Professor As'ad AbuKhalil, aka The Angry Arab, reports on the remarkably under-reported major story in Switzerland this week: the popular vote to ban minarets in the country. In a piece entitled, "Religious Bigotry in the New York Times" (referring to this story), he writes:
What happened in Switzerland is quite significant. Of course, only an ignorant would associate Switzerland with equality and tolerance: just remember -- as I always remind my students -- that women were only granted the right to vote in 1971. Enough said. But what is quite outrageous is the extent to which US (and Western) media are not treating this as the international outrage that it is. Just ask yourselves: how would the Western media have reacted if the ban affected synagogues and not mosques? Would you not have seen stories against it on the front pages of ALL US newspapers? If this ban affected synagogues, for example, the US government would have convened a special session of the US Security Council and the special UN commission on Human Rights. Worse, look at the way in which media will now begin justification of the ban, and notice how the Western media link religious intolerance with references to fanatical groups and to Bin Laden. What is the link? I don't get it, I guess. And here is the New York Times' first sentence in covering the story: "In a vote that displayed a widespread anxiety about Islam..." Can you imagine the New York Times ever justifying, or even explaining away, a ban affecting Judaism with a sentence like: "In a vote that displayed widespread anxiety about Judaism..." And is anxiety about a religion not an exact case of religious intolerance? I mean, Nazis displayed widespread anxiety about Judaism and that is why we condemn them as the anti-Semitic bigots that they were.
Juan Cole has more on the vote and its significance in "Bigotry wins in Switzerland," at Salon.com.
Meanwhile, in The Nation, in a piece written before the vote, Laila Lalami delivers a scathing, fact-based critique of the latest salvo from the ever-respectable, ever-serious contingent of gilded racists who command top media venues, top publishing houses -- and top dollar -- to spread their fact-free, hatemongering (and sex-obsessed) fantasies about a monolithic Musim horde "taking over" Europe. (That good old Steyn-Hitchens-Amis crowd: see here, here, here and here.)
Lalami takes on the deceitful, weedy handwringing of Chistopher Caldwell in his new book, That Dusky Hunk Wants My Woman and I'm Too Scared to Stop Him. (Or words to that effect.) Lalami's measured, detailed, informed and genuinely serious reply systematically destroys every one of the book's main "arguments" -- if such a term can be applied to Caldwell's brutally simplistic mental noodlings.
There is a great deal of deeply sinister nonsense being deliberately and expensively bruited about on the "threat" posed by Muslims (including those mistakenly identified as Muslims, such as Arab Christians, and of course the innumerable atheists, like AbuKhalil, who happen to be of Muslim heritage). We must arm ourselves against the foul tide with all the truth that we can find. Lalami's essay is an important work in this regard, and should be read in full.