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Sasha Polakow-Suransky, Defender of the Faith

15

We have previously seen how insistent the writer Sasha Polakow-Suransky is that the “real threat” to the liberal, tolerant West is not Islam, but “white nationalism”:

The trend is unmistakable. Hungary’s ruling party has plastered anti-Semitic ads on bus stops and billboards; an overtly neo-Nazi movement won 7 percent of the vote in Greece’s 2015 election; Germany’s upstart far-right party, which includes a popular member who criticized Berlin’s Holocaust memorial as “a monument of shame,” won 13 percent in last month’s election.

In France and Denmark, populist leaders have gone to great pains to shed the right’s crudest baggage and rebrand themselves in a way that appeals to Jews, women and gay people by depicting Muslims as the primary threat to all three groups. But their core goal remains the same: to close the borders and expel unwanted foreigners.

When Polakow-Suransky claims that “populist” leaders (a subdued synonym for “right-wing”) are “rebranding” themselves “by depicting Muslims as the primary threat” to “Jews, women and gay people,” don’t we have a right to reply that’s it not a question of “rebranding,” but of stating the truth: aren’t Muslims in fact the “primary threat” today to all three? You don’t believe me? Let’s take a brief look at what Islam teaches about Jews, women, and homosexuals.

Robert Spencer lays out what the Qur’an teaches about Jews in his exhaustive compilation:

The Qur’an depicts the Jews as inveterately evil and bent on destroying the wellbeing of the Muslims. They are the strongest of all people in enmity toward the Muslims (5:82); as fabricating things and falsely ascribing them to Allah (2:79; 3:75, 3:181); claiming that Allah’s power is limited (5:64); loving to listen to lies (5:41); disobeying Allah and never observing his commands (5:13); disputing and quarreling (2:247); hiding the truth and misleading people (3:78); staging rebellion against the prophets and rejecting their guidance (2:55); being hypocritical (2:14, 2:44); giving preference to their own interests over the teachings of Muhammad (2:87); wishing evil for people and trying to mislead them (2:109); feeling pain when others are happy or fortunate (3:120); being arrogant about their being Allah’s beloved people (5:18); devouring people’s wealth by subterfuge (4:161); slandering the true religion and being cursed by Allah (4:46); killing the prophets (2:61); being merciless and heartless (2:74); never keeping their promises or fulfilling their words (2:100); being unrestrained in committing sins (5:79); being cowardly (59:13-14); being miserly (4:53); being transformed into apes and pigs for breaking the Sabbath (2:63-65; 5:59-60; 7:166); and more.

The classic Qur’anic commentators not do not mitigate the Qur’an’s words against Jews, but only add fuel to the fire. Ibn Kathir explained Qur’an 2:61 (“They were covered with humiliation and misery; they drew on themselves the wrath of Allah”) this way: “This Ayah [verse] indicates that the Children of Israel were plagued with humiliation, and that this will continue, meaning that it will never cease. They will continue to suffer humiliation at the hands of all who interact with them, along with the disgrace that they feel inwardly.” Another Middle Ages commentator of lingering influence, Abdallah ibn Umar al-Baidawi, explains the same verse this way: “The Jews are mostly humiliated and wretched either of their own accord, or out of coercion of the fear of having their jizya [punitive tax] doubled.”

Ibn Kathir notes Islamic traditions that predict that at the end of the world, “the Jews will support the Dajjal (False Messiah), and the Muslims, along with ‘Isa [Jesus], son of Mary, will kill the Jews.” The idea in Islam that the end times will be marked by Muslims killing Jews comes from the prophet Muhammad himself, who said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.’” This is, not unexpectedly, a favorite motif among contemporary jihadists.

Not just contemporary jihadists, but modern-day mainstream Islamic authorities take these passages seriously. The former Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, who was the most respected cleric in the world among Sunni Muslims, called Jews “the enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs.” The late Saudi sheikh Abd al-Rahman al-Sudayyis, imam of the principal mosque in the holiest city in Islam, Mecca, said in a sermon that Jews are “the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs.”

Another Saudi sheikh, Ba’d bin Abdallah al-Ajameh al-Ghamidi, made the connection explicit: “The current behavior of the brothers of apes and pigs, their treachery, violation of agreements, and defiling of holy places … is connected with the deeds of their forefathers during the early period of Islam–which proves the great similarity between all the Jews living today and the Jews who lived at the dawn of Islam.”

As for the treatment of women in Islam, the faith is shot through with misogyny. A woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man; a female heir inherits half that of a male; a woman may be beaten — albeit “lightly” — by her husband whenever she is disobedient; a husband can divorce his wife merely by uttering the triple-talaq, while a woman, if allowed to divorce at all, must go through a lengthy and expensive process; a male Muslim may have up to four wives, but a Muslim woman can have only one husband. A Muslim father has total control over his daughter, including the horror of “honor killings.” These are real disabilities, not falsehoods concocted by “white nationalists.”

Finally, homosexuals are condemned in both the Qur’an and Hadith. Notes Spencer:

The Qur’an contains unambiguous condemnations of homosexual activity: “And [We had sent] Lot when he said to his people, ‘Do you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds? Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people.’…And We rained upon them a rain [of stones]. Then see how was the end of the criminals.” (Qur’an 7:80-84)

Muhammad specifies the punishment for homosexual behavior in a hadith: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘Whoever you find doing the action of the people of Lot, execute the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.’” (Sunan Abu Dawud 4462); “It was narrated that Jabir: “The Prophet said: ‘There is nothing I fear for my followers more than the deed of the people of Lot.’”—Al-Tirmidhi: 1457, Ibn Maajah: 2563

And Muslims worldwide apparently agree. In Saudi Arabia, men can be beheaded for committing homosexual acts. In Iran, they are hung from cranes. ISIS prefers to throw them from tall buildings to their death. And even in Muslim countries where the death penalty is not inflicted, the treatment of homosexuals can be unusually cruel. In Egypt, for example, the police troll for homosexuals online, using personal ads, then arrest them. Some have been given five-year prison sentences, others have been, according to Human Rights Watch, “whipped, bound and suspended in painful positions, splashed with cold water, burned with cigarettes, shocked with electricity to the limbs, genitals or tongue.”

Muslim clerics from Morocco to Qatar to Indonesia have denounced homosexual behavior. In 2016, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association listed the 12 countries where same-sex sexual acts are punishable by death: Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, Mauritania, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, UAE, and Iraq. 11 of the 12 are Muslim states, and Nigeria is more than half Muslim. In another dozen states, all of them Muslim, homosexual acts are severely punished, though with prison and flogging, rather than capital punishment.

Sasha Polakow-Suransky would have served his readers better by truthfully laying out, from the Qur’an and Hadith, how Islam regards Jews, women, and homosexuals, rather than attempt to convince his readers that while “white nationalists” claim Islam as the chief enemy of all three, that claim is surely false, and must be seen as an insincere attempt at “rebranding” themselves, presenting themselves as defenders of Jews, women, and homosexuals. He might even have to admit that when “in France and Denmark, populist leaders have gone to great pains to shed the right’s crudest baggage… in a way that appeals to Jews, women and gay people,” they are being quite sincere, and when they “depict Muslims as the primary threat to all three groups” they are telling the truth. But that would require him to stop being a Defender of the Faith.

Cultural and demographic anxiety about dwindling native populations and rapidly increasing immigrant ones lies at the heart of these parties’ ideologies. In America, Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, worries about the impossibility of restoring “our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” In Europe, the right frets about who’s having the new German or Danish babies and the fact that it’s not white Germans or Danes — a social Darwinist dread popularized by the German writer Thilo Sarrazin, whose best-selling 2010 book, “Germany Abolishes Itself,” warned that barely literate Muslims were poised to replace the supposedly more intelligent German race.

The leader of the Netherlands’ newest far-right party fears that Europe will not exist “as a predominantly white-skinned, Christian or post-Christian, Roman-law-based kind of society” a few decades from now. “If I go to a museum, and I look at these portraits, they are essentially people like me that I can see. In 50 years it won’t be,” he worries.

Polakow-Suransky sneers at these worries about demographic trends, but why? Does he deny that there are now tens of millions of Muslims all over Europe? Does he deny that almost all of them have arrived in the last few decades? Does he deny that their proportion of the population steadily, unceasingly rises? Does he deny that Muslim migrants, many falsely claiming to be “Syrian refugees,” have flooded and continue to flood into Europe, encouraged by Angela Merkel, Pope Francis, Theresa May, and others among Europe’s most powerful, and most heedless, leaders? Does he deny that the average size of Muslim families in Europe is much larger than the average size of non-Muslim families? Does he deny that Muslims have had considerable success in converting non-Muslims in Europe, particularly among prisoners? The answers to each of these are in the realm not of speculation but of fact. And of course, Muslims have been making the connection between their rising numbers and the demographic “conquest” of Europe at least since Qaddafi: “There are signs that Allah will grant victory to Islam in Europe without swords, without guns, without conquest. we don’t need terrorists, we don’t need homicide bombers. The 50+ million Muslims [in Europe] will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.” There is another quote which I now believe is apocryphal, but certainly expresses a view shared by many Muslims, keenly aware that the West remains militarily superior but can be demographically undone from within. It is attributed to Houari Boumediene: “One day, millions of men will leave the Southern Hemisphere to go to the Northern Hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory.” But even if apocryphal, it’s a statement one finds tellingly reposted at Muslim websites, by way of endorsement of the sentiment. It’s a statement of demographic triumphalism. Why should this be of concern only to “white nationalists”?

IN FEBRUARY 2016, French right-wing groups descended on the town of Calais, protesting a huge informal refugee camp there known as the “Jungle.” Members of the German anti-Islam group Pegida (the name is short for the German words for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) came, too. Demonstrators clashed with local policemen, and a decorated French paratrooper marching alongside them was arrested. A van marked with the logo of a medical charity aiding Jungle residents was set on fire one evening, and the group’s volunteers had their tires slashed.

A few months later, I met the leaders of a local anti-immigration group called Retake Calais. When I asked if they wanted to see the migrants leave town, they lamented that closing the camp — which has since been bulldozed — wouldn’t help. “They’re sending them to all the little villages in France,” one of them told me. “In two years the villages will be dead.”

“It’s the great replacement,” his friend added, echoing the title of a 2010 book by the French writer Renaud Camus, which paints a dark picture of demographic conquest in the West. “They want to replace us.”

As Mr. Camus explains in the book: “You have a people and then, in an instant, in one generation, you have in its place one or several other peoples.” He finds it scandalous that “a veiled woman speaking our language badly, completely ignorant of our culture” is legally considered as French as “an indigenous Frenchman passionate for Romanesque churches, and the verbal and syntactic subtleties of Montaigne and Rousseau.” In Mr. Camus’s eyes, groups like Pegida are heroic. He praises the group as a “liberation front” that is battling “a colonial conquest in progress” where white Europeans are “the colonized indigenous people.”

Ms. Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, has a similar fear, and she sees birthright citizenship as the vehicle for replacement. Although she doesn’t use the term favored by many Republicans in the United States (“anchor babies”), she insists, as she told me in an interview last May, that “we must stop creating automatic French citizens.”

This argument has a long pedigree. It can be traced back to the Dreyfus Affair, when the virulently anti-Semitic writer Maurice Barrès warned that immigrants wanted to impose their way of life on France and that it would spell the “ruin of our fatherland.” “They are in contradiction to our civilization,” Barrès wrote in 1900. He saw French identity as rooted purely in his bloodline, declaring, “I defend my cemetery.”

This is guilt by flimsy association. The syllogism runs thus: Maurice Barres claimed that “immigrants wanted to impose their way of life on France”; Barres was an antisemite; therefore, those today who claim that “immigrants want to impose their way of life on France” must be antisemites.

Of course the writer Polakow-Suransky wants you to believe that just as in the time of Dreyfus, immigrants to France were wrongly accused of “wanting to impose their way of life,” so now a new set of immigrants (Muslims rather than Jews) are being wrongly accused. But these are not logically linked. All the evidence suggests that Jews, like the falsely-accused Dreyfus himself, were glad in Dreyfus’s day to integrate into French society, to serve in the French military in defense of France (even the antisemite Barres was forced to publicly recognize the Jewish contribution to the French military); they wanted to be accepted, and had no thought or desire of changing the country. But is this true of Muslim immigrants today in France, or elsewhere in Europe? Does their behavior suggest an eagerness to integrate into the society of Unbelievers? Or does it, rather, suggest an intention to change that society so as to make it more Islam-compliant? Don’t the opinion polls tell us that Muslims would like to see the Sharia imposed? Do we observe, anywhere in Europe, any group of non-Muslim immigrants posing the same problems of integration as do Muslims? We do not. Do we see, anywhere in Europe, what might be called an example of successful Muslim integration? Again, we do not. Even in the easygoing U.K., four in ten Muslims want to see aspects of the Sharia made the law of the land.

The notion of a Great Replacement has crossed the Atlantic and found an eager audience among groups who have long espoused similar white supremacist ideas. The Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders warned in 2015 of “masses of young men in their 20s with beards singing ‘Allahu akbar’ across Europe.” He labeled their presence “an invasion that threatens our prosperity, our security, our culture and identity.”

A year later, Mr. Wilders attended the Republican national convention, where he headlined an L.G.B.T. pro-Trump event along with the anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller and the alt-right wunderkind Milo Yiannopoulos. Before he began his talk in front of a wall featuring photos of bare-chested men, “Make America Great Again” hats and a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, Mr. Wilders was introduced as “the hope for Western civilization.”

Geert Wilders is referred to as if he has “long espoused white supremacist ideas.” Nowhere in his copious writings, his speeches, his appearances on radio and television, can one find anything smacking of “white supremacism.” These charges, carelessly flung, do their damage, however, even if there is nothing to support them. There are always those who will think that “surely there must be something behind these charges,” for otherwise no one would dare to make them. A comforting thought, and a false one. As for the notion of a “Great Replacement,” that is not a fantastic dystopic vision to be scoffed at — it’s what prominent Muslims, including Yusuf al-Qaradawi, have mentioned as the inevitable consequence of mass migration and larger Muslim families, while non-Muslims are not having enough babies even to replace themselves.

Calais and Charlottesville may be nearly 4,000 miles apart, but the ideas motivating far-right activists in both places are the same. When white nationalists descended on Charlottesville in August, the crowd chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “you will not replace us” before one of its members allegedly killed a woman with his car and others beat a black man; last week, they returned bearing torches and chanting similar slogans.”

There is no doubt that there were some vicious antisemites demonstrating in Charlottesville. They were not, incidentally, exercised about Muslim immigrants, but about “communistic Jews” and, of course, about blacks. Polakow-Suransky wants readers to think that all those who are anti-Muslim are “white nationalists,” that is, antisemites and racists. But in this country, those who are most prominent in the camp of people made anxious by Islamic ideology and by mass Muslim immigration into the West, are almost all openly philosemitic and pro-Israel to boot. Among those philosemites (some of whom are Jewish, while still others are celebrated apostates from Islam) are Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, Nonie Darwish, Ibn Warraq, David Wood. All are deeply worried about the Islamic presence in the West; none are white nationalists.

Just as Mr. Trump has plenty to say about Islamic State attacks but generally has no comment about hate crimes against Indians, blacks and Muslims, the European far-right is quick to denounce any violent act committed by a Muslim but rarely feels compelled to forcefully condemn attacks on mosques or neo-Nazis marching near synagogues on Yom Kippur.

Doing so might alienate their base. Alexander Gauland, a co-leader of the newest party in the German Parliament, is adamant that his Alternative for Germany is “not the parliamentary arm of Pegida,” although he did acknowledge in an interview that “a lot of people who march with Pegida in Dresden are people who could be members, or friends, or voters” for the party. Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Gauland and Ms. Le Pen would never admit to being white nationalists, but they are more than happy to dog-whistle to them and accept their support.

Those who worry that a godless Europe and an immigration-friendly America are no match for Islamic extremists have ignored an even greater threat: white nationalists.

Their ideology is especially dangerous because they present themselves as natives valiantly defending the homeland. Because they look and sound like most of their co-citizens, they garner sympathy from the majority in ways that Islamists never could. White nationalism is in many ways a mirror image of radical Islamism. Both share a nostalgic obsession with a purist form of identity: for one, a medieval Islamic state; for the other, a white nation unpolluted by immigrant blood.

If the influence of white nationalists continues to grow, they will eventually seek to trample the rights of immigrants and minorities and dismiss courts and constitutions as anti-democratic because they don’t reflect the supposed preferences of “the people.” Their rise threatens to transform countries that we once thought of as icons of liberalism into democracies only in name.

Here Polakow-Suransky, who earlier accused anti-Islam writers and activists of engaging in hysterical alarm, engages in it himself. He keeps misrepresenting those who are worried about Islam and the behavior of those who are in thrall to it, calling them “‘white nationalists” with a “purist form of identity,” people who want “a white nation unpolluted by immigrant blood.” But neither Pegida in Germany, nor its avatars in other countries, nor such political parties as France’s National Front, have come out against “immigrants” in general; they are unconcerned about non-Muslims, whatever their race. It is not race, nor ethnicity, but ideology, the ideology of Islam, that mainly alarms them. If you think this alarm is an exaggerated response, then do read the Qur’an with care — go ahead, if you haven’t yet, it can easily be found online, and pay particular attention to 9:5, 9:29, 2:191-193, 3:151, 5:33, 8:12, 8:60, 47:4. 1.5 billion people take that book, with all the hatred of Unbelievers it inculcates, as the immutable word of God. How many “white nationalists” are there in the world today? A few million at most? And do “white nationalists” have a single sacred and immutable text, akin to the Qur’an, which commands them to engage in warfare against all non-whites everywhere until the day when everywhere they have prevailed? Of course not. The threats from Muslims and from white nationalists are incommensurable.

Polakow-Suransky’s worry is about what will happen if white nationalism “continues to grow.” But is there a single “white nationalist” party in power anywhere in Europe? By that we mean real “white nationalists,” and not the bogeymen of Geert Wilders or Marine Le Pen. How many seats, in what parliaments, are held by those certified “white nationalists”? Does any such party have the remotest chance of assuming the responsibilities of rule? Patriotism,the desire to maintain cultural coherence, loyalty to the ideals of the Christian or post-Christian West — these do not constitute “white nationalism.” Being anti-Islam is not, it should be repeated, the same as being a “white nationalist,” though Polakow-Suransky attempts quite deliberately to efface the vast difference. The National Front in France, for example, is anti-Islam, but has, and welcomes, Chinese, black African, and even Arab supporters.

Polakow-Suransky offers his predictions, which are not about what changes will occur when the Muslim population in the West continues to grow — that real threat doesn’t appear to worry him at all — but about what will happen if the number of white nationalists increases, an increase for which there is not the slightest evidence. His alarm is both misdirected and exaggerated: can Polakow-Suransky name a single “white nationalist” in the U. S. Congress? And this is what he foresees: “they” [the white nationalists] will eventually seek to trample the rights of immigrants and minorities and dismiss courts and constitutions as anti-democratic because they don’t reflect the supposed preferences of “the people.” In other words, though they have almost no power now, just wait a bit, and they will be trampling rights galore, and dismissing “courts and constitutions” just like that. Shutting down the first, ripping up the second.

Who now is the hysteric? Could it be…Sasha Polakow-Suransky?

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