Progressives ignore the truth about tolerating the intolerant

Our schools and universities appear to be turning out some very confused young people, judging by the outrage on Twitter and in parts of the progressive media about criticism of comments by 25-year-old Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

The Sudanese-born activist’s claim on Q&A a fortnight ago that sharia law was a friend of feminism was astounding in its naivety.

Here we have in its purest form, as practised in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, a legal code based on the Koran that sanctions the execution of homosexuals and the stoning of women for infidelity.

Anyone who has not read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s books about Islam and life as the daughter of a Somali warlord and wants to understand this issue really should do so. The plight of her mother and siblings when her father took a younger bride and they lived in Kenya is outlined in Nomad, and bears no resemblance to feminism.

This paper commissioned a piece from Hirsi Ali last Saturday week that should be compulsory reading for all the Twitter twits who think the reaction to Abdel-Magied’s comments was unfair.

And why had Australian taxpayers footed the bill for the ABC’s favourite Muslim woman to travel to the most hardline states in the Middle East? Foreign Minister Julie Bishop should explain.

Then came last week’s story about French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen declining to meet Lebanon’s Grand Mufti, who had said she would need to wear a veil. That was followed by this newspaper’s stories about a Sydney state school — and by Thursday three universities — that were supporting young Muslim men refusing to shake women’s hands on religious grounds.

On Twitter and in much of the Left media this was either ignored or treated as a sign of growing intolerance in Australia. Not so.

Such coverage is in the interests of the wider society and is about not tolerating the intolerance of religious extremists.

Last Wednesday night Muslim spokesman Keysar Trad told Andrew Bolt on Sky News that husbands should only hit their wives as a last resort. This was in response to a passage from the Koran selected by Bolt. Cue instant outrage in mainstream media, and rightly so. But why was the story again ignored in so many progressive outlets that would have pounced had the words been spoken by an Anglo-Celtic Australian male?

Same with debates about wearing the veil. It’s an instrument of oppression designed to increase the power of men over women. The PR campaign being waged out of the Middle East in favour of the veil is insidious. And it is working.

A regular visitor to Turkey, I was shocked on the way to the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli in 2015 to see the number of people in Istanbul now wearing full face covers. As recently as 2011 I can’t remember seeing any in this ­17 million-strong melting pot of Europe and Asia. Ditto Jakarta in the past two decades.

Good on young Muslim writer Ruby Hamad for speaking honestly about the veil and later about sharia on the Fairfax websites.

Hamad on February 16 described the difference between sharia as a personal moral code and sharia as an increasingly accepted code of national law. “There is no doubt mainstream Islam is regressing in a world where Saudi Arabian Wahabism is fast becoming the accepted mainstream version of Islam,” she wrote.

Of course Australia will not adopt sharia as an organising legal principal, but even Hamad admits it would be wrong to deny some of the worst, most anti-women aspects of sharia are secretly practised in Australia. As Hirsi Ali pointed out last Saturday week, many Islamic divorces in Australia end badly for women who would do much better in civil courts.

A week after the Abdel-Magied blow-up, Twitter and some in the media and politics launched into another ignorant outpouring of self-regarding moralism.

This time it was about the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The elected leader of the only democracy in the Middle East was branded by people who really should know much better as a war criminal.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s political editor Mark Kenny joined the fray early, both in his paper and on ABC Insiders, claiming people in Israel itself supported campaigns to force Israel to accommodate the statehood ambitions of Palestinians. Sure left-wing cranks abound in modern pluralist democracies but in my experience the self-loathing crowd are numerically small in Israel.

And there are very few dissenters in the cities of Is­rael’s Arab neighbours, but of course you don’t get that impression from Australia’s insular progressive media, where today Israel equals bad and Islam equals good.

It is all about Twitter’s desperate desire to identify with victims.

Never mind the death toll under radical Islam or the fact that in many cities in Israel, Jews and Muslims live together in peace.

In a stressed and understaffed media world it is easier for Fairfax Media and The Guardian to report Twitter trends than real facts.

The ABC is well enough funded to try to get to the facts.

I have travelled throughout Israel, have a daughter studying in Tel Aviv after some initial courses at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and was lucky enough to meet the pioneer of the two-state solution, Yitzhak Rabin, in 1992.

I also visited the home of Faisal Husseini, the now dead former No. 2 to Yasser Arafat, and travelled throughout Gaza City.

While it is impossible not to empathise with the plight of Palestinians let down by both secular and sectarian leaders since Yasser Arafat joined Rabin as co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, it is also impossible not to agree with Netanyahu’s riposte when confronted by criticism from former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Bob Hawke advocating a separate Palestinian state. “I ask both former prime ministers what kind of state will it be that they are advocating? A state that calls for Israel’s destruction? A state whose territory will be used immediately for radical Islam?”

After all, until the Palestinian leadership acknowledges the right of Israel to exist, why would any democracy cede territory to people who advocate that state’s destruction? So what is my point in all the above?

Progressive media defend or even ignore the indefensible in the name of tolerance when reporting about Islam, and yet treat the Middle East’s only real democracy as if it were the pariah state. Journalists should be able to admit a couple of unarguable truths: modern terrorism is an almost exclusively Islamic phenomenon, even if its victims are also mainly Muslim; and worldwide Islam needs a reformation to drag its more conservative adherents out of the middle ages.