Jewish Chronicle 30 Jan 2015
The damaging hypocrisy of the foolish Muslim ‘Understanders’
By Denis MacShane
In German, there is a new word for those ready to explain and justify any and all aspects of Russian President Putin’s behavior. They are called the “Putinversteher” – literally, the Putin understanders. These people are not quite apologists or appeasers for the Russian leader and his behaviour. They are nevertheless ready to leap into print or go on television to explain why opposing Putin is dangerous.
Their speciality is to explain why history, geography, the behaviour of his opponents (or whatever) are the real cause of his actions. Putin, in short, is always forced to act in a certain manner because of the actions of others.
In Britain, we now have a similar class of “Islamismversteher” – those instinctively ready to find fault with the democracies under attack and eager to explain why Islamist killers have to do what they do. In the first few days after the butchery at Charlie Hebdo and in a kosher hypermarket, it was hard for journalists to forgive the slaughter of their confrères. But soon enough, our press was full of arguments to help us to a greater understanding of the Islamist position.
Rationalisation No. 1 was that, without the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, none of this would have happened. The Guardian likes this rationalisation in particular.
But what these understanders of Islamism overlook is that Islamist violence predates the arrival of George W. Bush in power.
The 1995 Paris Metro bombing, the 1997 Luxor slaughter of 60 Swiss tourists or indeed the murder of journalists at Algeria’s “Hebdo libéré” in 1994 happened well before the wave of confrontational militarism brought on by American neo-conservatives after 9/11.
Rationalisation No. 2 is to blame “Charlie Hebdo” for its mocking of religion. Britain’s conservative papers like the Daily Mail enjoyed this line of argument with some remarkably vicious denunciation of the Paris weekly. They almost went as far as arguing that Charlie deserved what it got.
An equally unappealing variation of this was Pope Francis’s view, expressed during his Asia trip, that mocking religion deserves a “punch on the nose.” So much for press freedom.
Rationalisation No. 3 is, predictably enough, that Israel is to blame. But, wait a moment. It was just in December that French deputies voted to recognise Palestine, as did British MPs, the Belgian Parliament and the European Parliament. These European actions no doubt reflected deep frustration with the policies pursued by Israel.
Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has called Gaza a “prison camp,” in effect repeating standard Islamist propaganda lines.
Never mind that European states, directly or via the EU, provide most of the money that allows the Palestinians to survive.
These actions would seem to make it near inexplicable, even via the mouths of the always eager understanders of Islamism, that, despite rejecting Israel’s position at the UN and putting no pressure on Arab states or the Palestinians, it is the nations and citizens of Europe who seem the target of choice for Islamists.
It is true that the 2,000 people reportedly killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria or school children slaughtered in Pakistan do not receive lasting coverage. Neither do the Jews murdered in Israel by Islamists. They too are quickly forgotten.
But after more than 25 years of Islamist killings in Europe – often aimed at European Jews – surely someone might stop blaming Israel or George W. Bush? One would like to believe the long slumber of Europe about Islamist ideology is about to end. To paraphrase Pastor Dietrich Bonhöffer, when they came for Anwar Sadat, we thought it was an internal Egyptian fight. When they came for Algerian journalists in the 1990s or Tunisian leftists in 2013, we thought it was revenge for authoritarian regimes.
When they came for tourists in Luxor, well, that was Mubarak’s repressive regime and the poverty of Nile delta peasants. When they came again and again for Jews in Israel, that was about the 1948 Nakba. When they came to Madrid in 2004 or London in 2005, that was just insane criminality. And so on.
No one wants to admit that Islamism is an ideology with a deadly world view and it will no more make concessions than Stalin or Hitler did in the 1930s or Mao in China in the 1960s. It is important to understand and study Islamism and its texts which as Jonathan Sacks pointed out date back to at least 1950 and the publication of “Our Struggle Against the Jews” by the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb.
But understanding Islamism is the first step to combatting it effectively not to defend or promote what by any standard is an evil ideology obsessed with hate against democracy, free journalists and Jews.