I read Ian Buruma’s piece on the politics of Islamophobia. It was a very underwhelming piece of arm-chair (‘liberal’) intellectualism with no solutions on the table. Armchair (‘liberal’) intellectualism is good at spelling out what it opposes. But, it has nothing useful to propose.
Some samples from his Op.-Ed:
The only way to combat revolutionary Islamist violence is to gain the trust of law-abiding Muslims in the West. This will not be easy, but arbitrary arrests are surely the wrong way to go about it.
Most French citizens are now so frightened of Islamist attacks that such measures are widely supported. But they are almost certainly counter-productive.
So, does he have other answers? He does not. IF he had, he would have proposed them.
The one that he does not propose which others in the ‘Comments’ Section have done is to suggest that, for the Western world to become trusting of their immigrant Muslim population, moderate Muslims denounce and distance themselves from acts of terrorism and from terrorists acting in the name of Islam. They should cease and desist from moral support and financial support, directly or indirectly through seemingly innocuous sounding and seemingly charitable organisations. They must do this sustainably and meaningfully. They can do much more too (see the comment on the Pew Research document below).
Education at Madrasas has to be demonstrably different. The onus is on Muslim governments. Mr. Buruma has nothing to tell them. Individual terrorists may not pose an existential threat and, arguably, even terrorist organisations alone may not. But, organisations supported, backed and allowed to operate, by sovereign States can, do and have become existential threats.
Perhaps, Mr. Buruma could be excused for not having seen a Pew Research document that was published on Dec. 7. His article appears to have been written earlier. Nonetheless, he could have done some homework. There is so much information on the Internet that it would have not taken much effort to convince himself that it takes two to tango.
Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning one important detail from the Pew Research:
Across the seven Muslim-majority countries and territories surveyed, a median of 68% of Muslims said they view Westerners as selfish. Considerable shares also called Westerners other negative adjectives, including violent (median of 66%), greedy (64%) and immoral (61%), while fewer attributed positive characteristics like “respectful of women” (44%), honest (33%) and tolerant (31%) to Westerners
These attitudes are the bedrock on which hate, hate crimes and terrorist attacks are built. Given such attitudes on the other side, it does not take much intelligence to figure out that matters such as Islamophobia can hardly have a one-sided narrative.
Finally, his last paragraph about Obama’s moderation and other ‘big talkers’ is disingenuous. There would have been no room for the provocations of Donald Trump and others but for the failures of the so-called ‘moderate’ politicians and their approaches.
Mr. Buruma needs to think a lot harder. Post-Paris attacks, if the actions of the French police are counter-productive as Mr. Buruma writes, Op.-Eds. such as these are counter-productive too.