Frank Gaffney’s total disconnect on Islam
“Islam versus Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center,” a movie that was produced by Frank Gaffney for the current PBS series on Islam but was then rejected by PBS, was shown in a special screening in a Manhattan movie theater last evening to which I was invited. The movie is very good, and it is a scandal that PBS has spiked it. It consists largely of interviews with various hard-line Muslims in North America and Europe who explain very clearly what they’re about: the Islamization of the societies in which they live, something to which they are commanded by their religion and which, as one of them happily puts it, their host societies have given them the “margin” to pursue. Alongside these very confident and articulate exponents of sharia, several moderate Muslims, the heroes of the movie, are featured. In a telling pattern (the significance of which the filmmakers themselves don’t seem to catch, see below), after the movie describes and interviews each of these moderates, we are told that the entire Muslim community in the city where each moderate lives is against him, is hostile to him, and sees him as not a true Muslim. In one instance, the moderate Muslim in Paris has a 24 hour a day security detail to protect his life from his fellow Muslims who he revealed in a film he made about them.
After the movie was over, Gaffney, two of his fellow filmmakers, Martyn Burke and Alex Alexiev, and one of the moderate Muslims who was featured in the movie (I forget his name), spoke about the movie and answered questions from the overflow audience. [I’ve since been told that the moderate Muslim was probably Zuhdi Jasser.] It immediately became apparent that there was a total disconnect between what the movie was plainly showing us about Islam and what its makers were telling us that it was showing. This was most evident from what was said by the moderate Muslim (hereinafter the MM), who spoke the most of the four men. As the MM put it, the exponents of jihad and sharia are a tiny, unrepresentative slice of the Islamic community. These “Islamists” are not real Muslims, and they only have the power and visibility they have because they are favored by Western leftists and Saudi money. According to the MM, 94 percent of Muslims in the West do not even attend mosque and have absolutely no interest in an Islamic agenda; they just want to enjoy the West’s freedom and secularism. Real Islam, he said, is moderate Islam like his own, consisting of nothing but a relationship between the individual and God, and having nothing to do with the actual authoritative teachings that have defined Islam for 1,400 years.
The MM was thus the incarnation of Daniel Pipes’s nominalist view of Islam: he thinks that Islam can be whatever he wants it to be. Because he believes in a secular, democratic, modern, Western Islam, therefore that is the true Islam and the people who actually follow the religion of the Koran, the Hadiths, and the sharia law as it has existed since the ninth century—the people who actually dominate the actually existing Islamic community and who make it dangerous for any moderate Muslim to speak out—are fake Muslims.
Audience members echoed the MM’s wholly benign and fantastical view of Islam. One woman, identifying herself as a Sufi, said that jihad really means “self-struggle,” not armed conflict. Another self-identified moderate Muslim said that “Islam is a religion of peace and love.” None of the filmmakers took exception to these assertions that flat-out contradicted what their own movie had revealed about Islam. With the exception of writer Alyssa Lappen, who spoke from her seat a couple of rows behind me, it was as though no one in the theater had seen the actual movie; they filtered it through their overpowering preconception that real Islam is actually moderate or can easily become so.
The movie was telling us that Islam is lethally dangerous. The movie makers and the moderate Muslims in the audience were telling us that Islam is a religion of love.
As I sat there listening, I despaired for the future of the West. More than ever it was evident that there are only two views of Islam that monopolize mainstream discourse. On one hand, there is the leftist, anti-Western view, institutionalized at PBS, which sees Muslims as culturally enriching victims of Western meanness whom we must embrace. And there is the “right,” “pro-Western” (actually pro-modern secularism) view, which does criticize Islam—but the Islam it criticizes is this supposedly tiny and unrepresentative group of “Islamo-fascists,” while it imagines that Islam itself is a nice, good thing that we must embrace. The left says Islam is good, period; the right says that apart from the tiny group of the “Islamists,” who are dangerous but who are not real Muslims, Islam is good, period. This latter view of Islam so informs the minds of “conservatives” than even when they make a movie explicitly showing that the real power within Islam is jihadist and pro-sharia, they will interpret that movie as saying that moderate Muslims are the true Muslims.
I was the last person to speak during the question period and I challenged Gaffney and the MM on their position on Islam. The MM kept speaking about what he desired Islam to be, ignoring my questions about what Islam actually is and has always been. The acoustics in the theater were not good and as I was speaking from my seat and did not have the microphone I raised my voice as much as I could in order to be heard, and this evidently made it sound as though I was being belligerent, rather than just conducting a vigorous argument.
After the discussion ended, the Sufi woman came over to where I was sitting and spoke with me for a long time. She was all spiritual sweetness, and, like the MM, imagined that her nice version of Islam is the real Islam. In response to every bad aspect of Islam that I mentioned to her, she would run on and on attributing it to some local and temporary condition. It was impossible to get her to focus on actual Islamic law. When I asked her if the Muslim invasions and conquest of India were a jihad (by coincidence it later turned out that she is from India), she replied that India was not conquered by force but was taken over peacefully by Sufis. When I asked her if the command that an apostate must die is part of Islam, she denied it. When I pointed out that Koran commands the killing of Jews, she denied it. I told her that the main effect that her sweetness-and-light version of Islam would have on non-Muslims would be to put them to sleep regarding the real danger that Islam poses to the West.
As I was leaving the theater I saw Frank Gaffney in the lobby and mentioned to him the “total disconnect” that I saw between what the movie said about Islam and what the presenters said about it. He said in an irate tone that he had gotten already gotten my message and was tired, then he abruptly turned and walked away from me.
Neoconservatives, as I have observed a thousand times, refuse to respond to arguments from their right. Their self-concept is that they are in a heroic war against the left. Since the left sees them as extreme right-wingers and excludes them, as PBS excluded Gaffney’s movie, the neocons see themselves as being as far-right as any reasonable person can possibly be, and thus they cannot conceive that their own position is actually a liberal position open to legitimate criticism from conservatives. Therefore they automatically and rudely dismiss any criticism from their right as crackpottery, as Gaffney dismissed mine.
And that, as I said, is the landscape of mainstream American politics when it comes to Islam: on one side, the anti-American, pro-jihadist left, and on the other side, the deluded, neocon “right,” which imagines that it is defending America from its jihadist enemies, but in reality is legitimizing and empowering jihad by telling people that the vast majority of Muslims are moderates whom we should welcome into our country.
Buck R. writes:
I hope to see Gaffney’s film but I am not surprised by the disconnect you observed.[Deleted Name] writes:
That reminds me very much of the talk my husband gave about Islam where most of the audience refused to understand what he was saying. They had all uncritically accepted this idea that “true” Islam is pretty much the same as Christianity.Barbara V. writes:
Disappointing. I had thought higher of Gaffney.Ed writes:
I loved the second to last paragraph. You can’t talk sense to a neocon.Maureen C. writes:
Lawrence, You are a hero. I don’t care if the audience of sheep saw you as belligerent—your message is now in their heads, where with the appropriate fodder, it may eventually ignite an ability to connect the dots; and I don’t care if Frank Gaffney doesn’t have the courage of his own convictions and stomped angrily away from talking with you. From your description, it sounds as though the movie itself will get the truth across to those with eyes to see despite Gaffney’s PC blinders. Keep doing what you’re doing. More and more people, despite their liberal-induced cultural comas, are getting it. I’m also hoping our soldiers will bring home the truth about Islam’s inherent violence, when they leave Iraq. Maybe with their help we finally can elect some leaders who will close the Open Door on National Suicide.Howard Sutherland writes:
As you know, I had planned to attend this but couldn’t get there. Thanks for showing up and fighting the good fight.Maureen C. writes:
Sufi-ism, despite what its adherents believe, is not Islam. Islam usually persecutes Sufis, when it can—it goes in cycles. Sufi-ism is a mixture of the mystical elements of Vedanta and Islam. (Perhaps it took root in India to deal with the lunacy of being forced to accept Islam, a non-religion, compared to the 5,000 year old traditions of Vedanta spirituality.)Steven H. writes:
The last two articles that you have posted are simply superb.Robert Spencer replies to a correspondent, with me in the CC line:
Auster is right about this.Andrew Bostom writes:
Bravo Larry! Dead on !!!Peter H. writes:
“It immediately became apparent that there was a total disconnect between what the movie was plainly showing us about Islam and what its makers were telling us that it was showing.”Paula writes:
Can the neocons’ democracy project—as an ideology and as is being carried out in the Middle East, although systematically discredited—be allowed to operate within the borders of the United States as it pertains to the “American” Muslim population? As it has infiltrated the minds of ordinarily intelligent people, like Gaffney, et. al., that to find the equivalent of the Democratic Muslim—or Moderate Muslim—within our very own borders, permits the neocon project to continue ad infinitum. The fiction of moderate Islam is in itself a type of thievery, stealing valuable time from the country’s well-being by bringing into the national dialogue—where it does not belong because of its absurdity—a non sequitur for reinforcing and even further spreading the neoconservative agenda among the uninformed. Hence, the desperate search for THESE people continues.Donna E. writes:
Thank you for your deep feeling for the West and its obvious fantasy world that it is trying to live in.Anthony Damato writes:
I heard Frank Gaffney interviewed on the John Gambling radio show today. He said Islamism is a worldwide threat to freedom-loving people. He said there is this danger but people don’t acknowledge it because it is too painful to accept.Bobby writes:
Gaffney reminds me of the insipid Glenn Beck, another supposed anti-Islamic crusader who doesn’t even understand the existential threat the West is facing. They pretend that 10 percent of Muslims are the true threat and then they tout a mythical moderate Muslim movement, which doesn’t even exist. You are absolutely correct, moderate Muslims are viewed as apostates and their views on Islam contradict everything Islam has practiced and preached for 1400 years. But whenever Muslims are allowed to vote, they elect extremist elements who promise to implement sharia law. How does Gaffney explain the polling which indicates two-thirds of arabs want sharia law, at least one-third of British Muslims thought the recent terrorist attacks were justified, and a recent al-jazeera online poll in which 93 percent of respondants indicated their support for the kidnapping of foreigners. Anyone with an open-mind should be able to discard the nonsense and idealism displayed by neo-cons like Beck, Gaffney, and Pipes. Their presciptions would do nothing.LA writes:
Frank Gaffney has an article today at FrontPage Magazine about his movie. I’ve posted a comment there about it, basically repeating the same points I’ve made here.Andy K. writes:
Buck R. wrote that Frank Gaffney and the neocons are unable to arrive at the unthinkable final conclusion that Islam itself is bad in the same way Communism and Fascism were.LA replies:
Andy K. is right up to a point, but the problem with his argument is that the left-liberals, who he correctly says are anti-religion as compared with the right-liberals, are more pro-Islam than the right-liberals. They are totally approving of it. So simply having a positive attitude toward religion would not explain why the right-liberals AND the left-liberals are pro-Islam, and it would not explain why the left-liberals are even MORE pro-Islam than the right-liberals.Gintas replies to the previous comment:
If you look at Islam as a political system, then the Left’s love affair becomes clear: Happiness is the Total State.LA replies:
I recall that you once mentioned the idea of Islam being a successful Nazi Germany. Obviously you didn’t mean with the Germanic efficiency, discipline, and advanced science.LA replies:
No. Actually what I said was that Muhammad was a successful Hitler. And I meant his creation of a belief system and a political society along the lines of the demonization, subjugation, and destruction of the Other, but done on a sustainable basis.Jed W. writes:
Very good conclusion to your Gaffney movie story. PC is so embedded in our collective DNA that it overwhelms our human instinct to survive by honestly recognizing danger and reacting to it. What is so astonishing that we (the Neos, Bush, Rice, etc.) can look at these villainous people right out of central casting and ascribe nonexistent virtues to them and their conquering culture and so-called religeon of peace.
Dimitri K. writes:
Left does not fight against religion, as they don’t fight for people’s rights and justice. All those aims are some substitution aims. What they really fight against is the Father’s authority. Since the God of the Bible is the Father to his people, they rebel against the Bible. But Allah, the god of Islam, is not the father. In many respects, like his unpredictability, he resembles Mother-Nature, the Goddess of the left. Even though they may not understand it, the left feels that and that is why they embrace Islam. It only will take them some time to get used to the idea.James P. writes:
Frank Gaffney is playing a delicate game. If he says there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim, and all Muslims are dangerous enemies, he will be instantly discredited and nobody will listen to him. If he argues that we can distinguish between “extreme” and “moderate” Muslims, then people will actually listen to him. Why let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough?LA replies:
Well, James P. is simply restating in somewhat different terms the core concern that drives the Daniel Pipes view that “radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution,” which I have decisively refuted in the past, particularly here. That core concern is, “We can’t allow ourselves to think or to say that Islam is the problem, because that would lead to despair.” James P. puts it slightly differently: “We can’t allow ourselves to think or to say that Islam is the problem, because we would be instantly discredited.” Underlying that core concern is something deeper: the conviction that it is impossible to challenge liberalism. But the whole point of my work is that liberalism is leading us to extinction, and that it is only by going beyond liberalism that we have a chance to survive, it is only by going beyond liberalism that we can escape the despair that comes from refusing to recognize the truth about Islam and to oppose Islam on that basis. James cannot imagine going beyond liberalism; I can. That is the difference between us.LA writes:
In connection with my critique of Gaffney, my critique of Daniel Pipes’s speech in London in January may also be of interest.LA writes:
I want to reply to James further. He says: “If [Gaffney] says there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim, and all Muslims are dangerous enemies, he will be instantly discredited and nobody will listen to him. If he argues that we can distinguish between “extreme” and “moderate” Muslims, then people will actually listen to him.”HJB writes:
Thanks for your lucid article on the Gaffney disconnect. I totally agree with your analysis.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 02, 2007 07:25 AM | Send