Romancing the Jihad
Why are so many on the Left enamored with Islamism?
By Clifford D. May
Ask those on the Left what values they champion, and they will say equality, tolerance, women’s rights, gay rights, workers’ rights, and human rights. Militant Islamists oppose all that, not infrequently through the application of lethal force. So how does one explain the burgeoning Left-Islamist alliance?
I know: There are principled individuals on the Left who do not condone terrorism or minimize the Islamist threat. The author Paul Berman, unambiguously and unashamedly a man of the Left, has been more incisive on these issues than just about anyone else. Left-of-center publications such as The New Republic have not been apologists for radical jihadists.
But The Nation has been soft on Islamism for decades. Back in 1979, editorial-board member Richard Falk welcomed the Iranian revolution, saying it “may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country.” Immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, longtime Nation contributor Robert Fisk complained that “terrorism” is a “racist” term.
It is no exaggeration to call groups such as MoveOn.org pro-appeasement. Further left on the political spectrum, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition sympathizes with both Islamists and the Stalinist regime in North Korea — which is in league with Islamist Iran and its client state, Syria. Meanwhile, Hugo Chávez, the Bolivarian-socialist Venezuelan strongman, is developing a strategic alliance with Iran’s ruling mullahs and with Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy.
In a new book, United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror, Jamie Glazov takes a hard look at this unholy alliance. A historian by training, Glazov is the son of dissidents who fled the Soviet Union only to find that, on American campuses, they were not welcomed by the liberal/Left lumpen professoriate.
Glazov’s book indicts artists and intellectuals of the Left — e.g. George Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, and Susan Sontag — for having “venerated mass murderers such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Ho Chi Minh, habitually excusing their atrocities while blaming Americans and even the victims for their crimes.”
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Left spent several years wandering in the wilderness. Many of them, Glazov suggests, looked upon the terrorist attacks of 9/11 less as an atrocity than as an opportunity to revive a moribund revolutionary movement.
Jimmy Carter, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, Lynne Stewart, and Stanley Cohen are among the luminaries of the Left Glazov accuses of having found common ground with Islamists.
He notes that the novelist Norman Mailer called the 9/11 hijackers “brilliant” and their terrorism “understandable” because “everything wrong with America led to the point where the country built that tower of Babel which consequently had to be destroyed.”
And then there is Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal, who in 2003, from his prison cell, published a book called Revolutionary Islam that urged “all revolutionaries, including those of the left, even atheists,” to accept the leadership of militant jihadists, Osama bin Laden key among them. His reasoning: “Only a coalition of Marxists and Islamists can destroy the United States.”
Glazov quotes the British lawmaker, George Galloway, elaborating on the rationale for this coalition. “Not only do I think [a Muslim-leftist alliance is] possible, but I think it is vitally necessary and I think it is happening already,” Galloway said. “It is possible because the progressive movement around the world and the Muslims have the same enemies. Their enemies are the Zionist occupation, American occupation, British occupation of poor countries, mainly Muslim countries. They have the same interest in opposing savage capitalist globalization, which is intent upon homogenizing the entire world, turning us basically into factory chickens which can be force-fed the American diet of everything from food to Coca-Cola to movies and TV culture and whose only role in life is to consume the things produced endlessly by the multinational corporations.”
And in 1979, the success of the Islamist Revolution in Iran depended, in large measure, on the support given by the Iranian Left to the Ayatollah Khomeini. Once firmly in power, the clerical regime repaid its leftist enablers with executions, assassinations, and prison sentences. Evidently, no lessons were learned.
Glazov concludes that the Left’s “romance with Islamism is just a logical continuation of the long leftist tradition of worshipping America’s foes. . . . The Left clearly continues to be inspired by its undying Marxist conviction that capitalism is evil and that forces of revolution are rising to overthrow it — and must be supported.” On that basis, militant Islamism is regarded as a “valiant form of ‘resistance’ against American imperialism and oppression.”
If such values as equality, tolerance, and human rights are crushed in the process, that’s a price many on the Left are willing to pay. Those on the Left who disagree should perhaps speak up more loudly and more often.
— Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.
© Scripps Howard News Service