Two “nasty” women are scheduled to appear in front of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security this morning, June 14, 2017, to share what they know from research and personal experience on Islamic extremism: Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani.
Their appearance has sent at least one New Republic blogger into a fury. Sarah Jones wrote, “The Senate is about to hear from two of the worst possible “experts” on Islam.” Interesting to note that of the four witnesses speaking at the hearing, two are men and two are women–Jones only pointed out the women for attack.
Jones’ reasons? Hirsi Ali, who has been oppressed by the fundamentalism of Islamic governments and societies as a youth and continues to be threatened with death threats, has made controversial statements about Islam. She also has worked with conservative groups that Jones doesn’t support.
Jones even cited Max Blumenthal as a source. Blumenthal is not without controversy himself, to put it lightly. He has made a career, if you can call it that, out of appearing on conspiracy shows like The Next News Network and Iran’s Press TV to talk about “Israel Cover Up[s]”, bemoaning “the Zionist gag rule,” and comparing Israel to ISIS. In the hours after Elie Wiesel died he said Wiesel “should not be honored” and called him a “supporter” of “war crimes.” No surprise Jones doesn’t seem to have much sympathy for victims of theocratic oppression if she cites Blumenthal.
As for Nomani, she’s even worse: she supported Donald Trump! “Asra Nomani is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump,” Jones wrote. One need not search long to find that I was quite opposed to Trump during his campaign and continue to oppose most of his actions as president. But does my disagreeing with her about Trump mean that she doesn’t have anything valuable to say about Islam and extremism?
As a Muslim who has desegregated sex-segregated mosques–and also received threats for doing so–and who has written about issues related to Islam for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, and elsewhere, it appears to me she should know a little more about the topic than Sarah Jones.
Why, at a time when Muslims in Muslim majority countries, particularly women, are under threat of state-backed tyranny, when ISIS is murdering people around the world, is TNR opposed to a moderate Muslim reformer and an atheist, both active supporters of women’s rights, testifying before Congress?
For much of its history, TNR has been known for its editorial position in support of true liberalism. It had published an article about Hirsi’s plight in 2008. But under Chris Hughes’ ownership, it began to focus more on digital and hot takes, then when Hughes sold it to Win McCormack, editor-in-chief of Tin House and co-founder of Mother Jones, in 2016, the same year Sarah Jones came onboard as TNR’s social media editor, the magazine went even further to the left and veered further into social-identity politics.
Stop saying, ‘Moderate Muslims,'” Nathan Lean admonished in TNR in 2014, because, “You’re Only Empowering Islamophobes.”
A far cry from this 2007 editorial signed by the magazine:
They’re in fine company: Moderate Muslims do the same. While the vast majority of Muslims aren’t extremists, a more important distinction must start being made–the distinction between moderate Muslims and reform-minded ones.
Moderate Muslims denounce violence in the name of Islam but deny that Islam has anything to do with it. By their denial, moderates abandon the ground of theological interpretation to those with malignant intentions–effectively telling would-be terrorists that they can get away with abuses of power because mainstream Muslims won’t challenge the fanatics with bold, competing interpretations. To do so would be admit that religion is a factor. Moderate Muslims can’t go there.
Reform-minded Muslims say it’s time to admit that Islam’s scripture and history are being exploited.
UPDATE: Co-editor Maitra pointed to a tweet by Sarah Jones that speaks to her ignorance about human rights in the world:
chris, it is supremely idiotic to believe the west is some shining beacon of free speech, women's rights, and religious tolerance
— Sarah Jones (@onesarahjones) June 7, 2017