The critical examination of Islam is no longer possible as it is deemed "hate speech" that is prosecuted in some Western nations and swiftly condemned in all the rest. The left-dominated mainstream culture has created a philosophy of anti-anti-Islam to vilify critics of Islam just as it created anti-anti-Communism to suppress criticism of Communism.
The slow glacial nature of cultural change often makes it hard to notice a transformation as it is happening. Looking back decades later it may be obvious but people rarely notice fundamental changes at the time. In the last ten years there's been a change in the way the mainstream culture regards the religion of Islam. One might have thought that the jihadi attacks in New York, London, Madrid, Bali, Beslan, Mumbai, and others would have brought hostility towards the belief system of the attackers but the exact opposite has happened.
In today's mainstream culture it is nearly impossible to express apprehensions about the religion of Islam. Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity are fair game. Islam is off limits. Critical examination of Islam is strictly forbidden by the doctrine that pre-ordains only happy-talk when it comes to what is arguably a supremacist ideology founded by a political and military leader.
Our Western tradition, going back to Socrates, demands that all beliefs be subjected to a critical analysis before they are accepted as knowledge. It still remains a core purpose of a liberal arts education; many institutions required a course in "critical thinking." In principle, any position can be critically examined. However, in practice, only anti-Islam can be "deconstructed" and damned. And the conclusion is mandated before the examination is undertaken.
Charges of bigotry, prejudice, and racism (what race?) are hurled at anyone who entertains a negative appraisal of some aspect of Islam. No matter how many atrocities jihadis commit and how extensively they quote the Koran and Hadith, the conclusion is, once again, preordained: Islam has nothing to do with it.
It's not that Islam has been studied -- that's deemed superfluous. Few in the mainstream culture have any knowledge of the religion and few feel any need. Instead, the attitude in the mainstream culture is one of anti-anti-Islam. Any negativity concerning Islam is condemned in principle and prior to examination. To understand anti-anti-Islam let's examine it's "politically correct" predecessor: anti-anti-Communism.
Communism has brought death to over 110 million civilians and crushing oppression to a billion more. During its history it became harder and harder to defend Communism as the results were glaringly atrocious. The left had to defend the ideal by indirection: attack the critics of Communism. Articles, books, movies, and plays focused not on the horrors of Communism but on the persecution of Communists. Communists became celebrated victims. Critics of communism were demonized as sinister red-baiting monsters.
Fortunately, Ronald Reagan stood up to the self-appointed cultural elite and said the unforgivable: the Soviet Union was an evil empire. A barrage of criticism couldn't get him to back down from his moral certitude. He remained firm; communism crumbled. The mainstream culture is obsessed with the idiosyncratic Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, rather that the articulate President who remained the model of righteous opposition to the totalitarian threat. McCarthy, or more exactly the myth of McCarthy, suits their purpose: smear anti-Communism.
Despite the failure of communism the culture was left susceptible to the tactic of defense by indirection: vilify the critics if you can't defend the ideology. Today it is used to suppress criticism of Islam. Suggesting that Islam is problematic or that it has flaws that make it susceptible to radicalization will bring charges of Islamophobia and, in some European countries, one might be charged with a crime. Indeed, the word "Islamophobia" exists solely to intimidate and suppress debate.
Recently in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders had to endure a criminal trial for his criticism of Islam. In France, writer Michel Houellebecq faced criminal charges for calling Islam "the most stupid of all religions." In England, a couple faced a costly legal defense against the charges of harassment for saying "Mohammad was a warlord" among other uncontroversial truths. In Austria, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff faces charges for her criticism of Islam. It is no longer possible to critically examine Islam in most Western nations.
Imagine if one wrote: "For the fact is that the attack against America on September 11, 2001, was an act of consummate religious devotion ... the realities of September 11: the motivation for the attack was neither political calculation, strategic advantage, nor wanton bloodlust. It was to humiliate and slaughter those who defied the hegemony of God; it was to please Him by reasserting His primacy."
A statement like this could not be written today. In Europe it might lead to prosecution and in America, persecution as the writer would be labeled a right-wing bigot and "Islamophobe." However, the above was written nine years ago in a book called "The Age of Sacred Terror" [Pages 39-40]. It was written by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, two former Clinton experts, who argued that Bush's understanding of terrorism was undermined by his failure to see the role that the Islamic religion played in the jihadi movement.
This is how much the culture has changed in the last ten years!
Consider the following: there have been over 17,000 violent attacks in the world by jihadi motivated or underwritten by the violent passages in Islamic texts. In case after case one is admonished not to consider if Islam has anything to do with it. Yet one crazed Norwegian nationalist commits mass murder and that leads to vilification of the writers he cites even though none advocate violent acts!
Jason Pappas is retired and writes on cultural issues at his blog www.libertyandculture.blogspot.com.