Monday, June 27, 2005

Islamic Thinkers and gay New Yorkers

Ben Smith:

The dispute between an irascible lesbian conservative from Queens and a militant new group well on the fringes of the city’s Muslim community might appear to be a marginal conflict. But to New York’s gays and to some of its Muslim leaders, the scene in Jackson Heights bears a worrying similarity to communal conflicts that are challenging the idea of tolerance across Europe, with particular flashpoints in Holland and Scandinavia. There, young immigrants and the children of immigrants have been drawn to a more radical Islamic ideology than that of their parents. On the extreme fringes, these young men have committed acts of violence against Jews and gays, and in a case that shocked Europe, one young Dutchman of Moroccan origin murdered the filmmaker Theo van Gogh in an Amsterdam street.

"It’s almost a cliché to define it like this, but in the end it’s a question of whether you can tolerate intolerance," said Leon de Winter, a Dutch novelist who has written on the Van Gogh murder. "We are defending the openness, the diversity of this society against tendencies from other cultures, in which this kind of openness which we celebrate is being regarded as a threat."

In this conflict, gays have become canaries in the ideological coal mine. Western liberals have tended to cut Muslim groups slack on their ideological pronouncements, in part out of sympathy with some of their causes—the insurgencies in Chechnya and the Middle East, for example—and in part out of a sense that anti-Muslim sentiment in the West is a more pressing problem than anything Muslims themselves might do.

But the rise of gay bashing on European streets has pushed the question of tolerance a step further and led some to question their reflexive defense of a put-upon minority. It has also opened up a heated debate within the gay community, and among liberals in general, over whether the proliferation of intolerant strains of Islam requires liberals in the West to take a harder line on issues like immigration and assimilation.

For some conservative intellectuals, rising anti-gay violence on the streets of Amsterdam, for example, comes as a kind of vindication.

"For liberals, the violent anti-gay hostility of their fundamentalist Muslim allies may be the first thing that really makes them realize they’re not on the same page," said the conservative gay writer Bruce Bawer, who lives in Oslo, and who is writing a book entitled While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within.

Islamic Immigration bad for Gays - as well as the rest of us


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