Monday, January 17, 2011
The Jasmine Jihad
Putatively "conservative" pundit for The Washington Post Jennifer Rubin calls the violent unraveling in Tunisia a "popular, secular revolt in a Muslim country".
Ms. Rubin in her introduction to her perch at that paper, pointedly titled "Right Turn", promises her readers in the Leftish Center (i.e., in the mainstream on both the Left and Right in today's Left-skewed PC MC climate):
Conservative readers, I promise not to go "native" and, like former Supreme Court Justice David Souter, slide left as soon as I'm "in." Liberal readers, I hope you'll find what I have to say provocative and interesting -- and discover that you actually agree with me now and then.
Since both the Center and the Right are already skewed Leftwards on the issue of Islam, and since the inner compass of most conservatives has shifted its magnetic North (i.e., Right) Southward (i.e., Leftward), one can no longer trust people like her. As far as her promise to "liberal readers": I have no doubt that they will "actually agree" with her "now and then" -- particularly on the issue of Islam (nothing wrong with it per se) and most Muslims (moms and pops like the rest of us).
Rubin bandies the colorful descriptor "Jasmine Revolution" around, passing the torch from fellow journalist Mona Eltahawy, who may have coined that slyly fashionable phrase (must revolutions these days have flavors and styles -- the "Velvet Revolution" of the Czechs, the "Orange Revolution" of Ukraine, then the short-lived "Cedar Revolution" of Lebanon...? What next? Are we to call the bloody jihad in the Sudan the "Acacia Genocide"...?). Mona Eltahawy is, as Hugh Fitzgerald would say, one of those Muslims-for-cultural-purposes-only and also, as he would add, a "careerist" (if not quite as "thrusting" as the annoyingly sexy and willowy in a vaguely Cruella DeVil sort of way Christiane Amanpour). At any rate, it's bad enough to have a pleasingly politically correct rubric for this dangerously volatile situation in Tunisia that sounds like a fragrant bath oil or herbal tea decoction one might find at Whole Foods; it's even worse when the coiner looks like a Muslim Janeane Garofalo.
The ingredients of that shampoo or herbal tea is just as deceptively innocuous: along with the natural fragrance of jasmine, we find, in the words of Ms. Eltahawy: "rage at political and economic disenfranchisement" -- as though a people cannot be angry for political-cum-economic reasons, and at the same time rub their stomachs to whet their appetite for more Islam. Eltahawy also slyly contrasts her quasi-Marxist interpretation of this revolt with the twin terrorisms of the day -- "it was neither Islamists nor invasion-in-the-name-of-democracy" -- i.e., it was neither the Islamist terrorists nor the American terrorists who are behind this, but just the masses of ordinary decent Muslim people.
Meanwhile, Roger Cohen of The New York Times follows dutifully in the footsteps of his colleague (with that curiously hybrid name we are seeing more and more which, with a Christian name tagged onto an Arabic surname, is supposed to convey genuine "we are here get used to it" integration), Anthony Shadid (at least he doesn't call himself "Tony"), in the preposterous analogy of the Polish overthrow of Communism that began in the 1980s in the Gdansk shipyards. Short answer: the latter were people seeking to overthrow a system of fanatical totalitarianism because, by virtue of being modern Western Christians, they loved freedom; the former are people who are jumping out of the frying pan of a tin-pot dictatorship into the fire of a worse totalitarianism -- Islam -- because, by virtue of being Muslims, they deem everything else, including modern secularism, to be inferior if not wicked.
Neither Eltahawy nor Shadid (nor the clueless non-Muslim Cohen), of course, mentions the significant factor of popular Tunisian resentment against Ben Ali's suppression of Islam. Even if we are not (yet) seeing a concerted "Islamist" coup d'Taliban nor an Iranian-style revolution per se in Tunisia, we should know that Islamic fanaticism, just like shampoos and herbal teas, comes in many fragrances and flavors. The rule of thumb here is to presume that any given polity whose vast majority of people are Muslims will not evolve (much less overnight) into a secularist democracy because, well, that would be like mixing oil and water, or turning tin into gold, or getting jasmine from a turnip.
Let's call a spade a spade: If we must retain the fashionable flavor, let's at least call this the Jasmine Jihad.