Anti-Muslim or Anti-Arab?

David Aaronovitch is a liberal hawk, but one who manages to avoid the bombastic rhetoric and sometimes wilful misrepresentations of opponents that one finds in the work of his fellow Brit Christopher Hitchens. For his pro-war views, and for attacks on Islamic fundamentalism, he has received a certain amount of abuse (some of it anti-Semitic) from Islamists and others. His latest Guardian piece looks at Submission, the short film that recently led to the murder of its director, Theo van Gogh (which in turn appears to be doing a good job of turning the Netherlands into 1970s Northern Ireland). Aaronovitch is appalled as the rest of us by the murder, but he is also troubled by the film:

What the film suggests is that, somehow, domestic violence and rape are linked to specifically Muslim ways of seeing the world and the relationship between men and women. Given the fact that the film is made by a non-Muslim (indeed, by a noted critic of Islam), the effect is disturbing. What is the film-maker’s intention? Who is the film aimed at?

Imagine a similar film being made here featuring Lubavitcher Jews and suggesting the plight, say, of a child in a closed community. The child might talk about paedophilia in one of the many unregulated weekend classes, about the code of silence, all set against the background of a seven-branched candlestick, with the words of the Torah passing across her body. Then suppose it was made, not by a Lubavitcher, but by a rightwing member of the Conservative party, who had once called a Jew, a “Christ-killer”, as Van Gogh once described a Muslim as a “goat-fucker”.

…The story of Muslims is of a backward, super-sensitive religion which mistreats women and suppresses dissent. It is as true and as useful as the story of Jews, and, if we keep on telling it, leads to a similar place.

I would agree with Aaronovitch’s analysis – and it also reflects why I find sites like JihadWatch and Little Green Footballs so distasteful, despite the need to expose Islamist fundamentalism unapologetically. But there is something more going on here. Submission was not just made by a non-Muslim, as Aaronovitch claims: the script was provided by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim of Somali origin. Ali’s forthright rejection of her religion makes me recall Ibn Warraq, the ex-Muslim who works for the secularisation of Islamic society. However, Warraq attacks not just Islamists and, as a secularist and rationalist, Islamic doctrines, but also the memory of Edward Said. Ibn Warraq’s name is somewhat deceptive: it is a pseudonym, and he is in fact of South Asian origin; neither he nor Ali are Arabs. Could it be that these undoubtedly brave and important figures are not just determined to free society from the Islamic confines that blighted their early lives, but are also motivated by animus against the Arabs who brought the ideas that so oppressed them?

Meanwhile, in the USA the racist commentators at LGF and JihadWatch are far more prone to identify the Muslims they so despise as Arabs, rather than (say) Malaysians or Turks (the obvious reasons for this does not excuse it); Jack Wheeler can call Arabs pederasts at WorldNet Daily without causing controversy; Mike Evans can create a best-selling Biblical exegesis that claims the very creation of the Arabs was against God’s will. While Aaronovitch sees “domestic violence and rape…linked to specifically Muslim ways of seeing the world” in Submission, I wonder if in fact we’re supposed to think of domestic violence and rape as linked to the Arab man?  Jeff Sharlet recently wrote that Muslim-hating has become mainstream. But perhaps it is anti-Arab racism that is making the strongest strides.