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Mona Eltahawy Defends Jihad: We are all Proud Savages Now!

September 27, 2012 5:44 pm 16 comments

Mona Eltahawy. Photo: Mona Eltahawy.

On Tuesday, the prominent Egyptian-American writer Mona Eltahawy informed her almost 160,000 Twitter followers in no uncertain terms that she was incensed by an advertisement that had been placed in some New York City subways stations. Quoting a Reuters report about the ad, Eltahawy referred to it as “‘Savage’ jihad ad,” and, by adding the hashtag  #ProudSavage, presumably declared her solidarity with maligned jihadists who see themselves in a war against Israel and (western) civilization.

Indeed, as the day wore on, Eltahawy playfully pondered on Twitter how best to protest the ad, deciding eventually that defacing it with pink spray paint would be “sexier” than the alternatives. A few hours later, Eltahawy was going through with her plan to cover one of the ads with pink paint, but was confronted by a woman resolved to stop her. The ensuing brawl was captured by a New York Post camera crew, and Eltahawy was eventually arrested and held overnight to face a criminal mischief charge in court.

This story is a perfect, if utterly depressing, illustration of the mindless sloganeering that all too often passes for political action and debate nowadays.

First, let us consider what the ad that Reuters described as “inflammatory” really said. As the Reuters report noted, the ad equates “Islamic jihad with savagery;” saying specifically:

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.  Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

To me, the most straightforward reading of the message here is: Jihad, understood as war, and in this case specifically as war against Israel, is savage. This is only “inflammatory” if you worry that many Muslims would be insulted to see violent jihadi acts of war denounced as savage.

But apparently, this is not how Eltahawy and her many ardent supporters read the ad. The most revealing illustration for their reading was provided by the well-known cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who has rightly been criticized for his “staggering amount of work dedicated to advancing explicitly anti-Semitic political imagery.”

Latuff was quick to support the #FreeMona campaign developing on Twitter with a drawing that, according to Latuff’s own caption, meant to illustrate that “equating Muslims with savages is freedom of speech – protesting against it is not…”

But while Latuff claimed that the ad was “equating Muslims with savages”, his rendering of the ad tellingly left out the last line “Defeat Jihad.”

It wasn’t the text of the ad that equated Muslims with savages, but Latuff – as well as Eltahawy and her admirers – apparently equated Jihad, understood as war, and specifically as war against Israel, with Islam and therefore with Muslims.

That would probably please jihadists everywhere.

Let’s now consider what the solidarity expressed in the hashtag #ProudSavage really means in the context of contemporary jihadist declarations and actions.

First, I would hope that we can all agree that self-described jihadists who consider videos of beheadings “very,very important” tools for recruiting volunteers deserve to be denounced as savage.

Unfortunately, jihadi rhetoric can hardly be considered as all that more civilized.

Among the most widely known examples is probably the Hamas Charter, especially the declaration: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

The enormously influential Egyptian Islamic leader Yusuf Qaradawi – who is even regarded by some as “Global Mufti“ – has explicitly praised this declaration as “one of the miracles of our Prophet,” noting:

“[W]e believe that the battle between us and the Jews is coming … Such a battle is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging; it is rather driven by religious incentives. This battle is not going to happen between Arabs and Zionists, or between Jews and Palestinians, or between Jews or anybody else. It is between Muslims and Jews as is clearly stated in the hadith. This battle will occur between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews.”

Qaradawi has made many similar statements encouraging hatred and violence between Muslims and Jews; indeed, a few years ago, he even used his popular Al Jazeera show that reached an audience of tens of millions of Muslims to praise the Holocaust as a divinely ordained punishment for the Jews, expressing the hope that “Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.”

How “racist” or “hateful” is it to denounce these racist and hateful views as savage?

Indeed, if there is such a thing as universal values and universal human rights and if we all share a common humanity, then it cannot be that denouncing calls by mainstream Muslim organizations and personalities for a bloody Muslim Jihad against Jews is somehow worse than this incitement to Jew-hatred and violence.

Well-meaning people like Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, are therefore arguably wrong to criticize this specific ad by repeating the well-worn piety that “for the vast majority of Muslims, ‘jihad’ refers to a spiritual quest, not the more politicized idea of holy war.”

That may be true, but the fact of the matter is that, as I have documented above, there is today also a mainstream Muslim understanding of jihad as bloody and, as far as Jews are concerned, ultimately genocidal war. There are also numerous violent jihadi groups, and the “vast majority of Muslims” who understand jihad as a spiritual quest have arguably little reason to feel offended when violent terrorists are denounced as savage.

Indeed, in the wake of 9/11, there were countless appeals by western leaders and commentators admonishing people not to conflate terrorists who kill in the name of Islam with the religion followed by more than 1.5 billion Muslims. But when we have an ad that denounces jihad as savage, the “politically correct” consensus now seems to be that this is an “anti-Muslim” ad.

Unfortunately, this view appears to reflect the sad fact that when it comes to Israel, most Muslims are indeed opposed to the Jewish state’s existence and Jews are viewed negatively by an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Middle East.

Another reason why this ad is interpreted as “anti-Muslim” is of course the fact that it was sponsored by a group that has often rightly been criticized and condemned for campaigns that betray anti-Muslim bigotry. Yet, such groups arguably only stand to gain adherents when it becomes anti-Muslim bigotry to denounce violent jihad as savage.

As deplorable and objectionable as it is that some believe that by denigrating Islam and Muslims in general, they are engaging in pro-Israel activism, it is not all that much better to pretend that widespread hatred of Jews, Israel and even the West doesn’t exist in the Muslim world.

Particularly a prominent writer like Mona Eltahawy surely had the option to turn to numerous widely read media outlets to explain what she finds so objectionable in this specific ad – and perhaps also what she thinks of the mainstream Muslim views of jihad I cited above. Engaging in an act of futile vandalism accompanied by a few rather vulgar tweets and claiming that this is an exercise of free speech and anti-racist political action is indeed a poor reflection on a widely admired writer of our time.

But while I am writing this, Eltahawy’s most recent tweet announces: “I return to court to face my charges – proudly – on Nov 29. #ProudSavage #FuckHate #NYC“

And, in yet another tweet posted just five minutes ago and already retweeted by almost 100 people, Eltahawy declares: “I spray painted that racist piece of shit poster out of principle, protected speech & non-violent disobedience. Proud & absolutely no regrets!”

Unthinking demagoguery attracts a lot of fans, it seems. And what do you know: there is also a new slogan, because, naturally, when a much-despised fringe group sponsors an ad describing the jihad that targets Israel as savage, the most anti-racist thing to do is to declare that we are all proud savages now…


  • Islamic Jihad massacres, as hate crimes en-masse

    Every Islamic terror act, anywhere, is a clear cut case of intolerance. It is always against the “other.”

    True, by Islamic Jihad any infidel targets are fair-game. It’s just that some groups are easier targets than others, as “justification” are aided by propaganda, often backed by some radical liberals in the West. Such are many Muslim aggressors posing as “victims.” For instance, those Arab immigrants’ grandchildren, invaders in Jews’ Israel/Palestine who go by the title “Palestinians,” while some in the West really buy the notion that these mass-murderers are just about “Palestine-Arab-State,” ignoring or unaware of their real ethnic cleansing aims from the entire Holy Land.

    Ethno-religious hatred classics:

    Arab supremacy –derived from Koran, Koranic spirit and themes– especially resulting in enslaving Africans and Asians in the Arab world and the genocide in the Sudan (of already 3.5 million, since the 1950s) by a classic combination of Arab racism and Islamic Jihad. The same diabolical combination that “founded” the Arab Vs Israel “conflict,” by infamous Mufti who collaborated with the ultimate ‘racists’ – the WW2 Hitler/Nazis. Leaving also behind, an inspired legacy of decades (and current) of ugly Nazi style cartoons in the hateful Arab press – just one of the facets of the “conflict.”

    The Armenian Genocide 1915-23, was both: Turkish ethnic supremacy and an overall holy war against Christians. The same goes to Turkish anti-Greek and anti-Assyrian genocide. Totaling a combined 2.7 million Christian victims.

    Ethno-Religious Moro-Muslims VS Philippines’ natives.

    Ethno-Religious Malay-Muslims VS Thai natives.

    Ethno-Religious Islamic-Hausa-Fulani VS Igbo Christians in Biafra Nigeria – 1960s-70s (3 million dead).
    Current (2011-13) Boko Haram Islamic mass-murder campaign in that country, deepens the Ethno-Religious divide.

    Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam Black-Muslim supremacy’s anti-White racism is deeply woven with radical Islamic vision. So were its linked Zebra murders in the 1970s and the Beltway snipers shootings in 2002.

    Ethno-Religious “pure-Muslim” Pakistani VS Bangladeshi (regarded as the impure) genocide – 1971 (3 million dead).

    Ethno-Religious “Palestinian” and Lebanese Muslims VS Christian Natives Maronites in Lebanon. 1970s-2000.

    Iran-Iraq war – 1980s (a million victims – at least). Racism (Arab supremacy vs Aryan-Iranians) and “we are the true Muslims” motivation, on both sides.

    Pakistani Sunnis and Shiites VS Ethno-Religious Ahmadis, resulting in mass violence. So is rampant anti-Ahmadi bigotry among “Palestinian” Arabs.

    Ethno-Religious Muslim-Uighur VS Han native Chinese. Terror attacks (not just against government but against ordinary Chinese too) recorded.

    Ethno-Religious Indonesian Muslims VS Chinese (1999 mass rape and murder) and VS native Catholics in E. Timor (200,000 victims).

    Ever since the bloody ‘Islamic theme of al-Aqsa’ intifada erupted (2000), Jews in Europe have been even an easier target to Islamic anti-Semitism, physical attacks and attempted ethnic cleansing. Such as by Arab/African Muslims in France; by Turkish/Iranian Muslims in Germany; by Arab-Muslims in the Benelux, Sweden and Norway. The kidnappers and torturers to death of Ilan Halimi to the sound of reciting the Koran (Paris, 2006) -for instance- were inspired by Hamas literature.
    So have been Arabs in Latin America, also targeting Jews.

    The Pakistani Jihadi Lashkar-e-Taiba (“Army of the Pure”) in Mumbai (2008), aided by the ISI (Pakistan Spy Agency) specifically targeted Whites, and even more so the Jews.

    Ethno-Religious Arab-Muslims VS native Coptic-Christians in Egypt, hate crimes still going on…

    Ethno-Religious (mostly separated by origin/ethnicity as well) Shiite VS Sunnis, and vice versa in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan. (Bloodshed going on, full force). A study about 2011 worldwide terror attacks -for example- found 70% of the (over 12,000) killings were perpetrated by Sunni Muslims. That includes: al-Qaeda, Taliban, and others.

    Last point but not least: most “conflicts” and bloodshed around the globe today IS correlated to Islamism.

  • Excellent article. You’ve articulated clear distinctions but apparently some people in the comments section can’t seem to get it. We have to be able to talk about violent jihadi without having to explain in every sentence that we are not talking about the vast majority of peaceful and moderate Muslims. By now that should be understood.

  • The ads are telling the truth about islam. Islam is a twisted and evil religion and its members are savages. Oh, by the way, I spit on the name of the prophet muhammad.

    • Well you can spit wherever and however you want! But why are you so ignorant towards Islam? I think you have formed an opinion about Islam without doing a thorough research. Trust me! I am not a savage, I am not an extremist, I am not a hypocrite, and I am a Muslim and I don’t follow the airhead jihadis but I do follow Islam. I know eyes never see what the mind doesn’t know, so please enlighten yourself.

      • You are a Mohammedan? One of your “prophets” reckons that by its fruit you shall know a tree… I rest my case – Islam is pure evil, and it should be rooted out.

        Ali Sina says it best (and I concur 100%: Mohammed suffered from malignant narcissistic personality disorder. His followers, to the degree that they emulate him, think like him and try to behave like him, have entered into his narcissistic bubble universe and have become narcissists by extension. This happens to all cultists. In all cults, the insanity of the guru reflects on the followers who surrender their intelligence to him and follow him unquestioningly and brainlessly.

        The narcissists feel grandiose and self-important. They want to be acknowledged without commensurate merit. They want recognition and preferential treatment. They expect respect without feeling any obligation to reciprocate. They get their sense of self- importance by putting you down, criticizing you, decrying your world and disparaging your values, but you are not allowed to slight them. It is okay for them to violate your rights, abuse you and even kill you, but you are not supposed to mistreat them in the slightest way. In fact, they demand privileges that are not available to others. What they want is your submission. That is what Islam is all about – submission.

      • I did enlighten myself while serving in the Army fighting muslims.

        • I don’t know in which army you served, but neither the US army nor the IDF is fighting muslims. Indeed, both armies are often helping muslims, while fighting jihadi terrorists.

          • I can assure you, I was not fighting Hari Krishnas. And remember PetrMB, In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man, Support Israel!”

    • Les, I posted a response to you previously, but there seems to have been some glitch with my connection. So once again:
      The ads don’t say anything about Islam, but specifically denounce jihad as savage. As I have argued, this is in my view a fully justified description.
      By contrast, your vicious remarks about Islam reflect only your own bigotry. Like all 3 monotheistic faiths, Islam has some texts that contain wise and humane insights, and others, that reflect the historic context in which these text were written down, and that are by the standards of today barbaric.

      When it comes to current political debates, comments like yours do a great job helping the people who want to shut down any criticism about Islam.

      It also makes no sense whatsoever to go into theological debates – for every dreadful quote from Islamic texts one can come up with a dreadful quote from Jewish or Christian texts. What counts is only the question what each faith presents and accepts as mainstream message TODAY. Unfortunately, in the case of Islam, Qaradawi is mainstream. But there are also Muslims who are writing books and articles arguing that Islam could be understood very differently — which is to say: just as e.g. Christianity is very different today from what it was when it was considered pious to burn women as witches, Islam could be very different.

      To deny this, like you do, simply means that those who claim that debating anything to do with Islam triggers “Islamophobic” sentiments can say: told you so.

      • “…Islam has some texts that contain wise and humane insights.” I wonder which texts the perpetrators behind 9-11 were reciting.

    • This article is completely one-sided. Nearly two days ago Pamela Geller, the purchaser of the controversial poster, had the statue of liberty in a hijab. Clearly that is portraying Muslims as a whole as jihadis. I am not Muslim, but that poster did not sit right with me at all.

      • I haven’t seen the image you refer to, but in any case, the issue here is not what has been, is, or will be on Geller’s blog. I have made it clear that I’m not a supporter of the groups behind the ad; the issue here is simply that this SPECIFIC ad is NOT racist, because it simply denounces violent jihad as savage — a denunciation that is indeed fully deserved and on which all civilized people should be able to agree. Anyone who has hestitations should watch the clip of the beheading of Daniel Pearl until s/he has made up her/his mind.
        It is in my view a sad reflection on the intellectual dishonesty that poisons so many of our political debates that Eltahawy &Co are allowed to get away with denouncing this ad as racist, but are never ever asked to say anything about the vile racism, bigotry and fanaticism that is at the core of jihadi ideology.

  • So, free speech is free only if you agree with it?

    • Not sure what you’re trying to say. If you mean that Eltahawy shouldn’t have been arrested: vandalism isn’t free speech, and it’s pretty amazing that as a writer, she thought spraying pink paint over an ad she didn’t like is the best way to exercise her right to free speech.

  • No doubt, savage category is in effect!

  • Good article.

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