state. And, as an added bonus, it even manages to implicate the imputing of Islamophobia itself as part of the problem, since she sees this as part of the sinister “conspiracy of silence” that allows this global Christophobia to flourish.

Hirsi Ali’s “war,” in other words, guarantees the continuing stigmatization of Muslims in North America and Europe. This is what allows her to speak of a “global war on Christians in the Muslim world.” In addition to resonating with the US’s “global war on terror,” what this phrase signifies is that the Islamic “threat” is a global one. So what might appear to be a minority community under siege in the United States, Hirsi Ali suggests, is in fact part of a threatening wave of genocide; the “spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities” exists, in inchoate form, everywhere. No one (Christian) is safe.

Allow me to state the obvious, which is that Hirsi Ali’s argument has an immediately recognizable pedigree. The attempt to justify the oppression of minority groups by producing them as threats to “our way of life”—including the assertion that the same groups have the mysterious power to bewitch, dupe, and silence the unwary through conspiratorial means and shadowy organizations—has been a standard practice of racism and fascism, those precursors of Islamophobia; Hirsi Ali is a connoisseur of all three. Her supposed defense of an embattled minority is a thinly disguised attempt to extend and expand the ongoing repression of Muslim minority communities. The logic of her argument is precisely the same as that which has underwritten the violent policing of Muslim communities in the name of fighting “homegrown terrorism,” which has had such horrific consequences for these communities (not to mention for civil liberties more generally).

Hirsi Ali, like Ferguson and the rest of the neo-con forces, is eager to wrap herself in the mantle of “Western” virtues such as skepticism and secularism, against the forces of sectarianism and fundamentalism that they see as constitutive of the “Muslim world.” But what could possibly be more sectarian and fundamentalist than Hirsi Ali’s vision of the world, with its terrifying simplifications and generalizations, and its reduction of genuine situations of violence and suffering to data whose only purpose is to power her relentless Islamophobia machine?

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  • Tom the Redhunter

    How disappointing. The persecution of minorities is an area where left and right should be able to agree, yet the author of this piece, and most of the commenters, couldn’t appear to care less. Apparently when Christians are the victims, the left doesn’t care. Sad but revealing.

  • Scott

    The anti-Hirsi Ali author is a Moslem. “nuff said. LOL.

  • khushboo

    Yup. Mary quite contrary blindly came here to give her full blind support of Ayaan no matter what the facts are.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GargamelGold?feature=mhee CriticalDragon1177

    @khushboo

    She probably hasn’t even read any of the other stuff Loon Watch has written about Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

  • Pingback: Reed Stanley Berry: February 6, 2012 (My Gratitude & Few Requests) « aseerun()

  • khushboo

    It’s obvious Mary hasn’t read the article.

  • Mary t

    this is one of the more evil articles I’ve seen lately. It is quite the joke apparently that Christians are being murdered. The author has no idea what he/she is talking about. Doesn’t even know the credibility of Ayaan Hirsi Ali or that she is a woman that endured great suffering at the hands of her fellow Muslims and escaped with her life. Shameful disgusting thing you have written no nothing bigot.

  • Géji

    @ RegAffair Says: “We need to be able to make a clear distinction between the moderate muslims who practice their religion in private vs the extremists who wish for the Egyptian society to be transformed in line with Islamic law.”

    And who are you again to tell Egyptians how they ought to “vote” and which government they ought to “elect”, whether Islamic or not? Are you currently a citizen of Egypt?. If not, then so far, they had the decency and civility not to dictate how affairs in your country “should run”, so have the same courtesy, and STAY-OUT of their democratic process, after that’s what democracy is all about, isn’t?, no ? It must be “Western-approved”?

  • RegAffair

    Well it seems, in Egypt at least, that the victims are both the moderate Muslims and the Copts while the persecutors are the extremist muslims (muslim brotherhood and Salafi’s). When things start to go bad for the moderates, they start to go really bad for the minorities.

    We need to be able to make a clear distinction between the moderate muslims who practice their religion in private vs the extremists who wish for the society to be transformed in line with Islamic law. This form of political islam is dangerous and leads to the type of governance seen in Islamic law as practiced by Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. Whether or not the commentators on loonwatch actually support the goals of political Islam and the erosion of the Western legal tradition is a matter of debate.

  • Ilisha

    @Susanna

    First, I’m not going to get bogged down in a debate with you. Your mind is already made up and no matter what anyone says, you appear to retain precisely the same views.

    Second, it’s certainly not true that human rights organizations echo Raymond Ibrahim’s views.

    Human rights organizations monitor ALL persecution against religious minorities, without prejudice.

    Here is an example:

    UN human rights chief condemns widespread attacks on religious minorities
    http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=37221&Cr=pillay&Cr1

    Regarding Egypt, she said:

    “Ms. Pillay praised the widespread condemnation by many Egyptian religious, political and civic leaders, as well as media commentators, of the bomb attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria in the early hours of New Year’s Day that killed at least 21 people and injured dozens of others.

    She said she was particularly heartened by the strong reaction of many ordinary Egyptian Muslims, who rallied to the support of Christian congregations as they prepared to celebrate Coptic Christmas amid fears of further attacks.

    We are not denying there is religious persecution, including the persecution of Christians by Muslim extremists. It is worth noting, as I have many times in the past, that fanning the flames of tribal hatred expressed in the so-called “Clash of Civilizations” only makes things worse for religious minorities everywhere.

    Anyone who genuinely cares about Christians in Muslim-majority countries should not be cheering for Ibrahim and helping to spread his hateful propaganda.

    We oppose the notion that all the world’s a comic book with supervillains and superheroes engaged in simplistic battles between good and evil.

    Raymond Ibrahim has a clear agenda. His is a false, self-serving narrative where Christians are always the victims and Muslims are always the perpetrators. That simply doesn’t reflect reality.

  • Susanna

    @ llisha

    Since when do facts become anti-Muslim propaganda? Or half-truths and lies? There are organizations out there including Human Rights Watch that compile data on the cost in human lives as a result of attacks and killing of Christians.

  • Ilisha

    @Susana

    I deliberately left the title of the article so people are free to Google search and read it if they choose. Had I wanted to prevent that, I could have snipped the title too.

    We are under no obligation to publish articles that spew the same anti-Muslim propaganda we’re working hard to debunk. We don’t have to be a vehicle for Raymond Ibrahim’s half truths and lies.

    When’s the last time he posted an article from Loonwatch?

  • Susanna

    @ llisha

    Gee! look who is calling the kettle black. There was nothing in that article that you can’t find on Wikipedia or Open Doors or Christian Solidarity International. Or is it because Raymond Ibrahim is a Coptic Christian. I at least felt the article could have been open to debate.

  • saif sharp

    the only haters are the americans and christians,,they kill our woman and children and then call us killers

  • Susanna

    Muslim Persecution of Christians: January 2012
    Posted on February 19, 2012 by creeping

    via Raymond Ibrahim: Muslim Persecution of Christians: January 2012

    [Snipped: We don’t post links from hate sites. Raymond Ibrahim is a rabid anti-Muslim bigot. From his bio: “RAYMOND IBRAHIM, a Middle East and Islam specialist, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.”

    He is regularly featured on Frontpage Magazine, Jihad Watch and other notorious hate sites. Ilisha]

  • Franczeska

    “AbuBooBoo”=Barry Sommer

  • Glorfindel

    Christians have been in the Middle East and elsewhere before Islam, and when Islam conquered those territories, they didn’t eradicate them. Christians and other minorities have not been treated fairly all the time through the ages and sometimes they have been murdered and persecuted, but if this unfairness was based from Islam – then Muslims have had 1,400 years to offer up a final solution with regards to the Christians (Hitler and the European managed to wipe out a large portion of European Jewry in a mere 10 years) but that didn’t happen.

    Ethnic violence occurs when we have majorities and minorities, when we have conquerors and conquered; look at the Europeans and the indigenous groups in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South America, and the US – what do we blame those genocides on? Christianity, Capitalism, Imperialism – or just human nature?

  • Wenz

    Its well worth noting that Newsweek is owned by Zionist billionaire Sidney Harman and his wife Jane, both fervent advocates for the interests of Israel

  • Ilisha

    @khushboo

    Thanks for the tip.

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