Pam Geller’s shitty bus campaign is backPosted: September 27, 2014
Geller is the leading exemplar of the ‘text-centric’ style of Islamophobia. “It’s in the Quran” is basically her mantra. The idea is that naughty-sounding things in the holy texts of Islam more or less mechanically spawn naughty things (Islamic anti-Semitism, terrorism) in real life.
Never mind that:
(a) She interprets these texts—Martin Luther sola scriptura-style—as no Muslim scholar has in 1500 years of religious commentary;
(b) If her interpretations are correct, there are approximately zero self-identifying Muslims who actually abide by what’s “in the Quran.” Of course, the preponderance of “moderate Muslims” gives her no pause. They simply need to read “their own book” more closely. (Actually, she does acknowledge the moderates, calling them “secular Muslims”—who are basically apostates. My own view is that, if they are indeed less than “true Muslims,” they are exempt from all of her injunctions against Islam; and if so, she’s got, in statistical terms, almost nobody left to direct these injunctions against. But I digress.)
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Geller’s view is a less sophisticated version of something called the “radicalization thesis,” examined at length in Arun Kundnani’s The Muslims are Coming! Shared by virtually every state actor prosecuting the War on Terror, this is the idea the root cause of anti-Western terrorism is some version of Islamic belief.
The thesis comes in conservative and liberal flavors, depending on whether you think Islam is essentially radical, or that radical interpretations are a perversion of “true Islam.” (Geller of course falls squarely in the conservative camp.) In either scenario, violence is cast as a product of “radical ideas.”
The problem with this theory is two-fold:
(1) Among those Muslims who share extremist ideas, statistically speaking very nearly zero of these ever attempt any sort of violence.
(2) Among those few Muslims who do turn to terrorism, there is simply no correlation between this decision and radical interpretations of Islam. Absolutely none, as evidenced across a couple decades of serious study. Whatever makes “the terrorists” tick, it isn’t something they read “in the Quran.” (Though religious language is typically employed to express those grievances—mostly political—which do make them tick.)
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Granted, I started out talking about anti-Semitism, and ended up talking about terrorism. My reasoning there is that terrorism is simply easier to track. It’s more dramatic and quantifiable. Point being, if we can see that the “Islamic” terrorist threat is negligible, the “Islamic things” we can’t as readily see (anti-Semitism and all the rest) are probably negligible too.
[More on the “radicalization thesis” in my next post, specifically the evidence for (2) above.]