Why Can’t Non-Muslims Criticize Islam?



I am happy to announce a new feature: Robert Spencer's popular column, called Jihad Watch like his weblog (which is also essential daily reading), has run weekly for nearly ten years elsewhere and been widely acclaimed. Now it is exclusively here at Atlas. Here's the first, "Why Can’t Non-Muslims Criticize Islam?":

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has long been embarked upon an all-out campaign to compel America and Europe to criminalize criticism of Islam, under the guise of criminalizing “defamation of religions.” Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups in the United States work energetically to demonize and marginalize any and all who speak out effectively about the threat of jihad and Islamic supremacism. Given the restrictions in Islamic law on non-Muslims saying anything “impermissible” about Islam or Muhammad, these campaigns are no surprise; what is surprising, however, is the extent to which all too many anti-jihadists have capitulated to them and imbibed their premises.

Islamic groups have insisted since 9/11 that only a tiny minority of extremists who misunderstand the peaceful teachings of Islam are responsible for the jihad attacks that occur with numbing frequency around the world – as of this writing, there have been 18,560 such attacks since that terrible day. Yet despite its daily discomfirmations, the claim that Islam is a religion of peace and that only “Islamophobes” think otherwise has gained remarkable traction. Evidence that core texts and teachings of Islam support and justify violence against and the subjugation of unbelievers, as illuminating as this fact is of jihadists’ motives and goals, has been brushed aside even at the highest levels of our government and law enforcement agencies. The ideas that Islam is peace and that the vast majority of Muslims oppose any violence committed in its name are essential requirements for admittance into the mainstream of public discourse.

Yet one inconvenient fact explodes this iron and unquestionable dogma: in all the years since 9/11, no Muslim group of any significant size or influence has arisen that opposes not just vaguely defined “terrorism,” but the jihad undertaken by whatever means in order to advance the rule of Islamic law and the subjugation of unbelievers. The conspicuous absence of such a group has led both the government and the mainstream media to embark upon an avid and ongoing search for “moderate Muslims,” which has led to numerous embarrassing moments (or moments that would have been embarrassing if the mainstream media were ever held to any kind of accountability): the New York Times fulsomely praised Anwar al-Awlaki as a moderate reformer, and Janet Napolitano appointed Mohamed Elibiary, a man who once spoke at a conference devoted to praise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, and who has now been accused of leaking classified documents to the media, to a Homeland Security Advisory Panel.

These are far from being isolated incidents. In fact, Islamic supremacist pseudo-moderates so frequently fool non-Muslim officials and reporters (who are, after all, desperate to believe their soothing falsehoods) that to catalogue all such incidents would produce a tome the size of the Encylopedia Britannica. But the ranks of the fooled and foolish don’t just include dhimmi Leftists; many among the anti-jihad Right also demonstrate in numerous ways that they have unwittingly accepted some of the Islamic supremacists’ core claims.

Islamic law forbids non-Muslims to criticize Islam, and Islamic supremacists routinely accuse Americans who dare to speak out against the jihad and Islamic supremacism of “racism.” Anti-jihadists deny the label, and yet tacitly endorse it when they take pains to feature “anti-Islamist” Muslims and even non-Muslim Arabs at rallies and conferences, and to laud their work beyond all proportion to its effectiveness in actually bringing about change within the Muslim community.

And so several years ago, an organization called the Free Muslims Against Terrorism held a massively publicized rally against terrorism, and drew no more than two dozen Muslims. More recently, last week another massively publicized rally of Muslims in support of NYPD anti-terror measures drew 36. The enthusiasm greeting both of these sparsely attended rallies was out of all proportion to their actual significance. The unspoken and unexamined assumption behind this eagerness to call attention to “moderate Muslims,” despite their obviously non-representative character in the Muslim community, shows how deeply the “racism” charge has penetrated the anti-jihadist mindset: even opponents of jihad and Islamic supremacism apparently believe that their efforts are not fully legitimate unless Muslims are joining in them.

But why can’t non-Muslims criticize Islam on their own, without Muslims or Arabs to validate their efforts? The human rights violations embedded within Islamic law are obvious to any objective observer. Any individual who cares for human rights has the right and, indeed, the responsibility to speak out and oppose them. It is good that there are “anti-Islamist” Muslims, insofar as they are sincere, but anti-jihadists who exaggerate their importance, influence, and Islamic authenticity not only delude themselves and mislead others; they also show that they have unconsciously adopted the dhimmi status that Islamic supremacists so devoutly hope to impose on them – at least in regard to the legitimacy of their own critique of Islam and jihad.

Non-Muslims standing for human rights against Sharia do not need Muslims to stand with them to give their efforts legitimacy. Muslims should be invited to join, and exhorted to renounce sincerely the violence, hatred and supremacism embedded within Islamic texts and teachings. However, the refusal of most to do so should not become the occasion for self-delusion about the few who do, or willful blindness about the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch, associate director of AFDI/SIOA, and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad.

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