Tolerating intolerance

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According to powerlineblog.com, the following article was removed from the London Telegraph Web site "for legal reasons." It's an account of Guyana-born Muslim-turned-Christian Patrick Sookhdeo's view of Muslim clerics and their strategy of seeking to have Muslim enclaves in Britain subjected to sharia law:

The prime minister's ignorance of Islam, Dr. Sookhdeo contends, is of a piece with his unsuccessful attempts to conciliate it. And it does indeed seem as if the government's policy towards radical Islam is based on the hope that if it makes concessions to its leaders, they will reciprocate and relations between fundamentalist Muslims and Tony Blair's government will then turn into something resembling an ecumenical prayer meeting.

Dr. Sookhdeo nods in vigorous agreement with that. "Yes–and it is a very big mistake. Look at what happened in the 1990s. The security services knew about Abu Hamza and the preachers like him. They knew that London was becoming the center for Islamic terrorists. The police knew. The government knew. Yet nothing was done.

"The whole approach towards Muslim militants was based on appeasement. 7/7 [last year's bombings on the London transit system] proved that that approach does not work–yet it is still being followed. For example, there is a book, The Noble Koran: a New Rendering of its Meaning in English, which is openly available in Muslim bookshops.

"It calls for the killing of Jews and Christians, and it sets out a strategy for killing the infidels and for warfare against them. The government has done nothing whatever to interfere with the sale of that book.

"Why not? Government ministers have promised to punish religious hatred, to criminalize the glorification of terrorism, yet they do nothing about this book, which blatantly does both. Perhaps the explanation is just that they do not take it seriously.

"I fear that is exactly the problem," says Dr. Sookhdeo. "The trouble is that Tony Blair and other ministers see Islam through the prism of their own secular outlook."

Here is another example of how the politically correct try to obscure the intolerance of radical Islamists: Mark Steyn in the Chicago Sun-Times notes that the New York Times in an article on Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, the Iranian graduate student who drove a rented SUV into a crowd of students on a pedestrians-only plaza at the University of North Carolina, never used the word Muslim. Taheri-azar said he was acting out of anger at the treatment of Muslims—"his people," in the Times—around the world and told police that he was sorry that more people weren't hurt. Here's Steyn's summation:

"East is east and west is west / And n'er the twain shall meet," wrote Kipling. Obviously, they meet every moment of the day–the cabbie driving you to your appointment in Washington, the affable fellow at the corner store. But proximity isn't the same as understanding: Taheri-azar and that 20 percent of British Muslims think they know "the west" and they don't like it. By contrast, the New York Times and company insist they like "the east" but go to an awful lot of trouble to avoid finding out anything that would ruffle their illusions.

How to explain the New York Times's blatant refusal to print "all the news that's fit to print"? A clue can be found in a recent Washington Post story on a poll showing negative reactions to Muslims and Islam in the United States. As Steyn recounts: "Meanwhile, a new Washington Post/ABC poll finds that, in the words of the Post, 'Nearly half of Americans–46 percent–have a negative view of Islam, 7 percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when Muslims were often targeted for violence.' "

"Often targeted for violence"? Here's Steyn's rejoinder:

"Often" targeted? Want to put some hard numbers on that? Like to compare the "violence" Americans perpetrated on Muslims after the slaughter of thousands of their fellow citizens in the name of Allah with, say, the death toll perpetrated by Muslims annoyed over some itsy-bitsy cartoons in an obscure Danish newspaper? In September 2001, 99.99999 percent of Americans behaved with remarkable forbearance. If they're less inclined to give the benefit of the doubt these days, perhaps it's because of casual slurs like the Post's or the no-jihad-to-see-here-folks tone of the Times.

Here's my explanation of the mainstream media bias on such clear display here. MSM reporters see the real threat to civility as coming from bloodthirsty, ignorant, antimulticultural American yahoos. They are striving not to provide these evil cretins with any basis for unleashing their always dangerous impulses toward violence. In contrast, MSM wants to preserve a view that Third World peoples are inherently virtuous and peace-loving. After all, in their view, Americans (or white Americans, anyway) are always the evil oppressors, and Third World peoples are always the virtuous oppressed.

Taheri-azar's crime–which the authorities in liberal Orange County, N.C., are properly treating as a case of attempted murder–doesn't fit neatly into this template. So pertinent facts must be omitted, and bogus facts must be suggested ("often targeted for violence") to make the story fall within the preferred progressive MSM view of the world.

How should tolerant societies deal with intolerant people within their midst who are willing to use violence and lies in an effort to destroy the tolerant society itself? It's not an easy problem. The first impulse of tolerant liberals like Tony Blair and of many tolerant conservatives as well is to say, Let's make a deal. We'll tolerate your speech urging violence (while, in Britain's case, suppressing speech that criticizes you), we'll praise your sincerity, we'll turn our eyes and let you impose your rule in your enclaves. In return, hey, why don't you just go your way and live your lives and leave us alone.

London got the answer to that on 7/7.

We've had experience with the problem of tolerating the intolerant before, in dealing with Communists during the early years of the Cold War. Some of the answers we came up with were not entirely satisfactory. Sen. Hubert Humphrey, for example, wanted to outlaw the Communist Party—something that not only today's liberals but today's conservatives instinctively blanch at. Humphrey's suggestion was not followed, but we did, controversially, prosecute Communists for espionage and, more controversially, for advocating violent overthrow of the United States. In time—after Khrushchev's speech denouncing Stalin's crimes in February 1956, after the Soviet suppression of the rebellion in Hungary in November 1956—the number of active Communists in western society dwindled down toward zero. The problem became less pressing.

But the problem of dealing with intolerant Islamists in such diverse places as London and Chapel Hill, N.C., does not seem likely to dwindle down toward zero anytime soon. The politically correct, as is apparent in these New York Times and Washington Post stories, would prefer to believe that the only problem is that of restraining bloodthirsty yahoo Americans from seeking violent revenge. But that is not much of a problem at all. The bigger problem is the one the Times and the Post would prefer we not acknowledge or contemplate at all: how to deal with those among us who seek by violence and stealth to destroy our liberties and wreak violence on us.