Another month, another incident of terrorism. Britain has seen three since the start of the year. With military precision, terrorists have struck at Western European targets with a combination of hard and soft Islamism. The hard Islamism comes in the form of terrorism itself- bombs, knives, and vehicular homicide. The soft, and even more insidious, Islamism comes in the follow-up reporting and commentary about terrorism that is essentially a form of apologia for Islamism.
The hard Islamism is carefully calibrated. It is not so hard that people actually start to worry that they or their loved ones could very well be victims of terrorism. The scale of each attack is small, and the frequency regular but not sufficiently accelerated to cause sustained alarm. Britons can rest reassured that the statistical likelihood of terrorism actually harming them or someone they know is minuscule. In these circumstances hysteria is inappropriate, but the message is clear: if the pressure applied by soft Islamism doesn’t work, there will be other methods available to enforce conformity.
The soft Islamism is equally well devised. By now we are familiar with the rhetoric. Each instance of terrorism is framed in the same way and, with mind-numbing predictability, every massacre is followed by recitations from the script: terror attacks are just the inevitable repercussions of legitimate grievances over Western foreign policy or current ‘racism’ towards Muslims (never mind that Muslims are not a race), and Muslims are the only real victims of Islamist violence since they will all be tarred with the same brush by bigoted, ignorant Europeans. Therefore, we must not fear Islamic terrorism, but the far-right, a product of our own European chauvinism and ignorance.
The all-important subtext in this propaganda package is that Western Europeans, not the Islamist fundamentalists actually carrying out terrorism, are intolerant and bigoted. The British far-right, not murderous jihadis, are too uncivilised to use reason or intelligent debate to defend their values. Islamists are not comparable to “fascists” but we are (if we protest violent religious intolerance). “Religious intolerance” isn’t what jihadis do, it is what we say in response to jihad. And so, to avoid repeating history (our own evil history), we must remain passively docile while we quietly oversee the constant expansion of an authoritarian conservative religious ideology in our midst.
This two-pronged approach has facilitated one of the most effective cultural ‘conversions’ in human history. It has warped the political spectrum so completely that the ostensibly left-wing acolytes of this movement resemble the religious right politicians they opposed only thirty years ago in every substantial respect other than labelling. So shallow has liberals’ political analysis become that they have bought into an ultra-conservative religious ideology merely because of its shiny new “anti-racist” re-branding. The actual substance of this allegedly anti-colonialist and anti-racist politics is theocracy, intolerance, misogyny, and homophobia – ideas that the political left would never, until now, have willingly endorsed.
When Salafi-Wahhabism becomes the object of well-deserved anger, Islamists claim that Muslims are being attacked, thus misrepresenting their ultra-conservative version of Islam as the religion of all Muslims, which it certainly is not. This fiction allows Islamists to falsely accuse anyone who disagrees with Salafi-Wahhabism of “anti-Muslim bigotry”, while also giving them grounds to castigate non-extremist Muslims as ‘sell-outs’ or dirty ‘kuffars’ (non-believers). This manoeuvre erases the distinction between Muslims and Islamists, effectively allowing Islamists to monopolise the Islamic faith. At the same time they (or their acolytes) relentlessly accuse Westerners of failing to make the distinction between ordinary Muslims and violent Islamists — a lie that they themselves have manufactured and propagated.
Until we stop drinking this Kool-Aid, secular Europeans will be impotent against the spread of Islamism and terrorism. We must be clear that Islamists, not Westerners, routinely represent Islamism as normative Islam. Islamists, not Westerners, have been responsible for misrepresenting legitimate criticism of Islamism as an assault on “Muslims” simpliciter. This is their quintessential gambit, despite their highly effective transference of responsibility for it to “right-wing” Europeans, i.e. anyone who objects to what they’re doing. ‘Westerners’ have not invented the conflation of Salafi-Wahhabism and “Muslims”. This blurring of the two is a conceptual tool deliberately constructed by Islamist extremists to give them leverage with Europe’s opinion leaders and media class. Western liberal secularists have no interest in maintaining this fiction and a strong incentive not to do so.
When ordinary Muslims, wishing to distance themselves from these intolerant manipulators, praise Islam as “a religion of peace”, the extremists seize representative status for this glorious religion whose image has been sanitised by their Muslim opponents. Jihadis do the dirty work and ordinary Muslims (and their Western sympathisers) then sanitise their image, since extremists are Islam’s self-appointed representatives. Muslim attempts at ‘distancing’ only serve Islamists and effectively become a powerful weapon in their rhetorical armoury. Every time a person of influence recites, “Islam is a religion of peace,” Islamists are given great PR and more protection, whether the speaker intends it or not. It is rather odd, therefore, that Western leaders from Barack Obama to David Cameron and Hilary Clinton have all repeated this line as if they were qualified theologians, thus giving the official imprimatur to “peaceful” Islam, a religion that has been monopolised by intolerant ultra-conservatives and theocrats with whom these Western leaders do business.
It should not surprise us, then, if the U.S. establishment gives Dahlia Mogahed, Linda Sarsour, and Ibrahim Hooper their status as chief representatives of normative Islam. Hooper is the national communications director and spokesperson for The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group identified by the Justice Department as a Muslim Brotherhood entity and designated as terrorists by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Sarsour has been involved in campaigning against the award-winning movie Honor Diaries, which showcases the struggle of nine women’s rights activists, some of them Muslim, as they campaign against honour violence and female genital mutilation.
She has also tweeted positively about Sharia law’s interest-free loans while neglecting to mention its hudud punishments and inequality towards women, and has made derogatory public remarks about ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose liberal credentials far outstrip her detractor’s. Dalia Mogahed is a Muslim who was an adviser to Obama for Muslim affairs and a member of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project’s “Leadership Group”. She is an oft-cited specialist in Muslim-American relations and has supported Sharia law compliance as a form of ‘gender justice’ for women. She has constantly used her role as a chief spokesperson for Muslims to mainstream the claim that ‘Muslims’ are victims of oppression and smears, thus poisoning the well for legitimate critics of Islamism, a tactic that is working in spades for the promotion of soft Islamism.
The British establishment’s relationship to ‘Muslims’ is similarly slanted towards Islamist groups. Sophisticated ‘soft Islamism’ disseminated by organisations like the iERA (lslamic Education and Research Academy), essentially the movement’s public relations arm, promotes Islamist norms through the discourse of diversity, multiculturalism and inter-faith outreach, while always keeping the victimhood leitmotif spinning and misrepresenting its political aims as “combating Islamophobia”. Despite being found to host hate-speakers linked to the Islamist movement, the iERA, has not had its charitable status revoked by the UK’s Charity Commission.
Likewise, mainstream British newspapers have unquestioningly repeated reports issued by “Islamophobia” watchdog Tell Mama. The organisation claimed steep rises in “Islamophobic incidents” following the slaughter of drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich in May 2013. Tell Mama, which in 2012 alone received £375,000 in taxpayers’ money, made sweeping claims about “a sustained wave of attacks” but failed to mention that 57 percent of the 212 reports referred to “attacks” that took place only online, mainly offensive postings on Twitter and Facebook, or that a further 16 percent of the 212 reports had not been verified. Not all the online abuse even originated in Britain. None of it resulted in hospital treatment of any of the victims.
Nor was there much in the way of concrete evidence for the oft-reported post-Brexit spike in ‘hate crime’. Even if we set aside the illiberal concept of emotional policing that ‘hate crime’ implies, Tim Black has pointed out how lack of evidence did not stop the media constantly repeating and alluding to a post-Brexit spike in ‘hate crime’. What they didn’t mention was how this alleged increase was created, first, by (1) the official (and unofficial) solicitation of reports of hate crime after the referendum (because if you ask people to report something, you’re obviously going to get an increase in people reporting something); and (2) by the police hate-crime-recording criteria, which stipulates that ‘the perception of the victim [is]… the defining factor in determining whether an incident is a hate incident… The victim does not have to justify or provide evidence of their belief, and police officers or staff should not directly challenge this perception.’ The authorities first suggestively solicited people to report hate-crime to a dedicated hotline after the EU referendum, then automatically treated all the reports as crimes regardless of evidence. If I were an Islamist propagandist, I know what I’d do.
The pseudo-Left, kowtowing to Salafi-Islamism’s mythological Muslim mono-culture and thoroughly enraptured by its victim narrative, stereotype Europeans in ways that they would never accept of their uniformly innocent “exotic” counterparts. White Westerners, even those born after the 1960’s, are homogeneously characterised as “colonialist”, “Eurocentric” or “privileged” irrespective of their behaviour or social positioning. Western Europeans will apparently go to any length to relieve their craving for redemption and to satiate their addiction to the good feelings that flow from amour-propre.
In his recent book, Douglas Murray recounts a prescient insight from French novelist Michel Houllebecq’s novel Submission:
“. . . the novel’s truest conceit is the depiction of a class of politicians across the political divide so keen to be seen above all as ‘anti-racist’ that they end up flattering and ultimately handing over their country to the worst and most swiftly growing racist movement of their time.” (Murray, p. 283)
Ours has become a country in which intolerance is more acceptable than tolerance, a value that we are no longer willing to argue for, much less defend. Fear and intimidation have replaced political persuasion — civilised debate, argument, or even satire — as the way to ‘convince’ opponents, and change their behaviour. Both hard (terrorist) and soft Islamism (its apologia) have together turned even atheists into theocracy’s spokespeople – even its proud, arrogant defenders. Islamists do not need to win political elections to dominate the culture. They have already changed our behaviour through intimidation and ad hominem attacks.
 ‘CAIR Met With Congress 325 Times in 2016’ by Ryan Mauro, The Counter Jihad Report, posted July 13, 2016. Accessed at https://counterjihadreport.com/tag/muslim-brotherhood/page/43/ on 6 June, 2017.
 ‘Anatomy of a Smear’, by Jeffrey Godlberg, Oct 26, 2009, The Atlantic, accessed at https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2009/10/anatomy-of-a-smear/29022/ on 6 June, 2017.
 See for example, Sara Kahn, The Battle for British Islam, http://sarakhan.co.uk/battleforbritishislam/
 ‘The Charity Commission Should Revoke the iERA’s Charitable Status’ by Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, March 7, 2017, accessed at https://ramblingsofanulsterscot.com/posts/iera/charity-commission-revoke-ieras-charitable-status/#more-6134 on 6 June, 2017.
Terri (PhD) is an author, blogger, and has taught philosophy and film studies in Secondary and Adult Education for over ten years