Middle Eastern Liberals Break With Western Liberals Over Islamism

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


There were signs of this happening with the Rushdie case and now that the Arab Spring has pitted the Islamist victors against the Liberal revolutionaries, the split is sharpening. That split is a serious problem for Western liberals whose affinity for Islamism depends on racial coverage, thereby equating religion with race and giving birth to such irrational labels as Islamophobic.

This letter sent to Human Rights Watch, an organization which has benefited from Saudi support, navigates the complex conflict between Middle Eastern liberals who want civil rights and Western liberals who largely support Islamism in order to benefit from the political support of Muslim Brotherhood front groups in the West.

You say, “It is important to nurture the rights-respecting elements of political Islam while standing firm against repression in its name,” but you fail to call for the most basic guarantee of rights—the separation of religion from the state.  Salafi mobs have caned women in Tunisian cafes and Egyptian shops; attacked churches in Egypt; taken over whole villages in Tunisia and shut down Manouba University for two months in an effort to exert social pressure on veiling. And while “moderate Islamist” leaders say they will protect the rights of women (if not gays), they have done very little to bring these mobs under control.  You, however, are so unconcerned with the rights of women, gays, and religious minorities that you mention them only once, as follows: “Many Islamic parties have indeed embraced disturbing positions that would subjugate the rights of women and restrict religious, personal, and political freedoms. But so have many of the autocratic regimes that the West props up.” Are we really going to set the bar that low?  This is the voice of an apologist, not a senior human rights advocate.

And Human Rights Watch, which trolls for Saudi cash, certainly has an apologist’s interest, but it also has the same biases of most Western liberals who excuse Muslim repression on the grounds of cultural differences.

As Salman Rushdie wrote to MP Grant…

“You represent, sir, the unacceptable face of multiculturalism, its deformation into an ideology of cultural relativism. Cultural relativism is the death of ethical thought, supporting the right of tyrannical priests to tyrannize, of despotic parents to mutilate their daughters, of bigoted individuals to hate homosexuals and Jews, because it is part of their “culture” to do so. Bigotry, prejudice and violence, or the threat of violence, are not human “values”. They are proof of the absence of such values. They are not manifestations of a person’s culture. They are indications of a person’s lack of culture.”

The open letter to Kenneth Roth, the director of Human Rights Watch, goes on to ask,

Like you, we support calls to dismantle the security state and to promote the rule of law. But we do not see that one set of autocratic structures should be replaced by another which claims divine sanction.  And while the overthrow of repressive governments was a victory and free elections are, in principle, a step towards democracy, shouldn’t the leader of a prominent human rights organization be supporting popular calls to prevent backlash and safeguard   fundamental rights? In other words, rather than advocating strategic support for parties who may use elections to halt the call for continuing change and attack basic rights, shouldn’t you support the voices for both liberty and equality that are arguing that the revolutions must continue?

Revolution for Western Liberals appears to consist entirely of a popular rule without regard for human rights that they would not support at home, but that they do support abroad. There is a basic hypocrisy here.

  • oldschooltwentysix

    Thanks for sharing this. It should cause some to look in the mirror. Will they?

  • Mary Sue

    A person should know they're in the wrong when they're being chewed out by Salman freaking Rushdie.

  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    When liberalism is shrouded in radical revolutionary designs, the authentic human rights, of those they feign to protect, are of no consequence.None at all. Does anyone really believe that the left, which hews to the mindset of Mao, Chavez and every autocrat, who kill in the name of "humanity", is interested in the people's welfare? Therein lies the crux and the dangers!

    Today's left is as repressive as the Islamists they protect! They are ideologically aligned, even though ones religion is collectivism, and the other is wrapped under the guise of the "religion of peace", but is basically a political construct to control the lives of the masses.

    Both are a match made in hell.

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel – http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • Jennfer in Oz

    All the wetbrained lefties in Australia are whipping themselves into a lather over Geert Wilders upcoming tour. They are planning on such demonstrations as to close the venues down. They are so afraid of the truth it is hilarious. I'm going to hear him, I am not afraid of idiots or their violence. Truth must triumph over the evil of Islam.

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  • ritch

    What the western libturds just don't seem to grasp is that NO society EVER became MORE just by becoming more cruel. In their fanatical hatred of Western civilisation (as they sit comfortably in their modern homes with all the mod cons and instant global commmunications in their hands) they side with men who wish to make slavery LAWFUL along with the crimes against humanity that are part and parcel of slaving; maiming, mutilating, crucifying, executing and flogging people for trivial 'offenses'.