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Posted in: Culture Wars & Censorship, Islamism/Muslim Dissidents

Published on Apr 19, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

How A Free Press Dies…By Only Covering Tariq Ramadan, Not Ibn Warraq


Indeed, April is the cruelest month …thus spake T.S. Eliot, a brilliant poet and an anti-Semite.

I fear for our Republic and for my own fair city, formerly the destination of sober thinkers and free spirits, now the playground of forked-tongue fascists who are viewed as freedom fighters and truth-tellers.

On April 8th, Tariq Ramadan and his traveling circus drew a crowd of 600 at the Great Hall at Cooper Union.

To their everlasting shame, the ACLU, PEN American Center, and the American Association of University Professors sponsored him; the crowd mainly came to pay homage to Ramadan, the biological grandson and intellectual heir to the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood — a group that has fully infiltrated America and at the highest levels, a group fully committed to the goals of political Islam.

The mainstream media, including our local/global New York Paper of Record, covered the evening, courtesy of the Associated Press, both in advance and afterward, as did the Washington Post, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle. The man and the panel got coast to coast coverage in North America. An Arab language newspaper based in the UK (Al Arab) and an Arab language newspaper in Switzerland (Swiss Info) covered Ramadan; of course, so did an Egyptian newspaper, Masrawy.

Even today, the New York Times ran a lead article mentioning that Ramadan "visited the United States for the first time in six years after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reversed a decision by the Bush administration, which had barred Mr. Ramadan from entering the country, initially citing the U.S.A. Patriot Act." The article described him not as an Islamist but as a "prominent Muslim academic."

Ironically, in the fall of 2007, Ramadan squared off against Ibn Warraq in London; Ramadan lost that debate. You may still watch it at the Intelligence Squared website. You would think that the allegedly freedom-loving press and intelligentsia in America would be interested in covering the intellectual who defeated their hero-of-the-hour in a match of words — but no. They passed up the opportunity entirely. Here's how.

On April 15, 2010, Ibn Warraq himself appeared on a panel together with other eminent authors, also in NYC, in good ol' Brooklyn, my hometown. The mainstream media did not cover it. Only the Brooklyn Eagle seems to have posted an announcement about it in advance. The panel's subject? "Independent Voices on The Middle East."

Sponsored by both the Manhattan Institute and the St. Francis College Forum, the evening drew a very respectable crowd of 120 people. It was not sponsored by the ACLU, the PEN Center, or the Association of University Professors – groups which clearly only sponsor the sound of one left hand clapping. Otherwise, how could they have resisted the line-up at St. Francis?

Gathered together were: Paul Berman, author of Terror and Liberalism and The Flight of the Intellectuals; Lee Smith, author of The Strong Horse: Power Politics and the Clash of Arab Civilizations; Ibn Warraq, author of Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism and Virgins? What Virgins? And Other Essays; and Judith Miller (yes, the Judith Miller, formerly of the New York Times and of the Valerie Plame affair). Professor Fred Siegel, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor at City Journal, chaired the evening.

Do you understand the megawatt brainpower that was congregated in that room? The sobriety, brilliance, courage, daring, scholarship — and sheer sense of irony and nuance — so dear to the heart of contemporary academics? More to the point: Every author has analyzed the Islamist penetration of ideas in the West, the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood, the pernicious influence of the very charming Edward Said and the equally charming Tariq Ramadan, as well as the reality of Arab politics ("tribes with flags").

Afterwards, I asked Dr. Siegel, the master of understatement, how he would describe the evening. Siegel said: "It was a candid and intellectually first rate discussion on a subject most campuses are unable to deal with honestly."

The next day, my dear friend, Ibn Warraq, came to dinner.

"So, how do you think it went?" I asked him.

Ibn Warraq is a quintessentially shy guy, enormously erudite, an original and old-fashioned kind of thinker. (This is a serious compliment). At first, my dinner guest said that he was nonplussed, embarrassed, by the high praise that Paul Berman had heaped upon his work in public. "He said that my work on Edward Said was the 'most extraordinary demolition job (he) had ever read in (his) life.'"

At the panel, Berman took great pains to aptly describe the vulgarity, the sheer insanity, of Sayyid Qutb's work (Qutb has forged the theological basis for jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda). Berman's most recent book condemns Tariq Ramadan and his many western intellectual supporters for their failure to support "the Rushdies of today." On the contrary, they attack them. Both Ramadan and Ian Buruma have savagely mocked Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Also, see Carolyn Fourest's important work, Brother Tariq: The Double Speak of Tariq Ramadan, and my own book, The Death of Feminism, which addresses the betrayal of the truth, the Jews, and America by its leading intellectuals, including feminists.

Lee Smith's presentation, based on his latest book, was also very good. While not original (David Pryce-Jones and Philip Carl Saltzman have both viewed Arab politics similarly), Smith nevertheless made a bold and reasoned case for why "9/11 had nothing to do with America" but was, rather, "Arab politics being played out in Manhattan." Of course, Smith left out political Islam. But he is definitely right that "force is the only thing Arabs respect. President Obama is not respected for his wishy-washy olive branch." Arabs only follow the "strong horse."

Ibn Warraq talked about why he wrote his first book, Why I am Not A Muslim. "This was my reaction to the Rushdie affair, and to the weakness of the intellectuals. … [T]here comes a moment when you have to stand up as I did. In response to a question posed by Judith Miller, (the panel respondent), he said that 'there are still dangerous Islamists out there, influencing the course of events. Perhaps no one as brilliantly malevolent as Qutb or Mahdudi or even Al Awlawki. But there is a Turabi, in the Sudan, a slippery Ramadan times ten, an inspiration to the Sudanese regime. He is now under house arrest, after having fallen out of the favor. But Turabi was lionized in the Western media, including in the New York Times. It drives me crazy because they don't listen to dissidents."

This last point is what Zeyno Baran et al. address in Baran's most important book titled The Other Muslims: Moderate and Secular. The Western media and government leaders have, so far, chosen to listen to the Islamists (who present themselves as "moderates") but not to the real Muslim moderates, who are secular as well as religious but who are true anti-Islamists.

The great investigator, Steven Emerson, also ran into this problem but in a slightly different way. When he wanted to cover the Islamists in our midst, right here in America, CNN discouraged him and insisted that he cover radical groups only in Pakistan and Afghanistan. CNN claimed that probing Islamist groups in America was "too sensitive." Emerson quit and instead produced the film Jihad in America. For the record, Emerson names "the Council of American-Islamic relations, Muslim Public Affairs Committee, Muslim American Society, Muslim Student Association, and Islamic Circle of North America" as groups who are "loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood and not loyal to the United States." Of course, these groups are regularly invited to the White House. The previous president met "regularly with Al-Amoudi from the American Muslim Council for 14 years until they discovered he was Al-Qaeda."

After the Brooklyn panel, Ibn Warraq was surrounded by some Muslim students. "What were you talking about?" I ask.

"They were mainly Egyptian, very polite, but quite passionate, and thoroughly brainwashed. They admonished me about the importance of giving the exact sura and verse number when I referred to the Qu'ran. They said that I should also explain various subjects 'in context,' such as that concerning Jews and Christians. They explained (!) that the Prophet Mohammed was having trouble with the Jews at the time…"

At which point both Ibn Warraq and I dissolved into bitter laughter.

"Oh yes," said I, "he was genocidally slaughtering the Jews in order to loot their possessions and enslave their women. Perhaps some gave him trouble by fighting back. He was having trouble, yes, because the Jews refused to convert to Islam."

Said Ibn Warraq: "I chided them. I reminded them that there is no 'context" in terms of the Qu'ran, that it is the eternal word of God."

And so, we dined on plain fare, drank water, not wine, and talked into the night.


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