"Judeocentrism" - A New Slur?
by Stephen Schwartz
Translations of this item:
The narrative that follows may be considered excessively complex, and for that I crave the reader's mercy. Those of us committed to moderate Islam have not had an easy time of late.
Anybody who has read my writings, or perused the website of the institution I helped found, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, knows that I have consistently defended Balkan Muslims – Bosnians and Albanians – as indigenous European followers of the faith of Muhammad, representing an Islam that can contribute loyally and productively to Western society. In The Weekly Standard just ten days ago, I wrote The Wahhabis are up to no good in southern Europe; there I described in detail a revived, current attempt at subversion of moderate Islam in the Balkan region, by agents of the Saudi-Wahhabi death cult.
Then, on May 8, came news of the Fort Dix terror conspiracy in which four Albanian adherents of Wahhabism – easily identified as such by their untrimmed beards – were among six men charged with preparation of a jihadist attack on American service personnel.
And a day after that, on May 9, I published a column on FSM entitled CAIR Feels the Heat, about the efforts of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to pursue opposition research against me, while they complain about all who criticize them from within Muslim ranks.
What brings these incidents together, aside from temporal proximity? Is there a connection between ideological aggression in faraway countries, homicidal plotting on our soil, and attempts, also inside the U.S., to silence adversaries of the Wahhabi lobby? Is a unified radical-Islamist counter-offensive underway?
Radical Muslims claim all Muslims owe their primary loyalty to a single global umma or community. This view is supported by an aggressive minority, since Muslims are as divided by history, culture, and language as Christians and even Jews. But it seems undeniable that within Islam worldwide, especially where the Wahhabis scheme to take control of all Sunnis, money is disbursed and actions are planned in a coordinated manner. Indeed, I have argued for some time that Sunni radicals are engaged in a new campaign, reaching across borders, continents, and oceans, with the aim of exporting the tensions, if not the terror, seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. In those countries, Muslim-on-Muslim bloodshed often appears to overshadow the atrocities perpetrated against the U.S.-led coalition. That said, for all Americans, including American Muslims, the safety of our troops must come first, whether in Fallujah or at Fort Dix.
But the "horns of the devil" represented by Wahhabi machinations have become even more visible on the southeast European front. In FSM last November, I called attention to the alarming news that the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a group that in my experience parallels CAIR in its production of distortions and insults against those who challenge them, had invited Bosnian Muslim cleric Mustafa Cerić to address their annual convention in Southern California.
At that time, Cerić was in the middle of the nascent controversy over Wahhabism in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Prominent Muslim intellectuals came out strongly against the importation of violent extremism into their community, and rural Bosnian Muslims soon began driving the radicals from their village mosques. These events have been documented and posted by the Center for Islamic Pluralism. Cerić never showed up for the MPAC affair in Southern California, but back in Sarajevo, he had begun wavering. The man who had spoken out for a Bosnian Islam in a European context, I was told, was worried about losing the support of the Saudis. Further, extremists from England, the center of radical Islam in Western Europe, had descended on Bosnia.
Not that the Saudis, or their radical puppets in Britain, ever did much to help the Bosnians, either during the 1992-95 war or afterward, when terrorists used Sarajevo to set up a local office for the charities supporting al-Qaida while trying to convert the Bosnian Muslims to the Wahhabi creed. But in recent months, apparently in response to rising anti-Wahhabi resentment, someone from the Gulf reportedly dropped several million dollars in cash on Sarajevo's Islamic authorities.
And so, Mustafa Cerić announced not long ago that antagonism toward the Wahhabis is detrimental to all the Muslims of Bosnia-Hercegovina and reflects Islamophobic trends in the rest of Europe. But Cerić seems to have thought he could peddle a pro-Wahhabi message at home, while delivering honeyed speeches abroad. Next Tuesday, May 22, he is scheduled to lecture at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, an official U.S. government forum, on "The Art of Tolerance."
There's more: the same weekend that my reportage appeared in The Weekly Standard, I was brutally attacked in Preporod (Revival), a rather dull weekly that is the personal organ of Mustafa Cerić. A long diatribe assailed me in the "oppo" idiom I had described in my recent FSM column: mainly, for my leftist past, which ended 23 years ago. But the article also introduced a new and obnoxious element, referring to me as "Judeocentric."
How clever to invent a new entry in the lexicon of hate! And how entirely and primitively Balkan! But what does "Judeocentric" mean? I am a Muslim; my father was Jewish, my mother Christian, and I had no religious upbringing. Islam is my first and so far my only religion. I write about Muslim-Jewish dialogue in a manner intended to increase respect between the two communities of believers, as well as toward Christians. I have also written positively about the history of Jewish-Muslim relations in the Balkans, with the enthusiastic approval of Balkan Muslim leaders, since the American Jewish leadership played a major role in saving Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo from aggression.
But in the Preporod article, "Judeocentric" was linked to the new vocabulary of prejudice in America, which seeks to present neoconservatives as a Zionist cabal that has seized control of American foreign policy. In truth, the neoconservatives were prominent among those responsible for preventing the whole Bosnian Muslim community from ending up in a mass grave or as refugees. But some Bosnian Muslims seem to have short memories, or none.
And here is the real shocker: the screed against me and my "Judeocentrism," published in a distant land and in a language few Americans can read, was signed by a faculty member at the U.S. Naval Academy (emphasis added) in Annapolis, named Ermin Sinanović. Sinanović, a professor of political science, also filled his text with crude allegations against the Bush administration.
These are questions I believe are posed by this contretemps:
I think the answer to the first question is easy: this is one struggle with many fronts, and those who participate outside the U.S. will be targeted, if only by obloquy, wherever they are found. Nevertheless, the material published by the Bosnian Wahhabis to counter my work has the flavor of an export product from the American Wahhabis, who doubtless hope their stale "oppo" will finally have an impact.
So far, the effect has been exactly contrary to what the Wahhabis, both American and Bosnian, must have expected. Leading Muslim figures in Sarajevo rushed to assure me of their support; one prominent academic, whose name must be kept private for now, wrote me, "there will always exist a critical mass of reasonable and well-disposed people who will never forget your generous help and support, offered to the offended and crushed people of Bosnia at the most critical moments in our entire history. They will never let you down… don't let a handful of mercenaries and ignorant folk make you hesitate to finish the blessed job you've started. The game is not even close to ending… May God grant you good health and strength in this fight."
Professor Sinanović and his employment by the Naval Academy will be explored in good time. But Cerić stayed in Sarajevo last year, and missed the scandal his appearance at the MPAC convention would have caused; perhaps that humiliation for the MPAC gang produced this counter-blow. I think Cerić should stay in Sarajevo again and forget about the Woodrow Wilson Center as a place to offer ameliorative rhetoric about "tolerance." Unfortunately, it is probably too late to rescind his invitation, which is what he seems, at this juncture, to merit.