Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Going Rogues Gallery

People should read this Foreign Policy profile of Geert Wilders, the right wing Nederlander MP who has built a career on bashing Muslims and is now in a position of considerable power in the Netherlands' new coalition government, and is now gaining influence in the U.S.:

Several Dutch media outlets have delved into ideological and financial ties between Wilders and American archconservatives such as David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes, and Jim DeMint. In an article this May, the respected Dutch NRC newspaper reported that Horowitz had brought Wilders over for a "conservative conference in California" at the end of 2009, attended by DeMint and Liz Cheney, among others. It also quotes Pipes as saying that he had gathered a "six-figure sum" to defray Wilders's legal costs*.

Wilders's American connection caught the international public's eye at the height of the controversy over the Park51 project in New York, the so-called Ground Zero mosque. He was the keynote speaker, invited by [Pamela] Geller and her Stop Islamization of America campaign, at a much-hyped rally against the project held on Sept. 11.

Jim DeMint is a Senator of the United States, whose Constitution explicitly protects freedom of speech and religion. Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick, has all but accused lawyers representing Guantanamo Bay detainees of treason. Pamela Geller is almost single-handedly responsible for the furor over the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" that so degraded our national discourse this summer.

These individuals are courting the good will and counsel of an illiberal scoundrel who has called for the Koran to be banned, referred to Islam as "the ideology of a retarded culture," and wants to end all immigration from Muslim countries. His values are completely in contradiction with those enshrined in the First Amendment.

This is far from an isolated case of the American right finding common cause with with extremists from other nations with fewer legal restrictions.

Mark Steyn, who has been screeching for several years about an impending "Londonistan" based on dubious demographic methodology, currently writes for the intellectual hub of the conservative movement, the National Review.

Pastor Alexey Ledyaev of the New Generation Church in Latvia, and Scott Lively, author of a book that purports that Hitler was gay and homosexuality is responsible for Nazism, founded the Watchmen on the Walls, a violent Russian and Ukrainian hate group linked to anti-gay violence. Ledyaev was invited to President Bush's 2006 National Prayer Breakfast. Lively also heavily promoted anti-gay ideology in Uganda, several of whose MPs in attendance took his cue and drafted their infamous "Kill the Gays" bill.

And just to prove that no one is too odious to side with in the battle against liberalism, the Creationism-pimping Discovery Institute sent speakers to Turkey as part of a broader Creationist effort taken in cooperation with Muslim fundamentalists. Dinesh D'Souza, who explicitly advocated an alliance with fundamentalist Islam in the fight against modern decadence, would be proud.

All of this bluster about sensitivity to 9/11 victims, or protecting the children, or questioning scientific authority, is a smokescreen for a bronze-age ideology that is as much at war with itself as it is with modernity. Geert Wilders, for instance, points to Muslim violence against gays as evidence of its barbarism. But at this point in time--the new Creationism wars peaked in 2005 with the Pennsylvania Intelligent Design trial--such nuances are conveniently elided in order to find common cause in demonizing Muslims as a whole.

This also leads to people who really should know better--Jerry Coyne, Sam Harris--finding themselves in the company of demagogues (Christopher Hitchens has tried to keep his distance, even though he shares many of their assumptions about Muslims).

Over-sensitivity, intimidation, and retrograde values are real problems in the Islamic world and even among western Muslim populations. But they are symptoms of deeper problems--poor immigrant integration policies in Europe, for one--that Geert Wilders and his blowhard cohort only exacerbate. Violent Islamism must be resisted, and Western values defended. That includes religious tolerance. Those whose views we find troubling but are still amenable to civil discourse, should be engaged. Bomb-throwing, rhetorical or otherwise, is not constructive.

(Thanks to kate_bee for encouraging the writing of this post and providing background links)

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