As I wrote yesterday, I think media coverage of the Sri Lankan Easter massacre marked a further descent on a ever slipperier slope. But it’s worth noting that we’re where we are today because of trends set in motion back when this thing got going. Less than three months after 9/11 – December 1st 2001 – I published the following piece in The Spectator. In the ensuing eighteen years, every fatuous Islamoschmoozing tic of western politicians has expanded beyond parody:
Are you a Western leader of the Judaeo-Christian or Agnostic-Atheist persuasion? Want to issue a public statement on how much you respect and value Islam as a peaceful religion of moderation and tolerance? Take a number, pal. The line’s longer than the waiting-list at a Birmingham hospital. The Queen has spoken of her respect for ‘the Islamic community’, so’s the Pope, and Tony Blair. President Bush does it at least a couple of times a day. A week ago, he hosted the White House’s first ever Ramadan dinner – not a banquet, that would have been insensitive, and the whole point of the administration’s ‘Ramadan public relations offensive’ is, according to The Washington Post , to ‘highlight its sensitivity to Islamic tradition’. At this difficult time, politicians are sensitive about being thought insensitive, so there’s no point being too sensitive about how ostentatiously you advertise your sensitivity. In Canada, the Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, hasn’t made what one could call a coherent statement on the subject, but he has visited a mosque, as he never ceases to remind people. Ask him about border security or troop deployments or post-9/11 economic issues and he says, ‘I was proud to visit da mosques because dat to me is da Canadian value.’
This is the most sensitive war in history. The President has urged Americans to be especially solicitous and protective of what he calls ‘women of cover’. (If a woman of colour wears a hejab, will that make her a woman of colour of cover? A covered woman of colour? A coloured woman of cover?) He has recommended that each American schoolchild get a Middle Eastern pen-pal, although, with the current anthrax scare, I don’t suppose the US Postal Service is especially eager for a blizzard of envelopes with childlike handwriting from Mullah al-Jihad’s Fourth Grade class at the Sword of the Jew-Slayer Elementary School in Kandahar.
Should the US government be in the business of Ramadan PR? The Republic is founded on the principle of separation of church and state, but, to judge by the unnerving silence from the usually litigious American Civil Liberties Union, the separation of mosque and state is quite another matter. Last time round, FDR interned Japanese-Americans. Not only has Bush no plans to intern Muslim Americans; it wouldn’t surprise me if he interned himself, just to ‘send the right message’. more