In this spirited and savvy collection of recent essays and speeches, David Horowitz argues that progressives, that is, left of center politicians, journalists and intellectuals have contributed to “undermining the defense of Western civilization against the totalitarian forces determined to destroy it.” Specifically, the threat comes from “the holy war or jihad waged by totalitarian Islamists in their quest for a global empire.” (p.1) These essays, many of which are lectures at university campuses or reports about those lectures, will reinforce the views of those who already agree that “Western civilization” is a good thing, that Islamism is a form of totalitarianism and that its Jihad is quest for a “global empire.” They may not convince those who think Western civilization is another name for racism, imperialism and war, that totalitarianism is an ideological relic of the Cold War and that an otherwise peaceful and tolerant Islam has been “hijacked” by violent extremists who misconstrue its texts and their meanings. Yet they may strike a nerve with those liberals who think it is absurd to deny the clear links between Islamism and terror and who, especially after the murders in Paris in January, understand that Islamism is a threat to the liberal traditions of Western politics and culture.
This volume addresses a by now much discussed paradox of our political and intellectual life. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, the liberal intellectual Paul Berman in Terror and Liberalism made the compelling case that the Islamist ideology that inspired the Al Qaeda terrorists emerged from a profoundly reactionary set of ideas which had lineages to Nazism and fascism. In Germany, Matthias Kuentzel, in his Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Nazism, Islamism and the Roots of 9/11 examined in more detail the illiberal views of the 9/11 terrorists as well as the political and ideological connections between Islamism and Nazism. A number of us historians have documented those connections. The irony of the years since 2001, and especially of the Obama years, is that, with some exceptions, much of the sharpest criticism of the reactionary nature of Islamism and defense of classically liberal values has not come from the historic home of anti-fascism among leftists and liberals. Rather, as the 55, mostly short essays in this collection indicate, that critique has migrated to centrists and conservatives or those who are now called conservatives.
“Islamophobia,” the longest essay in the collection is co-written with Robert Spencer, also importantly draws attention to the international connections of Islamist organizations in the United States. The authors write that “the purpose of inserting the term ‘phobia’ is to suggest that any fear associated with Islam is irrational” and thus to discredit arguments that suggest a connection between Islamism and terror as themselves forms of bigotry. Horowitz and Spencer connect this criticism of the concept to discussion of the organizational connections between the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2005, the FBI seized the Northern Virginia headquarters of the Holy Land Foundation, then the largest Islamic “charity” in the United States. In a trial in 2007 that led to the conviction of the Foundation’s leaders on charges of supporting a terrorist organization, the prosecution entered a seized a remarkable document entitled “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.”(18) The group’s goal was the establishment of “an effective and stable Islamic Movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood, which adopts Muslim causes domestically and globally, and which works to expand the observant Muslim base, aims at directing and unifying Muslim’s efforts, presents Islam as a civilizational alternative, and supports the global Islam state wherever it is.” Muslims, it continued “must understand their work in American is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” Horowitz and Spencer perform an important service in drawing attention to this document and to the political campaign that it has inspired.
The memo called for the creation of front organizations including the Muslim American Society, the Muslim Students Association, and the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Islamic Association for Palestine and the parent group of the Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR. Another front group identified in the Holy Land memo was the International Institute for Islamic Thought, said to have invented the term “Islamophobia.” Horowitz and Spencer’s discussion of CAIR’s “Islamophobia campaign” is particularly interesting. In the Holy Land case, the US Department of Justice named CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator and produced evidence that it has received $500,000 dollars from the Holy Land Foundation to set itself up. CAIR was created in 1994 as a spinoff of a Hamas front group, the Islamic Association for Palestine, a group that the US government shut down in 2005 for funding terrorism. CAIR has defined Islamophobia as “closed minded prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims” and has described anti-terror measures adopted by the US government as forms of “prejudice” and “hatred.” The authors argue that the use of such terms has been an effective instrument in blunting or stifling criticism of Islamism.
On American university and college campuses, the Muslim Students Association and “Students for Justice in Palestine” have sponsored “Israel Apartheid Weeks.” In recent years, the MSA has been particularly active at the campuses of the University of California in Davis, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles in the anti-Islamophobia campaigns. Remarkably, such efforts have received support from coalitions of leftwing student groups active in student governments. The authors write that “perhaps the chief asset possessed by the jihadists is a coalition of non-Muslims-European and American progressives—who support the anti-Islamophobia campaign,” one that “had a venerable antecedent in the support that progressives provided to Soviet totalitarians during the Cold War.” (p.48) Again, the remarkable aspect of the current coalitions between Islamists and leftists was that these leftists were making common cause with organizations famous for anti-Semitism, subordination of women to second class status or worse and deep religious conviction, a set of beliefs at odds with some of the classic values of the radical left in the twentieth century. Then again, in view of the anti-Zionist campaigns of the Soviet Union and its allies during the Cold War and the hostility of the global radical left to Israel in recent decades, such “Red-Green” leftist-Islamist coalitions of recent years are not so surprising.
Horowitz sees a parallel between the “secular messianic movements like communism, socialism and progressivism” and the religious creeds they replaced. “It is not surprising therefore, that the chief sponsors of the blasphemy laws and the attitudes associated with them have been movements associated with the political left. It is no accident that the movement to outlaw Islamophobia should be deeply indebted to the secular left and its campaign to stigmatize its opponents by indiscriminately applying repugnant terms to them like ‘racist.’” The invention and application of the concept of Islamophobia “is the first step in outlawing freedom of speech, and therefore freedom itself, in the name of religious tolerance.”(55)
The remainder of this volume elaborates on these themes with twenty essays on Islamo-fascism, thirteen on the Middle East Conflict and eleven on “the Campus War against the Jews.” Horowitz’ reports on his many speeches at various campuses where some of the above mentioned Islamic organizations turn up to protest. There the front organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood, especially the Muslim Students Association, emerged to challenge his arguments about the links between Islamism and fascism. Two essays are particularly important—and depressing. In “Suicidal Jews” and “”Hillel”s Coalitions with Israel’s Enemies,” Horowitz describes instances in which liberal and left-leaning Jewish undergraduates turn their criticism towards him rather than towards the anti-Israeli activists on campus.
This fourth volume of Horowitz’s essays depicts the bizarre nature of our contemporary political culture in which leftists make common cause with Islamists, Israel is denounced as a racist entity while the anti-Semitism of the Muslim Brothers, Hamas and the government of Iran are non-issues for leftists, and the United States government refuses to state the obvious about the connection between Islamist ideology and the practice of terrorism. The defense of liberal principles has liberal advocates but as this valuable collection indicates the core of the defense has become a preoccupation of the center and right of American intellectual and political life. This volume is an important document of that endeavor.
Jeffrey Herf, Distinguished University Professor, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park. His most recent book is Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World. His work in progress is entitled “At War with Israel: East Germany and the West German Radical Left, 1967-1989.”